Let's say I have Lightning Bolt and my one opponent has a Leyline of Sanctity and no creatures in play. I might still want to cast Lightning Bolt to delve it later or to buff up my Tarmogoyf or whatever. My question is... can I cast Lightning Bolt without targeting anyone? Can I just decline to name a target and let the spell fizzle? Or if either I or my creatures are the only valid targets do I have to target myself?

  • 2
    If a spell has no legal targets it cannot be cast.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jul 8, 2015 at 16:22
  • If you're playing lightning bolt and your opponent opens with a Leyline of Sanctity, you might as well scoop anyway.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 8, 2015 at 19:04
  • 7
    You could always bolt yourself!
    – Skyl3lazer
    Jul 8, 2015 at 20:57
  • You could also just keep your hand full and when you get to 8 cards end your turn and discard it.
    – JekwA
    Jul 14, 2015 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


You cannot cast a spell without choosing all specified targets. In the process of casting a spell, we have these rules

  • 601.2. To cast a spell is to take it from where it is (usually the hand), put it on the stack, and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect. Casting a spell follows the steps listed below, in order. If, at any point during the casting of a spell, a player is unable to comply with any of the steps listed below, the casting of the spell is illegal; the game returns to the moment before that spell started to be cast (see rule 717, "Handling Illegal Actions"). Announcements and payments can't be altered after they've been made.
    • 601.2c The player announces his or her choice of an appropriate player, object, or zone for each target the spell requires. A spell may require some targets only if an alternative or additional cost (such as a buyback or kicker cost), or a particular mode, was chosen for it; otherwise, the spell is cast as though it did not require those targets. If the spell has a variable number of targets, the player announces how many targets he or she will choose before he or she announces those targets. The same target can't be chosen multiple times for any one instance of the word "target" on the spell. However, if the spell uses the word "target" in multiple places, the same object, player, or zone can be chosen once for each instance of the word "target" (as long as it fits the targeting criteria). If any effects say that an object or player must be chosen as a target, the player chooses targets so that he or she obeys the maximum possible number of such effects without violating any rules or effects that say that an object or player can't be chosen as a target. The chosen players, objects, and/or zones each become a target of that spell. (Any abilities that trigger when those players, objects, and/or zones become the target of a spell trigger at this point; they'll wait to be put on the stack until the spell has finished being cast.)

So, when you cast a spell, you have to choose legal targets to legally cast the spell.

  • Note that you do not have to specify targets for activated and triggered abilities on the spells you cast. You can for example cast Hypothesizzle with no creatures on the battlefield (and discard a nonland card, if you wish). Hypothesizzle is anomalous though: previous cards solved optional targeting by saying "up to one target".
    – Fax
    Aug 29, 2019 at 11:49

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