Cranial Insertion: Back and Forth



Cranial Insertion
Back and Forth
or, Transcontinental Judging

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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Enchant with Old Bay to taste.
In just a couple days, I'm off to do two weekends of back-to-back Grand Prix and see if I can ruin my sense of time. First Baltimore, then Seattle - it shouldn't be too hard to find me if you're at either, though I'll probably be rather busy. We make judging look easy, but it's a lot of work!

But before I go, I've brought you another lovely pile of questions from the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox and @CranialTweet Twitter feed! If you've got more questions, send them our way - we'll get you an answer, and your question might end up in this very column.

But not this specific article, because that would be weird. Let's leave time travel to that one rule...



Q: Will Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Mikaeus the Lunarch legend-rule each other?

A: Nope - this is a case of the rules clearly turning to flavor, sticking its fingers in its ears, and shouting "NEENER NEENER!" while sticking out its tongue and possibly making obscene gestures. Even though the two cards very, very clearly represent the same character, the rules care about the name of the card (not the name of the character) being the same. Unless reality has warped since I last checked, ", the Unhallowed" didn't match "the Lunarch" - so they'll be safe from each other.



Q: What happens when I give Moldgraf Monstrosity undying and then he dies?

A: You have a choice here, so we'll assume you do the better thing: resolve the undying trigger before Moldgraf Monstrosity's own trigger. First, return the Monstrosity as a more monstrous 9/9. Now, its trigger resolves, and you do what it says, to the best of your ability: you try to exile it but fail; then you return two random creature cards to the battlefield. Nothing says that this is contingent upon exiling Moldgraf Monstrosity, unlike Academy Rector, so you'll get three critters out of the deal!



Q: If I control Karmic Justice and my opponent Bolts my planeswalker down to 0 loyalty, does Justice trigger?

A: There are two reasons why Karmic Justice won't trigger here; you can decide which one is more important. Justice triggers when "a spell or ability an opponent controls destroys a noncreature permanent you control." Your planeswalker wasn't destroyed, however! It was put into the graveyard without being destroyed as a state-based action, which is similar to but not the same as destruction. The second reason: Lightning Bolt didn't do the putting (and in the case of lethal damage destroying creatures, it doesn't do the destroying). State-based actions do it.



Q: Tracker's Instinct showed me three creatures I want in my yard - can I put them all there?

A: You'll have to put one of them into your hand; the card doesn't say "may" on it anywhere, and this isn't a search where you can "fail to find" because you don't want to.




Gather three on the seashore.
Q: How do I "randomly" choose a creature for Haunted Fengraf if I can't change the order of my graveyard?

A: Luckily, in formats where no "graveyard order matters" cards exist, you can change the order of your graveyard. This is a concession to reality that the rule about graveyard order just does not matter in modern formats. If you're playing an older format, or if you want to be more random than shuffling three cards, just assign a number to the cards and roll a die - that's a perfectly random method, and rolling a die is only bad if you use it to determine the winner!



Q: Do I need to sacrifice another Goblin when I Reverberate Goblin Grenade?

A: You don't. You only have to pay additional costs when you cast the spell, and the copy isn't cast. It just goes straight to the stack.



Q: If I discard Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to Thirst for Knowledge, do I shuffle Thirst back in?

A: Emrakul's trigger fires during the resolution of Thirst, but it can't go on the stack until Thirst is done resolving. The last part of Thirst resolving is for it to curl up in the graveyard with a nice blanket, so it'll have been there already when Emrakul's trigger goes on the stack, and presumably will still be there when that trigger resolves to get shuffled in.



Q: If I target Steel Hellkite in my yard with Havengul Lich twice and swing, can I activate its "blow stuff up" ability twice?

A: You sure can. Each Lich activation creates a trigger that says "when you cast that, borrow its abilities." It doesn't matter that you end up casting it for one activation's permission and not the other - both delayed triggers fire after casting it at all, and the Lich gains two abilities with identical wording. They are still separate abilities, though, and each can be activated once.



Q: If I cast a creature with Havengul Lich and then sacrifice it, can I cast it again?

A: Nope. Once that creature card leaves the graveyard, it's a new object, one with no relation to any previous objects that card represented. When it returns to the graveyard, same deal - new object again. It has no relation to the one the Lich targeted, and so can't be cast.



Q: Sorin, Lord of Innistrad shoots my Phantasmal Image copying a Titan - does he get my Image, or does it stay dead?

A: It'll stay dead. After Sorin's ability goes on the stack, your Phantasmal Titan triggers, and that trigger goes on top of Sorin's ability. It'll resolve first, causing it to be sacrificed, before Sorin can destroy it. Since it's not put into a graveyard "this way," where "this" is Sorin's ability and "way" is screaming in pain, it won't come back.



Q: Can I Wrath of God on my opponent's turn using Snapcaster Mage?

A: Snapcaster Mage only grants the spell flashback, not flash. Flashback lets you cast the spell from a weird place, but it doesn't change any timing rules or permissions for that spell.



Q: Does Savra, Queen of the Golgari trigger her own abilities if I feed her to Ashnod's Altar?

A: She does, as morbid as that is! While modern cards often say "Whenever CARDNAME or another creature die," that is just for the ease of understanding and is functionally identical to "Whenever a creature dies" except in very, very silly corner cases that I'm sure a few of you already rushed to post. The reason for this (for the trigger, not for people rushing to post corner cases) is the same as the next question...



Q: Will a Blasphemous Act killing Diregraf Captain and a bunch of Zombies make many Captain triggers?

A: Behold, the timey-wimey rule 603.6d, which says that leaves-the-battlefield triggers look back in time to just before things left to see what should trigger!

Quote from Timey-Wimey Rule 603.6d »
Normally, objects that exist immediately after an event are checked to see if the event matched any trigger conditions. Continuous effects that exist at that time are used to determine what the trigger conditions are and what the objects involved in the event look like. However, some triggered abilities must be treated specially. Leaves-the-battlefield abilities, abilities that trigger when a permanent phases out, abilities that trigger when an object that all players can see is put into a hand or library, abilities that trigger specifically when an object becomes unattached, abilities that trigger when a player loses control of an object, and abilities that trigger when a player planeswalks away from a plane will trigger based on their existence, and the appearance of objects, prior to the event rather than afterward. The game has to “look back in time” to determine if these abilities trigger.


Skip past the first two sentences for the part relevant to this question, though the first two may provide you with enlightenment as well!



Q: Can I stop a creature from undying with Nihil Spellbomb or is there no time to react?

A: Undying is a triggered ability (you can tell by the "when" in its reminder text), and like most triggered abilities, it uses the stack. So you can respond to it, and if you blast away the creature crawling out of the yard, it can't come back!




Not a good way to travel.
Q: My opponent has five creature cards in his graveyard and I have three, then I Evil Twin his Boneyard Wurm. How big is my Wurm?

A: It'll be 3/3. When you copy the creature, you don't copy its 5/5 stats - you copy the */*, and the ability that defines those asterisks. Since it's your creature, "your graveyard" refers to, well, your graveyard, and that's what gets counted.



Q: In response to Tribute to Hunger, my opponent uses Moorland Haunt to make a Spirit token. Can I kill it before Tribute resolves so he has to sacrifice one of his other creatures?

A: Yup! After one object on the stack resolves, you don't just resolve the rest - both players get priority again to do other things before resolving the next highest object on the stack.



Q: Can Goblin Welder get me back a Lodestone Golem by sacrificing Grafdigger's Cage?

A: That won't work. Goblin Welder tells you to move the two objects simultaneously, but immediately before you do so, you have to see whether you can. Since Lodestone Golem can't enter the battlefield at that point, it decides to chill out in the graveyard for now, and you just sacrifice the Cage.

Note that while Goblin Welder was originally printed with "exchange" - which would change the answer if it were the current wording - it has since been issued errata to perform two actions simultaneously rather than to perform an exchange.



Q: In a multiplayer game, at what point do I have to let my opponents know who each of my creatures is attacking?

A: It works the same as choosing whether to attack a player or a planeswalker in normal Magic. As you say "this creature will attack" you also choose which player or planeswalker it attacks. These are chosen one at a time, but no one can take actions in between your choices - they have to wait until you're done choosing all of your attackers.



Q: About five turns after Pernicious Deed took out the board, we realized that I had forgotten my mana artifacts with my lands, and I had been using them for mana all along. This was just a casual game, but how would that get fixed in a tournament?

A: It's hard to answer "what would happen in a tournament?" questions like this, since the answer is really "whatever the Head Judge feels is appropriate." However, if it's been this many turns of you casting things and if it was an honest mistake, a baseline answer is easier. You've committed a Game Rules Violation, for which you receive a warning, and the game continues as it is. We do not rewind the game over that many turns of casting stuff, and we do not do a partial fix of "well, destroy them now for no reason" - if your opponent doesn't like that, he can remember that it's also his responsibility to make sure that both of you are doing what you're required to do.



Q: So, there was that whole thing about triggers and missing them and stuff - how did that end up?

A: After more tweaks and fixes, followed by more tweaks and attempts to get policy working exactly as desired, The Powers That Be decided that the new Infraction Procedure Guide was being delayed far too much, and released a version of the IPG without any aspect of the controversial trigger changes, only incorporating the "missed triggers go to bottom of stack" trigger change and non-trigger changes from other sections of the document.

So note well: For now, you must remind your opponent of his forgotten mandatory triggers, and you may never choose not to perform a mandatory trigger. Once the changes are nailed down and committed to, they'll be released in the normal IPG release cycle (March, June, September, or December).



Q: Is it legal for my FNM to pair me with someone in another draft pod? I thought we only played people we drafted with.

A: It's legal to pair "cross pod" (where players play against any other player at random, rather than players in their pods at random), though it should be announced at the start of the event. It's also fine to just pair within the pod - especially at FNM, it's all up to the organizer and the players.



Q: In an FNM my opponent did not like the way I shuffled. And he shuffled my cards right after. My question is if its against the rules to shuffle an opponents deck? I thought all you could do was cut.

A: You're allowed to shuffle; it's just fairly unusual to see players doing it at a Regular REL event. At Competitive REL events, it's even (theoretically) required! Though if he doesn't like how you're shuffling, he should ask you to do better, or let a judge know if he thinks you're not shuffling enough or otherwise stacking your deck - not that you, faithful reader, would do that.



That's all for this week, I should probably pack before my flight leaves. Packing after might be tricky. Hopefully I'll see some of you at the various events, and you can find out whether I violated the laws of time to pack after leaving.

Until next time, safe travels!

- Eli Shiffrin

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