Cranial Insertion: The Wrath of Karn

Cranial Insertion
The Wrath of Karn
or, To boldly go where no monkey has gone before

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

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Captain, sensors indicate that
this lifeform is very angry.
Welcome back to Cranial Insertion! Once again we find ourselves in orbit around the world formerly known as Mirrodin, carefully avoiding collisions with its five suns. Karn has seen what the glistening oil has done to his plane, and he's very angry. His revenge is an ultimate ability that is so mind-boggling that many confused players have sent distress calls to us at [email][email protected][/email]. Prompted by those distress calls, we have launched this rescue mission to address several questions about Karn's ultimate ability as well as some other tricky interactions from New Phyrexia. If you have any rules questions for future missions, please contact us at [email][email protected][/email] or @CranialTweet.

Now, let's beam down to the surface and take a look. Energize!

Q: If I exile a Consecrated Sphinx with Karn Liberated and then restart the game, does the Sphinx's ability trigger when my opponent draws his opening hand?

A: As awesome as having a grip full of 21 cards on your first turn would be, that's not going to happen. The exiled cards are put onto the battlefield immediately before the first turn's untap step, after the pregame procedure that includes drawing opening hands is finished. The Sphinx isn't there to see the opening hands being drawn, so its ability doesn't trigger.

Q: I've exiled Soul Warden, Opalescence, and Pandemonium with Karn Liberated. What happens when I restart the game? Do I gain life from Soul Warden? Does Pandemonium's ability trigger?

A: Yes and yes! Continuous effects work continuously, even before the first turn actually starts, so Opalescence's effect turns Pandemonium into a creature immediately when it's put onto the battlefield as Karn's ability finishes resolving. Soul Warden and Pandemonium see each other entering the battlefield, and their abilities trigger accordingly. You gain 1 life, and both Soul Warden and Pandemonium get to shoot at something, presumably your opponent assuming that he didn't drop a Leyline of Sanctity!

Note that if any Leylines were dropped from your or your opponent's opening hands, Soul Warden won't trigger for those. Leylines are put onto the battlefield during the pregame procedure, which happens before Karn's ability puts Soul Warden onto the battlefield.

Q: Can I sideboard when Karn Liberated is restarting the game?

A: No, that would be very weird. Just imagine the arguments that would ensue if your opponent wanted to sideboard out the bomb you exiled from his hand before the restart! Sideboarding is a tournament action that's performed between games. As far as the tournament is concerned, you're still playing the same game, so you're not between games.

Q: Who restarts the game if Karn Liberated goes ultimate in a Grand Melee? If it's all players I'll probably have to ban Karn Liberated in my Grand Melee games.

A: Get ready for some banning, then. Karn's ability is so powerful that it transcends the barriers of range of influence. The game gets restarted for all players that are still in the game. I agree that banning Karn from Grand Melee is a fantastic solution to this problem. The only solution that would be even better in my opinion is to ban Grand Melee itself!

Q: If my Karn Liberated exiled a card and then dies, what happens to the exiled card when I play another Karn later and restart the game?

A: The restart ability only sees cards that were exiled by the same Karn that's restarting the game. The second Karn you play is a different Karn than the first one you played, even if it happens to be the same physical piece of cardboard, so it won't do anything special to the cards that were exiled by the first Karn. Those cards simply get shuffled into their owners' libraries together with all their other cards.

Q: Can Corpse Cur revive Viridian Betrayers if my opponent is poisoned?

A: Nope. Viridian Betrayers is not a creature card with infect because it has no ability that just says "infect." It has a static ability that gives it infect, but like all abilities on permanent cards that have no reason to function elsewhere, this ability only functions on the battlefield.

I hate transporter accidents!
Q: So, I'm keeping my opponent's nasty dude in check with Forced Worship. Now he says he's sacrificing his dude to Plaguemaw Beast. Can I bounce Forced Worship in response to save it?

A: No, that doesn't work. Your opponent's dude is sacrificed as a cost for activating the Beast's ability, and costs are paid immediately without a chance to respond to them. Before you get priority to do anything, state-based actions are checked and toss your unattached Forced Worship into the bin.

Q: I control a Painsmith and a Glint Hawk Idol. If I cast Ichor Wellspring, can I make the Idol into a bird and then give it +2/+0?

A: Not without some serious time traveling, which is banned in most universes (unless you're made of silver). Painsmith's ability triggers when you cast Ichor Wellspring, whereas the Idol's ability only triggers when Ichor Wellspring enters the battlefield, which is much later, so the Idol isn't a legal target for Painsmith's ability. (You could activate the Idol's activated ability, of course, but that would require white mana, and you'd have to do it before casting Ichor Wellspring.)

Q: If Melira's Keepers blocks a creature with infect and deathtouch, does it still die?

A: It sure does. The attacker is still dealing damage to Melira's Keepers even if that damage fails to cause a visible result. Since Melira's Keepers was dealt damage by a source with deathtouch, it is destroyed by state-based actions.

Q: If I control Puresteel Paladin and three artifacts, can I still choose to pay the original equip cost for my Equipment?

A: Absolutely! Puresteel Paladin gives your Equipment additional equip abilities, but they still retain their original abilities with their original costs. If you need to use Piston Sledge as an artifact sacrifice outlet, you can still do that.

Q: Let's say I have two Spellskites, one of them equipped with a Livewire Lash. An opponent casts Lightning Bolt targeting me. Can I then pay the Spellskite's ability back and forth to deal 2 damage to my opponent for each 4 life I pay?

A: Yes, that works. The Lash's ability triggers when the equipped creature goes from "I'm not a target of that spell" to "Yes, I am a target of that spell." With two Spellskites playing target ping-pong with the spell, each Spellskite goes back and forth between those two states, and the Lash ability triggers each time the equipped Spellskite becomes the target of the Bolt.

Q: If I have Norn's Annex and control my opponent with Mindslaver, can I make him pay 2 life multiple times if I make him attack me with one creature?

A: Not unless you control multiple Norn's Annexes. Norn's Annex doesn't have an activated ability. It simply imposes an attack cost on your opponent's attacker, and that cost can only be paid once. You can't make your opponent pay life for no reason any more than you could make him discard his hand for no reason or sacrifice a creature for no reason.

Q: My opponent controls Phyrexian Unlife and is at 1 life and 8 poison counters. What happens if I fire a Lightning Bolt at him?

A: The Bolt damage is dealt as one packet of 3 damage, and not in individual points. Since your opponent is not at 0 or less life yet, the damage is dealt normally and causes your opponent to lose three life. He'll go to -2 life and live a long and prosperous unlife until you find some more damage to bring him to 10 poison.

Q: My opponent controls a fresh Phyrexian Hydra that doesn't have any -1/-1 counters on it. If I hit it with a Volt Charge, can I proliferate any -1/-1 counters on it?

A: Yup! The Hydra has a prevention effect that prevents Volt Charge's damage and puts three -1/-1 counters on the Hydra as the damage is dealt. By the time you get around to the proliferate instruction, the three -1/-1 counters are on the Hydra and proliferate allows you to add a bonus counter on it.

I'm giving it all she's got, Captain!
Q: Does Drain Power force my opponent to pay the 2 life to activate Boseiju, Who Shelters All's ability? If yes, isn't that inconsistent with the ruling that a player doesn't have to pay for Norn's Annex when his opponent's Gideon Jura is forcing his creatures to attack?

A: Drain Power is instructing your opponent to activate a mana ability of each of his lands. If he's able to do it, he must do it, so if he has 2 or more life, he must activate Boseiju's ability. The difference between that and the Gideon Jura situation is that the player is already able to activate Boseiju's ability, so he must do so. In the Gideon Jura case, the creature is not able to attack, and the player is not forced to enable it.

Q: So, I control an Unwinding Clock and Vedalken Shackles that I'm using to steal a creature from my opponent. When my opponent's untap step comes around, am I forced to untap the Shackles?

A: Unfortunately, yes. The ability of the Shackles only gives you the choice not to untap them during your own untap step. Unwinding Clock's ability is not optional, so when it tells you to untap your artifacts during your opponent's untap step, you must comply.

Q: Suppose I control a Hypnotic Specter that is Xenografted to be an Archer, and I also control a Greatbow Doyen. If I attack my opponent with my Hypnotic Archer, he has to discard a card at random even if he blocks, right?

A: Unless he has some way of preventing the damage, or the Specter dies in combat. If he doesn't block, Hypnotic Specter deals combat damage to him, and if he blocks, Greatbow Doyen's ability triggers and then the Specter deals damage to him anyway. Since it doesn't matter whether the damage is combat damage or not, either case triggers the discard ability--so long as the specter is still alive to trigger. If it was killed by a blocker, though, when the Doyen's trigger resolves, the specter still does damage, but since the specter itself isn't in play to see it, the discard trigger doesn't happen.

Q: I just put a +1/+1 counter on my opponent's Necrotic Ooze. Does my Experiment Kraj now have access to abilities in the graveyard or does its ability only work with printed abilities?

A: Experiment Kraj gets all activated abilities of all other creatures that have +1/+1 counters on them. It doesn't matter whether an ability comes from printed rules text or whether it's gained through some effect. This means that Kraj gets all activated abilities from Necrotic Ooze, which includes the activated abilities of all creature cards in every graveyard. Spooky!

Q: Does Training Grounds reduce the cost of slivercycling on all Slivers in my hand if control Homing Sliver?

A: Sadly, it does not. Training Grounds only affects activated abilities of creatures you control, and "creatures" refers to creature permanents on the battlefield. The Sliver cards in your hand are not creatures, so their slivercycling abilities are not affected by Training Grounds.

Q: If Djinn Illuminatus gives Gut Shot replicate, can I replicate Gut Shot by paying 2 life?

A: Certainly! Djinn Illuminatus says that Gut Shot's replicate cost is the same as its mana cost, which is :sympr:. This is a cost that can be paid with R or with 2 life regardless of whether it's in the mana cost of a spell, in the activation cost of an ability, or in an additional cost such as a replicate cost.

That concludes our twenty-question mission. Brian will be back next week, and don't forget that Eli will bring us an exciting Commander special in two weeks! Carsten out!

- Carsten Haese


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