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In Magic: The Gathering, are enchantments and artifacts considered spells?

More precisely, can I use Cancel (which says "Counter target spell.") on an enchantment or an artifact?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Since you asked for some citations from the official rules:

111.1. A spell is a card on the stack. As the first step of being cast (see rule 601, “Casting Spells”), the card becomes a spell and is moved to the top of the stack from the zone it was in, which is usually its owner’s hand. (See rule 405, “Stack.”) A spell remains on the stack as a spell until it resolves (see rule 608, “Resolving Spells and Abilities”), is countered (see rule 701.5), or otherwise leaves the stack. For more information, see section 6, “Spells, Abilities, and Effects.”

So basically, pretty much every card in Magic is a "spell" - or rather, becomes one, during the transitional period from being a card in your hand to being a permanent on the battlefield. But wait! Why isn't a land a spell, in that case? Well, because it has special rules making it an exceptional case:

305.1. A player who has priority may play a land card from his or her hand during a main phase of his or her turn when the stack is empty. Playing a land is a special action; it doesn’t use the stack (see rule 115). Rather, the player simply puts the land onto the battlefield. Since the land doesn’t go on the stack, it is never a spell, and players can’t respond to it with instants or activated abilities.

The Magic rules are pretty arcane at the best of times (appropriately enough), but I hope that clarifies things for you!

EDIT: Actually, it occurs to me that even more clarification may be necessary. Enchantments and artifacts aren't spells when they're in play: they're permanents. They aren't spells when they're in their hand, they're enchantment cards and artifact cards. But they are spells while on the stack (i.e. in the process of being cast). I'm sure you already know that "counter target spell" means "stop something on the stack from resolving and becoming a permanent, and send the card to the graveyard instead", but it wasn't 100% explicit from your question! So, just in case there's any doubt at all, Cancel can stop an artifact or enchantment card from coming into play, but it can't send it to the graveyard from play, or anything wacky like that...

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+1 You can counter a spell as it is being cast, and any non-land card is a spell at that time, but you can't use a counterspell to remove a card already in play. –  Monica Cellio Jul 7 '11 at 0:27
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FWIW the clarification is definitely necessary: if not for Elliot, then for beginners, for whom it's really not obvious than a so-called "enchantment" is not a so-called "spell" until the rules you've quoted are explained. –  Jack V. Jul 8 '11 at 14:56
    
@Elliott: just out of curiosity, was the edit necessary in this case? –  Lohoris Jul 27 '11 at 8:37
    
@Lohoris it wasn't necessary because it already seemed reasonable that you can't use Cancel to send something to the graveyard from play, but it was very helpful to know the exact reason (cards stop being spells after they have been resolved). –  Elliott Sep 30 '12 at 19:08
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Yes. Of all the card types, the only one that isn't a spell are lands. "Counter target spell" can counter sorceries, instants, enchantments, artifacts, creatures, and planeswalkers.

Tribal is also a card type, but it always shows up in conjunction with one of the other types, so it doesn't matter in this case.

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Awesome, "Cancel" just got that much better. Do you know where I can find a reference for this (e.g. in the official rules)? –  Elliott Jul 6 '11 at 19:53
    
If you think Cancel's good, you should check out Counterspell –  Gregor Oct 27 '11 at 2:13
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A "spell" refers to a card while it's on the stack. In order:

While it's in your hand, it's a card (enchantment card, creature card, land card) While you're casting it and it's on the stack, it's a spell. (creature spell, enchantment spell, etc.) Once it's resolved, if it stays in play it's a permanent. (Instants and sorceries just resolve and discard.)

Lands are the exception - they don't use the stack and go directly from card to permanent.

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