If I play Elixir Of Immortality for example, or any card with an ability, when it goes on the stack, can I activate its abilities before my opponent can respond?

And if so, if he counters the card after I use its ability, does the ability trigger?


No, you can’t (normally).

By default, activated abilities on cards can only be activated while the card is on the battlefield. The exceptions are abilities that either specify that they work from another zone, or abilities that don’t make any sense unless activated from another zone, such as abilities that return cards from the graveyard, or have you discard or reveal a card from your hand.

112.6. Abilities of an instant or sorcery spell usually function only while that object is on the stack. Abilities of all other objects usually function only while that object is on the battlefield. The exceptions are as follows:

The exceptions allow things such as Reassembling Skeleton to work.

Also, be careful not to say “does the ability trigger”, because Elixir of Immortality does not have a triggered ability; it has an activated ability. It will never “trigger”.


I have concerns that the question is poorly worded due to possible other misunderstandings of the rules. But I'm confident that I've worded this answer to clear up those other misunderstandings at the same time that I answer the question.

  • Most cards with activated abilities can only be activated when they're on the battlefield, with some exceptions (Elixir is not one of these exceptions).
  • While Elixir of Immortality is on the stack, the opponent can counter it. If they do counter it, then you don't have any window to activate Elixir.
  • Once Elixir resolves, it is now to late to use counterspells against it. After the stack clears, the active player (you, the player whose turn it is) regains priority, and can activate Elixir before any other player has a chance to act.
  • If Elixir's activated ability has been played, the ability can be countered by the few cards that are able to counter activated abilities, such as Stifle, but at this point it can't be countered by cards that counter only spells. You can't counter permanents that are on the battlefield, only things that are on the stack.
  • Once an activated ability has been placed on the stack, destroying the source of the ability will not counter the ability.
  • Elixir of Immortality's ability in particular refers back to the original card and moves it between zones. In this case, if Elixir of Immortality leaves the battlefield before the ability resolves, then the "shuffle Elixir of Immortality" part of the ability does not work.
  • (Vaguely related extra info) If a spell or ability has any targets, and all of its targets are made illegal, then the spell or ability fizzles (counters itself). So if an artifact targeted by Smash became an illegal target, then Smash would fizzle, and you would not get the "Draw a card" effect of Smash. However, Elixir of Immortality is not an example of this. If Elixir of Immortality leaves the battlefield before its ability resolves, it does not fizzle (because it never had targets), and although you don't get to reshuffle it, you do still gain 5 life.
  • As of the recent Dominaria rules update, your last point is actually incorrect; spells with no valid targets are no longer automatically countered; they simply leave the stack.
    – GendoIkari
    May 14 '18 at 20:22
  • 1
    @Gendolkari Multani's Presence was too powerful for NWO MtG, obviously. Thank you, based Wizards, for saving us from ourselves.
    – Veskah
    May 14 '18 at 21:46

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