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Say it's the start other player's combat phase, and I have Aethersquall Ancient out on the field, whose 2nd ability's cost is to spend 8 energy to bounce all other creatures besides it off the board. I have 5 energy. Could I cast Harnessed Lightning, an instant that gives 3 energy, and not spend any on its effect and instead spend the new total of 8 energy on the Ancient's ability before the blocking step?

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    You can't activate Aethersquall's ability except when you can cast a sorcery; on your own main phase if the stack is empty. – GendoIkari Nov 23 '16 at 0:36
  • Is there a particular reason to cast Harnessed Lightning in the declare attackers step rather than main phase 1? You can cast it then, do zero damage and have 8 energy and a clear stack in your main phase to do a mass bouncing. – mfcrocker Nov 24 '16 at 11:03
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No, you Can't.

Aethersqual Ancient's second ability has a limiting condition, specifically:

Activate this ability only any time you can cast a sorcery.

To the best of my recollection, there is not a card in magic the gathering that will allow you to activate the ability. Refer to Vedalken Orrery on oracle for clarification, explaining why it doesn't work.

This applies only to casting spells. It does not, for example, change when you may activate abilities that can only be activated “any time you could cast a sorcery”.

Editorial: This is one of the occasions where the plain text on the card isn't sufficient. There are several cards that let you play a sorcery as though it had flash, yet it takes going to their oracle pages to find the above. Intuitively, if there is an effect that allows me to play a sorcery as if it had flash, and this ability is limited to only being activated if I can play a sorcery, than I should be able to activate the ability.

You can cast Harnessed Lightning, and choose not to use any Energy, adding to your energy pool for eight total. However, when you go to activate the ability during the end of the Declare Attacakers step of your opponents turn, you will be trying to take an illegal action. Your opponent should stop you from doing so.

  • Ah yeah, I forgot about that – Troy Nov 23 '16 at 3:15
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    Being able to cast a sorcery during your opponents turn won't allow you activate the ability. That phrase means 'during your main phase while the stack is empty' – diego Nov 23 '16 at 3:23
  • @diego You're correct; I loosely recalled that cards exist that allow you to cast cards as if they have flash. Just dived Oracle to flesh out the caveat. – Drunk Cynic Nov 23 '16 at 3:28
  • The reason I originally edited out the part about your opponent correcting you is that it's irrelevant (answers to rule-based questions don't generally require assumptions on what might happen if you don't follow them) and misleading (it suggests that it's okay to attempt to do so and have the opponent resolve the situation, or even that your opponent is responsible for paying attention more than you are). I'm not sure why you're insisting to include this in your answer, and I'm not going to propose another edit on top of the one I did before, but I wanted to note this much. – TheThirdMan Nov 23 '16 at 14:13
  • @TheThirdMan I persist because that is specifically the course of action the question is investigating. It wants to know if they can cast the instant, not use the energy, and activate the ability. The answer as constructed has parts: No you can't do that, There isn't a condition that will let you do that, and What would happen if you tried. – Drunk Cynic Nov 23 '16 at 14:29

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