Cranial Insertion: Eggs Over Easy, Questions Over Complicated

Cranial Insertion
Eggs Over Easy, Questions Over Complicated
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

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Found one!
Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great Easter. Here at the Cranial Insertion office, we're still on the hunt for leftover easter eggs. Being only a few feet tall, Moko was able to hide eggs in places we can't normally reach. Also being a zombie helped too, I mean if you've ever seen a horror movie you know how good zombies are at hiding. Not usually brightly-colored Easter eggs though. Well, there might be some eggs around here somewhere, so if you see any, let us know!

And remember, even though New Phyrexia rumor season has started, we can't answer any of your questions about the cards in the new set until the FAQ is out and the cards are all officially spoiled, which should happen around the time of the prerelease. Send in your questions to [email][email protected][/email], but hold your NPH questions for a little while longer!

Q: If I have a Peace Strider with Bladed Pinions attacking an opponent, can I trick that poor tired Peace Strider into doing double the damage by say, using Into The Roil on the Bladed Pinions after first strike has resolved?

A: The regular combat damage step is for creatures that didn't deal combat damage in the first strike combat damage step and creatures with double-strike. Removing first strike from a creature after it's dealt first strike combat damage won't let it hit again.

Q: Hi, I was recently playing a game where my opponent had a Teysa, Orzhov Scion and three white tokens as well as a Gravepact. He sacced the tokens to exile a creature causing me to sacrifice some creatures. I had a Nim Deathmantle and two creatures. Is it possible for me to sac my two creatures and return one with the Nim Deathmantle, which will then not have to be sacced? I assumed it depended where on the stack all the triggers went i.e. is there one trigger from Gravepact to sac three creatures or three triggers to sac one creature?

A: The first part of him activating Teysa's ability is to put it on the stack and choose a target. Then he'll pay the costs for the ability, which includes sacrificing three white creatures. This will trigger Gravepact, and those three triggers will all go on top of Teysa's ability and resolve first. When each trigger resolves, you'll need to sacrifice a creature.

When the second trigger resolves and you sacrifice your last creature, you can pay 4 to bring it back, but then you'll just have to sacrifice it again when the third Gravepact trigger resolves, so you'll need another 4 mana to end up with a creature on the table. Teysa's ability will be countered upon resolution for having her target not be there any more.

Q: Can I use Doubling Cube and Grand Architect to power up a huge non-artifact spell?

A: You can! Doubling Cube is an artifact and has an activated ability, so Grand Architect's mana can be used with it. The mana you get from Doubling Cube is pure 100% Grade A colorless mana, and you can spend it on whatever you want. If you have leftover Grand Architect mana that you didn't use to activate Doubling Cube's mana ability though, that'll still remain artifact-only.

Q: I have Bringer of the White Dawn and a Horizon Spellbomb in play. I'm tapped out and have no artifacts in my graveyard. At the beginning of my turn, can I put the Spellbomb into my graveyard fast enough to return it to play?

A: As soon as the Bringer's ability triggers, you'll need to pick a target for it, and that happens at the beginning of your upkeep, right before you get priority for the first time in the turn. Since you don't get priority before that happens, you won't be able to get Horizon Spellbomb in your graveyard for it to be a legal target this turn.

Check out the paint job
on this one!
Q: Turn one, I play a Pulse Tracker. Turn two, I play a second Pulse Tracker, and attack with the first without being blocked. Do I do 2 or 3 damage to my opponent?

Put another way, Pulse Tracker's text states "Whenever Pulse Tracker attacks, each opponent loses 1 life." Does that ability trigger only when the specific Pulse Tracker attacks (in which case, I would do 2 damage), or when any Pulse Tracker attacks (in which case, I presumably would do 3)?

A: When a card mentions its name, it means "this creature", not "all creatures with the same name as this creature" unless it specifically says so. Each Pulse Tracker will make your opponent lose 1 life when it - and not each other - attacks.

Q: I have a Smokestack in play with one counter on it. Can my opponent Krosan Grip it during his upkeep so that he doesn't have to sacrifice a permanent, or is the "last known information" used on the Smokestack?

A: Last known information is used here because the game wants to know something about a specific object that isn't where it was supposed to be anymore. Krosan Grip won't save your opponent from sacrificing a permanent unless he does it at the end of your turn.

Q: I have a question about Knowledge Pool with Djinn Illuminatus. If I have both on the field and I cast a spell, the spell will be exiled by Knowledge Pool and I'll be able to play another card previous exiled without paying its mana cost. Would the exiled card I casted have a replicate cost of 0, since I cast the card without playing its mana cost? Or does the mana cost refer to the converted mana cost of the instant or sorcery?

A: Even though you're paying nothing to cast your Pooled spells, the mana cost of that spell is still unchanged. Only X in mana costs (while the spell is on the stack), being face-down, and copy effects can change a spell's mana cost. If you want to replicate the spell, you'll need to pay the spell's normal mana cost. As a bonus though, the replicate copies are put onto the stack, not cast, so they won't trigger Knowledge Pool again.

Q: Someone tried to Into the Core my two Wurmcoil Engine tokens, and in response I sacrificed one to my Rusted Slasher, thinking the spell would fizzle because it doesn't have two targets any more. But a judge told me my other token would still get exiled. Why is that? If that's true, how come some things like Quicksilver Geyser are written as "up to two"?

A: A spell will resolve if it has at least one legal target, and then it'll do as much as possible. You need two targets to cast Into the Core, but only one to make it resolve. The difference between "two targets" and "up to two targets" is probably a design decision. If your opponent only has one artifact, you can't cast Into the Core unless you also have an artifact to target. Meanwhile, you can cast Quicksilver Geyser even if there's only one non-land permanent on the field.

Q: My opponent hit me with a Cerebral Eruption and I flipped over a Skinwing. I wanted to save my Golem Artisan with my Abuna Acolyte, but my opponent said it was too late. Can't I prevent damage as it happens?

A: The days of damage prevention windows are long passed. Once Cerebral Eruption starts resolving, you won't get priority again until it's resolved and state-based actions are checked, in which case your Golem has already been destroyed. You'll need to use your Acolyte on any creature you think might be in danger of being destroyed before Cerebral Eruption starts resolving.

Q: If Trinisphere is untapped, what will cards like Force of Will and Unmask cost to cast?

A: Well, Trinisphere will always apply last, after any other cost reductions/increases. If you're planning on casting Force of Will or Unmask for their alternative costs, you'll be paying less than 3 for them, so Trinisphere will kick in and force you to pay 3 in addition to whatever other costs you need to pay for your "free" spell.

Q: If my opponent has Ichorid in his graveyard and at the beginning of his upkeep it triggers, can I then Extirpate it and exile them all from his deck? It was argued that it would still come back because Ichorid doesn't say it has to come back from the graveyard.

A: Don't worry, you're safe from the Ichorids! Once an object changes zones, the game treats them as new objects. Although Ichorid's trigger doesn't specify returning it from the graveyard to the battlefield specifically, it doesn't need to say that - it means "return this Ichorid", and once it's exiled, that Ichorid won't be coming back.

Q: With the M10 combat damage changes, will a creature have to be regenerated once or twice if dealt lethal deathtouch damage? For example, Thrun, the Last Troll blocks a 5/6 Daggerback Basilisk. Will I need to pay 1G, or 2GG?

A: You'll only need to regenerate Thrun once. Lethal damage and damage from deathtouch are both state-based actions that say "destroy this creature", and one replacement effect such as a regeneration shield can replace both.

Q: How exactly does Gore Vassal work? I've read it a few times, but I can't understand the wording! Does it regenerate itself when it targets a creature with more than 1 toughness?

A: Gore Vassal is a tricky card to "grok" (a nerd word meaning "understand"). Since its most common use is to kill a creature with 1 toughness, no one usually worries about the rest of the words on the card. But if it targets a creature with more than 1 toughness, that's where things get confusing for a lot of players. The important things to remember are that you can never regenerate from a sacrifice, and "regenerate it" on Gore Vassal refers to the targeted creature, not itself.

Say you've got a 2/3 creature blocking another 2/3 creature. Neither one kills each other. Then you sacrifice Gore Vassal to put a -1/-1 counter on one of the 2/3s. Now it's a 1/2 with 2 damage on it, which would normally kill it... but Gore Vassal gave it a regeneration shield along with that counter! The creature is tapped, removed from combat, all damage on it is erased (though the -1/-1 counter stays) and Gore Vassal remains in your graveyard.

Oh, it's glowing and uh...
you know what, let's just
leave this one where we found it.
Q: What happens when I Sculpting Steel my opponents Time Vault? Do I get an untapped Vault as Sculpting Steel is already on the battlefield as its copy ability resolves or do I get a tapped Time Vault?

A: Sculpting Steel is not on the battlefield when it copies something. Sculpting Steel has a static ability that modifies how it enters the battlefield, by copying something else. Time Vault has a static ability that modifies how it enters the battlefield as well, so if you choose to copy Time Vault, your Sculpting Steel Vault enters the battlefield tapped as a fresh new Time Vault.

Q: If my Academy Rector is destroyed and someone exiles it with Tormod's Crypt in response to its ability, do I still get to tutor something up?

A: Nope! Academy Rector's triggered ability says "if you do" exile it from your yard, you get to search up a nice juicy enchantment. It's part of the triggered ability though, so if it's exiled some other way, then you won't be able to search.

Q: I used Mind Control to take my opponent's Keldon Champion. During my next turn, I untap, draw a card... and he tells me my Keldon Champion dies because I didn't pay the echo. Do I really need to pay again?

A: Yup! Echo triggers at the beginning of your upkeep if you didn't control the creature before the beginning of your last upkeep. It's not dependant on the creature entering the battlefield under your control, that's just the most common reason echo needs to be paid.

Q: I attack with a Corpse Cur, and my opponent blocks with a 3/3 Golem token, but he's got a Vigor out. Is the Golem going to end up with two -1/-1 counters or two +1/+1 counters?

A: Unfortunately for you, your opponent's going to win this one. Creatures with infect deal their damage to other creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters. Vigor prevents that damage and puts that many +1/+1 counters on the Golem, so your opponent has a 5/5 instead of a 1/1 and you have a very dead Corpse Cur.

Q: Can I safely smack my opponent for two infect with Phyrexian Crusader, and then sac it to a Flesh-Eater Imp between steps to get an extra point of damage with the Imp?

A: Sure! After first strike damage happens in the first combat damage step, both players get priority. You can sacrifice your first-striking Crusader, who already did his damage thing, to your regular-striking Imp, who'll use the boost to give the defending player an extra poison counter.

Q: When a Serum Raker dies, do I get to see what my opponent discards before I choose what to discard?

A: You'll never get to see what your opponent discards before you choose what to discard. If multiple players would make choices, such as which card in their hands they want to discard, they choose in turn order with the active player choosing first. Since these cards are in a hidden zone, each player needs to clearly indicate which card in their hand they're discarding, and then all the cards are discarded simultaneously.

Q: We're running FNM at my local store, but we don't have a certified judge. How do we know how to handle problems?

A: With the handy Judging at Regular REL PDF! This two (two!) page document explains how to fix commonly made player errors at Regular REL events such as FNM, prereleases, and general every-day sanctioned events. Regular REL is much less strict than Competitive events, and many of the fixes in this document are common sense things, but it's important to handle problems that come up with consistency so your players don't feel like anyone's getting special treatment. Use your judgment!

Next week we've got a special guest writer, so come back for that! See you next time.


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