Cranial Insertion: Don't Redirect Oblivion Ring!

Cranial Insertion
Don't Redirect Oblivion Ring!
or, Assorted Flavors of Failure

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

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

You can run, but you can't hide.
Howdy! Welcome back to another installment of Cranial Insertion. The world of tournament Magic has certainly been very busy. There were tons of Nationals tournaments a week ago, including Germany, the U.K., and the U.S., and northern Europe is in the middle of hosting back-to-back Grand Prix and Pro Tour tournaments in Göteborg and Amsterdam. My travel budget unfortunately didn't allow me to attend any of those amazing events, but at least I get to have fun stuffing fluffy bunnies of Magic rules knowledge into your brains!

As the title of this installment suggests, Redirect has been causing quite a few questions by players who want it to be more useful than it is, so we'll take a closer look at that card to clear up some of the more common misconceptions about it.

If you have rules questions, please send them in to [email][email protected][/email] so we can answer them and possibly include them in a future issue. Please note that we won't answer any questions about Scars of Mirrodin yet. While we'd love to answer questions about and , until we have the Oracle texts for the new cards and the FAQ for the new rules we'd just be guessing, and we don't like to guess. You're welcome to send in your questions, and we'll get to them in the Scars of Mirrodin special after the prerelease.

Q: Can I Redirect (insert any spell here)?

A: Oh boy. The correct, though unhelpful, answer to that question is Yes. Redirect can target any spell, so casting Redirect on any spell is a legal play. However, it might not be a smart play. Redirect will only have a noticeable effect on a spell if the spell has at least one target. Let's look at a couple of examples.

Q: My opponent just cast Baneslayer Angel. I'd like to have the Angel on my side. Can I Redirect the Angel to make it come to me?

A: No. Creature spells never target. When a creature spell resolves, the creature normally enters the battlefield under the control of the player who cast the spell. That player isn't a target of the creature spell, so Redirect can't change this. (Note that Gather Specimens can help you take that Angel, though.)

Q: What about Preordain? That targets the player who draws cards, doesn't it?

A: No, it doesn't. A spell can target things without affecting them and affect things without targeting them. Preordain makes a player do stuff, but that player is not being targeted by Preordain. An instant or sorcery spell only targets something if it actually uses the word "target" in its spell ability to identify the thing. Preordain doesn't say "target," so it doesn't target, so Redirect can't mess with it.

Q: Oblivion Ring says "target" on it. Can I Redirect that?

A: Nice try, but still no, sorry. Oblivion Ring as a spell doesn't target anything. The word "target" appears in its enter-the-battlefield ability. That target isn't chosen until after the spell Oblivion Ring has already resolved, and Redirect can only mess with spells, not with abilities.

Q: All right, all right, Lightning Bolt then. Can I point that at my opponent's head and then sneak it onto my opponent's Kor Firewalker with Redirect?

A: You're getting closer, but that doesn't work either. Lightning Bolt is a targeted spell, so Redirect can achieve something there. However, if you choose to change a target, the new target must be a legal target, and Kor Firewalker is not a legal target for Lightning Bolt on account of having protection from red. (Besides, even if you could point the Lightning Bolt at the Firewalker, protection would still prevent the damage.)

Q: So, what about Auras? I heard those can be Redirected. Is that true?

A: Yes! Unlike other permanent spells, Aura spells are targeted spells, even if they don't actually use the word "target" on the card. The rules say that an Aura spell targets the player or object it is destined to become attached to, and Redirect can change that target to any other legal target.

Q: Earlier in the turn, I sent my opponent's unearthed Extractor Demon into my Mystifying Maze. Now it's the end of turn step and my opponent says the Extractor Demon comes back forever. Is he right?

A: He certainly is. The replacement effect that was created by the resolution of the unearth ability only exiles the creature if it would leave the battlefield to any zone that's not the exile zone. Mystifying Maze puts the Demon into the exile zone, so the replacement effect doesn't apply. The Demon that gets put back onto the battlefield later is a different object than the Demon that was exiled, so there is no replacement effect there that wants to exile it.

Q: If I use Mystifying Maze to exile my opponent's attacker and then sacrifice the Maze to something before the end step, does my opponent's creature get stranded in exile?

A: No, it'll come back. The resolution of the Maze's activated ability creates a delayed triggered ability that'll trigger at the beginning of the next end step regardless of what happens to Mystifying Maze itself.

Salad with attitude!
Q: I have three Vengevines in my graveyard and cast two Renegade Doppelgangers, so the Vengevines hop out of the graveyard. Can both Doppelgangers become copies of the angry vine?

A: Nope, only the first one can do that. Vengevine's ability triggers when the second Doppelganger is cast, so the ability will go on the stack above the Doppelganger. The second Doppelganger is still sitting on the stack when the Vengevines pop into existence, so its ability doesn't trigger.

Q: My friends and I were playing a crazy five-way Two Headed Giant game, and it eventually got down to three remaining teams: Team A is at 7 life, team B is at 18 life, and team C is at 40 life. Team C casts Breath of Malfegor, which team B responds to with Twincast and Reverberate. Team A responds with their own Reverberate on Breath of Malfegor, so team B decides that their breath is the worst of all and they respond with another Twincast on Breath of Malfegor. We couldn't figure out what would actually happen, so we just called it a night, but can you tell us what the actual outcome would have been?

A: Well, the first thing that resolves is team B's Twincast, since it was cast last. It creates a copy of Breath of Malfegor that's controlled by team B. That'll deal 5 damage to each player on teams A and C, which leaves team A at -3 life and team C at 30 life. Before anything else happens, team A loses the game, and they take the Reverberate that one of them cast with them. Then, team B gets two more copies of Malfegor's Hot Halitosis fired at team C, which brings team C down to 10 life, and then finally team C's original Breath resolves, bringing team B to 8 life. So, team A gets to watch while teams B and C continue to battle for victory.

Q: If I cast Brilliant Ultimatum, do I have to play the cards in the chosen pile right away, or can I wait until a better time to cast them?

A: Effects that say "You may cast/play ..." are tricky business, since they can either be continuous effects granting you a lasting permission to cast/play something or they can be one-shot effects offering or instructing you to cast/play something now or never. The key to telling which one it is is to look at whether the effect states a duration. If it does, it's a continuous effect; if it doesn't, it's a one-shot effect.

Brilliant Ultimatum does not state a duration, so it's only allowing you to play the cards in the pile during its resolution. If you don't play them then, they'll be stranded in exile indefinitely.

Q: Can I play multiple lands from the chosen pile?

A: Probably not. Brilliant Ultimatum allows you to play the lands from the exile zone, but it doesn't give you any additional land drops. Unless something like Oracle of Mul Daya is giving you additional land drops, you can play at most one land from Brilliant Ultimatum, or none at all if you already played your land for the turn.

Q: If Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is in the chosen pile, do I get the extra turn for playing it with Brilliant Ultimatum?

A: You sure do! For a nonland card, playing it means casting it. Since you're casting Emmy, as opposed to putting it onto the battlefield, you are getting the extra turn.

Q: If I cast Frost Titan and my opponent casts Essence Scatter targeting it, does he have to pay the extra 2?

A: No. Like all abilities on permanent cards that don't say otherwise or don't make sense otherwise, Frost Titan's ability only works while it's on the battlefield. The ability has no effect while Frosty is on the stack, so Frosty will get scattered without the extra mana.

To infinity, and beyond!
Q: Let's say I constructed the infinite Stuffy Doll/Pariah loop from last week and I just set it off to force the game into a draw. If my opponent has a Qasali Pridemage and the mana to use it, does he have to use it to destroy Pariah and end the loop?

A: No. He can if he wants to, of course, but nothing is forcing him to do so. A player is only forced to end a loop with actions that are called for by objects that are involved in the loop. Qasali Pridemage is not involved in the loop, so your opponent is not forced to use it.

Q: If I play and crack a fetch land and then cast Searing Blaze, will it deal 6 damage?

A: No. The self-replacement effect on Searing Blaze only asks whether you had a land enter the battlefield under your control that turn. It doesn't ask how many lands there were, so there is no difference between having one, two, or a hundred lands enter the battlefield before casting Searing Blaze.

Q: How does Sylvan Library interact with replacement effects that replace card draws, specifically dredge, Uba Mask, and Thought Reflection?

A: Sylvan Library asks you to choose two cards you drew so far that turn, and then decide for each of those cards whether to pay 4 life or to put it back. If all of the draws got replaced with a different action, you didn't draw any cards, so you can't choose any cards, so you won't be asked whether to pay life or put anything back.

Dredge replaces the draw with the entirely different action of putting a card from the graveyard into your hand and milling a bunch of cards from your library. The card isn't drawn, so the question of whether to pay life for it won't come up.

Uba Mask also replaces the draw entirely, so you won't have to pay any life or put anything back.

Thought Reflection replaces drawing cards with... drawing more cards! Since you're still drawing cards, you'll have to choose two of them to either put back or pay life to keep them. Then again, in the worst case you'll be drawing six cards and putting two back, so you'll still have tons of card advantage!

Q: When the last time counter comes off of a suspended card, can I Stifle the trigger to keep the card from being cast?

A: Certainly! Removing the last counter triggers an ability that goes on the stack. When it resolves, it tells your opponent to cast the card for free. If you Stifle that trigger, nothing will ever allow your opponent to cast that card.

Q: I was in a game and I cast a kicked Rite of Replication on my Halimar Excavator. I knew that I'll mill 180 cards from my opponent's library, but I couldn't explain to him why. He says that if I can't explain the triggers, they don't happen. Is that true?

A: Not at all. If you're trying to perform a combo and you can't describe what actions you're taking, that's a problem and you can't perform the combo. However, in this case you're not unclear about what to do, you simply need help explaining the result of what you have done. Call a judge, and he or she will answer any rules questions you and/or your opponent may have about your play.

Q: I have a Leyline of Sanctity out, and my opponent taps out for a Mind Sludge on me. Since I'm not a legal target, is he forced to target himself now?

A: No, he doesn't have to target himself if he doesn't want to. If a player has performed an illegal action, the entire action is reversed. Choosing targets is part of the larger action of casting a spell, so the entire action of casting the spell is reversed, including untapping any lands he tapped for mana. He may then cast the spell on a legal target or do something else entirely. At an event with a rules enforcement level of Competitive or higher, he'll receive a Warning for a Game Rule Violation, but he still won't be forced into making a play he didn't intend to make.

Well, that's all the time we have for now. Next week, Eli will continue the countdown to Scars of Mirrodin with his last issue before the prerelease special. Don't miss it!

- Carsten Haese


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