One of the best things about Magic: The Gathering is how the game lets you rewrite the rules as you play. You're a powerful wizard after all—with enough mana, you should be able to do anything! That includes in-fiction zaniness like Lich's Mastery or Dovescape, but it also includes meta hacks like Eon Hub or Ritual of Subdual.

Among the cards that let you dictate the rules of engagement, few have the competitive pedigree of Chalice of the Void.

Chalice of the Void has been a staple of Modern and Legacy for over a decade thanks to its ability to proactively shut down multiple cards at once. Today we're going to look at how the card works, and what you can do if you see it across the table.

Playing Chalice of the Void

How Does Chalice of the Void Work?

Lots of spells in Magic: The Gathering let you counter your opponent's spell, magically parrying it out of existence and into the graveyard. Chalice of the Void works by preemptively declaring a whole set of spells verboten, and automatically countering those spells when they're cast.

Which spells get countered? It depends on their mana value.

Before 2021, mana value was called converted mana cost, which players sometimes abbreviated as CMC. Whichever term you're used to, it means the same thing: the total amount of mana in a mana cost, regardless of color.

For example, Mystical Dispute has a mana cost of two generic mana and one blue mana. That's three mana total, so its mana value is 3.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den has a mana cost of one generic mana and two other mana, both of which can be either white or black. That's three mana total, so its mana value is also 3.

When you cast Chalice of the Void, you choose how many charge counters you want it to have (X), and pay twice that much mana. Then Chalice of the Void enters the battlefield with X charge counters. While it's in play, it has a triggered ability that fires automatically whenever a player casts a spell with a mana value equal to that number of charge counters. When this ability triggers, it goes on the stack and attempts to counter the spell that triggered it.

What makes this so devastating is that highly competitive decks, especially in older formats with big cardpools, players usually stick to cards with mana values of 1-3. This means a single Chalice of the Void can shut down a third or more of all the spells in a player's deck, slowing them down or even locking them out of their win condition.

Does Chalice of the Void Affect You?

Unfortunately, yes. Chalice of the Void doesn't distinguish between players, and it doesn't give its controller an option about whether it triggers. If you have Chalice of the Void on the battlefield, and you cast a spell with a mana value equal to the number of charge counters on the Chalice, the Chalice's trigger will counter your own spell.

Can Chalice of the Void Be Destroyed?

Yes. Any spell or effect that destroys artifacts can destroy Chalice of the Void—assuming the Chalice doesn't counter it.

If you have a Chalice of the Void with two charge counters, and your opponent resolves Crush targeting the Chalice, then it will be destroyed. But if they cast Ancient Grudge, Chalice of the Void will trigger and counter Ancient Grudge before Ancient Grudge can resolve. Because the Grudge won't resolve, the Chalice doesn't get destroyed.

Can Chalice of the Void's Triggered Ability Be Countered?

A few spells and effects can counter triggered abilities, including Chalice of the Void's. Once again though, they have to dodge Chalice of the Void themselves.

In the example above, your opponent might try casting Tale's End to counter the Chalice of the Void trigger that's countering Ancient Grudge. That's a bad idea. Chalice of the Void will trigger a second time, to counter Tale's End.

Can you Cast Chalice of the Void for Zero Mana?

Yes! When you cast Chalice of the Void, you can select 0 as the value for X. Chalice of the Void will cost no mana, and it will enter the battlefield without any charge counters on it.

With no charge counters, Chalice of the Void will counter any spell with a mana value of zero. This includes the following:

  1. All zero-cost artifacts, from the unassuming Memnite to the fabled Black Lotus. This also includes artifacts with variable mana values, if the mana value is 0—such as a second Chalice of the Void cast for X=0.
  2. Cards that don't have a printed mana cost, like Restore Balance and Profane Tutor. Chalice doesn't prevent your opponent from suspending these cards, since suspend is an activated ability. But when the final time counter is removed, the spells are cast, and Chalice will counter them.
  3. Face-down creature spells cast using the morph ability. Face-down cards don't have a mana cost.

How Do You Beat Chalice of the Void?

Counter It (Before It Counters You!)

A Chalice of the Void on the stack can't trigger to defend itself, so don't hesitate to use Counterspell when your opponent taps four mana for a Chalice on two. If you don't use that Counterspell now, it's going to be stuck in your hand for the rest of the game!

Play Cards with Different Mana Values

If your deck has spells with a wide range of mana values, a single Chalice of the Void won't be so devastating. You can fight back with whatever spells you can still cast.

Even if your deck does fall into a narrow range of mana values, you can still arm yourself against Chalice of the Void by including an artifact destruction spell at a different point on the mana curve. For example, most of the spells in Izzet Blitz have a mana value of 1. To avoid getting blown out by Chalice on 1, Blitz often includes sideboard cards like Abrade and Prismari Command that can destroy the Chalice while dodging its triggered ability.

Play Cards with Variable Mana Values

A few days ago, The Games Capital previewed this card from Modern Horizons 2:

This sorcery is perfect for answering Chalice of the Void, because you can adjust its mana value as you cast it. Just choose a different value for X. No matter what value you choose, Prismatic Ending can exile Chalice of the Void, since the Chalice's mana value is always 0 while it's in play.

Unexpectedly Absent accomplishes nearly the same thing, for just a bit more mana. Outside of white, By Force can work as long as there's at least one extra target in play.

Play Uncounterable Spells

Chalice of the Void specifically counters spells, so all spells that can't be countered are immune to its disruption. You can play "can't be countered" tribal with spells like Carnage Tyrant and Dovin's Veto, or just spread the good vibes with cards like Cavern of Souls. Either way works.

Win with What You Have

The day may come when your opponent has a Chalice on one and your hand is four copies of Lightning Bolt. On that day, your only hope will be attacking with the Goblin Guide you already have in play.

Good luck, friend. May your opponent flood out for the next nine turns.