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Spells, Casts, And Copies, Oh My!

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As I sat here brainstorming topics for this article, I saw about a dozen questions in the span of fifteen minutes all about casting or copying spells. I took that as a sign.

This week, let's talk about what actually lets us cast spells. Then we can look at some stuff related to copying spells and what copying a spell actually means.

Spell "Permissions" vs "Restrictions"

Then, You Have My Permission to Cast

People often come through the rules chat with a question like "does Reiterate ignore timing restrictions?" This roughly translates to "Can I cast a creature or sorcery or whatever for free, or does it have to be an instant?" Of course, we understand what they're asking, and of course, they can do what they're trying to do. But the question they originally asked is totally different from what they meant.

See, if the Magic rules had to cover every situation that couldn't happen, they'd be even denser than they already are. Instead, they're generally permissive; they tell us what we can do. We have permission to cast an instant spell any time we have priority. We have permission to cast a sorcery spell any time we have priority during our main phase and the stack is empty. So on.

These spells that tell us to cast something without paying its mana cost grant us a new permission to cast a spell. By default, nobody can cast anything in the middle of another spell or ability resolving. But spells like Reiterate, Kari Zev's Expertise, or Electrodominance add to the regular permissions. This is why we can cast a Grizzly Bears with these effects—because the game lets us.

Okay, So What's a Restriction?

A restriction on when we can cast something, by comparison, cannot be broken. Even if I were to cast Reiterate in my second main phase, I won't be able to cast Berserk with it, because Berserk is restricted to being cast before the combat damage step. Similarly, if my opponent controls Teferi, Time Raveler, I won't be able to cast anything via Electrodominance. The restriction from Teferi's static ability trumps any other permissions I might have.

Permissions: Now or Later

While spells like Electrodominance grant permission to cast something during their resolution, other spells or effects tell us we can do something "this turn" or for some other duration. In these cases, we still have to follow normal timing permissions; these spells or effects usually just let us cast things from unusual places.

Mission Briefing, for example, lets us cast a chosen instant or sorcery card from our graveyard "this turn." If I cast Mission Briefing in my end step, I won't be able to cast Ponder. Since Briefing gives us a window of time to cast something, it doesn't create any new timing permissions. I won't be able to cast Ponder or any other sorcery spell during my end step unless I control something silly like Vedalken Orrery.

Magecraft!

Magecraft (and Ral, Storm Conduit's totally-not-magecraft ability) trigger whenever we cast or copy a spell. For a refresher on what it means to cast a spell, check out this article. Generally, it's obviously what copying a spell is. Storm spells like Grapeshot make copies; other spells like Narset's Reversal specifically tell us to create a copy of target instant or sorcery spell. Easy enough, right?

Some effects, however, need a bit more explanation. Take something like Isochron Scepter, for instance. It says "cast" and "copy" on it, so does it trigger magecraft abilities twice? Nope!
The Scepter instructs us to copy the exiled card, and then cast the copy. Since we're copying a card, not a spell, the copy part of magecraft doesn't see it. However, we do cast the copy, so magecraft triggers from us casting a spell.

Effects like Arcane Artisan are extra sneaky. It says "cast" and "copy" on it, so it might show up in a cursory Scryfall search. But don't be fooled! Artisan tells us to create a token copy of an exiled card. No spells are being cast or copied, so Arcane Artisan doesn't interact with magecraft at all.

Copy That

What does a copied spell actually look like? Thankfully, it looks a lot like the original! The nuts and bolts can be found in CR 707.2, but in short, a copy of a spell remembers all of the choices made for that spell. It has the same value for X, the same modes and targets, it knows if any of its additional costs were paid, etc.

Perhaps most importantly, copies of spells are not typically cast. They won't trigger things like cascade or enchantments like Swarm Intelligence. They also won't get the "bonus" effects on spells like Apex of Power or Approach of the Second Sun.

Similarly, since a copy isn't cast, no mana was spent to cast it. This most recently matters for spells like the Mythos of Illuna cycle. A copied Mythos of Illuna won't create a token with the fight ability.

However, a copy of a spell knows if any additional or alternative costs were paid. For instance, a copy of From Under the Floorboards knows its madness cost was paid, so it'll make X tokens and gain X life. A copy of a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker spell will resolve as a token Goblin Bushwhacker that was kicked, so its trigger will give your creatures +1/+0 and haste until end of turn. (Note that the Bushwhacker spell has to be copied for this to work. A Clone copy of Bushwhacker won't have its kicker cost paid, even if the original Bushwhacker's was.)

Cleanup

That's it for this week. Go forth and copy a bunch of ridiculous spells. Do that Professor Onyx and Chain of Smog thing. Any questions, comments, criticisms, random strings of profanity? Find me on Twitter or our Insider Discord.

Question of the Week: How many copies of a spell have you had on the stack at once?

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