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I'm looking at the card Cremate:

Cremate - {B}

Instant - common RTR

Exile target card from a graveyard.

Draw a card.

Now, can I use this to respond to a flashback or scavenge?

According to the comp rules, the first thing you do when casting a spell (in the case of flashback) is:

601.2a The player announces that he or she is casting the spell. That card (or that copy of a card) moves from where it is to the stack.

Because it moves on to the stack, is it still in the graveyard for me to exile? And even if it was, would the effect be countered?

But if you can't use it to counter flashback and such, it seems to detract from its usefulness at instant speed.

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+1 for using the word 'ilk' –  Pureferret Oct 3 '12 at 21:43
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Whenever one has a question involving keyword abilities, one should start by finding out what abilities they represent.

702.32a Flashback appears on some instants and sorceries. It represents two static abilities: one that functions while the card is in a player’s graveyard and another that functions while the card is on the stack. “Flashback [cost]” means “You may cast this card from your graveyard by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost” and “If the flashback cost was paid, exile this card instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack.” Casting a spell using its flashback ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2e–g.

You cannot cast Cremate in response to Flashback since Flashback doesn't go on the stack. It's a static ability that allows you to cast the card from somewhere it couldn't normally be cast.

You cannot cast Cremate in response to casting the card from your graveyard either. By the time the card is cast, it's no longer in the graveyard; it's on the stack, where it's not a valid target for Cremate.

702.95a Scavenge is an activated ability that functions only while the card with scavenge is in a graveyard. “Scavenge [cost]” means “[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the power of the card you exiled on target creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.”

You cannot cast Cremate in response to Scavenge. Part of the cost of activating Scavenge involves exiling the card. By the time the ability is activated, the card is no longer in the graveyard; it's in exile where it's not a valid target for Cremate.


But if you can't use it to counter flashback and such, it seems to detract from its usefulness at instant speed.

Yes, but keep in mind that Scavenge and Sorceries with Flashback (as opposed to Instants with Flashback) can only be used "any time you could cast a sorcery” (in your main phase when the stack is empty). If you initiate the Cremate, if it's outside of his turn, or if it's outside of his main phases, he can't Scavenge or cast the Sorcery. Scavange and Flashback is often quite expensive, so cost could also affect when one can take advantage of it. End of Combat Damage step would be a good time to cast it.

Yes, it could take a bit of planning to use Cremate, but that's not too much to ask from a one mana cantrip.

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60% of existing cards with Flashback aren't instants. –  ikegami Oct 3 '12 at 21:37
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Also note this common case: to flash something back with Snapcaster, your opponent must first resolve the Snapcaster, then resolve his trigger (granting flashback to the card in your graveyard). When your opponent puts Snapcaster's trigger on the stack, you can respond by exiling its target. –  Alex P Oct 3 '12 at 22:34
    
@AlexP That makes much more sense. A friend (and frequent winner of 60+ member tournaments) suggested Cremate to me as a budget Snap-counter alternative to Deathrite Shaman. Now I see why. I might not know exactly which one he's going to use with snap, but I'll probably have an idea. –  corsiKa Oct 3 '12 at 22:58
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@corsiKa You can know exactly which one he's going to use with Snapcaster. Like this: Wait for the Snapcaster itself to resolve. Once he comes into play, his controller puts his ETB ability on the stack, which includes declaring a target for it. The ability has not resolved yet, so the target spell card does not have flashback. Now you cast your graveyard-hate Instant targeting the same graveyard card. Your hate resolves first, exiling the card. His Snapcaster ability has no valid target, so it fizzles. –  Alex P Oct 4 '12 at 0:21
    
Technically, if you initiate the Cremate, even if it is opponents main phase, he can't cast it if it is a sorcery (since the stack is not empty). So anytime the opponent passes priority is a fine time to Cremate a sorcery. –  tengfred Oct 22 '12 at 12:51
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Now, can I use this to respond to a flashback or scavange? No. Flashback and Scavenge both remove the card from the graveyard, where you would "target" the card with your spell. Without a valid target, you cannot cast Cremate.

702.32a Flashback appears on some instants and sorceries. It represents two static abilities: one that functions while the card is in a player’s graveyard ... . “Flashback [cost]” means “You may cast this card from your graveyard by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost” ... . Casting a spell using its flashback ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2e–g.

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. ...

702.95a Scavenge is an activated ability that functions only while the card with scavenge is in a graveyard. “Scavenge [cost]” means “[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the power of the card you exiled on target creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.”

Because it moves on to the stack, is it still in the graveyard for me to exile? And even if it was, would the effect be countered? No. Cards and other objects cannot be in two places at the same time. If the card is on the stack, it is not in the graveyard for you to exile.

If the card was in the graveyard, and for instance, Scavenge read like this (which it doesn't):

Scavenge [cost] means "[Cost]: Exile this card from your graveyard. Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the power of this card on target creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery."

The card would use Last Know Information, and the effect wouldn't be countered.

Last Known Information - Information about an object that’s no longer in the zone it’s expected to be in, or information about a player that’s no longer in the game. This information captures that object’s last existence in that zone or that player’s last existence in the game. See rules 112.7a, 608.2b, 608.2g, and 800.4g.

If perhaps the ability were worded similar to Standstill, with an "if you do," then the effect would be countered because Scavenge didn't exile the card.

Scavenge [cost] means "[Cost]: Exile this card from your graveyard. If you do, put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the power of this card on target creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery."

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