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A Lesson in Humility



Humility is not only one of my favorite cards at the 2ww cost, but also one of my favorite cards of all time. Humility has been the long time standard for cards that produce nightmarish game states for judges, to the point where it has become a baseline thing for judges to know, for the most part. The fact that it is one of the most complicated cards to see tournament play is a bit of a mixed blessing for someone as sadistic as myself. Because players only tend to use Humility in favorable ways, any player who is unfamiliar with the rulings on the card is likely to ask a judge, which is a minor inconvenience. Even though most judges should know it, sometimes you'll be ruled against, which is a bit more than inconvenient. Additionally, when there are no judges available, such as when you're in a small tournament, playing with friends or playing on-line, there tends to be arguments over the card's interactions. That is why this week's article aims to give you a comprehensive guide to Humility and then to break it down, complete with an F.A.Q. The goal of this article is to have a reference that you can easily access and check while also teaching players how this card works. Feel free to bookmark this one.

Examining the Card






All creatures lose all abilities and are 1/1.

Phil Foglio


Well, now you've for sure taken a look at the card. That is what this is all about, and because the card effects two different aspects of creatures (Power and toughness and abilities) we can probably sum this up in two simple steps.

Step 1: Abilities

The first key to this card is to understand exactly what an ability is. There are three kinds of abilities:

1. Triggered Abilities

Triggered Ability Example #1

Triggered Ability Example #2

Triggered abilities always feature either the word, "when" "whenever", or "at". Triggered abilities put an ability on the stack when the conditions are met, such as the creature entering the battlefield or when the creature is put into a graveyard. Unless stated otherwise, a triggered ability can only be triggered while the permanent with the ability is in play.

2. Activated Abilities

Activated Ability Example #1

Activated Ability Example #2

Activated abilities are always framed like this, "Cost (multiple costs are separated by commas), Colon (:), Effect". Abilities can only be activated if the permanent with the ability is in play, unless stated otherwise.

3. Static Abilities

Static Ability Example #1

Static Ability Example #1

Static abilities are a catchall for all abilities that are not triggered or activated. These are things that the creature does while in play. Protection from X, flying, first strike and most other text you see on a creature are static abilities.

Why would we go over something so rudimentary? This exercise is going to help to clear up so many of the questions that people have about Humility. When Humility enters the battlefield, NONE of these exist anymore. Creatures enter the battlefield with no "Enters the battlefield" abilities. They have no abilities while the creature is in play and when the creature leaves play, it has no "When ~This~ leaves play/is put into a graveyard from play" ability. That means War Priest of Thune cannot destroy Humility because the creature must be in play for the ability to trigger, and as soon as it enters the battlefield, it is stripped of all abilities. Qasali Pridemage cannot destroy Humility because Qasali Pridemage must be on the battlefield to destroy Humility, which means that Qasali Pridemage will have no abilities. If Child of Alara goes to the graveyard, nothing happens because the creature didn't have that ability while it was in play. Creatures no longer have flying, haste and so on.

There are now so many exceptions to this rule as there is confusion over what constitutes an ability and what is an effect. When a creature does something as you cast it, such as it enters the battlefield, such as Meddling Mage or Arcbound Ravager, these are effects, not abilities. We can tell they are not abilities because they don't fit any of the criteria for the abilities listed above. This action is taken as the last step before the permanent enters the battlefield, and is necessary especially for creatures that naturally have zero toughness, as without it they would die to state based effects, rather than enter the battlefield with counters. So, something like Meddling Mage's "As ~this~ enters the battlefield, name a card" will still happen. However, the ability of Meddling Mage that prevents the card from being played is a Static Ability which is removed by Humility.

Lastly, Humility will only affect the abilities of creatures in play, so if a creature has cycling or other abilities that can be used outside of the battlefield, Humility doesn't touch it. Additionally, cards like Bloodbraid Elf and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre both have triggered abilities while the spells are on the stack, which is not the battlefield, so Humility does not reach those.

Step 2: All Creatures Are 1/1

Let's say I have a Grim Lavamancer on the table and you play Humility. What is Grim Lavamancer's power and Toughness? Ok, this one was easy. In fact, most of these are easy. Think of a creature, now, instead of having X/Y in the power/toughness slots, those are both one. All creatures that are on the battlefield are 1/1, but there are exceptions.

Exception 1 – Creatures with +1/+1 counters.

Because +1/+1 counters are not abilities, Humility does not remove them, that's why cards like Vampire Hexmage and AEther Snap exist. While Humility will make all creatures 1/1, a creature that has +1/+1 counters is still going to receive a boost. So, if Arcbound Worker is on the table and a player plays Humility, Arcbound Worker will be a 2/2. 1/1 from its new power/toughness, which is a great improvement over 0/0, and an additional +1/+1 from the +1/+1 counter that it entered the battlefield with.

Exception 2 – Outside effects that modify power or toughness

If Player One has Humility and Player Two has Glorious Anthem, Player Two is much more likely to be winning this game. Regardless of when something like Glorious Anthem, Cumber Stone or Engineered Plague enters the battlefield, it will still apply after Humility. There may be some confusion over this for older players, as this and the previous example would have both fallen under the "Timestamp" catchall that was commonly used for Humility, but now is thankfully something we have to refer to far less often when discussing the card.

Exception 3 – Non-creature cards that set their own or another card's power and toughness

If someone sent you a link for this page, this is the most likely reason you are here. This example is likely the most important, but it is number three because it is also the longest example and afterward we will delve into the more technical aspect of how the card works.

State Based Effects

The key to understanding Humility is to have a knowledge of how the layering system works or checking state based effects. Each type of effect is applied in a specific game order, with

State based effects according to Humility.

613.1a Layer 1: Copy effects are applied. See rule 706, "Copying Objects."

Clone, Vesuvan Doppelganger and such cards choose which card to enter the battlefield as and will stay a copy of that creature. Not that important, but it can come up.

613.1b Layer 2: Control-changing effects are applied.

Nothing to really discuss here in regards to Humility.

613.1c Layer 3: Text-changing effects are applied. See rule 612, "Text-Changing Effects."

Nothing here either.

613.1d Layer 4: Type-changing effects are applied. These include effects that change an object's

card type, subtype, and/or supertype.

Opalescence, Mutavault, Mishra's Factory, most other manlands are all given different types at this point, including subtypes where applicable.

Specially,however, Magus of the Moon will be applied in this layer, making all non-basic lands into non-basic Mountains. Even though Magus of the Moon will lose this ability in Layer 6, when Humility is applied, every time state-based effects are checked, Magus of the Moon will be applied here and make non-basic lands Mountains.

613.1e Layer 5: Color-changing effects are applied.

Painters Servant will check right here and make everything the chosen color. Although Painter's Servent will later lose this ability, every time state-based effects check, they will check in this order and Painter's Servant will still make everything the chosen color at layer 5.

613.1f Layer 6: Ability-adding and ability-removing effects are applied.

Humility's text that removes all abilities takes effect here. Any abilities that a creature has printed on it are removed. The only abilities that a creature can have are those that are granted to it through a source that happens after Humility has entered the battlefield, such as Elspeth giving a creature flying or Concordant Crossroads being cast after Humility is in play.

Cards like The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Wonder (in the Graveyard) and all other cards that give a creature an activated, triggered or static ability are taking effect right here, but will only matter if they enter the battlefield after Humility, but we will discuss timestamps after this.

613.1g Layer 7: Power- and/or toughness-changing effects are applied.

The Sub-categories are what we are concerned with.

613.3a Layer 7a: Effects from characteristic-defining abilities are applied. See rule 604.3.

Tarmogoyf, Terravore and the like all are assigned power and toughness around here because they do not have a static one printed on the card.

613.3b Layer 7b: Effects that set power and/or toughness to a specific number or value are applied.

Opalescence, Humility, Mutavault, Mishra's Factory. These are applied in timestamp order, which will be discussed later. At this point, everything is made a 1/1. In the case of Humility, overwriting the previous sub-layer but not the future ones.

613.3c Layer 7c: Effects that modify power and/or toughness (but don't set power and/or toughness

to a specific number or value) are applied.

Glorious Anthem, Cumber Stone, Engineered Plague take effect here. So after a creature is a 1/1, these will be applied in order that they entered the battlefield.

613.3d Layer 7d: Power and/or toughness changes from counters are applied. See rule 120.

This comes mostly from +1/+1 counters, which was discussed earlier. Creatures with +1/+1 counters are a 1/1 with the appropriate boost equal to the sum of the counters it has, while Humility is in play.

613.3e Layer 7e: Effects that switch a creature's power and toughness are applied. Such effects take

the value of power and apply it to the creature's toughness, and take the value of toughness and

apply it to the creature's power.

There really isn't too much to discuss here, as cards with this effect are seldom used, and when they are, it is Aquamoeba, which cannot function under Humility.

The End!

Layer Breakdown

Well, before we begin to really break this down, I'm going to simplify that for what we're concerned with:

Layers 1-3 – Nothing much happens

Layer 4 – Non-creature cards are assigned creature types as well as any other types.. Magus of the Moon turns non-basic lands into Mountains. Because this happens before Humility, it works, don't ask me why the rules work like this.

Layer 5Painter's Servant turns all cards in all zones the chosen color. Because this happens before Humility takes effect, it works. Once again, don't ask me why the rules work like this, I don't know, but this is how it works.

Layer 6Humility takes away all abilities of all creatures, including abilities granted to creatures from things that were in play before Humility entered play. New effects that are not from a creature will still grant abilities.

Layer 7a – Nothing relevant actually happens here.

Layer 7b - Humility sets the power and toughness of all creatures 1/1. Just as before, if a new effect sets the power and toughness of a creature to something else, that will be applied and overwrite Humility for the amount of time it lasts. The primary example is Mishra's Factory, when the land is activated it becomes a 2/2 and this effect lasts until the end of the turn, but more on this later.

Layer 7c – All things that add or subtract to a creature's power or toughness are applied.

Layer 7d – +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters are all applied.

Layer 7e – Nothing really happens here, as far as Humility is concerned.

Understanding Timestamps

Timestamps are relatively easy to learn and understand and to lead off talking about them I'd like to use an example from the Comprehensive Rules.

"Example: Crusade&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGxLo-bMufemxn0dNHsQ1HH_S_Bxw">Crusade is an enchantment that reads "White creatures get +1/+1." Crusade and a 2/2 black creature are in play. If an effect then turns the creature white (layer 5), it gets +1/+1 from Crusade (layer 6d), becoming 3/3. If the creature's color is later changed to red (layer 5), Crusade's effect stops applying to it, and it will return to being a 2/2. "

Timestamps exist to have a way for the game to work logically, where a new effect will replace an old one, but if the new effect is removed or goes away, the old one can still be there to pick back up. With Timestamps, the oldest effect is applied first and then every other subsequent effect is applied. Timestamps happen literally all of the time in Magic and normally go off problem free, such as when a creature stops receiving an Exalted bonus, or when Wild Mongrel changes colors. But when Humility is thrown into the mix, it can be difficult for many players to understand which timestamps are relevant.

The only time Humility will interact with the timestamp of another card is in Layer 6 and Layer 7b, because Humility will only remove all abilities from creatures and make all creatures 1/1. Because creatures have no abilities, they are not going to be able to create a new timestamp on their own, but non-creature cards can of course apply new timestamps. Another, far more complicated example may help to clear things up, this time written by myself.

Player A controls

Mobilization (Soldiers have Vigilance. 2W: Put a 1/1 Soldier into play)

Ajani Goldmane (5 Counters)

Honor of the Pure

White Knight 3/3 First Strike (+1/+1 from Honor of the Pure)

Ajani's Pridemage w/ 2 +1/+1 counters, 5/5 (+2/+2 from counters +1/+1 from Honor of the Pure) w/ Vigilance (From Mobilization)

Stone Golem 4/4 Artifact creature, no abilities

Player B controls

Filth in Graveyard (Swamp in play)

Dragon token (5/5, Red, Flying) Swapwalk (Via Filth)

Mistform Ultimus 3/3 w/ Vigilance, (From Mobilization) Swampwalk (Via Fith)

The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, which is giving all creatures the Triggered Ability, "At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice this creature unless you pay {1}"

Player A Casts Humility and it resolves. What is the result?

Player A Will have:

Mobilization, Because Mobilization was on the table first, it has the older timestamp, which means that Humility will overwrite the Vigilance ability on soldiers and replace it with no abilities. If another card such as Serra's Blessing or another copy of Mobilization enters the battlefield, the appropriate creatures will be given Vigilance, because that new permanent will have a more recent timestamp.

Ajani Goldmane, who, if activated will grant Vigilance until the end of the turn. Because this effect will always be newer than the Humility that is in play, it will grant the ability, but only until end of turn, as per the card's text.

White Knight, 1/1 + Honor the Pure = 2/2 no abilities.

Ajani's Pridemate, 1/1 + two +1/+1 counters + Honor the Pure = 4/4, no Abilities

Steel Golem 1/1, no abilities, still an Artifact, Humility doesn't affect card types.

Player B will have:

Filth will see the same fate that Mobilization did, where the effect that it grants has an older Timestamp so Humility's more recent Timestamp will remove the ability granted by Filth.

Dragon Token 1/1, no abilities

Mistform Ultimus, 1/1, no abilities, but is still all creature types as this is rules text on the card, not an ability.

The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale will also have it's timestamp over written. Because the card gives all creatures an activated ability, Humility's newer timestamp will remove this as well.

Summing Up Complicated Interactions

Mishra's Factory, Mutavault, Nantuko Monastery and other man-lands

Any time a spell or ability turns a non-creature permanent into a creature, the card is going to need to set a power and toughness for that card. Timestamps were just discussed and this is really the exact same thing. When Mishra's Factory is activated, the ability of the land produces an effect that reads "~This~ is a 2/2 artifact creature until end of turn." This ability has a newer timestamp than Humility, so in layer 7b, where Humility and Mishra's Factory are both aiming to set the power and toughness for Mishra's Factory, Humility will set it to 1/1, with its old Timestamp and then Mishra's Factory will replace that with 2/2. However, when Mishra's Factory becomes a creature, it loses all previous abilities that it had, such as the ability to tap for mana or tap to give an Assembly Worker +1/+1 until end of turn. But, if you activated something that grants itself abilities such as Nantuko Monastery, it will become a 4/4 First Strike, without the ability to tap for mana. In this instance, Nantuko Monastery produces a new timestamp in both Layers 6 and 7b, which are the two that Humility effect.

Bottom LineMishra's Factory, Mutavault, Phyrexian Totem, Treetop Village, etc are all going to have the power and toughness granted to them by the ability that made it that, plus any abilities granted by the effect that makes it a creature. So, yes, Mishra's Factory is a 2/2 under Humility.

Painter's Servant and Magus of the Moon

Whenever state based effects check (Whenever a player would get priority) all of these layers get checked as well, and unlike the stack, effects apply in order. Humility is unable to affect anything that happens prior to Layer 6. This is so that cards like Dryad Arbor are still green, and have all of their types. Both Magus of the Moon and Painter's Servant create effects that apply before Humility in these layers so these cards effectively still "work" under Humility. These creatures will be 1/1 with no abilities, however, the effect that the cards normally have on the game will still be applied. So, if Magus of the Moon is in play, all non-basic lands will be Mountains and if Painter's Servant is in play, all cards in all zones will be the chosen color. It isn't repeatedly checked with their abilities removed.

Bottom LineMagus of the Moon and Painter's Servant both work under Humility.

"As ~This~ Enters the Battlefield"

Unlike cards with triggered abilities that trigger when they enter the battlefield, cards with this sort of text work so that they can produce an effect as a replacement effect to entering the battlefield. This happens on Painter's Servant, Meddling Mage and many other creatures and is important so that something like Arcbound Worker can have power and toughness when it is on the battlefield so it doesn't die to state based effects. Because this is not a static, triggered or activated ability, Humility does not touch it. The creature isn't even on the battlefield when this effect is happening.

Bottom LineMeddling Mage still names a card, Painter's Servant still names a color, and "As ~This~ enters the battlefield" text, is not an ability, so it is unaffected by Humility.

Show and Tell, Eureka, Hypergenesis and Humility

One of the more complicated interactions with Humility has to do with the recent popularity of cards like these. The question always comes up regarding something like Terrastadon or Angel of Despair's ability to destroy Humility when both enter the battlefield from this kind of effect, but the example can be relevant for more than just triggered abilities that destroy a permanent. The best way to break this down is by card:

Show and Tell does something quite uncommon in Magic, which is put permanents into play simultaneously. Regardless of who the active player is, both cards will be on the table at the same time. Via timestamp rules, the active player is allowed to choose the order of timestamps when cards enter simultaneously, however there will never be an instance in which Angel of Despair or any other such creature is on the battlefield without Humility, so if both cards enter off Show and Tell, not only can Humility not be destroyed, by Angel of Despair will have no ability to destroy anything.

Eureka and Hypergenesis however both work a bit differently, as they allow players to take turns putting cards onto the battlefield. This means that there is a window for a permanent to exist on the table without Humility in play, even if it is the second card that enters the battlefield from this effect. So, if Angel of Despair is put in by the active player and the ability triggers. Non-active player puts Humility into play, there has been a period of time where Angel of Despair exists without Humility, although no future creatures that come into play off this spell will have abilities trigger, Angel of Despair's ability will trigger and can even target Humility. This works because while the ability has triggered, it cannot be put on the stack until a player can receive priority, which cannot happen until either Hypergenesis or Eureka has finished resolving.

Bottom Line – You can kill Humility with a creature if the creature enters the battlefield before Humility off of Eureka or Hypergenesis, but not Show and Tell.

Opalescence and Humility

This is undoubtedly the standby favorite to try to frustrate an authority figure that is talking about rules in Magic. However, this all has to do with timestamps and can actually be very simple. We'll look at each example in Timestamp order

Humility then OpalescenceOpalescence will be applied in Layer 4, turning all other non-auras into creatures In layer 6, Humility will remove all of their abilities, including its own, and in Layer 7b, Humility will make itself a 1/1, because it has the oldest timestamp and then Opalescence will make Humility a 4/4 creature.

Opalescence then Humility – Once again, Opalescence will happen in Layer 4 but this time, in layer 7b, Opalescence will make Humility a 4/4 but because it has the older timestamp, Humility will overwrite that and make itself a 1/1.

Opalescence then Opalescence, then Humility – Here, Opalescence one will turn Humility and the other Opalescence into creatures, Opalescence two will do the same for the remaining opalescence. In layer 7b, the first two Opalescence will be applied in timestamp order, making all enchantments power and toughness equal to mana cost, and then because Humility has the newest timestamp, it will make all Enchantments 1/1 creatures with no abilities, of course.

Opalescence then Humility then Opalescence – In this instance the way layer 7b works out will leave Humility and Opalescence one as 4/4 creatures, but Opalescence two will be a 1/1 creature because it is not able to set its own power and toughness, so the more recent timestamp that applies to it is Humility's.

Humility then Opalescence then Opalescence – This ends up being the most beneficial result for the interaction, where Humility will remove all abilities from all creatures, but all the enchantments will be at full power and toughness due to the fact that both Opalescences have the most recent timestamps.

When Replenish is added into this mix, it shouldn't complicate things too much, because as we touched upon earlier, when multiple permanents enter the battlefield at the same time, the active player is able to choose the timestamp order that he likes the most. Hint, Humility first.


I wanted to write a lot more about my experiences with this new control deck, but I really want to explore a few more directions before I settle on anything. I was working under the assumption that Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek was the more efficient win possible for a control deck, but assembling is really a lot more difficult than I want it to be and both of the cards are awful on their own. Additionally, the combo doesn't really use two cards the way it looks on paper, as you need to use a suite of other artifacts to enable the combo in case Sword is in the graveyard and Thopter Foundry is the only artifact in play. The more standard Counter-Top Thopter decks haven't been doing well and I think it's the reasons that I've been talking about for a couple of months now. For now, I would like to try a very traditional U/W approach and see where that leads me, although I'm open to the idea that Deed can potentially be a lot better.

Concerning Peacekeeper, I wasn't able to get the real testing in with the card that I had wanted to. Every time I'm looking to test against something, it seems nearly impossible to play against it. I'm still pretty sold on the strength of the card, however and am really looking forward to seeing what it can do. Anyway, at the time I'm closing this I need to review with some friends over what the plan is for the pre-release, in the morning. Next week I'll probably talk a bit about my impressions on the set, but seeing as how there is very little for Legacy, it won't be a primary focus. However, I am quite excited to see how this new Elspeth pans out. Until then, I hope that your release weekend is a blast.

~Christopher Walton

im00pi at gmail for Electronic Mail

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