Cranial Insertion: New Year's Resolution



Cranial Insertion
New Year's Resolution
or, Good, No One Countered It

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese




Too many ones results in a ban.
Well, it's a new year, pretty much the same as the old year. The big exciting new thing is that this year includes four dates that are written with the same number: 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, and 11/11/11. None of those are Mondays, or even Sundays, so none of them are Cranial Insertion days, so it's not quite as cool as it sounds.

So today's nifty enough. I've got a bunch of fun questions to answer, carefully selected by our zombie monkey assistant, from the [email][email protected][/email] inbox – got more questions? Send them in, and get an answer from us before the article goes up!

Now it's time to sit back and open your brain to some education, here come the ones and zeroes!



Q: Since you can pay costs in any order, can I sacrifice a Flight Spellbomb and then tap it so Relic Putrescence won't trigger?

A: You can indeed pay costs in any order, but if you can't pay the cost in full, you rewind to before you started and none of the partial payments happen. Once you sacrifice Flight Spellbomb, you can't tap it anymore, so oops, back up. You'll have to tap it first and get a poison counter after Relic Putrescence's trigger resolves.



Q: In response to Mimic Vat being activated, another creature dies. What do I get, the old creature or the new one?

A: You can choose! Sort of. If you choose not to imprint the new creature card, then you'll of course get the old creature. (Amazing how many people forget Mimic Vat has a big fat "may" on it!)

But if you choose to imprint the new one, then when Mimic Vat's ability resolves, it looks at the card currently exiled with it, sees the new card, and gives you a copy of that rather than the card that was exiled when you activated it.



Q: If my opponent has two Leonin Arbiters out and I want to search my library, do I have to pay two or four mana?

A: If you pay 2 for one, then the other one is still sitting there going "nyah nyah you can't search!" You can't bribe both Arbiters with the same mana, so you'll have to sneak each of them some mana to get them off your case.



Q: I was looking up a ruling on Sudden Spoiling's interaction with pump effects like Giant Growth, and I found an old Cranial Insertion article that said that Spoiling would reset Growth. That isn't still true, is it?

A: It's not still true. This is one of the dangers of archive-diving Cranial Insertion: rules change over time, and while a surprisingly high number of old answers are still correct, several are outdated and it would take an unearthly amount of effort to go back and change them all.

Long ago, both of these effects would apply in the same layer, so timestamps mattered. However, for the past 18 months or so, you always apply things that set power and toughness before things that modify power and toughness, so the creature will always be 3/5 regardless of timestamps.




Still produces black mana...
for now.
Q: If an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is on the battlefield, are lands not in play considered Swamps? If so, can any land be found through Farseek and similar means?

A: If it's not in play, it's not a land – it'll be a land card, which is what Farseek says it looks for, or possibly something entirely unrelated to lands like Lightning Bolt or a cookie. A "land" without any other qualifier means only a land on the battlefield.



Q: My opponent tried to use Stoic Rebuttal on my Volition Reins, and I try to use Redirect to change Stoic Rebuttal's target to itself. My opponent refuses to accept this, stating that a counterspell can't be it's own target. I can understand that if I tried casting a counter and target itself, it's not on the stack when I choose targets, but is there anything that says I can't change the target to itself later if I have the right tools?

A: Well, you've got the order of casting spells slightly wrong. The very first thing is to put a spell on the stack, and then you choose targets for it... but that's where pesky rule 114.4 kicks in. That's the rule that is very short and to the point: "A spell or ability on the stack is an illegal target for itself."

What you'll often see people doing is using Redirect to change the spell's target to Redirect! Just like putting a spell on the stack is the very first thing you do, taking it off the stack is the very last. So while Redirect is resolving and asking for a new target for Stoic Rebuttal, Redirect is still on the stack and can have a Rebuttal pointed at it, and then Rebuttal will be countered in short order for having no legal target once Redirect leaves the stack.



Q: Can my opponent block with Wurmcoil Engine, sacrifice it to Ferrovore, and then block with the tokens?

A: Wurms are wiggly, but they don't wiggle through time. (Usually.) All blockers must be declared at the same time, so creatures that appear later are too late to join the fun. There is nothing any player can do to interrupt the process of declaring blockers, and no way to get any new creatures between declaring one blocker and another.



Q: My 3/5 creature with deathtouch gets -4/-4 while attacking, and then is blocked. Will it still kill the blocker?

A: What would negative damage be? Giving the blocking creature cookies and a flower? Luckily, Magic avoids that question by treating -1 power as 0 power for assigning damage, and treating "assign 0 damage" as "don't even bother assigning damage, you wimp." With no damage dealt, the blocker hasn't been dealt damage by a source with deathtouch, so it'll continue its mediocre existence yearning for cookies and flowers.



Q: Will Flinging a creature with infect give my opponent poison counters?

A: Flavor be damned, Fling says "Fling deals damage"! The creature doesn't. Even though flavorfully the creature is heading at your opponent's face, Fling must fling it so fast that the friction causes it to combust, burning away all defining characteristics.

So, math and physics people: assuming that you and your opponent are 500m apart, and you're flinging a 50kg Goblin at your opponent fast enough for the friction to cause complete combustion over the distance, how hard is that 1/1 Goblin actually going to hit?



Q: Why do some old cards say they're "World" enchantments?

A: In the dim old days before Planechase, the concept of "let's move the battle to my home turf where I have an advantage!" was represented with a special type of enchantment called "World Enchantment." When the rules were streamlined to make sense, world became a supertype. The "World rule" is that if two worlds are on the battlefield at once, all except the newer (or all of them, if there's a tie for newest) are put into the graveyard as a state-based action. This means that there could ever only be one world at a time, similar to the Legend rule only backwards.



Q: Does a Vivid Grove fuel Reflecting Pool even after the counters are all gone?

A: Reflecting Pool only cares about what sort of mana abilities would add if they resolved right now, not whether or not they could be activated in the first place. So you couldn't tap Vivid Grove for R anymore, but since the ability could produce R if it were somehow activated, Reflecting Pool will let you add R.



Q: Do Aether Tradewinds and Precursor Golem let me bounce lots of my opponent's stuff?

A: If "one thing" fits your definition of "lots," sure! Since Precursor Golem looks for spells that target only a single Golem, and the Tradewinds targets a Golem you control but also something an opponent controls, your Precursor Golem won't be happy with it and won't make copies.



Q: My opponent blocks my huge lifelink creature with an Eldrazi Spawn and then sacrifices it for mana. He says I don't gain life now, is that right?

A: He's right. Since the blocking creature is gone, the attacking creature can only deal combat damage if it has trample or some other tricky ability that lets it get around this situation. It won't deal any damage, so no life will be gained.

(And since some people are still falling for the confusion spread by certain complainers: this is legal. Players do still get priority between declaring blockers and assigning combat damage, no matter what you've heard.)




Angels make the best disco balls.
Q: I control Gossamer Chains and I like them. My opponent casts Akroma's Vengeance – can I bounce the chains targeting some random creature since it's not blocked in the main phase?

A: The assorted creatures boogying under Akroma's Disco Ball aren't blocked, but they aren't unblocked, either! Rule 509.1h clarifies that creatures are only "unblocked" if they're attacking and the declare blockers turn-based action is over. Without a legal target for Gossamer Chains' ability, you can't activate it, and your Chains will sadly go poof.



Q: If I Insurrection away Intet, the Dreamer, can I cast any cards exiled with it?

A: No, and stranger still, your opponent can still play the card (if it's an instant or has flash, since it's your turn now)! The permission to play the card is tied to the triggered ability, which your opponent controlled, and not to Intet itself, which you now control.



Q: What do we do if I open an Amulet of Quoz in a goofy Ice Age/Alliances/Coldsnap draft?

A: Then you can't play it. What a sadness. You must remove it from your deck before the match begins since you can't play for ante, and so your deck has to become legal before you start the match – add another card to replace it if you only had a 40-card deck. The net effect is the same as if you just shove it aside and don't even consider it for deckbuilding, so it's best to just do that.



Q: Can I look at my hand while I'm searching my library for a card?

A: You can, but you need to be very careful to keep your hand and your library separate, and make it clear that no cards are possibly finding their way from one zone to the other. At best, put your hand down far from your library, and put your library down entirely to look at your hand – never have your bodily hands anywhere near both at once.



Q: What happens when Oblivion Ring tries to exile my commander?

A: The same thing that happens when Path to Exile tries to exile your commander. You can allow it to be exiled, or you can replace the exiling with going to the command zone. Note that if you put your commander back in the command zone, Oblivion Ring won't be able to find "the exiled card" and can't return it if the Ring is destroyed.



Q: Is winning a Grand Prix Trial the only way to qualify for a Grand Prix?

A: No, you can also qualify for a Grand Prix by breathing. What does the DCI have against zombies, anyway?

Grand Prix are open events: anyone can attend, and there is no qualifier or invitation. Grand Prix Trials grant players byes (they win the first three rounds without having to play), which are nice but not necessary to enroll. Just show up Friday evening or Saturday morning and sign up.



Q: My opponent attacked with a Myr equipped with Strata Scythe and I asked how big it was. He said "4/4" so I blocked with only my 5/5. After that, I realized that my Forests made his Myr actually 6/6, but the judge said we couldn't rewind and just gave my opponent a Warning. Is that right?

A: He was right – the Infraction Procedure Guide has, until recently, not allowed a judge to impose a rewind except in cases of violations of the game rules. Misspeaking isn't a game rule, so you'd be stuck with your blocker unless your opponent just let you take it back.

However, the rules have changed! Now, judges are allowed to rewind the game for Player Communication Violations as well as Game Rule Violations. Note that "Player Communication Violation" doesn't mean "I didn't understand what my opponent said" or "he didn't mention that he had a big guy that I didn't notice" – PCV is very specific. A player commits PCV by accidentally misstating free or derived information (section 4.1 of the Magic Tournament Rules, found at the WPN Document Center).

We could probably spend an entire article discussing the categories of information, but a few things that commonly come up:
* Accidentally stating the wrong power/toughness/CMC of a card.
* Accidentally stating the wrong number of cards in hand.
* Accidentally stating the wrong life total.

Player Communication Violations do not include:
* Leaving out "oh, and that guy has trample" when asked what Primeval Titan does.
* Not reminding you of your optional trigger until it's too late.
* Misunderstanding something said or misinterpreting a grunt as "go."

In the last case, though, the judge will often rewind to the point of confusion if both players are in disagreement on where the game currently is, although that is not a Player Communication Violation issue; but misunderstanding "swing with the team" as "swing with these" won't usually get rewound.



Q: Can I look at my opponent's sideboard while I've got him Mindslavered?

A: Up until now, no. Sideboards have been a tournament mechanic, not a game mechanic, and Mindslaver effects only let you see game things – but the rules have changed on this as well, and the MTR specifically says that you can look at your opponent's sideboard while he's enslaved, even if you don't have any reason to other than curiosity. This change might take a while to become widely known, but luckily, it actually matters roughly never.



Q: Since Commander, formerly EDH, is official now, is it a sanctioned format?

A: Planechase and Archenemy
are also official formats, but they're not sanctioned, either. While Commander is often played one-on-one, it was created as a multiplayer format, and it has not been made a sanctioned format, only one with official rules.



I'm signing off for this week, but I'll be back at the end of this month with our first look at Mirrodin Besieged, where the Mirrans and Phyrexians get down and dance on the giant disco ball that is Mirrodin.

Until next time, be groovy!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

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