Cranial Insertion: The Stack Still Exists, Even in Combat

[This article is available in Spanish here.]

Cranial Insertion
The Stack Still Exists, Even in Combat
or, It's Populated with Eldrazi

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Welcome back to another episode of CI! This week's possibly baffling title comes from another popular misconception, and no, it won't dominate the entire article – we're just hoping that putting it in the title will make it more memorable. Or silly. Or both, really!

Since the M10 rules changes, some disgruntled players have spread a malicious rumor that, from the time you enter combat to the time you get out, the stack no longer exists. Poppycock! Players still get priority before declaring attackers, after declaring attackers, after declaring blockers, after first strike combat damage is dealt, and after normal combat damage is dealt. The only change is that players don't get priority between assigning and dealing the damage.

It's really simple, so it's entirely befuddling why people are turning it into an overcomplicated mess. :/

Anyway, that cleared out a good chunk of our mailbox, so now it's your turn to refill it! Send your questions to [email][email protected][/email] for an expert answer, and then it may even appear in a future article for your fame and glory. As for now, onto more questions!

Q: Can I block a Scute Mob with Vampire Hexmage, deal first-strike damage, and then sac the Hexmage so the Mob dies?

A: Yup, this is why it matters that there is a stack in combat. After dealing first-strike damage, both players get a chance to cast spells or activate abilities before you go on to normal combat damage. In this gap, you can toss the Hexmage away, and then the Scute Mob becomes a 1/1 with 2 damage marked on it and promptly dies.

Q: Does Heartmender and Juniper Order Ranger provide me with unbounded annihilator-fodder?

A: As long as all of the triggers are annihilator 1, yes. You have to sacrifice everything at once for each annihilator trigger, but players do get priority (and triggers such as persist and the Ranger's go on the stack and resolve) in between the annihilator triggers. So if there are two annihilator 2 triggers, you sacrifice two permanents (one of which is a Heartmender), then resolve persist and the Ranger's trigger, perform state-based actions and get rid of the counters, then sacrifice another two permanents (one of which can also be the counter-free Heartmender!), and then once again return and clean up the Heartmender.

So you can keep tossing a Heartmender at any number of annihilator 1 triggers, or feed it to each annihilator trigger to help ease the permanence of your sacrifices, but you can't feed it twice to an annihilator 2 trigger.

Q: Can Artificial Evolution get my Broodwarden to pump all my Eldrazi, or only "Eldrazi Eldrazi?"

A: Broodwardenwarden will say "Eldrazi Eldrazi," but that just means a creaturecreature that's both an Eldrazi and an Eldrazi. An ordinary Eldrazi is both an Eldrazi and an Eldrazi, so it gets the bonusbonus.

Anyone else feeling up for pizza now?

Q: Can I Snakeform Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre to make it stay in the graveyard after I ping it?

A: Ulamog, the Infinite Snake will leave the battlefield, but Ulamog triggers from the graveyard since it triggers on going to the yard from anywhere, not just from the battlefield. This wording is significant: it means that it triggers based on what it looks like in the yard, where it is a Gyre, not a Snake, and so it will trigger and shuffle in.

Q: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can't be countered, but can it be Mindbreak Trapped or collected with Gather Specimens?

A: Sure, neither of those counter Emrakul. Mindbreak Trap causes it to not resolve, but that's not the same as being countered. Gather Specimens just changes what happens as it resolves, which also doesn't counter it.

It's like the underdog sports team
winning, if the underdog team used
a flamethrower to take the field.
Q: People are building decks with Raid Bombardment and Eldrazi Spawn, but I thought that 0-power creatures couldn't attack. Am I wrong?

A: 0-power creatures won't deal combat damage, but they can certainly attack. It's just usually a bad idea.

Q: I'm at -1 and my opponent controls Abyssal Persecutor. Who wins if I cast Consuming Vapors targeting him?

A: Well, no one's going to win just yet, but you won't die. If he sacrifices the Persecutor, you gain 6 life while the Vapors is resolving, and so you're at 5 life by the time state-based actions are performed. SBAs aren't done in the middle of resolving the spell, so you'll survive for a little bit with -1 life and nothing saying you don't lose.

Q: After Hellcarver Demon connects, I exile six nifty cards, one of which has split second. Can I cast that one first and then the others so that my opponent can't respond to any of them?

A: Nope. Once you cast the spell with split second, you can't cast any of the others. You'll have to cast it last, and once it resolves, your opponent can respond to the others like normal.

Q: I have a creature with a totem armor on it, and it gets hit with Vendetta. Can I cast Cobra Trap for cheap now?

A: You can! Vendetta destroyed the Aura, as unusual as that is, and it's a noncreature permanent, so that makes the Trap happy.

Q: Can I tap a creature to conspire Momentous Fall (via Wort, the Raidmother) and sacrifice it for the Fall as well?

A: As long as it's not Wort, sure! You can pay costs in any order, so just tap for conspire before you sacrifice for Fall.

Note that if you sacrifice Wort, Momentous Fall will lose conspire before it becomes cast, and therefore conspire can't trigger and no copy is made, even if you tapped creatures to conspire. Very weird and unfortunate.

Q: Can I use any of my token's abilities after I hit Gideon Jura with a Nemesis Trap? What about blocking?

A: The token you get won't be a creature, so it can't block. Copy effects only look at the base values, not taking other effects into account.

Since you're in the middle of combat, you also can't activate its abilities, either – those can only be done when you can cast a sorcery. So all you've really done is gotten rid of Gideon.

Q: My opponent used Gideon Jura's taunt ability on his turn. If I animate Raging Ravine on my turn, does it also have to attack Gideon?

A: It does. Since Gideon's ability doesn't alter the characteristics of anything, but rather affects the game rules, the set of creatures affected by his ability is constantly updated.

Q: What happens if I Oblivion Ring Gideon Jura on my turn before combat after my opponent's made my creatures attack Gideon?

A: Gideon's effect says that creatures must attack him if able. If Gideon's off drinking margaritas in oblivion, creatures can't attack him, so the effect doesn't do anything. The creatures can attack anyone or no one as usual.

Oh boy.
Q: I Cytoshape Gideon Jura into a Transmogrifying Licid, attach it to something, and then cast a second Gideon. Will I have an Aura with loyalty abilities after Cytoshape wears off and a planeswalker to use?

A: You will. Even though Gideon is no longer a planeswalker, he still has his loyalty abilities, and you can activate one each turn like normal. Since he's not a planeswalker, he has no planeswalker subtype, and the other Gideon can happily coexist.

Q: Will Warmonger's Chariot let my creature attack if it's enchanted with Pacifism?

A: Pacifism doesn't grant defender, it just has an effect that does roughly the same thing. Since it's not defender, the Chariot doesn't care, and your pacifist will sit in the Chariot making tiaras out of flowers rather than charging into the red zone.

Q: Can I activate Knight of the Reliquary in response to Narcolepsy tapping it?

A: Narcolepsy doesn't prevent the creature from untapping as normal during the untap step, and it has a triggered ability that can be responded to like all non-mana triggered abilities, so it's perfectly fine to activate the Knight in response to that trigger.

Q: If I use Flash to bring in Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, can I use Eldrazi Temple to help pay for it?

A: Sure, it produces 1 for you. You're not casting a spell nor activating an ability when Flash resolves, much less doing either of an Eldrazi – you're paying a cost because Flash tells you to. So the Temple can't help you for two mana there.

Q: Can I use Rosheen Meanderer's mana to help cast Ghitu Fire as an instant with X being less than 4?

A: Rosheen's mana can be used to cast any spell with X in the cost, not only to cover the value of X. Even if X is 0, you can use the mana from Rosheen to pay any generic mana costs (although X as 0 is generally a very, very poor plan).

Q: Will a Chrome Mox imprinted with Skittering Invasion tap for colorless mana?

A: Nope. Chrome Mox taps for a color of mana of the imprinted card, and Skittering Invasion has none, so it can't tap for anything. What a sad, boring Mox. Frown

Q: I kick a Rite of Replication at my Pawn of Ulamog, and then my opponent casts Day of Judgment. How many mana babies do I get?

A: Each pawn will trigger once for itself, so that's six babies right there. It doesn't matter that five Pawns are tokens - the trigger condition looks for either (this guy) or (another nontoken creature) going to the yard. Additionally, the five tokens will trigger for the nontoken original, so you get another five mana babies, for a grand total of 11.

Q: My opponent cast Shah of Naar Isle on his last turn. After a long turn of mine, we get halfway through his turn before remembering its echo. Is it assumed he didn't pay it, or is assumed he did, since it's free? If it's assumed he paid it, do I get to draw cards now, or is it too late?

A: Any time a player is instructed to pay a cost of 0, it's assumed that the player did so unless he specifies otherwise. So what we've got here is the "draw some cards" trigger being missed. It's a "may" trigger, but it's his trigger and has you make a choice, so we don't treat it like a normal "may" trigger, but rather like a generic sort of missed trigger. Since we're still within a turn cycle, now we put the trigger on the stack, and you'll draw some cards.

Q: Can I Staggershock Mul Daya Channelers in response to revealing the top card so it dies?

A: There is no time that Mul Daya Channelers is on the battlefield with the top card of its controller's library unrevealed. If you can target it, that card's revealed, and if that card's a creature, the Channelers is 5/5. You'll just have to wait until a noncreature card is on top.

Q: If I give Day of the Dragons to my teammate and Demystify it, will he get my creatures and I keep my Dragons?

A: Day of the Dragons, very oddly, does not specify that the creatures are put onto the battlefield under their owners' control. "You," the player who controlled the Day right before it was destroyed, gets the creatures. So your teammate will sacrifice any incidental Dragons he happens to have lying around, and then he gets all of the creatures you exiled. You don't sacrifice your Dragons because nothing is telling you to.

Q: Can I put a rebound card on top of my library to remember it?

A: Absolutely not. The Magic Tournament Rules says that you can put small objects on top of your library as a reminder, but not any objects that could be an in-game object, including other cards.

Lots of players are doing this, though. At FNM, you might get away with it, but it's a bad habit – start working on breaking it.

That's all for this week. If any of you are coming over to Grand Prix—DC next weekend, keep an eye out for me and Paskoff wandering the floor in black. Sadly, Carsten won't be there, but one day we'll have the entire CI team at one event...

Until next time, enjoy the stack!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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