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I was asked this question by a player at an M12 draft over the weekend, and I would like to get the question & answer up on the internet for all:

Can I use Stave Off to save my creature from Oblivion Ring?

The player was asking while deck building, so there was no specific game state to go with the question. Considering that, please be complete when providing an answer.

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I have an answer for this, but I'd prefer to accept a correct & complete answer from another user. I'll add my answer tomorrow otherwise. That won't be necessary now will it? –  WillfulWizard Sep 19 '11 at 22:49
    
No it won’t. This is one of the most basic concepts in Magic. –  ghoppe Sep 20 '11 at 1:51
    
@ghoppe Basic or not, the question gets asked a lot. Oblivion Ring is a difficult card for all the players I've taught the game to. –  WillfulWizard Sep 20 '11 at 17:24
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Sure you can. Oblivion Ring comes into targets "another nonland permanent" - your creature. With this triggered effect on the stack, cast Stave Off in response targeting your creature, giving it Protection from White. The Oblivion Ring's ability will now be countered by game rules, due to having an illegal target.

What you can't do with Stave Off is bring back a creature that has already been exiled by Oblivion Ring. The creature is far from the battlefield and can't be targeted; even if it could, it is too late for Protection from White to help it! You'll need something capable of getting rid of an enchantment to rescue your creature from oblivion in this case.

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In my experience, what you can't do, bring your creature back, is what most players WANT the card to do with Stave Off, probably relating to drawing it after their creature is gone. –  WillfulWizard Sep 20 '11 at 17:26
    
If they are having chronic Oblivion Ring problems, they could always put Demystify in their deck... same casting cost as Stave Off, though admittedly less useful in general! It does deal with Oblivion Ring rather nicely, and perhaps even creates the possibility of "phasing in" a surprise blocker when the opponent least expects it :) –  thesunneversets Sep 20 '11 at 17:28
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Yes, you can. For the complete answer, in addition to thesunneversets' answer, an excerpt from the game's Comprehensive Rules:

702.15. Protection

702.15a Protection is a static ability, written "Protection from [quality]." This quality is usually a color (as in "protection from black") but can be any characteristic value. [..]

702.15b A permanent or player with protection can't be targeted by spells with the stated quality and can't be targeted by abilities from a source with the stated quality.

and

608.2b If the spell or ability specifies targets, it checks whether the targets are still legal. A target that's no longer in the zone it was in when it was targeted is illegal. Other changes to the game state may cause a target to no longer be legal; for example, its characteristics may have changed or an effect may have changed the text of the spell. If the source of an ability has left the zone it was in, its last known information is used during this process. The spell or ability is countered if all its targets, for every instance of the word "target," are now illegal. If the spell or ability is not countered, it will resolve normally. However, if any of its targets are illegal, the part of the spell or ability's effect for which it is an illegal target can't perform any actions on that target or make that target perform any actions. The effect may still determine information about illegal targets, though, and other parts of the effect for which those targets are not illegal may still affect them. Example: Aura Blast is a white instant that reads, "Destroy target enchantment. Draw a card." If the enchantment isn't a legal target during Aura Blast's resolution (say, if it has gained protection from white or left the battlefield), then Aura Blast is countered. Its controller doesn't draw a card.[..]

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