Cranial Insertion: Under the Weather



Under the Weather
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson


You look like I feel.
[This article is available in Spanish here.]

Greetings, loyal readers! After getting hit by 6-10 inches of snow earlier in the week, I'm now laid out with the flu, so I'm writing this set of answers from under a large pile of blankets. It's nice and warm under here, but Moko's been dropping by pretty frequently to "check up on me." I'm not sure I like the sound of that.

Anyhow, you can send me your grandmother's chicken soup, as well as your questions, to [email][email protected][/email].

Let's get cracking:



Q: Patriarch's Bidding is resolving. In my graveyard, I've got a Body Double and a few other cards with changeling, so I name Shapeshifters. My opponent has an Ixidron in his graveyard, so he names Illusions. What happens when the creatures are put into play? Does it matter whose turn it is?

A: The Patriarch scoops all the creatures into play at the same time. The "as this comes into play" abilities modify how a permanent comes into play, so they're not yet in play when those effects happen. Everything's still in the graveyard when you make a selection for the Body Double, and none of them are in play yet when Ixidron turns stuff face-down.



Q: I attack with Treetop Village, and my opponent Peppersmokes it three times. What happens if I let two of them resolve and in response to the third I activate the Village's ability to make it a 3/3 again?

A: Congratulations, you've saved the Village from the deadly smoke monster. The relevant effects of Peppersmoke and the Village's activated ability are both covered in layer 6b, so they're applied in timestamp order. The newest activation overwrites the effect of the first two Peppersmokes, so you'll end up with a 2/2.



Q: How do Countryside Crusher and Wheel of Sun and Moon work together? If I have both in play, I should get a much bigger Countryside Crusher and all of the lands go the the bottom, correct?

A: Not quite. The lands revealed go to the bottom of the library instead of going to the graveyard, and that's not good enough for the Crusher. He triggers only when a land is actually put into the graveyard, and the Wheel replaces that with something else, so he won't get any bigger.


Q: OK, and what if all the cards left in my library are lands?

A: Then you're going to be (un)pleasantly surprised by an unending loop, as the Crusher churns through your stack of lands for the rest of eternity. This is an infinite loop consisting only of mandatory actions, and since nobody gets priority while you're looping, you don't have a way to stop the loop. That means the game is a draw.




*cough, cough, wheeze*
Q: My opponent plays Afflict on my Spitebellows. I respond with Inside Out because I thought that would save it, but my opponent says the -1/-1 will be applied first, and it'll have 0 toughness before the power and toughness switch. Is that right?

A: Your opponent is right about the order in which the effects are applied, but wrong about the end result. Continuous effects are applied in a certain order, but they're always applied all together. At no point in the above scenario does your creature actually have 0 toughness. Your now-callipygian creature will survive.



Q: I played out a Trinisphere, my opponent Mana Drained it, and in response I made it uncounterable with my Vexing Shusher. On his next turn, does he get 3 from the Mana Drain's effect?

A: He sure does. Mana Drain still has a legal target when it resolves, and the part of its effect that gives mana doesn't depend on having actually countered the spell. It just makes mana out of nothing in a blatant violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics.



Q: If my opponent plays Counterbore on my Banefire, where X=5, does he get to do the search?

A: Yes, for exactly the same reason. Counterbore resolves and does as much as possible. It can't counter the spell, but it can clean you out of your other copies.



Q: My opponent plays Violent Ultimatum that targets, among other things, my Sharuum, the Hegemon. In response, I play the ability of my Master Transmuter to put Sharuum in my hand, then back into play again. Is my Sharuum saved, or is it still destroyed?

A: Congratulations, you've saved your Sharuum from a violent end. When an object changes zones, it becomes a new object. The Sharuum you put into play isn't the same one that was targeted by the Ultimatum, even though it's represented by the same physical card. The Ultimatum is targeting that Sharuum, the one right in front of-- hey, where did he go?



Q: Can I use Burrenton Forge-Tender to stop a Volcanic Fallout?

A: Sure. The Fallout can't be countered, but nothing about it says the damage can't be prevented. Contrast with the final clause of Banefire which does include that text.



Q: Does my Ghostly Prison force my opponent to pay when he attacks my planeswalker?

A: The Prison puts an extra cost on attacking you. Your planeswalker isn't you, so an attack against him, her, or it will be unaffected.



Q: Can I use Pyroblast to counter a Fire because it's still a blue card?

A: You can target Fire with Pyroblast, but you won't counter it. When a split card is on the stack, it has only the characteristics of the half that was played. The Ice portion effectively doesn't exist, so Fire is a red spell, not red/blue.



Q: I control Puca's Mischief and Thought Lash. On my upkeep, I stack my triggers so that the Mischief ability will resolve before Thought Lash's cumulative upkeep and then trade Thought Lash for something. Will my opponents library be removed?

A: Assuming you choose not to pay the cumulative upkeep, that's exactly what will happen. Thought Lash has an ability that triggers when its cumulative upkeep isn't paid. At the time you don't pay, Thought Lash is controlled by your opponent, so he'll control the triggered ability, and it'll be his library that gets eaten.

Note that you'll also be instructed to sacrifice the Thought Lash, but you won't be able to, because you don't control it.




Actually, that doesn't look so bad.
Q: I think I broke Lich's Mirror! I play Plague of Vermin with a Mirror in play, and spend all my life on a bunch of rats. Then when I would lose the game, the Mirror kicks in, gives me another 20 life, and I spend about 15 or 16 of that on a new swarm of rats.

A: It's bad luck to break a mirror, especially a Lich's Mirror, and most especially in this way, because it doesn't work. State-based effects, like the one that makes you lose for having 0 or less life, aren't applied until a player would receive priority. The Mirror's effect won't kick in until after the Plague has finished resolving, and at that point you can't spend your new life on rats.



Q: So let's say I have two Master Transmuters in play, and I play a Tidehollow Sculler. After his ability is on the stack but before it resolves, I bounce him back to my hand and replay him with one of the Transmuters. Then, when he comes back in, I do it again but instead I put down a different artifact, like an Inkwell Leviathan. Now two copies of the Sculler's ability are on the stack but he's not in play. Are the cards I choose removed from the game permanently or do they immediately return to my opponent's hand?

A: They're gone for good. The abilities that would return a card to your opponent's hand trigger when the Sculler leaves play, which happens before a card has been removed. Because there is no removed card, one can't be returned, so the ability does nothing. Then it leaves the stack; it can't hang around waiting for a card to be removed.



Q: My opponent is at 5 life, and I am attacking him with seven elves that are 2/2 because one of them is Elvish Champion. He has four merfolk that are 3/3 because 2 are Lord of Atlantis. He blocks four of my elves, including Elvish champion. Now, will my opponent die for taking 6 points of life damage first? Or will he live because he killed my Elvish Champion during combat and my creatures power/toughness go down first?

A: Unless you've got some first strike shenanigans in there, the damage is all going to be assigned before any of it is dealt. After the unblocked elves assign 6 damage to your opponent, that's how much they'll deal, regardless of what happens to those creatures (or the ones pumping them up) afterward. Your opponent is toast!



Q: Let's say I have Boggart Ram-Gang attack into Kitchen Finks. Someone tried to tell me if they blocked with Finks, it would come back via persist.

A: There's dead, and then there's dead-dead. Those Finks are dead-dead; persist won't trigger if the creature had a -1/-1 counter on it when it went to the graveyard. It doesn't matter where the -1/-1 counter came from -- whether it was put there by persist or fighting with a withering creature -- the game treats them all the same.



Q: Can I spend mana on a Circle of Protection:Red and choose a source without there being one?

A: Well, you can't choose a source if one doesn't exist, but you have a lot of places to look for one. A source of damage can be a permanent, a spell, or an object referred to by another object on the stack, like that Mogg Fanatic that's about to hit you for one.

That said, you don't have to choose a source until the ability resolves, so if there really aren't any red permanents, spells, or objects referred to by other objects on the stack, you can still pay 1 to activate the Circle. Keep in mind that you'll have to choose a source of damage if one exists, but that can only work out in your favor, anyway, so there's no reason not to.

Q: Well, what if my opponent Mana Shorts me on my upkeep, and I know he has a Volcanic Fallout in his hand because I got to look through it last turn? Can I prevent the damage from the Volcanic Fallout with my Circle?

A: A card in your opponent's hand doesn't fit any of the criteria for being a source of damage, even if you know it's there. Once he plays the Fallout, it's a spell, and you'll be able to choose it, but it doesn't sound like you'll have any mana available then. :/



Q: I have a Tarmogoyf and a Seal of Primordium in play, and I want to get the Seal in the graveyard so my Tarmogoyf will be bigger. Can I sacrifice the Seal without a target?

A: No. You must choose a legal target in order to play the Seal's ability.

What you haven't realized is that there's always going to be a legal target: the Seal of Primordium itself. You can announce the ability targeting the Seal, then sacrifice it to pay the cost. The ability will be countered, but you just want a bigger 'goyf, so you probably don't care.



Q: Awhile back, during Time Spiral, I saw a player use Momentary Blink on his Call of the Herd token in response to it being targeted by something. I was confused when the token came back into play. Can you explain why that works?

A: I can explain why it worked. There's a state-based effect that will annihilate tokens that are in any zone other than the in-play zone. But SBEs aren't checked in the middle of a spell resolving, so when Blink removed a token from play, there was no reason it couldn't immediately return it to play.

As for why it works, it doesn't, actually. That sort of interaction wasn't very intuitive, so the rules were changed to prevent it. Now, if a token leaves play, it can't be returned to play by any means.



Q: OK, this one caused my playgroup a whole lot of grief. A 12/12 with double strike and trample is attacking, and a 6/6 is blocking it. Vigor is also controlled by the defending player, but isn't the creature that's blocking. What we eventually figured was that in the first strike step, the attacking creature assigns the first 6 points of damage to the blocking creature and the other 6 trample over.
So, the blocking creature gets 6 +1/+1 counters, and the defending player gets 6 points of damage. Then, in the normal combat damage step, the blocking creature is now a 12/12, so another 6 points of damage have to be assigned to the blocker, and the other 6 trample over. The blocking creature gets 6 more counters, becoming an 18/18, and deals 12 damage to the attacking creature, destroying it. The defending player gets 6 more points of damage.

We weren't entirely sure whether the attacker had to assign more damage to the blocking creature in the normal combat damage step, because lethal damage was assigned to it in the first strike damage step, but it's also bigger from Vigor.

A: To assign trample damage to your opponent, the creature blocking your trampler must first be assigned lethal damage. That's checked during the current damage assignment. If the creature had lethal damage assigned to it earlier, and now doesn't, that's not good enough.

To determine whether a creature is assigned lethal damage, you add up two things:
a) damage currently on the blocking creature
b) damage currently being assigned to that creature
If the total of these two is greater than or equal to the toughness of the blocker, that blocker is assigned lethal damage, and you can trample on through.

The explanation you provided is correct through the first strike combat damage step. In the normal combat damage step, you've overlooked the fact that the blocker currently has *no* damage on it; the damage assigned to it in the first strike step was prevented by Vigor's ability. Therefore, the attacker must assign *12* points of damage to the blocker, and there is nothing left to trample over to the defending player. The attacking creature will be dealt lethal damage, and the blocker will get another 12 counters.



And with that, I'm burrowing deeping under this pile of blankets. I'd rather not have gained the Zombie creature type by the next time you see me. Take care!

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