Published on 10/02/2023

Adding Alternatives

You can choose one or the other, I'll just add them together.

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The poster child
of alternative costs.

I've helped many a player or store keep become a judge. Guiding them through things they should know, having them help me run events, giving them needed feedback, and eventually giving them the old written judge test. Although tests are handled differently now, I still have five areas of the Comprehensive Rules I like to make sure those looking to become judges know.

1) Layers (I did an article over this HERE.)
2) Triggers Vs Replacement effects (I did an article over this HERE.)
3) The steps to casting a spell (I did an article over this HERE.)
4) Alternative Costs Vs Additional Costs
5) Copying, Casting Copies, and Copies becoming permanents.

If you have any Magic questions burning at the back of your brain, you can send them to us. We may even use them in a future article. If you have a short question, you can send it to us via our Twitter account at @CranialTweet, and you can send us longer questions at .

It's time we looked at the important differences between Alternative Costs vs Additional Costs.

Most of the time you simply pay the mana cost to cast a spell. The mana cost is in the upper right corner of the card.

Alternative Costs give you a different way to cast the card and replace the normal cost with a new cost.

  • A spell may only use one alternative cost at a time when being cast.
  • Any ability that allows you to cast a spell without paying its mana cost is an alternative cost.
  • Alternative costs can let you cast spells that have an unpayable cost.
  • Alternative costs do not get around having to pay additional costs or cost increases.
  • Alternative costs are reduced by cost reducers.
  • If an alternative cost is used, it doesn't change the mana value of the spell.
  • Many keywords represent or include alternative costs.

Additional costs are paid on top of the normal cost (or on top of an alternative cost if one was used).

  • Any number of additional costs may be used when casting a spell.
  • Some additional costs are mandatory, and if they can't be paid then the spell can't be cast.
  • Adding an additional cost to an unpayable cost does not make that spell playable.
  • Additional costs are reduced by cost reducers.
  • If an additional cost is used, it doesn't change the mana value of the spell.
  • Many keywords represent or include additional costs.

Now that we have run down the basics, let's jump into some questions.

Q: Which of the following cards have alternative costs or have built in ways to use an alternative cost later?

A: The answer is...

A: Alrund's Epiphany
B: Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
C: Whir of Invention
D: Force of Will
E: Phyrexian Fleshgorger
F: Thoughtcast

The answer is
A, B, and D.

a) Casting a card from exile using its foretell cost is an alternative cost.
b) Dash is an alternative cost.
c) Improvise is not an alternative cost, it merely permits you to tap artifacts to pay part (or all) of its cost.
d) Exiling a blue card and paying 1 life is an alternative cost. Many alternative costs don't have mana as part of the cost.
e) Protoype is not an alternative cost. The card has two different sets of characteristics with a shared set of types and abilities.
f) Affinity for artifacts is a cost reducer, not a alternative cost.

Q: Which of the following cards have additional costs or give another spell an additional cost?

A: The answer is...

A: Collective Brutality
B: Mana Leak
C: Deadly Dispute
D: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
E: Voidmage Prodigy
F: Orim's Chant

The answer is
A, C, D, and F

a) Escalate is an optional additional cost.
b) Mana Leak is not an additional cost. The payment of is an optional payment Mana Leak asks the controller of the target spell to pay to prevent said spell from being countered.
c) Deadly Dispute has a mandatory additional cost.
d) Thalia increases the cost of noncreature spells by . This is actually a cost-increasing effect rather than an additional cost, but the end result is the same.
e) Morph (casting a card face down for ) is an alternative cost, not a additional cost.
f) Kicker is an optional additional cost.

Q: I control Semblance Anvil which is exiling All That Glitters and my opponent controls Lodestone Golem. If I try to cast Aura of Silence, how much mana will it cost me and what will its mana value be?

A: The answer is...

A: Cost and mana value 3
B: Cost and mana value 3
C: Cost and mana value 4
D: Cost and mana value 2
E: Cost and mana value 3

The answer is

Additional costs can be reduced by cost reducers. When determining the total cost of a spell, first add all increases, then reduce it by any reducers. In this case we start with a base mana cost of , then increase it by because of Lodestone Golem to , then at the end we reduce it by because of Anvil to a final total cost of . Reducing and increasing the cost of a spell doesn't change its mana Value, so it stays at mana value of 3.

Q: I control Omniscience. Which of the following cards can I use Omniscience to cast without paying any mana?

A: The answer is...

A: Capsize with buyback.
B: Ancestral Vision from my hand.
C: Mutate the Gemrazer from my hand onto the Ornithopter I control.
D: Overloading a Cyclonic Rift from my hand.
E: Lightning Bolt from my graveyard after having cast Yawgmoth's Will.

The answer is
a) You can cast the Capsize for free, but must still pay the additional cost for buyback.
b) Omniscience gives you an alternative cost of free to Ancestral Vision, which gets around the fact that Ancestral Vision normally has an unpayable cost.
c and d) Both mutate and overload are alternative costs that can't be combined with the alternative cost from Omniscience.
e) Omniscience only lets you cast cards from your hand for free.

The poster child of
additional costs.

Q: If I cast Annoyed Altisaur, which of the following cards could I cast for free if I cascade into them?

A: The answer is...

A: Mox Tantalite.
B: Draconic Roar while there are no Dragons in my hand and my opponent controls a Bear Cub.
C: Cathartic Reunion while I have no cards in hand.
D: Cobbled Lancer while there are no creatures in my graveyard.
E: A cleaved Dig Up.

The answer is
A and B

a) Cascade is an alternative cost of cast for free, which gets around unpayable costs like Mox Tantalite has.
b) You can choose to cast Draconic Roar as its additional cost is optional.
c) Since you can't pay the mandatory cost of discarding a card, you can't cast Cathartic Reunion with cascade.
d) Since you don't have a legal choice for the mandatory cost of Cobbled Lancer, you can't cast it at all with cascade.
e) You can cast Dig Up normally, but you can't cleave it as that is an alternative cost and cascade is already an alternative cost and you can't use more than one alternative cost at a time.

Q: I currently have access to unlimited mana of every color. If I go to cast Necravolver, what is the greatest number and/or combination of the following additional costs I could pay while casting it?

A: The answer is...

A: kicker from Necravolver.
B: kicker from Necravolver.
C: for Chorus of the Conclave's second ability.
D: for the opponent's Lodestone Golem
E. All of the above.

The answer is

If you have the resources (and access to the appropriate targets), you can pay any number of additional costs. Some of those additional costs and cost increases may be mandatory (such as Lodestone Golem), while others may be optional (either kicker cost and Chorus of the Conclave's boost).

Q: I control two copies of Arcane Melee. If I want to overload the Cyclonic Rift from my hand, how much mana will I need to pay?
A: The answer is...


The answer is

Alternate costs like overload can be reduced by abilities like Arcane Melee. Cyclonic Rift starts at and is reduced to by the first Arcane Melee, and then is reduced to by the second Arcane Melee.

Oh look, a card that has both
additional and alternative costs
Q: My opponent controls Chalice of the Void with two charge counters on it. Which of the following spells will get countered by the Chalice if I cast them?

A: The answer is...

A: Cyclonic Rift that is overloaded.
B: Cyclonic Rift that is not overloaded.
C: Blink of an Eye that is kicked.
D: Blink of an Eye that is not kicked.
E: A fused Wear // Tear.
F: Drain Life with equal to 2.
G: Blaze with equal to 1.

The answer is
A, B, C, D, and G

a, b, c, & d) Additional costs and alternative costs do not change the mana value of a spell.
e) Fusing a spell makes its mana value equal to the two sides combined (in this case mana value 3).
f & g) While on the stack, X in mana costs is equal to the amount chosen for it. This makes Drain Life's mana value 4 and Blaze's mana value 2 in the above answers.

Q: I control Fist of Suns and Defiler of Dreams and have cast one spell earlier this turn. If I want to cast Jwar Isle Avenger from my hand, which of the following are amounts of mana I could pay to do so?

A: The answer is...


The answer is
All of them.

Fist of Suns and Surge are both alternative costs, and they can't be used at the same time to cast Jwar Isle Avenger, but none of the above answers attempt to do this.

a) This is merely casting the Avenger through Fist of Suns.

b, e, & f) Defiler of Dream's ability is an additional cost (pay 2 life) to get a cost reduction of . This can be used to reduce the cost of the Avenger casting it normally, casting it through Fist of Suns, or casting it for its Surge cost.

c & e) Surge is an optional alternative cost, so don't have to use it. In this specific case I'm not sure why you wouldn't, but you don't have to.

a, c, & d) Defiler of Dream's additional cost is optional. So if you would prefer to keep the life, you don't have to use Defiler's ability.

Q: I have an Archive Trap in my graveyard, an Archive Trap in my hand, and my opponent has "fetched" a land this turn. Which of the following ways let me cast an Archive Trap for its "free" cost?

A: The answer is...

A: I flash in Snapcaster Mage, giving flashback to the Archive Trap in the graveyard.
B: I cast Mission Briefing choosing the Archive Trap in my graveyard.
C: I cast the Archive Trap in my hand.
D: I control Wrenn and Six's emblem and have a land in my hand.
E: Do my best impersonation of Admiral Ackbar.

The answer is
B, C, and D

a) Snapcaster Mage gives the Archive Trap flashback. Flashback is an alternative cost. Its "trap" ability is also a alternative cost. You can only use one alternative cost at a time.
b) Mission Briefing does not give Archive Trap an alternative cost, it just adds the graveyard as a zone the card can be cast from.
c) That is how that card is designed to work.
d) Wrenn's emblem adds an additional cost to Archive Trap, but this doesn't impede you from using its "trap" alternative cost.

We've added as many alternatives together as I can handle, time to call it a day and I'll see you next time.

- Justin Hovdenes AKA Hovey
Level 2 Magic Judge
Rapid City, SD


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