Cranial Insertion: Test of Endurance

Cranial Insertion
Test of Endurance
or, A Whole Bunch of Tournament Questions

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

[This article is available in Spanish here.]

Not the best thing to wear
while playing Magic.
G'day y'all! Astute readers will notice that there is suddenly an article by Eli where you'd expect an article by Paskoff. Well, there are two reasons for that. One, Paskoff has had a sudden case of real-life-itis, that horrible disease where reality intrudes on your fun stuff. Two, we have to shake up the article rotation anyway sometime before Scars of Mirrodin comes out, and now is as good a time as any.

So now you're stuck with me again. Hah!

I've got a lovely bunch of questions from the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox, almost half having to do with tournament rules rather than card rules. Yes, folks, we don't just answer card rules, we answer tournament questions, questions on being/becoming a judge, and even Un- questions! Send all of yours in for an answer, and your question my even appear in a future article.

Also, if you're going to swing by Denver on US Nats week for the StarCity Games 10K weekend, I'll be around there. Bonus points if you're coming for the Legacy 5K on Sunday, where I'll be the Head Judge.

Q: My Oracle of Mul Daya gets Pathed but I don't want to shuffle since I know what's coming up. If I don't search, do I still have to shuffle?

A: Everything after the exiling on Path has a great big "may," and it's all tied together. If you choose the "may," you get all of it; if you don't, you get none of it. So if you choose not to search, you also don't put and you don't shuffle, and your top card will remain your top card, ready to win you the game.

Q: Can I Redirect an Aura spell?

A: Of all the great many permanent spells (that is, spells that will become a permanent when they resolve), Aura spells are the only permanent spells that target while on the stack as spells. Since it's a spell with a target, Redirect can change that target.

Q: Can I activate Liliana Vess's +1 ability if my opponent has no cards in hand?

A: An oldie but a goodie that we still hear every now and then! The targeting restriction for Liliana's first ability is "target player" – it doesn't say "target player with a card in hand." That player will be unable to perform the action, but that doesn't stop you from activating the ability. You can still give Liliana loyalty.

As a side note, planeswalkers are designed so that you will almost always be able to activate at least one plus-loyalty ability. The only time you won't be able to do so is in very weird situations, such as players all gaining shroud (Liliana) or all lands or permanents gaining shroud (Garruk and Ajani Vengeant). Even Tezzeret's narrow artifact-untapping ability includes "up to," making it legal to activate it with zero targets.

Q: Will two Fire Servants deal triple damage or quadruple?

A: Quadruple ahoy! Once you apply a replacement effect to an event, further replacement effects will modify the now-modified event. So once you double 3 damage to 6, the next Fire Servant effect will double the modified event from 6 to 12.

Offer Void in Legacy.
Q: How does Quenchable Fire deal the additional 3 damage if it is no longer on the stack? Does it deal the damage from the graveyard? If I had a Leyline of the Void, would it not deal the additional 3 damage?

A: As odd as that may sound, Quenchable Fire deals the additional damage from the stack, even though it's not on the stack anymore. More precisely, it is the last-known-information ghost image of Quenchable Fire as it existed on the stack that deals the damage. This is exactly analogous to the damage that's dealt by Mogg Fanatic: At the time the damage is dealt, the piece of cardboard is in the graveyard, but that object isn't what's dealing the damage; the damage is dealt by what Mogg Fanatic used to be when it was on the battlefield.

Since the damage is dealt by Quenchable Fire's as it existed on the stack, it really doesn't matter where the piece of cardboard is at that moment. The damage will be dealt even if the card has been exiled with the Leyline.

Q: If I put a creature with morph down via Illusionary Mask, will the Mask's turn-it-up-if... clause get a "when turned face up" ability to trigger?

A: Yup! It doesn't matter how you get it to be face up, if it went from face down to face up, it will trigger. Note that the trigger will then go on the stack after whatever event caused it to turn face up - for instance, if it's dealt damage, the damage will be dealt before the trigger is put on the stack, which could be less than desirable. But hey, you can also pay the morph cost if you decide that's better!

Q: Can I choose to sacrifice nothing before I put a counter on my brand-new Smokestack?

A: Smokestack has two beginning-of-upkeep triggers, so you can arrange them in any order you'd like at the start of your upkeep. It's perfectly valid – and a good play! – to resolve the "sacrifice for each soot counter" first so you sacrifice nothing and then soot up the Stax.

Q: Does Leyline of the Void stop Obstinate Baloth?

A: Only if the Baloth's owner really doesn't want to get a free 4/4 and gain 4 life. The Leyline and the Baloth both create contradictory replacement effects, so the owner of the Baloth (since it has no controller in hand) chooses which one to apply first, after which the other is inapplicable. He can choose to apply the Baloth's effect and get all of the goodies rather than surrendering his beastie to the void.

Q: Once I get out Platinum Angel, can I safely pay any amount of life I feel like?

A: You can safely spend like there's no tomorrow, but once you run out of life, you can't spend anymore. You can spend your life all the way down to 0, but not below – like any cost, you can't pay what you don't have, so you can't pay 2 life when you're at 1 life or pay any nonzero amount of life when you're at 0 life.

Q: Can Forked Bolt target my opponent twice for two 1-damage packets to give Chandra's Spitfire +6/+0?

A: Nope, you can't target something twice for a single instance of the word "target." You also can't divide the damage into two packets of 1; you either deal 2 to one target, or 1 to each of two targets. The only way to get the Spitfire to trigger twice here is if you have two or more opponents.

Q: I control Awakening Zone and Jinxed Idol. Can I get my Spawn, feed it to the Idol, and let my opponent take the damage?

A: Both abilities trigger at the beginning of your upkeep. You can get your Spawn first, but the Idol has already triggered, and you control the trigger. The "you" who will take 2 damage is the player who controls the trigger, not the player who controls the idol, so you're going to take the damage no matter what. You can pass him the hot potato so he takes damage on his turn, though.

Q: If I Clone my opponent's Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, do I get to shuffle my graveyard in?

A: Nope. Emrakul triggers from the graveyard since it has the "from anywhere" clause, and not from the battlefield. Once in the yard, your Clone is a boring little blank blue creature and not a towering monstrosity with a triggered ability, so it won't trigger.

Q: Will my lands be safe if I Path to Exile my opponent's Mistbind Clique in response to its champion trigger?

A: As safe as lands can get. With the Clique no longer on the battlefield, there isn't an ability to trigger when it champions something. Your opponent can choose to champion a Faerie, but that Faerie will never come back and your lands will remain untapped.

Works great on Tony Stark.
Q: When I Mind Control a creature with Armored Ascension, whose Plains does it count?

A: Gaining control of a creature doesn't affect any Auras or Equipment attached to it. They remain under the control of whomever controlled the creature previously, although they remain attached to the creature unless that makes them attached illegally. (Equipment can legally be attached to stuff you don't control, it's just hard to get it there.) Since your opponent still controls the Ascension, it will count his Plains and give your creature the bonus!

Q: What can I lie about in a tournament?

A: You can lie about just about anything your opponent can't see. You can lie about what's in your hand, what's in your deck, what's in your sideboard, what you're going to do in a turn. You can lie about what's in other players' decks or what you saw passed in a draft. You can lie about your rating or how well your deck is working or good a player you are.

You can't lie about things your opponent can see, such as how many cards you have in your hand, how many cards are left in your deck, or how many creatures you have out. You can't lie about what an object's name is, which matters if it's a foreign card or an unidentified token. You can't lie about your life total.

There are also some things you can't lie about, but you can be sneaky about answering them. While that's legal, going too far in doing so and trying to play some game other than Magic will make a great many judges and players lose all respect for you, no matter how many pro points you have. And if you do it even slightly wrong, you'll work your way right into a Fraud DQ and no one will pity you. These include the characteristics of an object, the exact count of types of objects in a zone, and the rules and Oracle text themselves.

Q: Are M11 intro packs legal for FNM, or do I have to build my own deck?

A: Prior to M11, intro packs were 41-card decks, so they wouldn't be legal, but lo! Starting with M11, we're back to 61-card intro pack decks, which means they're legal for a Standard tournament! There's nothing wrong with playing a deck that you didn't build, whether it was built by WotC, some guy online, or one of your friends.

Q: What's the time limit for a player's turn?

A: Magic ain't chess. There aren't turn time limits. Players are expected to play at a reasonable pace, and face penalties if they don't do so. What a "reasonable pace" is is deliberately vague; it's up to the judge based on how complex things are, what your options are, and so on. For example, taking a minute to decide on a play when all you have in your hand is two lands will not be taken kindly. Taking a minute to demonstrate an infinite combo that wins you the game will generally go over much better. And working out combat math when you're both at 1 may also validly take so long.

For online players, note that MTGO does, in fact, have a chess clock mechanism. Magic Online is different from Magic in quite a few minor ways, this being one of them.

Q: Do I have to let my opponent look through my graveyard, or can he only see the top card?

A: All of the cards in your graveyard are public information that your opponent can peek at any time he likes. Of course, doing so over and over may fall into problems with the "reasonable pace" discussed above...

Q: I cast Lightning Bolt and say "Bolt Jace." My opponent tries to counter it, I counter back, and eventually my Bolt resolves. Since now I know he doesn't have anything left in hand, can I change my mind and hit him instead of Jace?

A: You seem to know that you have to actually target your opponent and redirect the damage to Jace as the spell resolves. Well, that's a shortcut! And when a shortcut is interrupted, say, by a counter war, it's been broken and you're no longer held to the choices you shortcut to. You're free to change your mind now.

Note that if your opponent had simply said "Okay, Jace loses 3 loyalty," you couldn't change your mind then since your shortcut was not interrupted.

Q: Why is wagering against the rules?

A: First of all: Yes, wagering on Magic tournaments is against the rules. It's spelled out very clearly. This is something you do not do, and you will be disqualified and ejected from the event if you do so.

Why is it against the rules, though? Because of the image it gives. Wizards of the Coast does not want Magic associated with gambling since that causes legal issues with tournaments – Grand Prix—Hannover had enough issues as it was, where they found out right before it started that the city considered even awarding a cash prize as gambling and was going to revoke their permit to hold the Grand Prix if they didn't change the prize to just product. Ouch!

Whether you believe that you'd be legally in the clear with placing bets on your events, Wizards does not want this to happen because of how that one little bet will be seen by other locations, and so the DCI has strict rules against doing so.

Q: If my opponent goes to Doom Blade my Frost Titan and then does something else, does that mean that Doom Blade is countered, or do I have to remind him to pay 2?

A: You have to remind him. It's your trigger, and when you control a trigger with a "may" and you forget it, the rules say that we assume you choose not to exercise your "may" – but that's only when it's your trigger and your "may." When it's your trigger but another player's "may," you can't let it slide silently by. You need to make sure that the "may" is not chosen.

Q: If my opponent doesn't have that mana, can he take back the Doom Blade?

A: Only if you want to let him. The game of Magic requires that your opponent make the choice, and that isn't a skill that we want to test; but remembering that the ability will trigger is a skill we test, so if he forgot that, sucks to be him!

That's all for this week, but come back next week when Paskoff comes back to regale us with tales from the Goyfiverse.

Until next time, enjoy playing some real Magic!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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