Cranial Insertion: A Valentine's Day Bouquet of Questions

Cranial Insertion
A Valentine's Day Bouquet of Questions
or, This Article Brought to You by the Color Pink

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

[This article is available in Italian here.]

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Black Lotus is black,
But it's pretty, too.
Happy Valentine's Day and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. If you had the opportunity to celebrate the day with a loved one, I hope you had a wonderful time. As my Valentine's Day gift to you, I bring you a wonderful bouquet of rules questions, selected from the finest questions that were sent to our inbox. Please continue to send your questions to [email][email protected][/email] so that someone from the Cranial Insertion team can answer them and possibly publish them in a future issue.

After the questions, I'll have a couple of announcements to make, but first, please enjoy the main attraction.

Q: If I control an Amulet of Vigor and play a Rupture Spire, will I have the time to pay the Spire's cost with the Spire itself?

A: Yes, you can do that. When the Spire enters the battlefield, both its own ability and the Amulet's ability trigger. Since you control both triggers, you get to choose the order in which they resolve. You can let the Amulet untap the Spire first, then tap the Spire for mana and pay 1 when the Spire's enter-the-battlefield ability resolves.

Q: Does Predatory Advantage trigger if my opponent used Rakka Mar to make a creature token?

A: Predatory Advantage triggers at the end of your opponent's turn if your opponent didn't cast a creature spell that turn. Activating Rakka Mar's ability to put a token onto the battlefield doesn't constitute casting a creature spell, so Predatory Advantage will indeed trigger.

Q: In a recent launch party match, my opponent attacked me with an Island that was a 2/2 flier thanks to a Wind Zendikon. I tried to nuke the Island with Burst Lightning, and in response my opponent bounced the Zendikon with Into the Roil, which resulted in the Island not being nuked. Is that right?

A: Yes, that's right. Bouncing the Zendikon turned the animated Island back into a lifeless pile of dirt. Burst Lightning can only target players and creatures, and a normal Island is neither of those, so the spell is countered upon resolution.

Q: I control Death's Shadow and my opponent controls Abyssal Persecutor which keeps me alive even though I'm at -7 life. Is Death's Shadow 20/20 or just 13/13?

A: Thanks to rule 107.1b, Death's Shadow does real math with negative numbers, because the effect modifies a creature's power or toughness. 13 - (-7) is 20, so you'll have a nice 20/20 beatstick to swing with.
Quote from Rule 107.1b »

Most of the time, the _Magic_ game uses only positive numbers and zero. You can't choose a negative number, deal negative damage, gain negative life, and so on. However, it's possible for a game value, such as a creature's power, to be less than zero. If a calculation or comparison that would determine the result of an effect needs to use a negative value, it does so. If such a calculation yields a negative number, zero is used instead, unless that effect sets a player's life total to a specific value, sets a creature's power or toughness to a specific value, or otherwise modifies a creature's power or toughness.

Q: If I animate Raging Ravine twice in one turn and attack with it, does it get two +1/+1 counters?

A: Yes. Raging Ravine gains one instance of the triggered ability each time its animation ability resolves. Each instance triggers and resolves separately.

Q: Does Raging Ravine lose its +1/+1 counters at the end of the turn when it goes back to being just a land?

A: As Llanowar Reborn shows, lands are perfectly fine with having +1/+1 counters on them. Raging Ravine will keep its counters, but they won't have an effect on it until it turns into a creature again.

Atlas Walker, Texas Ranger
Q: Can I use Walking Atlas' ability during my opponent's turn? I thought I'm not allowed to play a land during my opponent's turn.

A: It's true that you're not allowed to play a land during your opponent's turn. Fortunately for you, that's not what Walking Atlas has you do. Walking Atlas lets you put a land from your hand onto the battlefield, which looks a lot like playing a land, but it's not the same. This technicality makes the difference that lets you do this during your opponent's turn.

Q: When my lands return to the battlefield after Realm Razer leaves the battlefield, do the enter-the-battlefield abilities of the lands trigger?

A: Yes. To enter the battlefield means to go from "not on the battlefield" to "on the battlefield." Lands that are returned to the battlefield from the exile zone fit that description, so they will set off any matching enter-the-battlefield triggers. This could be hilariously devastating when you control lots of permanents with landfall abilities such as Hedron Crab.

Q: I have a Terra Stomper equipped with a Kitesail attacking my opponent. Both my opponent and I are at 3 life. I'm sure I've got the game in the bag, but my opponent casts a Refraction Trap and redirects 3 damage to me. What happens?

A: The game is a draw. Refraction Trap's resolution sets up a prevention effect that watches for the chosen source to deal damage to your opponent and/or permanents he controls. When such an event is about to happen, the prevention effect steps in just in time and modifies the event on the fly. Refraction Trap's effect changes the combat damage event such that Terra Stomper deals 5 damage to your opponent and Refraction Trap deals 3 damage to you. When the dust settles, both you and your opponent are at 0 or less life, so the game is a draw.

Q: People have been telling me that a Pro Tour judge ruled that so long as there was a land on top of your deck, you could keep playing it if you control Oracle of Mul Daya. I don't think it works that way. Who is right?

A: You should listen more to your instincts and less to hearsay of hearsay. The Oracle of Mul Daya grants its controller an additional land drop each turn, so you get two land drops per turn. In a separate ability, it allows you to play lands from the top of your library, but playing a land from the top of your library still counts as one of your two land drops. You can't just spew an arbitrarily large number of lands onto the battlefield with the Oracle.

Q: If my opponent plays Dead Reckoning to put Omnath, Locus of Mana on top of his library with three green mana in his mana pool, will Dead Reckoning deal 4 damage?

A: No, it'll only deal 1 damage. The ability that makes Omnath ebb and flow in concert with its controller's mana pool is not a characteristic-defining ability. It's a regular power/toughness-modifying ability that only functions on the battlefield. In the graveyard, Omnath's power is always 1.

Q: Can Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle kill Kor Firewalker?

A: Certainly! Valakut is a land, and lands are normally colorless. Since Valakut is not red, Kor Firewalker's protection is useless against it.

Q: Can I cast Animate Dead targeting Phage the Untouchable in my graveyard and use Bazaar Trader's ability to give Animate Dead to my opponent before Phage comes into play?

A: No, that won't work for a variety of reasons. First of all, Bazaar Trader only deals with artifacts, creatures, and lands, so you can't use it to give Animate Dead away. But even if you used something like a crazy Quicken/Donate combo to give Animate Dead away, it still won't work. You controlled Animate Dead when it entered the battlefield, so you control its enter-the-battlefield ability. You put Phage onto the battlefield under your control and you lose the game.

Q: I suppose just giving Phage to my opponent won't work, either?

A: Correct. Bazaar Trader has its uses, but turning the tables on a drawback enter-the-battlefield ability isn't one of them. You controlled Phage when it entered the battlefield. Even if you trade it away in response to the ability, you still control the ability, so you'll lose the game when the ability resolves.

Wrexial wrecks y'all!
Q: If I use Wrexial, the Risen Deep's ability to cast a Mind Games from my opponent's graveyard, am I allowed to pay the buyback cost? If I do, do I end up with my opponent's card in my hand? The card tells me to put it into my hand as it resolves.

A: You're allowed to pay the buyback cost, but you probably don't want to. The card will go back into your opponent's hand, not yours. Outside of Un-sets, cards never go into the hand, library, or graveyard of anybody other than their owner. The reminder text for buyback says "your hand", true enough, but reminder text has no rules meaning. The actual rules for buyback state that the card is put into its owner's hand.

Q: I attack with Wrexial, the Risen Deep, and my opponent doesn't block but instead uses Harm's Way to redirect 2 damage to me. Will this allow me to cast one instant or sorcery card each from both my opponent's and my own graveyard?

A: Yes! Wrexial's ability triggers whenever it deals combat damage to a player. Normally, a Wrexial you control will never deal combat damage to you, but Harm's Way makes it possible. Wrexial deals combat damage to two players, so its ability triggers twice. For the bargain price of just 2 life, your opponent just gave you a blank check to basically "flashback" any one instant or sorcery card from your graveyard. Depending on what nastiness is in your graveyard, that might have been a spectacularly ill-advised move on his part.

Q: So, what about a Drinker of Sorrow that has trample due to, for example, Loxodon Warhammer. If it's blocked by a puny 1/1, it'll deal combat damage to two recipients. Does that trigger its ability twice?

A: No. Drinker of Sorrow is dealing damage to two different recipients, but in only one event. Unlike Wrexial's ability, the trigger condition on Drinker's ability does not distinguish between different recipients of damage, so its ability only triggers once.

Q: If I control a Howling Mine from Fifth Edition or before, those printed without the clause "if Howling Mine is untapped" clause, do I have to inform my opponent of the change if he doesn't ask?

A: No, you are not required to volunteer information beyond whatever is required to play the game and maintain a clear game state. However, you are required to play all cards as though their Oracle text were printed on them. If you play your cards differently than their Oracle text demands, you are committing a Game Rule Violation at best or Fraud at worst, and if you allow your opponent to play incorrectly, you're committing Failure to Maintain Game State at best or Fraud at worst.

Q: If I'm searching my library, for example during resolution of Diabolic Tutor, am I allowed to change the order of my cards?

A: Yes, there's nothing inherently illegal about rearranging your library while you search, since you'll be shuffling your library afterwards anyway. You still have to perform the search in a timely manner, though, so sorting your deck into alphabetical order would be a bad idea.

Q: At a recent FNM, one player forgot about a mandatory triggered ability a few times. Would a spectator be allowed to remind them of the trigger?

A: No. The only outside person that should be reminding them is a judge with appropriate penalties and upgrades. FNM is Regular REL, so the penalty for Missed Trigger starts at Caution. A spectator can't say anything except "I think you made a mistake, please hold on while I get a judge." Or, maybe more realistically, "Hold a sec, JUUUUDGE!"

That concludes this issue of Cranial Insertion. Thanks for reading, and here are the announcements I promised earlier.

Remember when I introduced myself as a Level 0 judge a few weeks ago? Well, that's no longer accurate. I have finally decided to take the certification exam, and I passed, so I am now a Level 1 judge! I will wield my newly acquired powers this coming weekend at BASHCon XXV where I'll be helping with Saturday's Magic: the Gathering events.

The very same weekend, fellow CI writer Eli, CI editor Vestdan, and CI mascot Moko will be in sunny California, judging at the Pro Tour in San Diego. Eli won't be able to carry Moko around while judging, so Moko will be hiding in the judge station most of the time. Feel free to say hello to Eli and Dan if you see them.

That's all I have for now. Please come back next week when Eli enlightens and entertains us with more questions and answers from the CI inbox.

- Carsten Haese


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