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If an opponent is using an Avacyn Pilgrim (and three forests) to cast a Cudgel Troll, and I Lightning Bolt the monk, does that counter the Troll being cast?

Would the same be true for a Loxodon Smiter?

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Mana abilities are stupidly fast:

605.3b An activated mana ability doesn't go on the stack, so it can't be targeted, countered, or otherwise responded to. Rather, it resolves immediately after it is activated. (See rule 405.6c.)

http://mtgsalvation.gamepedia.com/Mana_Abilities

So, you can't do anything after the Pilgrim is tapped to stop the mana being generated.

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Once your opponent is casting a spell, that's the only thing that's going on. (There are plenty of steps to the process, including activating mana abilities and paying costs, but it's all things that are part of casting the spell.) You have no chance to interrupt with a spell of your own. And if you cast Lightning Bolt on their Avacyn's Pilgrim at some point when you get priority before they're doing anything, they can always tap it in response for mana. So you can't stop them from getting mana, and it doesn't matter what they intend to do with that mana.

The only way you can reasonably do something like this to stop them from casting a spell is to kill the Pilgrim before they are actually able to cast that spell. For example, if you think they might want to cast a non-instant spell, you could kill the Pilgrim before they reach their main phase, perhaps on your own turn or during their upkeep, when they can't cast it. But this doesn't counter a spell, it just hopefully keeps your opponent from having an opportunity to cast it.

As Dragon has pointed out, mana abilities resolve immediately, without using the stack, so even if your opponent for some reason wanted to give priority to you after activating the ability, rather than just using the mana, they'd still have the mana floating in their mana pool.


Now, while Avacyn's Pilgrim's ability is a mana ability and thus can't be stopped from resolving, there are ways to produce mana besides mana abilities, and those can potentially be stopped. For an ability to be a mana ability, it has to meet a few criteria:

  • it does not have a target
  • it could produce mana
  • it's not a loyalty ability.

So for example, Xenagos, the Reveler's +1 loyalty ability is not a mana ability: it can produce mana, but it's a loyalty ability. It uses the stack, and you'll get a chance to respond. You could kill one of your opponent's creatures in order to reduce the amount of mana it produces. However, killing Xenagos wouldn't do anything about it; the ability exists independently and will still resolve and produce mana.

Similarly, Deathrite Shaman's first ability is not a mana ability: it can produce mana, but it has a target (a land card in a graveyard). If in response you exile that land card, the ability no longer has a legal target and it will be countered by the rules of the game, leaving your opponent without the mana. However, like with Xenagos, killing the Shaman won't stop the ability.

But of course, most things that produce mana are mana abilities, so there's no way to stop them.

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  • Nitpick: Actually, that's not quite accurate - some spells CAN be cast at any time; they are called interrupts. For example: Counterspell. Also, triggered abilities could be triggered at any time. Finally, and I'm not sure if I remember this right, I think you might be able to play an instant after land is tapped for mana, but before that mana is spent to cast a spell. – Benubird Jun 18 '15 at 13:28
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    Interrupt has not been a spell type since sixth edition... – Pow-Ian Jun 18 '15 at 13:30
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    Triggered abilities can be triggered at any time, but they will not resolve until you get priority, which is after the stack resolves. Your last point about being able to cast an instant after tapping but before the mana is spent is not really relevant to the conversation. The fact is the mana is still in the mana pool so killing the creature does not get rid of the mana. – Pow-Ian Jun 18 '15 at 13:33
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    @corsiKa The key part is "if a mana ability is being activated as part of casting a spell". Yes, if they've activated the mana ability outside that, all kinds of things could be happening. But unless your opponent explicitly does something like that, you have to assume you're not getting priority in the middle of them tapping lands and playing a spell. – Cascabel Jun 18 '15 at 16:39
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    Ooo yes you're absolutely right! I missed that part. You betchya. If you've announced a spell, no one is doing anything until you cast it. – corsiKa Jun 18 '15 at 16:58
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Mana abilities resolve immediately.

605.3b An activated mana ability doesn’t go on the stack, so it can’t be targeted, countered, or otherwise responded to. Rather, it resolves immediately after it is activated.

Instant spells do not resolve immediately. You have to give your opponent a chance to respond first. (This is covered by rules on timing and priority, which are more complex than this question calls for.)

There are two ways that the situation you described could happen.

Situation A

You begin with priority.

  1. You cast Lightning Bolt targeting Pilgrim
  2. Your opponent activates Pilgrim for mana
  3. Lightning Bolt resolves
  4. Your opponent uses the mana to cast Troll

Situation B

Your opponent begins with priority.

  1. Your opponent activates Pilgrim for mana
  2. Your opponent uses the mana to cast Troll
  3. You cast Lightning Bolt targeting Pilgrim
  4. Lightning Bolt resolves, targeting Pilgrim

Although the order of events changes a little, the end result is the same. It is simply not possible for you to prevent your opponent from activating the Pilgrim. Your opponent will always have a chance to respond to your Lightning Bolt.

Side note: Depriving your opponent of mana (for example, with a card like Mana Short) does not counter a spell. It simply prevents them from casting it in the first place.

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