This is along a similar vain to What happens when I cast a spell incorrectly? but only in that it created a further question.

At what point is it possible to decide that you don't want to cast a spell?

It's a very bad habit i know but i often find myself taping mana for a spell then thinking better of it. I've always just gone along with it after that, i followed through the action even if i see a better option but would it be right that i could change my mind and untap my land to carry out a different action?

What if i don't tap my land but simply drop a spell from my hand to the table without saying anything? Is the casting of that card implicit or would it be right that i could return the card to my hand?

Example - I have 3 cards in hand and 4 untaped land. I tap 3 land for a spell, then without saying anything or placing a card on the table i decide that really i want to cast a spell that only requires 1 land to be taped. Would i be allowed to untap either 2 and cast my 1 mana spell or all 3 land and start again?

Sorry that's more than one question! Thanks, 7's

  • Are we talking about among friends or at competition level?
    – CLockeWork
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 10:58
  • 1
    Well amongst friends i'd say most anything goes, unless practicing for a competition who gets that strict right? Commented May 1, 2014 at 11:05
  • Absolutely, "Oh wait, no... I don't do that, I tap this instead..." happens all the time with us. Sadly I've never competed so I can't really speak for that side, but... if you cast a spell or tap mana then immediately undo it I think that should be fair, if you tap mana or cast a spell then wait for a second to see if your opponent reacts, then undo it, that I'd call cheating. I'm likely wrong but I'm guessing it's all down to the judges at that point.
    – CLockeWork
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 12:10
  • If your mana pool didn't have the necessary mana before you started casting, you could forgo producing the mana while casting the spell, leaving you unable to pay the cost and the casting would be undone. This is covered here. That said, I'm not sure how that would fly in a tournament.
    – ikegami
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 14:45
  • @ikegami i'll update the question and make it clearer Commented May 1, 2014 at 15:14

1 Answer 1


Basic lands have hidden text that is no longer printed on them. It reads as follows.

Tap: Add [color] to your mana pool.

This is an activated ability. If you announce that you are activating that ability, and then tap your land, then you have activated that ability. You cannot undo an activated ability.

What if I tap a land, don't announce it, take an action, and then change my mind?

Most people don't announce that they are activating the mana ability on a land. They simply tap it. I had an opponent that tapped all of his land and announced Sphinx's Revelation for 6. I responded with Skullcrack. My opponent claimed that he had not announced his land activations yet. I called a judge. I personally experienced a Competitive REL floor judge tell that opponent that his intention was obviously to activate the mana abilities, whether or not they were explicitly announced.

Player intention is often a consideration in judge rulings.

What if I tap a land, don't announce it, take no action, and then change my mind?

You tapped your lands, but you didn't announce it, and you haven't cast anything. I call this "fiddling" with lands. There is nothing in the comprehensive rules, the regular REL rules, or the competitive REL rules that address this. Some unqualified sources on the Internet say you can take it back. Others say you cannot. In general, if the MTG rules do not permit something, it is not permitted.

What I do know is that MTGO allows you to "undo" your land activations, and that top 8 at Grand Prix's and feature matches from StarCityGames tournaments streaming on Twitch.tv have all shown untapping of lands without a judge intervening. In other words, even the top level judges allow untapping lands, as long as you haven't taken any action since you tapped it and nothing triggered when you tapped it.

  • 1
    I think the main reason they allow you to untap lands is that lands are PRIMARILY tapped as part of casting a spell or paying some cost. There's no real reason(outside of manabarbs at 1 when you want to bolt them) to float the mana before casting. So thus they assume if you didn't cast anything, then you didn't actually activate the mana ability.
    – Cruncher
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 15:53
  • @Cruncher Thanks. Added exception (at the very bottom of the answer) for things that trigger on tap.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 15:56
  • 1
    Tapping can also be used to accumulate mana in the pool. After that one can untap the lands with some ability (for example a Planeswalker's) and reuse them to get extra mana.
    – fabikw
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 20:03
  • @Rusher Thanks for that, that's really useful to know. I'll obviously try to avoid doing this anyway but at least i wont feel like i MUST then use mana once a land is turned sideways. Commented May 2, 2014 at 7:41
  • @Gendolkari Thanks for the edit, but I prefer the card tag links (i.e., [mtg:Sphinx's Revelation]) to regular links.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 16:43

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