Say, I have Cancel, which is an Instant, on my hand. It can counter any spells.

The opponent has had a creature, for example Ajani's Pridemate, on the battlefield for several turns attacking and blocking.

Can I use my Cancel onto Ajani's Pridemate and send it to the graveyard (or to its owner's hand)?

  • 3
    You might want to have a look at the basic rulebook, linked from here. It'll help out in general with your understanding of the basic parts of the game (like spells and creatures) and even has a brief bit about countering spells, on page 24.
    – Cascabel
    Jul 31, 2014 at 7:05

4 Answers 4


A creature on the battlefield is no longer a spell.

(as Gendolkari says)

Once your opponent's Ajani's Pridemate makes it onto the battlefield, there is nothing Cancel can do to stop it's reign of attacking and blocking terror. Here are the step by step actions that were taken, including the only time your Cancel can hope to stem the tide of destruction caused by Ajani's cat friend.

  1. Your opponent chooses to cast Ajani's Pridemate from their hand.
  2. They place Ajani's Pridemate onto the table and says "I cast Ajani's Pridemate" to explicitly indicate that they are casting the spell, rather than accidentally dropping it onto the table. The spell is now "on the stack".
  3. They pay any costs involved in casting the spell (mana cost, and any additional costs such as sacrificing a creature for Fling).
  4. Your opponent, having not explicitly stated they are retaining priority implicitly passes priority to you. The spell is in the process of being cast, but has not yet resolved. It is still a creature spell on the stack.

At this point, if you do nothing, the creature spell will resolve, it will make it onto the battlefield, and your Cancel will not be able to do anything about it. This is your first and last chance to prevent the otherwise inevitable cat invasion.

After your opponent passes priority, with the spell on the stack, you gain priority, and have the opportunity to cast any and all instants, or cards with flash, or activate any abilities of creatures you control for which you can pay the costs. This includes your Cancel.

  1. You gain priority and with it the opportunity to cast Cancel targeting the Ajani's Pridemate spell on the stack.
  2. You do so, your Cancel goes on the stack above Ajani's Pridemate.
  3. You implicitly pass priority.
  4. Your opponent has nothing else they can do, and so must state "Cancel resolves" or something equivalent, indicating that they too pass priority without doing anything.
  5. The top card of the stack resolves, this is your Cancel. Cancel's effect happens, removing Ajani's Pridemate from the stack and sending it to the graveyard.
  6. Everything is fine, the world is once again safe from marauding cat men.

I recognise the above is a long-winded and thorough answer to your question, and the majority of it is overkill for the interaction that you are asking about. However, it should give you some insight into the complexity of the game. We should be clear, there are games where every one of these steps is absolutely critical to the victory of a player, and doing things at the exact right time can make the difference between winning and losing.


The only time your Cancel can target the Ajani's Pridemate is the moment when they pay mana to cast it from their hand. At this point, before it officially enters the battlefield (even though it may be physically "on" the battlefield i.e. the table), you always have an opportunity to say "No, because I cast Cancel". After that moment, it would be too late.

  • Tiny mistake in there: he can't cast sorceries in reply, of course. Jul 31, 2014 at 9:28
  • well spotted, i was clearly waxing too lyrical - fixed.
    – Patters
    Jul 31, 2014 at 9:36
  • @Patters then, what about enchantment? One card, for example, has +2/+2 modifier and it's been cast onto a creature several turns ago. Can a Cancel remove that enchantment?
    – June Kim
    Jul 31, 2014 at 13:18
  • 1
    i think the heuristic you need is "if its on the battlefield, it is a permanent, and cancel does nothing to permanents", and "If someone just paid mana and cast a card from their hand, thats a spell, I can cancel it to stop whatever it does from happening"
    – Patters
    Jul 31, 2014 at 13:38
  • 5
    @junekim It would be better in general to ask this a separate question; any time you have another question, even about a related topic, a new question is better. But since it can be a quick answer, the answer is that you can target any spell on the stack, simply because there's no limitations placed in what spells it can target.
    – GendoIkari
    Aug 3, 2014 at 1:14

No. A "spell" is something that is in the process of being cast, while it is on the stack. A card in your hand, or on the battlefield, or anywhere but the stack, is not a "spell", so Cancel cannot target it.

  • I think summoning a creature is a spell. Than, the creature card just put down in the turn to summon it could be canceled by Cancel spell(but cannot be canceled as soon as the turn ends)?
    – June Kim
    Jul 31, 2014 at 6:26
  • 3
    No, the summon can only be cancelled when your opponent makes clear he want to place the creature on the battlefield. That's your only time to react on the spell. Once you accept it's on the battlefield, it can't be cancelled, so you don't even have until the end of turn.
    – Siebe
    Jul 31, 2014 at 6:37
  • 1
    @Siebe, No, placing on the battlefield is not subject to countering. It must be a spell (a card or copy of on the stack) specifically.
    – ikegami
    Jul 31, 2014 at 12:41
  • 1
    @ikegami I should have been clear. When he wants to place the creature on the battlefield by casting a creature spell that get's put on the stack of course.
    – Siebe
    Jul 31, 2014 at 13:27

I think you need to understand what we call "stack".

When, during your turn, you want to cast a spell, you start by paying the mana cost and then you annouce you are casting (i.e) Ajani's Pridemate. This doesn't go to the battlefield yet, you put it on "the stack". You then pass priority to your opponent, if your opponent wants to respond to that spell, they can do so with any instant, ability or anything that can be cast at instant speed. In this case the opponent can cast cancel. After that they pass priority back to you, you can then cancel their cancel. If you do the stack looks like this:

Your [Cancel] > Their [Cancel] > your [ajani's pridemate]

it resolves from top to bottom, you cancel their cancel. So then their cancel is no longer in the stack so the only thing left is:

your [ajani's pridemate].

Before it resolves you pass priority again to your opponent, if they have no plays to make or wish to let your creature resolve, they pass priority and the creature resolves. It then becomes a permanent, no longer a spell. A spell is only a spell while it is on the stack.

Note you don't have to only cast 1 spell at a time before passing priority, you can announce "holding priority" and put several spells on the stack. However you can only put 1 sorcery spell (the first one) on the stack (like a creature without flash). While things are on the stack you can't cast anything that would be cast at sorcery speed (unless a card in play or previously cast ("quicken" for example) modifies this rule).

Once the creature is in play you will need to destroy it, exile it or return it to its owner's hand to remove it from the battlefield.


A creature is a spell when is on the stack when the creature spell resolved it became a permanent so is no longer a valid target for spells like cancel, counter spell E.T.C.

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