Cranial Insertion: Profane Commander



Cranial Insertion
Profane Commander
or, I hope MaRo didn't think of that one

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese



Cranial Translations
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Warning: May cause your opponents
to shout profanities.
Welcome to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Commander is out, and I hope you all had fun if you went to a launch party. I certainly did, even though it reminded me of why I don't play Magic very often. Apparently, knowing the rules doesn't mean that you always make the best play decisions. Who knew? Anyway, I had a blast while losing in utterly ridiculous ways, and having fun matters to me much more than winning.

Another piece of big news that you might not have heard if you just returned from a vacation to the moon is that, effective July 1st, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic are banned in Standard constructed tournaments. The most surprising aspect of this banning is that it's making an exception for the preconstructed "War of Attrition" event deck. That deck contains two Stoneforge Mystics, and you are allowed to play it in a Standard tournament if you leave the deck unchanged. If you want to change the deck in any way, you first have to take out the Mystics.

Now, let's take a look at this week's selection of rules questions from our inbox. If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to [email][email protected][/email] or tweet them to @CranialTweet. We'll email or tweet back an answer, and your question might appear in a future issue.




Q: My commander is The Mimeoplasm, and it dealt combat damage to an opponent once while being a 9/9 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, and then later while being a 12/4 Force of Savagery. Does that opponent lose the game now?

A: Yup! Even though some of the damage resulted in poison counters and some of it resulted in loss of life, what matters is that your commander has dealt a total of 21 points of combat damage to your opponent over the course of the game. The Mimeoplasm changed its looks in between, but it was your commander at both times, so your opponent is done with this game.




Q: Let's say I cast The Mimeoplasm, and there are a Lhurgoyf, a vanilla 2/2, and 8 other random creature cards in all graveyards. If I choose to copy the vanilla 2/2 and get counters from the Lhurgoyf, how many counters will The Mimeoplasm get?

A: The Lhurgoyf's ability is a characteristic-defining ability, which works in all zones, including the graveyard. The Mimeoplasm's replacement effect is applied before any cards actually change zones, so Lhurgoyf's power is 10 because there are ten creature cards in graveyards at that moment. Then, The Mimeoplasm enters the battlefield as a vanilla 2/2 with 10 +1/+1 counters on it, while the vanilla 2/2 and Lhurgoyf are exiled at the same time.




Q: Does Contamination make Command Tower produce black mana in a non-Commander game?

A: Yes, it does. While Command Tower's ability is unable to actually produce any mana by itself, it's still a mana ability. By activating this ability, you're tapping a land for mana, so Contamination's replacement effect kicks in and says "Guess what, you're producing one black mana instead of no mana!"




Q: When my opponent casts his commander from the command zone, can I respond with Gather Specimens to yoink it?

A: Absolutely! Despite the unusual zone from which it's being cast, your opponent's commander is still just a creature spell like any other. It uses the stack, you can respond to it, and Gather Specimens sets up a replacement effect that makes the commander enter the battlefield under your control.




Q: What happens if I use Zedruu the Greathearted to give Illusions of Grandeur to my opponent in response to its cumulative upkeep ability?

A: Not much, at least not right away. You still control the ability, so it asks you to pay. If you don't pay, it asks you to sacrifice Illusions of Grandeur, which you can't because you don't control it. Once your opponent's upkeep comes around, he'll either have to pay then or sacrifice it and repay the life total loan that you took out on it.





Donate in a friendly
bovine-humanoid package
Q: Can I steal a creature from one opponent with Act of Treason and then give it to another opponent with Zedruu the Greathearted?

A: Sure, that works. Zedruu's donation ability doesn't care whether you own the permanent you're donating. All that matters is that you currently control it, which you do thanks to Act of Treason. Zedruu sets up an indefinite change-of-control effect that gives the creature to your second opponent even after Act of Treason's effect has ended.




Q: I control a Puppeteer Clique that's face-down thanks to my opponent's Ixidron. If I wipe the board with something like Day of Judgment, does the Clique's persist ability bring it back?

A: No, it won't. Persist is a leaves-the-battlefield ability, which is triggered based on the game state right before the event of something leaving the battlefield. In that game state, Puppeteer Clique was face down and didn't have persist, so the ability doesn't trigger. The Clique regains persist once it arrives face-up in the graveyard, but by then it's too late. It stays in the graveyard.




Q: If I attack with Kaalia of the Vast and bring out a Desolation Angel, can I pay its kicker cost?

A: No, that's not possible. The kicker cost is an optional additional cost for casting Desolation Angel, and Kaalia lets you put the Angel directly onto the battlefield without casting it.




Q: Suppose I control Kaalia of the Vast and Fervent Charge. Will the Angel/Demon/Dragon that I put onto the battlefield with Kaalia's ability get the bonus from Fervent Charge, too?

A: No. The Angel/Demon/Dragon is put onto the battlefield attacking, but it doesn't attack, so it doesn't trigger Fervent Charge's ability.




Q: I control a Maelstrom Nexus and cast my commander, Atogatog, from the command zone for the third time. Do I cascade for 5 or for 9?

A: I'm afraid it's only 5. Cascade only looks at the converted mana cost, which is a number that's derived entirely from the mana cost in the top right corner of the card, so Atogatog's converted mana cost is always 5. Cost modifications such as the additional cost for having cast your commander twice before are not taken into consideration.




Q: How does Ruhan of the Fomori interact with effects that prevent it from attacking? Do we only choose among the players it could attack? If not, what happens if a player comes up that Ruhan can't attack?

A: Ruhan's ability is a two-step process. First, you randomly pick an opponent, any opponent. The ability then sets up an attack requirement to attack that opponent if possible. If it can't attack that opponent, for example because it vowed not to, the attack requirement can't be fulfilled, so Ruhan can either attack a different player or sit down and enjoy the weather.




Q: When a commander is destroyed and goes to the command zone, does it hit the graveyard first? For example, would Child of Alara blow up everything and then go to the command zone?

A: No. If you choose to put your commander into the command zone, it goes there instead of going to the graveyard or exile zone. Leave-the-battlefield abilities would still trigger, but the exploding baby has an ability that only triggers if it actually makes it into the graveyard.




Q: I control Crystal Ball and Chaos Warp one of my permanents. Can I activate Crystal Ball between shuffling my library and revealing the top card to improve my odds of getting something good?

A: No, unfortunately Chaos Warp is very serious about the "Chaos" in its name. While it's resolving, you can't do anything other than follow its instructions, so you go straight from shuffling your library to revealing the top card. The only legal way to improve your odds of getting something good is by making sure you have lots of good cards in your library.





For best results, feed with Death's Shadow
Q: If my Phyrexian Ingester ingests my opponent's Carnifex Demon that has two -1/-1 counters on it, does the Ingester get +4/+4 or +6/+6?

A: The Ingester has a static ability that looks at the card in the exile zone. The Demon loses its -1/-1 counters on the way to exile, so it's a 6/6 and gives the Ingester +6/+6.




Q: What happens if I exile Phage the Untouchable and Torpor Orb with Karn Liberated and restart the game?

A: You'll win the game! When you restart the game, both Phage and the Orb are put onto the battlefield simultaneously. Then, the game asks whether any abilities were triggered by this. Phage tries to say yes and make you lose the game, but Torpor Orb's static ability says "These aren't the triggers you're looking for" with a mysterious handwave, so Phage's ability simply doesn't trigger. Now you can turn Phage sideways and attack your defenseless opponent for a swift victory.




Q: Suppose I have a Magma Phoenix that's enchanted with Glistening Oil, and the Phoenix dies. Does it deal infect damage with its triggered ability?

A: Yes, it does! The source of the damage is the Magma Phoenix as it existed on the battlefield, and at that time the Phoenix had infect. Instead of hot molten rock, it'll spew hot Phyrexian oil. Eeewwwww!




Q: If I reveal a Lotus Bloom with Genesis Wave, can I put it onto the battlefield?

A: Certainly. Lotus Bloom is a permanent card, and it has no mana cost. Objects that don't have a mana cost have a converted mana cost of 0, which is definitely less than any useful value you'd choose for X.




Q: My opponent just hit my Phyrexian Obliterator with a Lightning Bolt. Does he sacrifice one permanent or three permanents?

A: The triggered ability triggers once for each packet of damage, but it looks at how much damage was dealt. Your opponent sacrifices "that many" permanents, so he sacrifices three permanents. Ouch!




Q: I've heard that if I accidentally write Ancient Grudge instead of Ancient Tomb on my decklist in a competitive Legacy tournament, I have to replace the Ancient Tombs in my deck with Ancient Grudges in addition to getting a Game Loss penalty. Is that true?

A: It is, but not for very much longer. Starting July 1st 2011, a new Infraction Procedure Guide goes into effect, and it is changing the remedy for deck/decklist problems. Under current rules, the judge would change the deck to match the list if the list is legal, and Ancient Grudge is legal in Legacy, so that is what you have to play. If you can't find Ancient Grudges, you'd have to use basic lands instead. By making your deck weaker, this fix adds insult to the injury of the Game Loss penalty you're receiving already, and the fact that you could have avoided this by being more careful in writing your decklist is little comfort when it actually happens to you.

Starting July 1st, the remedy for a list that doesn't match a legal deck is to change the list to match the deck, regardless of whether the list is legal or not. You'll still get a Game Loss penalty, but at least you'll get to play with the deck you intended to play.




And that's all the time we have for now. Brian will be back next week with more rulesy goodness from Commander and other formats, and the week after that Eli will bring us a special Magic 2012 prerelease issue. Until then, may all your commanders obey your commands.

- Carsten Haese

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