How does Pithing Needle work?

Standard forum

Posted on Dec. 23, 2012, 1:39 p.m. by mmdw34

I have been told to many different things that Im not sure what pithing needle really does. What kind of cards can it block out? and can it stop creature cards or what does it really do?

Dritz says... #2

Pithing Needle

2005/6/1 Pithing Needle affects cards regardless of what zone they're in. This includes cards in hand, cards in the graveyard, and exiled cards. For example, a player can't cycle Eternal Dragon or return an Eternal Dragon from his or her graveyard to hand if Pithing Needle naming Eternal Dragon is on the battlefield.

2005/6/1 You can name any card, even if that card doesn't normally have an activated ability. You can't name a token unless that token has the same name as a card.

2005/6/1 If you name a card that has both a mana ability and another activated ability, the mana ability can be activated but the other ability can't be activated.

2009/10/1 Once Pithing Needle has left the battlefield, activated abilities of sources with the chosen name can be activated again.

2012/10/1 Activated abilities include a colon and are written in the form [cost]: [effect]. Triggered abilities and static abilities of the named card work normally.

This ought to cover at least a few bases of confusion on the matter.

December 23, 2012 1:45 p.m.

Chubbub says... #3

Pithing Needle prevents activated abilities from being activated. An activated ability is an ability that you have to cause by paying something, like loyalty counters for a planeswalker.

December 23, 2012 1:49 p.m.

mafteechr says... #4

Here is what constitutes an activated ability:

602.1. Activated abilities have a cost and an effect. They are written as "[Cost]: [Effect.] [Activation instructions (if any).]"

Note that Planeswalker's loyalty abilities are also activated abilities.

606.1. Some activated abilities are loyalty abilities, which are subject to special rules.

Additionally, Pithing Needle does not stop mana abilities. This is what constitutes an activated ability that is a mana ability:

605.1a An activated ability is a mana ability if it meets three criteria: it doesn't have a target, it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves, and it's not a loyalty ability.

December 23, 2012 2:34 p.m.

springerzach says... #5

does Pithing Needle stop Gravecrawler from coming back from the graveyard?

December 23, 2012 6:54 p.m.

Chubbub says... #6

No, casting is not an activated ability and being able to cast it from the graveyard is a static ability.

December 23, 2012 6:56 p.m.

mmdw34 says... #7

so you can use pithing needle on a planeswalker to stop them from getting counters?

December 23, 2012 9:13 p.m.

Chubbub says... #8

Yes, it's an activated ability.

December 23, 2012 9:19 p.m.

funkalunk says... #9

Holy shit people don't know what Pithing Needle does?

This is day one stuff, guys. Christ.

December 24, 2012 midnight

mmdw34 says... #10

@funkalunk how about u go fuck urself? people have questions nobody needs ur input if thats what you have to say

December 24, 2012 12:30 p.m.

zandl says... #11

Completely uncalled for, funkalunk.

As usual.

December 25, 2012 1:07 a.m.

yeaGO says... #12

Yeah, some people don't know how pithing needle works--and we don't lose our politeness or otherwise chase them off the site.

December 25, 2012 3:46 a.m.

Taiyouai says... #13

Just wondering Pithing Needle would stop Duskmantle Guildmage right?

January 29, 2013 5 p.m.

Chubbub says... #14

Yup, any ability that you have to pay a cost for is an activated ability, except for planeswalkers where sometimes you add loyalty counters so you don't pay anything, but it's still an activated ability.

January 29, 2013 5:13 p.m.

Taiyouai says... #15

Nice I figured as much but always good to double check.

January 29, 2013 5:22 p.m.

This cleared things up for me so much because for most of the time I thought pithing needle stops guilded lotus (which is why I sideboarded it in the first place) because someone who had judged frequently had told me that it was a possible move.

February 10, 2013 11:08 a.m.

zandl says... #17

Planeswalker abilities are activated abilities. Activated abilities always have a cost. The cost of using a Planeswalker ability is adding/removing Loyalty counters, or simply announcing that you're activating the ability (as with cards like Jace, Memory Adept ).

February 11, 2013 3:38 p.m.

shame2rest says... #18

would Pithing Needle stop Wayfaring Temple from populating?

March 25, 2013 10:06 p.m.

TheLameSauce says... #19

Nope, Wayfaring Temple 's ability is a triggered ability, which always has whenever, if, or when clauses to tell you when an effect happens. A good way to differentiate is activated abilities require a player to make an ACTION for the effect to happen, whereas triggered abilities are TRIGGERED by events within the game.

March 25, 2013 10:54 p.m.

zandl says... #20

An activated ability will ALWAYS have "cost (colon) effect". If it doesn't have a colon, it's not an activated ability.

March 26, 2013 1:53 a.m.

shadowstu says... #22

Taiyouai , bit of a while ago you left your comment so you might know this now, but Pithing Needle does not cancel out Duskmantle Guildmage 's abilities because Pithing Needle stops all activated abilities except mana abilities.

May 10, 2013 10:52 p.m.

Blakkhand says... #23

shadowstu, that is incorrect. Mana abilities are defined as ones that create mana, such as Llanowar Elves or Mountain .

605.1a An activated ability is a mana ability if it meets three criteria: it doesn't have a target, it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves, and it's not a loyalty ability.

May 10, 2013 11:14 p.m.

shadowstu says... #24

Blakkhand thank you for your comment, i had not known this and thought abilities that use mana were considered mana abilities. So thank you for this correction

May 10, 2013 11:32 p.m.

Schuesseled says... #25

I use the needle to stop olivia voldaren. I hate her

May 11, 2013 5:47 a.m.

Schuesseled says... #26

That's a fairly common mistake shadowstu, wizards really ought to change the wording on on that phrase to 'mana generating abilities'.

May 11, 2013 5:52 a.m.

brownkidd says... #27

I've been playing MTG on and off for a little over 3 years and was still confused by this, but yeah, Pithing Needle stays in my sideboard and gets swapped into my deck for pesky Plainswalkers and cards like Olivia Voldaren

May 19, 2013 12:27 a.m.

zandl says... #28

Oh my god. Let this topic die.

May 19, 2013 2:36 a.m.

Rhadamanthus says... #29

Maybe it would help if we keep posting in it.

May 19, 2013 2:02 p.m.

Schuesseled says... #30

Yes, this is the direction i am leaning in also, this thread should be immortalised.

May 19, 2013 3:50 p.m.

kaberb says... #31

pithing needle doesn't stop aetherling then..? crap

May 27, 2013 4:16 a.m.

Rayenous says... #32

Yes, Pithing Needle does stop AEtherling . It's abilities do not add mana to your mana pool, so they are not "mana abilities".

Remember, if mana abilities were ones that cost mana to activate then you could name a basic land and shut them down completely, as basic lands do not cost mana to activate. (Pithing Needle does not say "non-land card")

May 27, 2013 9:10 a.m.

toysm1th says... #33

simple examples

Pithing Needle targets below

any planeswalker, Jace, Memory Adept no longer works,

AEtherling no longer works,

the more complex Deathrite Shaman no longer works, its mana ability does not meet all 3 requirements it must exile target land.

the following still work Burning-Tree Shaman still works, Geralf's Messenger still works,

the more complex, Birds of Paradise still works meets all three of the criteria for a mana ability,

605.01a - an activated ability is a mana ability if it meets three criteria: it doesn't have a target, it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves, and it is not a loyalty ability.

May 27, 2013 10:31 a.m.

kaberb says... #34

thanks for the clear up, i thought when pithing needle said unless it's a mana ability meant if they had to pay mana to use the effect, then it's ok which made pithing needle look like a pile of heaping poop to me but now on the other hand...muah...ah..ha...ha..ha.....

May 27, 2013 2:03 p.m.

iVampire says... #35

So to clarify, Pithing Needle will stop AEtherling , Grim Lavamancer and Ral Zarek in their tracks but will not do anything to Llanowar Elves , Scavenging Ooze , or Deathrite Shaman . Will it do anything to Leyline of Sanctity ?

November 30, 2013 12:43 p.m.

erabel says... #36

It does stop Scavenging Ooze , though. It has an activated ability that doesn't produce mana (that is, it doesn't even meet the first requirement of a mana ability). It doesn't stop Leyline of Sanctity , because none of its abilities have a cost. They're all static abilities.

November 30, 2013 1:30 p.m.

Tradeylouish says... #37


Pithing Needle will stop all of Deathrite Shaman 's abilities. The shaman's first ability has a target, meaning it isn't a mana ability. Scavenging Ooze 's ability is not a mana ability, it is a normal activated ability, so Pithing Needle can stop it. Leyline of Sanctity has no activated abilities, only a static ability, so Pithing Needle will do nothing. You are correct about the rest of the cards.

For reference, here are the earlier posted rules regarding activated and mana abilities:

602.1. Activated abilities have a cost and an effect. They are written as "[Cost]: [Effect.] [Activation instructions (if any).]"

605.1a An activated ability is a mana ability if it meets three criteria: it doesn't have a target, it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves, and it's not a loyalty ability.

November 30, 2013 3:06 p.m.

Tradeylouish says... #38

November 30, 2013 3:07 p.m.

So then Pithing Needle can't stop Desecration Demon 's ability... Grrrrrrrr

April 29, 2014 8:53 p.m.

blg2361 says... #40

Can pithing needle stop avacyn?

June 2, 2015 12:55 a.m.

Needling someone's fetchlands is always fun.

June 2, 2015 7:50 a.m.

Xica says... #42

Does it work on Bloodline Keeper  Flip transformation ability? And does it work against its ability to produce tokens?

June 15, 2015 2:28 p.m.

swkelly89 says... #43

blg2361 seriously? this is a year old thread

June 17, 2015 7:55 p.m.

LeaPlath says... #44

blg2361, no. Avacyn's Ability is a static not activated one. For it to be activated it needs to go cost then a colon so it will look like Tap:Do X.

Xica Yes and Yes

June 18, 2015 2:34 a.m.

Dritz says... #45


It's actually a three year old thread. haha

June 18, 2015 10:44 p.m.

This discussion has been closed