Cranial Insertion: A Midnight's Tale

Cranial Insertion
A Midnight's Tale
or, Hey! Listen!

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

Yes, :symq:. Isn't it cute?
Did you know that in the original Cinderella the stepsisters slice up their own feet to fit into the slipper, and a pigeon pecks out their eyes as punishment, forcing them to live as blind beggars?

Did you know that the wicked queen in Snow White was originally strapped into burning hot iron shoes and forced to dance until she died?

The eponymous character in The Little Mermaid was told to murder the prince, who never actually loved her. The three bears tore Goldilocks into pieces and ate her.

In case you can't tell, I am dreadfully delighted to get out of the Disney version of fairy tales that was Lorwyn and into the Grimm, grim, ghastly, and apparently very colorful land of things that go bump in the night. The barghest and the banshee. The redcap and the puca. Scarecrows. Zombie monkeys. And, of course, the fae.

And throughout this dismal dim comes the hollow, echoing cry:


:symtap:: :symq:?! :symq:?!?! Oh god what is going on here?

:symq:: That's the untap symbol. It's not all that weird. It works just like the tap symbol. It represents a cost of "untap this permanent," it can only be paid of the permanent is tapped, and a creature can't be untapped to pay Untap unless you've controlled it continuously since the start of your most recent turn.

Just as you can't tap an opponent's creature in response to paying :symtap:, you can't untap it in response to paying :symq:. It's a cost.

:symtap:: Can I tap four creatures to make two copies of Ghastly Discovery?

:symq:: Nope. The conspire ability allows you to tap two creatures as an additional cost. Not four, not six, not 13654832, two.

:symtap:: With two Fists of the Demigod, will my black creature have wither twice?

:symq:: It will! Unfortunately, multiple instances of wither are redundant. It won't make a 1/1 black creature deal 2 damage or put two -1/-1 counters on a creature.

:symtap:: If I play Scar with one red mana, is it only red?

:symq:: A card with hybrid mana in the cost is always each color represented in its cost. It doesn't matter what colors were paid to play it, and this coloration is not optional. Scar is always red and always black.

Does this moss make
my butt look big?
:symtap:: Since hybrid cards are each color in the cost, does that mean that Beseech the Queen is both black and colorless?

:symq:: A hybrid card is indeed each color of the mana in its cost. "Colorless" is not a color, so no, Beseech the Queen is not colorless. In fact, "colorless" just means "it has no color."

:symtap:: With Furnace of Rath in play, and a 1/1 creature with wither about to deal damage to my creature, can I choose to apply wither before the Furnace so my creature only gets one -1/-1 counter?

:symq:: If wither were a replacement effect, you could do that. Oddly enough, wither is not a replacement effect, so you can't.

Think of it this way: Dealing damage to a player results in that much life being lost. Dealing damage to a planeswalker results in that many loyalty counters being removed. And dealing damage to a creature normally results in that much damage being put on the creature. When a creature with wither is dealing the damage to another creature, instead dealing damage to a creature results in that many -1/-1 counters being put on it.

:symtap:: My Scuzzback Marauders has a +1/+1 counter on it, then it gets hit with Profane Command and gets -2/-2 until end of turn. Then my opponent Scars it. Will it come back from persist?

:symq:: It will not. Persist must look back in time to determine if the creature had a -1/-1 counter on it as it left play. This uses last known information, which is the information about the object just before the event that caused it to leave play. And what event was that? It was the state-based effect check! Oh noes!

Because during this state-based effect check, two state-based effects started dinging. "A creature with 0 toughness!!!" and "A +1/+1 and -1/-1 counter on the same object!!!" Both happen simultaneously during the same SBE-check event, so the last time the creature was in play before this event, it had a counter, and thus persist will not let it live again.

:symtap:: If I attack with Merrow Wavebreakers, can I give them flying before my opponent can block?

:symq:: You sure can! After you declare your attackers, you get priority during the declare attacker step. You have to pass priority – and then your opponent must as well – in order to move on to the declare blockers step. Only as that step starts can your opponent block; you'll have a nice wide window of opportunity to untap your fishies and fling them into the air.

:symtap:: Can I use Rosheen Meanderer's ability to pay for X on Decree of Justice's cycling trigger?

:symq:: You sure can. You're paying it, thus it is a cost, and it includes X. This all makes Rosheen very happy in naughty ways.

:symtap:: I control six Mountains, and I play Jaws of Stone dealing 3 damage to each of two creatures. In response, my opponent blows up one of my Mountains. Now what?

:symq:: Now you deal 3 damage to each of two creatures. Jaws of Stone only cares about the number of Mountains you controlled as you announced it. Rule 413.2f also clarifies that when you divide damage up on announcement among targets, the numbers won't change.

Also, it says so on the card just so you don't have to remember esoteric rules.

:symtap:: If I hit my opponent with two Spawnwrithes, put their triggers on the stack, and then Mirrorweave a Wilt-Leaf Liege, will the copies be Spawnwrithes or Lieges?

:symq:: They will be Lieges. Silly huge Lieges. When copying an object, you consider the object's natural characteristics plus other copy effects – and Mirrorweave is a copy effect to consider.

:symtap:: Will Drove of Elves get +1/+1 for each Forest I control?

:symq:: If you've made them green, then yes. But since a land normally does not have a color, no.

A card's color is determined by the mana symbols in its cost plus any abilities that specifically define it to have a color. Lands have no cost, so they have no color unless otherwise stated.

:symtap:: If I tap three other Elves for Heritage Druid, will Mana Reflection double the green mana? What if I tap Heritage Druid as one of those elves?

:symq:: In neither case will you get six green mana. "Is tapped for mana" means that tap symbol was paid as a cost to play a mana ability. To tap is not to :symtap:, even though to tap symbol is to tap. How philosophical!

The real question is not how the 1/1 ability
works, but what the purple fabric
on the altar really is...
:symtap:: Godhead of Awe... how does this work with counters? Giant Growth? Giant Strength? Glorious Anthem?

:symq:: We touched on this briefly two weeks ago, but for those of you who weren't watching spoilers, here's a more in-depth answer:

It works with layers! Delicious layer cake! Keep in mind the layers of power and toughness effects:

To determine the creature's power and toughness, start with the printed values and go through the layers in order. If more than one effect applies in one of these layers, apply them in the order that the ability, spell, or permanent creating the effect resolved – "timestamp order."

  • Counters will always apply after Godhead.
  • If you play Giant Growth after Godhead comes into play, your creature is 4/4. Otherwise, it's 1/1.
  • Giant Strength and Glorious Anthem will both always apply after Godhead – there's some savage tech for you.

:symtap:: How does persist interact with regeneration, especially "can't be regenerated" effects?

:symq:: It doesn't interact at all. Regeneration prevents destruction so that the creature never actually leaves play or goes to the graveyard. Persist triggers when the creature does go to the graveyard, and returning it to play is not "regeneration."

:symtap:: When a creature comes into play under my control, can I hit it with Prismwake Merrow before Dire Undercurrents triggers so I get both effects?

:symq:: No can do. After the creature comes into play, state-based effects are checked and then triggered abilities are put on the stack, and only then do you receive priority to play things like colorful fish. Even if you could slip in the Merrow before the trigger is put on the stack, you can't get the Merrow in (or its trigger to resolve) before the creature coming into play would trigger Dire Undercurrents – it must be blue and/or black as soon as it enters play.

:symtap:: If I play a huge fat creature with phasing and then Savor the Moment, that creature won't phase out and I can swing with it on my extra turn, right?

:symq:: That's right. Things phase out during your untap step; if there is no untap step, there is no phasing.

:symtap:: If I control River Kelpie and my opponent makes me discard a Wilt-Leaf Liege, will I get to draw a card when the Liege comes into play?

:symq:: No card for you. The Liege never hits the graveyard; it is simply discarded from your hand into play.

:symtap:: What happens if I can't discard a card for Cragganwick Cremator? Do I sacrifice it?

:symq:: Then nothing happens. The Cremator may cry a little, but it won't be sacrificed or anything because the card does not say that there is any penalty for not being able to discard.

:symtap:: If I pay 1 and discard Dead // Gone to Knollspine Invocation, will I get to deal 4 damage since the converted mana cost of Dead // Gone is 1 and 3? Or do I have to pay 4?

:symq:: You can't pay 4 for Dead // Gone because Dead // Gone's converted mana cost is not 4.

To play the Invocation's ability, first you choose X. Then you pay X and discard a card with converted mana cost X. Dead // Gone's converted mana costs are 1 and 3, not 4, so you can discard it for an X of either 1 or 3.

And lastly, the Invocation deals X damage. Not damage equal to the card's converted mana cost, just X. If you choose X as 1 and discard Dead // Gone, you'll get 1 damage.

:symtap:: If I Incinerate my opponent with Sygg, River Cutthroat in play, and then Sygg dies before the end of turn, will I still draw a card?

:symq:: Sygg's ability will only trigger at end of turn if it's still in play. This isn't any sort of delayed triggered ability, which would need more instances of trigger words ("when," "whenever," and "at").

:symtap:: Can I put a -1/-1 counter on Tatterkite to play Scarscale Ritual?

:symq:: Putting a counter on Tatterkite is an impossible action. You can't do an impossible action, obviously enough. And since you can't do it, you can't try to do it to pay the cost of Scarscale Ritual.

This is just a handful of the questions that came up at the prerelease. Got more? Of course you do! Send them to [email][email protected][/email], and we'll post them in the coming weeks.

Until then, sleep with one eye open.

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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