Cranial Insertion: Happy Equinox

Cranial Insertion
Happy Equinox!
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

[This article is available in Spanish here.]

Farewell, cascade Elf, you will be missed
Hello there! Welcome to another issue of Cranial Insertion. It is that time of the year again: Earth is crossing that magical point at which day and night have the same length, which in the world of Magic is the harbinger of a new expansion set and format rotation. Magic 2010 and the Alara block are leaving Standard, and Scars of Mirrodin will do its best to fill that void.

While the card previews of Scars of Mirrodin are infecting everybody with excitement over the myriads of new card interactions that are coming our way, we'll have to wait another week before we can get to those. Instead, we'll entertain ourselves with a selection of questions that our mail sorting zombie monkey Moko has randomly -- Ook! -- I mean, carefully compiled from our mailbox. If you have any burning rules questions you've always wanted to ask, don't hesitate to send them to [email][email protected][/email]. We'll always answer by email, and your question might even appear in a future issue.

Let's get started with a couple of follow-ups to recent questions.

Q: Last week you said that I can draw 1 or 5 cards with Momentous Fall by sacrificing Omnath, Locus of Mana for its additional cost. Can I draw a different number of cards, for example by starting with 3 mana in my mana pool, sacrificing Omnath, and then tapping an additional Forest to pay the 4 green mana for Momentous Fall?

A: No, that doesn't work. The process for casting a spell requires you to activate mana abilities before you start paying the total cost. This means that you can't tap a Forest after you've sacrificed Omnath, because sacrificing Omnath means that you've started to pay the total cost. Without introducing additional effects, the only way you can draw a number of cards that's neither 1 nor 5 is by floating excess green mana that you're not spending on Momentous Fall.

Q: Two weeks ago you explained that Orim's Chant would stop a spell from being suspended. I don't think that's right, because I saw a player at Pro Tour Amsterdam suspending a Lotus Bloom even though there was a Meddling Mage that had Lotus Bloom named for it was on the battlefield.

A: It is right despite what you may have seen to the contrary on the Pro Tour. Even pro players don't get every interaction right. In order to be able to suspend a card, you must be in a position in which you can legally begin to cast the card. Meddling Mage stops you from casting the card, so it also stops you from suspending it.

Q: In a three-player EDH game, if two players control It That Betrays and a third player sacrifices a creature, where will the creature end up?

A: That depends on whose turn it is. The triggered abilities are put on the stack in turn order, starting with any triggers that are controlled by the active player. The one that is put on the stack last resolves first and takes the creature. This causes the creature to become a different object, so the second trigger won't find the card it's supposed to steal and does nothing.

The end result is that the creature goes to the player whose trigger went on the stack last, and that's the player who is sitting farthest away from the active player in turn order, or in other words, the player that's closest to the active player's right. For example, if the turn order is A-B-C, A is the active player and sacrifices a creature, the creature will go to player C.

Q: My EDH playgroup recently decided that if a general gets Path to Exiled and its owner decides to put it into the command zone instead, they won't be allowed to search for a land. Is that true?

A: No, that's not true. The part that lets you search for a land is not contingent on what exactly happened when the "exile target creature" part resolved. You'll still get to search a land if the general's trip to the exile zone is replaced with a trip to the command zone.

Q: I cast Warp World into a Bogardan Hellkite and some irrelevant stuff, while my opponent warps into a Halimar Excavator and two other allies. I only have four cards in my library, so I want my Hellkite to burn away all his allies so he doesn't mill any cards. Can I do that?

A: Nope, sorry. The abilities that triggered during Warp World's resolution go on the stack in APNAP order: The active player puts all of his triggers on the stack, then the nonactive player puts all of his triggers on the stack. You are the active player, so the Hellkite trigger goes on the stack first, followed by your opponent's mill triggers. The abilities resolve last-in-first-out, so your opponent will mill you before your Hellkite gets to burn down the number of allies your opponent controls.

Q: Is Dryad Arbor a basic land that can be tutored up with Cultivate?

A: No. A basic land is a land that has the supertype "Basic" in its type line. Dryad Arbor does not have that, so it is a nonbasic land. It's true that Dryad Arbor has the subtype Forest, which is a subtype that basic Forests have as well, but that doesn't mean that Dryad Arbor is a basic Forest. Dryad Arbor is a Forest, and it's nonbasic, so it is a nonbasic Forest.

"Nobody touches my emblem!"
Q: My opponent just used Elspeth, Knight-Errant's ultimate ability and got himself an emblem that makes his stuff indestructible. Is that emblem a permanent I can bounce, gain control of, or otherwise mess with?

A: No. Emblems live in the command zone, so they are not permanents. Nothing in the Magic multiverse can touch emblems.

Q: I have a creature equipped with Sword of Fire and Ice and my opponent has an Elspeth, Knight-Errant. If I attack and deal combat damage to my opponent, will I be able to use my sword to deal 2 damage to his Elspeth?

A: Absolutely! You just target your opponent with the Sword's trigger, and then redirect the damage to Elspeth as the trigger resolves.

Q: I have a bunch of artifacts in play including a Frogmite with two +1/+1 counters on it. If I use Tezzeret the Seeker's ultimate ability, what power and toughness will my Frogmite have?

A: It'll be a 7/7 froggie! Counters and other power/toughness modifiers are always applied after effects that set power/toughness to specific values, so your frog is set to 5/5 first and then inflated to 7/7.

Q: In a recent game, my opponent had a Halimar Excavator out and played a Jwari Shapeshifter, copying the Excavator. Later, the original Excavator was destroyed, and later still, my opponent cast a kicked Rite of Replication on the Shapeshifter. Does he get 5 Shapeshifters or 5 Excavators?

A: He'll get 5 Excavators and mill you for a lot. The copiable values of an object take into account any copy effects that affect that object. Since Jwari Shapeshifter is copying a Halimar Excavator, its copiable values are those of a Halimar Excavator, so Rite of Replication makes five copies of a Halimar Excavator.

Q: If I control Butcher of Malakir, Mortician Beetle and Scarland Thrinax, will sacrificing an Eldrazi Spawn for mana set off the abilities of all three?

A: No, it'll only set off two of them. The only abilities that can be set off automatically are triggered abilities. Triggered abilities watch for something in the game and automatically trigger when something happens that matches their trigger condition. Butcher of Malakir and Mortician Beetle have triggered abilities whose trigger conditions are met when you sacrifice a creature, so those will fire when you sacrifice a mana baby.

Scarland Thrinax, on the other hand, has an activated ability, and those don't happen automatically. You need to activate it by announcing that you're using that particular ability and then paying the cost specifically for that ability. Sacrificing a mana baby to its own mana ability will not automatically pay the cost for the Thrinax's ability. You could sac the mana baby to pay for the Thrinax's ability, but then you won't get any mana from it.

Q: I control a fully leveled Hedron-Field Purists and my opponent controls a Triskelion with six +1/+1 counters on it. If my opponent uses the Triskelion to shoot 6 points of damage at me, will the Purists prevent all 6 or just 2 of that damage?

A: They'll prevent all 6 damage. Triskelion tries to deal 1 damage six separate times, and each time the Purists prevent the damage, so none gets through to you.

Q: So, I've been getting mixed answers about what the M10 rules changes mean for this scenario. If I attack my opponent with, say, Runeclaw Bear, my opponent blocks with some dude, and I Doom Blade the blocker, does the damage go through to my opponent?

A: No. The Magic 2010 rules changes changed approximately nothing about combat. The only real difference is that you can no longer act between combat damage being assigned and combat damage being dealt. Your Bear was blocked, so it remains blocked even if the creature that was blocking it has disappeared suddenly and tragically. Unless you give the Bear trample, it won't deal any damage to your opponent.

Q: If I activate Spawnsire of Ulamog's mass casting ability in a casual game and I own a stack of 50 Ulamog's Crushers, can I cast them all or am I restricted to the Rule of Four?

A: In casual games, anything goes as long as your playgroup agrees to it. If you'd like my personal opinion, I think the game will be more balanced and more fun for your opponents if you restrict yourself to the Rule of Four.

A rolling stone gathers no moss
Q: I have a friend telling me that he can activate a Raging Ravine during his Declare Attackers steps and that I can't respond with a Lightning Bolt to the activation because the Ravine is not a creature yet. He claims that by the time I get priority again in the Declare Blockers step, the Ravine has the +1/+1 counter and can't be killed by Lightning Bolt. Is that true?

A: Well, your friend is a little bit right, but he is mostly wrong. It is true that you can't Bolt the Ravine in response to its ability, because it won't be a creature until after the ability has resolved.

However, the game doesn't just jump straight from the Ravine being a land to the Ravine being an attacking creature with a +1/+1 counter on it. For one, your friend needs to animate the Ravine in the Beginning of Combat step in order to be able to declare it as an attacker in the Declare Attackers step. After he has animated the Ravine, both he and you need to pass priority before the game moves on to the Declare Attackers step, so you can Bolt the Ravine right then before it ever gets declared as an attacker.

Secondly, even if you don't Bolt the Ravine in the Beginning of Combat step, you can still Bolt it in the Declare Attackers step. The ability that adds a +1/+1 counter to the Ravine uses the stack and you can respond to it. If you Bolt the Ravine in response to that ability, it'll be destroyed before it gets the +1/+1 counter.

Q: The reminder text on Cast Through Time says "Exile the spell as it resolves if you cast it from your hand. At the beginning of your next upkeep, you may cast that card from exile without paying its mana cost." Does that mean that I can choose to keep the card in exile and use it at a more opportune time later?

A: No, you're only allowed to cast the card at one moment, during the resolution of the triggered ability that triggers at the beginning of your upkeep after you originally cast the card from your hand. If you decline to cast the card at that moment, it'll simply remain in exile and nothing will ever allow you to cast it again.

Q: I control Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder and three Thrull tokens. If I sacrifice the Thrulls to help pay Demon of Death's Gate's alternative cost, will I get nine Thrull tokens?

A: Yup! Endrek Sahr looks at the converted mana cost of the spell you're casting, and that is based entirely on the mana symbols in the card's mana cost, even if you're not actually paying that cost. Endrek Sahr sees that you're casting a spell with converted mana cost 9, so you'll get nine Thrull babies.

Q: I'm trying to build a Barren Glory deck based on the following plan: Get a Barren Glory out and exile it with Oblivion Ring, and manage to deal combat damage to my opponent with a Hellcarver Demon that's wielding a Worldslayer. The way I envision this, the Demon and the Worldslayer will nuke each other and the Oblivion Ring, which will return Barren Glory to become the only permanent I control. Does that work?

A: That's a devious plan, but unfortunately it doesn't work. Worldslayer's ability and Hellcarver's ability won't resolve simultaneously; you have to choose an order for them on the stack, and they'll resolve one by one in the reverse order. Let's say you let Worldslayer's ability resolve first, but the outcome is the same the other way around. Worldslayer's ability kills the Oblivion Ring, which causes the O-Ring's leave-the-battlefield ability to go on the stack on top of Hellcarver Demon's ability. This returns Barren Glory to the battlefield first, and then Hellcarver Demon's ability nukes Barren Glory. Oops!

Q: If I Twincast Eternal Dominion, do I get two copies each upkeep or just one?

A: You'll get two! Both Eternal Dominions resolve, and each resolving Eternal Dominion creates a delayed triggered ability. Each delayed triggered ability will trigger and resolve independently, so both will create one copy each of Eternal Dominion on your subsequent upkeeps.

Q: I have a face-down Vesuvan Shapeshifter and my opponent has a Kresh the Bloodbraided. After he declares an attack with Kresh, I turn my Shapeshifter face up and choose to copy Kresh. I think this will cause the legend rule to kill Kresh without my opponent getting a chance to respond. Am I right?

A: You sure are! Morphing a Vesuvan Shapeshifter is indeed an unstoppable method of killing a legendary creature. The special action of turning a face-down creature face up doesn't use the stack, so nobody can respond to it, and Vesuvan Shapeshifter becomes a copy of the chosen creature as it's turned face-up. By the time your opponent gets priority to do something, his Kresh and your Shapeshifter have already gone poof!

And that's a wrap! Join us again next week when Eli finally brings us news from Mirrodin!

- Carsten Haese


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