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Suppose my opponent has a Darksteel Colossus in play, and I have Attrition and no creatures. During my turn I cast Act of Treason to gain control of the Colossus and attack with it. So far I haven't done anything controversial.

Now, at this point what I want to do is sacrifice the Colossus to my Attrition, so that my opponent doesn't get him back at the end of the turn. However, Attrition's ability requires a target, and the Colossus is the only potential target on the battlefield. Is it legal to activate the ability and target the Colossus, even though I also want to sacrifice him as part of the ability's cost?

In other words, can I target a creature with an ability, and also sacrifice that same creature as part of the ability's activation cost?

(The ability won't resolve, of course, but that was never the real goal. Normally it would be better to target another of the opponent's creatures, but in this case he doesn't have any, so the Colossus is the only potential target.)

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Nice use of alt text, helps a lot. –  Stephen Nov 21 '11 at 13:27
The question is if attrition's ability can target the creature that is being sacrificed to pay for it, correct? –  Sean McMillan Nov 21 '11 at 13:48
Yes, the key part is whether the same creature can be both the target and the sacrifice. The rest of the scenario just sets the stage for why you might actually want to do that, since normally it would be a terrible idea. –  Stuart Cook Nov 21 '11 at 13:54
Sorry I misunderstood... the phrase "The ability won't resolve ..." made me believe that the goal was to use Attrition to sacrifice an attacking creature... which you can... not whether the colossus is a legal target of attrition... which it is. –  Stephen Nov 21 '11 at 13:58
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2 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Yes, you can. In a spell or effect, you first choose targets, then pay all costs, then put it on stack.

602.2a The player announces that he or she is activating the ability. If an activated ability is being activated from a hidden zone, the card that has that ability is revealed. That ability is created on the stack as an object that's not a card. It becomes the topmost object on the stack. It has the text of the ability that created it, and no other characteristics. Its controller is the player who activated the ability. The ability remains on the stack until it's countered, it resolves, or an effect moves it elsewhere.

602.2b The remainder of the process for activating an ability is identical to the process for casting a spell listed in rules 601.2b-h. Those rules apply to activating an ability just as they apply to casting a spell. An activated ability's analog to a spell's mana cost (as referenced in rule 601.2e) is its activation cost.

601.2c The player announces his or her choice of an appropriate player, object, or zone for each target the spell requires. [...]

601.2e The player determines the total cost of the spell. Usually this is just the mana cost. Some spells have additional or alternative costs. [...]


601.2g The player pays the total cost in any order. Partial payments are not allowed. Unpayable costs can't be paid.

So in a nutshell, first you determine targets, then you pay costs. If the target (Darksteel Colossus in this case) is gone by the time the ability resolves, doesn't matter.

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TL;DR Yes.

By CR 508 you perform the Declare Attackers step. By the text of Act of Treason, the Darksteel Colossus is clearly eligible to attack.

There is a change of priority, and back and the Declare Blockers step. By CR 509.2 you declare the attacker's damage assignment order.

The combat damage step happens per section 510.

At 510.4 you receive priority and can activate Attrition, which is placed on the stack.

This resolves during the cleanup step described in 514.3a

If there's a more specific scenario you're trying to understand, please expand on your question and I'll try to expand my answer.

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I think the question was less about the timing of Act of Treason vs. Attrition, and more about whether or not he can at all use Attrition to target the very creature he wants to sacc. –  Hackworth Nov 21 '11 at 13:52
@Hackworth I see. I wasn't clear on what was being asked. The information about attacking in the OP's question led me down a different though path :-) –  Stephen Nov 21 '11 at 14:00
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