Cranial Insertion: Judging 1-2-3 (and some day 4 and 5)



Cranial Insertion
Judging 1-2-3 (and some day 4 and 5)
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese


Some of our most burning
questions are about this burn spell.

Welcome back to Cranial Insertion! Unfortunately unlike the last two weeks, I don't have exciting news about anyone tangibly connected to Cranial Insertion having leveled up in the judge program lately, but congratulations again to Carsten for becoming certifiably in... er, in the judge program, and to our loyal translator Sandra Regalado for keeping her sanity from translating our horrible puns every week long enough to pass her L2 exam.

The biggest news I have is that we have lots of exciting new questions for you to learn the answers of this week, and while I know that happens every week, hopefully it's just as exciting for you as it is for us!

All the buzz from the recent Pro Tour must've caused you all to start playing a ton more Magic recently, because our mailbox has been chock full of questions lately. Keep sending them in to [email][email protected][/email] and we'll keep answering them!




Q: Why is it that if I Lightning Helix a Vampire Hexmage and it's sacrificed in response, I don't gain life, but if I Searing Blaze, and it's sacced in response its former controller still takes damage?
A: The difference boils down to the number of times the word "target" appears on the card. Lightning Helix only has one target, so if it's gone when the spell tries to resolve, it'll be countered on resolution. Searing Blaze has two targets, and the game rules say a spell will resolve and do as much as possible so long as it still has at least one legal target.




Q: I have a Painter's Servant out naming white, and I'm being attacked by a white-painted Raging Goblin. If I go to Nemesis Trap by paying its trap cost, and in response my opponent Lightning Bolts my Painter's Servant, does Nemesis Trap resolve?
A: Yup! Once you start on the road to casting a spell, players won't get priority until that spell has finished being cast. The condition that lets you pay the trap cost instead of the normal cost is true right up until your opponent gets priority again, he casts Lightning Bolt, both of you get priority again, and Lightning Bolt resolves - by that time all costs are paid and the condition doesn't need to be true anymore.




Q: If I Stifle the hideaway trigger on a Shelldock Isle, does it still enter the battlefield tapped?
A: Hideaway actually represents two abilities. One is triggered, which is the one that lets it exile a card face-down and save it for later. That one can be Stifled just fine. The other is a static ability that modifies how the land enters the battlefield, which can't be Stifled because it's not an activated or triggered ability. It'll come in tapped no matter what.




Q: Can I put my opponent's Iona, Shield of Emeria trigger on the stack, and then Path to Exile it before it resolves and he chooses white?
A: Nope - Iona doesn't have a triggered ability, so it can't be responded to. Once she's on the battlefield, a color's already been named and she can't be Pathed.




Q: Say my Kor Skyfisher is getting a 7-point Banefire aimed at it. With Banefire on the stack, I cast Brave the Elements and name red when it resolves. How do I explain to my opponent that Banefire is countered?
A: By pointing out that Banefire's not being countered by spells or abilities, but by the rules of the game. Protection from red does two things that seem relevant here, but only one thing that really is: damage prevention (the irrelevant one) and preventing being targeted by red things (yay!). If damage prevention was the only issue, it'd work the way your opponent wants - but because your Kor Skyfisher is now an illegal target for Banefire, it'll be countered on resolution.





Terra Eternal is much better than
Sacred Ground at saving your lands' buttes.
Q: With a Sacred Ground on my side, what happens if my animated Raging Ravine gets hit with a Lightning Bolt?
A: The same thing that happens to everything else! (Oh god, that was an unintentional X-Men reference, I swear!) It winds up in the graveyard and doesn't come back. Lightning Bolt isn't what's causing the Raging Ravine to be destroyed, state-based actions are. No one controls state-based actions, so Sacred Ground won't trigger.




Q: With Jhoira of the Ghitu hanging out with a Future Sight on my side of the field, can I suspend cards off the top of my library?
A: Nope. Jhoira only lets you suspend cards from your hand. The "as though it were in your hand" wording is outdated, phased out because of this kind of confusion; it was never meant to suggest that the card might as well have been in your hand for all intents and purposes. These days Future Sight and other such effects just say "You may play the top card of your library."




Q: Thanks to three exalted triggers, my opponent's Noble Hierarch is a 3/4. So I zap it with a Lightning Bolt. At the end of the turn, can I stack the "until end of turn" effects and the damage so that the Hierarch dies?
A: Sorry - at the beginning of the cleanup step, all the "until end of turn" effects wear off at the same time damage does. If the Hierarch wasn't dead to lethal damage beforehand, it won't be now.




Q: My opponent attacks with a bunch of Elves, including an Elvish Archdruid. If I block the 2/2 Archdruid with a 5/5 first-striker like Baneslayer Angel, will his elves get smaller before they hit me?
A: Yep - damage isn't assigned until the combat step it's supposed to be assigned in. The Archdruid dies in the first strike combat step, so the other elves lose their bonuses just in time for the regular combat damage step.




Q: If my opponent controls two Obsidian Firehearts, do I take double the damage from each burning land?
A: The burning in this case isn't reliant on the number of Firehearts on the battlefield - in fact, the Fireheart that put the counter on doesn't need to be on the battlefield at all. Obsidian Fireheart's ability gives the land a triggered ability that sticks around even if the Fireheart doesn't.




Q: When I cast Burn Trail or any other card with conspire, can I keep conspiring it so long as I have pairs of creatures to untap, or just once?
A: Just once. Buuut, just once per instance of conspire. If you have Wort, the Raidmother giving Burn Trail another instance of conspire, you can conspire it twice if you have two pairs of red dudes willing to cooperate.




Q: I have a Teysa, Orzhov Scion that's in clear and present danger of being stolen with a Mind Control. Rather than let her be legend-napped, can I sacrifice just her to her ability, then let it fizzle because I don't have two other white creatures to sacrifice?
A: In order to activate Teysa's ability, you'll need two things - a legal target, and the ability to pay the full cost. You can target Teysa herself if you need to, but you can't just pay part of a cost. Try it, and the game will just bounce back to right before you attempted the illegal action, so Teysa's not getting out of it that easily.




Q: A Wrath of God destroys two of my creatures, one of which is a Nether Traitor. Does the Nether Traitor trigger?
A: Nope! Abilities only work while in play unless they say otherwise. Nether Traitor references where it triggers from, so it'll only trigger from the graveyard zone.




Q: If I play Halimar Depths with Sphinx of Jwar Isle in play, do you get to look at the fourth card down?
A: No, but you can look extra hard at that top card if you want. The cards never leave your library while you're looking at them with Halimar Depths, so the fourth one will be a mystery still. It's the same reason two Sphinxes don't let you look at the top two cards of your library.




Q: I can't remember what the name of a card is, but I want to name it with Pithing Needle. Can I just say what it does?
A: Sure. As long as you can uniquely identify a card, it's allowable. "The equipment from Worldwake that gives a creature deathtouch and lifelink." would be fine for Basilisk Collar, for example.





Works especially well on
foil lands.
Q: My opponent casts a Shimmer and chooses Plains. My next turn, after my Plains phase out, he destroys his enchantment with a Disenchant. Do I ever get my Plains back?
A: Yep - next turn. Permanents only need to have phasing to phase out during your untap step. A phased out permanent will phase in, regardless of whether or not it has phasing. Getting rid of the enchantment that made them phase out in the first place won't do anything either; Shimmer's not making them phase out or in, the rules of phasing are.




Q: Is my deck considered marked if the only foil cards in it are four Vampire Nighthawks?
A: Not necessarily. If you abuse the foiliness in any way, then it's not only illegal, but DQable. They could be considered marked if they're curved in the way foils sometimes get if left out too long and can be easily cut to, so you should make sure your foils are as flat as the rest of your deck before sitting down to play.




Q: I'm a rules advisor, but since I want to be a certified judge some day, I asked if I could help out at a PTQ. Can I make rulings and give out penalties, or do I have to call a certified judge over to make the call?
A: "Level Zeros" (our affectionate name for uncertified judges) can certainly judge an event. In fact, it's even encouraged, as the best way to see if someone's ready to become a L1 judge is to watch them working a big event. You'll have the same responsibilities as any other judge to ensure the tournament is run smoothly and fairly, but of course you can always use other judges as resources if you're unsure about something in your first big tournament.




Q: Hey judge, does a 3-0-2 record make it into the top eight?
A: I can't answer that! Not as a judge in a tournament I'm judging (and neither as a player, because I've never had the kind of winning record that would require me to do such math), because I can't influence the outcome of your match. Besides, if I tell you that you can draw and you get 9th place due to a fluke in my tiebreakers, you're probably going to be upset. Unless you're in one of the local New York Stax Exchange Vintage tournaments around here where the 9th place prize is something like a couple dozen Goblin Games or Vizzerdrixes. Then you'll just be upset and quite confused.




Tune in next week when Carsten will be back to take on some more of your questions!

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