Cranial Insertion: Frequently Asked Questions

Cranial Insertion
Frequently Asked Questions
and some infrequently asked questions, too

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

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Welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! I'm glad you could make it. I almost didn't make it in time because I was busy working on my annual tax return that was due last Friday. If you think the rules of Magic are complicated, you should try tax law. Compared to the U.S. tax law, Magic is like Go Fish!

Anyway, that's done, so I'm excited to bring you another bunch of fun Magic rules questions. New Phyrexia is coming soon, but in the meantime there are plenty of other cards that cause players to ask lots of questions. If you have questions, please email them to [email][email protected][/email] or tweet them to @CranialTweet. We'll email or tweet back with an answer, and your question might appear in a future issue. However, note that we won't answer questions about New Phyrexia until after the prerelease.

Q: What happens when I animate Inkmoth Nexus and then activate Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas' ability?

A: This interaction confuses a lot of people, and this question is easily the most frequently asked question in Mirrodin Besieged, but it's not all that bad when you break it down. So, let's break it down. Inkmoth Nexus' own ability creates a continuous effect with a duration until end of turn. This effect adds the card types artifact and creature to it, adds the subtype Blinkmoth to it, gives it flying and infect, and sets its power and toughness to 1/1.

Tezzeret's ability creates a continuous effect with unlimited duration. This effect adds the cards types artifact and creature to Inkmoth Nexus and sets its power and toughness to 5/5.

When you apply all those effects together, you get a 5/5 Blinkmoth artifact land creature with flying and infect. It's 5/5 because Tezzy's power/toughness setting effect is more recent. After the turn ends and Inkmoth Nexus' own effect ends, Tezzy's effect still sticks around and makes Inkmoth Nexus a 5/5 artifact land creature.

Q: Wait... why is Tezzeret's effect adding card types? It doesn't say that it's adding types, so doesn't it overwrite types?

A: You're right that it doesn't say anything about adding types, but it doesn't have to. Effects that turn things into artifact creatures have a special exception in the rules because of all the two-type combinations, artifact creature is by far the most common, and for most of Magic's history it was the only combination. So, while it would sound very odd to turn a land into a land creature, turning an artifact into an artifact creature is fairly natural and feels like a type-adding effect, and that's why the rules recognize it as such without the extra wordiness that other type-adding effects need.

Q: So, I've heard that an artifact doesn't lose its abilities when Tezzeret animates it, but I've also heard that an animated equipment loses its equip ability. What gives?

A: Don't believe everything you hear -- unless you hear it here, of course! It's true that an animated equipment can't equip anything, but that's not because it loses its equip ability. The reason is that an animated equipment is too strong-willed to be wielded by some dude, so it simply refuses to become attached to a creature. The equipment still has the equip ability and you can still activate it, which might come in handy if you need an artifact sacrifice outlet and all you have is an animated Piston Sledge.

Q: My opponent controls Emeria, the Sky Ruin, a Wall of Omens equipped with Mortarpod, and seven Plains. At the beginning of his upkeep, he sacs his Wall to ping me, and then he tries to return it to the battlefield with Emeria's ability. Is that legal?

A: No, that is not legal. The target for Emeria's ability has to be chosen when the ability is put on the stack at the very beginning of the upkeep step. At that time, his Wall wasn't in the graveyard yet, so it couldn't be targeted by Emeria's ability. (He could have sacrificed his Wall at the end of your turn to pull this off, though, but only he knows why he didn't do that.)

Q: I'm attacking with an indestructible 2/1 with deathtouch and my opponent blocks it with a 1/4 that has first strike. Does the lethal damage my attacker takes from the blocker remove it from combat, or does it get to hit back and kill the blocker?

A: Being indestructible is not the same as regeneration. Unlike regeneration, which replaces destruction with a different event that includes the creature being removed from combat, being indestructible means that the game doesn't even try to destroy the creature regardless of how much damage is marked on it. Your attacker takes 1 damage and laughs at it, and then it smacks your opponent's blocker with a deadly dose of deathtouch damage.

Q: If I pop two Quests for Pure Flame in the same turn and then I throw a Lightning Bolt at my opponent, does that really deal 12 damage to my opponent?

A: Absolutely! Each Quest creates a replacement effect that doubles the damage, and both replacement effects get a shot at modifying Lightning Bolt's damage. 3 damage doubled and then doubled again yields 12 damage and a very crispy opponent.

Unfortunate line break is unfortunate.
Q: I got into an argument with a friend about Blade-Tribe Berserkers and how long the +3/+3 bonus lasts. Is it until end of turn or does it last forever?

A: Whoever went with "until end of turn" is right. Despite an unfortunate line break in the card's printed text that might suggest otherwise, the resolution of Blade-Tribe Berserkers' ability creates one continuous effect that gives the Berserkers +3/+3 and haste. This is one effect with one duration, and that duration is until end of turn.

Q: My friend was playing Magic Online, and he had a Myr Welder with a Mimic Vat and a Glint Hawk Idol imprinted on it. He tapped it to activate its Vat ability, hoping to get a choice between a new Mimic Vat or Glint Hawk Idol, but instead he automatically got a Mimic Vat. Is that what should have happened?

A: No, that shouldn't have happened. In fact, he shouldn't have gotten anything at all. Mimic Vat's token producing ability is linked to Mimic Vat's imprint ability, and it can only refer to cards that were exiled by that imprint ability. The two cards that Myr Welder exiled weren't exiled by Mimic Vat's ability, so they can't be used by Mimic Vat's token producing ability.

Q: So, here's a complicated combat situation. I control two 2/2 dudes, one of them wielding a Sword of Vengeance, and I also control a Brass Squire. I attack with both dudes and my opponent blocks each with a random 1/1. Can I use Brass Squire's ability to throw the Sword from one 2/2 to the other after first strike damage so that I can trample a total of 6 damage to my opponent?

A: Yup, that works. After first strike damage is done, both players get the chance to cast spells and activate abilities before the game moves on to the second combat damage step. The second 2/2 didn't have first strike when the first combat damage step began, so it gets to assign and deal damage in the second combat damage step, even though it now has first strike from the Sword.

Q: When I attack my opponent with a creature that has double strike, can I have the first strike hit my opponent and the second strike hit a planeswalker he controls?

A: Nope, that's not possible. Noncombat damage that would be dealt to your opponent can be redirected to your opponent's planeswalker, but combat damage can't be redirected like that. When you declare attackers, you also declare where each attacker is going, and each unblocked attacker deals all its combat damage to the player or planeswalker that it attacked.

Q: I control my opponent with Mindslaver and he has an Arid Mesa out. Can I force him to sac it even if I know that there aren't any Mountains or Plains left in his library?

A: Of course. It's perfectly legal to activate a fetchland even if there are no eligible cards in the library that could be found when the fetch ability resolves. Your opponent would simply fail to find a card and be sad. By the way, this even works if your opponent still has matching cards left in his library. Failing to find a matching card is always a legal option when searching a hidden zone for a card with specific characteristics, and your opponent's library is still a hidden zone even though you can see its contents.

Q: Suppose my opponent resolves a Warp World and I get two copies of Indestructibility from it. If I didn't warp into any creatures, can I make the two Indestructibilities enchant each other in a bizarre ball of indestructible uselessness?

A: As amusing as that would be, you can't do that. Both Auras enter the battlefield at the same time, and you have to choose something to attach them to as they enter the battlefield. Neither Aura is on the battlefield yet at the time you choose what to attach it to, so the Auras can't hug each other like that. You'll just have to settle for making a couple of your lands indestructible (since Warp World specifies that Auras come out after everything else).

Q: Can I sacrifice Karmic Guide and two other white dudes to activate Teysa, Orzhov Scion's ability, or does Karmic Guide's protection from black prevent that?

A: Sacrificing the Guide to Teysa is not a problem. Protection from black gives Karmic Guide four very specific benefits, commonly memorized with the mnemonic "DEBT":
  • Damage: Damage that a black source would deal to Karmic Guide is prevented.
  • Enchant/Equip: Black enchantments/equipment can't be attached to Karmic Guide.
  • Blocking: Karmic Guide can't be blocked by black creatures.
  • Targeting: Karmic Guide can't be the target of black spells or abilities from black sources.
Sacrificing Karmic Guide to pay for Teysa's ability doesn't do any of those things, so you can still do that.

Q: If my opponent has to pay a cost at the beginning of his upkeep, for example from a Summoner's Pact, can I respond to the trigger with Mana Short so he doesn't have enough mana to pay for it?

A: Yup, that works. He has to pay when the ability resolves, and the ability uses the stack so you can respond to it. Unless your opponent has enough non-land mana producers to scrounge up that mana payment, he'll have to pay the ultimate price for the Pact.

"For some reason, people have been
asking a lot of questions about me lately.
I'm not quite sure why."
Q: If I control a Crovax, Ascendant Hero and bring out a second one, will the second one kill my opponent's non-white 2/2 creatures before the legend rule kicks in?

A: Yup! Both the legend rule and a creature dying from toughness 0 or less are part of the janitorial team of the rules that we call state-based actions. When state-based actions are checked, the game sees a bunch of non-white creatures that have been reduced to toughness 0 by the two Crovaxes -- or is it Crovaxen? -- and it sees that there are two Crovaxi on the board that need to go away before we spend too much time thinking about what the correct plural of Crovax is. All state-based actions happen at the same time, so your opponent's non-white weenies die just as Crovax and Crovax disappear in a puff of grammar.

Q: If I control Mycosynth Lattice, can Kuldotha Forgemaster tutor for any card?

A: I'm afraid not. Mycosynth Lattice only turns permanents into artifacts, and permanents only exist on the battlefield. The cards in your library don't gain the artifact type, so unless a card has the type "artifact" printed on it, the Forgemaster won't be able to find it.

Q: Can I cast Sickening Dreams to get rid of my opponent's Gaddock Teeg?

A: Sure! Gaddock Teeg prohibits two kinds of spells, and Sickening Dreams doesn't belong to either kind. Its converted mana cost is less than 4, and it doesn't have an X in its mana cost. It does have an "X" in its additional cost, but Gaddock Teeg doesn't pay attention to that.

Q: Richard Garfield, Ph.D. says that I may "play" cards as though they were other Magic cards with the same mana cost, but what does that actually mean? Can I imprint Boomerang on Isochron Scepter as though it were Counterspell?

A: Nice try, but no. To play a card means to play it as a land if it's a land card and to cast it as a spell otherwise. For the purpose of imprinting it on the stick, Boomerang is unfortunately just a Boomerang. And when you activate the Scepter, it creates at copy that you then cast, and the copy would have to be of the actual, imprinted card, whatever Dr. Garfield has to say.

Q: What keeps any of my opponents from tapping their lands in response to keep me from using them after I cast Piracy?

A: The answer is, unfortunately, nothing at all. Since mana burn has been eliminated with Magic 2010, your opponents have no reason not to drain all the mana from their lands in response to Piracy.

Q: When I declare my intent to attack and my opponent taps one of my creatures with Tumble Magnet, can I move equipment around after that?

A: Not unless you have something like a Brass Squire handy. By declaring your intent to attack, you proposed a shortcut that leaves your main phase and ends with your opponent having priority in your beginning of combat step. Unless your opponent states otherwise, he has accepted this shortcut and tumbled your creature in the beginning of combat step. Since you left your main phase, you can't activate any equip abilities.

And that's all the time I have for now. Please come back next time when we continue our countdown to New Phyrexia.

- Carsten Haese


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