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Abilities and Mechanics: Time Spiral Block, Part 1


Hey guys and gals! This week, we are going to get into the mechanics of Time Spiral block. Now, for those of you who played Time Spiral, you know that there was a whole subset of cards that were “timeshifted.” These were reprints of cards in their original frame with a purple Time Spiral expansion symbol on them that had all kinds of abilities from older sets. We aren’t really going to get too much into those; this article series focuses much more on the new abilities added in each set. However, I will touch on a few notable returning mechanics that were introduced in a pre-Modern block. Let’s get to it!

Time Spiral


Time Spiral made a keyword that means “You may cast this card anytime you could cast an instant.” While this rules text had existed on older cards before, we replaced that text with the word “Flash.” Multiple instances of the Flash ability don’t mean anything, and older cards with the old text on them were changed in Oracle to have the “Flash” word.

Split Second

Split Second is an ability that functions while the card with Split Second is on the stack. While a card with Split Second is on the stack, no other abilities may be activated and no other spells may be cast. An exception is that mana abilities are still able to be used. Triggers also still function as normal. For instance, if you cast Krosan Grip targeting a Chalice of the Void with 3 counters on it, that Krosan Grip will still get countered by the Chalice, because that is a trigger, not an activated ability. Split Second doesn’t affect spells and abilities already on the stack; it just prevents new ones from being added. Some popular Split Second cards are Sudden Shock, Extirpate, and the aforementioned Krosan Grip.


Suspend is a mechanic that allows you to spend a lower mana cost for your spell in exchange for that spell not actually being cast until a later turn. Suspend is written “Suspend X – (cost).” The way that works is that you will pay the cost and exile the card as a special action with X time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, you remove a time counter from any suspended cards you have currently in exile. When the last counter is removed, the spell goes onto the stack without paying the mana cost for the spell. If the suspended spell is a creature spell, it gains Haste when it comes off suspend. If for some reason you cannot put that spell onto the stack, like your opponent controlling a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, the spell stays permanently in exile. Putting a spell in Suspend is a special action; it cannot be responded to and it does not use the stack. However, the trigger that takes the spell out of exile and onto the stack is a trigger that can be responded to normally. Popular Suspend cards are Lotus Bloom, Ancestral Vision, Hypergenesis, and Living End.

Buyback – Old Mechanic

Buyback is an ability printed on instants and sorceries. It’s written as “Buyback (cost).” This means that as an additional cost to cast your spell, you may pay the Buyback cost. If you do, return the spell to your hand when it resolves instead of placing it into your graveyard. If the spell is countered, it still goes to the graveyard. It will only return to your hand if the spell successfully resolves. If you copy a spell with Buyback, the “copy” of the spell will be put into your hand and cease to exist as a state-based action. Buyback does not change the spell’s converted mana cost if you choose to pay it.

Echo – Old Mechanic

Echo is an ability printed on permanents. It’s written as “Echo (cost).” It triggers at the beginning of your upkeep, and if the permanent came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, you have to pay the Echo cost or else sacrifice the permanent. As you can see, it’s not a great idea to take control of a creature with Echo if you were looking for a creature to stick around for you! If you take control permanently of a creature with Echo, Echo will trigger during your upkeep and you will have to pay the Echo cost or else sacrifice it!

Flanking – Old Mechanic

Flanking is a trigger that triggers during the Declare Blockers step. It says, “Whenever this creature becomes blocked by a creature without flanking, that creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn.” Multiple instances of Flanking stack and trigger independently, much like Bushido from the Kamigawa block.

Flashback – Old Mechanic

Flashback returned in Time Spiral and has also returned to us in Innistrad! Flashback is printed on instants and sorceries as “Flashback (cost).” This ability really functions from the graveyard. If the card is in the graveyard, you may pay the Flashback cost to cast the spell from your graveyard. If the spell would go anywhere from the stack, you exile it instead if you cast it from the graveyard with Flashback. The flashed-back spell never goes back to the graveyard, so things that trigger on cards going to the graveyard won’t trigger.

Kicker – Old Mechanic

Kicker also returned in Time Spiral and also recently visited us in the Zendikar block. Kicker is printed on a spell as “Kicker (cost).” This means that you may choose to pay the Kicker cost on the spell as an additional cost. In return for paying that extra cost, the spell has extra or added effects. Some important rules notes here are that if you copy a spell that had its Kicker cost paid, the copy will also have the functionality of a “kicked” spell. However, you will not have to pay the Kicker cost for the spell copy. Kicker is a copiable value of a spell. You choose to pay the Kicker cost in Step 2 of casting a spell; the cost is added in Step 5; and you finally pay that cost in Step 7. Kicker also does not count toward a spell’s converted mana cost regardless of whether you pay it or don’t.

Madness – Old Mechanic

Madness returns as well in Time Spiral. Madness has had a few functional changes over the years. The current iteration of Madness works like this: Madness (cost) means, “If you would discard this card, discard it, but you may exile it instead of placing it in the graveyard,” and “When this card is exiled this way, its owner may cast it by paying (cost) rather than paying its mana cost. If that player doesn’t, he or she puts this card into his or her graveyard.” Some important rules notes here are that this counts as an alternative cost when casting the spell; additional costs such as Buyback or Kicker would still need to be paid in full if you wished to use them. Another important rules note is that any effects that trigger off a card being discarded will still trigger, even if the player chooses to use the madness ability.

Morph – Old Mechanic

Morph is a mechanic I could write an entire article about if you were interested in being a judge, but for the majority of interactions that actually happen in games, it’s pretty simple. You may cast a card with Morph for 3 instead of its normal mana cost. That card then enters the battlefield as a 2/2 face-down creature with no name, no converted mana cost, no expansion symbol, no color, and no creature type. You may then pay the Morph cost on that card to flip it face up anytime you have priority and can pay the cost. Flipping the card face-up does not use the stack and cannot be responded to; it is a special action. When you choose to copy a face-down Morph, you get a 2/2 face-up creature with no name, no converted mana cost, no expansion symbol, no color, and no creature type or abilities. If you turn the original Morph face-up, the copy stays with the characteristics of the face-down Morph.

Rampage – Old Mechanic

Rampage is a triggered ability that functions during combat, much like Bushido. “Rampage X” means, “Whenever this creature becomes blocked, it gets +X/+X until end of turn for each creature blocking it beyond the first.” Multiple instances of Rampage trigger independently and stack favorably. Pretty good combo with Lure, but that’s about it.

Shadow – Old Mechanic

Shadow is an evasion ability; it changes the rules for attacking and blocking creatures. A creature with Shadow can only be blocked by or block another creature with Shadow. Multiple instances of Shadow are redundant on a creature.

Storm – Old Mechanic

Storm is a triggered ability that functions when the spell is on the stack. Storm means, “Whenever you cast this spell, put a copy of it on the stack for each other spell that was played before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.” This trigger triggers and goes onto the stack after the spell is successfully cast and all the mana has been paid for the spell. The Storm copies are put directly onto the stack when the trigger resolves and are not “cast.” Future spells with Storm played in the same turn will not count the Storm copies. Storm copies can be countered just like any other spell on the stack; the Storm trigger itself can also be countered before it resolves. If you copy a spell with Storm with something like Twincast, the copy will have Storm, but it will not trigger since the copy made with Twincast is not “cast,” much like the Storm copies themselves.

That’s gonna wrap it up; we’ll finish Time Spiral block next week. As you can see, there are a ton of abilities in this block that need to be gone over, so stay tuned next week for Planar Chaos and Future Sight.

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