I read this question What spells can be countered? on HNQ and was quite surprised.

It is a long time I played MtG, but some 10+ years ago I was a somewhat enthusiastic player in our local town, participated in a number of official prereleases.

It is possible I am mixing something up, but has it always been that Counterspell could target (technically) any card on stack?

As far as I remember, the players down here used Counterspell as if it only could target sorcery and instant spells on stack. So you couldn't target e.g. a creature or artifact while it was being played. It's been a long time though.

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    Under the original rules, technically it wasn't possible to counter anything on the stack, since the stack didn't exist. Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 21:15

3 Answers 3


Dark Ritual was printed as a 'Mana Source' rather than an instant from Mirage to Urza's Saga. Back then, Counterspell was an interrupt, which was something of an 'instant-but-faster'. You could not counter mana sources like Dark Ritual because they were 'too fast', just like you can't counter a mana ability under today's rules. However, creatures (back then, 'Summon [creature type]' cards) have always been vulnerable to Counterspell and its ilk.

Some more information about how the rules worked back then can be found in the 2002 article 'Rules, Interrupted' by Ben Bleiweiss on wizards.com.

  • This is fascinating. Unless I am mixing something up, I think we might have been playing MtG wrong for years on town/country level, back in 199x-ies. The idea was that spells were only "sorcery" and "instant" (and yes, "interrupt"). Permanents were, well, whatever it says on them, they were. Note also that at some point back then creature types dropped "Summon" keyword, as in "Summon Zombie" became "Creature Zombie".
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 11:02
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    This mistake seems like a natural one to make, so I would believe it if your local play group made it too. Non-technically speaking, instants and sorceries are the ones that do something and then go away, which is generally how we think of spells in harry potter, D&D, etc. Blizzard's card game Hearthstone, and Riot's new card game Legends of Runeterra both separate 'creatures' and 'spells'. In those games, using a card that depicts a creature is never 'casting a spell'
    – Aetherfox
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 14:25
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    The top answer is wrong on one point. Dark ritual was originally an interrupt. But it is correct that you couldn't target it at that point. Also I don't think the concept of a stack (with that name) existed until 6th edition rules
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 18:24
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    @Gnudiff that's not really too surprising. This was before rules information was easily accessible on the internet, the game was taught primarily through casual word of mouth, and the rules themselves were a lot less orderly. Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 19:31
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    @Andrew: Indeed — Dark Ritual was first an interrupt, from Alpha up to 4th Edition/Ice Age; then a Mana Source in 5th Ed, Mirage, and Urza’s Saga; and finally an Instant from Mercadian Masques onwards, under 6th Ed rules (sanity at last). Mana Source was created almost entirely for Dark Ritual, and with only one other card is as far as I know is the rarest card type outside the Un-sets.
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 22:35

Creatures, artifacts, and enchantments have always been spells that could be countered (and now planeswalkers as well). If you want some examples from 10+ years ago, look at Remove Soul, Artifact Blast, Arenson's Aura, or Insist. These cards make it pretty clear that creatures, artifacts, and enchantments are spells when on the stack, and this has been true from the early days of Magic.

In my opinion, this is really unintuitive. It really frustrated me back when I first learned Magic (I assumed "spell" just meant instants and sorceries), and it isn't very clear from Counterspell that it can affect a creature or an artifact on the stack. Creatures at least have a flavor-justification for why they are spells; the spell you are casting is summoning the creature from another plane, which is why creature's used to have type "Summon" (look at an Alpha printing of Serra Angel for example). Enchantments also can make sense from a flavor perspective; the spell you cast is creating an enchantment. What the flavor justification for artifacts being "spells" is anyone's guess.

  • I mixed up my timeline. It was 20+ years ago. Which means that it was between 5E and 6E (my first precon deck was Urza's Saga Somnophore). As per your frustration, as we discussed in comments to another answer, it appears back then before 6E creatures had "Summon X Creature" instead of "Creature X" as their type. Which was more intuitive for them to be as spells. Not artifacts though.
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 19:40

Any spell can be targeted using counterspell other than itself.

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    That's true, but while you're casting Counterspell it isn't on the stack yet. And as my answer shows, things were different in the (distant) past.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 9:47

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