Cranial Insertion: Ooze Control

Cranial Insertion
Ooze Control
or, I'm saving the metal puns for next time

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

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

Everything Kraj can do, Ooze can do better!
Welcome back to another Cranial Insertion! Scars of Mirrodin has finally arrived, and it has brought us a wave of rules questions of unprecedented proportions. One card in particular, Necrotic Ooze, has spawned so many questions that it just naturally became a focal point of this issue. We'll explore the many dark nooks and crannies of the rules that this card manages to ooze into, but don't worry, we also have plenty of other cards to talk about.

As always, if you have questions, please send them to [email][email protected][/email]. And now, without further ado, we'll let the ooze loose!

Q: Is landfall an activated ability? In other words, can Necrotic Ooze use the landfall abilities of creature cards in the yard?

A: Nope. Landfall in the form that appears on creature cards is a triggered ability, so the Ooze won't benefit from having those in the yard. Activated abilities are always written as "[cost] : [effect]," so if you don't see a colon in the ability -- or in its reminder text if it's a keyword ability -- it's not an activated ability.

Q: Does Necrotic Ooze get the activated ability from Callous Oppressor?

A: Yes, it does, but it won't be of much use. The Ooze never had a creature type chosen for that ability, and the rules say that when an ability refers to an undefined choice, that part of the ability does nothing. Since the creature type is needed in the targeting restriction of the ability, that means that the game won't believe you that any target you choose is legal, so you can't even activate the ability.

Q: Which abilities does Necrotic Ooze get from Nezumi Graverobber?

A: All of them! In other words, just the one. Even though you might think you see two activated abilities on the card, only the half that belongs to Nezumi Graverobber actually exists in the graveyard. The ability of Nighteyes the Desecrator is invisible to the Ooze, but at least it can eat delicious cards from your opponent's graveyard. Necrotic Ooze will even flip once it has eaten all those tasty cards, but that won't have much of an effect. A flipped Necrotic Ooze looks exactly like an unflipped Necrotic Ooze, except that your opponent can read the card a bit better.

Q: If I have Necrotic Ooze on the battlefield and Korlash, Heir to Blackblade in the graveyard, can I discard another Ooze to the Ooze?

A: Surprisingly enough, no. A card's name on a card only means "this card" if the name refers to the object it's on. The name "Korlash, Heir to Blackblade" in Korlash's grandeur ability does not refer to the object it's on; it refers to another card with the name "Korlash, Heir to Blackblade." This means that the Ooze literally gains the ability "Discard another card named Korlash, Heir to Blackblade: Search your library for up to two Swamp cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library." Discarding a card named Necrotic Ooze does not fulfill the cost of that ability any more than discarding a Chimney Imp would.

Q: What about Argent Sphinx? Will Necrotic Ooze get its ability?

A: It's an activated ability, so yup! The name "Argent Sphinx" in the ability does refer to the object it's on, so when the Ooze has the ability, treat it as though it said "Necrotic Ooze" instead of "Argent Sphinx." Of course, the Ooze's instance of the ability also has the metalcraft activation restriction, so you can only activate it if you control three or more artifacts.

Q: How does Necrotic Ooze interact with Mul Daya Channelers? I know that it won't copy the ability that reveals the top card of my library, but if some other effect reveals the top card of my library and it's a land, does the Ooze tap for double mana?

A: No, Necrotic Ooze can't gain any abilities from Mul Daya Channelers. The static ability that gives the Channelers their mana ability only functions on the battlefield. While Mul Daya Channelers is in the graveyard, it has no activated abilities, so there's nothing there for the Ooze to see. This is similar to how the Ooze interacts with levelers, except that it's even less useful.

Q: What can Necrotic Ooze do when I have a Dominating Licid in the graveyard?

A: Not a whole lot, but more than nothing. With any Licid in a yard, the Ooze has the ability to stop being a creature for a while, become an Aura, and attach itself to another creature, which could be useful to dodge a creature destruction spell. The Ooze doesn't have the "You control enchanted creature" ability, so you won't actually gain control of the creature. The Ooze just sits on the enchanted creature and annoys it a bit until you pay the cost to end the effect.

Burninate the countryside!
Q: How do Obsidian Fireheart's blaze counters work? Since the lands continue to burn after Obsidian Fireheart leaves the battlefield, does that mean the effect comes from the counters themselves? If so, could I proliferate the blaze counters to make the lands burn even hotter?

A: Nice try, but no. The blaze counters don't actually do any work. The work is done by a continuous effect that's created by the resolution of Obsidian Fireheart's activated ability. The counter's presence denotes the duration of that continuous effect, but the counter doesn't create the effect. Therefore, increasing the number of blaze counters on a land will not produce an additional effect.

Q: My opponent is seriously kicking butt with a (counterless) Carnifex Demon that is equipped with Barbed Battlegear. I hit it with Turn to Slag to get rid of it, but my opponent says it lives. Is he right?

A: I'm afraid so. Two things happen when Turn to Slag resolves. Five points of damage are marked on the Demon, and Barbed Battlegear is destroyed. In between those two actions, the demon is a 10/5 with 5 damage marked on it, but that doesn't matter. State-based actions only pay attention to the game state after Turn to Slag has resolved, and by then the Demon is a 6/6 with 5 damage on it so it survives.

Q: I control Leonin Arbiter and my opponent used a fetchland earlier this turn, and he paid 2 to be allowed to search his library. Now he cracks another fetchland in the same turn, and he pays 2 again. Do I have to tell him that he didn't have to pay again?

A: Yes. The Arbiter's ability creates an effect with two parts. One part prevents players from searching libraries, and one part establishes a special action of paying mana to ignore this effect. Once a player ignores the effect, both parts are ignored, including the part that established the special action of paying to ignore the effect. This means that your opponent performed an illegal action by paying a cost that didn't exist, and you must point that out or call a judge.

Q: Can I look at my opponent's sideboard while I control him with Mindslaver?

A: Nope! You get to see any game objects that your opponent can see, but the sideboard is outside the game, so the cards in your opponent's sideboard are not game objects.

Q: If I control my opponent in an EDH game with Mindslaver and his general is sent to the exile zone with, say, Path to Exile, who gets to choose whether the general goes to the command zone or to the exile zone?

A: You do! The owner gets to make that choice, but you get to tell him which choice to make, so the general goes wherever you want it to go.

Q: Last week you mentioned the unsuccessful tag team combo of Venser, the Sojourner and Gideon Jura. Wouldn't this combo work by blinking Gideon first and then activating his +2 ability?

A: It would if it weren't for one tiny detail: Venser's ability is not Momentary Blink. Gideon won't be returned until the end step, and by then it's too late to activate his +2 ability.

Q: Does the emblem from Venser, the Sojourner's ultimate ability have a color? Can I use its ability on a creature with protection from white?

A: Emblems have no characteristics except for those defined by the ability that created them. Venser's ability doesn't say anything about a color, so the emblem has no color, and it has no problem targeting a creature with protection from white.

For extra lulz, add Voltaic Key
Q: Can I imprint Gideon Jura on my Mimic Vat if he dies while he's a creature? If yes, is the Vat awesome enough that it'll actually produce Gideon Jura tokens?

A: Yes, the Vat is that awesome. "That card" refers to the card that used to be the creature that triggered the imprint ability, but the card doesn't have to be a creature card when it's in the graveyard. The activated ability will happily crank out hasty token copies of the imprinted card with the life expectancy of a Ball Lightning. Having the choice on each of your turns between an Assassinate effect or sending a 6/6 into the red zone is nothing to sneeze at.

Q: If I attack with an Ichorclaw Myr that's equipped with Infiltration Lens and I Lure my opponent into blocking it with three creatures, what happens?

A: To figure this out, we have to pay close attention to the trigger conditions. The Myr's own ability triggers when it becomes blocked, period. Regardless of how many creatures it became blocked by, this ability only triggers once, so the Myr just gets +2/+2, and not +6/+6.

The ability given by the Lens, on the other hand, triggers when the Myr becomes blocked by a creature. This means that the ability triggers once for each creature that blocks the Myr, so you'll get to draw 6 cards.

Q: If I imprint an artifact on Semblance Anvil, does my Everflowing Chalice get an extra charge counter for free?

A: Yes, that works. The multikicker cost is part of the total cost, and the Anvil reduces that cost by 2, so you'll get one counter more than you'd normally get for the same amount of mana.

Q: Can I use Vampire Hexmage to remove poison counters from myself?

A: Sadly, no. The Hexmage can only target permanents, and you're not a permanent even if you play Magic 40 hours a week. Leeches is the only card in the entire multiverse that can remove poison counters, and some would say even that is too many.

Q: If I control Furnace Celebration and cast Harrow, can I stack the Furnace Celebration trigger in a way that I can tap the lands from Harrow for mana to pay for the trigger?

A: No, that doesn't work. When you cast Harrow, you first put Harrow on the stack, and then you pay the total cost including the sacrifice of a land. That triggers Furnace Celebration's ability which goes on the stack above Harrow. When the ability resolves and asks you for 2, Harrow is still sitting on the stack and doing crossword puzzles while it's waiting to resolve.

Q: My opponent just cast Vengeful Rebirth, targeting a Chandra Nalaar in his graveyard as the first target and a creature of mine as the second target. If I respond with Rebuff the Wicked, does he still get Chandra Nalaar back, and does Vengeful Rebirth get exiled?

A: Rebuff the Wicked doesn't just counter the part that targeted your creature. Countering a spell is an all-or-nothing deal, so Rebuff the Wicked counters Vengeful Rebirth entirely and none of its effects happen. Your opponent does not get Chandra Nalaar back, and Vengeful Rebirth goes where all countered spells normally go, to the graveyard.

Well, that's all the time we have for now. Next week will be Eli's turn, and I'm sure it'll be a treat as always, so don't miss it!

- Carsten Haese


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