I use Price of Loyalty to gain control of a creature with an attached Spare Dagger.

This means, the creature I control has

Whenever this creature attacks, you may sacrifice Spare Dagger. When you do, this creature deals 1 damage to any target.

even though I don't control the Spare Dagger.

May I actually sacrifice the Spare Dagger to get the effect?

I had this situation in Arena, and I did not get the option to sacrifice. I am wondering if this is correct and why so.


2 Answers 2


You may not sacrifice the dagger. Although Spare Dagger's ability would ordinarily allow you to sacrifice it, the rules prevent you from actually doing so: only a permanent's controller can sacrifice that permanent. If you're somehow given the opportunity to sacrifice something you don't control ... you just can't, because you're not its controller.

That's baked into the rules for Sacrifice:

701.17a. To sacrifice a permanent, its controller moves it from the battlefield directly to its owner's graveyard. A player can't sacrifice [...] a permanent they don't control.

Arena didn't give you the opportunity to try to sacrifice the dagger because you wouldn't be able to. The actual controller may not sacrifice it either, because it is you that's offered the opportunity to sacrifice it.

Note this would be different for some other equipment. This answer applies to Spare Dagger specifically because it grants the sacrifice ability to the attacking creature, which you control. If this were Throwing Knife, instead the ability would trigger for the controller, and the controller would get the opportunity to sacrifice the equipment they still control and choose the targets for the damage.

  • So with Throwing Knife, my opponent could control a creature equipped with Throwing Knife controlled by me, and if they decided to attack with the creature, I (controlling the Knife) could decide to throw the Knife at them (controlling and attacking with the creature)? That would be kinda hilarious. Also, I wonder if it would be possible for Spare Dagger to give an ability that says to destroy the Dagger, instead of sacrificing it, thus circumventing the sacrifice restriction. Or if that's just something never done.
    – ilkkachu
    Jul 22, 2021 at 21:17
  • 1
    I think that's pretty funny too. I suspect the surprising nature of that interaction is the reason Spare Dagger is the way it is, in fact! Jul 22, 2021 at 22:08

An opportunity to pay a cost does not grant the ability to pay it.

608.2d If an effect of a spell or ability offers any choices other than choices already made as part of casting the spell, activating the ability, or otherwise putting the spell or ability on the stack, the player announces these while applying the effect. The player can’t choose an option that’s illegal or impossible, with the exception that having a library with no cards in it doesn’t make drawing a card an impossible action (see rule 121.3). ...

  • Example: A spell’s instruction reads, “You may sacrifice a creature. If you don’t, you lose 4 life.” A player who controls no creatures can’t choose the sacrifice option.

This is why Spare Dagger's text does not trump rule 701.17a via the 'Golden Rule' 101.1

101.1. Whenever a card’s text directly contradicts these rules, the card takes precedence. The card overrides only the rule that applies to that specific situation. The only exception is that a player can concede the game at any time (see rule 104.3a).

608.2d's example is very similar to Spare Dagger's text. It could be read as allowing you to sacrifice an opponent's creatures if you had none yourself, but the rules say unequivocally that this is not how effects that provide opportunities to pay costs work.

  • Although this answer is 99% fine, the heading doesn't seem to fit. For example, this scenario doesn't involve paying a cost—your entire answer and the scenario talk about taking an optional action. Plus, the opportunity to pay a cost often does grant the ability to pay it: I can't sacrifice a creature just anytime, but when a cost or action offers the option to sacrifice a creature, I'm granted the ability to do so. Maybe use a heading like "You can't take impossible actions, even when offered the opportunity"? Or use a paragraph rather than heading to give yourself space to introduce nuance. Jul 22, 2021 at 15:01

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