Cranial Insertion: The Comp Rules Rules!




Mmmm, that's some good moment!
[This article is available in Spanish here.]

Welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! I've got some good news for you all later, but business before pleasure, and my business is answering the rules questions you all come up with when you're having pleasure playing. This week, I've got a bunch of questions for you from Regionals. Now you'd think I'd get a lot of Standard questions from Regionals, but oddly enough I had many players coming up to me to ask me questions about older cards. Not during games of course; questions about Vintage-legal cards in Standard tournaments usually end in game losses for illegal decklists.

If you've got any burning questions you want answered, don't hesitate to drop them off at [email][email protected][/email]! Our operators are standing by for your call!



Q: Is it true that if you play Savor the Moment in extra turns at the end of a match, it takes up one of the five extra turns?

A: It's true! Savoring the moment will give your opponent one less moment to savor. Don't think of the five turns as turns you get to complete the match, think of them as turns you use up one by one.



Q: In a Savor the Moment-created turn, do my phased out permanents phase in, and vice-versa, during that turn?

A: Nope. Phasing modifies the rules of the untap step... but since you don't get one, there's nothing to modify! You'll have to wait until your next untap step to do that confusing thing that permanents with phasing do.



Q: Do creatures with double strike double the damage they deal to players, or is it just creatures?

A: It's easy to think of a creature with double strike as simply "hitting twice," but understanding why they do that shows why they hurt players twice just as well as they do creatures. At the start of the combat damage step, if any creatures have first or double strike, they get to assign damage, while anyone not cool enough to have first or double strike sits it out. Then there's another combat damage step right after that, where any creatures who didn't get to assign combat damage in the first step and creatures with double strike get to assign combat damage.



Q: My opponent's attacking with Marisi's Twinclaws, and I block with a Spearbreaker Behemoth. Then he plays Colossal Might on his Twinclaws. How much trample damage do I take?

A: The maximum you can take here is 7 damage. In the first combat damage step, your opponent can assign 5 to the Behemoth and 1 to you. Then in the second combat damage step, he's got 6 damage to assign. He has to assign lethal damage to the blocking creature before he can assign any to you, but lookee! The Behemoth already has lethal damage on it! Damage on a creature stays on until the end of the turn, and being indestructible doesn't prevent any damage...it just makes it not destroy the Behemoth.




Planeswalkers are allowed to bend the
rules a bit.
Q: Why does Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir allow you to play non-creature spells that have morph as instants? Doesn't the game know they're not creatures?

A: It doesn't matter what a morph card looks like underneath its shell, because you're putting the face-down card onto the stack as a creature. So in a round-about way, Teferi can put certain enchantments, artifacts, and lands into play at end of turn. I guess one of the perks of being a former planeswalker is getting to break even your own rules!



Q: If Endless Whispers is in play and I use Slave of Bolas to steal my opponent's creature, who gets it at end of turn?

A: Your opponent will get it back, provided they're the only opponent you have in this game. Endless Whispers gives the "When I die, toss me to your opponent" ability to the creature; so seeing as how you controlled the creature when it left play, you'll also control the triggered ability.



Q: Can Reflecting Pool tap for colorless mana if I have only colorless-mana-producing lands in play?

A: It's a boring, dull reflection, but Reflecting Pool can indeed reflect colorless mana. This is because Reflecting Pool cares about types of mana, not colors.



Q: In response to a Terror targetting it, can I sacrifice my Burrenton Forge-Tender to prevent damage from the Volcanic Fallout I know my opponent is preparing to play?

A: Your little Kithkin might know what's coming, but she won't be able to stop it. A source of damage is defined as "a permanent, a spell on the stack (including one that creates a permanent), or any object referred to by an object on the stack (including a creature that assigned combat damage on the stack, even if the creature is no longer in play or is no longer a creature)." You can sacrifice the Forge-Tender, since you choose a source only on the ability's resolution, but if you can't choose a source, the ability won't do anything.



Q: Since X can't be zero for Ertai's Meddling, what's its converted mana cost in my library?

A: It's still just 1. "X can't be 0" applies only when playing Ertai's Meddling; in any case where it's not on the stack and the game needs to know its converted mana cost, it'll see X and call it undefined, which translates to zero. It's an interesting question, but even that doesn't scrape the surface of all the weird Ertai's Meddling interactions.



Q: I play Bituminous Blast and reveal Grab the Reins with cascade, then try to grab my opponent's Darksteel Colossus and throw it at him with entwine, but my opponent says I can't do that. Is he right?

A: Even though you're playing Grab the Reins without paying its mana cost, you're still free to pay any additional costs you want, so you can choose both modes if you pay the entwine cost. Fling away!



Q: If I have a Faerie Rogue token with two +1/+1 counters on it from Sigil Captain, and then I put a feather counter on it with Aven Mimeomancer, how big is my token?

A: It'll be a 5/3. Your Faerie Rogue starts out as 1/1, and then becomes a 3/1 in layer 6b. However, one sublayer later in 6c, it gets +1/+1 from each +1/+1 counter and becomes a mighty 5/3.



Q: If I have an Ambush Commander in play making all my Forests into creatures, then use Aven Mimeomancer to make one of my Forests into a 3/1, what happens if Ambush Commander dies?

A: Your Forest will go back to its old boring life of just producing green mana, dreaming of the days when it glided effortlessly through the skies. The Mimeomancer's ability doesn't turn the affected permanent into a creature - it just gives it a power and toughness. A permanent that's not a creature has no power and toughness, so the power/toughness-setting part of Aven Mimeomancer's ability doesn't do anything.



Q: Does Font of Mythos work the same way as Howling Mine, where it doesn't work if it's tapped? It doesn't say anything about it on the card, but then again, some versions of Howling Mine don't either.

A: Unlike Howling Mine, Font of Mythos works whether or not it's tapped. Howling Mine has a rather torrid history with templating, but Font of Mythos has always and presumably will always work the way it's printed.



Q: I have a Sower of Temptation in play, which is holding on to a Puppeteer Clique. I play a Reveillark, then Wrath of God. When my Reveillark does its thing, can I steal my opponent's persisted Puppeteer Clique?

A: There is a way you can make this happen, but only if you can pull a Jedi mind trick on your opponent. Even though Puppeteer Clique will come back under your opponent's control, you still control its trigger since you controlled it when it left play. You also control Reveillark's trigger, so the way to do it is to put Reveillark's trigger on the stack first, targeting Sower, and then Puppeteer Clique's persist trigger above it. The Clique will come into play, and its ability will trigger and go onto the stack. Provided he doesn't use it to take your Sower (and he has to target something), you'll get your Sower into play and can take his Clique or whatever he swiped from your yard.




Who knew a creature with one word in
its rules text could be so confusing?
Q: What's this "banding" business I see on some old creatures?

A: Hey, look over there! ....

Oh, you're still reading. Sigh. Well, banding's a really old ability that isn't around anymore, and for good reason: it's one of the most complicated abilities in Magic. So complicated, in fact, that our even our resident card templating expert dude, Eli Shiffrin, can't think of reminder text for it that'd fit on a card.

As you declare attackers, you can "band together" any number of creatures with banding and up to one creature without banding, as long as all of them are attacking the same player or planeswalker, and aren't part of another band. If a creature blocks any of the creatures in that band, it's also blocking every other creature in that band, whether it'd otherwise be able to block that creature or not (such as a creature in the band having flying or some other evasion ability). And if anything makes a creature in a band blocked, all the creatures in the band are also considered blocked.

So with all of those restrictions, the benefit of banding when attacking is that you decide how blocking creatures assign damage among your banded attackers.

Banding works on the defense too. Blockers don't form a band, but the controller of a blocking creature with banding chooses how each creature it blocks assigns combat damage.

There's been lots of attempts by Wizards over the years to capture the flavor of banding while still making judges want to stay enrolled in the DCI, but there you have it: banding in a nutshell.



Q: We do drafts for our FNM, and I remember someone telling me a long time ago that I needed to de-sideboard after every match, but recently I've been getting told I don't have to...so which is it?

A: At any limited event that uses decklists, you need to put your deck back to its original configuration after each match. But in any event that doesn't use them, you're allowed to change your deck however you want between rounds! For a short time, this was only true at prereleases, but now it goes for any limited event that doesn't use decklists.



Q: I was playing at Regionals and said "Declare attackers?" and my opponent responded "Okay." I then tried to activate my Mutavault and swing in, but my opponent called a judge over, who told me it was too late to attack with the Mutavault. What gives?

A: What gives is the shortcut guidelines! These handy guidelines for player communication in the Penalty Guidelines put commonly used phrases by players into the terms of game rules. Saying "Declare attackers?" states that you're moving to the beginning of combat step and passing priority. Your opponent saying "Okay" means he's passing priority as well; so now you're in the declare attackers step, and the first thing you do in that step is declare which creatures you're attacking with. You won't get a chance to turn Mutavault into a creature until after you've declared attackers, so unless you get another combat phase, that Mutavault's just going to watch the battle from the sidelines.



Q: I was playing later and my opponent said "Declare attackers?" and I responded with a Cryptic Command, tapping his creatures and drawing a card, knowing I was now safe from his unanimated Mutavault. But then he activated it and swung. I called a judge, but he ruled that he could attack with it! How come I couldn't do that, but he could?

A: The "Declare attackers?" shortcut doesn't mean you're passing priority forever in the beginning of combat step, just that you're passing priority in anticipation that your opponent isn't going to do anything. So he passes priority to you, which you use to play Cryptic Command. Both of you pass priority with Cryptic Command on the stack, and it resolves. Now for a step to end, both players have to pass priority without taking any action. Since he's in his beginning of combat step and has priority again, he can activate Mutavault and get it ready for the declare attackers step.



Q: I'm on the play and without thinking, I draw a card and play a land. Oops! Is that a Game Loss?

A: Don't worry, you're safe, relatively speaking. Drawing a card when you're not supposed to is usually a Game Loss, but drawing a card unintentionally during your first turn, on the play, simply falls under Improper Drawing at Start of Game, which is a Caution at Regular and a Warning at higher levels.



Q: Am I allowed to have multiple DCI numbers so I don't have to risk my incredibly high rating at FNMs?

A: Nope, not kosher. Straight from the Penalty Guidelines:

A player enters a tournament under an assumed name and/or using a different DCI number in an attempt to manipulate ratings.

The only way to protect your rating is to play as good as you can every match!



Q: I was playing in the single-elimination playoffs of Regionals and got a warning for Slow Play. I thought we had unlimited time?

A: Even though you have unlimited time, players are still expected to play at a reasonable pace. The recommended time limit for single elimination quarter-final matches is 90 minutes, but even without time limits, there's rarely a reason any best-of-3 match should go longer than that.



On a personal note, I achieved one of my personal goals during Regionals: I passed the judge test and got promoted to level 2. Without Cranial Insertion, I never would have become a judge. Before my level 1 exam, I read CI religiously, and writing for it helped me understand the complexities of the rules a lot to prepare for level 2. So thanks to all the writers and question-sender-inners of CI past and present!

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