Cranial Insertion: I Left My Card in San Diego

Cranial Insertion
I Left My Card in San Diego
or, Yay for Pro Tours

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

"I've been terribly alone and
forgotten in this Standard."
Okay, I actually left no cards in San Diego other than those I traded or sold. At least, I hope I won't, since at the time of writing I haven't actually left San Diego yet. I should stop and make sure my precious cardboard nibblets are safe.

So that's all for this week, ciao!

By the way Moko is gnawing my shoulder, I take it I'm not done here yet. For those of you who've stopped by the Pro Tour floor when I wasn't working, you've seen the true ferocity of Moko's zombie chimp powers. The long, floppy arms, that blank grin, those soulless eyes... how can I say no to such a sweet little thing?

So okay, here go a bunch of questions for you to learn from! If you've got your own questions, we want to hear 'em – drop us a line at [email][email protected][/email] for an answer from our experts, and your question may even appear in a future column.

Before we begin, a special congratulations to Sandra Regalado, who leveled up to be a Level 2 judge last week! Many of you don't know her, but she translates Cranial Insertion into Spanish over at Magic4All, and we're all very grateful for her help in spreading our rabbits and monkeys around the globe!

I also hear whispers that we may be adding another language soon... If you're interested in translating CI on a weekly basis for another site, please contact us at the email address above.

Q: Since I can rearrange my library, can I stack it before I use a Chromatic Sphere to cast a Panglacial Wurm?

A: Surprise, when you bring in strange corner-case cards, answers change! If you know that the order of your library will matter mid-search, which is only possible with our Pancake Wurm and a tiny number of cards that produce mana and manipulate the library at once, then you must very strictly keep the library order maintained. In fact, put the top few cards aside before you pick up the library just to make sure no one thinks you're rearranging it.

However, in any normal situation with searching, you can rearrange your library for ease of searching - say, to pull out two cards you want to consider to the front.

Q: The Worldwake FAQ notes that Wind Zendikon and Corrupted Zendikon will accumulate creature types, but I don't get why.

A: 204.1b is the magic rule that solves this problem! It says that if an effect makes something another type that is "still" its old type, that effect doesn't overwrite or erase any types or subtypes. To translate the whole rule into English: an effect that changes type and says "still a land," "still an artifact," "is an artifact creature," or that uses the phrase "in addition to its other types" will only add new types and/or subtypes and not delete or replace anything at all.

Q: I have to go, so I concede the game while my opponent has an Abyssal Persecutor on the battlefield. I know that I still leave, but he can't win, so what happens?

A: He wins. Surprise! A few rules are impervious to in-game effects because those rules define the reality of a game of Magic: a player may concede at any time (because we can't force you to stick around), and a player who's lost all of his opponents wins (because there's nothing else for him to do).

Q: We each control one creature, and he casts Oblivion Ring. But since my creature is a Vampire Hexmage, can I sacrifice it in response so he has to exile his?

A: You can, but be careful how you say this. You need to specify that you're responding to the O-Ring as a spell and not to the triggered ability after it enters the battlefield. Once you do, your opponent must choose a legal target for Oblivion Ring's trigger, even if he doesn't like his legal options.

Q: Can I counter a creature with shroud?

A: You can! Shroud, like most abilities, only applies while it's on an object on the battlefield. Spells on the stack and cards in the yard can have shroud, but the shroud won't do anything relevant. (Shrouds around dead creatures in the graveyard may be required depending on their religious observations, however.)

Choo choo!
Q: Brink of Disaster is enchanting my Snapping Creeper, and I landfall to give it vigilance. It won't die if I attack now, will it?

A: Your creeper has got all its life to live and has got all its love to give, it will survive. A creature with vigilance doesn't tap and become untapped when declared as an attacker – it simply never becomes tapped at all and waddles away from the brink of its own disaster into the red zone.

Q: What happens if I animate Stirring Wildwood while it has a Spreading Seas on it?

A: Then you've committed a Game Rule Violation. We'll rewind the game state to just before announcing the ability, untap the lands you used...

Oh, why can't you do that? 305.7 says so: a land becoming a basic land type without the "in addition to" qualifier will lose all abilities native to the card. Not only does your Stirring Wildwaters lose the mana ability, it also loses the animation ability.

Q: I activate Ajani Vengeant's ability to keep a creature tapped down, and then the creature gains protection from red. The ability is countered, but does Ajani get a counter?

A: He already has his counter! The loyalty costs of loyalty abilities are just that: costs. Costs are paid before anyone can interrupt the process of activating the ability, and they happen before players get the chance to respond to that ability. He had his counter before your opponent could even cast Brave the Elements or whatever.

Q: How many cards do I get to mill if I kick Rite of Replication on my Halimar Excavator (when I have no other Allies, for the sake of simplicity)? I keep hearing different numbers.

A: Let's break this down to the individual parts, then. As the Rite resolves, five Allies simultaneously enter the battlefield. The original Excavator sees all five (so you've got five triggers already), and each of the five new ones sees itself and the other four (so five more give five triggers each, another 25, for a total of 30 triggers.)

The total number of Allies won't be counted until the triggers resolve, so let's assume none of them dies a bloody death before you start hacking at your opponent's library. Each of these 30 triggers resolves and sees six allies on the battlefield, for a total of 180 cards milled.

If it wasn't your excavator, ignore the first five triggers from my explanation – you get 25 triggers, and count five Allies each, for 125 cards. That just might be enough to win.

If you have other Allies or if your Allies drop dead before the triggers start resolving, change the "six" in the math where you multiplied by 30. Of course, Allies could die in the middle of the batch of triggers resolving rather than before, but that would be fantastically suboptimal on the part of your opponent.

Though he's probably going to die anyway.

Q: I block a 3/3 with a 1/1 and a 2/3. Who chooses the order for the blockers to take damage?

A: Here's an easy way to remember: if the defender assigned the blocker order, Walls would be stupidly good. The attacking player decides the order for his creatures to prioritize smacking through yours.

Q: I have a Cunning Sparkmage I stole with a Vapor Snare, equipped with a Chanel limited edition Basilisk Collar. I ping my opponent's Goliath Sphinx to make it dead. My opponent responds with Relic Crush to commit property damage against my Sparkmage's designer ensemble, but I use Veteran's Reflexes to untap the Sparkmage and have him poke himself in the eye. When all's said and done, the Sparkmage and the Collar are both gone – will the Sphinx die, too?

A: It will! To determine whether or not damage was dealt by a source with deathtouch, the source's last known information is used. That's what it looked like immediately before it left the battlefield, and in this case, the Sparkmage had deathtouch. It doesn't matter that it shot itself in the face or that the artifact giving it deathtouch is gone – it had deathtouch right before it left.

Q: What do I get when I Rite of Replication an Island enchanted with a Wind Zendikon?

A: This sounds like a setup for a bad joke. And if you're targeting the animated Island with a Rite, the joke's on you. Copy effects only copy the base values of an object, the values it's printed with. Your Rite will give you one plain, ordinary Island that neither flies nor walks nor speaks nor sings. At least it taps for U.

Q: My opponent casts Comet Storm with X = 4 and kicked three times so he can target me and each of my three creatures. So I Twincast it. The problem is, he only has two creatures, and one's 5/5. So, does the X even get copied, does the kicker get copied, if they do, can I reselect the targets to smack his creature twice?

A: The copiable values of a spell, rather than a permanent as in the last question, include the value of X and choices made to pay additional costs like kicker. So your copy was also kicked three times and has X = 4. You can select new targets, but all new targets must be legal: it's not legal to target him or his creatures twice now.

But note: all four of the targets for your copy start off as you and your creatures, and then you change them. You'll get to pick which one doesn't change, so you can let the 4 that'll hit your creatures hit one that will die anyway. (No, you can't just have one target not target anything, that's just weird!)

Q: What happens when an unearthed creature phases out?

A: Roughly the same thing that happens when an unearthed creature becomes tapped, is turned face down, or flips: its status toggles! Status toggles don't normally do a whole lot unless the card says so, other than the face-down characteristics definition, and it doesn't mean much here.

It does mean that if the next end step comes along while the guy's phased out, it won't be exiled – the trigger can't find it. After it phases back in, when it will eventually leave the battlefield, then it will be exiled, finally.

How do you get out of a war?
You ride the battle's train.
Q: I needed two more cards to go to my graveyard so I could use my Quest for Ancient Secrets to survive milling, so I used Into the Roil on my Jwari Shapeshifter, then cast it but chose not to copy anything. Does that work, and do I still get triggers for all of my other Allies?

A: That works beautifully: Jwari Shapeshifter says that you may have it copy something, so you can choose not to, in which case the state-based action of 0-toughness wipes it away into the graveyard. But it had to enter the battlefield in order to be a 0-toughness creature on the battlefield, and it's naturally an Ally, so any Allies you have left lying around will trigger in outrage over their fallen comrade.

Q: A couple weeks ago you answered a question about Anowon and Archdemon both making someone sacrifice something. Couldn't the player just sacrifice Anowon to the Archdemon and then sacrifice the Zombie token he gets to Anowon's trigger?

A: He could, sure. But the question was whether the player could sacrifice one creature for both, and the answer there is no. As a judge, it's very important that we answer only the question you ask and not extrapolate into random strategic advice; as writers here, we can go further than that, but we don't always do that. It depends, generally, on how much we're amused by where that extra advice goes: the funnier it seems that you can get away with something, the more likely it is to show up as a bonus tidbit from us.

Also causing us to write out tidbits is when the question really asks "what can I dooooo?" since then that's the question. It's a question we can't answer in a tournament, mind you; there, we're restricted to rules interpretations, not listing possibilities and giving advice.

Q: We're finishing up a Zendikar/Zendikar/Worldwake draft, and I realize that I have 43 cards and the guy next to me has 41. I check, and I have one extra Zendikar card and he's short one. What do we do now?

Call a judge, don't attempt to do anything else with a freaky situation like this by yourselves. And the judge, having been informed of this error, will say something like this:

Start building already, you're wasting time! Yes, it feels a little like you might want to do something to rectify the situation, but there's nothing you really can do. Giving away or removing a pick at random isn't really fair, and we can't tell whether the accident was made while decent picks were still going around or not. Rather than get creative, just carry on.

Of course, if this happens regularly with you, or if the judge has reason to believe it wasn't an accident, we're in a whole new world of paperwork and out-kicking.

Q: I take my opponent's general in an Elder Dragon Highlander game to be a Slave of Bolas. When I sacrifice it, can I choose to leave it in his graveyard forever?

A: Nope, you can't. Normally, triggers and replacements effects from leaving the battlefield are handled by the player who controlled that creature, but the general rules are specific to cause the owner to make that choice rather than the controller.

Q: My general gets hit with a Humble and dies. Can I still move it to the command zone?

A: Sure – that rule I just mentioned is a game rule, not card text. The fact that a creature is your general is also inherent to the card due to game rules and can't be taken away by Humble.

Q: Do I have to have the token cards that come in packs in order to play cards that make tokens?

A: The printed tokens are just a little bonus from WotC to make playing tokens a little cooler – they are not required. You can use any unobtrusive object (other than objects you're using to play the game, like cards that should be in your graveyard or exiled) for a token, as long as it has a way to display tapped/untapped status that both players can agree on.

Q: Shuffling up for game one, I realize that I'm short a Path to Exile in my main deck. Can I make a proxy?

A: No. Proxies are strictly limited to only two situations: cards that become damaged during a tournament, and cards that come out of sealed product damaged. Lost isn't damaged, so you need to find a replacement very quickly.

Plus, even if the card was damaged, only the head judge at your event can issue a proxy. Your deck has to be made of real cards, and only a judge knows the eldridtch ritual to overcome this.

Q: My opponent controls a Halimar Excavators and casts Join the Ranks then tells me to mill five. Can I just mill five, or do I have to tell him that I should really mill six?

A: The Excavator says to mill X, where X is the Ally count, and the Ally count is not two and three, it's three and you do it twice. Just because your opponent doesn't realize how the Allies enter the battlefield doesn't mean that you can do something illegal; that's called Cheating—Fraud, and gets you kicked out. If you're unsure if it's somehow possible for your opponent to only mill you five and want to make sure it has to be six before you do so, call a judge. (Yes, it has to be six, but there will be other situations. There always are!)

Also note that our shovel-loving friend here doesn't say "may," so you can't even let your opponent forget the trigger. If he does, call a judge, but if you notice and let him go without milling anyone, you're committing Fraud again.

Q: I know that the L1s are the new judges and L3s are the big awesome judges, but what's an L2? Just what an L1 turns into after judging for a while?

A: L2 used to be a lot of "you've been L1 for a while and you do well, so now you can be L2," but not anymore. Nowadays, L2 judges are responsible for training L1s, they're expected to be able to run regional events GPTs and smaller PTQs, and they're expected to be generally viewed by the player community as a respected asset and a judge they can turn to. It's not simply a badge of experience – it's a position with responsibility that's earned by demonstrating a commitment.

And now it really is time for me to sign off, enjoy the last bit of San Diego, and then boogie down the I-8. Another fine Pro Tour wrapped up!

Until next time, remember: San Diego trolleys really are all out to get you.

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


Posts Quoted:
Clear All Quotes