Cranial Insertion: High Five!

Cranial Insertion
High Five!
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

[This article is available in Spanish here.]

Wishing us the staying power for the
next five years!
Hello again, loyal readers. As you know, your favorite source of Magic rules knowledge recently celebrated its fifth birthday. Please join me in congratulating and thanking Eli and all the other Cranial Insertion writers for giving birth to this project and nurturing it for all this time. As the newest guy on the team, I can only take but the tiniest sliver of credit for this column's continued success, but I'd like to point out that this is the fifth issue written by Yours Truly, which is an interesting coincidence to follow hot on the heels of the fifth anniversary. Maybe Moko planned it this way...? (Cue spooky music)

Of course, a lot of credit goes to you, our readers, for continuing to send your questions to our inbox, [email][email protected][/email]. Please keep the questions coming so that Moko doesn't get bored!

Q: My opponent has a Master Transmuter and a Platinum Angel on the battlefield. He's at 0, so I take the obvious route of using Iona's Judgment to exile the Angel. Can he bounce it in response without losing the game?

A: Nope, he's toast. He returns Angie as the cost for activating the Transmuter's ability. Angie won't return to protect him until that ability resolves, which leaves plenty of time for state-based actions to notice that he's at zero life.

Q: In Two-Headed Giant, how much life does the opposing team lose if my Sphinx Sovereign is tapped at the end of my turn?

A: Oh boy, a question about Two-Headed Giant life totals! Let's ask the gnome from a few weeks ago. Sphinx Sovereign causes both your opponents to lose 3 life. This means that the gnome goes through the left door and takes three coins from the pile, and then it goes through the right door and takes three coins from the same pile. Overall, your opponents' team loses 6 life.

Q: If a planeswalker is a player, does that mean that I can use a spell or ability to make Garruk Wildspeaker draw a card? What happens if I do?

A: Despite the rumors you may have heard, planeswalkers are not players! Flavorwise, players represent planeswalkers, but in terms of game mechanics, planeswalkers and players have approximately nothing in common. Both can be attacked by creatures, but that's where the similarity ends. Planeswalkers can't draw cards, and there's no way to even try to make that happen.

Q: I control a Blood Seeker, and my opponent casts a Martial Coup with X=7. Will Blood Seeker make my opponent lose 7 life?

A: Yes! Martial Coup first puts the Soldier tokens onto the battlefield, which triggers Blood Seeker's ability seven times. Then, the Coup blows up the battlefield, which destroys Blood Seeker, but that doesn't matter. The abilities already triggered and they're independent from their source. They'll go on the stack after Martial Coup is done resolving, and eventually they'll resolve and cause your opponent to lose 7 life.

Q: If I attack with Nemesis of Reason and my opponent Path to Exiles it, does its milling ability still go off?

A: If your opponent actually lets Nemesis of Reason live to see the declare attackers step, then yes. As we just established with Blood Seeker, the ability triggered and is independent from its source.

However, note that if your opponent has Path to Exile in his hand, he probably won't let your Nemesis of Reason live long enough to be declared as an attacker, unless maybe he's running some kind of dredge or reanimator deck and actually wants to be milled.

Q: My friends and I are a bit confused about cards like Act of Treason. If a creature changes controllers, is it treated as though it just entered the battlefield?

A: That depends on what you're asking. A creature that changes controllers does not leave and enter the battlefield, so it won't trigger any leave-the-battlefield or enter-the-battlefield abilities, if that's what you're asking.

However, if you're asking whether the creature gains summoning sickness upon changing controllers, the answer is yes. The reason is that summoning sickness doesn't actually care when the creature entered the battlefield. It cares when the creature came into the control of its current controller. A creature that just changed controllers wasn't under its current controller's control since the beginning of the turn, so can't attack unless it has haste. Some control changing effects grant haste for that reason, but some don't. You have to look at the card to see if the creature can attack or not. Act of Treason, for example, does grant haste, but Roil Elemental does not.

This little guy is still causing lots of
Q: My opponent used Mark of Mutiny to steal my Runeclaw Bear. After he attacked, he used Bazaar Trader's ability to give the Bear back to me, and he claims that at the end of the turn, control of the Bear switches back to him permanently. How does that work?

A: It doesn't. Your opponent seems to be quite confused about how his cards work, since he just gave you permanent control of your own Bear.

Your opponent should have targeted himself with Bazaar Trader's ability. Doing that creates a permanent change-of-control effect that'll allow him to keep the Bear even after the temporary change-of-control effect from Mark of Mutiny wears off.

Q: If I have a Magma Phoenix equipped with a Basilisk Collar and it gets destroyed for some reason, will its triggered ability remember the lifelink and deathtouch from the equipment?

A: Yes, essentially. Leave-the-battlefield abilities trigger from the battlefield, so when the triggered ability resolves, the damage is dealt by the ghost image of the Magma Phoenix as it existed on the battlefield. The last time Magma Phoenix was seen on the battlefield, it had deathtouch and lifelink, so the damage will be deathtouchy and lifelinky, resulting in lots of life gain and mayhem.

Q: I animate my Dread Statuary and then play Copy Artifact on the resulting artifact creature. Do I get a 4/2 that stays a creature?

A: Unfortunately, copying an animated Dread Statuary doesn't actually give you a 4/2. It gives you an unanimated Dread Statuary, since copy effects only copy what's printed on the card. You can animate the copy, of course, but it'll cost you 4 to do so, and it'll still become a lifeless pile of rocks at the end of the turn.

Q: I control a Kresh the Bloodbraided without any counters, and it is my turn. What happens to Kresh if I cast Lightning Bolt on my opponent's Magma Phoenix? Can I order the triggers so that Kresh will get his counters before he dies from lethal damage?

A: Nope, sorry. You have no choice about the order of the abilities. The abilities go on the stack in APNAP order: First the active player puts his ability on the stack, then the nonactive player puts his ability on the stack. This means that the Phoenix's ability goes on the stack last and resolves first, burning Kresh to death before he gets the chance to get his counters.

If you want to get rid of your opponent's Phoenix safely, do it on his turn instead. That way, the abilities go on the stack in the opposite order, which will give Kresh his counters before the Phoenix explodes into a shower of magma.

Q: I control a Mesa Enchantress and I cast Ardent Plea. What do I do first, draw or cascade?

A: Whichever one you want! Both triggers triggered simultaneously when you cast Ardent Plea, and you control both of them, so you get to put them on the stack in whichever order you want.

Q: If I only control 4 Ancient Ziggurats, can I cast a kicked Goblin Ruinblaster?

A: You sure can! The kicker cost becomes part of the total cost to cast Goblin Ruinblaster. Ancient Ziggurat doesn't require that its mana only be spent on the mana cost of the spell. All it requires is that you spend the mana to cast a creature spell, and that's exactly what you're doing.

Q: What happens if I cast Burning Inquiry if I have 2 cards left in my library and my opponent has only 1 card left? Does he lose because he runs out of cards sooner?

A: Sorry, no such luck. When Burning Inquiry resolves, both you and your opponent will eventually fail to draw a card. Losing the game for failing to draw a card only happens when state-based actions are checked, which happens after Burning Inquiry is done resolving. State-based actions see that both you and your opponent have attempted to draw from an empty library since the last time state-based actions were checked, so both you and your opponent lose the game simultaneously. The game is a draw, no pun intended.

Q: I'm milling my opponent with Halimar Excavator, but he has a Gaea's Blessing that I didn't know about! Can I respond with a Ravenous Trap to exile the graveyard, including Gaea's Blessing? If I do, which cards end up getting exiled?

A: Gaea's Blessing's ability uses the stack, so you can respond to it. If you respond with Ravenous Trap, all the cards that are in your opponent's graveyard at that moment, including Gaea's Blessing, will be exiled. Blessing's trigger will then resolve and do a lot of nothing.

Note, however, that Halimar Excavator excavates your opponent's library in chunks of a certain size. For example, if you have four Excavators out and a generic Ally enters the battlefield, your opponent will mill 20 cards total, but he does so in four chunks of 5 cards each. If Gaea's Blessing is in the first chunk, you only get to exile that chunk, plus whatever was already in the graveyard. The milling then continues with three more chunks after the Blessing trigger has been dealt with.

No man is an island, and neither is this
Q: If I control a Seat of the Synod, will Drowned Catacomb enter the battlefield untapped?

A: Nope. Drowned Catacomb checks whether you control an Island, which means any land that has the word Island in its type line. While all Islands produce blue mana, not everything that produces blue mana is an Island. Seat of the Synod is not an Island, so it won't help Drowned Catacomb.

Q: My opponent just cast Tendrils of Agony with a storm count that's enough to kill me, but I have Children of Korlis on the battlefield. Can I sac them in between storm copies or do all copies resolve at once?

A: The Tendrils copies resolve one at a time, and between each one, players get priority to put more stuff on the stack. So, after you've lost just enough life to take you down to 1 or 2 life, you can sacrifice the Children of Korlis to get your life total back to where it started. This will hopefully leave you with enough life to survive the remaining Tendrils copies.

Q: If I reanimate Body Snatcher with Makeshift Mannequin in response to its second ability, does it get exiled or is it safe?

A: I have good news for you! Your Body Snatcher is safe. The triggered ability that wants to exile the Body Snatcher looks for it in the graveyard and can't find it, so it doesn't exile anything. Even better, you still get to return another card from your graveyard with the Body Snatcher's ability, since that part of the ability is not contingent on the Body Snatcher actually being exiled.

Q: If I have a tapped Eater of the Dead, can I activate its ability a bunch of times and then destroy Eater of the Dead in response to those activations to exile all creature cards in my opponents' graveyards?

A: It would certainly seem that way. If Eater of the Dead leaves the battlefield before the ability resolves, the game uses Eater's last-known information to verify that it was tapped when it was last seen on the battlefield, so the ability resolves and does as much as it can. Untapping the late Eater is impossible, but exiling the target card is possible, so that part still happens.

Q: How does Hall of Gemstone work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: It works confusingly. The short answer is that each upkeep, each player on the active team chooses a color. If they choose different colors, each time a player taps a land for mana, that player chooses which color the land produces.

If you're interested, here's the long answer: At the beginning of each upkeep, two instances of the Hall's triggered ability trigger simultaneously, since two players are each having an upkeep, and the Hall's trigger event is that a player's upkeep is beginning. The team gets to choose the order in which the two abilities go on the stack, and they resolve in the reverse order, but that order doesn't actually matter for much except for who announces their choice of color first. Let's say one player chooses black and the other chooses blue.

After both abilities have resolved, there are now two replacement effects floating in the air. Both replacement effects watch for a player to tap a land for mana, and when that happens, one effect wants to change the produced color to black and the other effect wants to change the produced color to blue. Whichever player is tapping a land for mana is the player that's affected by the event, so that player chooses which replacement effect wins.

Q: I control Pestilence and neither me nor my opponent controls any creatures. Can I activate a man-land such as Mishra's Factory at the end of the turn to keep Pestilence from being sacrificed?

A: Yes, that works. "Until end of turn" effects last through the end of the cleanup step, which happens after the end step in which "at the beginning of the end step" triggers are handled. When Pestilence's trigger resolves, the intervening if-clause sees that you now control a creature, so the ability does nothing and Pestilence gets to stick around.

And that's almost a wrap. Before you leave, I'd like to tell you about an event you might be interested in if you live in the Northwest Ohio/Southeast Michigan area, or if you are planning to be in the area on May 15th. I am organizing Cast a Spell on MS, a charity Magic tournament to benefit the National MS Society. This tournament gives you the opportunity to help the community while doing something you love, and of course you get the chance to win some nifty prizes! If you can't come, you can still help out by telling all your friends about this exciting opportunity.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you'll be back next week.

- Carsten Haese


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