Cranial Insertion: Fuel for the Fire

Cranial Insertion
Fuel for the Fire
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson

A pic of Eli, Paskoff, and
me, enjoying the warm glow
of your questions.
I've seen many winters in my life, but I haven't yet figured out whether I ought to be making fire, hibernating, or migrating south for the winter. Fire bad, or so I've heard, I do enough hibernating during the rest of the year, and real estate down south is more than I can afford.

Well, in the meantime, I've always got the warm, fuzzy feelings that come from answering your questions. You can get me through this winter, which looks to be a bit cold and early, by sending your questions to [email][email protected][/email], where we'll fight over them like the precious fuel they are.

You've also had a couple of follow-ups to some of our recent questions. Let's start with one of those!

Q: A while back you said that I can activate Chandra Ablaze's first ability with no cards in hand. But the ability checks to see whether the discarded card was red. Doesn't that mean that there has to be a card discarded?

A: No, that's just describing what has to happen for Chandra to deal damage; presumably she needs some red mana to fuel her fire. As mentioned previously, the discard is part of the effect, so if you can't do it, you just don't. Obviously if no card is discarded, then a red card wasn't discarded, so there's no damage, but Chandra's just thinks it was swell that you tried.

Q: The Tendrils of Agony are coming. Does Mystic Remora let me draw a card for each copy I'm facing?

A: The bad news is, you'll draw only one card. Mystic Remora triggers when your opponent casts a spell, and the storm copies aren't cast, they just pop on top of the stack. The good news is that, as the non-active player, your Remora trigger will resolve before the storm trigger, so you might be able to draw into a Stifle or something else that's useful. I know, the good news isn't very good, but it's the best I have to give.

Q: If I were to use Reveillark to get back a Feral Hydra, could I give it a counter before it dies?

A: No, a state-based action will put that poor headless hydra out of its misery and into the graveyard before you get priority to do anything. Hydras are often not good things to revive or reanimate.

Q: Can I respond to Steppe Lynx's landfall trigger by hitting it with my Prodigal Pyromancer?

A: Sure! You can't respond to the playing of a land, but landfall is just a normal triggered ability, and you can respond to that with deadly flame or whatever else you might prefer.

Pasgoyf, how do you get
a Sand Deserter token?
Q: My opponent has a bunch of Sand Deserter tokens (don't ask). Can I name "token" with World Queller to kill them all without affecting my nontoken creatures?

A: Nope! As my colleague the Pasgoyf is always reminding me, the card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, planeswalker, sorcery, and tribal. (Well, technically there's also plane and vanguard, but those can show up only in optional formats.) Token isn't on the list, so you can't name it for your World Queller.

Q: I'm running the combo of Scapeshift into Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle + at least six Mountains. Can I also pick up Vesuva to copy Valakut and approximately double my damage output?

A: You can always pick up a Vesuva, but it has to copy something that's already on the battlefield. That Valakut you're picking up isn't there yet, so Vesuva can't copy it. If you have a Valakut out already, Vesuva can copy that one, and it'll trigger for each Mountain coming in, assuming you've got an appropriate number.

Q: I was thinking I could use Unstable Frontiers turning themselves into Plains to get up to the seven I need for Emeria, the Sky Ruin, but I was told that doesn't work. Why not?

A: At the beginning of your upkeep, Emeria checks the number of Plains you control, and if that's less than seven, it doesn't trigger. For Emeria to trigger, you have to control seven Plains at the beginning of your upkeep. Unstable Frontier is useless for that purpose, because there's no way to turn it into a Plains before your upkeep begins. You can't activate it during the untap step, and by the time you get priority in your upkeep, you're past the point where Emeria would have triggered.

Q: If a player gets hit with an Archive Trap with fewer than 13 cards in his library, one of which is a Darksteel Colossus, how does that play out?

A: The important thing to keep in mind here is that milling doesn't happen sequentially: the cards that Archive Trap sends to the graveyard all go at the same time, as part of a single event. If one of those cards is a Darksteel Colossus, it'll go back to the library at the same time that everything else heads for the graveyard, and then the spell's effect is complete. The Colossus will never get shuffled back while the milling is in progress.

Q: There's a horde of goblins attacking me; can I use Glarecaster's ability to mark all that combat damage "Return to Sender" or can I only reject the damage from one goblin?

A: Truly, it is more blessed to give than to receive. The next time you would be dealt damage this turn is when those goblins break down your front door and jab at you with pointy sticks. Unless there's [first|double] strike involved, that's a single event, so "that damage", which is presumably a rather large number, is all going right back whence it came.

Q: I know if I Stifle the trigger on a Ball Lightning, it'll just trigger again next turn and I'll still have to sacrifice it. But what about an Elemental Appeal token?

A: That's much more effective! When Ball Lightning sticks around, the ability does too, so it can trigger again, as you've found out. But the trigger that revokes your supercharged Elemental is created by the spell, so it's not around to trigger multiple times, and it only triggers on "the next end step" and there's only one of those. Stifle that trigger and it will never happen again!

Q: Will Lurking Predators trigger twice from a spell with cascade?

A: Sort of, but not exactly. Strictly speaking, the Predators trigger once from the original spell, and once from the spell that's cast off of cascade. That's assuming there is one of those; the cascade player might not reveal an appropriate card, or he might be unable to cast the first one he reveals, or he might choose not to do so. In any of those cases, the Predators won't trigger a second time.

Q: I'm under attack from a Dryad Sophisticate, which is currently unblockable only because of my Terramorphic Expanse. But if I sacrifice the Expanse can I then block it?

A: Yep! The Dryad is unblockable as long as you control a nonbasic land, but "unblockable" matters only when you're trying to declare blockers. If you don't control a nonbasic land when the declare blockers step starts, the Dryad is not unblockable, so you can block it.

Q: Can I use Ice Cave to counter a spell with X in its cost?

A: You can, but your payment has to include X. For spells on the stack, the value of X is whatever number was chosen, so that's included in what Ice Cave asks you to pay.

Q: Many of my lands are blazing brightly thanks to my opponent's Obsidian Fireheart. At the start of my upkeep, I name "land" for my World Queller and sacrifice one that's on fire. Do I still take damage from it?

A:The land's blazing ability already triggered at the same time as the World Queller. It'll resolve even if the land goes away, and you will be scorched. Flame on!

Q: Suppose that I wanted to cast a Consume Spirit with four Stormscape Familiars under my control. Would they reduce the cost I have to pay by 4 or does the fact that I can only use black mana on X limit my potential discount?

A: You can realize the full benefit of your familiars there. Consume Spirit is saying that if you're going to spend mana on X, it had better be black mana. You're using the familiars to reduce the total cost of the spell, which isn't spending any kind of mana at all, so Consume Spirit is just fine with that.

Q: I pointed a Relic Crush at my opponent's Stonework Puma, but he flashed in an Etherium Astrolabe so he could get a card out of it instead. When my Relic Crush resolves, can I target and destroy the Astrolabe?

A: No. You select the number and identity of targets when you cast the spell, and only when you cast it. For your Relic Crush, you chose to have one target, and now you're committed to that. You don't get to go back and add a second target just because something new appeared.

Q: Did Corpse Dance get better? I heard that with M10 rules you can reorder your graveyard whenever and however you like. Can I reorder my graveyard while the Corpse Dance is resolving and sneak a better creature in?

A: Apparently not everybody got the full memo on this one: There was indeed a change to that effect, but it doesn't apply if you're playing with any cards where the graveyard order matters. If any set earlier than Urza's Saga is legal in the format, you can't rearrange your graveyard. Otherwise, knock yourself out, because it doesn't matter anyway.

Q: My opponent manages to get ten cards in hand at the end of his turn, and so he discards three cards to get down to seven. Can I cast Ravenous Trap for free?

A: Your opponent set off the trap, so you would get to cast it for free, except that you don't get an opportunity to cast it at all! Discarding down to seven happens during the cleanup step -- so named because it's when the game putters about, picking up unsightly damage, and otherwise preparing for the imminent arrival of its relative's next turn -- and players typically don't get priority during that step. It'll be the next turn before you can cast your trap, and by then the trap is no longer active.

Q: OK, but does it matter that I control a Megrim?

A: It does! Like I said, players typically don't get priority during the cleanup step. But if there's a triggered ability that has to be handled, you'll get priority after it hits the stack, same as usual. That's your chance to send your opponent's graveyard into that gaping maw. Take it!

Q: Does my Mox get rusted by my own Corrosion?

A: Signs point to "yes" -- and so does the card's Oracle text. The Mox's converted mana cost is zero, which will always be less than or equal to its number of rust counters, so all your Moxen will rust away. It's weird that an artifact can rust away when it doesn't have any rust, but cards don't always make sense if you think about them too much.

Q: I'm tapped out, so I shouldn't be able to attack my Darksteel Colossus through my opponent's Windborne Muse, except that I've got two Lotus Cobras and a Sakura-Tribe Elder. So I should be able to drum up a basic land for the 2 I need to attack for the win, right?

A: Sorry Charlie, that won't work. The first thing you have to do during the declare attackers step is to declare attackers. The Colossus will be charged a toll of 2, and you can activate mana abilities to pay for that, but you can't do anything that requires priority, like sacrificing your Elder. You could sacrifice him earlier in the turn and get some mana then, but your mana pool will be emptied at the end of that step, before you get a chance to spend it on the toll. Looks like you're on hold until you can untap.

Until next time, pack some extra blankets and thermal underclothes! It's going to be a cold one!


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