Cranial Insertion: Quest[ion]s

Cranial Insertion
or, Seeking the Grail

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson

"You look up. It is a mouth."
Hi everybody! Zendikar sure is exciting, isn't it? Everybody's been up in arms over the priceless treasures that abound, both on the plane itself and also in the booster packs. Me, I'm more excited about finding the deadly perils and using them for questionable purposes. Last week I saw one of my co-workers rip open a pack only to have the opening turn into a mouth and devour him. I'd love to get ahold of one of those; it'd be great at parties!

If you have questions about the deadly perils, priceless treasures, or mundane stuff you're encountering, send them to [email][email protected][/email]. Then we'll give you several tasks to complete, and upon your succeessful return, we'll send you the answers.

In the meantime, I've got a few answers to share with you, as a show of our good faith.

Q: My opponent hit me with a Lightning Bolt on his turn, but I gained it back with an Angel's Mercy. Will my Luminarch Ascension get a counter at the beginning of the end step?

A: No. You might have gained back more life than you lost, but you still lost life this turn, so the Ascension won't trigger.

Q: What happens if I Scapeshift for six Mountains and a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle?

A: All the lands enter the battlefield at once, so Valakut checks to see if it should have triggered. It sees six events where a Mountain is entering the battlefield and you control five other Mountains, so it triggers six times. You'll get to deal a total of 18 damage. Not a bad shot!

Q: Can I use Seht's Tiger to stop the damage from a Volcanic Fallout after Unstable Footing's resolved? Seht's Tiger just says that I can't be dealt damage by anything of the chosen color, and "can't" always wins.

A: The reminder text makes it sound like the damage simply doesn't occur, but the rules on protection specify that it prevents damage. With Unstable Footing, the damage can't be prevented, and the "can't" effect wins out, as you noted, so you take 2 to the face.

Q: My opponent has an Arid Mesa as his only nonbasic land. I attack with a Runeclaw Bear that's wearing Trailblazer's Boots, and then my opponent uses the Arid Mesa to get a basic Plains. Does he get to block now?

A: He certainly does. Nonbasic landwalk makes the Bear unblockable as long as your opponent controls a nonbasic land. He no longer controls one, so the Bear is blockable.

Don't leave home without it.
Q: What happens if I cast Adventuring Gear, play a land, then use that to equip one of my creatures? Does it get pumped up?

A: When the Gear's landfall ability resolves, it gives out a power/toughness bonus to the creature that has the Gear on. In your case, nobody's picked up the Gear yet, so nobody gets the bonus.

Q: If Reprisal is the only card in my hand, can I cast it on my opponent's Guul Draz Specter?

A: You sure can. The first thing you do when you start to cast the spell is to put it on the stack. That means that it's no longer in your hand, so when you select a target, the Specter is a 5/5 -- just the kind of foul beast that Reprisal will slay.

Q: Can I use a kicked Gigantiform to pull up another Gigantiform, then pay the kicker cost on that one to get another one, and so on until I have all of them on the battlefield?

A: The first one lets you put the second directly on the battlefield. Because you're not casting the second one as a spell, you don't get an opportunity to pay its kicker cost, and so you can't continue the chain. Besides, you're probably never going to have that much mana available.

Q: I caught my opponent with an Arrow Volley Trap, and he responded with a Primal Bellow to make one of his creatures a lot bigger. How much damage, if any, do I have to assign to that creature now?

A: Actually, you should already have assigned it. Whenever a spell lets you distribute damage among multiple targets, you have to announce how you're dividing the damage as part of the spell's announcement, before your opponent gets a chance to respond. If you didn't, you've committed a Game Rule Violation by not casting the spell properly (and your opponent is guilty of Failure to Maintain Game State, as he should have noticed your error.)

Q: My opponent used his Vampire Hexmage to pull all the loyalty counters off of my Nissa Revane, so I now get to cast my Cobra Trap for its discounted cost, right?

A: No, because the Hexmage didn't destroy your planeswalker. The ability controlled by your opponent merely removed the loyalty counters. It was one of the game's state-based actions that put Nissa into your graveyard (and without "destroying" her, either.)

Q: If I have two Oracles of Mul Daya, do I play with the top two cards of my library revealed?

A: No. Both Oracles reveal the top card, and there's only one card that's "the" top card. That card can't get any more revealed, so the additional effect doesn't do anything. You will get to play an additional land for each Oracle, though, so there is some benefit in having more than one.

Q: So my opponent attacked with his Lorthos, the Tidemaker and targeted eight of my permanents. I responded with a bunch of stuff that made all but one or two of the targets illegal. Now does he just pay 1 to tap each target that remains, or does he have to pay 8?

A: The only options he has are to pay 8 or pay nothing. If he wants the remaining targets to get tapped down, he'll have to pay 8, regardless of how many there are.

Q: I hit my opponent with a Haunting Echoes this turn for most of his library. Do I get to cast Archive Trap for free to finish it off?

A: Not unless your opponent did something you're not telling me about. The Archive Trap is armed if your opponent has searched his library, but with Haunting Echoes you're the one performing the searches, not your opponent. You'll have to pay the full cost or talk your opponent into using his fetchland if you want to grind away those last thirteen cards.

Q: Can my Mindless Null throw his Blazing Torch at my opponent's White Knight?

A: Nope. The Torch gives the Null an ability that lets him chuck it at another target, but because the White Knight has protection from black, he can't be the target of the Null's ability. You do score irony points for getting your Zombie to carry a torch that it's plainly frightened of.

" your quest?"
Q: Do I have to keep putting quest counters on my Quest for the Holy Relic, even if it already has five on it?

A: Not at all! Although the ability triggers every time you cast a creature spell, it goes on to state that you "may" put a counter on, which makes it entirely optional. Feel free to just ignore the trigger when you have the number of counters you need; the extras don't do you any good, unless they're getting eaten by Chisei or something.

Q: The Sphinx of Jwar Isle says I can look at the top card "at any time." Is that really true, or are there some other restrictions in the rules that I ought to know about?

A: Well, the Sphinx has to be on the battlefield for its ability to take effect, but the usual timing restrictions that often apply to other things don't apply here. You can peek at your top card when it isn't your turn, or when you don't even have priority. It's handy if you're absent-minded, like me, and have a tendency to read something, then immediately forget what it was that you read.

The only obscure interaction that crops up is with Chromatic Sphere, where you get a new top card while you're in the middle of playing a spell or ability. You don't actually get to look at the new top card until you've finished whatever you were playing. It's just another reason to upgrade to the bugfix version instead.

Q: I'm trying to squeeze some additional extra turns out of Magosi, the Waterveil. I've got some Unbender Tines and a Doubling Season...

A: Which won't do you any good. The cost of the ability that gives you an extra turn includes returning Magosi to its owner's hand. Even if you can untap it repeatedly and get additional eon counters on it, bouncing it is something you can do only once. If it's extra extra turns you want, try Rings of Brighthearth instead.

Q: What happens if I complete two Quests for Pure Flame? Can I use them both at once to make double damage into quadruple damage, or am I better off waiting to use the second one on a later turn?

A: When you chain one Quake for Pure Flame into another, you get two replacement effects that can be applied. You apply one, it doubles the damage, and the other is still applicable, so it doubles the damage again. You've just grabbed the quad damage rune; now go blast some zombies into kibble!

Q: When I reset my life total with Eternity Vessel, does that count as gaining life?

A: Any time that your life total goes up, it's because you gained life. If we assume that you're using the Vessel as intended, you're gaining life with each use. Your opponent's Punishing Fire will trigger, and he'll get to cast Needlebite Trap for the low, low price of only B.

Q: I'm sitting pretty at 20 life thanks to my Eternity Vessel with 20 counters on it when I use my Misty Rainforest to fetch a Forest. Can I get back the 1 life I have to pay?

A: Might as well. Paying life is part of the activation cost. You'll be at a lower life total when the Forest comes in and triggers your Vessel. Just be sure to prepare for unforeseen consequences.

Q: I had cast a kicked Tempest Owl, then got in a counter war with my opponent, which I eventually won. But with everything else going on, I forgot about the extra ability I paid for until after I started attacking. I thought I'd have to handle the triggered ability, but the judge ruled that nothing happened.

A: If you forget to deal with a trigger that's entirely optional, it's assumed that you just chose to do nothing. The new Infraction Procedure Guide recently made it clear that a trigger with an "up to" number is optional if it's legal for you to choose zero. In your case, by forgetting the Owl's trigger, you effectively chose to tap zero target permanents. You won't get to go back and change your mind after moving on.

Q: What happens to the spells I cast from Chandra Ablaze's ultimate ability? Do they go back to the graveyard where I can cast them again? Can't I just cast them over and over again an infinite number of times?

A: They do go to the graveyard, but you don't get to cast them again without doing a bit more work. Chandra's basically telling you, "Here, start casting red spells from your graveyard. Let me know when you're through." Then she spends some time doing her hair while you're adding those instants and sorceries to the stack. Once you're done, that's it -- you're done. Chandra's third ability is a one-shot effect that lets you cast a bunch of spells only while that ability is resolving. As soon as you move on and start resolving some of those great spells, your window of opportunity is over. The spells will go to the graveyard when they resolve, as normal, but you don't get to cast them again unless something else allows you to do so.

That's all we have right now, but fortunately we have you to send us more. Remember, you can keep the treasures; I want your traps!


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