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How do conditional abilities of creatures cards not on the battlefield work? In particular, which abilities do those creature cards have and which do they not have, for the purposes of cards that copy abilities from creatures not on the battlefield (such as Necrotic Ooze, Cairn Wanderer, or Skill Borrower)?

Here are some examples of conditional abilities:

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    The "copy ability" cards you list copy either activated abilities or specific keyword abilities. I don't see how a landfall triggered ability is relevant here, and I also don't understand what that ability "conditional". Similarly, the first metalcraft ability does not appear to match the definition of "conditional" you give at the top. – murgatroid99 Feb 24 at 20:54
  • OK, I see why that landfall triggered ability is on the list now: the ability grants first strike on resolution. I was confused because you emphasized the trigger condition even though that is unrelated to the card's relevance to the question. – murgatroid99 Feb 24 at 20:59
  • @murgatroid99 I agree that Vedalken Certarch is different from the other examples. A good answer to this question should explain why. – Zags Feb 24 at 21:12
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    I honestly think you are just muddying the issue by including it at all. Including an apparent misconception in your question just to correct it in your answer seems unnecessary, when you could instead focus on the original point you wanted to make. – murgatroid99 Feb 24 at 21:20
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You appear to be under the impression that an Auriok Edgewright card in the graveyard could have double strike, but that's not the case.

Most abilities of non-instants and non-sorceries only work while the object on which they reside is one the battlefield.

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:

112.6a Characteristic-defining abilities function everywhere, even outside the game. (See rule 604.3.)

112.6b-n [Can be summarized as "Abilities that must obviously function in other zones only function in those zones."]

(Emphasis mine)

That means that Auriok Edgewright's ability that would grant Auriok Edgewright double strike doesn't work in the graveyard.

Even if a weird situation leads to a card in the graveyard gaining an ability, a copy effect wouldn't copy it.

706.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object's characteristics and, for an object on the stack, choices made when casting or activating it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether it was kicked, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The "copiable values" are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name, mana cost, color indicator, card type, subtype, supertype, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by its face-down status, and by "as . . . enters the battlefield" and "as . . . is turned face up" abilities that set power and toughness (and may also set additional characteristics). Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied.

(Emphasis mine)


Necrotic Ooze and Skill Borrower

Necrotic Ooze and Skill Borrower only copy activated abilities (including those represented by a keyword ability).

  • From Guul Draz Assassin, they would gain Level Up {1}{B}[1], but not any of the benefits from leveling (as those are granted by static abilities that aren't copied).[2]
  • From Student of Warfare, they would gain Level Up {W}[1], but not any of the benefits from leveling (as those are granted by static abilities that aren't copied).[2]
  • From Vedalken Certarch, they would gain {T}: Tap target artifact, creature, or land. Activate this ability only if you control three or more artifacts.[3]
  • Auriok Edgewright has no activated abilities.
  • Battlewise Aven has no activated abilities.
  • Fledgling Dragon has no activated abilities.

Cairn Wanderer

None of the cards you mention has an ability copiable by Cairn Wanderer.

Keep in mind that a Student of Warfare card in the graveyard has the ability "LEVEL 2-6 First strike 3/3", but not first strike itself.

Keep in mind that an Auriok Edgewright card in the graveyard has the ability "Auriok Edgewright has double strike as long as you control three or more artifacts.", but not double strike itself.


  1. 702.86a Level up is an activated ability. "Level up [cost]" means "[Cost]: Put a level counter on this permanent. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery."

  2. 710.2. A level symbol is a keyword ability that represents a static ability. The level symbol includes either a range of numbers, indicated here as "N1-N2," or a single number followed by a plus sign, indicated here as "N3+." Any abilities printed within the same text box striation as a level symbol are part of its static ability. The same is true of the power/toughness box printed within that striation, indicated here as "[P/T]."

    710.2a "{LEVEL N1-N2} [Abilities] [P/T]" means "As long as this creature has at least N1 level counters on it, but no more than N2 level counters on it, it has base power and toughness [P/T] and has [abilities]."

    710.2b "{LEVEL N3+} [Abilities] [P/T]" means "As long as this creature has N3 or more level counters on it, it has base power and toughness [P/T] and has [abilities]."

  3. Italicized text (such as "Metalcraft") has no game meaning. It doesn't exist as far as the game is concerned.

    207.2. The text box may also contain italicized text that has no game function.

    207.2c An ability word appears in italics at the beginning of some abilities. Ability words are similar to keywords in that they tie together cards that have similar functionality, but they have no special rules meaning and no individual entries in the Comprehensive Rules. [...]

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In general, conditional abilities are not copy-able if the creature is not on the battlefield because they are actually the result of granting abilities on those creatures, and these granting abilities don't work off the battlefield:

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.

Most of the examples given have either static or triggered granting abilities. Triggered granting abilities are ones that read "when/whenever ..., [CARD NAME] gains ...". Static granting abilities are ones that read "as long as ... [CARD NAME] has ..." or " [CARD NAME] has ... as long as ...". Note that higher level abilities on a card with level up are shorthand for this text:

710.2a "{LEVEL N1-N2} [Abilities] [P/T]" means "As long as this creature has at least N1 level counters on it, but no more than N2 level counters on it, it has base power and toughness [P/T] and has [abilities]."

For lack of a granting ability that says it works from a different zone, these granting abilities only work while the creature is on the battlefield. Thus, a creature not on the battlefield won't have a conditional ability even if the condition for the granting ability is true or has been met.

For example, Necrotic Ooze will copy the ability to add level counters from any creature in a graveyard (since that's not conditional) but will not gain any of that creature's higher level abilities, even if the Ooze has an appropriate number of level counters.

Exception 1: if the condition is part of the activated ability (such as text like "activate this ability only if...") as opposed to a condition on the creature having the activated ability, then the creature has the ability in all zones. For example, Vedalken Certarch's ability will be copied by Necrotic Ooze because the condition is part of the ability.

Exception 2: a creature that copies everything from a card not on the battlefield (such as Body Double) can gain conditional abilities, but that is because it copies the granting abilities (among other things).

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