Cranial Insertion: Figuratively, Not Literally

Cranial Insertion
Figuratively, Not Literally
By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

Hello again, loyal readers! I have returned from the northern lands of Cananada to bring you good tidings and Magical questions. Nationals was a blast, and Montreal is an amazing city. Moko is extremely jealous that he couldn’t go and has been miffed about it all week. It’ll cheer him up if you send more questions to [email][email protected][/email].

Without further delay, let the shenanigans begin!

I can give everlasting power!
Q: If I resolve Spitting Image targeting Ink-Treader Nephilim (the only creature in play), then retrace Spitting Image targeting the Nephilim again, how many Nephilim will I have?

A: After the Spitting Image resolves the first time, you’ll have two Ink-Treader Nephilim (the original and a token). When you play Spitting Image again using its retrace ability, Ink-Treader Nephilim will trigger, putting a copy of Spitting Image on the stack targeting the other Ink-Treader Nephilim. This will not trigger the Nephilim’s ability because the copy is put onto the stack but not played. This is what prevents Ink-Treader Nephilim from making an infinitely large stack. When all is said and done, you’ll have a gang of four Nephilim, not an entire field of them.

Quote from 503.10 »
To copy a spell or activated ability means to put a copy of it onto the stack; a copy of a spell or ability isn't "played."

Q: I cast Torrent of Souls, paying both black and red mana, and I target myself and my Springjack Shepherd. Will my newborn goat tokens get +2/+0 and haste until end of turn?

A: No. While Springjack Shepherd’s ability will trigger during the resolution of Torrent of Souls, it can’t be put on the stack until Torrent of Souls has finished resolving. By that point, the goats have missed the boat.

Q: Can I pay the cost of Devoted Druid’s untap ability, even if it’s already untapped?

A: Yes, you can. Because untapping Devoted Druid is part of the resolution of the ability, rather than the cost, you are free to activate it as many times as you want (assuming it hasn’t died from having 0 toughness). If untapping were part of the cost and Devoted Druid were already untapped, you would be unable to pay that cost.

Note that when Devoted Druid’s ability resolves, it won’t be able to do anything since Devoted Druid is already untapped, and untapping is defined as going from the tapped position to the untapped position. It won’t trigger things like Wake Thrasher, for example.

Quote from Glossary »
Untap: To untap a permanent is to rotate it back to the upright position. The untap symbol ({Q} in these rules) in an activation cost means "Untap this permanent"-a permanent that's already untapped can't be untapped again to pay the cost.

Q: When do I choose whether I am tapping or untapping with Twiddle?

A: The choice to tap or untap with Twiddle is made during its resolution. Twiddle is not a modal spell, so if you target a tapped permanent with it, and they untap it in response, you can then choose to tap it again when Twiddle resolves. You may not choose to tap a tapped permanent or untap an untapped permanent, but you can also choose to do nothing. For example, the game won't force you to tap Serra's Sanctum (but Serra might).

At times like these
you gotta ask yourself a question:
“Do I feel lucky?”
Well do ya, punk?
Q: If my Endless Horizons is destroyed, what happens to the removed Plains? If I play another Endless Horizons, will I have access to the Plains I removed with the first one?

A: If your Endless Horizons leaves play for any reason (except phasing), the Plains you removed with it will be permanently removed from the game. Even if you bring the same Endless Horizons card back into play, the game will see it as a new object and it will not remember the Plains it removed previously. This is a great example of linked abilities.

Quote from 407.2a »
If an object has an activated or triggered ability printed on it that removes one or more cards from the game, and another ability printed on it that refers either to "the removed cards" or to cards "removed from the game with [this object]," these abilities are linked. The second ability refers only to cards in the removed-from-the-game zone that were moved there as a result of the first ability.

Q: If Yixlid Jailor is in play, what will happen to CDAs (Characteristic-Defining Abilities) of cards in the graveyard?

A: Yixlid Jailor wipes the abilities of cards in graveyards in layer 5, so how it affects CDAs will depend on where the CDA applies. Changeling, for example, applies in layer 4, so it will have a chance to apply before the Jailor wipes it. Tarmogoyf, however, has a CDA that applies in layer 6, and will be wiped by Yixlid Jailor before it sets the Goyf’s power and toughness. As such, the undefined *s are treated as 0s, and Tarmogoyf is 0/1. Layer 5 CDAs (such as those on Evermind and Crimson Kobolds) will always apply before the Jailor in layer 5, and thus will function when he is in play, regardless of timestamp.

Quote from 418.5a »
Inside each layer from 1 through 5, apply effects from characteristic-defining abilities first, then all other effects in timestamp order.

When I write Cranial Insertion, Word complains that I’m misspelling a lot of words. Yixlid, for example, is apparently not spelled correctly. I’ve decided to start writing experimental, avant-garde found poetry by right-clicking the words underlined in red and composing poetry like the following:

by Word


Can you dig it?

Q: Can I assign 8 first strike damage with my 8/8 Figure of Destiny, then cast Snakeform on it so it deals 1 regular damage as well?

A: No. The regular combat damage step is not simply for creatures without first strike. It is for creatures that have not yet dealt damage in that combat and for creatures with double strike. This is the same reason that giving something first strike after first strike damage is on the stack does not prevent it from dealing combat damage.

Quote from 310.5 »
At the start of the combat damage step, if at least one attacking or blocking creature has first strike (see rule 502.2) or double strike (see rule 502.28), creatures without first strike or double strike don't assign combat damage. Instead of proceeding to end of combat, the phase gets a second combat damage step (see rule 310.1) to handle the remaining creatures. In the second combat damage step, any attackers and blockers that didn't assign combat damage in the first step, plus any creatures with double strike, assign their combat damage.

Q: If I cast Mirrorweave targeting my Mistbind Clique, then destroy another creature that’s a copy of the Clique, will the Championed creature get returned to play?

A: No.

Quote from 407.2g »
The two abilities represented by the champion keyword are linked abilities.

Quote from 407.2a »
If an object has an activated or triggered ability printed on it that removes one or more cards from the game, and another ability printed on it that refers either to "the removed cards" or to cards "removed from the game with [this object]," these abilities are linked. The second ability refers only to cards in the removed-from-the-game zone that were moved there as a result of the first ability.

‘Nuff said.

Q: But I read on the internet that I could do that.

A: Do you honestly believe everything you read on the internet? Seriously. Only a fool would do that these days. Anyone could write anything and claim it to be true!

Q: I control a Figure of Destiny and an activated Mutavault. If I cast Mirrorweave targeting the Figure of Destiny, then activate the ability given to Mutavault to make it an 8/8 Kithkin Spirit Warrior Avatar with flying and first strike, will it stay that way permanently?

A: Sort of. Mutavault will remember that it is an 8/8 flying first striker indefinitely, but only when it’s a creature. In other words, in the cleanup step it will turn back into an inactive Mutavault. The next turn, however, if you activate it, it will rewrite the power and toughness to 2/2 and give it all creature types. It won’t overwrite the flying or first strike, though! Until it’s otherwise messed with, your Mutavault will be a 2/2 flying first striker with all creature types when activated.

Note that you can skip straight to Figure of Destiny’s third ability after Mirrorweave because Mutavault gains the creature types Kithkin, Spirit, and Warrior (as well as 213 others) in layer 4, after Mirrorweave applies in layer 1.

Q: If I have Platinum Angel in play and I’m at 0 life, can I play Force of Will for its alternate cost?

A: No. While Platinum Angel does prevent you from losing the game as a state-based effect for having 0 or less life, it does not allow you to write checks your life total can’t cash.

I’d tap that.
(When Blood Moon’s not in play.)
Q: If I tap my Undiscovered Paradise to play Blood Moon, will the Paradise return to my hand during my next untap step?

A: Yes. Undiscovered Paradise sets up a continuous effect when its mana ability resolves that modifies the game rules for your next untap step. Once that continuous effect is in place, removing Undiscovered Paradise’s ability will not change it.

Once again I feel it necessary to point out the possible double entendres with a card name like “Undiscovered Paradise.”

Fun game for long car rides: next time you’re driving to a PTQ or a Prerelease, see how many non-basic lands you can think of that are amusing when used as euphemisms for a certain part of the female anatomy.

Q: If a creature with no counters on it is about to receive lethal wither damage, is there any way I can use Quillspike to save it?

A: No. Once damage resolves, state-based effects will be checked before anyone gets priority to do anything (like activate a Quillspike).

I started branching out into more genres of poetry as I continued to work on this article. This time I tried some angsty, gothic poetry. I think Microsoft Word is a better poet than I.

“Wither Damage”
by Mademoiselle de l'Urchine

The past seems like a lovely dream,
Destroyed by knowledge of SBEs.
And now, at night, what’s haunting me
Is four-twenty-point-five-bee.

Though to activate him you would like,
There is no use for your Quillspike.
There is no hope for your poor guy,
Who, post-resolution of wither damage, dies.

Well that concludes our little lollerskating party for this week. Keep Moko happy with lots of questions ([email protected]!) and maybe I won’t have time to write any more of this dreadful poetry.

UNIMPORTANT NOTICE: The Urchin will be relocating in two weeks time to Portland, Oregon. If any of you are players out there and happen to spot a dark-haired girl judge with glasses (who is not short), introduce yourself!

See you next week!

Diane Colley
DCI Level 3 Judge
Oberlin, Ohio


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