Cranial Insertion: Goodbye, EDH!

Cranial Insertion
Goodbye EDH!
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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The DCI doesn't stand for
anything. Except, you know, fair play
and enjoyment for all players.
Welcome back! Spoiler seasons are always exciting, and we're only a few days away from the release of Commander! We'll be having our special Commander edition of Cranial Insertion next week after the precons are officially released. In the meantime, we'll be practicing writing the word "Commander" over and over so we'll stop accidentally writing "EDH" in our articles! It's been a great few years, but it's time to retire my favorite acronym. It'll go on the Wall of Fame next to "SBE" (State-Based Effect), "CSA" (Characteristic Setting Ability), "CIP" (Comes into Play), "DCI" (or rather, the original meaning: Duelists' Convocation International), and the original acronym for Champions of Kamigawa which I probably shouldn't type here. This is a PG-rated article, but it must've been embarassing to get an entire case of Champions of Kamigawa boosters in the mail.

While we prepare the Commander questions, you can always write in your own questions to [email][email protected][/email], or tweet them to @CranialTweet. I'm afraid I don't have a crazy theme this week like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Monty Python, or Star Trek, though I did include a lot of references to Magic: The Gathering!

Q: I've got a Kill Switch and a Mycosynth Lattice out, so nothing's untapping during anyone's untap step! But when my turn comes around, do I untap Kill Switch along with all my other permanents, or does only Kill Switch untap?

A: Only Kill Switch will flip the untap switch. When your untap step rolls around, first you determine the set of permanents you control that will untap, and then you untap them all simultaneously. Only Kill Switch gets a "yes, I'm able to untap right now" answer, so it's the only thing you'll get to untap.

Q: When and where does the ability of Death's Shadow apply? Does it apply in all zones, some zones, or only while Death's Shadow is on the battlefield?

A: Death's Shadow doesn't have a characteristic-defining ability like Tarmogoyf or Magnivore; those apply in all zones. Instead it has a static ability, and that's only checked on the battlefield.

Q: Upon having an instant cast with the assistance of Sunforger, is my library the zone the instant is being cast from?

A: Strangely, yes. Not many things let you cast spells directly from your library, but it's not totally unheard of. The first step of casting a spell is to put it onto the stack though, so it's not in your library for long after you choose it with Sunforger.

Q: Can I Volt Charge at the beginning of my upkeep in time to keep a Keldon Marauders with 1 counter on it alive?

A: Sure! Volt Charge can let you get extra mileage out of your vanishing creatures. The ability that tells you to remove a counter triggers and goes on the stack, so you're able to respond to it, proliferating and letting your Keldon Marauders get another swing.

Q: If I'm playing any game where no one has any poison counters, would I legally be able to cast Corrupted Resolve even knowing it wouldn't work anyway?

A: There are a couple of obscure reasons I can think of why you'd want to cast a spell without it doing anything, but since that's strategy talk, I won't get into them here. You can cast it so long as you've got a spell to target. Its controller doesn't need to be poisoned at the time you cast Corrupted Resolve either, it'll just do nothing if its controller isn't poisoned when Corrupted Resolve is resolving.

Q: It just became the beginning of my upkeep and Cosmic Larva wants to eat two lands. Before making the decision to sac him or sac the lands, could I Fling him to avoid sacing two precious lands?

A: When Cosmic Larva's triggered ability resolves, you need to make the choice to sacrifice two lands or Cosmic Larva. Without the Larva on the field, you won't need to sacrifice two lands to keep it around!

Q: In a Commander game, is it even necessary to keep track of commander damage from a commander such as Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon since the max you could sustain from him is 10 anyway?

A: I play Melira, Sylvok Outcast in at least one of my Commander decks, so if you're ever playing against me, you might actually need to get to 21! But there are many things that could make regular commander damage from Skithiryx matter. If he's turned face down or becomes a copy of another creature, he's still a commander, and one that'll most likely be dealing damage not in the form of poison counters. It's hard to say something will never happen in Commander!

Q: If my 3/2 creature who is a 6/2 thanks to O-Naginata were to get hit with a Disorient, would the equipment fall off or stay on?

A: It'll fall off. O-Naginata's "can only be attached" doesn't just apply when you try to attach it, it's a condition that's continually checked, much like an equipped creature suddenly gaining protection from artifacts. If your 3/2 has less than 3 power, he'll drop the O-Naginata.

Q: My opponent has a creature with Mortarpod on it, and Grave Pact. If he sacrifices the creature to deal 1 damage to one of my 1/1 creatures, can I sacrifice the targeted creature to Grave Pact or is it already dead? Does this involve how he orders the triggers?

A: There's no triggers to order here, just an activated ability from Mortarpod and a single triggered ability from Grave Pact. The first step in activating an ability is to put it onto the stack, then choose targets, and then pay the costs. Your creature's targeted, and then he pays the cost of sacrificing the equipped creature. This triggers Grave Pact, which goes on the stack and then resolves, making you sacrifice a creature. The Mortarpod ability will then be countered if you sacrifice your 1/1 to Grave Pact.

Q: My opponent has a 2/2 and I have a Mortarpod with a germ token. Can I sacrifice it to deal 1 damage to it, Flickerwisp the Mortarpod, and then sacrifice the new token at end of turn to kill it, or has the damage worn off by the time Mortarpod comes back?

A: That will work! Damage wears off in the cleanup step, which is after the end step when Mortarpod returns.

Totally legal in Modern.
The most ballin' Modern deck ever.
Q: Will the time shifted cards from Time Spiral be legal in this new Modern format?

A: "Modern" isn't really a format, more of an experiment that Wizards is trying out for an invitational. But if you and your friends want to try it out, go for it! The card pool is everything from Eighth Edition on up, and the "new frame" is just a moment in time that Wizards picked, it doesn't actually mean that the cards need to be printed in a post-Eighth Edition frame. Otherwise, some From the Vault and judge promos would be legal, and timeshifted cards wouldn't be!

Q: I'm having some doubts about Karn Liberated's first ability. Is the card exiled face-up or face-down?

A: Your opponent will get to choose and exile a card, and you'll both get to see it. Exiled things are exiled face up unless whatever's exiling them specifies otherwise, and Karn doesn't specify otherwise. So don't worry, you're not going to get tricked into restarting the game with a Phage the Untouchable!

Q: So, I made a mistake and allowed my opponent to attach his Deceiver Exarch with a Splinter Twin while I had out a Spellskite. Is it possible for me to stop the combo by requiring the Exarch's twin to target Spellskite with its ability? Or can Spellskite not stop modal abilities like that?

A: You won't be able to change the target, because the mode he chose only allows him to target a permanent he controls. Though you can change targets, you can't back the ability up to choose a new mode for it.

Q: And similarly, can Spellskite redirect a Naturalize that is targeting an enchantment?

A: Naturalize isn't a modal spell though; it can target an artifact or an enchantment, so Spellskite is a legal target for it even if Naturalize were originally targeting an enchantment. Modal spells will specifically say to "Choose N", for example "Choose one" or "Choose one or both".

Q: I just got a Riptide Replicator, and have been toying with it. Is there a limitation to what I can name for a creature type? Can I make up names or use Jedi? Or can I declare Mountain as a critter type for the token, and then Maelstrom Pulse it?

A: There is indeed a limitation, and they're all listed in section 204.3k of the Comprehensive Rules. That's the rule that states all the creature types in the game, and you need to pick a creature type that exists in Magic.

Q: If a man-land has already become a creature (or say, Dryad Arbor), and my opponent resolves Linvala, Keeper of Silence, can I still tap that land for mana while it's a creature?

A: Nope. Dryad Arbor is still a creature, it just happens to be a land as well. That means none of its activated abilities can be played, even ones given to it because it's a Forest.

Not legal in Modern,
very good in EDH... Damnit!
I mean Commander!
Q: I have Pathrazer of Ulamog, my opponent has a Maze of Ith (in addition to other stuff). I'm operating under the assumption that simply declaring my guy as an attacker triggers his annihilator ability, even if Maze of Ith "sends him home." My opponent insists that Maze of Ith removes the creature from combat, so the annihilator won't trigger... I know I'm right; can you explain it better than I just did?

A: You should tell him that he can only activate Maze of Ith targeting an attacking creature, so in order for him to do so your creature has to have been declared as an attacker. This triggers annihilator, and even removing the creature from combat won't remove any triggered abilities on the stack.

Q: If I have a 2/2 Protean Hydra equipped with a Darksteel Plate on the field, and it blocks a 3/3 Beast token. Does the Darksteel Plate keep the Hydra alive long enough to have new counters added to it?

A: Indestructibility doesn't stop or delay a creature being put into its owner's graveyard for having 0 toughness. Your headless Hydra will get sent to your graveyard without the chance for any counters to be put on it.

Q: Is there any point in proliferating blaze counters from Obsidian Fireheart? I ask because it seems fishy that you can't use Obsidian Fireheart's ability on a land that already has a blaze counter.

A: There's no point in putting another counter on, unless you want to make sure your opponent needs to remove more with their Hex Parasite or something. The activated ability gives the land a triggered ability, and the blaze counter is both a visual reminder and a condition for the ability to keep triggering.

Q: Is my Muraganda Petroglyphs deck worse than usual in an Emperor game that's using the "Deploy Creatures" rules?

A: Oh definitely. The Deploy Creatures rule gives each creature "T: Target teammate gains control of this creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery." This is an activated ability, and it means none of your creatures are getting a bonus from Muraganda Petroglyphs.

EDH EDH EDH! There, that should be all out of my system now... see you next time!


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