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In doing research on how to counter activated abilities (See here) I found the Pithing Needle and I wondered: do Loyalty Abilities count within the activated abilities targeted by Pithing Needle's text?

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Pithing Needle would always nullify the planeswalker's loyalty abilities.

According to rule 306.5d of the November 11, 2016 edition of the Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules, loyalty abilities are activated abilities that (typically) do not produce mana.

306.5d Each planeswalker has a number of loyalty abilities, which are activated abilities with loyalty symbols in their costs. Loyalty abilities follow special rules: A player may activate a loyalty ability of a permanent he or she controls any time he or she has priority and the stack is empty during a main phase of his or her turn, but only if none of that permanent’s loyalty abilities have been activated that turn. See rule 606, “Loyalty Abilities.”

And this is echoed in rule 606.2 of the same compendium.

606.2. An activated ability with a loyalty symbol in its cost is a loyalty ability. Normally, only planeswalkers have loyalty abilities

Additionally, as Jefromi pointed out, loyalty abilities are never mana abilities according to rule 605.1a

605.1a An activated ability is a mana ability if it meets all of the following criteria: it doesn’t have a target, it could put mana into a player’s mana pool when it resolves, and it’s not a loyalty ability. (See rule 606, “Loyalty Abilities.”)

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  • Clarification: a "mana ability" is a specific kind of ability that generates mana, not one that costs mana (there are additional restrictions as well). – Alex P Nov 18 '16 at 2:09
  • The restrictions on mana abilities explicitly include this: "605.1a An activated ability is a mana ability if it meets all of the following criteria: it doesn’t have a target, it could put mana into a player’s mana pool when it resolves, and it’s not a loyalty ability. (See rule 606, “Loyalty Abilities.”)" There are loyalty abilities that produce mana, like Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Xenagos, the Reveler but they're not mana abilities. – Cascabel Nov 18 '16 at 2:12
  • @Jefromi Thank you. I edited my answer to reflect that. – Cyberson Nov 18 '16 at 2:17
  • I'm confused how you reached that final conclusion. Loyalty abilities, as you said, are definitely activated abilities, just a special kind that planeswalkers have. And they're never mana abilities, so Pithing Needle will always work on them. – Cascabel Nov 18 '16 at 2:17
  • @Jefromi I've been up for 14 hours, and apparently it shows. ;P – Cyberson Nov 18 '16 at 2:19

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