Cranial Insertion: Riddle of the Chimp

Riddle of the Chimp
or, The Answer Is Obviously "Brains"

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

It's almost Halloween, the happiest time of the year for Demon judges. Also particularly happy for Tucson, with its annual Day of the Dead procession and yummy candy skulls. Nothing says "respect the departed" like munching on imitation body parts!

Moko has a short interlude regarding our search for a new writer:

Quote from Moko »
In the ultra-fine print for the application, we noted that by sending in an application, you gave me permission to come to your house and eat your brains. I shall indeed feed well this winter.

Wait, wrong note.

Quote from Moko »
We've finished the selection process, and the new writer should be on board in two weeks, after Tom's next article. Thanks for all your applications!

And now, onto the goodies from the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox!

Q: I keep hearing conflicting answers – can you or can you not make an infinite loop with two Sharuum the Hegemons and another card that cares about them leaving or coming into play?

A: Rest assured that you can indeed make some wacky artifact creature comes-into-play/leaves-play loops with Sharuum and her suspiciously identical twin. When one comes into play, the new one triggers, but this trigger is not put on the stack yet. Then the legend rule tosses them both into the graveyard, and only after that is the trigger put on the stack, and that time is when you pick a target.

Q: I really like the art on my Snow-Covered Mountains. Can I use them in Standard and just say that they're normal Mountains?

A: Sorry, but a card's name determines what that card is. A Snow-Covered Mountain is not a card named Mountain, so it's not legal in Standard, period. This isn't even something that the head judge can use his or her discretion on – using a card as a card other than its name makes it a proxy card, and the rules for that are pretty strict.

Q: Can I devour a Sprouting Thrinax and the Saprolings it makes when it's devoured?

A: Nope. The Thrinax is sacrificed while the creature with devour is coming into play; the triggered ability that makes Saprolings won't even go on the stack until a short time later after that creature's already in play and it's done nomming poor, innocent creatures.

Q: If Caldera Hellion devours a Sprouting Thrinax, will I keep the tokens or not?

A: That depends – do you want to?

The Hellion devours the Thrinax, and its leaves-play ability triggers. Then, before any player receives priority, the Hellion comes into play and its comes-into-play ability triggers. Now, with priority about to be given, you've got two triggers that need to be put on the stack. It doesn't matter in which order they triggered – all that matters is that they've both triggered since the last time a trigger could be put on the stack, so you can put them in any order you want.

If you want your little Saprolings – and I assume you do unless you're some kind of sadist – put that trigger on the stack first, then place the hellion's trigger on the stack, which allows you to resolve the 3-damage trigger first, then put the tokens into play after that damage is all gone.

Q: If I use Pyrrhic Revival with 5-power creatures in my graveyard, will they trigger Where Ancients Tread when they come into play before they get the counter?

A: At no time will the creature be in play without a counter, so this won't work. Any effects that put a creature into play with counters or "comes into play with counter" abilities will result in those counters being tossed on during the comes-into-play event.

Cards with this much text really shouldn't
be made into textless promos.
Q: What should I do to make sure that my textless Cryptic Commands don't cause any confusion?

A: The head judge does have some discretion on this one. The universal answer is "ask your opponent to ask a judge to provide your opponent with the card's Oracle text."

You'll usually be able to just carry a normal one with your deck to show a confused opponent, and the head judge might even let you just show a print-out of the card's text instead of carting around another card. Check with the head judge beforehand to make sure there won't be a problem.

Q: How much life does my opponent lose if he's at 20 and I hit him with a 3/3 with Quietus Spike attached?

A: Quietus Spike's ability triggers and resolves after damage is already dealt and subtracted from your opponent's life total. So first your opponent will take 3 damage, going to 17 life, and then the resolving trigger will hack off another 9 life bringing him to 8 for a total of 12 life lost.

Q: I control Mindlock Orb and play some Head Games on my opponent. Will he shuffle away the cards that were in his hand, or do they stay on top of the library?

A: Those cards will be shuffled away. Head Games doesn't have any sort of "if you do" clause; the parts that can't be done are simply ignored, including the "search" and "put those into hand."

Q: Do tokens go to the graveyard and trigger Hissing Iguanar?

A: They sure do! Tokens leaving play go to whichever zone they've got a ticket for, and then they cease to exist like rich tourists in third-world countries. But just like our unfortunately missing tourists, they did reach that destination and have their passport stamped.

Q: What happens if Skill Borrower is in play and the top card of my library is a Nezumi Graverobber? Can I play the Zombify ability right away? Or do I have to flip Skill Borrower first?

A: As long as our grave-robbing friend isn't in play and flipped, the flipped characteristics simply don't exist. Skill Borrower won't see the awesome potential of desecration and will have to stick to simply robbing graves.

If you do rob enough graves to satisfy the flip condition, Skill Borrower will flip! And flop! And do the hokey-pokey! But a flipped Skill Borrower looks exactly like an unflipped Skill Borrower, so it won't mean a thing. It still won't see Nighteyes's characteristics since that card in the library isn't flipped.

All in all, there is no way for Skill Borrower to borrow Nighteyes's Zombify ability.

Q: Do I have to let my opponent know how many cards I sideboard in for games two and three?

A: Nope; all that you have to do is show your fifteen-card sideboard to prove that you didn't sideboard in all fifteen (and most people don't even do that unless asked to). You can surreptitiously slip in and remove cards, or you can toss all fifteen in and then remove fifteen, or you can say "Hey, I'm sideboarding in three cards" or "I'm sideboarding in Card, Cardy, and Cardoo, weep in despair."

Q: What happens when a 5/5 double strike trampler runs into a 5/5 indestructible creature?

A: Lots of damage.

In the first-strike combat damage step, the trampler deals 5 damage to the indestructible creature. The game ignores this damage for the purpose of destroying it, but this damage is still actually there. In the normal combat damage step, since this 5/5 creature has lethal damage on it already and the attacker has trample, you can assign all of the rest to your opponent. Your trampler will also explode in a blaze of glory as the 5/5 indestructible smacks it for lethal damage.

Q: What does exalted do in Two-Headed Giant?

A: The same thing it does in a one-on-one game! That is, if one and exactly one creature you control attacks, that creature gets +1/+1. Not "one creature per player" and not "one of my teammate's creatures" – it has to be your creature, and your teammate can't send any creatures in, either.

MADD – Mages Against Drunk Divining.
Q: Can I Swerve a Cryptic Command to counter itself if my opponent chose the counter and draw modes?

A: Since a spell is never a legal target for itself, you can't do exactly that, but you can still counter the Command with Swerve. The last step of a spell resolving is to remove it from the stack; until that point, it's still there. So just make the Command target Swerve instead of your other spell, and boom! The Command is countered on resolution since its target is gone, your opponent doesn't get a card, and you get your original intent.

Q: Do imprint abilities like Isochron Scepter count as linked abilities nowadays?

A: Nope. The rules for linked abilities (section 407 for those following along at home) apply to things that care about "the removed card" and other similar wordings and choices. Imprint cards have abilities that refer to "the imprinted card," which looks at the card that is imprinted, not the card that was removed (although these will generally be the same card).

Q: Will I survive if I Trickbind my Immortal Coil's lose-the-game trigger, or will the Trickbind not hit the yard in time?

A: You'll die. Immediately after Trickbind counters the Coil's ability, it will trigger again, and this trigger will be put on the stack after Trickbind leaves the stack. This isn't an activated ability, so Trickbind won't stop it, and it doesn't matter that there's a card in the yard when the trigger goes stackwards – the graveyard was momentarily empty, and that's all it takes.

Q: I saw a funny deck idea that uses Lich's Mirror, Puca's Mischief, and Everlasting Torment to make an opponent lose infinite times by knocking his life to 0. Wouldn't this actually be a draw and not really infinite game losses?

A: In a sanctioned event, yes, the game's a draw since it's an infinite loop that can't be broken. In a casual game, you may and should giggle with glee and claim to have won forever.

Note that in a sanctioned game, your opponent does have the option to concede and give you the win rather than draw the game. You can even ask your opponent to do so, but if he doesn't want to lose, you draw.

Q: I control Prince of Thralls and my opponent's Kitchen Finks dies. What now?

A: Now you've got two triggers: your "mine mine mine!" trigger and your opponent's persist trigger. The player whose turn it is not will have his trigger resolve first, so if it's your turn, the Finks returns with a -1/-1 counter under your opponent's control. If it's your opponent's turn, you get the Finks back, sans counter. Once one trigger has resolved, the other will fail to do anything since the Finks is no longer in the graveyard.

Q: My 3/3 Master of Etherium and my 2/2 Thopter token each block different 2/2 creatures. My opponent says that all four creatures die. How?

A: Your opponent is correct. After combat damage is dealt, we've got two 2/2 creatures with 2 damage each, a 3/3 with 2 damage, and a 2/2 with 3 damage. All of the 2/2 creatures drop dead. Then state-based effects are checked again – at this point, since you just lost the Thopter, your Master is only 2/2, and it has 2 damage on it, so now it dies as well.

Q: If I target a Mosstodon with Branching Bolt, and a Battlemage gives it flying in response, will it still die since a creature with flying is a legal target for the Bolt?

A: A creature with flying may be a legal target, but not for the "creature without flying" mode that you've already chosen. Branching Bolt will be countered (unless you did also target a creature with flying) since its only target is illegal.

Q: My Drumhunter triggers at end of turn, but then my opponent Terrors my only 5-power creature. Can I use Giant Growth or something to make another creature big enough and draw my card?

A: Sure. Drumhunter's intervening "if" clause only checks that "if" when it tries to trigger and upon resolution, much like targets. It's also not fussy enough to care whether the same creature fulfills the "if" clause at both times.

Q: Can we sanction Elder Dragon Highlander games?

A: Nope. EDH is supported on MTGO and casually, but it's not supported by the Magic Floor Rules yet.

And that's a wrap for this article. Join us next week as we approach the exciting return of State Championships and the slew of sudden ALA questions that pop up as people get over their "new set ew" phase and start playing with it more in Standard!

Until next time, remember to leave a glass of milk out for Moko for when he sneaks into your house!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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