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Ok, I was playing an EDH game with my friend and I had 8 mana available to me. In order for me to win the game, I had to destroy one of his permanents with a Spine of Ish Sah (7 mana). Now I planned to play a Mana Vault (1 mana and produces 3 mana) so that I'd have enough mana for a Spell Crumple (3 mana) to protect my Spine of Ish Sah.

How I played the turn out is I try to cast Spine of Ish Sah, but I forgot to play Mana Vault first. By the time I've realized that I forgot a very important part in my plan, I've already tapped for 5 mana. At this point I stop tapping for mana and I am unable to pay for the Spine of Ish Sah and it should return to my hand (where I cast it from) and my lands should untap (rule 717). My opponent said that's not the game works. He says that since I started paying for the spell, I have to finish paying for the rest of it. Now, is my friend correct, that if you pay for part of a spell, if you are able to pay for all of the spell, then you must finish paying its cost?

Answer must have rules referencing this.

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this aboslutely falls into the realm of 'DBAD' –  Pow-Ian Jun 5 '13 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Your friend is right, though he should let you do it anyway outside of a tournament.


You cannot be forced to produce mana to pay for a spell.

117.3c Activating mana abilities is not mandatory, even if paying a cost is.

And if a spell becomes uncastable, its casting is undone.

601.2 [...] If, at any point during the casting of a spell, a player is unable to comply with any of the steps listed below, the casting of the spell is illegal; the game returns to the moment before that spell started to be cast (see rule 717, “Handling Illegal Actions”). [...]

So it would seem that you can choose to abort the casting of any spell by not producing the mana required to cast it (assuming your mana pool doesn't already have the necessary mana in it).

BUT

When this came up on Wizards's Rules Q&A board recently, it was declared[1] that the intention of the rule is to handle the situation where the casting of a spell becomes illegal after it has started being cast (and possibly other situations), but it's not meant to be used to voluntarily rollback the casting of a spell. While the rule can be used to avoid casting a spell at all, you are committed to completely cast a spell you've decided to cast.

So, deciding to abort casting your spell wouldn't be legal in a tournament, and my friends wouldn't allow and such douchebag rule lawyering in casual. (They could very well allow me to rollback the action if I asked, but not because of 601.2.)


  1. By general consensus among the rules-saavy, by bimmerbot (a very level-headed level 2 judge), and confirmed by Natedogg (the only person on that board capable of making official rulings).
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Added link to the thread I mentioned. See the last four posts. –  ikegami Jun 5 '13 at 3:23
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+1 for the very appropriate etiquette judgments! –  Gregor Jun 5 '13 at 7:22
    
+1 In my playgroup, we're quite liberal with allowing people to "adjust" how they pay for things, especially if they catch themselves prior to a counterspell. –  cdeszaq Jul 1 '13 at 20:31

As you noticed, rule 717 seems to be applicable here.

717.1. If a player realizes that he or she can’t legally take an action after starting to do so, the entire action is reversed and any payments already made are canceled.... The player may also reverse any legal mana abilities activated while making the illegal play, unless mana from them or from any triggered mana abilities they triggered was spent on another mana ability that wasn't reversed.

But I'm not sure it is, exactly. I'm no judge, but this rule states that it applies only to illegal actions, i.e. those which cannot be completed as declared. In your case, one might argue that there's nothing illegal about your casting of the Spine, and so this rule doesn't apply.

So we have to look to another rule. The one I find that seems to apply is

601.2. To cast a spell is to take it from where it is (usually the hand), put it on the stack, and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect. Casting a spell follows the steps listed below, in order. If, at any point during the casting of a spell, a player is unable to comply with any of the steps listed below, the casting of the spell is illegal; the game returns to the moment before that spell started to be cast (see rule 717, “Handling Illegal Actions”). Announcements and payments can’t be altered after they've been made.

(emphasis added) This suggests that your friend was right and that you cannot stop casting a spell after having announced it, unless you are actually unable to perform the steps necessary to cast it. Note that the fact that you started paying for the spell is irrelevant; it's the announcement of the spell that locks it in.


In practice, most people don't adhere strictly to these clauses in the rules. I've known players to be allowed to take back spells in the middle of casting them - even after casting them in some cases - in regular REL tournaments, occasionally, and quite often in casual games. Since EDH is supposed to be a fun, casual format, as described by the official EDH rules,

  1. Commander is designed to promote social games of magic.
    It is played in a variety of ways, depending on player preference, but a common vision ties together the global community to help them enjoy a different kind of magic. That vision is predicated on a social contract: a gentleman's agreement which goes beyond these rules to includes a degree of interactivity between players. Players should aim to interact both during the game and before it begins, discussing with other players what they expect/want from the game.

    House rules or "fair play" exceptions are always encouraged if they result in more fun for the local community.

I would think taking back a partially cast spell should be allowed there as well.

In light of this information I believe the technical term for what your friend is doing is "being a dick."


For what it's worth, Magic Online does allow you to take back a partially cast spell, at any point up until you finish selecting targets and paying the associated costs. But that situation is a little different because MTGO doesn't even reveal to your opponent that you intend to cast the spell until you have finished all the steps.

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We have all kinds of DBAD rules in my group. –  Pow-Ian Jun 5 '13 at 13:53

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