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Oloro, Ageless Ascetic has an ability that functions whilst in the command zone. As a newbie to the Commander format, that leaves me unclear about something:

Whilst a Commander is in their Command zone and remains there, what effect do they have on the game?

  • Are all of a Commander's abilities active? (e.g. Gahiji, Honored One)
  • Can they use their activated or mana abilities? (e.g. Sydri, Galvanic Genius)
  • Can they do anything else (apart from being able to be cast)?

I suspect all their abilities are active and can be used, but I've been told only the ones that specifically mention being in the command zone (e.g. Oloro's ability) are active.

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Only Oloro's third ability functions in the Command Zone, and none of Gahiji or Sydri's.


Abilities of permanent cards usually only work on the battlefield, not in the Command Zone.

112.6. Abilities of an instant or sorcery spell usually function only while that object is on the stack. Abilities of all other objects usually function only while that object is on the battlefield. The exceptions are as follows:

It is notable that characteristic-defining abilities (e.g. Ghostfire's first ability) function in all zones, and even outside of the game.[112.6a] The rest of the exceptions are quite intuitive. For example, if an ability can only be activated in a particular zone, it can be activated in that zone.[112.6i] And if an ability can only be triggered in a particular zone, it can trigger in that zone.[112.6j] This exception is what permits Oloro's third ability to function in the Command Zone.

But none of the other abilities of the three cards you mentioned meet one of the exceptions that would allow them to work in the Command Zone.

  • (Sorry, didn't have time for a proper answer earlier. I figured I might as well convert my comment into a proper answer anyway.) – ikegami Nov 26 '13 at 14:31
  • Transguild Courier no longer has a CDA as of the release of Innistrad -- he's been errata'd to just have a color indicator. (The same applies to similar cards such as Crimson Kobolds and Evermind.) Lhurgoyf and friends may be a better example. – Brian S Nov 26 '13 at 22:20
  • @Brian S, Ack, I meant Ghost Fire – ikegami Nov 27 '13 at 0:16
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    @ikegami I've added a bit to this answer that describes the exception that actually applies to Oloro (and commanders in general), since I realised it never actually did that. Please feel free to reword as you'd prefer. – doppelgreener Nov 20 '18 at 11:47
  • @doppelgreener, I didn't cover that because it was a given from the question. – ikegami Nov 20 '18 at 12:24
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Cards in the command zone are not in the battlefield. Therefore no abilities are active, unless specified. The same applies for example for cards in your graveyard or exile zone. You also cannot activate abilities of cards in the graveyard, unless specified.

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    Thanks. This was a little mindbending for me: abilities are nonfunctional, except where the nonfunctional ability specifies it is functional by stating something that could only work from an area where the ability is nonfunctional, which shouldn't matter because a nonfunctional ability can't do anything, including making itself functional. Or so I thought. Ikegami pointing out CR 112.6 helps: the rules themselves make exceptions for abilities that include something that can only function in somewhere special. – doppelgreener Nov 26 '13 at 13:33
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    I strongly suggest you mention CR 112.6 in your answer - or at least the nature of the rules themselves making certain exceptions for those abilities. That makes it suddenly make sense why this stuff is the case. – doppelgreener Nov 26 '13 at 13:35
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    @JonathanHobbs Sure, but on the other hand, it shouldn't be too surprising. That's essentially what rules text does - makes something work differently from how it would without that text. The only nontrivial thing here is the fact that an ability that says "...in the command zone..." is allowed to work from the command zone, but again, shouldn't be surprising - they don't print meaningless text on cards. – Cascabel Nov 26 '13 at 19:46
  • @Jefromi But it's important to realize that there's not an a general exception or a precedent in the rules for things that "shouldn't be too surprising" — i.e. that the rules actually do explicitly define all of those things somewhere. – intuited Oct 11 '17 at 4:28
  • @intuited It was nearly 4 years ago, but I'm pretty sure the point of my comment was that from reading the card, you can tell what it's doing, so it's not a surprise to go and discover that there's a rule that lets it do exactly what it says it's doing. I wwasn't saying the rules don't exist, or that it's not helpful to mention them, just that you can (in this case) mostly understand it by reading the card. – Cascabel Oct 11 '17 at 4:39

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