If an ability says "target creature," does the creature have to be on the battlefield? I think I found a loophole that depends on the answer.

  • 10
    If you don't mind me asking, what was the possible loophole you found? Nov 11 '14 at 3:55
  • 2
    Your question could be simplified to "What is a creature?" Once that has been established, it's clear what "target creature" means.
    – Rainbolt
    Nov 11 '14 at 21:08

Yes, it does. The rules say:

109.2. If a spell or ability uses a description of an object that includes a card type or subtype, but doesn’t include the word “card,” “spell,” “source,” or “scheme,” it means a permanent of that card type or subtype on the battlefield.

i.e., "creature" can only mean a creature permanent on the battlefield.

  • 1
    I'd just like to add that it is a default e.g. card may say "target creature card in your graveyard" in which case, it has to target a creature in the grave. Rule 109.2 does say this but I don't think it has been made clear Nov 11 '14 at 8:56
  • 8
    @LukeDrew: in that case, it says creature card. Nov 11 '14 at 9:40
  • 1
    I liked the old "Enchant dead creature" of animate dead. The new wording is so convoluted!
    – Nick
    Nov 11 '14 at 14:00
  • 3
    @Luke Drew, Since the word "card" is included, 109.2 doesn't apply. "Creature" acts as an adjective modifying "card" in that sentence. "target creature card" means "target card (that is a creature)", not "target creature (that is a card)".
    – ikegami
    Nov 13 '14 at 17:21
  • 1
    Maybe I wasn't too clear, I was trying to say that "target creature" is also appears in "target creature card in your graveyard" which is why I had "target creature" in bold. I think in the end, I was trying to point out maybe you should make a point that if it is followed by one of the words in 109.2, then you can't target something on the battlefield. If you think that rule 109.2 makes that clear without explaining it, then feel free to ignore me. I'm sorry if this still makes no sense since I'm not the best at explaining things :( Nov 14 '14 at 9:08

Yes, when targeting a permanent, creature, artifact, enchantment, planeswalker or land, it must be on the battlefield. When targeting specifies targeting a spell, it must be on the stack (like with counterspell). There are exceptions to this, but they all specify how they work, for example:

  • Animate Dead specifies it enchants a "creature card in a graveyard".
  • Zombify uses the words "target creature from your graveyard" by saying it's coming from the graveyard, that's the only place it can be when you target it.
  • Runic Repetion specifies it returns a card from exile, defining the zone where the card had to be to be targeted.
  • The first sentence is a bit confusing, because a permanent that isn't on the battlefield isn't a thing that exists in the game; a permanent is always on the battlefield. It also doesn't really address the question; because the asker didn't know if "target creature" meant that the target had to be a permanent.
    – GendoIkari
    Nov 1 '19 at 20:03
  • @GendoIkari better?
    – Andrew
    Nov 1 '19 at 20:06
  • 1
    In my opinion, calling those examples "exceptions" is less clear than just describing or quoting the actual rule for how this works, as the other answer does.
    – murgatroid99
    Nov 1 '19 at 20:31
  • Right, as Rainbolt's comment on the question says, the issue here is not knowing what the game means when it says "creature". It's not that the creature must be on the battlefield unless stated otherwise.. it's that "creature" by definition can only exist on the battlefield; outside of the battlefield it has a different name ("creature card").
    – GendoIkari
    Nov 1 '19 at 20:36

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