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I was just thinking about the differences between how Magic is played and how the rules describe its play. In particular, I see most people cast a spell this way:

  1. Tap mana,

  2. Put spell on stack, declare targets.

But the rules describe it happening in a specific order,

  1. Put spell on stack, declare targets,

  2. Pay for costs.

Which is backwards from the way I see most people play it (even though both are legal).

So, can I do the following?

  1. Propose Shatter, putting it on the stack.

  2. Declare its target as my Lotus Petal.

  3. Sacrifice the Lotus Petal and tap a Mountain to pay for the Shatter.

  4. The Shatter does not resolve because all of its targets are not legal, and it is put in the graveyard.

File this under “shenanigans that have no real point”, but I’m curious if this bizarre sequence is legal according to the rules.

I’m also curious if there is any reason why you might want to pay for a spell after declaring its targets, other than contrived scenarios (e.g. opponent has a Black Vise, and the Lotus Petal is the only artifact in play).

  • Did you mean a card other than Black Vise? I'm not seeing how that relates here. – GendoIkari Jun 15 at 18:21
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    I'm guessing the Black Vise thing is about getting a card out of your hand to be damaged less or not at all. But it is undercut somewhat by the fact that if an opponent has Black Vise, Shatter can just target the Vise itself. – murgatroid99 Jun 15 at 18:33
  • @murgatroid99 But it wasn't given as a reason you might want to cast a pointless spell; it was given as a reason to pay for the spell after declaring targets. Unless it really meant the same thing, since you have to activate Lotus Petal after declaring targets if you want to cast the pointless spell in this case. – GendoIkari Jun 15 at 18:42
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    If Lotus Petal is the only valid target, then performing the operations in this order is necessary to get the card out of the hand. – murgatroid99 Jun 15 at 18:43
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    As an interesting side note: the recent Modern combo deck KCI actually depended on this kind of interaction to execute its combo, using the mana ability on the card Krark Clan Ironworks. Krark Clan Ironworks was banned in Modern as a result of that deck. – murgatroid99 Jun 15 at 18:43
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Yes, you can do this.

When casting a spell, declaring targets happens before paying costs:

  1. Casting Spells

601.2. To cast a spell is to take it from where it is (usually the hand), put it on the stack, and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect.[...]

601.2c The player announces their choice of an appropriate object or player for each target the spell requires.[...]

[...]

601.2g If the total cost includes a mana payment, the player then has a chance to activate mana abilities (see rule 605, “Mana Abilities”). Mana abilities must be activated before costs are paid.

601.2h The player pays the total cost in any order. Partial payments are not allowed. Unpayable costs can’t be paid.

And as you suggest, doing so will result in Shatter fizzling; going to the graveyard without resolving when it attempts to resolve. You might want to do this for a reason such as increasing your Storm count, or because you have other things that combine with having Shatter in your graveyard.

You also could choose to sacrifice Lotus Petal first, for example if you wanted to cast Argivian Find, targeting the Lotus Petal in your graveyard (again just to either increase Storm count, or because you need Lotus Petal in your hand for something, etc).

You seem to be mixing up "tapping lands" with "paying costs". These are 2 separate things. Tapping lands (or Lotus Petal, etc) adds mana to your mana pool. This can either be done any time you could activate any other ability, or it can be done during 601.2g while casting a spell.

However, paying the cost itself can only ever happen during 601.2h. You can't pay the cost for a spell before you begin the process of casting that spell.

In terms of the difference between tapping lands before you begin to cast the spell or during the casting of the spell, there is generally no difference. The rules allow for either, and I think as casually played, I've seen players do either. The difference is whether your opponent sees the card you are casting as they see you tapping your lands or not.

There are some cases where you need mana that isn't produced by a mana ability. For example, if you are casting Dark Ritual to cast a spell that costs 3 mana even though you only have 1 Swamp in play. In this case, you wouldn't be able to wait until you start casting the spell you want to cast, because you aren't allowed to cast Dark Ritual as part of that process.

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    Good answer, although I thought it was pretty clear that I’m not confused about the difference between paying costs and tapping lands. – Dietrich Epp Jun 15 at 18:51
  • @Dietrich Epp I think that the impression of confusion comes from where you said that tapping lands before casting the spell is "backwards" when it is a perfectly valid sequence of events. There's an implication (which you presumably did not intend) that you saw this sequence as less correct than tapping afterwards. – Arcanist Lupus Jun 15 at 19:15
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    Actually it was the reference to "why you might want to pay for a spell after declaring its targets", when really the question actually being asked seems to be asking about why you might want to activate mana abilities after declaring targets, rather than why you might want to pay for a spell after declaring its targets. – GendoIkari Jun 15 at 20:39
  • @ArcanistLupus: I was precise about whether I said "tap lands" or "pay costs", since they are different things. I guess readers did not pick up on that. – Dietrich Epp Jun 16 at 3:25

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