Cranial Insertion: Dog Day Sunrise

Cranial Insertion
Dog Day Sunrise
or, Wait, Where Did the Last Seven Months Go?

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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Wait, that is a dog?
It's already August? How did that happen? Probably some nefarious time magic that, somehow or other, we can blame Urza for. Curse you, Urza!

Meanwhile, greetings to the readers that found me at San Diego ComicCon last weekend. Even though our Magic stuff was tucked away in the hotel, we still broke attendance records from last year, which broke the previous year's.

As for now, we have a bunch of questions from the [email][email protected][/email] inbox, the @CranialTweet twitter feed, and a couple from the tournament floor in San Diego! Got questions? Send them to us with the first two of those options, but seeing as I won't be back in San Diego till November, you might want to hold off on that one.

Q: Can I kill Stonehorn Dignitary to get my combat phase back?

A: Nope. Once it's triggered, that trigger will resolve independently of the Dignitary, and you'll lose your combat phase independent of the Dignitary. The only way to not skip your combat will be to counter either the Dignitary or the trigger.

Q: I equip Anger with Skullclamp, and then feed it to Birthing Pod - do I draw or search first?

A: The first step of activating an ability, such as Birthing Pod's, is to put it on the stack. Anything that triggers during the process of activating it will go on the stack on top of it, and thus resolve first. So you'll get to draw, and then search up a creature after knowing what two new cards you'll have to work with. (And hopefully not draw the only creature with a converted mana cost of 5 in your deck...)

Q: Will Grand Abolisher shut down Reassembling Skeleton?

A: It won't, oddly enough! Remember, a "creature" only exists on the battlefield. In your graveyard, Reassembling Skeleton is a creature card, not a creature, and so the Grand Abolisher doesn't care about it one bit.

Q: If Genesis Wave puts out a Phyrexian Metamorph and Frost Titan at the same time, can I copy the Frost Titan?

A: When working with replacement effects, you have to determine what will happen before you do any part of the event that's being replaced. Clone effects, such as Metamorph's, that tell it to enter the battlefield as something else are replacement effects. Since the Metamorph and Titan enter the battlefield at the same time, the Titan won't be around before applying the Metamorph's replacement effect, and so it won't be able to be copied. Poor Metamorph!

Once upon a time, Clone was considered
too complicated to ever reprint.
Q: Can Spellskite redirect Phantasmal Image’s copy trigger?

A: If it were actually a trigger, possibly – but it isn't a trigger, so you can't do that. As mentioned above, this is simply a replacement effect, which does not go on the stack, does not target, and so can't be redirected at all. You can tell it's not a trigger because triggered abilities will always, as a firm rule, use "when," "whenever," or "at" to denote the trigger condition.

Q: How does Cryptoplasm interact with Adaptive Automaton and copying as-enters-the-battlefield things that define characteristics?

A: Replacement effects that define subtypes would indeed be copiable, if any existed. What our Automatic friend here does, though, is not that. You only choose a subtype, and a second ability later on refers to that choice to make it a new type.

The choice made for the original Automaton isn't copied, and the type it gives itself isn't copied, so your Cryptomaton will be lost, adrift, and confused, giving itself no new creature type and pumping no creatures.

Q: I cast Phyrexian Metamorph and copy my opponent's Glissa the Traitor. Can I get back my Metamorph?

A: That works! Metamorph enters as a Glissa, and then both die to the legend rule – but the "leaves the battlefield" trigger of both Glissas will look back to immediately before the Glissapocalypse and trigger. By this time, both Glissas are in graveyards, so your Metamorph-Glissa's trigger can target that Metamorph itself! Your opponent can't get his own Glissa back, so he's stuck with some less versatile artifact, if anything.

Q: Do I get Chandra’s Phoenix back if I discard it to Chandra Ablaze’s first ability? Or since I discard as part of the effect, is it too late?

A: You don't discard as part of the cost, but you still discard as part of the effect before damage is dealt! All actions spelled out in an ability happen sequentially unless otherwise specified, so you'll discard, and then damage will be dealt with the discarded card already in the graveyard and ready to trigger.

Q: What happens if I stick a Spirit Mantle on Gideon Jura?

A: You get a 7/7 Gideon with protection from creatures, making him distinctly difficult to block (but still easy to Doom Blade or Turn to Frog). But then the cleanup step comes around, and Gideon is no longer a creature! Oh no! State-based actions will rush in and whisk that Spirit Mantle off to the graveyard for enchanting something it can't legally enchant.

Q: What will Turn to Frog do against a creature with Spirit Mantle? Will it still be protected from creatures?

A: Your ribbitty little frog won't be safe from creatures, and will probably get its blue insides squished outside in short order. In layer 6, the great layer of all abilities, you have "Gain protection" and "Lose all abilities." These aren't dependent on each other, so they apply in timestamp order: Spirit Mantle resolved first, so first it'll gain protection, and then Turn to Frog will take that away.

However, later in layer 7, you have two different sorts of power/toughness effects: One sets them to a certain number, which goes in 7b; and one plays with pluses and minuses, which goes in layer 7c. So first it'll become 1/1, then get +1/+1 so you'll at least have a 2/2 Frog, twice as deadly as your average Frog.

Q: Does Turn to Frog make a creature blockable after Goblin Tunneler’s ability has resolved? Or what about Gideon Jura, will damage still be prevented, or can my creatures stomp on froggy Gideon?

A: Neither of those things are abilities that are gained nor can be lost. Goblin Tunneler's ability's continuous effect simply says something that is true about the game; Gideon's ability creates a continuous effect that looks for damage to prevent.

If you want to look for things that can be taken away, look for "has" or "gains" or the plural conjugation of those verbs.

Q: How does Sundial of the Infinite work with unearthed creatures?

A: If you respond to the "exile meeee" trigger, you'll get to keep the creature indefinitely – not a bad deal. However, the replacement effect that exiles it if it would go anywhere else still applies, so when the creature finally bites the dust, it'll be chewing on dust bunnies in exile.

Q: Can Thada Adel do anything if she snags a Lotus Bloom?

A: She can coo and murmur about how pretty it is. That's about it. Since it has no mana cost, you can't cast it without Fist of the Suns or something giving you a cost to pay. But you also can't suspend it, since you can only suspend cards from your hand, not from exile.

Welcome back to Standard,
Explodey Flamey Guy.
Q: Can I Redirect my opponent’s Incinerate to his Aven Fleetwing?

A: Redirect has only one target: the spell that you're redirecting. So Redirect won't be targeting the Fleetwing anywhere in this process, and your opponent still controls his Incinerate, so it's perfectly fine for you to twist his spell to make him fry some chicken tenders.

Q: Can I use Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to keep copying my Gilded Drake and steal creatures while the Drakes get sacrificed?

A: There are two problems here.

First, you controlled the ability that made the token and set up the delayed trigger to sacrifice it, so you'll be the one who has to sacrifice the Gilded Token... but you can't do so since you don't control it. Nothing tells your opponent to sacrifice the token, so he still gets a nice flier – not altogether horrible if you're taking big nasty things like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

But the second problem is that you won't control the Drake for very long. Unless you Stifle or Trickbind its enters-the-battlefield trigger, or later take it back with Homeward Path or something, you'll only be able to make one token before you give it to someone else. Kiki-Jiki will only copy your creatures, after all, not creatures that someone else controls.

Q: If I turn a blue/black commander white, does that mean his lands produce only colorless mana?

A: No, no, that might make Lifelace playable, and we absolutely cannot have that! Your commander's color identity is set before the game begins, and nothing at all can change it throughout the course of the game.

Q: Can I look at my opponent’s sideboard while Sorin Markov is making him my... toy?

A: Yes, you can. The original version of the M12 FAQ erroneously copied from the Zendikar FAQ, back when you could never look at an opponent's sideboard, but the Magic Tournament Rules have changed since then to let you look while you control your opponent.

Q: I think I have too few lands in my sealed deck. I didn’t grab any extras for my sideboard, though. Can I get some to side in?

A: You sure can! Your sideboard for a Limited event contains a theoretically unlimited number of basic lands, regardless of how many you have on your person – if you can get more from the tournament organizer, which you almost certainly can unless the store's out, then you can side them in.

Q: I thought Sutured Ghoul would be awesome, but it turned out kinda bad in my draft deck. Can I switch it out for another card before the next round?

A: In a Limited event without decklists, you can change your deck between rounds as well as between games. So take out the Ghoul, rejigger your mana base, or switch decks entirely!

The Head Judge can, in theory, disallow this practice, but I've never heard of that happening; the judge has to announce this before the event starts, and mostly what I've heard of is the judge not realizing the rules had changed.

Q: How many packs should be used for 2HG?

A: The DCI's recommendation is to use eight packs: all from one set, or a 4/4 split for two sets, or 3/3/2 for a large set and its two small expansions (so you'd have eight M12 packs, or 4 SOM and 4 MBS, or 3 SOM, 3 MBS, and 2 NPH).

However, just like all Limited events that aren't special things with a specific fact sheet, you can do whatever you want! (GPTs and Prereleases are the big ones here that can't be changed.) As long as everyone opens the same number of each sort of pack, and in the same order if you're drafting, it's fine. Want to do a full box Sealed tournament? Knock yourself out!

Q: Does it matter who’s on the right or left seat in 2HG?

A: Practically, not really. The only time it would ever be realistically relevant is if both teams fail to say "oh, hey, assign combat damage to one of us!" – in that case, the default is that the player on the right is the one taking the damage. You can choose who's in that seat each match, or just sit down and not worry about it.

Q: What does Stonehorn Dignitary do in 2HG? Can the other player still attack us?

A: With shared-turn variants like 2HG, you can't have one player skip part of the turn while the other player still has it. What that means is that if one player's going to skip, the entire team has to skip. So that team's entire combat phase is skipped, and they'll have to wait another turn to start swinging.

That's it for this week, but we'll be back next week as always with more goodies for you.

Until next time, remember how nice and chilly it is down in Australia! (Or how warm it is up north for our southern friends.)

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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