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01.12.2016

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Today we are going to analyze a set of three abilities known as Suspend by taking Ancestral Vision as an example.


Translated by Witas Spasovski


Ancestral Vision

Ancestral Vision is a rather unusual card. It was released in the Time Spiral block and is a reference to Ancestral Recall, which is easy to notice by comparing the names, effects and art of the two cards.

Ancestral Vision

Ancestral Recall

Spells without a mana cost

But that’s not what Ancestral Vision is peculiar for. Ancestral Vision is a nonland card without mana cost. There are really few cards like this one in Magic. Never confuse cards without mana cost with cards with mana cost zero, such as Lion’s Eye Diamond.

A spell without a mana cost cannot be cast normally, because a cost that doesn’t exist cannot be paid.

What options are there? Get an effect that allows playing the cost in an alternative way, for example, without paying its mana cost. The third ability hidden behind the keyword Suspend also allows a player to not worry about paying the mana cost. We shall discuss Suspend shortly, for now here are a few more ways to cast a spell which doesn’t have a mana cost:

Mind's Desire Omniscience Windbrisk Heights

The effect of Mind’s Desire allows casting exiled cards without paying the mana cost.

Omniscience’s effect allows casting any card from your hand without paying its mana cost.

The effect of Windbrisk Heights’ activated ability allows casting the exiled card without paying its mana cost.

There are also other kinds of alternative costs which may be used:

Dream Halls Fist of Suns Snapcaster Mage

The effect of Dream Halls allows to pay Ancestral Vision with discarding any blue card.

Fist of Suns’ effect allows casting Ancestral Vision for five mana, one of each color: {WUBRG}

The effect of Snapcaster Mage cannot help. It would if it established a different Flashback cost. But since Ancestral Vision has no mana cost, its Flashback cost will also be undefined.

Another portion of peculiarity lies with Ancestral Vision’s color. Earlier, the static ability on the card used to define it, but it is no longer there, check it out in the Oracle. Now the color of Ancestral Vision is defined by the color indicator, which unfortunately isn’t seen on the card of Time Spiral edition, but it is there in the Oracle.

Dream Halls Pyroblast Hydroblast

Painter’s Servant paints everything into chosen color, but also allows to preserve the original color.

If red is chosen, then Ancestral Vision will be both blue (its original color) and red (the color gained through the Servant’s effect). Thus, Ancestral Vision may be countered with both Pyroblast and Hydroblast.

Suspend

We’re finally there on Suspend. First, let us familiarize ourselves with the rules:

702.61. Suspend

702.61a.Suspend is a keyword that represents three abilities. The first is a static ability that functions while the card with suspend is in a player’s hand. The second and third are triggered abilities that function in the exile zone.

“Suspend N — [cost]” means “If you could begin to cast this card by putting it onto the stack from your hand, you may pay [cost] and exile it with N time counters on it. This action doesn't use the stack,” and

“At the beginning of your upkeep, if this card is suspended, remove a time counter from it,” and

“When the last time counter is removed from this card, if it’s exiled, play it without paying its mana cost if able. If you can’t, it remains exiled. If you cast a creature spell this way, it gains haste until you lose control of the spell or the permanent it becomes.”

702.61b. A card is “suspended” if it’s in the exile zone, has suspend, and has a time counter on it.

702.60c. Casting a spell as an effect of its suspend ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2f-h.

The first thing that needs to be noted carefully is that Suspending a card is a special action. Special actions do not use the stack, they cannot be responded to, and they cannot be countered!

Normally, in order to perform a special action, you only need to have priority. In case of Suspend, there is an additional limitation: “If you could begin to cast this card by putting it onto the stack from your hand”.

Future Sight Fiend of the Shadows Meddling Mage

The effect of the second static ability of Future Sight allows us to cast the top card of the library. But since it cannot be cast by putting it from the hand onto the stack, it cannot be Suspended.

The effect of Fiend of the Shadows’ triggered abiltiy allows casting a card from the exile zone. This doesn’t match the condition for Suspending the card either.

If an effect forbids playing a specific card, for instance if it was called for Meddling Mage, it cannot be suspended either.

A careful reader will ask: “How is it that we’re able to Suspend Ancestral Vision at all, if we can’t normally cast cards with no mana cost simply from the hand without some extra techs?” The answer is quite funny:

117.6. (...) Attempting to cast a spell or activate an ability that has an unpayable cost is a legal action. However, attempting to pay an unpayable cost is an illegal action. 

Formal logic chills out, doesn’t it?

Alright, so, we are supposed to be able to play the card with Suspend from the hand. All limitations due to the card type have effect. For instance, Ancestral Vision is a sorcery card. The rules do not prohibit to cast sorceries at a moment other than the main phase of its controller. The rules allow to cast sorceries in your main phase when the stack is empty (rule 307.1.) And of course, any effect instructing us to cast a spell allows us to cast it at a different time.

Leyline of Anticipation

Leyline of Anticipation’s effect allows casting a nonland card at any time you have priority. This means that when you control this enchantment and have Ancestral Vision in your hand, you may Suspend it at any time.

We shall face this question again today when we analyze Suspend’s second trigger. For now let us focus on Suspended cards. When Suspending a card, we move it to the Exile zone and put a number of time counters on it. These time counters may be added and removed in a number of ways:

Curse of the Cabal Deep-Sea Kraken Clockspinning

The “Hovering freezer"’s triggered ability allows the opponent of its owner to keep it suspended for aeons by adding more and more time counters on it.

Deep-Sea Kraken has a triggered ability instructing to remove a time counter from it while it’s suspended. Suspend 9 is not that much for it.

Clockspinning may both add and remove time counters from permanents and suspended cards.

While mentioning permanents, the following examples need to be brought up:

Steady Progress Vampire Hexmage

Proliferate cannot help with a Suspended card. It only affects permanents (and players), and a suspended card isn’t one.

Vampire Hexmage’s activated ability is completely useless too when interacting with suspended cards, for the same reason.

To sum up the talk about Suspend’s first ability, I would like to give you a definition of a suspended card. Because when we analyze the remaining two triggered abilities, we will only consider suspended cards. A card is suspended if it matches all of the following three conditions:

  1. be in Exile zone;
  2. have Suspend ability;
  3. have time counters on it.
Timecrafting Epochrasite Venser's Diffusion

With Timecrafting you cannot place time counters on a card which is in exile zone and even has Suspend, if it doesn’t have time counters on it.

Epochrasite gets Suspend only when its triggered ability resolves. If it hits the exile in another way, for instance, through resolving Path to Exile, it will not be a suspended card.

Venser’s Diffusion cannot just remove any exiled card to the hand. This card must both have Suspend and have time counters on it.

Here are a few more interesting examples related to Suspended cards. We’ll move to the triggered abilities right after them.

Delay Ith, High Arcanist Misthollow Griffin

If a spell with paid Flashback cost is countered with Delay, it will hit the Exile with time counters and get Suspend if it didn’t have suspend. Details.

When Suspending a Commander*, rule 903.11 comes into effect, allowing us to move the Commander card to the Command zone instead of Exile. I wouldn’t know a good reason to do so. When casting a Commander from Exile zone as the Suspend trigger resolves, the “2 mana tax” isn’t added.

If Misthollow Griffin is Suspended through the effect of Jhoira of the Ghitu’s activated ability (look below), and then cast from Exile through its static ability, it will lose Suspend, as it will change zones and become a new object.

Suspend’s first trigger goes off at the beginning of the suspended card’s owner’s** upkeep.

Paradox Haze

The effect of Paradox Haze changes the turn structure. It adds another upkeep step after the first one for the enchanted player. That means, the player is potentially able to remove two time counters per turn from his or her suspended cards!

When we see the magical word “if” we immediately treat this trigger as conditional. It triggers only if the condition is met. If a card has Suspend but is not Suspended (for example, if there are no time counters on it), the trigger will simply not go off. When this trigger is about to resolve the condition is checked again. Again, if it is not met, the trigger doesn’t do anything, it is simply removed from the stack. How can that happen? The most probable scenario: there are no more counters between the trigger going off and resolving.

Greater Gargadon

Greater Gargadon has an activated ability whose effect allows to remove a time counter off it. You may activate this ability as many times as you need if the Gargadon is suspended.

Now, if you need to sacrifice a HUGE number of creatures (and that is usually one of the reasons to play Gargadon), you just need to activate the abilities one after another and send them to the stack without passing priority, rather than waiting for each one to resolve.

If you do this way, the counters will be removed one by one until they run out. The remaining triggers will just resolve without any effect.

If you activate Gargadon’s ability in response to the first trigger of Suspend and remove all time counters this way, then as that trigger would resolve, it would face the situation when the condition isn’t met. No counter will be removed, and the second Suspend trigger won’t trigger at that time.

If the first trigger of Suspend gets countered (Stifle), the time counter isn’t removed.

As the first trigger of Suspend resolves, a time counter is removed, this may in its turn trigger other abilities, usually with beneficial effects. Such cards are good to keep Suspended for a long time. That is often manifested in the variable X in the Suspend cost, and when choosing a value for X we basically define the number of time counters to be put on those cards:

Aeon Chronicler Detritivore Benalish Commander

Suspend’s second trigger goes off when the last time counter is removed from a suspended card. This may happen as the first trigger resolves, or at other times, for example through applying effects that remove time counters from Suspended cards.

As this trigger resolves you are instructed to cast this card without paying its mana cost. I will remind again that the rules for casting nonland cards are allowing, not prohibiting. This means that as the Suspend’s last trigger resolves we may cast a nonland card of any type, be it a creature, a sorcery, a planeswalker etc. Which planeswalker has Suspend, you wonder? Any one! When it is given Suspend by lady Jhoira:

Jhoira of the Ghitu

Jhoira of the Ghitu’s activated ability gives any nonland card time counters and Suspend if it doesn’t have it originally.

This lady’s ability is base for a totally unfair EDH-deck.

Unlike Cascade, the effect of Suspend’s second trigger does not provide an option to skip casting the spell. The only case when you don’t cast it is if you can’t cast it by the rules.

Cyclical Evolution Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir Krosan Grip

If there are no legal targets for Cyclical Evolution at resolution of Suspend, you cannot cast it.

It remains exiled and stops being Suspended. Usually the player doesn’t have the option to cast that card again.

Note that Cyclical Evolution is re-exiled only when it resolves, and since it doesn’t resolve (as it isn’t even cast), Suspending doesn’t happen.

An opponent’s Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir is the bane of our Suspend. We cannot cast any card from Suspend, even if the last counter is removed in our main phase. At this time the stack isn’t empty, the trigger of Suspend is there, resolving. Teferi requires spells to be cast “at sorcery speed", which is not only during one’s main phase, but with an empty stack at that.

If your Deep-Sea Kraken has just one time counter and the cunning opponent casts a spell with Split Second, the Kraken’s trigger will go off. It will be put onto the stack above Krosan Grip, so it will resolve first, which will result in triggering the second Suspend trigger. But you won’t be able to cast the Kraken, as Krosan Grip will still be on the stack at that time.

Trinisphere

When casting a spell at the resolution of Suspend’s second trigger, a player isn’t exempt from paying additional costs. If the total cost cannot be paid, the spell can’t be cast.

Normally, the player is bound to cast the Suspended card if able. However, if an additional cost is a mana cost, the player must pay it only if the mana necessary for it is already in that player’s mana pool. If it’s not there, the player isn’t obliged to activate mana abilities to pay the mana part of the total cost.

For instance, when casting cards while resolving Suspend’s trigger with a Trinisphere on the battlefield, you'd need to pay 3 mana. If the mana is not in the mana pool, the spell doesn’t have to be cast.

If a player controls a Lion’s Eye Diamond or a Deathrite Shaman, he or she cannot get mana off them to pay the additional cost, because at this time neither player has priority (the game is at the stage of resolving the Suspend trigger).

If Suspend’s second trigger is countered, the card isn’t cast. It remains exiled without time counters and is no longer Suspended.

Since casting a spell at the resolution of Suspend’s second trigger supposes casting it without paying its mana cost (you'd do good to follow this link and read about additional costs, weird cards and X in the cost), it helps to solve the problem of the absence of mana costs of such cards:

Ancestral Vision Lotus Bloom Hypergenesis

Here are the three most famous cards without mana cost that are normally played through Suspend.

Just as any other alternative cost, this one doesn’t affect the spell’s mana cost and the CMC.

Even though the Suspend cost of each of these cards is 1 mana, and they are played without paying mana at all, this doesn’t alter their mana costs.

Ancestral Vision Greater Gargadon Rift Bolt

Ancestral vision has no mana cost, CMC=0.

Greater Gargadon has a mana cost of {9R}, CMC=10.

The mana cost of Rift Bolt is {2R}, its CMC=3.

This immediately shows us that:

Counterbalance Draining Whelk Chalice of the Void

In order to counter Ancestral Vision through the trigger of Counterbalance, you'd have to reveal a card with CMC=0, for instance, a land.

If the cunning opponent counters your Greater Gargadon with Draining Whelk, he or she will have a flying killing machine as huge as 11/11.

Chalice of the Void with one counter will not react to Suspending Rift Bolt (because it is a special action, not casting a spell), and Chalice with zero counters won’t react to casting Rift Bolt, as its converted mana cost is three, not zero.

A creature entering the battlefield through Suspend is a special cast, as it gains Haste as the last trigger resolves. Not many players know that Haste is given to the creature not till the end of current turn, but for as long as you control the spell or the permanent it becomes.

Mind Control Gather Specimens Olivia Voldaren

This means that if the cunning opponent snatches control of the spell or creature, haste “vanishes".

This covers all about Suspend as such. We can return to Ancestral Vision and talk about its casting and resolving.

Ancestral Vision, just as Ancestral Recall, is a targeted spell. It targets a player. This is where subtle things may occur:

Redirect True Believer

You cast Ancestral Vision targeting yourself, but the cunning opponent may change the target of your Ancestral Vision, for instance through Redirect, and steal its effect.

If you control True Believer, you cannot target yourself with Ancestral Recall. However, you have to cast it as the Suspend trigger resolves. You will have to target another player.

Now on to the sad part, namely to the errors. If a player draws four cards at the spell resolution (instead of three as the effect of the card prescribes), such a violation is treated as Gameplay Error — Hidden Card Error. At Competitive REL it is punished with a Warning; the guilty player reveals his or her hand to an opponent who chooses a card to be shuffled into your library. Not only do you lose the most valuable card in your hand, but you also make the contents of the rest of your hand known to your opponent(s), so I do recommend to double-check each time you draw. A wise way to draw multiple cards in Competitive REL events is to first put the drawn cards on the table face down, count them carefully, and then move them to your hand.

In Regular REL events a judge will choose a card at random and put it on top of the player’s library. And instruct the player to not do so again. A good judge will recite the above-mentioned rules for Competitive events.

Have great events, fair judges and lots of fun!


* A legendary creature that has special properties and defines the color of cards in the deck in Commander a.k.a. EDH format

** I would like to remind here that in classic Magic only permanents, emblems and objects on the stack have a controller.



Irina Samonova © 1999-2017

Magic the Gathering is TM and copyright Wizards of the Coast, Inc, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All rights reserved.

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