Strictly Mailbag – Rules Questions

Howdy, and welcome to our first user driven post. This post was created in response to some interesting rules questions that were sent in. I’ve also polled my partners from the Patreon, and Discord users for additional questions. I’ve researched the following answers to ensure correctness.


Question #1 came in on Facebook from a local friend and supporter of the site. David writes:

‘Hey man, last night I had a really strange interaction that I have never encountered before. I blocked my opponents 1/1 attacker with a 2/2 blocker.  After damage, my opponent casts Shock on my creature, I respond to Shock with a spell that gives my creature indestructible. After everything resolves, he cast a spell that gave my creature -1/-1 and claimed that my creature was dead because it had damage and he reduced the power and toughness.  Neither of us knew the correct answer, so I agreed with him and put the card in my bin.  Was this correct?’

shockMy instincts tell me that that the creature should have survived.  The damage on the creature from blocking was irrelevant along with the damage from the Shock because indestructible means that the creature cannot die from damage.  The -1/-1 effect is also irrelevant as the creature’s toughness is still above 0. The actual ruling on indestructible is:

702.12. Indestructible
702.12a Indestructible is a static ability.
702.12b A permanent with indestructible can’t be destroyed. Such permanents aren’t destroyed by lethal damage, and they ignore the state-based action that checks for lethal damage (see rule 704.5g).

Spell Quellering a x Mana Spell

The next question came in from a patron. The users writes:


‘Hey Strictly, I have a good one for you.  I was in a game recently and I Spell Quellered my opponent’s Walking Ballista. He killed my Queller on the next turn, and we were unsure on how we should have played his casting of Walking Ballista. What are your thoughts?

walkingballista queller

This one seems to come up more and more often with cards that care about a spell’s mana cost.  This question actually brings up two important points on Spell Queller and other cards that care about the cost of spells with X in the mana ability.  Keep in mind with Spell Queller, if the amount spent on X puts the cost above 4, the spell cannot be targeted by Queller’s ability. So if the Walking Ballista was cast using 6 mana to make him a 3/3, it is an illegal target for the Spell Queller.

When Spell Queller dies, the Ballista can be cast the Walking Ballista for free, X will be 0.  This will make the Ballista 0/0 when it enters the battlefield, its toughness is checked (0), and it is immediately placed into the graveyard. Here’s the text from Gatherer.

For spells with Variable Colorless in their mana costs, use the value chosen for X to determine if the spell’s converted mana cost is 4 or less.

If the card has Variable Colorless in its mana cost, the player must choose 0 as the value of X when casting it without paying its mana cost.

Cards that Enter Battlefield at the Same Time

Our friend Marcus from the Puca Minute Podcast recently asked a question about cards that enter the battlefield simultaneously.

I used to play Skapeshift Valakut. When I would play a Primeval Titan and get 2 mountains all at once my opponents usually thought that they don’t take the damage from the Valakut trigger if I already didn’t have the 5 mountains in play. I never knew how to explain it other than “trust me it’s legal.”


Yes, Marcus, it is legal.  I learned much about how these rulings worked when I played Bant Humans in Standard with Collective Company (CoCo). I’d constantly get lucky hits off of CoCo and get two Thalia’s Lieutenants.  Although they are entirely different cards in entirely different formats, the reason why the each Lieutenant gets two counters is the same reason why your opponent takes damage from your Mountains that entered the battlefield.

image-2When cards enter the battlefield at the same time, they see each other on the battlefield when the checks happen for the enter the battlefield effect. In the case of Thalia’s Lieutenant, the two cards see each other.  Both cards get a counter for the When Thalia’s Lieutenant enters the battlefield ability and a counter because of the When another Human enters the battlefield ability. In the Case of Valakut, you would need to have four other mountains in play when getting the land coming into play from PrimeTime. Both mountains would enter at the exact same time and when the check for the 5 other mountains would see the 4 already in play, and the additional mountain that entered at the same time.  The opponent would take 6 damage, 3 from each of the mountains that entered the battlefield. This is clearly explained in the Rulings on the Gatherer page for Valakut.

If multiple Mountains enter the battlefield under your control at the same time, Valakut’s second ability could trigger that many times. Each ability takes into consideration the other Mountains that entered the battlefield at the same time as the one that caused it to trigger.

Timing of Expertise Cards

Craig wrote in a question related to the Expertise cards in Aether Revolt.

I am going to be attending my first Aether Revolt draft this week and I was wondering if you could Explain how Expertise Cards work.  If I cast Yahenni’s Expertise and choose to cast a creature off of it for free, does my creature survive?

yahennis-expertise-p245735-225191_imageThe wording of Yahenni’s Expertise makes it so that the two relevant lines of text are separate and do not rely on each other.  The abilities of the card happen in the order they are written, so All Creatures get -3/-3 until End of Turn resolves before you Cast a card with converted mana cost 3 or less ability.  The creature cast from this ability will be safe from dying as it wasn’t on the battlefield when the -3/-3 happened.

While on the topic of Expertise cards, I heard a scenario from another friend that was imageinteresting that I wanted to discuss. They were theory crafting deck ideas and wanted to find a way to recur their Expertise spells by casting a card for free off of them.  The idea was to cast Yahenni’s Expertise and for the free spell cast a card with an effect similar to Eternal Witness and try to get the Expertise card back from the graveyard.  Sadly because the Witness is cast as part of the Expertise card, the Expertise card has not completely resolved and hence has not entered the graveyard when Eternal Witness enters the battlefield. This means it would not be a legal target for Eternal Witness’ ability.

Well friends, that’s all I have for now. I’d really like to be able to make these sort of mail bag articles a regular thing.  Send me a message on the Contact Us form with any thoughts, feedback, or suggestions and I will be happy to include your topics in future posts.

Don’t Forget to laugh,



  1. In the Indestructible question, I’m assuming that an effect that placed 2 -1/-1 counters would have killed the 2/2.

    Indestructible basically says “ignore damage that’s not Wither,” right?

    1. More or less, correct. Effectively there are 2 checks that happen to see if a creature dies. One is the check of toughness. If the toughness is 0, the creature is dead. If damage would be lethal (equal to or greater than the toughness) for a creature, the creature dies. Indestructibility means that a creature cannot die from the second check, but has no bearing on the first.
      Great question, Thank You.

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