Cranial Insertion: G'day Y'all



Cranial Insertion
G'day Y'all
or, Cranial Insertion Invades Texas

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson


I doubt R&D foresaw this
rules monster thing.
Hi everybody! I'm just finishing up with Pro Tour—Austin (well, as you read this, I'm probably still at the judge dinner or playing EDH), so some of you may have seen me out and about on the Pro Tour floor this weekend. Kudos to everyone who recognized me without a monkey on my shoulder.

Zendikar's been flooding our mailbox, especially one particular question that I'll address first below and then we can hopefully ignore for a little while. We've also got some Extended goodies, and some other fun stuff from the Public Events aside the Pro Tour. So here we go! Let there be questions!



Q: Warp World resolves, and I get two Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and seven lands. Will the Demons triggers before they die?

A: Yes, seriously. We're getting this question so much, we're going to repeat it at the top of the column. Maybe next week we'll put it in the title! (spoilers)

Enters-the-battlefield triggers look at the battlefield immediately after the entering event – but before state-based actions are checked, or anything else is processed. The Ob Nixile are going to die, but not before their abilities trigger. Once something's triggered, it'll go on the stack and resolve even though its source isn't around anymore.



Q: If Ob Nixilis and Clone enter the battlefield off Warp World together, can I Clone Obby?

A: Unlike a triggered ability, Clone's replacement effect must be applied before it enters the battlefield. And before it does, there are no creatures there because Warp World whisked them all away. Not only can Clone not copy Ob Nixilis, it's not going to copy anything and will very shortly die.



Q: I cast Sadistic Sacrament on my opponent, I search, remove cards, and he shuffles. I think I know the answers to these but just want to be sure. Can I play Archive Trap for 0? Can he play Archive Trap for 0?

A: Archive Trap won't go off for free – you searched another player's library, and Archive Trap requires that an opponent searches his or her own library. Read carefully who's doing the searching if you're concerned about Archive Trap!



Q: I have a Vampire Nighthawk enchanted with Celestial Mantle. I'm at 10 life and attack unblocked. Do I go to 30, or 25?

A: Lifelink simply happens as damage is dealt, but Celestial Mantle has a trigger that goes on the stack and waits. As soon as damage is dealt, you'll gain 5 life and the Mantle will trigger, and when the Mantle's trigger eventually resolves, you'll gain 15 life.




Sorry, only room for one.
Q: Can Safe Passage prevent a Lightning Bolt from dealing damage to a planeswalker?

A: In a roundabout way, it can. Safe Passage won't prevent damage dealt to planeswalkers, since they are neither creatures nor players, so they're going to eat all the combat damage coming at them. But to Bolt a planeswalker, your opponent has to actually Bolt you, and then as Bolt resolves choose to whack a walker instead. Since this replacement effect and Safe Passage's prevention effect both want to modify the damage, you can choose which applies first – and applying Safe Passage means there's no damage left to redirect.



Q: I cast Mark of Mutiny on my opponent's Roil Elemental and then play a land. Can I have the Roil Elemental steal itself? What happens if I do?

A: That's all perfectly valid. The Roil Elemental will keep itself under your control after Mark of Mutiny's effect ends, and you'll continue to control the Roil Elemental for as long as you, well, control the Roil Elemental.



Q: I have out Tezzeret the Seeker, Mycosynth Lattice, March of the Machines, and Experiment Kraj. This card combination makes Tezzeret a creature which makes him a valid target for Kraj's ability. Now if I add a +1/+1 counter to Tezzeret with Kraj, would this give Kraj access to Tezzeret's abilities, and would Kraj be subject to the same rules as the walkers in terms of being able to use those abilities?

A: This used to be a pretty degenerate, albeit hard-to-pull-off, combo, but now it's not. The "once per turn per permanent" restriction on the planeswalker abilities are now tied to the abilities themselves, which are called "loyalty abilities." You can only activate one loyalty ability per permanent per turn, on your turn with sorcery timing rules.



Q: What's the Vintage trick with Lion's Eye Diamond and Breakthrough? Is there a way to cast Breakthrough with the Diamond?

A: No, that's not the trick. The trick is simply to load up your graveyard while floating mana. Cast Breakthrough with some other source of blue mana, then activate Lion's Eye Diamond for mana and pitch your hand, then draw four and pitch four, and you end up with no cards in hand but three mana to use for stuff.



Q: Supposing player A plays Promise of Power, selecting the token creation option, and player B responds with Gather Specimens, when the token comes into play under player B's control, whose hand size will determine its power/toughness?

A: Promise of Power asks you, it's controller, what X should be. It doesn't care who's getting the token.



Q: If I have Wort, Boggart Auntie on the battlefield, can I cast a Tarfire at the beginning of my upkeep then return it with her ability?

A: Nope. You have to choose a target for Wort's trigger as soon as your upkeep begins, and there is no earlier time in your turn that you can cast Tarfire. You'd have to cast it back on another player's turn to recur it on yours.



Q: I have Iona, Shield of Emeria in my graveyard then cast Body Double copying Iona, will the Body Double be able to lock my opponents out of a color?

A: Sure! When applying enter-the-battlefield replacement effects, first apply any copying effects and then look at whether that copy effect provides another replacement effect.



Q: What exactly does it mean for Spreading Seas to turn something into an Island?

A: Let's start off with a Dark Depths and enchant it. It loses all existing land subtypes (none in this case) and gains "Island." It thereby also gains the ability to tap for blue mana, but loses all abilities printed on the card (so no way to remove counters, nor a result for doing so.) It keeps the name (Dark Depths), types (land, though some other lands may be artifact lands!), and supertypes (legendary and snow), and does not gain the basic supertype.



Q: If I'm forced to discard cards by a discard effect like Duress or Burning Inquiry, I have an opportunity to cast any instant or flash spells in my hand, correct?

A: You can, but your last opportunity to cast those instants or flashy spells is before the discard spell resolves. Once your opponent looks at your hand with Duress, your chance to cast spells is over. If he chooses a card you want to play, it's too late. The same is true with Burning Inquiry: you don't get priority in the middle of it resolving to cast spells, so even if you draw three Lightning Bolts you can't cast anything until Burning Inquiry has resolved and possibly made you discard all of them.




If you harrow an Island and make it
into two Mountains, you may not be
cut out for a career in farming.
Q: If I can't play lands on my opponents turns, as you've said before, how does Harrow on his turn work?

A: Harrow puts lands onto the battlefield without playing them – think of it as a little gift that gets around the purchasing price (and Customs). Since you're not actually playing the lands, they don't follow the normal rules for playing lands.



Q: While controlling my opponent's turn, I can't make his creatures attack him, can I?

A: Nope, you can't. You can only attack a defending player, and the defending player is never the active player (ie, the player whose turn it is and whose turn you're controlling).



Q: Does my opponent choose to set his life to Eternity Vessel's charge counter count when the ability triggers, or when it resolves?

A: "May" triggered abilities go on the stack like normal regardless of whether or not the "may" will come into play, and then the choice is made upon resolution.



Q: Can I kill Guul Draz Specter with Reprisal if that's the only card in my hand?

A: You can! The first step of casting a spell is to move it from its current zone to the stack. Now you have no cards in hand – the Specter's ability is continuously checked, even at times when no player can do anything, so poof, it's big. Now you choose targets, and you can swat it out of the sky like an annoying mosquito. Only unlike mosquitoes, you'll actually hit and kill.



Q: Can I block and then bounce the blocker with Narrow Escape? Will I take damage if I do?

A: Players do still receive priority in the declare blockers step. When you do, you can bounce a blocker. The blocker will neither deal nor receive damage, but unless the attacker has trample, neither will you. If the attacking creature does have trample, though, it'll just go through the nonexistent blocker and hit you in the dome.



Q: Can I cast Crop Rotation sacrificing a Gemstone Mine if I also use the Mine's last counter for mana to cast the Rotation?

A: Nope. The cost for Crop Rotation is green mana and "Sacrifice a land." You have to activate mana abilities before paying any costs, and the Mine's "sac me when I'm counterless" effect is part of its mana ability, so it'll go splort then, and it will not be around shortly later when you go to pay costs.



Q: My opponent drops Vampire Hexmage with Dark Depths already out. Is there anything I can do to stop Marit Lage from rising?

A: You can destroy the land. Your opponent gets priority first after the Hexmage resolves, so you can't Bolt it before he activates it; and even if you did, he can activate the ability in response.

But if Dark Depths is not on the battlefield when its triggered ability resolves, he can't sacrifice it. Since there's the "if you do" clause on the ability that makes Marit Lage, this will stop it from spitting out a token.

You can Stifle the ability if you really want, but it won't be so useful. Because Dark Depths has a state trigger - it triggers on a certain game state being true rather than an in-game event - it will trigger again as soon as the ability is no longer on the stack so long as that event is still true. It'll keep triggering, so unless you've got infinite Stifles, you can't stop it hard enough. For added fun, you can Stifle the Hexmage's activated ability to stop it. That works at least.



Q: If an opponent has searched his library this turn and I cascade into Archive Trap off Kathari Remnant, can I cast it off the cascade or does the "cost" in the cascade text refer exclusively to the converted mana cost?

A: Only the converted mana costs matters. Very, very few cards in Magic care about what you could pay to cast a spell, and almost everything that cares about any sort of cost cares about the mana cost and converted mana cost. No matter how you cast it or look at it, Archive Trap has a converted mana cost of 5.



Q: Pyromancer Ascension has one counter on it, and I cast a spell with the same name as another spell in my graveyard. Can I stack the Ascension triggers to get another counter and then copy the spell?

A: Nope. The second trigger won't even trigger since the condition includes "while Pyromancer Ascension has two or more quest counters on it." The Ascension didn't have two counters when you cast the spell, so it doesn't match the trigger condition at all.



I'm going to wrap this up, but we'll be back next week with even more questions, hopefully none involving Warp World.

Until next time, may your world remain unwarped!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

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