Our esteemed editor told me that the Shakespeare reference was too easy. Apparently it was. I had a boatload of email waiting for me when I got home on publishing day last week. The first person to identify correctly (Henry V, Exeter to King of France; the direct quote is, "This is his claim, his…

Our esteemed editor told me that the Shakespeare reference was too easy. Apparently it was. I had a boatload of email waiting for me when I got home on publishing day last week. The first person to identify correctly (Henry V, Exeter to King of France; the direct quote is, "This is his claim, his threatening and my message") was Christopher Richter of Madison, WI. Good work, Chris. Thanks loads to everyone else for responding, especially to fellow Feature Writer Anthony Alongi who is glowing enough in his praise to light my house for the long Alaska winter.

I also want to thank Anthony (and/or his playing group) for pointing out there is indeed a way for Serra Avatar to get into the graveyard. If Humility is in play with the Avatar (or the Avatar has been Humbled), it won’t have its abilities and therefore won’t get shuffled in instead of put in the graveyard. However, with Humility in play, a discarded Serra Avatar will still get shuffled in since it’s never in play to get affected by the Humility. Weird, eh?

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Just to keep you reading, I’ll rail against the Ferrett at the end. This week we’re going to discuss the announcement of a spell or ability. It’s at the heart of the majority of the game, yet most players only know the basics. We’re going to dive in much deeper.

The announcement of a spell or ability can be broken down into eight separate steps. They’re done in exact order, although in most cases the order doesn’t have much impact.

1. Announce the spell or ability to be played and put it on the stack.
Nothing can prevent this spell from going on the stack. Anything that used to say "successfully cast" now says "played". That means if you have an Argothian Enchantress out and announce an Enchantment, you’re going to be able to draw that card even if the Enchantment gets countered.

2. If the spell or ability is modal (see Rule G.24), choose the mode.
You know something is modal if it says "Choose one. Do this or do that." Once the mode is chosen, it can’t change. Parch is an example of a modal spell. You can choose to do 2 damage to a player or creature OR do 4 damage to a blue creature. Once you’ve made this choice, you can’t unmake it. Disenchant on the other hand, isn’t modal. There’s no choice involved. When it resolves, it’s going to destroy the target if that target is an artifact or an enchantment.

3. If the spell or ability has an {X} in the mana cost, the value for X is chosen.
This goes for things like Blaze, Krakilin, etc. Once chosen, it can’t change.

4. If the spell or ability has an alternate cost, choose whether or not to use it.
Pitching cards to Force of Will or paying 6 less for an Avatar. You choose it here and pay it in the 8th step. If the alternate cost checks a game state, it’s done here.

5. If Buyback or other optional cost is available, choose if it will be paid.
This is a newly-added formalization clarifying if Buyback is chosen. The card still won’t come back to your hand until resolution. And yes, Izzy, if you Fork a Buyback spell, you put the Fork back into your hand.

6. Targets (if any) are chosen.
Only legal targets may be chosen. If you choose an illegal target, such as targeting a Black Knight with Swords to Plowshares, try again. In tournament play, call a Judge. Contrary to popular belief, the spell is not countered and put in the graveyard. You back up to the last legal thing you did and go from there.

7. If targets are affected differently, choose how each target is affected.
This includes dividing up counters and damage. Pyrotechnics, Rolling Thunder and Remedy are examples where this would come into play.

8. Pay all costs. See Rule G.6. Make any choices for alternative costs at this time.
This means that you don’t have to tap mana until after you’ve announced the spell (different from the old days). Making choices for alternative costs means choosing which card to remove for Force of Will.

An important point here is that things such as Gloom or Medallions don’t change the mana cost of spells, they just help you pay it or make you pay more to play it. This would be important in case you wanted to use Spell Blast for example. The converted mana cost of White Knight is always 2. If Gloom was in play and you wanted to play Spell Blast on the White Knight, you’d still only pay 2U though the player playing the Knight would have paid 3WW.

Now let’s put all this into a practical example. Let’s assume you have a Yavimaya Elder (best card in Standard!) in play. You want to use his ability (2, sac: draw a card) and get the lands (whenever this is put into a graveyard from play, you may search your library for 2 basic lands and put them in your hand). Which do you do first, draw the card or search for the lands?

Okay, maybe here is where I say stuff about the Ferrett while you take some time to think about your answer. He’s a hound and a rotter and should be shot (identify the reference for some foreign cards!). Okay, he’s not really a hound nor a rotter and I don’t advocate shooting anyone, but if helps boost StarCity’s ratings by adding to the violence factor, I’m game. Some people say Magic is boring so we need to spice it up (hence the violence angle). I’m here to tell you, however, Multiplayer Magic, especially played with the likes of my dear friend Ferrett (we’ve known each other since we were schoolboys together back in Sheboygan) is anything but boring. You want boring, watch "Big Brother". You want fun, round up your chums for some chaotic multiplayer. Throw in Dual Nature and Lifeline and watch the hijinks ensue!

Back to business. The answer is to search for the lands. In step 1, you announce using the ability, so it goes immediately on the stack. Nothing else happens until step 8, paying all costs. You pay 2 mana and sacrifice the Elder. His "search lands" ability triggers and goes on the stack. Then, regardless of whether or not anything else has gone on the stack, the "search lands" ability resolves before the card drawing (although these two won’t resolve until any other stuff put on the stack later do). You fetch what you want, shuffle your library and then draw a card.

Understanding the steps in announcement clears up a number of potential rulings problems and questions. They make it clear in which order you do things when you’re announcing something, especially something tricky. As always, if you have any questions on this or any other area of the rules, just drop me an email at [email protected].

And that’s my Final Judgement.
Sheldon K. Menery