Cranial Insertion: Form of...a Snake!



Form of . . . a Snake!
or, Anything Beats the Sucky Wonder Twin Who Always Turned Into a Puddle of Water
By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

Ahoy, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Block PTQs are in full swing and are still generating questions about everyone’s two favorite problematic cards. We’re only dealing with one of those today, though, and I’ll leave it to you to figure it out from the title.

You can send us your questions about any cards in the Magical landscape to [email][email protected][/email]. Mail in your questions today and look for them in a future edition of CI!

Let’s get started. . . .



"Here's some money. Now you
just stand there and look large."
Q: We are in a multiplayer free-for-all game. Fred plays Bribery and fetches a Mindslicer from my library. If Fred dies, what happens to the Mindslicer I own; and if it goes to my graveyard, will its ability trigger? I know about the multiplayer rules that remove all permanents a player owns and all effects he controls from the game as a state-based effect. Wouldn't this rule cause the Mindslicer I own to be shuffled back into my library?

A: Nope. There’s nothing in the multiplayer rules that says a permanent would get shuffled into its owner’s library because its controller left the game. Specific permanents may do this, but the rules don’t. Also, Mindslicer’s ability won’t trigger here. Bribery isn’t a control-change effect; someone just takes a creature from your library and puts it into play. When the opponent who controls your Mindslicer leaves the game, Mindslicer will follow him. Since it can’t complain about losing and get a Mountain Dew from the fridge, though, it will settle into the RFG zone.

Bonus: The cleanups that take place when a player leaves a multiplayer game aren’t state-based effects. They’re actually “faster,” and can even take place while a spell or ability is resolving.


Q: We’re still in a multiplayer FFA game. What happens to creatures that were stolen by Desertion or Dominate?

A: These are two different things. Desertion, like Bribery, isn’t a control-changing effect. Dominate, however, is: it tells you to “gain control” of the targeted creature. Because of that, the creature stolen by Dominate will go back to its owner’s control when its controller leaves the game.


Q: I cast Oblivion Ring targeting my Mangara of Corondor. I then use Mangara's ability targeting a Plains. If Oblivion Ring is destroyed, will Mangara come back into play?

A: Nope. When you responded to Oblivion Ring by using Mangara’s ability, that removed Mangara from the game. Oblivion Ring then had no legal target, so it sat there in play, twiddling its purple-limned fingers and feeling useless. When it left play, it hadn’t removed anything, so there’s nothing for it to return.


Q: I attack with an animated Mutavault. With damage on the stack, my opponent plays Chameleon Blur. If I sacrifice my Mutavault (presuming I have some means to do so), will it deal damage, since it’s a land card in the graveyard?

A: It won’t deal any damage. Chameleon Blur prevents damage that creatures would deal to players this turn. Combat damage was put onto the stack. At that time, Mutavault was a creature, so even though it’s no longer in play, the game still knows that a creature is trying to deal damage to you. Chameleon Blur just won’t have any of that.



I have seen the future, and
it's full of fiery rings of death!
Q: I'm playing with Future Sight (the card, not the set) in play, it’s my opponents turn, and the top of my library is a Whitemane Lion. Can I play it?

A: You can. And you may, as well. Remember when your teachers used to pull that on you? “Can I go to the bathroom?” “I don’t know, can you?” We would scowl and they would LOL, and we still wouldn’t have learned the difference between “can” and “may” the next time we asked. Meanwhile, we still had to pee. Grammar fascists like me were born in moments like that.
Anyway, yes, you can (and may) play Whitemane Lion if it’s atop your library with Future Sight (or its equivalent Magus) in play. Flash only cares if you can play the card from the zone in which it currently resides. Usually, that zone is your hand, but it doesn’t have to be.


Q: Player A controls a Spitemare. Player B is at 3 life and controls two Kitchen Finks. What happens when Player B casts Firespout? Will the backlash damage of the Spitemare kill him before the Kitchen Finks persist ability saves him?

A: That depends on whose turn it is. Since Firespout is a sorcery, it’s very likely to be Player B’s turn. That means his triggers will be put onto the stack first, followed by Player A’s. Player A’s will resolve first, and the damage from Spitemare will kill player B before Kitchen Finks can persistently return to play and save him.


Q: If an Undiscovered Paradise has an alternate means of producing mana (thru something like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or Prismatic Omen), does it still return to your hand at the beginning of your next untap phase?

A: It depends on which ability you use. Undiscovered Paradise’s add-any-color ability will still require you to return it to your hand. If you use the other mana ability (to tap for black mana because it’s a Swamp with Urborg in play, for example), the other ability can be used without having to return the Paradise.


Q: If I have a cost-reducing mechanic like Undead Warchief in play, is it possible for someone to interrupt my playing of another zombie and remove the Warchief from play, therefore making me have to pay more?

A: It is not possible for that to happen. Neither player gains priority to play a spell or ability until after you have finished playing your zombie spell. Since the last part of that is to determine and pay costs, the cost reduction of the Warchief will apply and your spell will be 1 mana cheaper. Then, with that zombie spell on the stack, players get priority, starting with the active player (presumably you). When your opponent gets priority, he can destroy the Warchief, but it’s far too late to have any effect on the spell you’ve already played.


Q: A friend of mine came up with a deck that uses Devoted Druid + pump effects to generate large amounts of mana. During a recent game, he announced Bogardan Hellkite, then wanted to use a pump spell while paying costs, allowing him to use the Druid enough times to afford the Hellkite. Is this legal?

A: Not at all. As we’ve seen above, no player gains priority to play spells and abilities until after the spell being played has gone onto the stack. That means it’s already been paid for. “Pay all costs” doesn’t mean “play Giant Growth on your mana creature;” it means use mana from mana abilities, pay life, discard cards, etc.—whatever the costs are on the spell or ability being played. If your opponent can’t pay for his Hellkite with what he has available, then he’s committed an illegal action, and the entire sequence is reversed.

422.1. If a player realizes that he or she can’t legally take an action after starting to do so, the entire action is reversed and any payments already made are canceled. No abilities trigger and no effects apply as a result of an undone action. If the action was playing a spell, the spell returns to the zone it came from. The player may also reverse any legal mana abilities played while making the illegal play, unless mana from them or from any triggered mana abilities they triggered was spent on another mana ability that wasn’t reversed. Players may not reverse actions that moved cards to a library or from a library to any zone other than the stack.

422.2. When reversing illegal spells and abilities, the player who had priority retains it and may take another action or pass. The player may redo the reversed action in a legal way or take any other action allowed by the rules.



Q: When Carrionette is in a graveyard, is it considered a "creature card" and not a "creature?" Can its ability target a Beloved Chaplain that is in play?

A: In the graveyard, Carionette is a creature card. However, its type is still “creature,” and that will be enough to prevent it from targeting Beloved Chaplain.


Q: If I attack with a 2/2 creature that has double-strike and lifelink and my opponent blocks with a 2/2 creature with no abilities, how much life will I get from lifelink?

A: You will gain 2 life. Your double-striker deals 2 first strike damage to the blocking creature. That will destroy the blocker and gain you 2 life. Now, when it comes time for normal combat damage to be dealt, there’s no blocker remaining. Your attacker is still considered blocked, but there’s nothing for him to assign any damage to, so he just stands there looking bored.



Arthur Janov's favorite card.
Q: My opponent played Primal Command, choosing the modes of putting a noncreature permanent on my library (targeting my Mutavault), and searching for a creature card. In response, I animated my Mutavault. I think this would make the spell “fizzle,” but my opponent said the search effect still targets the card he finds in his library. Who’s correct?

A: You are. The only spells and abilities that target are those that specifically use the word “target” in their text, and aura spells on the stack. With the chosen modes, Primal Command is a spell with a single target. When you animate your Mutavault, it’s no longer a noncreature permanent. Thus, when Primal Command tries to resolve, it will find its sole target is invalid, and it will be countered upon resolution.


Q: I pass priority in my main phase and my opponent plays a burn spell. If I let it resolve, then if my opponent passes, do we enter the combat phase or does priority head back to me?

A: There are two important things to know about priority here:

  1. The player who plays a spell or ability again receives priority, and
  2. The active player gets priority after a spell or ability resolves.

Your opponent gets priority after he plays the burn spell, but you get it after the burn spell resolves. Here’s how it breaks down.

(Main Phase)
You: Pass.
Opp: Burn spell.
Opp (has priority again): Pass.
You: Pass.
(Burn spell resolves.)
You (get priority as the active player): Pass.
Opp: Pass
(Combat phase begins.)


Q: I have a Civic Wayfinder and four mana open, including two Mutavaults. My opponent has 2 life and no creatures in play. I'm about to declare attackers and my opponent plays Cryptic Command, tapping my creatures and bouncing a Mutavault. After the Command resolves, can I activate the other Mutavault so I can swing for the win?

A: I’m going to presume that your opponent played Cryptic Command during your beginning of combat step, since that’s the last time he can play it for any meaningful effect. If he waits for you to declare attackers, tapping them after the fact won’t accomplish anything. If he taps your creature during the beginning of combat step, then you as the active player will get priority after Cryptic Command resolves. You can then animate your Mutavault, and, when it’s time to declare attackers, push it into the red zone.



Times are gone for honest men
And sometimes far too long for snakes

Q: I have quite a few questions about Snakeform. Could you explain what each of these creatures becomes when Snakeform is cast on them (and why)?

A: Sure. A couple of general things before we get into the meat of this, though:

  1. The +1/+1 from a demigod aura always applies after all the spiffy things that Snakeform does, and
  2. If the creature is naturally green, it’ll lose whatever ability the demigod aura gives it. If it’s not naturally green (as in, it’s only green when Snakeform makes it green), it’ll have that ability.

You can blame all of that on layers and dependency, which you can read more about in this past CI column.


Q: A vanilla 2/2 red creature with Runes of the Deus attached? (Would it make a difference if this creature was Bloodmark Mentor?)

A: You have a 2/2 trampler. The creature becoming green and losing abilities applies before the “red creatures have first strike” ability.

Bonus: It’s not pronounced like “deuce.” It’s Latin. Look it up.


Q: A vanilla 2/2 green creature with Runes of the Deus attached? (Would it make a difference if this creature was Roughshod Mentor?)

A: You are the proud (or not so proud, most likely) owner of a vanilla 2/2 creature. Trample, both from the Runes and the Roughshod Mentor’s own ability, are lost.


Q: A vanilla 2/2 red-green creature with Runes of the Deus attached?

A: Another vanilla 2/2 green creature.


Q: Any vanilla 2/2 creature with Armored Ascension attached (with, say, 4 plains in play)?

A: The bonus from Armored Ascension applies in layer 6d, which is after when Snakeform makes the creature into a 1/1. The +4/+4 the Ascension grants will still apply, giving you a 5/5 that doesn’t have flying.


Q: A vanilla 2/2 creature with Barkshell Blessing cast on it?

A: Unlike Armored Ascension’s bonus, the bonus from Barkshell Blessing applies in the same layer (6b) as the P/T-setting of Snakeform. Apply them in timestamp order, so you end up with a 1/1.


Q: An 8/8 Figure of Destiny (with flying and first strike)? (Would it make a difference if Bloodmark Mentor or Roughshod Mentor was in play?)

A: Here, you have a 1/1, but it’s a 1/1 with trample. That’s useful for when those 0/0 creatures block . . . oh wait, I guess it’s not so useful after all. In this case, Snakeform changes which of the Mentors applies to your creature, so they get applied after Snakeform, which is why you end up with a trampler. The Figure’s P/T-setting ability is in the same layer as Snakeform’s, so applying them in timestamp order leaves you with a 1/1. With trample!


Q: An 8/8 Chameleon Colossus? (Would it make a difference if Roughshod Mentor was in play?)

A: It’s a 1/1 with no abilities, so the Mentor doesn’t matter. Since the Colossus is already green, it gains trample, then loses trample to Snakeform. The +4/+4 pump ability is a 6b effect, just like Snakeform’s “hahaha, you’re 1/1” ability, so the result is a 1/1 Colossus. And that’s not really much of a Colossus, is it?


That’s all we have for this week. Maybe next week, Snakeform can stop hogging all the attention and Mirrorweave can get in on some of the fun.


-Tom Fowler

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