Cranial Insertion: Taking Down the Lights



Taking Down the Lights
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson


Chandra's the only person on
Santa's "nice" list to get coal.
The Cranial Insertion Christmas party was a blast this year! I don't remember most of it, but that's usually the sign of a good party. We exchanged gifts, of course; and along with the thing Moko got me which I don't want to talk about, I also got a bunch of shiny new rules questions! In the spirit of Christmas (I like to start at least 360 days early), I'm going to share those gifts with you all.

If you have any rules questions for us, it's never too late to give us a gift, so send them in to [email][email protected][/email]!



Q: Are snow-covered lands legal in Standard? They're basic lands, aren't they?
A: Though they have the basic supertype, snow-covered lands are only legal in formats where the latest set they're from is legal. Just like you couldn't play Fyndhorn Elves in a Standard tournament, even though it's identical to Llanowar Elves except for the name, you can't play a Snow-Covered Forest in place of a normal one.



Q: If I have a Prince of Thralls out and activate my Millstone and hit two creatures, does Prince of Thralls trigger twice?

A: Prince of Thralls only triggers when permanents are put into graveyards, and permanents only really exist in play. While they're in someone's library, graveyard, or hand, they're just cards.



Q: I have a Teysa, Orzhov Scion in play and Clone it. Do I get two white Spirit tokens?

A: Yep! The Cloned Teysa will see the original, and both will die due to state-based effects. Then the game will look for anything that should've triggered, and each Teysa will see the other one going to the graveyard and give you two tokens total.



Q: Can I redirect the damage from my own Cloudthresher's comes-into-play trigger to my Garruk Wildspeaker?

A: That's no way to treat your planeswalker pal! Luckily, you're not even allowed to do this - the planeswalker damage redirection rule only applies when damage would be dealt to a player from a source controlled by an opponent, so your Garruk can't take the hit for you.




Everyone gets Jace books for Christmas.
Q: Does my creature die if Grafted Wargear gets Disenchanted?

A: An equipment counts as getting "unattached" if it leaves play while equipped to a creature; it doesn't just have to get equipped to another creature.



Q: My Morphling blocks a 13/13 Grizzly Bears (don't ask). With damage on the stack, can I activate my Morphling's -1/+1 ability once and keep it alive when it takes the three damage?

A: It's a common misconception that creatures can only take, or be assigned, combat damage equal to their toughness. Unless you can pump your Morphling up to a -8/14, it won't survive the thirteen damage it's about to take from a very large Grizzly Bears.



Q: If my opponent has a Grand Arbiter Augustin IV out, how much does it cost to evoke a Shriekmaw?

A: It'll cost you 2B if you want to pop the Grand Arbiter. Evoke is still playing the spell, just for an alternative cost, and additional costs still apply.



Q: Can I use a Goblin Welder to sacrifice an Arcbound Ravager, then put the +1/+1 counters on a Triskelion that I bring back with the ability?

A: You can. Since sacrificing the artifact in play and bringing another artifact from your graveyard to play all happens as part of the resolution of Welder's ability, the modular trigger doesn't go on the stack - and you don't pick a target for it - until it's resolved. By that time, Triskelion's in play.



Q: I have a Figure of Destiny in play that's pumped up to a 2/2, and then my opponent plays Godhead of Awe. Later on, if I want to pump my Figures up, do I need to start all over again?

A: The only thing Figure of Destiny's abilities care about is what its creature types are, and Godhead of Awe just sets the Figure's power and toughness back to a 1/1; it leaves its creature types intact.



Q: Can a Mogg Fanatic kill a Rockslide Elemental?

A: Not all alone, no. When you sacrifice the Mogg Fanatic, Rockslide Elemental's triggered ability goes on the stack above the Fanatic's, so it'll resolve first, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Elemental before the single point of damage is dealt.



Q: I want to know if it is possible to kill Jace Beleren (say with Lighning Helix) in the time between his coming into play and the time my opponent can play his activated ability, which would make his loyalty 5.

A: Jace is pretty puny when he comes into play, but he's protected by the priority system. When the Jace spell resolves and becomes the planeswalker, your opponent gets priority because he's the active player. He can use Jace's ability, adding two counters as part of the cost, before you even have a chance to play Lightning Helix.

If he does something else, though, you can respond by blasting Jace from the Magical coil. Smile



Q: I have a 1/1 Soldier in play, a Stormfront Riders in my hand, and enough mana to play it. Since when Stormfront Riders comes into play, I return two creatures I control to their owners' hand, can I return Stormfront Riders and the 1/1 Soldier token, thus gaining two 1/1 Soldier tokens thanks to Stormfront Riders' ability?

A: The Stormfront Riders thing works fine. The triggered ability will look back in time to see what should've triggered and see Stormfront Riders' ability.



Q: I have a Llanowar Elf with a +1/+1 counter on it. My opponent taps his Serendib Sorcerer to make it a 0/2, then switches its power and toughness with his Merfolk Thaumaturgist to try to kill it. Is my Elf still alive?

A: Your Llanowar Elf will wind up as a 3/1. Thanks to the +1/+1 counter, your Llanowar Elf is never really a 0/2, much less a 2/0. The power/toughness setting ability applies in layer 6b, and the counter afterwards in layer 6c. Power/toughness switching effects are always the last thing you apply when checking a creature's power and toughness, so timestamp doesn't matter in this case.




Ajani doesn't actually celebrate
Christmas - it's actually Goldman
(the E's a typo).
Q: If I haven't played a land for my turn, can I draw a card with Merfolk Looter, discard an Arrogant Wurm, and play a land so I can pay for the Wurm's madness cost?

A: You used to be able to do this, but after Time Spiral cleaned up the rules for madness, you can no longer hold off playing a madness spell as long as you don't pass priority. You won't have any time to play a land, so you'll need to make do with what you have in play to pay for your Arrogant Wurm.



Q: Does Ballyrush Banneret reduce the cost to suspend a Benalish Commander?

A: Nope! Suspend is a special action. You're not playing the spell, so Bannerets won't reduce that cost.



Q: I have a Fellwar Stone out, and the only land my opponent controls is a Reflecting Pool. Can I tap my Stone for any color of mana?

A: You can't squeeze much out of that stone, especially not mana. Since Reflecting Pool can't currently tap for any color of mana, neither can your Fellwar Stone.



Q: I haven't played in a while. Do artifacts still "turn off" when they become tapped?

A: I've gotten this question a few times recently from older players looking to get back into the game, though artifacts "turning off" when they become tapped went out the window with the poly/mono artifact wordings. Modern artifacts don't usually go inactive when they become tapped, but some older artifacts such as Howling Mine have received errata to keep this functionality intact. Tapping an equipment that's attached to a creature won't shut off the bonuses it gives, for example.



Q: If my creature gets blocked by a Wall of Nets and I then Unmake the Wall, will my creature still get removed from the game?

A: Only if Wall of Nets is still in play at the end of combat step. If you Unmake it before then, it won't be in play anymore for its ability to trigger.



Q: My friend let me borrow some cards for FNM, but it turned out later that he needed to go, and he needed to take his cards with them. I can't play without them, so what can I do?

A: That's quite a pickle you're in there; but you're right, you can't play without those cards! If you can't track down replacement copies of them within the next few minutes (or before your next match, if you're in between matches), you're going to need to drop.



Q: If I have a Treetop Village animated and my opponent plays a Godhead of Awe, will activating the Treetop Village again make it a 3/3 again?

A: Yep! Both Godhead and Treetop Village's power/toughness-setting abilities apply in the same layer, so playing Treetop Village's ability will give its power/toughness-setting effect a later timestamp.



Once again, I get to wish you all a fantastic holiday - enjoy your New Year's! I'll see you again when I write my first article for 2009!

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