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Some cards, like Voidslime, counter abilities - but they say they can't counter mana abilities. Why is that?

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Asking this as it came up as an early version of a previous question, which I think is worth being preserved. –  Jonathan Hobbs Sep 27 '13 at 12:33
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Because mana abilities get special treatment that prevents countering. They are abilities which resolve instantly, without first going onto the stack. Because of this, there's no possibility to target them with any effect before they resolve, and they can't be countered by a counter spell.

605.4. Triggered mana abilities follow all the rules for other triggered abilities (see rule 603, "Handling Triggered Abilities"), with the following exception:

  • 605.4a A triggered mana ability doesn't go on the stack, so it can't be targeted, countered, or otherwise responded to. Rather, it resolves immediately after the mana ability that triggered it, without waiting for priority.

    Example: An enchantment reads, "Whenever a player taps a land for mana, that player adds one mana to his or her mana pool of any type that land produced." If a player taps lands for mana while casting a spell, the additional mana is added to the player's mana pool immediately and can be used to pay for the spell."

Note that Voidslime's italicized "(Mana abilities can't be targeted.)" is reminder text. It's a statement about how the rules work in general, not a specific limitation of Voidslime.

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