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A situation was presented with Skyshroud Elf and Ashnod's Altar: apparently, you could generate WW or RR by:

  • Activate the Elf's filter ability ({1}: Add {R} or {W})
  • Activate the Elf's filter ability
  • Activate Altar to generate {2}
  • Resolve filter ability 1 (or 2?)
  • Resolve other filter ability

But, mana abilities don't use the stack, and once activated they resolve immediately. So, how can you "respond" to a mana ability in this way?

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

Credit to Pucatrade for the situation

  • I'm not sure I understand the situation you're describing. Even ignoring the part about mana abilties, it looks like you're talking about activating the Elf's second ability (pay {1} for {W} or {R}) and then responding to that ability by sacrificing the Elf to the Altar, and then somehow using the mana from the Altar to pay for the ability that you already activated? Or is there some nuance I'm missing? – murgatroid99 May 11 '16 at 20:58
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    @murgatroid99 The nuance is that I want to activate the elf's ability twice before sacrificing it. – JonTheMon May 11 '16 at 21:05
  • The point to 605.3b is that as long as the costs have not been paid, it does not count as activated. – Hackworth May 11 '16 at 21:29
14

It used to be possible to do this by activating the Elf's filter ability during the process of activating the same ability, taking advantage of the fact that one of the steps of casting a spell or activating an ability is rule 601.2g:

If the total cost includes a mana payment, the player then has a chance to activate mana abilities (see rule 605, “Mana Abilities”). Mana abilities must be activated before costs are paid.

But the rule 605.3c introduced in Eldritch Mood explicitly forbids the specific sequence in the question:

Once a player begins to activate a mana ability, that ability can’t be activated again until it has resolved.


However, it is still possible to do essentially the same thing in a variant scenario where a single creature has two separate instances of the Skyshroud Elf's ability. For example, if you control Ashnod's Altar and Necrotic Ooze, and your graveyard has two copies of Skyshroud Elf in it, then you can accomplish the same thing by doing this:

  1. Activate the Ooze's first filter ability. When you get to step 601.2g of the activation process, do the following:
    1. Activate the Ooze's second filter ability. When you get to step 601.2g of this ability's activation process, do the following:
      1. Activate Ashnod's Altar's ability by sacrificing the Ooze. Now you have {C}{C} in your mana pool.
    2. Pay for the second filter ability with {C} and let the ability resolve, adding {W} or {R} to your mana pool. Now you have {C} and {W} or {R} in your mana pool.
  2. Pay for the original filter ability with {C} and let the ability resolve to add another {W} or {R} to your mana pool.

By doing this, you end up with two mana in any combination of {W} and {R} to your mana pool.

  • This doesn't work. one could activate the elf, then sac to pay for it, but you can't stack activations the way you do. The problem is that you have to have the mana before activating the filter ability. Mana abilities resolve immediately there is no way to stack them, even if you could the costs must be paid first. Also all of 601.2 must be performed to activate/cast, no one can do anything else while this happens, if any step can't be performed then the game rewinds to the moment before the player tried to activate/cast. – esoterik May 11 '16 at 22:29
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    You don't have to have mana before activating the ability. You only have to have the mana before you finish activating the ability. The whole point of 601.2g is that you can activate a mana ability to pay for the ability that you're activating, and there's no reason that you can't do so recursively. Each layer of the list in the answer is one complete walkthrough of the sequence in 601.2. – murgatroid99 May 11 '16 at 22:33
  • You must follow 602.2 (n.b. 601 is for casting spells, 602 is for abilities) completely before activating the ability. Yes there is a reason you can't do it recursively it is 605.3 mana abilities resolve immediately. One could pay for the elfs ability with a second activation of the elfs ability, but that would leave you with 1W or 1R in your pool. – esoterik May 11 '16 at 22:46
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    602.2b: "The remainder of the process for activating an ability is identical to the process for casting a spell listed in rules 601.2b–i." 601.2g is a step for activating an ability, including a mana ability. – murgatroid99 May 11 '16 at 22:56
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    So even with the rule update, you can still do this trick once, right? So if you had no way to get any mana other than sacrificing Skyshroud Elf to Ashnod's Altar's (The elf is already tapped obviously), then you could still get a white or red mana + a colorless mana? – GendoIkari Jul 28 '16 at 18:28
3

The relevant rule is

116.1d A player may activate a mana ability whenever he or she has priority, whenever he or she is casting a spell or activating an ability that requires a mana payment, or whenever a rule or effect asks for a mana payment (even in the middle of casting or resolving a spell or activating or resolving an ability).

You announce the first activation of the Elf, then before you pay the costs of that first activation, you announce the second activation. You now have to pay {2}, which you do by sacrificing the elf to the Altar.

  • This doesn't work as you describe. There are steps to activating an ability, if you fail any step the game rewinds to before the activation. Critically one cannot do anything else during the activation process; you can't announce a second activation during the first. – esoterik May 11 '16 at 22:19
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    How do you interpret the rule I quoted then? I can start activating mana abilities at any time, even in the middle of activating another ability. Mana abilities having steps is exactly the reason why I can activate another mana ability before I have to pay the first. Being unable to complete a step is not checked in advance, it is checked when you get to that step. Also, did you read the link OP provided? A judge said it is possible to activate the Skyshroud Elf a second time before paying the first. – Hackworth May 11 '16 at 22:51
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No this doesn't work.

602.2. To activate an ability is to put it onto the stack and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect. Only an object’s controller (or its owner, if it doesn’t have a controller) can activate its activated ability unless the object specifically says otherwise. Activating an ability follows the steps listed below, in order. If, at any point during the activation of an ability, a player is unable to comply with any of those steps, the activation is illegal; the game returns to the moment before that ability started to be activated (see rule 717, “Handling Illegal Actions”). Announcements and payments can’t be altered after they’ve been made.

emphasis added

Mana abilities resolve immediately (605.3b), but you must pay for them first. There is no way to interrupt the activation process; the game rules require one to complete the casting/activation process or rewind the game (602.2; 601.2 for spells)

  • 116.1d directly contradicts your assertion that you cannot interrupt the activation process – Hackworth May 11 '16 at 22:56
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    Activating a mana ability to pay for a spell or ability isn't "interrupting" the process of casting that spell or ability, it is part of that process. This is described in rule 601.2g, which is part of the process of both casting a spell and activating an ability (as rule 602.2b says). – murgatroid99 May 11 '16 at 23:01
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    @esoterik This is a good start for an answer, but you need to take it all the way. The rule says "If, at any point during the activation of an ability, a player is unable to comply with any of those steps [...]". Because you are using that as justification, you also have to prove that the "if" is true. In other words, you need to demonstrate that a player is unable to comply with steps 602.2a-b or 601.2b–i (referred to as "the steps below" in the rule you quoted). So, which of those steps is the player unable to comply with? – Rainbolt May 11 '16 at 23:16

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