Cranial Insertion: Flipping the National Debt



Cranial Insertion
How To Flip The National Debt In Pennies
And Other Knowledge You Will Never Put To Practical Use

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

I know we’re all waiting anxiously for the Shadowmoor Prerelease (oooh aaah), but there’s still a week to go before we get new cards. In light of that fact, I think it is important that we enjoy what we already have. What I already have is two long boxes of junk rares eating up space in my room. Therefore, this week’s article is based on questions I made up by pulling random cards from those boxes. Junk rares are beautiful things. While they may never be useful in practice, they can expose interesting quirks in the rules before they lose you the game.

I encourage you to raid your own junk rare boxes and send interesting questions to [email]cranial.insertion@gmail.com[/email]. Moko loves that sort of stuff.

And with that, to the questions!





All Ur-Dragon are belong to us!
Q: I control Zirilan of the Claw, and I use it to put Scion of the Ur-Dragon into play. I use Scion of the Ur-Dragon to put Amoeboid Changeling into the graveyard. I then tap my Scion-Changeling to make itself lose all creature types. Will I still have to remove it from the game at end of turn?

A: Yes, you will. Even though Scion of the Ur-Dragon is no longer named Scion of the Ur-Dragon, or even a dragon at all, it will still be removed from the game. Zirilan sets up a delayed triggered ability, which will affect the object you put into play no matter how it changes. It will not, however, affect the permanent if you make it a new object.

Quote from 404.4c »
A delayed triggered ability that refers to a particular object still affects it even if the object changes characteristics.





Q: I control Cream of the Crop. I play Isamaru, Hound of Konda, it comes into play, and the Crop's ability triggers. With the trigger on the stack, I cast Might of Oaks on my Hound. How many cards do I get to look at?

A: You’ll get to look at nine cards. Cream of the Crop’s ability checks what the creature’s power is on resolution. If you change the creature’s power before the ability resolves, it uses the new power.

Now if you could give a creature +20/+20 and double it’s power, you could probably stack your entire deck not too far into the game. Now where can I find something that gives +20/+20




Q: I control Isochron Scepter, March of the Machines, and Summoner's Egg. I cast Vesuvan Doppelganger, copying Summoner's Egg, and imprint an instant from my hand on it. The next upkeep, I choose to have Vesuvan Doppelganger copy the Isochron Scepter. Can I play copies of the imprinted instant, even though it is face down?

A: No, you can’t. Because the instant is face down, the game has no way of knowing that it is an instant at all, let alone what it is. Therefore, you cannot make a copy of it.

Bonus Material: A blast from the past.





When a beast’s as big as I am,
Without a risk of dyin’,
You should be on the clock.
I’d be doing all the slammage,
You’d be taking lethal damage,
If you only couldn’t block!
Q: If I attack with a Krosan Cloudscraper, equipped with Kusari-Gama, and my opponent blocks with his Pristine Angel, do I get to deal 13 damage to his other creatures?

A: No. Kusari-Gama triggers on damage being dealt, and protection sets up a prevention effect that prevents the damage from being dealt.

The comprehensive rules hate you, clearly.




Q: I control Liege of the Pit and no other creatures. With its upkeep ability on the stack, my opponent Vindicates Leige of the Pit. When the ability resolves, will Liege of the Pit deal me 7 damage, even if it isn't in play? Can I prevent the damage with a Story Circle set to black?

A: Yes, it will, and yes, you can. An ability, once it is on the stack, exists independently from its source. If any information is required about the source of an ability that is no longer in play, the last known information about that source is used. In this case, the last known information about Liege of the Pit says it was black, and therefore the Story Circle can prevent its damage.

Quote from 402.6 »
Once activated or triggered, an ability exists independently of its source as an ability on the stack. Destruction or removal of the source after that time won't affect the ability… if the source is no longer in play, its last known information is used.


I’m starting to suspect that “The Pit” is some sort of goth club for demons. Liege of the Pit must be the weekend goth, working a white-collar day job as a vanilla 2/2.




Q: If I cast Heat Shimmer on my Blistering Firecat, what happens to it at end of turn? Do I sacrifice it or do I remove it from the game?

A: It depends on how you stack the abilities. Both Heat Shimmer’s delayed triggered ability and Blistering Firecat’s triggered ability go on the stack at the beginning of the end of turn step, and since you control both abilities, you get to choose which goes on the stack first. If the abilities were controlled by different players, they would go on the stack in Active-Player-Non-Active-Player order, or APNAP order, as we call it in the rules biz.




Q: I have Yixlid Jailer in play and four Tarmogoyfs in my graveyard. I cast Sutured Ghoul, removing the four Goyfs. How big is my Ghoul?

A: Your Sutured Ghoul has a power four times the power of your Tarmogoyfs, and a toughness four times their toughness.

Tarmogoyf’s characteristic-defining ability functions in all zones, but the Jailer wipes the ability away. The official ruling on this is that the value of a * without a characteristic-defining ability is 0. However, Sutured Ghoul looks at the Tarmogoyfs’ powers and toughnesses in the removed-from-game zone. There, the Goyfs’ CDAs are once again functional. Crisis Averted. Hurrah!




Q: If I use Ith, High Arcanist's ability on my opponent's attacking creature and don’t block, can he ninjitsu in something else and have it deal damage?

A: Yes. In no way does Ith remove a creature from combat or make it stop attacking. The newly arrived ninja is a different object from the creature you targeted with Ith, so it's ability does not apply.

Ninjas are serious business.




Q: I wrote down the damage I took from my Tarnished Citadel, but my opponent did not. Does he get a penalty for that?

A: No. A player is responsible for visibly and accurately keeping track of his own life total. If he wishes to keep track of his opponent’s life for clarity or convenience, that is completely allowable, however it is not required.

Do not try to lawyer penalties out of judges. That is unsporting and punishable under the Penalty Guidelines. However, if you're playing Tarnished Citadel, that may be your only viable strategy.




Q: If I control Howling Mine and Vedalken Orrery, Can I respond to the draw step trigger of Howling Mine by playing Maralen of the Mornsong and tutoring for a card after I've already drawn for turn?

A: You can bring Maralen in during the draw step, however her ability will not trigger. For something to trigger in the draw step, it must be there at the very beginning of the draw step.

Quote from 304.1 »
First, the active player draws a card. This game action doesn't use the stack. Then any abilities that trigger at the beginning of the draw step and any other abilities that have triggered go on the stack. Then the active player gets priority and players may play spells and abilities.


Alas, you cannot have your card and tutor too.




Q: I control Colfenor's Urn and three face-down Krosan Colossuses. My opponent plays Kirtar's Wrath. Will Colfenor's Urn count the Krosan Colossuses as having at least four toughness?

A: No. Colfenor’s Urn looks at the creatures in play before they died. Therefore, it sees the Krosan Colossuses (Colossi?) as vanilla 2/2s.

Honestly, I’m not sure how you would fit three Colossi into an urn. Even in ash form, they’d be large. Maybe if it were Colfenor’s Bucket instead. No can be stealin’ my bucket!




Q: If I control Simic Guildmage and my opponent has cast Take Possession on another one of my permanents, can I move the Take Possession to enchant itself and get my permanent back?

A: No. This is why rule 212.4g exists.

Quote from 212.4g »
An Aura can't enchant itself, and an Aura that's also a creature can't enchant anything. If this occurs somehow, the Aura is put into its owner's graveyard.


I like to think of this as the “Divide by 0” rule. It prevents the universe from exploding.





I have a card-drawing fetish.
Q: I have Krovikan Fetish in my graveyard, and no creatures in play. If I cast Replenish, will I get to draw a card, even though I can’t enchant anything?

A: No. If an aura would come into play, but has nothing to enchant, it stays in the graveyard.

I always read the name of Krovakian Fetish as Kevorkian Fetish, which gives the card quite a different connotation. Hooked On Phonics works for me!




Q: Last turn, my opponent cast Dream Leash on my Luminous Angel, which was equipped with Specter's Shroud. He attacks with it, and I cast Pure Intentions. When it deals damage to me, will I get to return the card I discard to my hand?

A: No. The Shroud’s triggered ability comes from the equipment, a source you control. Because you control the source, you control the ability. You will not get to return the card you discard.

Quote from 404.4e »
The controller of a delayed triggered ability is the same as the controller of the spell or ability that created it.


Once again, it is shown that pure intentions are not enough to garner mercy. Life is cruel and then you die.




Q: If I control Mirror Gallery and two Krark’s Thumbs, can I flip infinite coins by having each one replace the other’s flips?

A: No. You will flip four coins for every one you would normally flip. Any replacement effect can only apply once to a given event. Therefore, one Thumb replaces the original flip or flips, and the second replaces the first thumb’s flips. This is all caused by one event, so each thumb can only apply once.

Quote from 419.6a »
A replacement effect doesn't invoke itself repeatedly and gets only one opportunity for each event.


The number of coins you flip is equal to c*2^n where c is the number of coins you were initially flipping and n is the number of Thumbs you have.

To flip the United States national debt in quarters, you would need 46 Krark’s Thumbs. 47 Thumbs will do it in dimes, 46 in nickels, and 50 in pennies. God bless America and base 2 logarithms.




Q: In a 3-player game, I have Confusion in the Ranks and Grip of Chaos in play. One of my opponents controls Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and the other opponent controls Savannah Lions. I cast Serra Angel and target Kira with Confusion in the Ranks’s triggered ability. What the frak happens? What if I had targeted the Savannah Lions?

A: You get smacked in the face by the poor judge to whom you posed the question.

Okay, here we go. In the first situation, Confusion in the Ranks goes on the stack targeting Kira. This triggers Kira during the target-selection step of playing the ability (rule 409.1c) and Grip of Chaos during the final step of playing the ability (409.1i). However, because no one receives priority between those steps, they will go on the stack in APNAP order, which means Kira’s ability will resolve first. The triggered ability is countered.

If you targeted the Savannah Lions, Grip of Chaos will trigger and you will have to randomly reselect the target between Kira and Savannah Lions. If you select the Savannah Lions, everything is copasetic (except for the fact that you now have a Savannah Lions instead of a Serra Angel). If you select Kira, everything is still copasetic. Targeting Kira via reselection does not trigger her ability, and you will get to swap. She still hasn’t been targeted that turn, so she still has her glass shield up.

I think that was the holy grail of wonk questions. Thanks, trusty long box!




And that’s all we have for you this week, folks. Join in next week for a much more useful, but much less quirky article. Until then, wrack your brains for wonky questions and ship them to [email][email protected][/email].

And next week… Shadowmoor!

Diane Colley
Level 2 Judge Trainer
Oberlin, Ohio

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