Cranial Insertion: Severe Weather Warning

Cranial Insertion
Severe Weather Warning
or, Hurricane of Puns Coming Soon

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

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

Green mages stab you with
blades of grass. Ouch.
Fair warning, people. The plane of Mirrodin with its shiny metal may or may not be relatively barren, but it's fertile soil for horrible puns and musical references, so be prepared!

That's still three weeks away, though. For now, we have some goodies from Legacy and Standard, and some interesting tournament rule situations to look at. Got your own questions? Send them in to [email][email protected][/email], and we'll not only get you an answer by email, we may even publish your question!

So, let's dive into the mailbag and root around for some tasty questions.

Q: You mentioned Brilliant Ultimatum and only being able to drop one land in last week's article. What if I also turn up an Oracle of Mul Daya?

A: Then you cast Oracle of Mul Daya... and it's still on the stack and has no effect on the game yet. You can only play one land at that point. Sure, later on you'll be able to play more, but that's past when the Ultimatum gives you a "play it now or lose it" ultimatum.

Q: How does madness interact with Leyline of the Void?

A: You've got two competing replacement effects: madness wants to exile it rather than putting it into the graveyard, and the Leyline wants to exile it rather than letting it go to the graveyard. Where two effects are arguing like this, the controller of the affected object – or the owner in this case, since it has no controller – chooses which to apply first, which will render the other inapplicable. Applying madness first seems like the sensible thing to do, which causes it to trigger to cast the spell, and leaving the Leyline a sad enchantment.

Q: If Serra Ascendant blocks Vengevine when I'm at 29, will either creature survive?

A: Both will live. First the creatures smack each other, dealing 1 damage to the Vengevine and 4 to the Ascendant and gaining the Ascendant's controller 1 life. Then, since updating continuous effects happens immediately, the Ascendant becomes 6/6. Now we go to check state-based actions, and since we have a 4/3 with 1 damage and a 6/6 with 4 damage, neither is destroyed.

Q: If I were to sacrifice three Death Cultists for Demon of Death's Gate's cost, their effect of gaining 1 life while target opponent loses 1 life wouldn’t trigger, would it?

A: Death Cultist doesn't have a trigger, so we're already way out in left field. Death Cultist has an activated ability – it's formatted "[cost] : [effect]," where the colon is the vital component. For activated abilities, you have to deliberately activate them and pay the cost. You can't sacrifice the Cultists to pay the cost of their activated abilities and to pay the Demon's cost, just like how you can't spend one dollar at a vending machine and get all the snacks to pop out at once.

Q: Can Akki Coalflinger be used to give something first strike after first-strike damage so it won't deal any damage?

A: Whether a creature has first strike or not is checked only as the first combat damage step begins – if it has first strike, it deals damage in that step and won't in the later combat damage step. Any creatures that don't have first strike will be labeled as "deals damage in the next combat damage step," and gaining first strike later won't change that.

Easier to say and type
than Reverberate.
Q: Will Twincast copy spliced cards when I splice onto Arcane?

A: It sure will! Copying a spell copies choices made when casting it, such as what cards you're going to splice on. Splice's rules text also specifically uses the magic word that adds to copiable values: "copy"!

Q: If I Twincast my opponent's Arcane spell, can I splice stuff onto my copy?

A: Now that just won't work. The copy is made, not cast, and you can only splice while you're casting the spell. At least you'll get all the stuff he spliced on, as noted above.

Q: Can I splice onto an Arcane spell I rebound with Cast through Time?

A: Now you can! Rebound actually has you cast the spell; it does not simply create a copy on the stack. Since you're casting it, any additional costs and choices made while normally casting a spell can be paid or made.

Q: Can Jotun Grunt put two cards from my graveyard and four from my opponent's away to pay its upkeep cost?

A: You must be able to pay the cumulative upkeep cost in full to pay any part of it, but you make choices for each age counter you're paying for individually before checking to see if you can pay all of it. You can choose two cards in a single graveyard for one age counter, and choose two in another graveyard for another age counter.

Q: When Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker copies a creature, does it copy the converted mana cost?

A: Kiki-Jiki copies a whole lot of things! Name, text, power, toughness, mana cost... and the converted mana cost is based on the mana cost that's copied, so the copy will have the same CMC as the original.

Q: If I make everyone draw cards, will they have to discard at the end of my turn if they go over seven cards in hand?

A: No, only the active player (the player whose turn it is) discards during the cleanup step. Your opponents will get to sit happy with their eight or more cards until their turns come around.

Q: Can I kill my opponent's Lotus Cobra after it resolves but before he can drop a land?

A: After a spell resolves, the active player gets priority first – and since he cast a creature, that usually means that it's his turn and so he gets priority. Before you can do anything, he can play a land and cause the Cobra to trigger. You can respond to the trigger by killing the Cobra, but it's already triggered and will give him mana even if it dies before the trigger resolves.

Q: I control four Mountains and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Will Primeval Titan snagging two Mountains trigger Valakut twice?

A: Pew pew! For most triggers (other than graveyard-from-battlefield triggers), you look at the game state after the event to determine what should trigger. After the events of "Mountain entered, Mountain entered," you have five other Mountains for each of those Mountains, and so Valakut will barf some magma twice.

Q: My opponent resolved an Orim's Chant during my upkeep. Can I suspend Rift Bolt in my main phase?

A: You can only suspend a card when you could otherwise cast it from your hand. Since you can't cast Rift Bolt, you can't suspend it, either.

Can you get the rings apart?
Q: Can I copy a planeswalker ability with Rings of Brighthearth?

A: You can, since loyalty abilities are activated abilities. However, keep in mind that since adding or losing loyalty is a cost, copying the ability won't change the planeswalker's loyalty, only copy the ability. Which can be quite hilarious when it's Chandra Nalaar's ultimate...

Q: Duplicant snags a creature, and then that creature's controller dies horribly. Is Duplicant 2/4 or big/big?

A: It's only 2/4. When your opponent dies, he takes his cards with him, so the exiled creature card is no longer in the exile zone. Without that card exiled, the imprint ability doesn't see a creature card exiled and so the "as long as" condition is false, and the second Duplicant ability does nothing at all.

Q: I heard that the play/draw rule changed with Amsterdam so that now the higher-ranked player chooses. How do we know who has better tiebreakers?

A: Whoa whoa whoa. First of all, the rule is being tested; it's not in use yet. Second, that rule only applies to the single-elimination top eight playoff, not to the entire tournament, and will probably only apply at Competitive and Professional events, not FNMs.

For those who haven't heard: the rule that's being tested is that, rather than randomly determine who gets to choose play or draw, the player who has the higher Swiss standing prior to the top eight cutoff gets to choose. This adds some incentive to play it out rather than concede to someone if you're safely in the top eight and he isn't yet, as well as to play it out rather than ID if you're both securely in the top eight.

Q: Can I play From the Vault cards in my deck?

A: From the Vault cards are only legal for Standard or Extended play if a normal printing would be legal. So that Zuran Orb isn't going to be tearing up Standard any time soon. All of the cards, even Sword of Body and Mind, are legal in Vintage and EDH. A few of the cards are banned in Legacy, but being From the Vault makes the Sword suddenly Legacy-legal before SOM's release, and all of the other non-banned cards are legal for Legacy.

There is one huge caveat, though. The FTV foils tend to be more prone to warping than other foils. If they start to warp, they become marked cards, and you may not play with them. Take great care to make sure that your shiny, shiny relics stay nice and flat, or put them away.

Q: If my opponent draws for the turn before he reveals for Dark Tutelage, is that Drawing Extra Cards or Failure to Reveal?

A: Neither! That's just a Missed Trigger. We don't say "haha, you were supposed to Bob that card, now you get a Game Loss." That's just lame. We look at the reality of this: Your opponent forgot the trigger. Resolve it accordingly with a Warning.

If he picked up two cards, then we're entering Game Loss Land, but that's pretty rare.

Q: When do I have to say whether I'm playing or drawing for game two? Can I wait till after I sideboard?

A: There is very, veeeeery little advantage to waiting to say your choice other than time to think on it, but the Magic Tournament Rules is very clear in section 2.2 that it's okay to wait till after you sideboard to make your decision.

Q: Do I have to tell my opponent how many cards I sideboard in after the game?

A: Nope! This is also a case of very little advantage for a lot of hassle and stress, but one "pro" trick is to shuffle your entire sideboard in and then remove 15 cards.

Q: In my Linvala, Keeper of Silence EDH deck, I wanted to use Kormus Bell and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo to turn all of my opponents lands into 1/1 Swamps whose activated abilities can't be used. My question is, am I able to use Urborg in my Linvala deck? And also, can I tap my lands for mana?

A: Urborg makes Swamps, but it doesn't have a black mana symbol on it, so it's legal for any color deck to play. They'll have their original types, too, and not simply be Swamps – Urborg does say "in addition to its other land types" which means "it doesn't lose any other types or abilities" – so you can tap them for the normal color/s, or tap them for black mana, which results in a colorless mana if you're not running a black general.

Q: Can I use Flickerform on Richard Garfield, Ph.D. to reset my list of Mental Magic cards?

A: Technically, yes. It's a new object with a new static ability that sets up a new modification of the rules. However, we like to think that Richard Garfield transcends the mere rules of the game, and his great power follows all copies of his card in existence, and any card will look at the same list of cards you've used this game.

And while the honorable Richard Garfield will be returning to his game to tinker with the "Shake" set and/or block, which may therefore be the first block to not KILL MAGIC since Mirage or so excepting Ravnica, he wasn't directly working on Scars of Mirrodin – which means that our return to this plane will obviously kill Magic.

So join me in a few weeks when we celebrate by killing some brain cells with bad jokes and teach you the ways of war!

Until next time, may all of your storms be awe-inspiring.

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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