Cranial Insertion: Brave New Standard



Cranial Insertion
Brave New Standard
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese


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Sundial of Infinite Possibilities
Greetings and welcome to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Magic 2012 is out, and the wild ride of the Standard format changing twice in a span of two weeks has come to an end. It was fun while it lasted, but now we can enjoy a few months of relative calm until things get shaken up again by the rotation that Innistrad will bring.

Meanwhile, Magic players all over the world will continue to find interesting interactions and fun rules questions to keep us and you entertained. If you have a question you'd like us to answer, please email it to [email][email protected][/email] or tweet it to @CranialTweet.




Q: I control a Gravity Well and a Stormtide Leviathan, and my opponent wants to attack me with a flying creature, for example Serra Angel. Can he?

A: Yes, he can. Attacking restrictions are only checked when attackers are declared, and at that time the Angel still has flying, so it's allowed to attack. This triggers the Gravity Well ability and the Angel falls out of the sky, but by then it's too late for the Leviathan's ability to stop it. Depending on whether you choose to block the Angel with the Leviathan, it'll walk up to you and slap you in the face or it'll walk straight into the Leviathan's mouth.




Q: What happens if I target a Phantasmal Dragon with Goblin Bangchuckers' ability?

A: The Dragon simply disappears! The Illusion only works until you look at it too closely, and targeting it with the Bangchuckers is looking at it too closely. The Dragon's sacrifice ability triggers, goes on the stack above the Bangchucker ability, and resolves first. This robs the Bangchucker ability of its only target, so the ability is countered on resolution and does nothing. You don't flip a coin, and the Goblins don't run the risk of chucking the grenade at themselves.




Q: If I control a Bloodlord of Vaasgoth and cast a creature that is naturally bloodthirsty, such as Bloodrage Vampire, will the Vampire be extra bloodthirsty?

A: Absolutely. Each instance of bloodthirst creates a replacement effect that changes "Bloodrage Vampire enters the battlefield" to "Bloodrage Vampire enters the battlefield with N additional +1/+1 counters on it." After you apply one replacement effect, the other is still applicable and piles its own counters on top, so the effect is cumulative.




Q: So, here's a complicated situation that happened the other day and we didn't know who should have won the game. I was down to 3 life and had an active Pyromancer Ascension. My opponent cast a Staggershock which put me at 1 life. He had 20 cards left in his library. On my turn, I cast and copied an Archive Trap, which forced him to mill 26 cards. Did I win right there, or did my opponent survive until the rebounding Staggershock killed me?

A: Your opponent won that game. Merely having an empty library or being forced to mill more cards than he has left doesn't cause your opponent to lose the game. You'd have to force your opponent to draw a card from an empty library in order to win. Unless you have a spell or ability to make that happen sooner, that'll happen in your opponent's draw step. Before that happens, his upkeep comes around and the rebounding Staggershock kills you.




Q: Why is it that the ability of Reassembling Skeleton can only be activated in the graveyard? Why can't other abilities be activated in the graveyard?

A: With certain exceptions, abilities of permanent cards function only on the battlefield. Reassembling Skeletons is one of those exceptions because it falls under this rule:
Quote from Rule 112.6k »

112.6k An ability whose cost or effect specifies that it moves the object it's on out of a particular zone functions only in that zone, unless that ability's trigger condition, or a previous part of that ability's cost or effect, specifies that the object is put into that zone.
Example: Necrosavant says "{3}{B}{B}, Sacrifice a creature: Return Necrosavant from your graveyard to the battlefield. Activate this ability only during your upkeep." A player may activate this ability only if Necrosavant is in his or her graveyard.





Q: I control Runed Halo for which I named my opponent's Guiltfeeder. Can my opponent still attack me with it, and if so, does it still make me lose life?

A: Yes and yes. A Runed Halo naming Guiltfeeder only gives you two specific benefits: Abilities from sources named "Guiltfeeder" can't target you, and damage that sources named "Guiltfeeder" would deal to you is prevented. Attacking doesn't target, so protection doesn't prevent it. Guiltfeeder's ability doesn't target you -- even though it's singling you out -- and it doesn't deal damage to you -- even though it's harming you -- so protection is powerless against it.





Warning: No life guard on duty
Q: What types of mana can my Reflecting Pool produce if I control a Vivid Grove without a charge counter? And how about if I control a Gemstone Caverns without a luck counter?

A: To answer those questions, we have to look at what types of mana the Grove/Caverns would produce if one of its abilities were to resolve right now. Any applicable replacement effects are taken into account, but we ignore whether we can pay any activation costs. In Vivid Grove's case, the counter is part of the cost of its second mana ability, so we don't care that there's no counter on it. When that ability resolves, it produces a mana of any color, so a counterless Vivid Grove still allows Reflecting Pool to produce a mana of any color.

In Gemstone Cavern's case, on the other hand, the presence of the counter turns on a replacement effect that replaces colorless mana with colorful mana. Without a luck counter, this replacement effect is not applicable, so there's nothing that turns the colorless mana into colorful mana. Therefore, a counterless Gemstone Caverns only allows Reflecting Pool to produce colorless mana.




Q: If I exiled Rupture Spire and Darkslick Shores with Karn Liberated and then I restart the game, can I use Darkslick Shores to pay Rupture Spire's cost?

A: Sure! Rupture Spire has a triggered ability that goes on the stack the first time a player gets priority in the restarted game, which is in the upkeep step of the first turn, and you pay 1 when that ability resolves. In fact, you could even pay with Rupture Spire itself, since it'll be untapped in the untap step that precedes the upkeep step.




Q: Can I target my opponent with Karn's first ability even if he doesn't have any cards in his hand?

A: Sure! Karn's first ability targets a player, and your opponent is still a player. The targeting restriction doesn't require the target to have any cards in his or her hand. When the ability resolves, it does as much as it can, which is a lot of nothing if your opponent still doesn't have any cards in his hand then.




Q: My opponent is casting Pillory of the Sleepless on my Wall of Frost. Can I counter that with Turn Aside?

A: Absolutely! Aura spells are targeted spells, so an Aura spell that's aimed at a permanent of yours is a legal target for Turn Aside.




Q: If I control Dream Halls, can I discard a card that shares a color with my commander to cast it from the command zone?

A: Certainly. Dream Halls just establishes an alternate cost for your commander's mana cost. You'll still have to pay the commander tax for being previously cast, though, since Dream Halls doesn't cover additional costs.




Q: Can I cycle Krosan Tusker when my opponent ends his turn, or can I only do it when my opponent puts something on the stack?

A: You do get the chance to act in your opponent's end step, regardless of whether your opponent put anything on the stack. When your opponent says "Go," he's offering to pass priority until you have priority in his end step. That's your chance to cycle your Tusker, get in a last-minute ping with an untapped Prodigal Pyromancer, or do whatever else you might want to do in your opponent's end step.




Q: Does Pyromancer Ascension get additional counters if I copy a spell with Riku of Two Reflections?

A: Nope, sorry. Pyromancer Ascension's ability only triggers when you cast a spell. Casting a spell is a process that involves moving a card (or a copy of a card) to the stack from somewhere else. Copying a spell is a different process that just duplicates a spell that's already on the stack, so it doesn't count.




Q: If I copy Riku of Two Reflections with Sakashima the Impostor, can I pay for both to get two copies of each spell or creature?

A: Certainly. The original Riku and the Impostor Riku each have the same abilities, and each instance of the appropriate ability triggers when you cast an instant/sorcery spell or when a non-token creature enters the battlefield. Of course, you'll have to pay the appropriate cost twice, since each Riku is asking you for payment separately. Paying the cost for one won't automatically pay the cost for the other.





Thumbs up!
Q: Suppose I control 10 Krark's Thumbs thanks to a Prototype Portal, a Mirror Gallery, and unhealthy amounts of mana and time. What happens if I activate Goblin Bangchuckers' ability?

A: Goblin Bangchuckers tells you to flip a coin, which each Thumb replaces with "flip twice and choose the result you like." Ten iterations of that yield "Flip a coin 1024 times and choose the result you like." In reality, you probably won't need to flip a coin 1024 times, though. After you get a winning flip, the remaining flips are irrelevant and you can skip right to choosing the winning flip.




Q: If I haven't donated any permanents yet, can I respond to Zedruu's upkeep trigger by donating a permanent to gain 1 life and draw a card?

A: Yup, that works. Zedruu's ability triggers regardless of whether you've donated anything, and the ability only counts how much you've donated when the ability resolves. You can respond to the trigger by displaying your generosity in order to reap the rewards.




Q: What does Bone Dancer mean by "the top creature card of defending player's graveyard?" Does it mean that the top card of that graveyard has to be a creature card?

A: No, it means whichever creature card is closest to the top of that graveyard. It doesn't have to be the top card of that graveyard.




Q: When Sewer Nemesis is in the graveyard, does it remember the chosen player to check what its power and toughness are? What if the Sewer Nemesis was never on the battlefield and was put into the graveyard with Buried Alive?

A: Sewer Nemesis has a characteristic-defining ability that functions in all zones, but that ability won't do a lot in zones other than the battlefield. When a card changes zones, it becomes a new object with no memory of its previous existence. A Sewer Nemesis that's in the graveyard never had a player chosen for it, regardless of how it came to be in the graveyard, so "the number of cards in the chosen player's graveyard" is undefined. The rules say that an ability uses 0 when it needs a number that's undefined, so the Sewer Nemesis is an insignificant 0/0 in the graveyard.




Q: What happens if my opponent casts Stitch in Time, I copy it, and we both win the flip?

A: Your copy goes on the stack above the original, so it resolves first. It creates an extra turn by inserting it into the turn sequence immediately following the current turn. Then, your opponent's original resolves. It, too, inserts an extra turn immediately following the current turn, which pushes your extra turn down the line. Assuming that nothing else messes with the turn sequence, your opponent takes his extra turn first, and then you take your extra turn followed by your regular turn.




Q: Can I use Sundial of the Infinite to dodge game loss triggers like those on Final Fortune, Phage the Untouchable, or Pact of Negation?

A: Sure, as long as the game loss triggers happen on your turn, which all of the examples you mentioned normally do. You let the trigger go on the stack, and then you respond by pulling the turn's emergency brake. When the Sundial's ability resolves, the pesky game-loss trigger and anything else that might be on the stack is exiled, which is just as effective as countering the trigger in making sure that it won't resolve. You are alive and well, and the turn merrily proceeds into a cleanup step.




On that note, it's time to use the Sundial's ability on this article. See you next time!

- Carsten Haese

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