Cranial Insertion: Millions of Golems!

Cranial Insertion
Millions of Golems!
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Warning: Crazy Math ahead!

[This article is available in Italian here.]
[This article will be available in Spanish after the translation team returns from GP Bochum.]

Greetings! It's Monday again, which means that it's once again time to answer your most burning rules questions. Scars of Mirrodin has taken a firm foothold in the world of Magic, and we're seeing some really fun and wacky card interactions emerge. If you've ever wanted to know exactly how many Golems you'll get if you hit a Precursor Golem with two kicked Rite of Replication, today you'll finally get an answer.

If you have questions, please send them in to [email][email protected][/email]. You'll always get an answer by email from Eli, Brian, or myself, and your question might even appear in a future issue.

After the Q&A, I have two special announcements for you, but first let's dive into the questions. We'll start off with a couple of follow-ups to recent questions.

Q: Last week you explained that a Rust Tick and a Voltaic Key can't keep two artifacts tapped down. The artifact that was targeted by the first activation still gets tapped even if it doesn't stay tapped, right?

A: Yes, that's right. Rule 611.2b tells us that the continuous effect that keeps the artifact tapped doesn't get set up, but it says nothing about the one-shot effect of tapping the targeted artifact, so that part of the ability still happens.

Q: In Ooze Control you mentioned that Necrotic Ooze won't gain the control-changing ability from Dominating Licid because it doesn't come from the activated ability. Isn't that a functional change from Dominating Licid's printed text, and if so, shouldn't that change be reversed?

A: It's a functional change all right, but trust me, you don't want that change reversed. If Dominating Licid gained "You control enchanted creature" from its own activated ability, it wouldn't work at all. The reason is that effects that add and remove abilities are applied in layer 6, whereas control-changing effects are applied in layer 2. Since the effects are applied in layer order, the Licid would acquire the control-changing effect too late to have it apply.

Q: I attack my opponent with a Perilous Myr, and he blocks it with some 1/1 dork, and then he casts Soul Parry on my Myr. When my Myr gets killed by his blocker, can I make it deal 2 damage to my opponent's head?

A: Nope! Soul Parry prevents all damage that Perilous Myr would deal this turn. The damage that Perilous Myr deals as a result of its triggered ability is dealt by Perilous Myr as it existed on the battlefield, so the damage prevention effect applies and prevents that damage.

Q: I control Painful Quandary and my opponent casts the last card in his hand, which turns out to be Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. Will he draw four cards in time to discard one of them to Painful Quandary or will he have to lose 5 life?

A: He'll have to lose 5 life. Both Painful Quandary's ability and Kozilek's ability trigger at the same time, so the abilities are put on the stack in APNAP order: The active player puts his ability on the stack, and then the nonactive player puts his ability on the stack. Your opponent is the active player because it's his turn, so Kozilek's ability goes on the stack first, followed by Painful Quandary's ability. Painful Quandary's ability resolves first, so your opponent has no cards in his hand and can't choose the impossible action of discarding a card.

Q: What happens when both players control one or more Mimic Vats and a creature dies? Does the player who controls more Vats get dibs on the creature?

A: Actually it doesn't matter who controls more Vats. It matters whose turn it is. All Vats' abilities trigger at the same time, so this comes down to APNAP, too. All triggers for the nonactive player's Vats go on the stack last and resolve first, so the nonactive player gets dibs to stuff the card into one of his Vats of his choice. The active player only gets to imprint the card onto one of his Vats if the nonactive player declines to do so.

Q: I've been told that Arc Trail won't be copied by Precursor Golem ability if I target my opponent and his Golem. Why is that? It's targeting only one Golem, isn't it?

A: While it's true that the spell isn't targeting any more Golems than that one Golem, it is in fact targeting more targets than that one Golem, and that's what Precursor Golem's ability looks at. Basically, "targets only a single Golem" should be read as "targets nothing but a single Golem." This reading may not be intuitively clear from the English sentence on the card, but it follows from this rule:
Quote from Rule 114.8c »
An object that looks for a "[spell or ability] that targets only [something]" checks the number of different objects or players that became the target of that spell or ability when it was put on the stack [...]

This rule tells us that we have to count all objects or players that the spell is targeting, and not just the Golems. Since Arc Trail can never be legally cast with just one target, it can never trigger Precursor Golem's ability.

Go forth and multiply!
Q: If I control Precursor Golem and his two vanilla buddies and cast two kicked Rite of Replication on one of them, how many Golems do I end up with? The answers I've heard range anywhere from 90 to several million. Which answer is right?

A: It's actually several million. Let's walk through the process. (If math makes your brain hurt, I suggest you skip ahead to the next question now!) The first step is easy. One Precursor Golem sees a spell that targets only a single Golem, so it radiates the spell onto the other two Golems. This creates 10 new vanilla Golems from resolving Rites, 5 new Precursor Golems from resolving Rites, and 10 new vanilla Golems from the 5 new Precursor Golems' enter-the-battlefield ability. So now we have 6 Precursor Golems and 22 vanilla Golems.

The second Rite is where things get ugly. The Rite triggers the spell-copying ability of six Precursor Golems, and each of those abilities resolves separately. When the first ability resolves, it creates a bunch of copies of Rite of Replication. Those copies go on the stack above the remaining spell-copying abilities, so they will resolve and create a boatload of new Precursor Golems and vanilla Golems. Those new Golems will be taken into account by the second spell-copying ability, which will create kicked Rites of Replication for all Golems on the battlefield at that time, and they will spawn even more Golems to be seen by the third spell-copying ability, and so on and so on. In the end, you get the result of six generations of exponential growth, which yields an absurdly large number of Golems.

I'll spare you the detailed calculations, but the result depends on whether you target a Precursor Golem or a vanilla Golem. That's because the original target only gets the original Rite of Replication targeting it, whereas all other Golems get several copied Rites targeting them. You'll end up with 233286 Precursor Golems and 3359242 vanilla Golems if you target a Precursor Golems, while targeting a vanilla Golem yields a total of 279936 Precursor Golems and 3779142 vanilla Golems. In any case, it should be enough to win the game provided that you can use those Golems for something awesome before your opponent finds a Lightning Bolt!

[Note from Eli to Carsten: Thank you for doing that math, it makes my brain want to crawl up under the Comprehensive Rules and die!]

Q: If I have a Precursor Golem and a couple of his Golem buddies and my opponent Lightning Bolts one of them, can I cast Mindbreak Trap for free?

A: Nope! Mindbreak Trap counts how many spells your opponent has cast, and even though there are three Lightning Bolts on the stack, your opponent only cast one of them. The other two just showed up on the stack without being cast, so they don't count towards the trap cost.

Q: If my opponent controls Doubling Season, will my infect creatures deal double combat damage to my opponent or his creatures?

A: No and no, sadly. For one, Doubling Season only affects counters that are placed on permanents, and your opponent is not a permanent, so poison counters won't be affected at all. Also, Doubling Season only affects counters that are placed by effects. Effects are results of resolving spells and abilities, which combat damage isn't, so Doubling Season won't affect -1/-1 counters that are the result of combat damage.

Q: I control a Rusted Relic, an Origin Spellbomb, and a Gold Myr. My opponent casts a Doom Blade on my Rusted Relic. If I activate the Spellbomb in response, will the Relic stop being a creature long enough to fizzle Doom Blade?

A: Nope, your Relic is done for! It'll briefly turn into a lifeless piece of scrap metal, but the Spellbomb's ability resolves and puts a Myr artifact creature token onto the battlefield, which causes the Relic to come back to life. Doom Blade only checks whether its target is a creature when it's cast and when it resolves, and at those two moments, Rusted Relic was and is a creature. Anything that happened in between those two moments is irrelevant.

Q: I control three artifacts, Chrome Steed, Bladed Pinions, and a Rusted Relic. Because of metalcraft, the Relic is animated, and I have Bladed Pinions attached to it. Will the Relic die if my opponent casts Turn to Slag on it?

A: The Relic survives! Turn to Slag deals 5 damage to it, which marks 5 damage on it, and then it destroys Bladed Pinions, which immediately turns Rusted Relic into a heap of rusting metal. After Turn to Slag has resolved, state-based actions look for creatures with lethal damage on them and doesn't see any, so Rusted Relic is safe.

Q: What would happen if I got a third artifact during the same turn?

A: Well, it's probably your opponent's turn, but assuming you have some way of producing an artifact, I recommend you don't. Even though Rusted Relic is not currently a creature, the damage that was dealt to it is still marked on it. If it were to become a creature again before damage is removed in the cleanup step, it'll suffer a sudden and tragic death.

Q: So, now that Koth, Venser, and Elspeth have introduced the concept of emblems, will other cards such as Stigma Lasher be changed to hand out emblems?

A: No. Emblems are only used in cases where the ability would be ambiguous otherwise, such as in Venser's case, or where the set of affected objects changes continually, such as in Koth's and Elspeth's case. The resolution of Stigma Lasher's ability creates an effect that affects exactly one player, so there's no reason for it to use an emblem.

Q: Suppose my opponent controls a Silver Myr and I target it and my opponent with Arc Trail. My opponent attempts to counter Arc Trail with Turn Aside. If I kill or bounce the Silver Myr in response, will Turn Aside still counter Arc Trail?

A: It will not. Turn Aside's target is a "spell that targets a permanent you control," where "you" is your opponent. When it's Turn Aside's turn to resolve, Arc Trail no longer targets a permanent he controls, since that target has disappeared, so Turn Aside is countered on resolution. Your Arc Trail resolves, does as much as it can, and deals damage to your opponent's head.

Have you met Soul Foundry's evil twin?
Q: Can I imprint Chalice of the Void on Prototype Portal?

A: You can, but it will only be marginally useful. The X in the Portal's activation cost is the converted mana cost of the exiled card, and a Chalice of the Void in the exile zone has a converted mana cost of 0, so you'll get a token copy of Chalice of the Void for the rock-bottom cost of merely tapping the Portal. Unfortunately, that token copy is not being cast; it's put directly onto the battlefield when Prototype Portal's ability resolves. Since it's not being cast, no X can be chosen for it, so it enters the battlefield with zero charge counters.

Q: What about Everflowing Chalice? Can I kick it when Prototype Portal makes a copy of it?

A: Nope. Kicker is an optional additional cost for casting Everflowing Chalice. Since you're not casting it, you can't pay the kicker cost and Everflowing Chalice won't get any counter, so that's even less useful than imprinting a Chalice of the Void.

Q: My opponent is using Prototype Portal to lock down the battlefield with three Lodestone Golem tokens. Can I level the field with Consume the Meek?

A: Unfortunately not. The Lodestone Golem tokens are not meek enough to be consumed. Mana cost is a copiable value, so a token that's a copy of something has the same converted mana cost as whatever it's copying. The Lodestone Golem tokens have a converted mana cost of 4 and they will not be harmed by Consume the Meek.

Q: If my opponent casts a creature, can I turn it into an artifact quickly enough with Liquimetal Coating to get the discount on Baloth Cage Trap?

A: Nope, no discount for you! Baloth Cage Trap checks whether your opponent had an artifact enter the battlefield, so whatever enters the battlefield must enter as an artifact to be noticed by the trap. Liquimetal Coating can't turn the creature into an artifact until after it has already entered the battlefield, and by then it's too late for the trap to notice it.

Q: Can Academy Rector's ability tutor for Homura's Essence?

A: Sadly, it can not. Outside the battlefield, a flip card only has its unflipped characteristics. In the library, Homura's Essence is actually Homura, Human Ascendant, so it's not an enchantment card.

Q: I've heard that there's this new combo with Necrotic Ooze, Phyrexian Devourer, and Triskelion. Can you explain how that works?

A: Sure! With the Devourer and a Triskelion in the graveyard, the Ooze gets the ability to gain a bunch of +1/+1 counters from the Devourer (not the printed +X/+X counter, which was changed due to confusion), as well as the ability to shoot them at creatures and players from the Triskelion. The only problem is that if you let the counter-adding ability resolve and the Ooze's power ends up 7 or greater, the Ooze dies immediately. The solution to that problem is simple: Don't let the ability resolve. The number of counters you add is determined by the converted mana cost of the card you exiled to activate the ability. Since the card is exiled face up, you can decide whether to let that activation resolve or let it rot on the stack and respond to it with another activation. Sooner or later, those activations will want to resolve, but the idea is that you'll have pinged your opponent to death by then.

And that's all the time I have for now, but before I go, here are the special announcements I promised earlier.

First off, I'd like to tell you about the Midwest Judge Conference that will be running parallel to the Kentucky Open and Winter King tournaments hosted by Bluegrass Magic in Louisville, Kentucky on November 13th and 14th. The Judge Conference features a lineup of ten DCI-certified judges that will present seminars on a wide variety of topics, and I am honored to be a part of that lineup, so if you've ever wanted to experience Cranial Insertion live, this is your chance! In addition to the seminars, the conference also offers judge certification exams, so if you're interested in being a certified judge but haven't found the opportunity to take the exam yet, come on down! If you'd like to attend the conference, please see the link above for registration instructions.

Secondly, as you probably know, the Grand Prix is coming to Nashville, Tennessee the following weekend, November 19th-21st. The format is Scars of Mirrodin Limited, so you don't need an awesome constructed deck to play in the main event. This tournament promises to be enormous and is bound to be lots of fun, so you should definitely come! I'll be on staff, so feel free to come up and say Hi if you see me!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll be back next week for Eli's next episode.

- Carsten Haese


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