Cranial Insertion: Going to Pieces

Going to Pieces
or, Mmm, Bacon Demons

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

Welcome to the fractured world of Alara. With this brand-new set, you know what that means: brand-new questions! Certain cards in this set are sure to be very, very popular for chaotic streams of questions. But, on the plus side, we may finally stop getting doused in Mirrorweave and Figure of Destiny questions! Just maybe.

Personally, I'm a bit torn on the shards. Grixis is full of happy grinning demons made out of delicious yummy bacon, but I'm more of a WUB person. But I'm not really an Esper-artifacts-yay person. Woe. At least Moko is very solidly Jund, being an undead feral thing.

As always, send your questions to [email][email protected][/email] for an answer and inclusion in a future column. We'll be running a lot of Shards of Alara questions over the next few weeks – the following is just a taste from our prerelease events and previewed cards.

And remember, you've only got a few days left to apply to write for Cranial Insertion. The application window will close on Friday, and then we'll make a pick hopefully within a week of that.

Q: If I cycle a card with an ability that triggers when I cycle it, do I draw the card or do that effect first?

A: You'll resolve the trigger first. Cycling is an activated ability, which means that it works much like a spell: the very first thing you do is put the ability on the stack; and then, when the card becomes cycled (that is, when the ability is fully played), the trigger goes on the stack on top of it.

Q: Is Esper Battlemage blue or colorless since it's an artifact?

A: A card's color is determined by that card's mana cost plus any characteristic-defining abilities it may have. Being an artifact has zero effect upon a card's color, and Esper Battlemage has a little water droplet up there in the top-right corner, so it is indeed a blue card!

Q: Does the creature with exalted get +1/+1 if it attacks alone, or does any creature attacking alone get +1/+1 for each creature with exalted?

A: Creatures with exalted exalt the one idiot who goes charging into battle all alone. Otherwise Angelic Benediction would be a pretty pointless card, since it will so very, very rarely be attacking.

Q: Can I Momentary Blink a creature I unearthed to save it?

A: That works just fine. Part of unearth is: "If it would leave play this turn, remove it from the game instead of putting it anywhere else." So this part of unearth ignores effects that remove things from the game, and when the creature comes back, it'll be a brand new object that wasn't unearthed.

Heeeere Demon Demon Demon...
Q: Do I have to sacrifice Demon's Herald to play its ability?

Q: Can I sacrifice Demon's Herald to play its ability?

A: These Heralds seem to mostly herald questions and not the mythic creature they proclaim. So, a bit of clarification: you must sacrifice three creatures. You can sacrifice any three creatures of the right colors, including the Herald or not. For Demon's Herald, one creature must be blue and any other colors, another must be black and any other colors, and the third must be red and any other colors. None of the creatures have to be monocolored, and you can't sacrifice one three-color creature.

Whew. Feel free to copy/paste that preceding paragraph every time someone asks about Heralds in a rules forum.

Q: When I play Ranger of Eos, do I have to get a 1-CMC creature and a 0-CMC creature, or can I get two 1-CMC creatures?

A: You can get up to two creatures, each with converted mana cost 1 or less. If the total had to be 1 or less, it'd be worded more like Protean Hulk.

Q: Can I cycle Resounding Roar if there aren't any creatures in play?

A: The cycling ability never has a target, so knock yourself out. The when-cycled trigger will just be taken right off the stack, while the cycling activated ability will happily resolve and get you a card.

Q: If I reveal Drove of Elves with Mayael of the Anima, will it count my green permanents, or is * 0?

A: Abilities that define a * are (almost always) characteristic-defining abilities. CDAs are awesome, special little abilities because they apply everywhere, including your library, hand, graveyard, binder, and pet's stomach. So if you have five green permanents, you can get a Drove of Elves.

Q: I have Skill Borrower in play and play Ad Nauseam. Will I see each card before I choose to take it?

A: State-based effects aren't checked while Ad Nauseam is hanging out resolving, but things that constantly update – like revealing the top card of your library – will still update. So each time you put a card in your hand, you'll immediately reveal the next card and will know how much life you'll lose if you choose to repeat the process.

Q: If Vein Drinker blocks a creature and both take lethal damage, will it get a counter in time to survive?

A: Nope, the Vein Drinker will die before its "gimme counter!" trigger is even put on the stack. After damage is dealt, whether in combat or by Vein Drinker's ability, state-based effects must be checked and resolve as a single event. In this event, both Vein Drinker and the other creature die, and then the Drinker's ability triggers in vain.

Q: Can I Incinerate a creature with devour before it gets counters but after it eats creatures?

A: Devour is an as-comes-into-play replacement effect. Just like Spike Feeder, there is no time that it's in play without its counters.

Q: I control Prince of Thralls and one of my opponent's creatures dies. We both forget the trigger. What happens if I remember this a couple turns later?

A: Oh goodie goodie. This is a Missed Trigger, so we have to look at what sort of trigger it is. It's not a "may" trigger, and it does have a visible effect on the game state. So does it have a default action? It does! The default is to put that creature into play. This does not use the turn cycle concept, so it doesn't matter how long it's been. That creature immediately comes into play under your control if it's still in the graveyard.

Q: If I play Elspeth, Knight-Errant's ultimate and then play a creature, will that creature be indestructible?

A: It will be. Elspeth sets up a continuous effect that doesn't change the characteristics of objects, so the set of objects it applies to is constantly updated. Every permanent you get later on (except for fellow planeswalkers) will be indestructible until the game's over, even if Elspeth dies along the way.

It was a Zombie Jamboree!
Took place in a Grixis cemetery.
Q: What happens if I have no non-Zombies and Archdemon of Unx?

A: That probably means that there's a conspiracy afoot, since the Archdemon itself is not a Zombie. You'll probably have to sacrifice it and turn your giant demon into a lowly zombie. But if your Archdemon is somehow an Archzombie, you won't have to sacrifice anything – you'll just get a free Zombie!

Q: Will my artifact creatures become 5/5 when I use Tezzeret the Seeker's last ability?

A: When Tezzeret says "artifacts you control," it means aaaaall of 'em. Even the ones that are already creatures! Wham, your Ornithopter is a 5/5 monstrosity that suddenly has a purpose in life other than feeding Ravagers and wearing hats.

Q: What happens if my creature dies with Minion Reflector's trigger on the stack?

A: Minion Reflector will use that creature's last known information's copiable values to determine what it should be. So gaze back to just before that creature went screaming into your graveyard, take the copiable values (that means that if the creature died to Nameless Inversion, you don't count the +3/-3 when making the copy!), and slap them onto your favorite glass bead.

Q: If I play a Clone with Minion Reflector out, do I get another Clone, or do I get whatever the Clone copied?

A: You'll get whatever the Clone copied. Copiable values do take into account other copy effects, so you'll get that and you won't get to copy something else, even if you want to.

Bonus! You can play Clone to copy an opponent's legendary creature and watch them both die, and then Minion Reflector can get you a brand new copy of that creature.

Q: Do I have to block with Qasali Ambusher if I play it during combat?

A: Nah, nothing says it has to, so it doesn't. It truly defeats the flavor of the card, but your Ambushers can pop out, wave to the attacking creatures, and go back to sitting around chilling.

Q: If I control Keeper of Progenitus and tap a Breeding Pool for U, will I get UU even though I didn't tap it as a Forest?

A: You'll get your two blue mana. You did tap a Forest for mana, even though it's not a basic Forest (just a Forest) and wasn't tapped for green mana.

Q: I played Giant Growth on my Drumhunter – will I get a card at end of turn?

A: You will indeed. The end of turn step happens before the cleanup step, and Giant Growth won't wear off until the cleanup. Any "until end of turn" pumps will trigger the 5-power-matters end-of-turn triggers.

Q: With Mindlock Orb in play, if a card tells me to search my library and then shuffle, do I still shuffle?

A: That depends on the wording of the card. If an effect tells you to search your library then shuffle, shuffle you will. But if an effect says "you may search your library," you'll only shuffle if you do search, and you can't search under the Orb.

Q: My opponent uses Godtoucher on Godsire, then I Shrink it later in the turn. Will the damage still be prevented?

A: It will be prevented. The 5+ power restriction is only a targeting restriction of the ability, and the prevention shield is not dependent on that creature's power.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned for next week when we come back with another stack of your best questions about this bright, colorful set.

Until then, eat more bacon!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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