Costs and the stack with Tortured Existence

Asked by Baltan 3 years ago

My opponent has a Tortured Existence and a Volrath's Shapeshifter in play. The shapeshifter is currently a copy of a creature in his graveyard with toughness 3 or less. He then activates Tortured Existence to discard a creature with thoughness 4. Can I respond with a Lightning Bolt and take out the shapeshifter while the Tortured Existence ability is on the stack? Or will the discard part of the Tortured Existence ability, being a cost, resolve immediately granting the shapeshifter toughness 4 and taking it out of bolt range?

acbooster says... Accepted answer #1

So there're a couple things going on here.

Tortured Existence has an activated ability, and part of the activation cost is discarding a creature card. You can't respond to the cost being paid, you can only respond to the ability itself going on the stack and trying to resolve.

Volrath's Shapeshifter has a static ability, however. It constantly checks the top card of the controller's graveyard, and if it's a creature card, the Shapeshifter immediately becomes a copy of that.

By the time you're able to cast Lightning Bolt, the Shapeshifter will already by the X/4 creature due to there now being an X/4 creature card as the top card of their graveyard.

February 10, 2017 4:14 p.m.

Rhadamanthus says... #2

No, you can't respond in this way. Once a player announces and starts casting/activating a spell/ability, the next time anyone will have an opportunity to make responses is after the player finishes paying the costs. In your example, that means the creature with toughness 4 is already the top card of the graveyard by the time you have a chance to respond to the activation of Tortured Existence's ability.

Since the answer to this question involves some very technical elements, let's clear up another technical point: costs don't "resolve". Only spells and abilities resolve. When a cost is paid, it just happens. No one can interrupt it.

February 10, 2017 4:15 p.m.

Baltan says... #3

Great, thanks for the quick reply!

February 10, 2017 4:23 p.m.

acbooster says... #4

Just make sure to mark an answer so this leaves the unanswered queue :)

February 10, 2017 4:41 p.m.

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