Cranial Insertion: This and That



This and That
or, A Little Bit of Everything

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson


The secret CI base, located on Yavin IV.

[For those who speak Spanish, we're proud to announce that Cranial Insertion is now published in Spanish at the Jueces y Tokens blog. View this article in Spanish here]

Greetings, CI fans! The Conflux is well underway, but new questions keep popping up. Deckbuilders all around the world are innovating, synergizing, and crowdsourcing, among other buzzwords.

If you have a question about a Conflux card, or an older card, or some combination thereof, send it in to [email][email protected][/email]! The inbox is never empty, but we always welcome more questions.

And if you remember, do us a favor and use a meaninful subject line in your e-mail; that makes it easier for us to see whether or not we've answered your question.

On to your latest queries:



Q: My opponent hit me with a Quenchable Fire. When exactly do I pay U to stop the extra damage?

A: Paying U this way is a special action, so you need to have priority, but you can do it any time after the spell resolves and before your opponent's next upkeep. The spell's effect sets up the opportunity for you to pay U within that period, and making that payment can't be countered or responded to in any way.



Q: Can I use mana from Primal Beyond or Smokebraider to filter through a land like Fetid Heath if I use all that mana to play Elemental spells?

A: Not unless you somehow turn the Fetid Heath into an Elemental. You're trying to spend the mana on the Heath's activated ability. What you intend to do with the mana you get from that is irrelevant.



Q: What does an activated Mutavault do for me as far as domain?

A: It sits around on the couch, looking bored. It has 216 creature types, but domain spells and abilities don't care about those; they care about land types, of which Mutavault has none.



Q: I can use Ancient Ziggurat to play a Rotting Rats for its unearth cost, right?

A: No, you can't, because you're not playing a creature spell. Unearth is an activated ability that works while the card is in the graveyard. Although it puts the creature into play, it's not an alternate means of playing the spell.



Everybody has burning questions
about this card.
Q: What if it's a Worldheart Phoenix instead?

A: There you go, that works just fine. The Phoenix has an ability that lets you play it from your graveyard. Because you're playing it, and not just putting it into play, you can use the Ziggurat to pay for the costs.



Q: Can I use Wretched Banquet to kill a Birds of Paradise when a Char-Rumbler is in play?

A: There are some ways you can do that, but they mostly involve lowering the Birds' power or raising the Char-Rumbler's. The game uses actual numbers to make comparisons, even if they're negative. Unless you take action, the Banquet will resolve and see that its target doesn't have the lowest power, because -1 is less than 0.



Q: I attack with a Cylian Sunsingers enchanted by Writ of Passage. I also control a bunch of creatures with exalted. Is my elf unblockable or not?

A: It's up to you. The Written trigger will make your elf unblockable only if it still has power 2 or less when the trigger resolves. You can accomplish that by stacking it above all the exalted triggers, so it will be first to resolve.



Q: I have a Blind Hunter haunting a Grizzly Bears. I destroy the Grizzly Bears, triggering the Blind Hunter's ability. Do I put the Hunter in my graveyard, or is it removed from the game forever?

A: Nothing about haunt instructs you to put the card in your graveyard, so it stays where it is: in the removed-from-game zone.



Q: How do Pyrohemia and Tamanoa interact? Do I gain one life for each one activation, or for each creature and player being damaged?

A: Tamanoa's ability is greedy; it looks at the total damage dealt by the noncreature source. For each Pyrohemorrhage, you'll gain an amount of life equal to the number of players plus the number of creatures, assuming none of it is prevented.



Q: I have a Lich's Mirror, but my opponent has milled all the cards out of my library, and now he's pointed an Ancestral Recall at me for the kill. Does Lich's Mirror save me, or do I lose three times because I can't draw a card three times?

A: If you are required to draw from an empty library, you'll lose the game the next time state-based effects are checked. It doesn't matter how many times you tried to draw, you'll lose the game just once, and the Mirror will replace that with its fancy magic.



Q: Does a Blood Moon make non-basic lands lose the ping ability they get from Flame Fusillade?

A: No, they're still ready to hurl fiery javelins at the targets of your choice. Changing a land's type to one of the basics makes it lose its innate abilities, but not the ones it gets from other effects. Go forth, and fill things with smoking holes!

Quote from 212.6h »
If an effect changes a land's subtype to one or more of the basic land types, the land [...] loses all abilities generated from its rules text and its old land types, and it gains the appropriate mana ability for each new basic land type. Note that this doesn't remove any abilities that were granted to the land by other effects.




Q: My opponent discarded a Nyxathid to his Cragganwick Cremator, and the judge told us he does seven damage, even though I had five cards in my hand. Doesn't the Nyxathid's ability apply everywhere?

A: No. A characteristic-defining ability, or CDA, applies everywhere, but the Nyxathid's ability isn't one of those. It merely modifies the creature's power; it doesn't define it. Also, the chosen player is undefined while the Nyxathid isn't in play. In all other zones, the card's power and toughness are 7/7.



Q: Suppose I've got a Riptide Mangler equipped with a Manaforce Mace. Does he get bigger if I play his ability, targeting himself?

A: If you control at least one basic land type, he sure does. When the Mangler's ability resolves, it determines his current power, then creates a continuous effect that sets his power to that value. This power-setting effect applies in layer 6b, and the effect from his Equipment applies afterward, in layer 6d. The result is a super-sized Beast, and you can keep playing his ability to make him ultra-, hyper-, or even uber-sized!




Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The life you took from me
Q: Do multiple copies of Wound Reflection stack? That is, if I'm dealt 3 damage, and my opponent controls 2 Wound Reflections, at the end of the turn do I lose 6 additional life (3 from each WR) or 9 life (3 from the 1st WR and 6 from the 2nd WR)?

A: The ability of Wound Reflection doesn't check how much life you've lost until it resolves. At the end of your turn, both triggers go on the stack. When the first one resolves, you've lost 3 life this turn, so it makes you lose another 3. Then the second resolves, sees you've lost a total of 6 life this turn, and makes you lose another 6.



Q: In a multiplayer game my friend cast Telemin Performance on me and managed to score a Darksteel Colossus. If he dies what happens to the Colossus?

A: If there were a control-changing effect giving your friend control of your Colossus, that would end, and the Colossus would revert to its original controller. That isn't the case here, because Telemin Performance put the card into play directly under his control. Instead, your Colossus will be removed from the game as the last part of dead player cleanup.

Quote from 600.4a »
When a player leaves the game, [...] any change-of-control effects which give that player control of any objects end. Then, if there are any objects still controlled by that player, those objects leave the game.




Q: My opponent is trying to get enough storm to combo out, and he plays Gifts Ungiven with one card left in his library. He says he can fail to find that card, but I say that logically his search can't fail, since there can't be another card with the same name, no matter what it is.

A: Your logic is sound, but logic has nothing to do with it. If your opponent is searching an unrevealed zone for cards of a given quality, he doesn't have to find them. Gifts Ungiven meets this criterion by requiring that the cards have different names. If he doesn't want his last card to end up in his graveyard, he doesn't have to find it with his search.

Quote from Glossary:Search »
If you're required to search a zone not revealed to all players for cards of a given quality, such as card type or color, you aren't required to find some or all of those cards even if they're present




Q: How does Chisei, Heart of Oceans "remove a counter from a permanent you control" interact with time counters used for the suspend ability? Do I control suspended spells?

A: There's no interaction. While a card is suspended, it's in the removed-from-game zone. Cards that are removed from the game have no controller, and cards aren't permanents unless they're in play. Something that's suspended fails on both counts.



Q: I use Confiscate to steal my opponent's Aeon Chronicler. My opponent then plays Duplicant, removing the Chronicler from the game. How are the Duplicant's power and toughness now determined?

A: The ability that sets the Chronicler's power and toughness is a characteristic-defining ability, which applies everywhere. This includes the RFG zone; the ability will still work when that card is removed from the game.

"Your" normally refers to an object's controller. If it's not in play or on the stack, it has no controller, and in those cases "your" instead refers to the object's owner. In your scenario, the Chronicler will have power and toughness equal to the number of cards in your opponent's hand, since he owns it, and his Duplicant will have the same values.

Quote from Glossary:You, Your »
The words "you" and "your" on an object refer to the object's controller, its would-be controller (if a player is attempting to play it), or its owner (if it has no controller).




Q: I'm attacking with Phage the Untouchable and my opponent has to block with his only creature, Prince of Thralls. What happens next?

A: Your opponent is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't...block, that is. After combat damage resolves, the Prince's trigger will ask if you want to pay 3 life. If you don't, Phage comes into play under his control, and promptly kills him.

I think I'll call this move "Hobson's Gambit."



Q: OK, so I'm at 10 life and my opponent is attacking with a Laccolith Titan and a Force of Nature. I block them both with my Avatar of Hope. My opponent uses the Titan's ability to do six to his Stuffy Doll, which does six to me, taking me to four. Here's where it gets weird: my opponent says that even though the Titan's combat damage won't be dealt, it still lets the Force trample over enough to kill me. How does that work, exactly? Or does it?

A: It's pretty weird, all right, but your opponent can do what you're describing. There's an important distinction here between assigning combat damage and dealing combat damage. Your opponent makes damage assignments as part of putting combat damage on the stack. The damage is actually dealt later, when combat damage resolves.

The Titan's ability will stop its combat damage from being dealt, but that doesn't stop it from being assigned! Your opponent can assign those six points of damage to your Avatar, and the trample rules let him take that into account when determining how much he can trample over to you. Looks like he's found a way to get double duty out of the Laccoliths.



That's all for this edition of Cranial Insertion. If you're going to be attending the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Richmond, Virginia, look me up and say hello; I'll be wearing the stripes, as usual.

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