Cranial Insertion: Shrine of Burning Questions



Cranial Insertion
Shrine of Burning Questions
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese





We are burning with desire
for more questions!
It's Monday, which means that it's time for another issue of Cranial Insertion. Once in a while, an issue is particularly awkward because it's published right after a big event and of course we write in advance to allow for editing and translation. This means that as you're reading this, Grand Prix Pittsburgh has already come and gone, but as I'm writing this, I haven't even started packing, so I don't know yet how awesome of an event it was. However, since sufficiently advanced experience is indistinguishable from clairvoyance, I'll predict confidently that a Grand time will have been had by players and judges alike.

I am also confident that some of the questions below, collected from our mailbox and other sources, will have been asked on the tournament floor at the Grand Prix. If you have any burning questions about Magic rules and card interactions, feel free to email them to [email][email protected][/email] or tweet them to @CranialTweet. As always, we'll respond directly in any case, and your questions might be selected to appear in a future article. However, since Innistrad previews have started this week, I'd like to remind you that we can't answer questions about it until after the prerelease.

Now that that's out of the way, let's dive into this week's selection of questions!




Q: I control Shrine of Burning Rage and play Chancellor of the Forge. Does the Shrine get counters for the Goblin tokens the Chancellor makes?

A: Nope. The Shrine's triggered ability doesn't trigger on red creatures entering the battlefield. It triggers when you cast a red spell, and putting a token onto the battlefield is not the same as casting a spell. Casting a spell is a process that entails taking a card from somewhere -- usually your hand -- and putting it onto the stack. Putting a token onto the battlefield is an entirely different process.




Q: I am at 15 life and my opponent is at 16 life. I cast Timely Reinforcements in order to gain some life. My opponent responds by activating his Spellskite for 2 life. Can he really do that?

A: Yes, he can. Spellskite's ability can target any spell or ability, even one that doesn't have any targets such as Timely Reinforcements. Spellskite's ability won't do anything of note when it resolves, but that doesn't matter to your opponent. He legally threw away 2 life so that your life total is no longer lower than his, so he succeeded in denying you the life gain from Timely Reinforcements.




Q: Does Torpor Orb stop bloodthirsty creatures from getting their counters?

A: No. Bloodthirst is not a triggered ability. It's a static ability that generates a replacement effect that changes how the creature enters the battlefield. As such, it is immune to Torpor Orb's effect.




Q: I control Gideon's Avenger and my opponent pulls a Reassembling Skeleton from his graveyard. Since it enters the battlefield tapped, does that trigger Gideon's Avenger's ability?

A: No, it does not. To become tapped, a permanent has to start out untapped and change to tapped. Reassembling Skeleton goes straight from being in the graveyard to being a tapped permanent, so it's not going from untapped to tapped while it's a permanent.




Q: Can Vengeful Pharaoh target a creature that's enchanted with Spirit Mantle?

A: Nope. Normally a card type without any additional qualification only refers to permanents, but protection is an exception to that rule. Protection from creatures includes, among other things, that abilities from creature sources can't target the protected creature. Even though the Pharaoh in the graveyard is no longer a creature, it's still a creature source, so it can't target the protected creature.




Q: I attack with Goblin Guide and my opponent animates his Chimeric Mass to block with it. Can I Shatter the Mass before it blocks my Guide?

A: Sure! In order to be able to block with it, your opponent needs to activate the Mass in the declare attackers step so that it's a creature at the very beginning of the declare blockers step. After the animation ability resolves, both you and your opponent have to pass priority in succession for the declare attackers step to end. Instead of passing, you can kill the Mass, so it won't be around in the declare blockers step.




Q: I control Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and my opponent casts Sower of Temptation, hoping to take control of my Praetor. Does that work?

A: Not even a little bit. Sower of Temptation enters the battlefield as a morbidly weak 0/0. This triggers its ability, but even before the ability is put on the stack, state-based actions are checked and chuck your Sower into the graveyard. When the ability resolves, the duration for its control changing effect ended before it even began, so the control changing effect is not created at all.





On the stack, Phantasmal Image
is about as infectious as an orange.
Q: If I cast Phantasmal Image to copy Hand of the Praetors, does that trigger Hand of the Praetors' ability?

A: Nope. Hand of the Praetors' ability triggers when you cast a creature spell with infect. The creature spell you're casting is Phantasmal Image, which doesn't have infect, so it doesn't trigger the ability. When Phantasmal Image resolves, it becomes Hand of the Praetors and gains infect, but that happens too late for Hand of the Praetors' ability to trigger.




Q: I control a Rune-Scarred Demon and my opponent casts a Stingerfling Spider. He targets my Demon with the Spider's triggered ability, and then he responds to the trigger with Turn to Frog for reasons that aren't really clear to me. Does my Demon still get destroyed?

A: It seems that your opponent has outsmarted himself, because your Demon lives. The Spider's ability rechecks the legality of its target when it resolves, and by then your flying Demon has been turned into a sitting Frog. The ability is countered on resolution and doesn't destroy your amphibian Demon.




Q: I've got this crazy deck that uses multiple Paradox Hazes to get a rapidly growing population of Chronozoa onto the battlefield. However, I'm wondering, do the Chronozoa tokens that come out when Chronozoa loses its time counters have summoning sickness?

A: Unfortunately, they do indeed have summoning sickness. They weren't under your control when you began the turn -- because they didn't even exist at the beginning of the turn -- so unless you somehow give them haste, e.g. with Akroma's Memorial, you're just pumping out a growing supply of chump blockers.




Q: So, here's the situation. I control a Stuffy Doll for which I chose myself, and it's enchanted with Pariah. I also control Furnace of Rath and a Glarecaster. If I ping the Doll with its own ability, does that create an ever-doubling amount of damage I can eventually hurl at my opponent's face with Glarecaster's ability?

A: Sure, that works. The Doll would deal 1 damage to itself, which the Furnace doubles to 2. This triggers the Doll's triggered ability to deal 2 damage to you, except that the Furnace doubles it to 4 and Pariah redirects it to the Doll. This triggers the Doll's triggered ability to deal 4 damage to you, except... you can probably see by now that this is a loop that keeps itself in perpetual motion, doubling the damage each time around the merry-go-round.

Once the damage is big enough, let's say 4294967296, you can activate Glarecaster's ability in response to the Doll trigger and target your opponent. This creates a replacement effect that competes with Pariah's replacement effect on whether the damage that's headed your way should be dealt to the Doll or to your opponent. As the affected player, you get to choose which replacement effect to apply, so you get to shoot all that 4294967296 damage, doubled to 8589934592, at your opponent. Ouch!




Q: Is there any difference between an effect that says an object "gains" an ability and an effect that says an object "has" an ability?

A: Not really, no. Both create a continuous effect that grants an ability to the object. The difference is merely a templating choice regarding which word sounds better in context. Continuous effects from static abilities generally use "has" while continuous effects from resolving spells or activated/triggered abilities generally use "gains," but both wordings are identical in terms of how they function in the game.




Q: What happens when I Genesis Wave into Prismatic Omen, two Valakuts, two Forests, and two Mountains?

A: A lot of damage will happen! After Prismatic Omen and your lands have entered the battlefield, the game checks whether any triggered abilities exist that were triggered by what just happened. Prismatic Omen's ability affects your lands immediately, so by the time the game checks for triggers, your lands are Mountains, so each Valakut sees that six Mountains just entered the battlefield. Two Valakuts times six Mountains times 3 damage per trigger equals 36 damage and a crispy opponent.




Q: Suppose I equip Loyal Sentry with Echo Circlet. What exactly happens when I block two creatures with the Sentry?

A: Because the trigger event is "Loyal Sentry blocks a creature", its ability triggers once for each creature it blocks. The first ability that resolves destroys one attacker and causes Loyal Sentry to commit suicide. This suicide does not stop the second ability from resolving, though, because the ability is independent from its source. The second ability resolves and does as much as it can by destroying the second attacker.





Mel serves crab
Q: So, my opponent just got off a combo that created an arbitrary number of creature tokens, and he chose to make ten trillion dudes. What happens if I cast Scrambleverse on my turn?

A: That is a good question. In theory, you'd have to flip ten trillion coins to see who gets how many tokens, but that's not realistic in practice. Even if you had a computer program that can simulate a billion coin flips per second, it would take over two and a half hours to perform 10 trillion coin flips.

Given that it's not feasible to resolve this Scrambleverse accurately in a reasonable amount of time, the only remaining options are to agree to an approximation or to declare the game a draw and try again.

An approximation could work as follows: Since there are 10 trillion and one different outcomes, each individual outcome is, by itself, very unlikely. Since an even split is just one of those outcomes, it is therefore a virtual certainty that the split favors one player. Even a deviation of one million to either side only represents one hundredth of a thousandth of a percent of the number of possible outcomes, so it is almost certain that one player will end up with at least one million more tokens than the other. The only question is which player gets more, and this can be decided by a single coin flip because the probability distribution is symmetric.

If you and/or your opponent reject this approximation, you'll just have to call the game a draw. Alternatively, don't play Scrambleverse!

If you do opt for the single-flip approximation in a sanctioned event (though why you're playing Scrambleverse there is another issue), definitely make sure to bring a judge over to your table first and explain what's going on. This isn't randomly determining the outcome of the game--both players get a chance to do something about the tokens, after all--but it looks close enough that you definitely want to make it clear.




Q: I control Pyromancer Ascension and I have one Think Twice in my graveyard. If I cast Think Twice with flashback, does that trigger the Ascension's counter-adding ability?

A: Nope. The very first step of casting a spell is to take it from where it is and put it onto the stack. Once you finish the process of casting the spell by paying its cost, it's considered cast and the game checks for triggered abilities, but by that time Think Twice is no longer in the graveyard.




Q: If I've got an active Pyromancer Ascension and cast Quicken, does that allow me to cast two sorceries as though they had flash?

A: Yes, but only if you do it right. If you just let the Quicken copy and the original resolve, that's not going to do it, because each resolution changes the rules of the game for one specific occasion, so they'll both affect whichever sorcery you cast next. To do it right, you let the Quicken copy resolve first, then respond with the first sorcery. After that sorcery and the original Quicken resolve, you can cast a second sorcery as though it had flash.




Q: Does Force of Savagery survive being put onto the battlefield with Deathrender's ability?

A: Absolutely! Deathrender's ability puts Force of Savagery onto the battlefield and then attaches itself to it right away. While the Force is very briefly an 8/0 that's in danger of dying when state-based actions look at it, state-based actions aren't looking during the resolution of Deathrender's ability. They only look after the ability is done, and at that time they see a 10/2 that has no reason to die.




Q: Can I use Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII in any commander deck?

A: You sure can. The deck construction rules only restrict cards based on colored mana symbols in their mana cost and/or rules text. The only mana symbols on Sarpadian Empires are colorless symbols, so the card is allowed in any commander deck regardless of the commander's color identity.




Q: Let's say I control Animar, Soul of Elements that has 5 +1/+1 counters on it, and I cast Skyreach Manta. Can I choose not to use Animar's cost-reducing ability so that the Manta can get some +1/+1 counters from its sunburst ability?

A: Sadly, no. Animar's effect is not optional, so your Manta's cost will be reduced to nothing. You're not allowed to overspend, either, so you won't be able to spend any colors on the Manta. If you really want to play sunburst creatures together with Animar, consider using Fist of Suns. If you choose the alternative cost of WUBRG that the Fist grants your spell, Animar's cost-reducing effect doesn't apply, so you get to pump all five colors into your Manta.




And that's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and I hope to have seen you in Pittsburgh! I won't be at the Magic Weekend in Philadelphia, but Brian and Eli will be there, so say Hi if you see them!

- Carsten Haese

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