Cranial Insertion: Cyber Monday Special

[b]Cranial Insertion[/b]
[b]Cyber Monday Special
or, Buy Now to Receive Before Christmas!
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

[This article is available in Italian here.]
[This article is available in Spanish here.]
[This article is available in Portuguese here.]

Gobble gobble
As many of you know, the Thursday past was Thanksgiving in the US, the day where we celebrate the wholesale slaughter of the Meleagris gallopavo and Vaccinium oxycoccos. That holiday is immediately followed by the first "official" shopping day for Christmas, Black Friday.

But how many of you realize that, after customers leave disappointed from Black Friday shopping, they poke at online shopping sites offering sales, resulting in Cyber Monday: the biggest day for online sales and heftiest amount of shipping? So, ignoring the first two days, we're going to celebrate Cyber Monday, where everything is on SALE SALE SALE! Buy now, and get a free zombie chimp with your order. Offer good while supplies last, Void if Prohibited.

Wait, what are we even selling? Eh, who cares, someone will pay for it.

In the meantime, we're giving away answers to rules questions FREE FREE FREE! Send an email to [email][email protected][/email] with your questions if you need an answer, all FREE! (Shipping and handling $14.99 if you need your answer gift-wrapped and mailed to you by FedEx.)

Make sure to read the text at the bottom of the page. It doesn't contain annoying legal info, but it does contain a note about translating Cranial Insertion if you want to become a part of the team!

Here's what our loyal readers have been asking about in the last couple weeks:

[b]Q:[/b] My opponent controls only one enchantment and no artifacts, and I control two artifacts. So he casts Return to Dust on my artifacts. Can I Redirect it to only target his enchantment and not my artifact?

[b]A:[/b] Redirect can change the targets, but not the number of targets. If a second target was chosen for Return to Dust, then it will have two targets – but you can at least save your favorite artifact and blast his enchantment.

[b]Q:[/b] After Koth of the Hammer animates my Mountain, can my opponent blow it up with Tectonic Edge since it's no longer simply a Mountain?

[b]A:[/b] Your Mountain is no longer a simple Mountain, but Tectonic Edge doesn't target a non-simple land, it targets a nonbasic land. Nothing in the game other than copy effects can change whether or not a land is basic – that means that it has the basic supertype, not that it only has one ability, or that it's named whatever, or that its type matches its name. All that matters is the basic supertype, which Mountain has, even while animated.

[b]Q:[/b] Can I use Living Plane, Planar Guide, and Gather Specimens for a very expensive combo to gain control of all lands?

[b]A:[/b] That would be so beautiful, but alas, it does not work. Gather Specimens sets up a replacement effect, and replacement effects that modify how an object enters the battlefield look at objects before applying any continuous effects (other than those native to that object entering the battlefield that affect only itself, and those that changed the object on the stack). Neither of those exceptions apply to Living Plane, so Gather Specimens will see a whole flock of lands trying to enter the battlefield and not care one bit.

[b]Q:[/b] With Safe Passage and Unstable Footing, does it matter in what order they resolve, or does one always win?

[b]A:[/b] The order doesn't matter. When an effect in [b]Magic[/b] says "Do X" and another effect says "X can't happen," the "can't" effect always wins. The damage won't be prevented.

Three Furbies left! Only three!!!
[b]Q:[/b] Is there any way at all to get mana out of a second Mox Opal before they both die to the legend rule? What about things that don't use the stack like Leonin Arbiter?

[b]A:[/b] The only way to generate mana from the second Mox would be if a replacement effect somehow demanded a payment after the Mox enters the battlefield but before state-based actions (SBAs) carry them away. Special actions still do require priority, even though they don't use the stack and you get priority back right away. Activating abilities or casting spells require priority, which you get after SBAs blow up the Moxen. "You may pay" triggered abilities ask for payment on resolution, not at the time they trigger.

And no existing cards ask for mana as part of a replacement effect, much less at a time you'd have the two Moxen, so there's no way to do this.

[b]Q:[/b] Can I sacrifice Ember Hauler for damage even if it's tapped?

[b]A:[/b] Sure! Being tapped doesn't impede activating abilities, unless the cost is to tap that object that is tapped. The costs is 1 and "Sacrifice this creature," both of which you can happily pay even though that creature's tapped.

[b]Q:[/b] I control Future Sight and crack a Flooded Strand to get a Hallowed Fountain. Will I get to see the new top card before I choose to pay 2 life or not?

[b]A:[/b] You have to follow the instructions on the card in order for Flooded Strand. First you search, then you put Hallowed Fountain onto the battlefield, and only after completely doing so do you shuffle. Hallowed Fountain has a replacement effect (all "Enters the battlefield tapped/unless..." effects are by definition replacement effects), so you have to handle that as part of putting it onto the battlefield, not later on.

[b]Q:[/b] What if instead I just play the Hallowed Fountain from the top of my library?

[b]A:[/b] When figuring out how to deal with replacement effects, you figure out exactly what's going to happen before you take the action as modified by the replacement effects. There isn't a limbo zone that a land exists in between steps here – Hallowed Fountain is either on top of your library or it's on the battlefield. It can't be on the battlefield until you've determined how its replacement effect will modify it entering the battlefield, so it must still be on top of your library when you choose, and you won't know what's beneath it until after you've made your choice.

[b]Q:[/b] Can I use Liquimetal Coating to get a Phylactery Lich to be its own phylactery?

[b]A:[/b] This hinges on the same principle as the Hallowed Fountain question above, since Phylactery Lich also has a replacement effect. As it enters the battlefield from the stack, you pick an artifact to by its phylactery. At this time, it is not yet on the battlefield, and even if you did somehow make it into an artifact spell while on the stack it wouldn't be "an artifact" (which is by definition on the battlefield; otherwise it would be "an artifact card"), so it can't be chosen for itself.

[b]Q:[/b] If I Steady Progress with no cards in library and my opponent at 9 poison, who wins?

[b]A:[/b] Phyrexia! Neither of you win, that's for sure. First you put your opponent at ten poison counters, then try to draw a card from your empty library, and then Steady Progress is done resolving. State-based actions don't care which happened first, and they aren't checked in the middle of resolving Steady Progress: after Steady Progress has resolved, two SBA conditions are saying "this guy loses, bwahaha!" and so you both lose the game at the same time, which makes the game a draw.

[b]Q:[/b] Will Runed Halo naming Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre stop my opponent from attacking me at all, thus keeping me safe from the annihilator trigger?

[b]A:[/b] Protection only stops four things, with the handy acronym DEBT. D is for damage: all damage from the protected quality is prevented. E is for enchanting, equipping, and very rarely fortifying: the protected quality can't be attached. B is for blocking: the protected quality can't block (which really doesn't matter here since a player can't block anyway...). T is for targeting: spells and abilities from sources with the protected quality can't target.

Attacking doesn't target, nor does it fit any of the other things above, so Ulamog can quite happily dash at your face. Annihilator also does not target nor do any of those things, so you'll have to sacrifice four permanents. On the bright side, you won't take 10 damage to the face!

[b]Q:[/b] Can I use mana from Grand Architect to pay the additional 3 from a Mana Leak targeting my artifact spell?

[b]A:[/b] Mana Leak doesn't somehow go back in time and make the spell cost more; it demands an immediate payment to itself, right now! This isn't casting an artifact spell nor is it an activated ability of an artifact, so your self-absorbed Grand Architect won't lift a finger to help. Four hands and he still can't lend one...

[b]Q:[/b] If Genesis Wave hits a Mnemonic Wall, can I get my Wave back?

[b]A:[/b] You can indeed Wall your Wave back to your hand. Mnemonic Wall will enter the battlefield and actually trigger while Genesis Wave is still on the stack, but the triggered ability won't be put on the stack until a player would receive priority, after Genesis Wave is entirely done resolving and has been put into the graveyard.

Sale on Phelddagrifs, aisle 3.
Blue tag special on Phelddagrifs, today only!
[b]Q:[/b] Can I target a Brittle Effigy with Venser, the Sojourner's first ability to exile a creature and get my Effigy back?

[b]A:[/b] I'm not entirely sure why so many people that should know better are being confused here. An ability whose target becomes illegal is countered 100% - Venser's ability has no legal target if you target Brittle Effigy and then sacrifice it in response, so it's countered. The ability doesn't somehow track the Effigy to exile (or to your graveyard in the case of some sac-for-effect creatures that I've also had this question about). The ability is just countered and does nothing at all.

Oh memories... How many of you remember back in the Kamigawa days when lots of extremely competent judges had this strange misconception that Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker would use last-known information if its target were killed?

[b]Q:[/b] Can I Condemn my own creature after combat damage is dealt so I gain life but my opponent still takes damage?

[b]A:[/b] That works. An attacking creature remains an attacking creature until the end of combat step is over and the second main phase begins. It'll still be an attacking creature during the end of combat step, which is after damage has been dealt. Condemning it won't cause the damage already dealt to somehow be undone; it'll just cause you to gain life!

[b]Q:[/b] My Mimic Vat got Shattered in response to me activating it! I don't get a token anymore, do I?

[b]A:[/b] You sure do! Since Mimic Vat doesn't have a target, the ability isn't just countered. The game wants to know what card is currently exiled by Mimic Vat, and since Mimic Vat is not on the battlefield anymore, the game uses last-known information here. As long as a card is still exiled from Mimic Vat's ability, you'll get a token copy of that card.

[b]Q:[/b] If I Act of Treason a Frost Titan and target itself not to untap, will it not untap during my opponent's untap step? Or does it untap since it was set not to untap during my next untap step?

[b]A:[/b] It won't untap the next time its controller – whoever that may be at the time – tries to untap it during his or her untap step. This sort of effect doesn't lock in the player it applies to, only the creature it applies to, and waits until a player has an untap step while controlling that creature.

[b]Q:[/b] My opponent casts Wrath of God while I control Omnath, Locus of Mana, Spearbreaker Behemoth, and two 5/X big dudes. I control only five Forests. Can I add five green mana to my mana pool, use one to make Omnath indestructible, and then use two more to make my other creatures indestructible, or does the indestructible wear off if Omnath becomes smaller than 5/5?

[b]A:[/b] Omnath is evil. This is proof. That works just fine, since Spearbreaker Behemoth's ability only targets a creature with power 5 or greater; it doesn't say that it remains indestructible only as long as its power is 5 or greater, and targets are only checked twice: as the ability is activated, and as the ability resolves. Your Wrath-proof team will live to smash face another day.

[b]Q:[/b] Can we sanction Cube Draft? What about Reject Rare Draft? Chaos Draft? Or a more expensive Standard Draft?

[b]A:[/b] Only one of those is legal. Let's look at each.

Cube Draft. This is when you get together 360 or more good cards, shuffles them into packs of 15, and players draft those packs. It's wacky good fun, but it breaks one of the primary rules of sanctioned Booster Draft: the product must start off as normal sealed booster packs.

Reject Rare Draft. This is similar to Cube Draft, except it uses the worst cards possible instead of the best. Usually amusingly silly rares that aren't good. It has the same problem as Cube Draft in that the product is not sealed.

Chaos Draft. Players draft with a random assortment of packs, never knowing what the heck will be opened. In this case, the product is all sealed, but it violates another important rule of Booster Draft: All players must open the same product at the same time.

Standard Draft. Players draft with one pack of every set in Standard. This is the legal one! The product is sealed, and each player's opening the same packs. There's no rule that you must draft with only three packs, or that you draft only within one block. Any mix of packs is entirely legal as long as everyone gets the same packs and the product is sealed.

[b]Q:[/b] Is it legal to draft Scars-Darksteel-Mirrodin at FNM? Could we even add in Fifth Dawn if we wanted?

[b]A:[/b] It's useful to note that the above answer applies at all events that don't require a specific product mix, so your FNM drafts can be quite strange indeed. Most stores do FNM drafts with the same mix that'll be in PTQs because that's what players want, but other mixes are entirely legal. Note that for Limited GPTs, Prerelease events, and Launch Party events, the product mix will be mandated by the fact sheet for that event and is not so happily flexible.

[b]Q:[/b] How do Tardiness penalties work at PTQs and GPs?

[b]A:[/b] Strictly by the Infraction Procedure Guide, if you're not sitting down in your seat when the Head Judge announces start of round, you're tardy. Game Loss. After ten minutes, you receive a second Game Loss and are dropped from the event unless you let the scorekeeper know what's up.

There are two common exceptions to this, but they are not standard and you should not expect these leniencies – just be thankful if you get them and you're spared a Game Loss.

The most common one: If you're walking to your seat when time is called, you might be spared a Game Loss. Many judges don't blindly start the clock; they'll wait until everyone in the venue is either seated or clearly moving towards their seats. If you went out for food and didn't come back before the previous round ended, well, don't expect clemency.

The less common one: The Head Judge may allow the three-minute pregame procedure time allotment as leeway for arriving late. This isn't terribly common, since it results in more little time extensions and encourages players to be slow about getting seated, but it's an option. Allowing five minutes, however, is not an option, despite what some players believe.

[b]Q:[/b] I have this awesome full-art modified card that I played at the last PTQ, but this time, the judge said it's not allowed. What gives!

[b]A:[/b] Whether or not to allow a modified card is always up to the Head Judge. The safest middle ground is to [b]NOT[/b] allow your art to touch the edges of the card, keep the original art recognizable, and make sure the paint can't be felt through the sleeve. Also make sure that your modification isn't offensive and provides little or no strategy. Even then, a fair number of judges will turn down your card, but you'll get the most success with those guidelines in mind.

That's it for this week, but I'd like to take a couple minutes to remind our foreign readers: We're always looking for more translators for new languages! We got a lot of interested volunteers last time, but there are unfortunately a few requirements that they couldn't meet, so I'll list them here:

* Be a native speaker of the target language
* Be able to host your translation – MTGS is unfortunately English-only
* Be able to somehow automate your translation being posted so that it is available no earlier than the English version, and no more than an hour later
* Be able to complete the translation with the English article given to you as late as Wednesday in time to post Sunday evening (US Eastern time)

The biggest piece of advice I can add is to do translations the way we write: Get a team of 2-3 people and rotate so you don't get fed up with it and so that you have a backup if something goes wrong. Think you can do it? Email us at [email][email protected][/email]

And, of course, many, many thanks as always to our dedicated translation teams! Miguel Calvo Paniego and Maxim Antipov for Spanish; Donato Del Giudice, Mirko Console, and Fabio Ivona for Italian. Not to mention Daniel Rezendes, who translates our articles from sleep-deprived rambling nonsense into actual English for you all to read. [b](Rambling-nonsense is my native language, after all --Ed)[b]

I'll be back in a few weeks for my last article of 2010 – wow, the year vanished fast. Until next time, may all your snowmen contain goblins!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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