Cranial Insertion: When the Dust Settles



Cranial Insertion
When the Dust Settles

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese


[This article is available in Spanish here.]


Peekaboo!
Salutations! It's Monday, and that means it's time for another issue of your favorite source of Magic rules questions and answers. Rise of the Eldrazi certainly kept its promise of generating lots of rules questions, and Rise-only questions have managed to dominate four issues in a row. We're still seeing quite a bit of Rise-specific questions in our inbox, but the dust is slowly starting to settle, and the questions are beginning to make way for other interesting card interactions we find in Standard, Extended, Legacy, and, of course, EDH.

If you have questions, feel free to send them to [email][email protected][/email]. You will receive an expert answer from one of our writers, and your question might be selected to be answered and/or made into a pun in a future issue.




Q: How do life-total setting effects like Sorin Markov's -3 ability work with the new Two-Headed Giant rules?

A: Such effects are now much easier than before. The new rules say that an effect that considers or manipulates a player's life total simply considers or manipulates that player's team's life total. This change actually makes a lot of sense in terms of the gnome and gold coins illustration from a few issues ago. Regardless of which door the gnome uses, it always sees a pile of gold coins that corresponds to the team's life total.

If Sorin's ability hits you while your team is at 17 life, your life total goes from 17 to 10, so you lose 7 life and your team's life total ends up at 10 life. Easy peasy!




Q: I just cast Thought Gorger, and my opponent killed it in response to its enter-the-battlefield ability. Do I still have to discard my hand?

A: No, you won't have to discard your hand, and you couldn't even if you wanted to. The ability tells you to discard your hand only if you put +1/+1 counters on the Thought Gorger, but that's impossible because the Thought Gorger died tragically and suddenly, so the ability does nothing at all.




Q: If I cast Thought Gorger as my second creature this turn and discard Vengevine to its enter-the-battlefield ability, can I return Vengevine from the graveyard?

A: No. Vengevine needs to be in the graveyard at the moment you're casting the second creature spell. At the moment you cast Thought Gorger, Vengevine was still in your hand.

Q: Okay, what if Thought Gorger is the first creature spell I cast, and I discard Vengevine and Basking Rootwalla?

A: That works! You discard Vengevine into the graveyard and Basking Rootwalla into the exile zone, and then you madness-cast Basking Rootwalla from the exile zone. Vengevine is in your graveyard when you cast your second creature spell, so Vengevine pops out of your graveyard.




Q: If I animate Stirring Wildwood the turn I played it, does that count towards Vengevine's reanimation ability?

A: Nope. Vengevine counts how many creature spells you cast. Playing a land doesn't count, and turning a land into a creature doesn't count, either.




Q: I attack my opponent with a Stomper Cub and an Ondu Giant, and he blocks with two Eldrazi Spawn tokens. He then proceeds to sacrifice the mana babies and claims that the attackers are still blocked and don't deal any damage. Is that right?

A: It's half right. Once an attacker is blocked, it remains blocked, even if the creature blocking it disappears, and a blocked attacker won't deal damage to the defending player... unless it has trample, and Stomper Cub does. Stomper Cub tramples over nothing on through to your opponent and stomps on him for a bit, while Ondu Giant wanders helplessly around the battlefield looking for the mana baby it was supposed to beat up.





Sadly, she's powerless against Chimney Imp
Q: Which abilities does Linvala, Keeper of Silence shut down? Can she shut down Landfall? Ally triggers? Unearth?

A: Linvala shuts down activated abilities of creatures your opponents control. To check whether an ability is activated, look for a colon separating an activation cost from an effect. (In the case of keyword abilities, you'll find the colon in reminder text if the card has reminder text, and in the rulebook if it doesn't have reminder text.) If a creature your opponent controls has an ability that's written "[cost]:[effect]", Linvala shuts it down.

Landfall on a permanent is a triggered ability, not an activated ability, so Linvala can't silence it. The same is true for the Ally triggers.

Unearth is an activated ability, but unfortunately it's not an activated ability of a creature. It's an activated ability of a creature card in a graveyard, so Linvala won't shut that down either.




Q: Can I split a Forked Bolt between a player and his planeswalker, or between two planeswalkers?

A: No, that's not possible. Forked Bolt only has one instance of the word "target," so you can't choose the same target twice. Since Forked Bolt can't target a planeswalker directly, you have to target the player, and the planeswalker redirection effect is "all or nothing." You either redirect all the damage to one planeswalker or let all of it be dealt to the player.




Q: If I enchant Valakut Fireboar with Eland Umbra, will it be 7/5 or 11/1 when it attacks?

A: It'll be 11/1. Effects that switch power and toughness are always applied last. The Umbra makes your boar a weak but sturdy 1/11, and then the switch turns it into a powerful but vulnerable 11/1.




Q: My opponent controls a Bloodthrone Vampire and I think it would be useful to have on my side, so I take it with Act of Treason and swing. Can I then sacrifice it to itself so that my opponent doesn't get it back at the end of the turn?

A: Sure, that's perfectly legal. As its controller, you have the right to sacrifice it, and the cost is "sacrifice a creature," not "sacrifice another creature," so the Vampire will obediently eat itself.




Q: I control Kiln Fiend and cast Soul's Fire to deal damage equal to its power to my opponent. Will it deal 4 damage to his face?

A: Yes! Kiln Fiend and Soul's Fire get along very well. The first thing you do when you cast a spell is putting it on the stack. Kiln Fiend's ability triggers a bit later, after you've paid the spell's cost, so the ability goes on the stack above the spell and resolves first. Kiln Fiend will be pumped to 4/2 and it'll burn that much hotter when Soul's Fire resolves.




Q: What would Umbra Mystic do with a Paradox Haze that's enchanting me? Would that give totem armor to Paradox Haze and protect me from losing the game?

A: That would be totally awesome, but Umbra Mystic doesn't work like that. Your Umbra Mystic only gives totem armor to Auras that are attached to permanents you control, and you are not a permanent. Umbra Mystic's effect on Paradox Haze is best described as "none whatsoever."




Q: I control two Perimeter Captains and a Cradle of Vitality. My opponent attacks me with an 8/8 fattie and I block with both captains, so I'll gain 8 life from their triggered abilities. What will happen first, my opponent announcing the damage assignment order or my Cradle of Vitality giving out 8 +1/+1 counters?

A: Announcing the damage assignment order is part of the Declare Blockers step and it happens immediately after blockers are declared. At that point, not even the Perimeter Captain's life gain abilities have gone on the stack yet, let alone the Cradle's counter giving abilities. By the time the counter-giving ability triggers, the damage assignment order is known, so you can put all 8 counters on the dude that's first in line to ensure that both your blockers survive.




Q: If I'm casting Agony Warp and declaring two separate targets, do I have to announce immediately which creature is getting -3/-0 and which one is getting -0/-3, or can I wait to announce this until Agony Warp resolves in case my opponent wants to respond with a Giant Growth to save one of his dudes?

A: The target information includes which object is the target for which effect, so this must be announced immediately when you cast the spell. This means that your opponent will know which creature he needs to Giant Growth in response in order to keep it alive.




Q: I'm playing a friendly game of EDH, and my opponent just Desertioned my Oona, Queen of the Fae. I take her back with Mind Control, and then Mind Control is destroyed. Who gets my Oona now?

A: Your opponent does. Oona entered the battlefield under his control, so he is her default controller. After Mind Control has gone away, no control changing effects remain on Oona, so Oona goes to her default controller.




Q: I just attacked my opponent with a Hellcarver Demon that's equipped with a Grappling Hook, and it dealt first strike damage to my opponent, so I have to sacrifice the Grappling Hook. Will the Demon still deal regular combat damage?

A: No, your Demon will be quite bored in the second combat damage step. The only creatures that deal damage in the second combat damage step are creatures that didn't have first strike or double strike when the first combat damage step began, as well as creatures that currently have double strike. Your Hellcarver Demon does not qualify for the first group because it did have double strike when the first combat damage step began, and it doesn't qualify for the second group because it doesn't currently have double strike, so it won't deal any damage in the second combat damage step.




Q: If I control Archon of Redemption and two Serra Angels and Ghostway them, how much life will I gain when they come back from exile?

A: Ghostway returns your entire squad of winged creatures simultaneously, and creatures that enter the battlefield simultaneously see each other doing so. The Archon's ability triggers for itself and the two Angels, giving you a total of 11 life.





For maximum hilarity,
combine with Hive Mind
Q: What happens in a multiplayer game when multiple players cast Gather Specimens in the same turn? How do we decide who gets the creatures?

A: Oh boy. Buckle your seatbelts, this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Let's start with the easier case of just two Gather Specimens. In that case, the player under whose control the creature would've normally entered the battlefield gets to choose who gets the creature, in an indirect way.

Suppose player A is the active player and casts a creature spell. Player B and player C respond with Gather Specimens, which both resolve, creating their replacement effects. Now, the creature spell resolves. It wants to put a creature onto the battlefield under player A's control. There are two applicable replacement effects, so player A chooses one to apply. Let's say he chooses B's effect. Now the creature wants to enter the battlefield under B's control. Now, C's effect steps in and says "Mine!", so player C gets the creature. If player A had chosen to apply C's effect first, B would have gotten the creature.

If more than two Gather Specimens have resolved, the story gets a little bit more complicated, but just a little bit. The key thing to remember is that as long as more than one replacement effect is still pending, the creature's current would-be controller gets to choose a new would-be controller from among those whose effects are still pending. This means that the decision for who gets the creature is made by multiple players. The player who cast the creature decides first who gets to decide next, and so on, until no more decisions are left to be made and the creature has finally found its controller.

Note that this chain of decisions is made from scratch individually for each creature that enters the battlefield, even if the creatures enter the battlefield simultaneously from something like Tooth and Nail.




Q: When Experiment Kraj takes the ability of Mistfolk, can Kraj then counter spells that target it, or will it counter spells that target Mistfolk?

A: It'll counter spells that target it. The name "Mistfolk" on Mistfolk actually means "this object." When Experiment Kraj has this ability, it's treated as though it said "Counter target spell that targets Experiment Kraj."




Q: If I use Flickerform's effect to exile my EDH general, do I have to put my general into the command zone or can I exile it and allow it to blink back at the end of the turn?

A: Putting your general into the command zone instead of exiling it is optional. You don't have to do it if you don't want to, and Flickerform would be a good reason for not wanting to do it.




Q: I just activated my Bösium Strip and the top card of my graveyard is Force of Will. Can I cast Force of Will from my graveyard using its alternative cost?

A: You sure can. The rules only forbid you from paying two alternative costs for a spell and from casting a spell using two alternative methods. As long as the alternative cost isn't attached to a particular alternative method or vice versa, it's perfectly legal to combine an alternative method and an alternative cost. Bösium Strip provides the alternative method, Force of Will provides the alternative cost, and you're allowed to mix and match the two.




Well, that's all the time we have for now, kids. I just have one quick update before I go. If you're a regular reader, you'll recall that I was organizing a charity tournament for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I am happy to report that the event was a success. We had a good turnout of 25 players and raised a $436 donation for the National MS Society. I'd like to thank my sponsors for the kind support that made this event possible: UT-BASH, Gameology Supply Co Ltd, Game Room Comics, and House of Games. The player response was overwhelmingly positive, so I'm motivated to organize another Cast a Spell on MS in Spring 2011.

Thanks for reading, and please come back next week.

- Carsten Haese

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