Magic: the Gathering
Card of the week
Espanol  Polski  Francais  Russian

Last changes:

Judge School
MTG cards

In one of the previous articles we discussed as many as five cards. Today we have nine of them. No, it's not Power9*, we are talking Leylines!

Translated by Denis Fedoseev


The first Leyline appeared in the Guildpact set of Ravnica block. There were five of them — Leyline of Lifeforce, Leyline of Lightning, Leyline of Singularity, Leyline of the Meek, Leyline of the Void. In the core set Magic2011 Leyline of the Void was reprinted and four new enchantments appeared: Leyline of Anticipation, Leyline of Punishment, Leyline of Sanctity and Leyline of Vitality.

Ley lines is a term originally introduced by an amateur archaeologist Alfred Wotkins to name imaginary straight lines where “places of power” are. Originally Wotkins meant geographical or historical objects, but later the term became more and more mystical. Perhaps, that's why the word Leyline appeared on Magic cards.

All nine Leyline cards have the same static ability, allowing to put the Leyline on the battlefield if you have them in your opening hand.

Several totally obvious comments on this ability:

  • Opening hands is the cards the player decided to keep after all mulligans.
  • A player can't put out a Leyline and then mulligan. C.O. guarantees.
  • A player can put any number of Leylines in his or her opening hand onto the battlefield.
  • A player can perform necessary actions with the cards in his opening hand in any order (those cards may include not only Leylines).
  • The players do so strating from the first player and continue in turn order.
  • A player can't “change his mind” and decide to do something after his turn has passed.
  • All that happens before the game has started. No one has priority during this action.
  • Leylines are not cast. They are put onto the battlefield.
  • Leylines can't be countered. They are not spells when they are put onto the battlefield in the begining of a game.

And now totally obscure:

  • The first player chooses timestamps for all Leylines put onto the battlefield before the game has started. (See 613.6g)
Serum Powder Gemstone Caverns Karn Liberated

Peculiar static ability of Serum Powder lets a player change cards in his hand during mulligans. After that he still has an opportunity to mulligan further. His opening hand will be the one he finally decides to keep. That is where he can put Leylines out from.

If there are several cards allowing to do something before the game has started in your opening hand, you can perform necessary actions in any order. For example you can first put a Leyline on the battlefield, then use a Chancellor's** ability, then put out Gemstone Caverns and exile a card for it (say, that very Chancellor).

Karn's ultimate*** restarts the game. The players once again draw starting hands (and may mulligan) so they have a chance to use the first ability of Leylines. The first player is the one controlling the ability which restarted the game.

Every enchantment in Leylines cycle has a usual mana cost and can be cast later during the game if the player was unlucky enough not to find the Leyline in his opening hand.

Now let's look at each Leyline closely. From now on I will not mention the first ability, common to all of them.

Leyline of the Void

The second ability of Leyline of the Void is static, not triggered as some think. It can't be responded to. It doesn't use the stack.

This ability creates a replacement effect as indicated by the word “instead” in the ability text. The effect waits for a “card is put into an opponent's graveyard” event and replaces it with “exile the card”.

Remeber that:

  • Leyline of the Void deals with opponent's graveyards only.
  • Leyline of the Void deals with cards only. Tokens are beyond it.
  • A card doesn't reach opponent's graveyard at all. It is exiled instead.
  • No “when put into graveyard” trigger will ever trigger.
  • "Dies” means “is put into graveyard from the battlefield”. So the creatures (not tokens!) whose owner is an opponent don't die! Since they are not put into graveyard!
Leyline of the Void
Geralf's Messenger Olivia Voldaren Progenitus

No Undying for opponent's creatures! Even if Geralf's Messenger has no counters and should be put into a graveyard, it will never reach it. So the Undying trigger will not work.

If an cunning opponent “stole” your creature — say, via Olivia Voldaren's ability — the creature, dying bravely, should be put into your graveyard. This effect Leyline of the Void doesn't replace.

This time the opponent is lucky. The Hydra has its own static ability creating a replacement effect. Since two replacement effects deal with the same object, the controller of the object chooses the order in which to perform them.

Leyline of Sanctity

The second ability of Leyline of Sanctity is static. Currently in Oracle it is stated as “You have hexproof”. We've discussed Hexproof before many times. Actually, there is nothing mysterious about it. The old text of Leyline of Sanctity perfectly explained it: “You can't be the target of spells and abilities your opponents' control”.

Remeber that:

  • Hexproof allows to target oneself.
  • Hexproof allows your opponent to redirect your spell to you (surprise!).
  • Hexproof can't save from non-targeting spells and abilities.
  • Under Leyline of Sanctity's effect you have Hexproof, not your resources or zones.
Leyline of Sanctity
Redirect Barter in Blood Surgical Extraction

Your cunning opponent can choose you as a target for your spell using, say, Redirect.

Barter in Blood doesn't target players. So you'll have to sacrifice creatures.

Surgical Extraction targets a card in a graveyard, not a player. Leyline of Sanctity has nothing to do with it.

Leyline of Lifeforce

Leyline of Lifeforce has a static ability stating that creature spells can't be targeted.

Remeber that:

  • first, we are talking only creature spells;
  • second, the ability says nothing about who controls the spells, so the bonus will affect all players;
  • third, the fact that a spell can't be countered doesn't mean it can't be targeted with a countering spell or ability;
  • fourth, nothing prevents spells from being exiled from the stack.
Leyline of Lifeforce
Remand Mindbreak Trap Elvish Piper

If you target a creature spell with Remand, you won't counter the spell but you will draw a card. Note: Remand is not countered, a part of its effect just can't be performed.

Mindbreak Trap will perfectly deal with a creature spell, exiling it from the stack. Exiling is not countering, so Leyline of Lifeforce won't argue.

The effect of Elvish Piper's activated ability allows to put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. This ability can be countered with Stifle. No creature spells here.

Leyline of Lightning

The second ability of Leyline of Lightning is triggered. It triggers when you — the controller of Leyline of Lightning — cast a spell.

Remember that:

  • The ability text says “you” so it only cares for the spells you cast (from now on we will treat all spells as such).
  • The ability triggers only when the spell is cast. If a spell appears in the stack for any other reason, the ability doesn't care for it.
  • The ability triggers as soon as a spell is considered cast — that is after it is paid for. Nobody cares what happens after that. Will it resolve, is it countered or whatever else — no worries!
  • Triggered ability will be put on the stack before you receive priority, so it will be higher in the stack than the spell which triggered it.
  • You must choose a target (if it's possible) when the ability is put on the stack.
  • You will choose if you want to pay only on the ability's resolution, and the road to that moment is pretty long.
  • One triggered ability gives you a chance to pay one mana. Period. No other options. You can't pay a metric ton of mana and kill your opponent. Triggered abilities don't work this way.
  • Damage is dealt on the ability's resolution — provided you've paid the mana.
  • Since the damage dealt by Leyline of Lightning is noncombat and you control its source, you can redirect it from your opponent to a Planeswalker under his control.
Leyline of Lightning
Isochron Scepter HiveMind Leyline of Sanctity

The copy of the card imprinted on Isochron Scepter is cast, so it triggers the Leyline's ability.

Hive Mind allows just to copy a spell. Casting has nothing to do with that. So Leyline of Lightning proudly ignores such events.

If your cunning opponent controls Leyline of Sanctity you can't target him. You'll have to target yourself — and decide not to pay during resolution.

Leyline of Singularity

The secon ability of Leyline of Singularity is static. It has a very unique effect: it gives every nonland permanent the supertype Legendary. That means we'll have to deal with the Legend rule.

704.5k If a player controls two or more legendary permanents with the same name, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners' graveyards. This is called the “Legend rule”.

Remember that:

  • Leyline of Singularity's effect doesn't mess up with lands.
  • If a player controls two or more permanents with the same name (apart from lands) he will have to choose one and wave goodbye to all others at the nearest SBA check.
  • SBA check happens before a player receives priority. Therefore it's impossible to do anything with the permanents being put into graveyard “fast enough”.
  • If a permanent with the same name as a permanent on the battlefield is entering the battlefield, all the appropriate EtB-triggers happen, thet the Legend rule is applied, then the triggers are put in the stack and finally a player receives priority. Since a trigger doesn't depend on its source after it has triggered, generally those triggers resolve successfully.
Leyline of Singularity
Dryad Arbor Phyrexian Metamorph Sakashima the Impostor

Dryad Arbor is a land, therefore it doesn't get Legendary supertype.

If we copy an opponent's permanent, we get our own legend; if we copy ours — only one survives.

Sakashima the Impostor is very smart. While copying a creature he keeps his own name. So one player will control two legends.

Tokens are very unlucky. Actually, the Leyline is mostly used against token-oriented decks.

Hero of Bladehold  Broodmate Dragon Dragon Broodmother

While attacking, Hero of Bladehold summons two identical friends. Since they immediately became legends, one of them has to go to graveyard.

Tokens created by Broodmate Dragon's and Dragon Broodmother's abilities have very different characteristics but they have the same name since they both are of Dragon type and the name is not defined by the effect.

Therefore if Leyline of Singularity is on the battlefield, all those drago-tokens are immediately affected by the Legend rule.

Speaking of tokens we move on to

Leyline of the Meek

The second ability of Leyline of the Meek is static and gives a +1/+1 bonus to all creature tokens.

Remember that:

  • Only creature tokens receive the bonus — only “creature” and only “tokens”.
  • All creature tokens receive the bonus regardless of who controls them.
  • A token receives the bonus immediately when it appears on the battlefield. There is no such point in the game when a token is on the battlefield but has not yet received +1/+1/.
  • The effect of the static ability of Leyline of the Meek is applied on the layer 7c — after the effects that set power and/or toughness to a specific number.
Leyline of the Meek
Sigil Captain Phantasmal Image Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

1/1 tokens due to Leyline of the Meek enter the battlefield as 2/2 creatures, and thus do not trigger the Sigil Captain's ability.

A card can't become a token****. Phantasmal Image (a card), copying a token is still a card so Leyline of the Meek doesn't give it a bonus.

If a cunning opponent controls Elesh Norn, your Wolves 2/2 (provided by Garruk Relentless) enter the battlefield 1/1 regardless of the order in which Elesh Norn and Leyline of the Meek appeared on the battlefield*****.

Leyline of Anticipation

The second ability of Leyline of Anticipation is static and allows you to cast nonland cards as though they had Flash. It means you can play any nonland card whenever you have priority.

Remeber that:

  • You really can play Creature, Sorcery, Artifact, Enchantment and Planeswalker cards whenever you have priority. Yes, even during opponent's turn.
  • The rules of spell cast remain unchanged.
  • The ability of Leyline of Anticipation doesn't affect tokens and lands. They are governed by the usual rules.
  • The ability of Leyline of Anticipation doesn't remove any conditions on ability activation.
Leyline of Anticipation
Dryad Arbor Gideon Jura Muraganda Petroglyphs

Though Dryad Arbor is a creature, you can't play it at instant speed since it is also a land and that is more important for Leyline of Anticipation.

You can play Gideon Jura during your opponent's turn but you can't activated loyalty abilities at that time. The condition on abilities activation is still present.

Leyline of Anticipation doesn't give any abilities to your cards. They don't have Flash. So creatures without abilities will still be pumped by Muraganda Petroglyphs.

Birthing Pod

With Leyline of Anticipation under your control you can play Sorcery at instant speed, indeed. But! This fact doesn't allow you to activate abilities with “Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery” clause. Such restriction means that you can activate the ability only if you have priority, during you main phase and only if the stack is empty. It has nothing to do with your ability to cast a Sorcery. We are talking activated ability here, not Sorcery, after all.

Leyline of Punishment

Leyline of Punishment has two static abilities. The first forbids players to gain life. The second negates damage prevention effects.

Remember that:

  • Any change of life total to greater amount is considered life gain. It doesn't matter what effect is the cause.
  • Protection, among other effects, prevents damage from a sources with stated qualities. Thanks to Leyline of Punishment effect this part of protection won't work.
Leyline of Punishment
Tree of Redemption Kiss of the Amesha Progenitus

If the ability of Tree of Redemption makes your life total greater than before, this effect loses to the prohibiting effect of Leyline of Punishment and can't be applied. So there will be no exchange at all.

Kiss of the Amesha effect tells target player to gain 7 life and draw two cards. Even though the first part can't be perfomed thanks to the Leyline, draw is still in order.

Play Bonfire of the Damned for 10+ and the Hydra is finished!

Damage can't be prevented so the Hydra receives lethal damage and is destroyed at the nearest SBA check.

Leyline of VitalityLeyline of Vitality

Leyline of Vitality has two abilities. One of them is static, the second — triggered.

The static ability creates an effect pumping the toughness of your creatures.

Remeber that:

  • Only the creatures under your control get the bonus.
  • A creature receives the bonus as soon as it enters the battlefield. There is no such point in the game, when a creature is on the battlefield, but hasn't got +0/+1 yet.
  • The effect of the static ability of Leyline of Vitality is applied on the layer 7c — after the effects that set power and/or toughness to a specific number.

Triggered ability of Leyline of Vitality triggers every time a creature enters the battlefield under your control. The trigger's effect works at its resolution and allows you to gain one life.

Remember that:

  • It doesn't matter how the creature came to appear on the battlefield: was it a creature spell resolving or any other effect.
  • If several creatures enter the battlefield under your control at the same time, Leyline of Vitality's triggered ability triggers for each of those creatures.
  • It doesn't matter what kind of creature enters the battlefield — card or token.
  • It absolutely doesn't matter what happens to the creature after the ability triggers.
  • The word “may” in the ability's text immediately defines the trigger as nonmandatory. If you missed it, you decided not to gain life.

* Power 9 – colloquial expression meaning nine Magic cards from Alpha/Beta/Unlimited sets restricted to use due immense power. Those are Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby, Mox Emerald, Mox Pearl and Timetwister.

** Chancellors — a cycle of cards from New Phyrexia. Each allows to do something with the game before it starts.

*** The last ability of a Planeswalker is usually called his ultimate.

**** Perhaps the dumbest question I've ever encountered. But it came up many times so I mention it here.

***** This example comes from a real question from one of the players. He was very surprised that the Wolves don't die because of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. They don't die because we don't apply SBA between continious efects. It is the result which is important: 2-2+1=1 and that number totally satisfies the game.

Irina Samonova © 1999-2017

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