Cranial Insertion: Word of Commander



Cranial Insertion
Word of Commander
or, Commander? I Just Met 'Er

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

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Where Phelddagrif sits and plots
the hugs it will give the world...
[Editor's Note: This column was titled before Mark Rosewater's identically-named column was published on the same date... great minds think alike?]

After years and years of having only a single option for wedge-color Commander decks (or a whopping two if you went BGW!), the world is suddenly hit with not only two more for each trio, but 41 other new cards designed with Commander in mind! It's kind of exciting.

Also, more Sol Rings never hurt.

Despite being a very tiny set of new cards which contains no new monkeys, we've got a bunch of questions that they engender, as well as a few on the Commander format as a whole. If you've got more questions about Commander, Commander, commanders, or Magic which involves no form of the word "commander," send them in to [email][email protected][/email] or tweet us @CranialTweet!



Q: With Praetor's Grasp and exiling a commander, is moving it optional for its owner, or do I have to move it?

A: This was up in the air, but the new update (or at least the update bulletin from Tabak, our beloved rules manager) clarifies that it is, in fact, entirely mandatory: if you can look at a card you exile face down in a Commander game, you must do so, and if it's someone's commander, you must move it to the command zone.



Q: What happens if a commander has an activation cost on it that's a different color from its mana cost like Bosh, Iron Golem or Daughter of Autumn? Does that color count as part of the deck's color identity?

A: It does indeed! To determine color identity, start with all of the colored mana symbols in the card's mana cost, then add in any colored mana symbols that appear anywhere else on the card, and then add in any colors set by a characteristic-defining ability (such as Kobolds of Kher Keep). Note that all of this is addition, and none is subtraction – if a card such as Ghostfire has a red color identity due to its mana symbols, the CDA that makes it colorless doesn't remove that red identity.



Q: Can FNM be Commander now?

A: Nope. Commander is a product that recognizes the Commander casual variant, but it's still a casual variant, and is not a sanctioned format for tournaments.



Q: Can The Mimeoplasm copy a creature with a pinging ability and deal lots of commander damage at will?

A: The 21-commander-damage rule hinges on combat damage only, so you won't be able to poke your way into a victory. Heartless Hidetsugu would be absurdly good otherwise!



Q: Can I let everyone pay mana for a card with join forces, and then laugh manically and counter it?

A: Sorry, this is Commander, not Archenemy. Your maniacal laughter will fail you here: the players pay for join forces abilities as the spell is already resolving, at which point it's too late to counter it. If they jump the gun and pay before you have a chance to say you'll counter it, then they can rewind those mana abilities.




Teamwork!
Q: Can Rosheen Meanderer join forces with a Mana-Charged Dragon?

A: Rosheen doesn't play well with others. Even though join forces has you paying any amount, and an X most often has you paying any mount, Rosheen is unbearably picky and will only help to pay things that explicitly use an X, not any other sort of "pay any amount" cost.



Q: Does Homeward Path do crazy things with Death by Dragons?

A: If you consider "nothing at all" to be crazy, then yes! Remember, the rules for token ownership changed with M10: the owner of a token is now the player under whose control it originally entered the battlefield, not the player who controlled the effect that generated the token.



Q: How does Homeward Path interact with Treachery? Will I just get my stolen creature back again?

A: You will! Homeward Path creates a continuous effect exactly the same as Treachery, only Treachery's is infinitely easier to end (by destroying Treachery). As with most continuous effects that directly contradict each other, the last one created wins, and the earlier one has no visible effect unless the later one somehow ceases to matter.



Q: What'd happen if I used Homeward Path in the middle of combat when my creature's attacking me?

A: A creature that changes control in the middle of combat is removed from combat, so that creature will stop charging at you and just sit down on your side of the table. It won't deal any combat damage, but it won't become untapped, either.



Q: Does Karador, Ghost Chieftain's ability reduce the 2 extra for recasting it from the command zone?

A: Yes – the "commander tax" is simply an additional cost, and like all additional costs, you add it in before looking at abilities that reduce costs.



Q: Wait, I have to pay for the graveyard creature I cast with Karador, Ghost Chieftain?

A: You do! When you cast things, you pay the cost unless something says otherwise; Karador is no different.



Q: If I cast a creature from my graveyard, sacrifice Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and then recast Karador, can I cast a second creature from my graveyard?

A: As expensive as this can get to be, yes, you can do that. Karador's ability gives you a special permission to cast a spell in an unusual way, and the post-sacrifice Karador is an entirely new object with no relation to the previous one. This means that, as far as the new Karador is concerned, its special permission hasn't been exercised yet, and you can cast a dead critter!



Q: Can Spell Crumple really get rid of my commander? I can't choose to put it in the command zone?

A: You can only bop your commander over into the command zone by replacing it going to a graveyard or replacing it being exiled. Spell Crumple's self-replacement effect, which modifies what it means for it to counter the spell, immediately shunts your commander over to your library , and then the commander-to-command replacement effect can't kick in. It's mean, but it's a valid trick.



Q: Can I pretty much just ruin someone by donating a Celestial Dawn to a non-white player with Zedruu the Greathearted?

A: Your opponent is pretty screwed. His lands are Plains now, so they can only produce white mana, except that they can't because white isn't in his commander's color identity, so they produce colorless mana instead. He could use his mana rocks to produce colored mana, but he can only spend it as though it were colorless. This means that it will be pretty difficult for him to cast colored spells.




It gains its power from the random
definite article in front of its name.
Q: I say that I'm going to cast The Mimeoplasm and copy creature A and get counters for creature B, but then a counterwar ensues, and even though I win, juicier creatures end up in the graveyard that I want to copy now! Can I do that?

A: You can! You don't actually decide what to exile with the The Mimeoplasm until it resolves. If you announce a choice for The too early, you're only held to that shortcut choice if nothing changes in the game before The resolves – and any sort of spell or ability cast or activated in response breaks that shortcut.



Q: I just cast Animar, Soul of Elements and now I want to cast Primeval Titan. Will that cost me 4 mana or 5 mana? I'm thinking Animar should get one counter for itself, then one counter for the Titan, but does it get the Titan counter too late to make it cheaper?

A: I'm sorry to say that your thinking is off. Before Animar has resolved, it's not on the battlefield for its own ability to trigger, so it can't possibly get a counter for casting itself; for casting the Titan, it'll get a counter before the Titan resolves, but the ability won't even trigger to give it a counter until after the spell has been fully cast. Part of casting a spell is determining the total cost and then paying it, and that'll be long before Animar has any counters in this situation.



Q: Is Hydra Omnivore's extra damage also combat damage?

A: Combat damage is only the damage dealt by attacking or blocking creatures as a result of assigning it in the combat damage step and then that assigned damage being dealt. Damage dealt in other ways – such as triggered abilities, like the Hydra's here – are never combat damage.



Q: If I get hit with Scythe Specter, do I have to discard, too, or just my opponents?

A: "Each opponent" refers to the opponents of the player who controls the trigger (the one who controls the Specter), not the opponents of the player who was dealt damage. As with most Specters, you'll have to discard when you're hit.



Q: What does Command Tower do in Legacy or Vintage? Or what if Karn, Silver Golem is my commander?

A: Command Tower only adds mana of a color from your commander's color identity to your mana pool, and "colorless" isn't a color. So if your commander's color identity is null, because your commander has no colors or because you don't even have a commander, then you can tap Command Tower for a big, fat nothing.



Q: Does Riku of Two Reflections copy stuff like whether the creature was kicked, evoked, or cast via suspend?

A: Abilities of creatures that want to know about how they were cast have to look back through time to the point in which they were merely spells on the stack. However, the tokens were never spells on the stack! They're poor little orphans with no mommy who ever loved them. Frown They don't even have proper artwork, and Santa never brings them presents.

Whoa, this question got really sad. Frown

Suspend is different from the others, since it's part of the suspend trigger that cares about only the creature that resolved out of the spell that was cast, but kicker, buyback, and other alternate costs work differently on spells than they do on creatures – when you copy a spell, the rules for copying spells explicitly say that things like kicker are copied. The rules for copying permanents are different, and copy much less about what's going on.



Q: Can a creature with graft save Skullbriar, the Walking Grave after I cast it from the command zone when it has a -1/-1 counter on it?

A: Nope; since graft is a triggered ability, it'll trigger and go on the stack and then blink in confusion while state-based actions carry away Skullbriar before that trigger gets a chance to resolve. You'll need a way to have Skullbriar enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter to release it from its -1/-1 misery.



Q: I took a bunch of creatures with Tariel, Reckoner of Souls and then lost the game. What happens to those creatures?

A: They'll all toddle off to exile. No effect is causing you to gain control of those creatures; you're their default controller. Because of that, when you go through the "clean up your death" process for a multiplayer game, you'll still be holding onto those creatures at the end of the process when it hits the "then exile everything else you control" step.



That's all for this week! Join us next week when Carsten brings you more smarts, and I'll see you again in three weeks when... wait, what? The M12 Prerelease Special? Three weeks away? One day, I suppose, I'll be able to write a normal article again.

Until next time, enjoy your multiplayer madness!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

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