Cranial Insertion: Carsten's Big Birthday Bash

Cranial Insertion
Carsten's Big Birthday Bash
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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You're only as old as you feel!
Welcome back to Cranial Insertion! Hanukkah is already in the books and Christmas is coming soon, but today I'm celebrating for a more personal reason. Due to a synchronicity that is either a strange coincidence or the result of improbable amounts of planning by Eli, today's episode actually fell on my birthday! So, while I consume unhealthy amounts of cake and beer in an attempt to forget just how old I am turning today, please celebrate with me by enjoying this selection of answers to questions from the Cranial Insertion inbox at [email][email protected][/email]. The only gift I ask of you is that you send us more questions so that Eli, Brian or I can answer them by email and possibly use them in a future issue.

So, without further ado, let's get this party started!

Q: I control an Indomitable Archangel, a Neurok Replica, and two random artifact creatures, so I have just enough artifacts for metalcraft. Since sacrificing the Replica makes me lose metalcraft, can I target one of my other artifact creatures with its ability?

A: No, that's not legal. When casting a spell or activating an ability, you always choose targets before you pay the cost. At the time you choose the target for the Replica's ability, you haven't sacrificed it yet, so your heavy metal dudes still have shroud thanks to Indomitable Archangel.

Q: So, my opponent is swinging at me with an ugly creature that I'd like to block with my Leaden Myr. I also control a Nim Deathmantle and just enough lands to produce 3. I'd like to tap the Myr for mana so that I can pay for the Deathmantle's reanimation ability once the Myr hits the graveyard. Is that possible?

A: Nope, sorry, that's not possible. The Deathmantle's ability triggers when the Myr dies, which happens in the combat damage step immediately after combat damage has been assigned and dealt. You don't get the chance to tap the Myr for mana in the combat damage step before it dies, so you'd have to tap it for mana in the declare blockers step. However, mana pools empty between steps, so the mana would vanish before you need it.

Q: If I control seven Plains and an Emeria, the Sky Ruin, and World Queller is in my graveyard, can I return World Queller with Emeria in time to make its sacrifice ability go off?

A: No, that doesn't work. World Queller's ability triggers only if it's on the battlefield at the very beginning of your upkeep, and it was still in your graveyard at that point. On the other hand, if World Queller is on the battlefield, you select "creature" and sacrifice it, Emeria won't be able to return it right away because its ability is targeted, and the target must be chosen when the ability is put on the stack. In order to force your opponent to sacrifice a creature on each of your turns, you'll need a tag team of two World Quellers, one in the graveyard and one on the battlefield.

Q: Since artifacts don't have summoning sickness, can I cast Glint Hawk Idol, turn it into a creature, and attack with it right away?

A: No, the freshly sculpted Idol will have to wait to charge into battle. When it becomes a creature, it becomes subject to the summoning sickness rule, and you haven't controlled it since you began a turn, so it can't attack.

Q: My friends think that Leyline of Punishment together with untargeted damage such as Pyroclasm is an all-red answer to Kor Firewalker. I thought protection means that Kor Firewalker can't be damaged by red sources, and "can't" always wins. Who's right?

A: I'm afraid your friends got this right. "Can't be damaged" is a colloquial description, and you'll also find it in reminder text on cards with protection, but it's an inaccurate approximation of what protection does. In reality, protection includes a damage prevention effect. As such, this aspect of protection is turned off by Leyline of Punishment or any other effect that states that damage can't be prevented, so the Leyline plus untargeted damage is indeed a red answer to the Firewalker.

Q: If Quicksilver Gargantuan copies a Myr Propagator, will the resulting beast propagate as normal 1/1 Myr Propagators, as gargantuan-sized 7/7 Myr Propagators, or as Quicksilver Gargantuans that can copy something else?

A: Copy effects take other copy effects into account when determining the copiable values of the original, so you'll get 7/7 Myr Propagators that can't copy new things.

Q: At the end of my opponent's turn, I tap down one of his artifacts with a Rust Tick. I then choose to untap my Rust Tick and tap down another artifact during my turn. Will this keep both of his artifacts tapped down?

A: No, only the second artifact will be kept tapped down. When you chose to untap Rust Tick, it ceased to remain tapped, so the effect that would have kept the first artifact tapped down ended at that moment.

A Prodigal Pyromancer, a Royal Assassin,
and a Mogg Fanatic walk into a bar...
Q: How come sometimes destroying the source of an ability stops the ability from going through and sometimes it doesn't?

A: Destroying the source of an ability never stops the ability from resolving! Even if the card text seems to involve some active participation by the source, such as Prodigal Pyromancer, destroying the source won't stop the ability, and the effect will use the source's last-known information if necessary. There are some special cases in which the ability won't create a meaningful effect if the source has been destroyed, but such cases will be very obvious due to some text on the card, such as "if this is on the battlefield" or "put a counter on this."

Q: If I have a Glen Elendra Archmage imprinted on a Mimic Vat, will the tokens I make from it persist when I sacrifice them?

A: Sorry, no such luck. Before the persist trigger even goes on the stack, state-based actions will see the token in the graveyard and dissolve it into nothingness. The persist trigger will still resolve, but it won't find anything to return to the battlefield.

Q: I'm at 7 life and my opponent is at 2 life when he hurls a lethal and uncounterable Banefire at me. Can I snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by answering his Banefire with Countersquall?

A: You sure can! The effect that keeps Banefire from being countered by spells or abilities only means that the instruction "counter this spell" is impossible and gets ignored. Countersquall can still target Banefire, and it'll do as much as it can when it resolves. It'll fail to counter Banefire, but then it'll smack the remaining life out of your opponent and you win the game before Banefire gets the chance to resolve.

Q: If I imprint Brine Elemental on Clone Shell and Clone Shell gets destroyed, will that cause my opponent to skip his untap step?

A: Nope, Brine Elemental's ability won't trigger. It's being turned face up in the exile zone, and its ability only functions when it's on the battlefield, so it doesn't notice that it's being turned face up.

Q: I've got an animated Treetop Village that's Riding the Dilu Horse. What happens to Riding the Dilu Horse's effect at the end of the turn when Treetop Village stops being a creature?

A: Nothing at all! The effect lasts indefinitely, so it doesn't stop just because the object it's affecting is changing its type. The effect won't do anything meaningful to Treetop Village until it's a creature again, but the effect is still there. Once you animate the Village, it'll be a 5/5 Ape with trample and horsemanship.

Q: If I have a Swamp imprinted on Strata Scythe, will Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth make the Scythe give the equipped creature +1/+1 for each land on the battlefield?

A: Nice try, but no. Strata Scythe only looks for lands that have the same name as the imprinted card. Urborg only gives lands the Swamp subtype, but it doesn't change their name into "Swamp," so there is unfortunately no interaction with Strata Scythe.

Q: Do Savra, Queen of the Golgari's abilities trigger when she's sacrificed to Cruel Edict?

A: Yup! Even though you don't see the words "leave" or "battlefield" in her text, her abilities are indeed leave-the-battlefield abilities. A leave-the-battlefield ability is one that can only be triggered by something leaving the battlefield, and being sacrificed is a specialized version of leaving the battlefield. In the same way that creatures with leave-the-battlefield abilities see themselves go, Savra will see herself get sacrificed and her abilities trigger accordingly.

Did you say "cake?"
We brought knives to help you cut it!
Q: If Nacatl War-Pride is enchanted with Lure, what blocking options does the defending player have?

A: Both Nacatl War-Pride's ability and Lure's ability create blocking requirements, and the defending player has to block in a way that fulfills as many requirements as possible. Lure creates X requirements, where X is the number of blockers. The Nacatls create X+1 requirements because there's the original and X copies, and each creates one requirement. Each blocker can fulfill at most one requirement, except that a blocker blocking the original Nacatl by itself fulfills two requirements at once. This means that the maximum number of requirements that can be fulfilled is X+1, which is achieved by assigning one blocker to block the original Nacatl and all remaining blockers to block one token each.

Q: If a planeswalker is enchanted with Indestructibility, does it lose loyalty counters when damage is dealt to it?

A: Certainly. Indestructibility only stops a permanent from being destroyed. It doesn't affect whether or how damage can be dealt to it. Also note that a planeswalker that has no loyalty counters left is simply put into its owner's graveyard. This is not destruction, so Indestructibility won't interfere with this either. Your indestructible planeswalker will be safe from something like Lux Cannon, but that's it.

Q: I control That Which Was Taken, as well as a creature, an enchantment and a land that have divinity counters on them. If my opponent targets all four with Decimate, which of those actually end up getting destroyed?

A: Only That Which Was Taken is destroyed. Decimate's text contains only one instance of the verb "destroy," so its resolution is one blast of destruction that attempts to destroy all four targets at the same time. At that time, the creature, the enchantment and the land are still indestructible, so they won't be destroyed.

Q: Given that the phasing rules have changed, should tokens that phase out still cease to exist? I thought phasing out doesn't cause a permanent to leave the battlefield anymore, so tokens don't have a reason to cease to exist when they phase out, do they?

A: It's true that phasing in or out doesn't cause a permanent to change zones anymore. However, in order to preserve the destructive effect that phasing out had on tokens before that change, the state-based action that makes tokens go poof has been amended:
Quote from Rule 704.5d »
If a token is phased out, or is in a zone other than the battlefield, it ceases to exist.

Q: My opponent is casting some 3/3 dork in Chinese that I can't read. I ask him what it does, and he answers that he has to reveal an Elf card or pay 3 more to cast it. Later on he attacks me with it and I block it with a 4/4, thinking that it's safe. However, now my opponent tells me that his 3/3 dork also has deathtouch and that my 4/4 is toast. Is that legal?

A: That's a very tricky question. There is no single answer because the answer depends on many "had to be there" factors and on the Rules Enforcement Level of the tournament. As you've described it, you asked your opponent a question about derived information, which is what a card's Oracle text counts as, and your opponent's answer was incomplete, but not incorrect. Such an answer is legal at Competitive and Professional REL.

At Regular REL, derived information is considered free information, and questions about free information must be answered correctly and completely, so your opponent's answer was not entirely legal. A judge would have to investigate to determine whether the incomplete answer was the result of an accidental omission or deliberate cheating.

To avoid getting into such gnarly situations in the future, I recommend you always call a judge and ask for the card's Oracle text if you need to know for sure what a card does. Unlike your opponent, the judge has no vested interest in you losing the game, so he or she will be happy to provide you with the information you need.

Q: Am I allowed to show cards in my hand to my opponent? Sometimes I see it at the end of a game when a player just reveals a Lightning Bolt or a removal spell to get the opponent to scoop. Is that legal?

A: Yes, that's legal. Except when the rules explicitly forbid this -- for example during a draft -- you are allowed to reveal hidden information that only you have access to, such as cards in your hand.

Note that if your opponent does this to you, you might want to double-check that the card your opponent shows you actually entails a game-winning move, or ask your opponent to play it out. Your opponent could be bluffing with a move that doesn't actually work and hope that you concede anyway, and you'll hate yourself (and your opponent) for a long time if you later realize that that's what happened to you.

And that does it for me not just for this episode, but for this year. My next episode will be the first episode of 2011, and I'll try not to be too hungover for it. I wish you a happy holiday season and a safe transition into the new year, and I hope to see you again in 2011!

- Carsten Haese


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