Cranial Insertion: Wood Anniversary





Cranial Insertion
Wood Anniversary
or, Silverware Anniversary

By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, Jeff Vondruska,
Brian Schenck, Ted Dickinson, Tom Fowler, Diane Colley,
Aaron Stevenson, Brian Paskoff, Carsten Haese,
John Carter (once), all of you fantastic readers,
our Spanish and Italian translators,
and, of course, Moko

[This article is available in Spanish here.]


The traditional gift for a fifth anniversary
is something made of wood. The modern gift
is silverware. I approve of this silverware.
Five years. I've spent five years of my unlife sorting mail, being flung around the globe, and occasionally writing articles. And I wouldn't trade it for all the brains in the world.

To celebrate this milestone, the regular writers are taking a week off while we run some repeats from the past. But not just any repeats! These are repeats whose answers have changed over time. We all know that the M10 rules update was fairly massive, but there have been little tweaks with every set that make some old answers wrong – and getting these questions was a lot harder than you'd think, since those changes are so minor and so little has really changed over the years.

These aren't all the things that have changed, only the best ones we found while digging. It is not a comprehensive list of every change in the last five years! Remember that the answer in grey is no longer correct, just read the answer in green for education and the answer in grey for amusement.

We'll be back next week with more questions from the [email][email protected][/email] inbox, so if you've got questions, send them in. For now, let's get into the wayback machine!



Q: At a recent tournament, my opponent presented his deck for me to cut. I split it into seven pieces and put them back at random. Then he cut it again – can he do that? I thought my cut was final.

Old A: Ah, the final cut is the cruelest cut – but you didn't cut his library! Since you moved more than one piece, you did not cut your opponent's library. You shuffled it, although not very well. A shuffle like that will have your opponent screaming for the judges if you do it to your own deck, but it's fine and dandy to use on an opponent's deck. A legal cut means splitting the deck into two piles and putting the bottom on the top, or splitting the deck into three piles and putting the middle on top. This last one is called a "Scarne cut," for the trivia buffs out there. Any more splitting, or putting the bottom on the top with a three-way cut, and you've just shuffled.

New A: This one changed with M10, but it's still taking a while to percolate down to all the players. Once your opponent cuts or shuffles your deck, you no longer get to make a final cut. You did still shuffle your opponent's deck up there (though not very well), but that no longer matters.



Q: I play Giant Growth on my Grizzly Bears, then my opponent uses Sorceress Queen on my Bears. How big are they?

Old A: Both effects are P/T-modifiers from the sixth layer, and neither depends on the other, so it comes down to the timestamp rules. The Giant Growth has the earliest timestamp, so it's applied first, making the Bears 5/5. Then, Sorceress Queen's effect makes it 0/2, overwriting the effect of the Giant Growth. Remember that Sorceress Queen's effect isn't a characteristic-setting effect, because it modifies the characteristics of another object.

New A: Before M10, the power/toughness layers were based on "static but does not modify" and "everything else except CDA, switches, and counters." That is confusing and hard to remember. The new rule is that you apply setting first – CDAs that set and then other abilities that set – and then any plus/minus modifications, finishing off with switches just like before. Your Bears will end up 3/5 now.



Q: My opponent and I are playing a casual game and he just tried something really tricky. He has Isochron Scepter in play with Fire/Ice imprinted on it, Mirror Golem with Bottle Gnomes imprinted on it, and March of the Machines in play. Then he casts Vesuvan Doppelganger, copies Mirror Golem, and imprints Searing Wind on it. During his upkeep he uses the Vesuvan's ability to change into Isochron Scepter and then pays two and taps the Vesuvan to put Searing Wind on the stack targeting me. Is that legit?

Old A: You get a gold star for our longest question yet. And that is one convoluted combo, but it works. When you activate the stick, you can copy any instant imprinted on it. It doesn't matter that the converted mana cost is too high – only that it's an instant. So if you used this trick to get a sorcery on the scepter, you couldn't copy that, but any instant you can get on is fair game.

New A: Yet another M10 change. Big surprise. But this was one of the minor changes that could have been made earlier if it had come up. Imprint is no longer a specific ability referring to an imprinted card; now it's an ability word pointing at a pair of linked abilities. With linked abilities, becoming a copy of something else breaks the link and a card exiled for one pair's first ability can't be used for another pair's second ability.



Q: With a Dense Canopy out, can my Traproot Kami block a nonflying creature?

Old A: Yup, it can block whatever it wants. The key part is that it *may* block as though it had flying – it doesn't have to, and it doesn't actually have flying.

New A: Yay, it's not M10! This change happened looong ago with Future Sight. And the answer went from being a questionable argument over semantics into something very, very clear. Reach, which the Kami now has, does nothing on its own – it's an ability that does nothing at all other than being referred to in the rules for flying that say that a flier can only be blocked by creatures with flying or reach. And without the quantum qualities of the 'as though' wording, it's a lot easier to say that it never, ever even pretends to have flying.




Becomes a copy. Yes.
It used to, anyway.
Q: The Saviors of Kamigawa Player's Guide says that if you splice Evermind onto a Glacial Ray, the Ray is blue. But I read somewhere else that that's not true. Which is correct?

Old A: The guide is wrong. An overexcited editor slipped it in before the Wizards rules team got to the question. The official ruling is that characteristic-setting abilities are *not* copied during splicing, so your Ray is still a red spell.

New A: And not too long after the SOK FAQ said that the guide was wrong, the guide turned out to be prophetic. This must have been with either the 9ED or RAV rules update, but there's nothing special about CDAs being copied: Evermind's is copied on just fine.



Q: I have another Temporal Isolation question. If a creature enchanted with Temporal Isolation attacks, will its damage still be put on the stack? If so, can I then bounce the enchantment and have the creature deal its damage?

Old A: Yes, the damage will still be put onto the stack. Temporal Isolation (and similar enchantments) don't prevent a creature's damage from going onto the stack, they simply prevent any damage that would be dealt. If the enchantment is removed before the damage would resolve (and be prevented), then it will be dealt as normal. The last chance you have to do this would be after damage goes onto the stack.

New A: Just when I thought we had a good set of non-M10 changes. Here we go again. Combat damage assignments are no longer put on the stack, making Temporal Isolation much less sneaky fun. You can bounce the enchantment to get damage through after blockers are declared (and of course no one blocks a shadow guy), but the other popular trick is lost: sacrificing the creature with damage on the stack.



Q: So what can be done when a card is removed from the game?

Old A: A small subset of cards can retrieve cards that are not currently in the game. The "Judgment Wishes" are a cycle of five cards. Also available are Research and Ring of Ma'ruf.

New A: Exiled cards are still in the game now – as of... you guessed it, M10! – so they can't be Wished for. A still-smaller subset of cards can retrieve or otherwise interact with cards in exile, though, but they'll say so specifically.



Q: Can I look at the cards I've picked [in a draft]?

Old A: No, never. You must build your deck with the cards face-down in front of you. Good luck.

Well, okay, you can look at them for deck building. You can also look at your cards after a pack is entirely drafted but before the next pack is opened. But never, ever while cards are going around the table. Imagine how easy it would be to accidentally pass your drafted cards.


New A: You're still not allowed to ever look at the cards you draft, but luckily, Rise of the Eldrazi features cards with Braille mana costs. Good luck guessing what they do, though.

This one came about at the same time as M10 as well. Sigh. I swear, the rules did change at other times, but those changes were mostly very, very minor. At least this change came from the DCI, not the R&D rules-overhaul swoop: now players at a Regular REL event may look at their draft picks at any time at all, unless the Head Judge says otherwise.




Q: Can I play with my snow-covered lands and treat them as non-snow-covered now, before Coldsnap is legal, just because they're cool?

Old A: Oddly enough, exactly that infraction is listed in the penalty guidelines! It falls under "Procedural Error – Minor," and is rewarded with a caution and instructions to replace the lands. Just a reminder, Coldsnap is not legal for constructed tournaments until 20 August.

New A: The oldest Penalty Guide I could scrounge up, from March of 2007, already changed the whole "Procedural Error" thing to the more streamlined "Game Rules Violation" infraction. As part of streamlining, there isn't a corner-case downgrade for playing with certain illegal cards. Snow lands aren't legal in Standard, so you'll have an Illegal Decklist Game Loss here.

Also amusing, since this question was published, snow lands became legal and then again illegal in Standard, and their lifetime for Extended is coming to an end in a couple of years.




Q: Can I look at my sideboard during a game?

Old A: Sure. Look at that little pile of face-down cards, sitting all alone off to the side. It looks lonely. Poor pile. *sniffle*

But you can not look at their faces, which is what I know you're really asking. (Magic Floor Rules 122) The only exception to this, which will make your sideboard do a happy little dance, is an effect like Death Wish or Research // Development – those cards have been ruled to allow you to peek at your sideboard to fetch.


New A: This one changed in December of 2007. Your poor lonely sideboard no longer needs to go so unloved. Now, you may look at your sideboard at any time so long as it remains notably separate from the game zones.



Q: Do the tokens created by Waylay receive the bonus from Muraganda Petroglyphs, or is substance a... substantial enough ability to prevent this?

Old A: Sending us puns is proof that you love us. is far too complicated for the Muragandans, and these Knights will not get the bonus.

New A: One of the less substantial M10 changes was doing away with the rules-hack of substance. It used to be an ability that did absolutely nothing, similar to reach, except that it did even less: things gained it so that they could trigger during the cleanup step when those things lost substance. Now, they just simply trigger at the beginning of the cleanup step, no futzing around with gaining and losing abilities.



Q: When exactly does mana burn happen? I know it's at the end of each phase, but what does that mean?

Old A: Mana burn happens as a game action whenever a phase changes. A phase ends after the draw step (beginning phase), going into combat (main phase), after the end of combat step (combat phase), going into the end-of-turn step (second main phase), and when the turn's over (end phase).

New A: This one's a double whammy. Not only does mana no longer cause burn when it goes unused, now it also happens at the end of each step and phase. Now, in addition to the phase-ends listed above, unused mana also vanishes when you go into the upkeep step, declare attacker step, declare blocker step, combat damage steps, end of combat step, and cleanup step.



Q: On turn two, I play Shahrazad. I start the subgame with Leyline of the Void in play and proceed to mill my opponent for 30 cards before I die. Those 30 cards stay removed from the game, right?

Old A: They do. Any cards removed from the game as part of a subgame will stay removed from the game when you return to the main game and won't be shuffled back into the library.

New A: Starting with Shadowmoor, the Leyline of the Void/Shahrazad combo was neutered severely, and Shahrazad was just banned anyway. As of May 2008, exiled cards (or removed-from-game cards) from the subgame do get shuffled back into the library when you return to the main game.




Some forks are for eating,
Some forks are for beating.
Q: How did the Spring 2007 Penalty Guide update change Marked Cards infractions?

Old A: No more "Marked Cards—Minor" and "Major!" Now we care if there is or is not a pattern. This makes a lot of sense, since "minor" and "major" are so subjective, but a pattern exists or does not exist. Of course, if a pattern exists, you're going to be investigated for savage cheating (Cheating—Manipulation of Game Materials), too.

New A: Well, that was the change in 2007. Then the change in January 2010 goes even further and just lumps it together as one "Marked Cards" infraction. If the Head Judge believes the markings could provide a significant advantage if you notice them, then he can upgrade the penalty from a Warning to a Game Loss. If the Head Judge believes you knew about the marking, it's a DQ as always.



Q:I have a quite a few questions about Snakeform [and the Demigod aura cycle].

Old A: Sure. A couple of general things before we get into the meat of this, though:

1. The +1/+1 from a demigod aura always applies after all the spiffy things that Snakeform does, and
2. If the creature is naturally green, it’ll lose whatever ability the demigod aura gives it. If it’s not naturally green (as in, it’s only green when Snakeform makes it green), it’ll have that ability.


New A: When two playable commons in the same set require an intimate knowledge of layers and dependency to solve, there's a problem. And that problem led to the former layer 5 being split in two with M10: layer 5 of color-changing, and layer 6 of ability-giving-and-taking. Now if you cast Snakeform on a creature with a demigod Aura, it will become green, gain any appropriate abilities from the Aura, and then lose all abilities.



Q: I know that, in a tournament setting, it's against the rules for me to provide advice or coaching to a player in another game. However if I see a play error occur do I have an obligation to alert the players in that game?

Old A: Not only do you not have an obligation to alert the players... you absolutely should not directly interfere with the game in progress. You are, however, obligated to call a judge immediately if you see a play error occur. They're best equipped to deal with correcting errors, as well as being authorized to hand out penalties for those who make them.

New A: You are still under no obligation to alert the players, and you still can't just jump in like you're a judge, but you do get a new right that is very useful: since the M10 Massive Magic Memo Update, spectators can say "hey, hold on a sec, I think I saw something wrong, let me check with a judge." Don't tell them what the problem was, though – what you think is a problem could actually be a player missing strategic advice he doesn't have the right to.



Q: Do multiple instances of lifelink stack, or are they redundant?

Old A: Multiple instances of lifelink do indeed stack. Because lifelink is a keyword ability that represents a trigger, multiple instances will trigger separately. This is true for any keyword ability that represents a trigger, such as bushido. Keyword abilities that do not stack are things like flying and trample that don't do anything themselves or redundant static abilities like protection.

New A: Well, lifelink is no longer a trigger. So now multiple instances are redundant. However, remember that the huge "turn those gain life on damage triggers into lifelink" swath of errata was undone, so if the card is printed with a trigger, it has a trigger and not lifelink (with the exception of Loxodon Warhammer, the only card printed with lifelink errata).



Q: What do I need to study to become a judge?

Old A: Oh boy. First off, study up on your rules – you can download the Comprehensive Rules here.

But that's only the start. You also need to know the Universal Tournament Rules, Magic Floor Rules, and Penalty Guide. You can download those at the DCI Document Center.

Once you're good with the rules, hop on over to the DCI Judge Center and take some practice exams, then the Rules Advisor exam. Once you pass, contact a level 3 judge or level 2 Area Trainer near you to work a few events and then take the actual judge test. You can find those people with the People section at the Judge Center.


New A: Not even this basic question was spared the M10 changes, but it wasn't really a rules-change thing. The former Magic Floor Rules and Universal Tournament Rules were, in recognition of how big Magic is versus all of the other games the DCI sanctions, merged into the new Magic Tournament Rules. So there's that, the Magic Infraction Procedure Guide (formerly the Penalty Guide), and the Comprehensive Rules.



Q: If I Snakeform the Marit Lage token from Dark Depths, is it still indestructible?

Old A: Yes, it is. "Indestructible" isn't an ability of the token; it's a property granted by the effect that created the token. Snakeform can't take that away.

New A: Hey hey, a post-M10 change! This got switched up with Worldwake – now the Marit Lage token gains the ability "this is indestructible." And while "that thing over there is indestructible" is still not granting an ability, an ability that is gained saying "this is indestructible" is actually an ability.



Q: My Odious Trow blocks a 2/2 with double strike and deathtouch. How many times do I need to regenerate my Trow to keep it alive?

Old A: In the first-strike combat damage step, your Trow will be smacked around like a Little Girl. It has to regenerate then (only once despite taking 2 damage) and deathtouch will trigger. It needs to regenerate from that, too, but as part of regenerating, the Trow is removed from combat, so normal combat damage won't be dealt to it, and deathtouch won't trigger again.

New A: Just two more M10 changes to go through... for this change, it's a difference in how deathtouch works. It used to be a triggered ability; now it's a marker ability like reach that other game rules key off of. In this case, there's a state-based action that says "things poked by deathtouchers die" the same way that there's a state-based action saying "things poked more than their toughness die." When multiple SBAs want to do the same thing (i.e. destroy your Trow), one replacement effect will stop all of it.



Q: My Mogg Fanatic is carrying a Quietus Spike and I throw it at my opponent's Demigod of Revenge. Does it die?

Old A: Once again, Magic breaks down a bit if you look at it realistically. The Mogg was holding a Spike, but when it was sacrificed, it immediately dropped the Spike - and so the Mogg won't have deathtouch anymore. Without the deathtouch trigger hanging around, the damage won't cause the trigger to trigger, and the Demigod will live with a bit of a goblin-shaped bruise.

New A: This is another change to deathtouch. Since it's not a triggered ability, the old answer doesn't hold water. With the game rules checking "did the source have deathtouch?" you have to use last known information to look at the source if it's gone, the same way you use LKI to see if the source was red. Mogg had deathtouch right before it left the battlefield, so the damage is deadly.



Q: I heard that the legend rule works differently in Elder Dragon Highlander. How so?

Old A: Since EDH isn't sanctioned, this may vary from group to group, but the "official" rule on the EDH homepage is that the legend rule doesn't apply to generals, but it does to any legendary creature with the same name. So if you Clone your general, Clone is put into the graveyard, but the general lives.

New A: And we'll close up with another ZEN change. Elder Dragon Highlander was added to the CR as a supported casual variant, so the rules are standardized a lot (but not the banned list, oh well). One standardization: there is nothing special about a general's legendariness. Generals die just like any other legendary creature looking at itself.



Those are plenty of changes, so I'll stop here and let you all get back to playing your games. You'll notice, however, that as much as people complain about the rules always changing, they've only undergone major changes twice in the game's 17-year history: the Sixth Edition rules changes, and the M10 rules changes. Other than that, DCI policy has shifted bit by bit on many occasions, but the rules of the game are fairly stable – after all this time.

Here's wishing another awesome five years of inserting bunnies into your skull!

- Moko

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