In Magic, you have two ways to pay for a spell (or ability):

  • Collect the mana first, then cast the spell and spend the mana to pay for it.
  • Cast the spell, play some mana abilities as part of the casting, spend the mana to finish the casting.

I can name some situations when the first approach is more advantageous.
For one, you can collect mana from other sources, like spells.
As spells aren't mana abilities you can't use those in the second approach.

Are there some situations where the second approach is more advantageous mechanically? What kinds of situations are those?
Let's assume no mistakes are made, so no need to rollback an illegal casting.

  • 4
    You ask what the point of the rule is in your title, but ask under what circumstances it's more mechanically advantageous in your body. What if the point of it isn't mechanical advantage at all? (There are many things MTG's designers do just because it's more intuitive and easier for players to deal with.) Which are you interested in? The actual reason for the rule, or the situations where it's mechanically advantageous to use it? I think if you're after the former, presuming it's got anything to do with mechanical advantage might be doing the question a disservice. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:01
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    I'm not sure if this is the kind of thing you're looking for, so I'm not posting it as an answer: You cast Mycosynth Golem with an affinity count of five, so its cost is six mana. You only have two mana from lands available, but you have a Krark-Clan Ironworks in play, so you sacrifice two artifacts in order to generate the four mana you need. Since you cast the Golem before paying its cost, you get the locked in cost of six. If you had added the mana first, you would have needed to sacrifice four artifacts to generate the appropriate mana to cast the golem.
    – SocioMatt
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 13:05
  • 1
    Ok, I've given your title an edit accordingly. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 13:10
  • 3
    @tsuma534 Keep it. I am not looking forward to the flood of "Oh! I have an example that matters!" answers, but the question is totally fine.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 13:17
  • 2
    A lot of relevant comments here: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/13062/….
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


I can think of one that I used to use back in the Mirrodin days using Mycosynth Golem and Krark-Clan Ironworks. The short version is that in the case where you cast the spell before paying its cost, you can save yourself from sacrificing more artifacts than necessary.

As an example, you have five artifacts on the battlefield, so your affinity is five. You also have two available land that produce two mana, and an Ironworks. Here are the two ways you could play it:

  1. You pay the costs first. You tap your 2 land, so now you need 9 more. In order to get this to work, you have to sacrifice 4 artifacts to generate an additional 8 mana. This leaves you with an affinity of 1, which gives you enough to pay for the Golem.
  2. You cast the Golem first. The Golem goes on the stack with an affinity of five, reducing the cost to six mana. You then pay the six mana by (1) tapping your two land and (2) sacrificing two artifacts to the Ironworks for four mana.

In most cases, the second option is better (unless you are wanting to sacrifice more artifacts for some reason). This is a case where casting your spell before paying costs is beneficial.

In a more general sense, the cases where you'd want to cast the spell before paying costs are ones where you want to lock in a casting cost that has the potential to change as you're paying for it. The example above illustrates this principle, and rule 601.2h in JonTheMon's answer has an equally important example.

This is going to be a little verbose, but the standard is probably something like:

"If you are going to be paying a reduced cost for your spell because of effects of cards on the battlefield, but in paying the cost for your spell you will be removing those cost-reducing cards from the battlefield, you should put the spell on the stack first and then pay costs."


We get a pretty good example from rule 601.2h:

The player pays the total cost in any order. Partial payments are not allowed. Unpayable costs can’t be paid.


You cast Altar’s Reap, which costs {1}{B} and has an additional cost of sacrificing a creature. You sacrifice Thunderscape Familiar, whose effect makes your black spells cost {1} less to cast. Because a spell’s total cost is “locked in” before payments are actually made, you pay {B}, not {1}{B}, even though you’re sacrificing the Familiar.

  • Now I'm ashamed. I recall reading this one.
    – tsuma534
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 13:14

Yes, there is at least one situation where the special timing rules for mana abilities allow plays that would be impossible with non-mana abilities:

If you want to activate the Skyshroud Elf, and pay for its ability's activation cost by sacrificing the elf to an Ashnod's Altar, you can do that.

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