Cranial Insertion: Real-Life-Itis



Cranial Insertion
Real-Life-Itis
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

[This article is available in
">Spanish here.]


So as Eli said last week, I had a bit of real-life-itis. Don't worry, it's not contagious, though as a precaution I washed my hands before I wrote this article.

We're entering the long stretch between sets where everyone's pretty much run out of questions to ask about cards released in the last set, and the questions start getting reptitive. Don't worry about sending in a question you're not sure of to us even if you've thought we've heard it a bunch of times though, it's what we're here for!

And to send in those questions to [email][email protected][/email]. You'll be glad you did!


We can't read minds,
so send in your questions!




Q: My hand is revealed with something like Telepathy, and my opponent goes to Extirpate a card in my graveyard. While searching, he wants to leave one of those cards in my hand so he can Mindslaver me and use it next turn, but I think that since my hand is now a public zone, he can't "fail to find".

A: He can fail to find! Even though your hand's revealed, it's still a hidden zone, as rule 400.2 points out:

"..... Library and hand are hidden zones, even if all the cards in one such zone happen to be revealed."


So while it might not always be optimal to leave a card in someone's hand while searching, you can fail to find. This is very unlike Thoughtseize/Duress style effects - those have you look at their hand and choose a card. That's not a search, so you can't not choose, say, an Obstinate Baloth if it's the only applicable card in their hand.




Q: Last week you had a question about Frost Titan - you said that the effect for countering spells targeting it unless the controller pays 2 had a "may" clause and so you had to remind your opponent to pay the extra mana. The text on the card says "Whenever Frost Titan becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, counter that spell or ability unless its controller pays 2." I don't see a may trigger there, the trigger is in the sleep effect; does this affect your answer to the question?

A: The only difference is that we should have been more clear. "Do X unless you do Y" is the same as "You may do Y. If you don't, do X." Section 3.1 in the Infraction Procedure Guide outlines this sort of thing in the last paragraph; sadly, there's no one official terminology on what to call these types of triggers!




Q: If I cast Plagiarize on myself, does it send the game into an infinite loop of replacing the draw and end the game in a draw?

A: Nope. Replacement effects only replace an event once, so your drawing a card is replaced with... your drawing a card, and that's that.




Q: If I cast a Lightning Bolt and my opponent Redirects it to me, can he reassign the damage to one of my planeswalkers?

A: No, planeswalkers can only have non-combat damage redirected to them from a source an opponent controls. You control the Lightning Bolt, so its damage can only hurt you.




Q: If I Earthquake for enough damage to kill each player in the game, do I lose the game for causing it to happen, or do we all draw?

A: The game's a draw! There's been some misinformation spread around somewhere recently that the player causing the draw will lose the game, which isn't the case at all.




Q: So in that situation, who decides to go first in the next game?

A: If the game ends in a draw, whoever decided to play/draw first in the drawn game gets to choose whether to play or draw.




Q: I remember hearing something about that if single elimination rounds get to time and five turns pass, the player with the highest life total wins. I thought top 8 play-offs were untimed?

A: Usually they are untimed - however, there's no rule that says they have to be untimed, except in Premier events. When they are timed, they're usually a bit longer than normal, and the time limit is just there to make sure a one-day event doesn't stretch into two by accident. When time's called and five turns run out in one of these timed single-elimination matches, the tournament will need an actual winner, so the player with the higher life total wins. If the life totals are even at this point, the match will continue until one player's life total is higher than the other's.




Q: If a player casts two creature spells to bring back four Vengevines from the yard, can I Mindbreak Trap the Vengevines away?

A: It's a nice try, but it won't work. Mindbreak Trap only exiles spells, which only exist on the stack. The Vengevines aren't being cast; their triggered abilities go on the stack, but those are abilities, not spells, and therefore not legal targets for Mindbreak Trap.





Actually, the "worst general award"
probably goes to Phage the Untouchable.
Q: Is Haakon, Stromgald Scourge the worst EDH general ever or is there some way to cast him?

A: Now that generals start the game in the command zone, not the exile zone, there's actually no way to ever get Haakon into the game proper. Before generals started in the command zone, you might've been able to convince someone else to Pull from Eternity your general. Before the whole exile zone came into being, you could Death Wish for Haakon to get him into your hand and then find a way to discard him. However, none of those tricks work anymore, as nothing can target or allow you to choose cards in the command zone.




Q: If I turn an indestructible Sapling of Colfenor into a frog with Omnibian, can I then Lightning Bolt it to kill it?

A: No - Omniban's ability doesn't remove any abilities the creature may have, it just turns it into a 3/3 Frog. Its power, toughness, creature type, and ideas about how tasty flies look might change, but Sapling will still be a very resilient frog.




Q: Since mana abilities are faster than any ability and don't use the stack, can I bring myself from 2 to 1 with Adarkar Wastes during my upkeep so I can win with Near-Death Experience?

A: That won't work. Don't think of mana abilities (or any spell or ability for that matter) as "faster" than anything else. There's no "speeds" in Magic; even though mana abilities don't use the stack and can't be responded to, you still usually need priority in order to activate them; the only exceptions are when you're in the middle of casting a spell or ability, or a spell or ability asks you to make a mana payment.




Q: If I pull a foil Primeval Titan in a draft, can I proxy it so it doesn't get damaged?

A: The only way to be sure it won't get damaged is not to play it. The head judge can issue you a proxy if the card comes out of the pack too damaged to be used or is damaged over the course of the tournament, but you can't get a proxy just because you're worried a card might lose some value.




Q: Can I attempt to counter a Gaea's Revenge with Broken Ambitions just to clash, or will the whole spell be countered because of an illegal target?

A: When Broken Ambitions resolves, it'll do as much as possible. It won't be able to counter the spell of course, but the rest of its effects will still happen. Even if something won't have any effect on whatever it's targeting, you can still target it.




Q: With a Pyromancer's Swath out, can I Fireball my opponent for 0 to have it deal 2 damage to him?

A: Nope. The rules say that if a source would deal 0 damage to something, it doesn't deal any damage at all. Since there's no damage being dealt, it can't be increased by Pyromancer's Swath, and Fireball will do about as much as it will if it's in your hand when your end step comes.




Q: My opponent has an Elvish Archdruid and two Phantom Beasts. I cast a Fireball, paying 2 for X and also paying for the two additional targets. What dies?

A: All three creatures will die! Fireball's damage divides evenly upon resolution, but before it resolves, both Phantom Beasts' abilities trigger and they die. After that, Fireball only has one legal target, and two divided by one is 2 damage.




Q: If I've got an empty library and my opponent's at 1 life, what happens if I attack with a Scroll Thief and it's unblocked? Is the game a draw?

A: Nope, you'll win! Scroll Thief's ability triggers when it deals combat damage to a player, but won't go on the stack until after state-based actions are checked. At that time, the game sees your opponent at 0 and causes him to lose.




Q: In an Archenemy game, I've got a Spectral Lynx attacking, but Nature Shields Its Own is active. Will the Saproling still block it even though my cat has protection from green?

A: Unfortunately for you, it'll still get blocked. Nature Shields Its Own puts the token onto the battlefield blocking, so it skips the check to see if the block's legal - that only matters when a creature is declared as a blocker.





Split second may be my least
favorite player-confusing ability
in the game.
Q: I have had different people say different things about Krosan Grip targeting permanents. I know that with a Dovescape on the battlefield, the Krosan Grip would only get turned into birds upon being cast. The spell never had a chance, as it would be countered no matter what. But what about a Krosan Grip targeting a Counterbalance? There is a "you may" effect within the text of the card. Will that have a major influence over the fate of the Counterbalance?

A: A "you may" in a triggered ability doesn't stop it from being a triggered ability, and split second doesn't stop triggered abilities from triggering or going on the stack on top of the spell with split second. Activated abilities are written as "Cost: Effect", and triggered abilities start with "When" or "At" and define a trigger condition.




Q: My opponent plays a spell, and has four land untapped. I have two Mana Leaks in my hand. Am I able to play one Mana Leak, wait to see if he pays the cost, and then Mana Leak him again if he does?

A: Yup, you don't need to waste two Mana Leaks in a row if you think he might not pay for the first one. The stack doesn't resolve all at once, it resolves one at a time, starting with the top object on the stack. After each object on the stack resolves, all players get priority again before the next thing resolves. So you can watch your Mana Leak resolve before deciding whether or not to play a second.




Q: I thought that tokens didn't go to the graveyard when they die, but then how does Mitotic Slime even work? Does it need errata or something?

A: Tokens do indeed hit the graveyard! They'll cease to exist (not exiled, it's an important distinction) as soon as they get there due to state-based effects, but it won't stop triggered abilities from triggering.




Q: Let's say I play a Stuffy Doll and select myself as the player. If I then enchant it with Pariah, and use the Doll's tap ability, what happens? Does the game just end right there?

A: Yes, the game will end in a draw. Stuffy Doll will deal 1 damage to itself, which will make it try to deal 1 damage to you, but Pariah ends up dealing the damage back to Stuffy Doll, which deals the damage back to you, ad infinitum. If no one's able to break this loop, the game will end in a draw.




Only one more article of mine to go until Scars of Mirrodin questions (for those of you who measure things based on when I next talk to you), but Carsten's up next week!

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