Cranial Insertion: Wren's Run's Roads Ran Rugged

Cranial Insertion
Wren's Run's Roads Ran Rugged
or, The Pickled Piper Picked a Peck of Card Tags

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Diane Colley

If you say this column's title enough,
you'll get one of these!
(We're not responsible if you do.)
Welcome back to another wonderful week of whimsical questions! We've had a grand flood of emails to the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox this week since Urchin wrote her first article, so now we know the secret combination: primates plus echinoids equals win.

And no, we won't let Moko eat Urchin. He prefers a diet without sand in it, anyway.

Keep your questions rolling, and we'll keep answering them. Here's some of better, most asked, or most interesting questions from this week. Enjoy!

Q: When does the X for Spellstutter Sprite get "locked in?"

A: The X that the Sprite cares about isn't really ever "locked in" – it's just checked at two times, and it doesn't matter whether that X changes after the first time so long as it's still an okay X at the second.

The X is part of a targeting restriction. The Sprite's ability's target must have a converted mana cost of X or less when the ability goes on the stack (after the Sprite resolves and comes into play) in order to be selected as the target. Then all your Faeries can die, you can play some more, and as long as the target spell's converted mana cost is still less than or equal to the number of Faeries you have when the trigger resolves, that spell is countered.

Q: I have Oona's Prowler in play. I attack, and my opponent Incinerates the Prowler. I respond by playing Scion of Oona to give my guy shroud. Scion comes into play. My opponent then Tarfires the Scion. My question is, does Incinerate still kill the Prowler?

A: The Prowler will explode in great balls of fire. Similar to the last question, the target's legality is checked at only two times: announcement and resolution. If the target is illegal at any time in between (like in this situation), the game doesn't care.

Q: What exactly are the steps of playing a spell?

A: Ah, a perennial favorite! Just remember the wacky mnemonic device, that is unfortunately not as fraught with alliteration as we'd like:

All Crazy Teens Have Tried Magic Pills

A: Announce the spell, and put it on the stack
C: Choose the mode, alternate and optional costs, and the value of X
T: Target stuff
H: How the targets are affected is chosen (Conflagrate, for example. This step is rare.)
T: Total cost is determined and locked in here
M: Mana abilities may be played
P: Pay the total cost

After this, the spell is considered played.

Q: Does Colfenor's Plans count itself when it looks at one spell played per turn?

A: It will indeed count itself. The Plans requires information from the game about whether or not you have played a spell this turn. Information from the game is not restricted to information from the time an object has been in play – the Plans will happily find out that a spell was in fact played (itself) and will deny you any further spells.

Side effects of saying this column's
name too often include drooling,
foaming at the mouth, and being
stuck with silly names.
Q: If I steal an animated manland with Merieke Ri Berit, do I keep it when it becomes a land again? If I do keep it, is it destroyed if I untap Merieke?

A: Merieke's only condition for controlling that targeted object is "as long as you control Merieke Ri Berit." Since that object being a creature is part of the targeting restriction (see first two questions above) and not the duration of the control effect, its "creatureness" is only checked twice, and you'll control it when it's a land again.

As to the second question, the 'Vault will be destroyed if you somehow untap Merieke. Rule 404.4c tells us that a delayed triggered ability (which is what Merieke has – "When Merieke Ri Berit leaves play or becomes untapped...") that looks for a particular object ("... destroy that creature.") will still find that object even if it changes the characteristics defined after "that" ("creature," in this case).

Q: When you block with a creature with Veteran's Armaments on it, does it get the +1/+1 for each creature an opponent attacks with?

A: Your creature will get the pump based on your opponent's creatures. The triggered ability just counts the number of attacking creatures; entirely missing is any sort of clause that says "that you control!"

Q: Would the draw you get from Chains of Mephistopheles cause it to trigger again?

A: If Chains of Mephistopheles had a triggered ability that triggered on a draw and caused you to draw, it would trigger again. And the game would enter an infinite loop, and you'd deck yourself and lose. Seems suboptimal.

Luckily, the Chains doesn't have a triggered ability. It has a replacement effect, defined by the "If . . . would . . . instead" construction, and rule 419.6a tells us that a replacement effect only applies once to an event. So if you would draw, instead you do the messy Chains replacement, which just happens to include a draw. If there is a second Chains, that draw will be replaced, but the first Chains won't replace the draw since it already applied to the original event.

Q: Does Frogtosser Banneret reduce the cycling cost of Gempalm Incinerator?

A: Cycling is just an activated ability, like reinforce. Since you're not playing the spell, just an activated ability, the Bannerets won't care.

Q: Playing lands and turning cards face up don't use the stack - is there anything else that doesn't?

A: Playing a land and turning face-down objects face up are two actions that fall into a class of "special actions" (defined in rule 408.1i). The only other one you're likely to run into is suspending a card from your hand.

The less-common ones are paying a cost to end a continuous effect (Enraging Licid), paying a cost to prevent a delayed triggered ability (Glass Asp), and paying a cost to ignore an effect (Volrath's Curse).

Q: I Threaten Wren's Run Packmaster and then feed it to a Greater Gargadon. Who gets the invariable Elvish Harbinger back?

A: While the reminder text of the champion ability just says "that card returns to play," the rules behind champion are fortunately much, much clearer:

Quote from CompRules »
502.72a Champion represents two triggered abilities. "Champion an [object]" means "When this permanent comes into play, sacrifice it unless you remove another [object] you control from the game" and "When this permanent leaves play, return the removed card to play under its owner's control."

The owner is always the player who started with that card in his or her deck or sideboard, so the Elf player will get the Harbinger back.

Q: I have Wren's Run Packmaster in play, and Wolf-Skull Shaman. Will the Shaman's Wolf tokens have deathtouch, too?

A: Not only will all Wolf tokens have deathtouch, all other Wolves (changelings ahoy!) will have deathtouch. "Each Wolf" means "any permanent with the creature type 'Wolf,'" not just the ones created by the Packmaster.

Q: When Wren's Run Vanquisher is countered and played through my opponent's Guile, does he have to pay 3 mana or show an elf?

A: He sure does! Guile gives you a huge coupon for 100% off the mana cost (and not a mail-in rebate, a real coupon!), but such a coupon does not cover additional costs like sales tax and the Vanquisher's additional cost.

Q: Does Maralen of the Mornsong stop my draws with Necropotence?

A: Maralen stops all draws – but Necropotence does not cause you to draw cards. To draw a card is a very specific action in Magic. Necropotence just puts cards into your hand, not to draw them, so Maralen doesn't care.

She is a very picky Elf Wizard.

I didn't major in herpetology,
but I'm fairly sure that snakes
don't curl their tongue like that.
Q: How does Fuedkiller's Verdict work in 2HG?

A: Pretty much the same as in a normal game. Let's assume, for the purposes of this exercise, that your team is at 22, and your opponents' team is at 30.

First, you gain 10 life, so your team's life total goes up to 32. Now you have to perform a comparison on player life totals, so you need to get the individual-player-life-total: half of the team's total rounded up. That means that your life total is considered 16, and either of your opponents' 15, and you get a Giant.

Now, here's where it gets wacky. Say that your team is at 20, and your opponent is at 29. You gain 10 life, the team total goes to 30, and then you compare. 29 halved and rounded up, though, is 15 – the same as half 30 – so you will not get a Giant even though your team has a higher life total than the other team!

Q: Can Mutavault save my Stenchskipper?

A: Life-Preserver is not a creature type, but Mutavault can preserve your Stenchskipper. Remember that "At end of turn . . ." denotes a triggered ability that triggers as the end of turn step starts, while "until end of turn . . ." signifies an effect that just wears off in the cleanup step, after the end of turn step is over and done with. All you have to do is turn your Mutavault into a Goblin Angel either during your second main phase before Stenchskipper triggers, or during the end of turn step in response to the trigger, and your li'l Skipper will live to see another smelly day.

Q: Why did Purity get errata? Doesn't it do more now than before?

A: Purity didn't quite work before, so the errata it received was very necessary. In the game of Magic, not a single ability in all 9,000-some cards deals damage.

What about Prodigal Sorcerer?, you ask. And Flametongue Kavu?

Read the cards – the ability doesn't deal damage, the ability instructs the creature to deal damage.

However, since "noncombat damage" means "any damage dealt that wasn't assigned during the combat damage step and resolved," and since the only way damage can be dealt other than combat damage is as a result of a spell or ability, there is absolutely no functional change to Purity in combination with any existing cards.

Q: In a 2HG game, I play Hurricane for 3, and I have three Clerics in play including Battletide Alchemist. Can I prevent damage to both me and my teammate?

A: Your Alchemist does not mind working overtime (but you should consider giving her a raise). Its replacement effect applies any time a player would be dealt damage, and considers each player individually. Hurricane looks like it will just suck 6 points off of each team, but it does deal 3 to each of the four players, and you can prevent the 3 that would be dealt to your teammate as well as to yourself.

You could even prevent any of the 6 damage that would be dealt to your opposing team, but what fun is that?

Q: Can Sygg, River Guide give Merrow Commerce protection from green? Can enchantments even have protection?

A: Any object or player can have protection, and protection will apply on any permanent or player. True, no non-creature cards have been printed with protection, but that doesn't mean they can't have it! Sygg will gladly protect his Merfolk enchantments as well as his Merfolk brethren.

Q: Sigil Tracer says I may choose new targets for the copy. Does that mean I have to target a spell that has targets?

A: Nah. If you can't change targets because, say, there are no targets or because there are no different legal targets, you just ignore that part of the effect. If having a target were a requirement, it would be included in the targeting clause ("target instant or sorcery spell with one or more targets").

Q: Can a colorless Shapeshifter token block a creature with fear?

A: "Colorless" is the not the same thing as "artifact," even though virtually every artifact is colorless. And artifact is a card type, not a creature type, so your Shapeshifter token isn't secretly an artifact (like the Terminator). Seeing as your Shapeshifter is neither black or artifact, it's out of luck – no blocking fear.

Q: I have ten creatures in my graveyard, including a Golgari Grave-Troll. I sacrifice three Narcomoebas (now I'm up to 13 creatures) to play Dread Return on the Troll (down to 12 creatures). My opponent insists that my Troll comes into play with 13 counters. I don't mind having a bigger Troll, but that can't be right, can it?

A: It is right, and it is extremely weird. The important thing to remember is that "comes into play with foo" is a replacement effect. (Rule 410.10e)

Since this modifies how the Troll comes into play, the Troll can't be in play yet as the effect is applied – how can you modify how it comes into play if it already is in play? So where is our dear Troll? Seeing as there is no mystical in-between zone between the graveyard and in play (no, the Troll does not go on the stack, since it is not a spell), the Troll must still be in the graveyard. And it's counting... creatures in the graveyard.

Q: Why are all of the Grand Prix Trials for Vancouver on the west coast?

A: Because Vancouver is on the west coast. Trials for a Grand Prix are usually only offered to cities within 500 or so miles of the Grand Prix site. A GPT does not offer a travel award, so players in far-away locations are not very likely to show up for that Grand Prix. A Grand Prix is also open, meaning that anyone can show up and play, so there is no invitation awarded from a GPT either.

So what does a GPT do, you ask? It gets you byes! Being able to show up for the player meeting and then go out for breakfast and come back in time to play round three is awesome.

Okay now, be honest – how many times have you tried to say the title just while reading this column? I thought of it at a tournament, and had it echoing in my head for my entire drive home (Bonus: Eli lives almost an hour away from his store), so it seemed only right to spread the joy.

On the topic of spreading joy, for those of you who live in the Pacific Northwest or British Columbia, I'll be up at Grand Prix Vancouver next weekend. Moko will sadly not be in attendance, as I don't trust Customs to ignore a bloody undead monkey. (There are infinite jokes about what they do ignore, though.)

Until next time, remember to give your tongue a workout: Draft Kamigawa block, for old times' sake.

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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