Cranial Insertion: Magic Sutra



Cranial Insertion
Magic Sutra
or, Time to Get Zen

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson


The first planeswalker to not break the box.
I promised no Admiral Ackbar puns, but I certainly did not promise to avoid puns entirely. I've also spent the past several months sitting on Zen puns, and now you shall all be subject to them. Bwahahaha!!!

So, with our exciting new expansion, we've got – as always – a whole pile of rules questions that will not be answered just by contemplating your navel. Unless, of course, you have the Comprehensive Rules tattooed on your belly, in which case you must have the richest tattooist in the world. This articles goes along with the ZEN FAQ document, and does not supplant it; read both. If you still have questions, and I'm sure you will, send them over to [email][email protected][/email] where our illustrious Master Moko will nibble thoughtfully on your questions and give them to us to answer.

If everyone's comfortable, let's carry on with this week's sesshin.



Q: Will Ob Nixilis, the Fallen trigger for lands coming in at the same time due to Warp World?

A: Enters-the-battlefield triggers look at the game state immediately after the "enter the battlefield" event to determine whether or not they should trigger. Right after all these permanents enter, the now-existent triggers say "oh hey, there are also new lands," and so they trigger.



Q: Will Khalni Heart Expedition trigger for lands from Warp World?

A: Ah, and now we have a fun little twist. Since Warp World drops enchantments in sequentially after dropping everything else simultaneously, enchantments with landfall triggers will not trigger.



Q: Is Lotus Cobra's ability a mana ability? Can I kill it before my opponent gets mana out of it?

A: A mana ability is an activated ability that could produce mana, or a triggered ability that produces mana and triggers off of another mana ability. Since playing a land isn't a mana ability, Lotus Cobra's ability to add mana isn't a mana ability, and you can respond to it.

However, killing the snake in response to the trigger won't help you – once the ability triggers, it will resolve unless you counter it. You can't respond to the land drop, either, so your opponent is going to get some mana out of his snake.



Q: Will I get a Vampire token if Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet kills a token creature?

A: You will! Before that token shuffs off its mortal (and immortal) coil and ceases to be, it will lie down in the graveyard and Kalitas will be satisfied. It only vanishes when state-based actions are processed.



Q: Does Beastmaster Ascension get a counter for each attacking creature, or one for the whole attack?

A: The trigger condition is "a creature you control attacks," so it triggers once for each creature. Otherwise, it would be "whenever one or more creatures you control attack."




You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
Or maybe you would.
Q: If I cast Devastating Dreams via Chandra Ablaze's ultimate and pitch three red spells, can I cast those with her ultimate, too?

A: You can. To resolve Chandra's ultimate, you cast a card in your yard, following each step of the process of casting a spell, and then pick another one and repeat this process. The cards you cast aren't locked in at any point



Q: I drop a land and bring back Bloodghast while my opponent is at 9. Right after I swing, he gains life. Now what?

A: Not much. Whether or not a creature has haste only matters as you declare attackers. Losing it later won't make it un-attacking or anything. Your opponent needs to gain life before you swing, not after.



Q: Assuming I luck out into Rite of Replication and Turntimber Ranger, what'll happen when I kick the Rite and target the Ranger?

A: You get five new Rangers. Since enter-the-battlefield triggers trigger based on how things look after the entering event, each one (and the original) will trigger five times. You'll get 30 wolves, put five +1/+1 counters on each Ranger, and then your opponent will cast Day of Judgment.



Q: My opponent zaps my creature with Mindbreak Trap. Can I cast Summoner's Trap for free now?

A: Nope, your creature wasn't countered. The spell was just exiled – "counter" has a specific meaning in Magic (okay, two specific meanings, you sticklers) and spells and abilities that do so specifically use the word "counter."



Q: What's the point of Mindbreak Trap? How can you have multiple spells on the stack?

A: Very easily. The cascade mechanic is one big way, and the storm mechanic is another. Most spells are cast and resolve without anything else ever on the stack, maybe one counterspell, but that doesn't mean that it can't happen.



Q: I control Eldrazi Monument and Emeria, the Sky Ruin. Can I sacrifice one creature and get the same creature back with them?

A: You can't bring back the same creature, but you can loop between two creatures. Both trigger at the beginning of your upkeep, and you must choose a target for Emeria's trigger as soon as it goes on the stack. Whatever creature you later choose to sacrifice for the Eldrazi trigger will still be on the battlefield at this time.



Q: Will Giant Scorpion with Predatory Urge kill the target creature before it deals damage to my Scorpion?

A: Nope. Damage from a source with deathtouch results in destruction as a state-based action, it's not immediate. Try a creature with wither instead – the counters are put on immediately, and then the creature's new lower power is used to smack back.



Q: What happens if a creature with intimidate becomes colorless?

A: Intimidate means it can only be blocked by artifact creatures and creatures that share a color with it. Sharing a color is impossible, so only artifact creatures will be able to block it. Colorless nonartifact creatures won't be able to do so.



Q: Do lands count as permanents I can bounce with Kor Skyfisher?

A: Sure, lands are permanents! Anything that sits around on the battlefield is a permanent. Lands just usually sit around in a different place.




Sorin frowns on your vampire shenanigans.
Q: My opponent goes to sacrifice Quest for the Gravelord, can I remove the counters with Vampire Hexmage first to stop him?

A: Nope. Sacrificing the Quest is part of the cost to activate the ability, and you can't respond until he's done activating it.



Q: I cast Primal Bellow on my creature equipped with Explorer's Scope and swing. Out comes a Forest. Does my creature get bigger now?

A: Nope. The X to plus is determined only once: as Primal Bellow resolves. Later Forests will not change this pump.



Q: Will Pyromancer Ascension get a counter if I cast Lightning Axe by discarding another Lightning Axe?

A: It will. You'll discard Lightning Axe number two as you cast Lightning Axe number one, and Pyromancer Ascension doesn't trigger until you've completed the steps of casting a spell. It doesn't matter that there wasn't a Lightning Axe in the graveyard as you started to cast it, only that there was one as you finished.



Q: If I look at the top card of my library from the Sphinx of Jwar Isle, do I have to reveal it to other players?

A: When you "look" at things, that's giving you and only you information. (Contrast this with some cards that have you "reveal" things – specific words matter!) You may reveal it to any other players as you see fit, but until you choose to do so, the secret card is known only to you.



Q: I make a creature block my Turntimber Basilisk. Can other creatures also block it?

A: Sure, this little wedding invitation you're giving has plenty of blank spaces to invite guests. The requirement of creature X to block your Basilisk creates no restrictions on other creatures also blocking.



Q: What does it mean for a land to continue to burn?

A: Obsidian Fireheart's reminder text is just flavorful – it means that the ability continues to trigger. "Burn" has no special rules meaning, and this does not refer to "mana burn" in any way, shape, or form.



Q: Blood Tribute in 2HG, what sort of mathematical madness is this?

A: Start with the team's life total – let's say 25. Each player's life total is half of the team's life total, rounded up: 13. Now you lose half of that, rounded up: 7 life lost. Subtract that 7 from the team total for a final result of your team at 18 life.



Q: My opponent plays a land, then swings with his Baloth Woodcrasher without saying anything. I block with a 5/5. Doesn't it die now since he didn't say he was pumping it?

A: Nope. For triggers that are not optional, involve no choices, and have no visible effect on the game, players are not required to announce them and it's assumed that they resolved successfully.



That's all for this week, but stay tuned for next week when Aaron brings in more Zendikar questions, including plenty of Standard-relevant interactions with these new cards and old.

Until next time, do not pass your days and nights in vain!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

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