Cranial Insertion: Santa's Hidden Information Violation

Cranial Insertion
Santa's Hidden Information Violation
or, The DCI's Most Awkward Disqualification

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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Ho ho ho!
Twas the week before Christmas, and the PTQ
Was staring in shock at the oncoming doom
As the judges in black all bore down on the man
Peeking over at the next player's draft hand.

The guilty Nosey Goblin was raising his head
And he knew that his Top Eight dreams were all dead.
His only excuse, it could never suffice:
"I do get to know if his pick's naughty or nice!"

The judge shuffled his feet and stared at the floor,
But the IPG was clear on just what was in store:
Peeking in draft is a DQ-able cause,
Even if you happen to be Santa Claus.

He wrote out his statement concerning his role
And secretly changed the judge comp into coal,
But the Head Judge pulled a fine trick from his book:
"No one was sleeping, so you don't get to look."

The judge was correct, yes, and this Santa knew,
But he was killing Magic, and Christmas, too!
So he took it upon him to cancel their fun,
He snatched the Top 8 prizes and started to run.

Then from the ceiling there rose such a clatter,
People looked up to see what was the matter,
And there! It was Moko, our zombified chimp!
Only two feet tall but far from a wimp.

He pounced on the thieving figure in red
And sank his fangs into Santa's old head.
With a wink of his eye and a slurp of his tongue,
He saved the PTQ from being undone.

"Send me questions," he yelled, "though the address is long,
To [email][email protected][/email]!
Else I'll hunger for brains and I will be quite vexed,
And then when I'm hungry I'll come for you next."

His threat was ignored due to his tiny size
As he hopped through the rooftops, leaving the prize.
He called to the players as he lurched out of sight:
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Q: After I cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, can my opponent Lightning Bolt him before I can use an ability since Bolt is an instant and planeswalker abilities are sorceries?

A: Some players have a misconception that instants are "faster" than sorceries and resolve sooner – no such thing. The difference between instants and sorceries are when you can start to play them, not how fast they resolve, and both only work on one grand principle that unites almost everything that's done in Magic: You need priority to do just about anything interesting.

After Jace resolves, the player whose turn it is and thus who probably cast Jace receives priority. You can't force your way in with a Lightning Bolt – you don't have priority. After activating Jace's plus ability, Jace will have 5 loyalty (since putting the counters on is a cost to activate it and not part of the effect), and a Bolt cast now will only get Jace down to 2.

Q: Can Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre be countered by Rebuff the Wicked?

A: Ulamog is a creature spell that says "target" on it, but that "target" is part of a triggered ability – a creature spell can never target. It's the triggered ability that does, not Ulamog, so you can't Rebuff Ulamog, no matter how wicked she's being.

(I mean, look at those tentacles. Wicked indeed!)

Q: How do you resolve the dependency between Mycosynth Lattice and Titania's Song?

A: First of all, we need to nail down exactly where there is dependency. For two effects to be dependent, they have to apply in the same layer, and they're only dependent in that layer. Yes, Titania's Song will take away the Lattice's abilities, but in layer 6 – long after types have been set in layer 4.

(Did I just hear your brain trying to escape? Here's our article on layers to placate your frightened grey matter.)

Coincidentally, layer 4 is the only place that we have any dependency. Titania's Song wants to animate all artifacts, and Mycosynth Lattice wants to make things into artifacts. Animation won't change what the Lattice applies to, but applying the Lattice's effect will give Song's effect more things to apply to, so the Lattice is applied first. After that, just apply the rest of Titania's Song's effect layer by layer. (Yes, it continues to set power and toughness after taking away its own ability; the effect has started to apply, and will finish applying.)

Q: How does Platinum Emperion interact with Leyline of Punishment where you have two "can't" effects?

A: There are two can't-effects, but they're looking for different things. Leyline of Punishment wants to stop damage from being prevented; Platinum Emperion states that losing life is simply impossible. Our platinum friend here does not prevent damage, but only one of the possible results of damage after it's been dealt, so the two effects won't interact at all - the damage is actually dealt, but no life is lost as a result.

Just what I always wanted!
Q: You mentioned regeneration shields in an earlier article. If I put three regeneration shields on a creature to use up my mana before combat, and then it takes lethal damage in combat, do all three shields go away or just one?

A: Just one. Each shield says "The next time this creature would be destroyed, instead remove all damage marked on it, tap it, and remove it from combat." If you apply one shield, the other shields say "oh, it's not being destroyed, I'll just go back to my cappuccino" and sits back to wait.

Q: Does Humility affect a morphed card that is face down on the table to remove the ability to morph it?

A: In order to turn a morph card face up, first you look at what its morph cost will be, then you pay it. With Humility out, the morph cost will be… not there, since it will have no abilities. Since you can't pay a nonexistent cost, you can't pay its morph cost and it can't be turned face up.

Note that this does mean that you can turn Zoetic Caverns and its two noncreature morph buddies face up, since they won't be creatures!

Q: I know Humility won't stop Vesuvan Shapeshifter from copying as it enters the battlefield, but what about turning it face up?

A: You may expect this to work similarly to entering the battlefield, but nope! Also as part of turning something face up, you look at any replacement effects that it will have once it's face up. This little Shapeshifter won't have any replacement effects if it gets hit by Break Open (remember, you can't pay the mana to turn it up), so it won't copy anything. If Humility later leaves the battlefield, the */* will be evaluated as 0 since nothing was copied, and it will die.

Q: Does Yixlid Jailer stop Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Progenitus from being shuffled away so I can reanimate them?

A: The Jailer will stop Emrakul, but not Progenitus. Emrakul has a triggered ability that triggers from the graveyard (since it triggers when put there "from anywhere" rather than "from the battlefield"), so it will never trigger since it never has that ability. Progenitus, however, never heads to the graveyard! It immediately dashes off into your library to hide (which means your library must be pretty huge to hide something that big...) since it had a replacement effect while it was on the battlefield. Note that Emrakul uses "when" which denotes a trigger, while Progenitus uses "if-would-instead" which is one of the ways to denote a replacement effect.

Q: My trampling creature is blocked by a creature with enough power to kill it, but low enough toughness that I can trample through. My creature is also equipped with Sword of Light and Shadow. Can I get that same creature back with the Sword's ability?

A: You don't choose targets for triggered abilities until after state-based actions are done doing their things and that trigger is actually put on the stack. And hey hey – since state-based actions are performed first, which will kill the equipped creature, you can target it with the trigger that's put on the stack afterwards!

Q: Since damage coming at you can go to your planeswalker to lower its loyalty, can lifegain be used to raise a planeswalker's loyalty?

A: Nope. The "planeswalker redirection rule" applies to noncombat damage and only to damage. It does not apply to life loss, life gain, poison counters, drawing cards, discarding cards, Phage the Untouchable, Door to Nothingness, door to something-or-other, concession of games, concession of matches, or Concession, Nova Scotia. Only damage.

Q: Do I get Zombie tokens when I Volition Reins a Grave Titan since it's entering my side of the battlefield?

A: It's not entering THE battlefield, it's just wandering around to the other side of it. As far as Magic is concerned, there is only one battlefield, and change of control does not cause creatures to re-enter it.

Q: Can Ogre Geargrabber kill things by ripping out their Grafted Exoskeleton? Will my Ogre die when I have to unattach that Exoskeleton?

A: You'd think having your skeleton ripped out would be lethal – and it normally is, considering Grafted Exoskeleton's second ability – but it's perfectly safe when done by the trained hands of an Ogre. Its trigger first causes you to gain control of the Equipment, and then attach it to Ogre Geargrabber, so you control the Exoskeleton at the time its "becomes unattached" ability triggers. You can't sacrifice a creature you don't control, so the other creature is safe. But then when your turn ends and you lose control of the Equipment, it becomes unattached after your opponent controls it again! And since he can't sacrifice a creature you control, your Ogre is also safe.

Q: If Skyshroud Cutter is enchanted with Pendrell Flux, can I give my opponents 5 life during each of my upkeeps?

A: Among the last few rules revisions, an interesting clarification was made: any time you're asked to pay an object's mana cost for any reason, any "you may pay foo rather than pay this thingy's mana cost" abilities kick in. So when Pendrell Flux asks you to pay Skyshroud Cutter's mana cost, you can pay "opponents gain 5 life" instead.

Om nom nom reindeer
Q: Will I get the mana in time if I sacrifice creatures to Ashnod's Altar and trigger Furnace Celebration?

A: Yup! Mana abilities don't use the stack, so you'll have your 2 before you put Furnace Celebration's trigger on the stack and you can shock something.

Q: I heard that Wrath of God kills creatures with shroud because it doesn't implicitly target them. So how do I tell whether a spell implicitly targets or not?

A: This one's easy! There is no such thing as "implicit targeting" in Magic. Something either targets or it does not. If it targets, it will say so using the exact word "target" in its card text, or in the rules behind certain keyword abilities (including enchant, provoke, and equip. Fun fact: the last new keyword ability to target was reinforce, back in Morningtide!). When it's part of the keyword ability, it'll say "target" in the reminder text, if there is any – enchant and equip are the only ones where the reminder text is frequently dropped, and enchant is a fantastically weird case where it's a permanent spell that is allowed to have targets, and what it can target is defined by its enchant ability.

Q: If abilities don't have any characteristics, like color, then how does protection from red stop Prodigal Pyromancer from pinging?

A: It's fun when you start studying the rules, and then suddenly other parts don't make any sense at all to you! Luckily, this bit does make sense when you read the rules on protection again with this in mind. Protection from red does not mean that it can't be the target of red abilities; it means that it can't be the target of abilities from sources that are red. Prodigal Pyromancer is red, so he can't poke Kor Firewalker.

Q: With Predatory Urge on a Cystbearer, can it chew on a 4/4 creature and survive? Or is the damage dealt simultaneously?

A: To determine if things are done simultaneously, look for how many verbs it uses. Predatory urge uses two – "This creature deals, that creature deals" – rather than one, so the actions are sequential. The 4/4 creature will be infected down to a 2/2 creature, and then futilely smack Cystbearer for 2 damage.

Q: What's the converted mana cost of Chimeric Mass while it's on the battlefield?

A: An oldie but a goody! An X in an object's mana cost is treated as 0 everywhere except while on the stack, in which case you treat X as the value chosen for X.

Q: Can a cycled Resounding Silence target Emrakul, the Aeons Torn?

A: Emrakul has protection from colored spells, not from all colors – a sneaky difference that many people forget! When you cycle a card, it's just a card; it's only a spell if you cast it. So then its triggered ability can gleefully smack Emrakul in the face for a mere eight mana!

Q: Does this work? Tap Palladium Myr for mana, untap it with Voltaic Key. Attack, then untap it again with its mana using a second Key?

A: It sounds so nice, but it does not actually work. Mana goes away at the end of each step, so even if you do this in the beginning of combat step, the mana will be gone after you declare Palladium Myr as an attacker in the declare attackers step. The very first thing that happens in the declare attackers step is actually, you know, declaring attackers, so there's no way to get mana there before attacking.

Q: In response to Tangle Angler's activation, I tap it. Can my guys block other attackers now, or are they locked in trying to block a creature that isn't attacking?

A: All of your creatures gain a requirement to block Tangle Angler, but that requirement is impossible to fulfill because Tangle Angler isn't attacking. There is no way to meet it, so you can pretty much ignore it.

Q: My teammate's planeswalker is being attacked in a Two-Headed Giant game! Can my creatures run over and block for him?

A: You always declare blockers as a team, with all of your creatures able to block any creature attacking your team or a planeswalker either of you control.

Well, that's Eli signing off for the year. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and I'll be back in 2011, still without my flying car.

Until next time, sleep tight, and don't stay up late lest you encounter a hungry monkey!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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