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During the first main phase: I have a 1/2 Thraben Inspector out. My opponent casts Harnessed Lightning targeting the inspector to kill it. I then tap, in response, the Inspector to crew my Smuggler's Copter. Is this legal? Is the Copter crewed and ready to attack in the combat phase?

  • The hilarious visual of a bunch of helicopters flying around with dead crews over a city of cars flying through the streets with dead crews has made my day. Thank you. – Ethan The Brave Nov 8 '16 at 15:01
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The Crew ability doesn't have any timing restrictions on it, so it can be activated any time you have priority. And once the ability has been activated it doesn't matter what happens to the creature(s) you tapped to activate the ability (even if the Crew ability is still on the stack).

Tapping creatures is a cost of the crew ability. And there is no point between when you have announced the crew ability, when you payed the cost of tapping a creature, and when the ability is put on the stack for your opponent to respond. Once the ability is on the stack removing the crewing creature will not do anything because the cost of activating the ability has already been paid.

From the Gatherer Rulings on the Copter:

Once a player announces that he or she is activating a crew ability, no player may take other actions until the ability’s been paid for. Notably, players can’t try to stop the ability by changing a creature’s power or by removing or tapping a creature.

Creatures that crew a Vehicle aren’t attached to it or related in any other way. Effects that affect the Vehicle, such as by destroying it or giving it a +1/+1 counter, don’t affect the creatures that crewed it and vice versa.

  • It also works the other way around. If you activate the Copter's ability by tapping the Inspector, destroying the Inspector in response would not prevent the copter from becoming manned. – ikegami Nov 7 '16 at 15:32
  • Yes, that I understand. But the question is really, if the crew is killed before I tap it to crew the copter, can I tap the "dead" crew and have the copter crewed? – Tony Nov 7 '16 at 15:51
  • @Tony: if you tap them in response, they aren't killed yet, the Harnessed Lightning is still on the stack. – RemcoGerlich Nov 7 '16 at 15:53
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    @Tony Are you really asking 'Can I crew a vehicle in response to a spell?' then? – diego Nov 7 '16 at 15:53
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    I think the key here is to recognize that crewing a vehicle is just like any other activated ability. A vehicle with "Crew 2" is really just shorthand for "Tap any number of untapped creatures you control with total power 2 or greater: This permanent becomes an artifact creature until end of turn." As with any activated ability, once you pay the cost, it doesn't matter what happens to the land/creatures/etc. you paid with. – Nuclear Wang Nov 7 '16 at 16:26

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