Cranial Insertion: Goodbye, Zendikar!



Cranial Insertion
Goodbye, Zendikar!
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese






Goodbye, Valakut!
Welcome to the last pre-Innistrad issue of Cranial Insertion! While Standard-minded planeswalkers are getting ready to leave the plane of Zendikar and explore the horrors that lurk on Innistrad, we'll take one last look at the card interactions from the current Standard environment. We also have some interesting interactions from the Modern environment that was featured at the Pro Tour in Philadelphia, as well as the usual mix of rules questions from all over the multiverse collected from our inbox at [email][email protected][/email]. Our mail-sorting zombie chimp Moko is always hungry for more questions, so please keep sending your questions to that email address or tweet them to @CranialTweet!




Q: My opponent just used Goblin Tunneler to make his Benalish Veteran unblockable. Now he's attacking with the Veteran, which makes its power 3. Can I block it?

A: Nope. Goblin Tunneler's ability only cares about the Veteran's power being 2 or less at two points in time: When the ability is activated and when it resolves. At both times, the Veteran's power was 2, so the ability resolved and created a continuous effect that makes the Veteran unblockable. This effect has a duration of "this turn" and no other strings attached, so the Veteran is unblockable this turn regardless of what happens to its power.




Q: My opponent is hitting a creature of mine with Path to Exile, but I don't want to shuffle my library because I just set up my next draw with Preordain. Can I skip the search and shuffle?

A: You sure can! Path to Exile is allowing you to search for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped, and shuffle your library, but that whole enchilada is entirely optional. You choose between doing all of that or none of that, so if you choose not to search, you won't shuffle either.




Q: I control Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet and my opponent controls an Inferno Titan that's been pumped to 10/6. If I use Kalitas' ability on the Titan, do I get a 10/6 token or a 6/6 token?

A: Kalitas' ability looks at the power and toughness the Titan had when it was last seen alive. This is not a copy effect, so the ability looks at the Titan's last-known power and toughness including all effects that affected the Titan. The Titan was a 10/6 at the last moment it was alive, so you'll get a 10/6 token.




Q: I've got a Birthing Pod and a Phyrexian Metamorph that's copying an Acidic Slime. If I sac the Metamorph Slime to the Pod, can I get my Grave Titan or do I have to go for something with converted mana cost 5?

A: Titan ahoy! Birthing Pod looks at the converted mana cost of the creature you sacrificed, and what you sacrificed was an Acidic Slime in all important respects including its converted mana cost. Acidic Slime's converted mana cost is 5, so you'll fetch up something for 6.




Q: Let's say I control a Darksteel Juggernaut and a World at War rebounded in my upkeep, so I know I'll have a second combat phase. Can I let my Juggernaut sit out the first combat phase if I promise to attack with it in the second combat phase?

A: No, that doesn't work. Attacking requirements are checked when you declare attackers, and the game won't proceed until you've declared a legal set of attackers that includes sending your Juggernaut into the red zone. The game won't accept an IOU for attacking with the Juggernaut later.




Q: I control a creature that's equipped with Livewire Lash, and I cast Unholy Strength on it. Does that trigger the Lash ability?

A: Certainly! While Aura permanents on the battlefield don't target anything, an Aura spell on the stack does target the thing that the Aura is designated to become attached to. The creature has become the target of a spell, so it'll lash out with 2 damage.




Q: My opponent was getting annoyed with my Obstinate Baloth attacking him, so he enchanted it with Brink of Disaster. If I put Trollhide on it so it can regenerate, can it attack?

A: Oh, it can attack, but it won't get very far! Tapping it to attack with it triggers Brink of Disaster's ability, and replacing its destruction with regenerating removes it from combat, so it won't be an attacking creature long enough to do anything useful. Try giving it vigilance instead!





Nobody expects the Eldrazi inquisition!
Q: I'm looking at my opponent's hand with Inquisition of Kozilek, and the only worthwhile card in his hand is Boom//Bust. Can I take it?

A: Of course! When Inquisition of Kozilek asks the card "is your converted mana cost 3 or less?" the Boom half eagerly answers "YES!" while the Bust half inaudibly mumbles "no." Inquisition of Kozilek hears the positive answer and tosses the card out of your opponent's hand.




Q: My opponent is swinging with an animated Inkmoth Nexus and he cast Blazing Shoal on it by pitching a Reaper King to its alternate cost. Can I counter it with Disrupting Shoal by pitching my own Reaper King?

A: No, that doesn't work. Regardless of how it was paid, the converted mana cost of a Blazing Shoal on the stack is based on the mana cost in the top-right corner, and the X counts as the value that was chosen for it. Your opponent chose X=10, so Blazing Shoal's converted mana cost is 12. To counter it with Disrupting Shoal, you'd have to pitch a blue card with converted mana cost 12, and no such card has been printed yet.




Q: My Chancellor of the Spires is entering the battlefield and I'm targeting my opponent's Tooth and Nail. Can I entwine it?

A: Yes, you can. Chancellor of the Spires allows you to cast the card, so any costs that apply to casting it still apply. The only exception is that the mana cost, which is the cost in the top right corner of the card, is waived. If the spell has mandatory additional costs, such as Harrow, you must pay them. If the spell has optional additional costs, such as Tooth and Nail's entwine cost, you may pay them. However, note that you have to pay the entwine cost to get the entwine effect; the Chancellor won't pay that cost for you. It's a cost that requires mana, but it's not the spell's mana cost.




Q: If I control Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Everlasting Torment, are my creatures immune to damage?

A: Sort of! The damage is still dealt, but the resulting -1/-1 counters are impossible, so the damage won't have a visible result. If the source of the damage has deathtouch, it'll still cause the visible result of your dude dropping dead, and if the source has lifelink, its controller still gains life. Also, anything that cares about damage having been dealt, from bloodthirst to Final-Sting Faerie, will still know that damage was dealt.




Q: If I control a Gemstone Caverns and play a second one, can I tap both of them for mana before the legend rule kicks in?

A: No, that doesn't work. In order to activate a mana ability outside of doing something that requires a mana payment, you'll need priority. Before you get priority, state-based actions are checked and toss both Caverns into the graveyard faster than you can say "wh--."




Q: I'm wondering about when damage is removed from creatures, and I'll frame my question in the following scenario that I swear I'm not just making up: I attack with a face-down Zoetic Cavern and my opponent blocks it with a 1/1. In my second main phase, I turn it face up, cast Blood Moon, and enchant the Zoetic Mountain with Genju of the Spires. What happens when I activate it?

A: None of the things you're doing to Zoetic Cavern removes the 1 damage that was marked on it during its encounter with the poor 1/1 that blocked it while it was an amorphous 2/2 creature. It becomes a Zoetic Cavern that has 1 meaningless point of damage marked on it, and then it becomes a Mountain that has 1 meaningless point of damage marked on it. Finally, it becomes a 6/1 Spirit that has 1 point of damage marked on it, and it suddenly collapses because that damage is lethal to the fragile form you have forced upon it.




Q: If my Gideon Jura becomes a creature and gets a +1/+1 counter from Experiment Kraj, can Kraj now assassinate as many tapped creatures as I want?

A: Unfortunately no, even Kraj is restricted to using Gideon's ability only once per turn. The restriction used to be tied to the planeswalker card type, but that turned out to be silly for many reasons, Kraj going nuts with planeswalker abilities being one of those reasons, so the rule was changed to tie the restriction to the ability instead.





We put the fun in fungus!
Q: I have a question concerning the saprolings I am growing in my backyard. If I have a Utopia Mycon in play and wish to convoke a Chord of Calling, can my minions take care of two mana each by tapping themselves to reduce the cost of the spell and then sacrificing themselves to add one mana to my pool?

A: No, you can't. Convoke is a bit odd because it's an additional cost with which you buy a cost reduction. To convoke, you promise to pay an additional cost of "tap a bunch of dudes," and in exchange for that you get a cost reduction of one mana per dude. The additional cost becomes part of the total cost that is paid during the very last step of casting a spell. (Recall that All Crazy Teenagers Have Tried Magic Pills!) Activating mana abilities to procure the mana you need to pay this total cost is a separate step that happens right before that, and that's where you'd sacrifice a dude to squeeze mana out of it. If you sac a dude for mana, it'll be a corpse by the time you'd have to tap it for the additional cost you promised to pay, and the game frowns at the idea of tapping corpses. The long and short of this is that each dude can only be sacrificed or tapped, but not both.




Q: Does Meekstone give a "This doesn't untap" ability to creatures with power 3 or greater? What happens if I control a bunch of 1/1 tokens, Muraganda Petroglyphs, and Meekstone?

A: No, Meekstone doesn't grant any abilities. It simply creates a continuous effect that changes the rules for the untap step. If a creature's power is 3 or more after going through all applicable continuous effects, it doesn't untap. Your tokens are 3/3 thanks to the Petroglyphs, so they don't untap.




Q: Am I allowed to crack Lion's Eye Diamond during the resolution of a spell or ability that asks for a mana payment, such as Flameblast Dragon's ability or Mana Leak?

A: Nope! Even though LED's ability is a mana ability, which you'd normally be allowed to activate at such times, LED's ability has a peculiar restriction that only allows you to use it at a time you could cast an instant. Since you don't get priority during the resolution of a spell or ability, cracking LED at that time is just as impossible as casting a Dark Ritual would be. If you really need the mana from LED to make that mana payment, you'll have to crack it in response to the spell or ability.




Q: Is there a timing difference between abilities that say "when" and abilities that say "whenever?"

A: Nope, none at all. In fact, there is no functional difference between those words whatsoever. The only difference is in which one sounds better based on how often the ability can be expected to trigger. An ability with "when" is expected to trigger only once or twice in the object's life time, whereas an ability with "whenever" has the potential to trigger an arbitrary number of times.




Q: Suppose an unexpected turn of events transpired that now makes me want to counter a spell I just cast, but I only have a Rites of Refusal in my hand and I don't want to discard any cards for it. Can I discard zero cards and then refuse to pay 0 to counter my spell?

A: Yes, that works. 0 is a cost that requires no resources to pay, but it still requires the acknowledgment that you're paying it, and you can refuse that acknowledgment.

117.5. Some costs are represented by 0, or are reduced to 0. The action necessary for a player to pay such a cost is the player's acknowledgment that he or she is paying it. Even though such a cost requires no resources, it's not automatically paid.

Note that the tournament rules define a standard shortcut that assumes that any 0 cost is paid automatically, so you should state explicitly that you're not paying it.




Q: If I use Icy Manipulator to tap an equipment that's attached to my opponent's creature, does that tap the creature, too?

A: No, it doesn't. Equipment and Auras are separate from the creature they're attached to, and tapping one does not cause the others to tap. Players often turn the entire stack of stuff sideways to attack, but that is actually incorrect. When an equipped creature attacks, the equipment stays untapped.

Also note that tapping an Equipment does approximately nothing. In particular, it won't make the Equipment stop working. Unless you're planning on casting Burden of Greed on your opponent, you're most likely better off tapping the creature instead.




And on that note, I'm all tapped out for now. See you in a few weeks on Innistrad!

- Carsten Haese

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