Cranial Insertion: The Mystery Continues to Be Guile

Cranial Insertion
The Mystery Continues to Be Guile

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

We've handled a lot of Lorwyn questions the last few months, and I'm sure we'll continue to get more. However, with Extended season tearing up the PTQ circuit for the next three months or so, you can expect to see some questions about older cards and more interesting interactions. The Cranial Insertion mailbox is starting to fill up again after some holiday slowness, so we're going to go through all of those questions today.

Want your question answered here? Email it to us at [email][email protected][/email]. We'll answer it and probably include it in a future column. Unless you ask questions we've already gotten a bunch of times. In that case, we will shun you for failing to anticipate our needs.

A bright, shiny no-prize will go to the person who can identify which song gave us the subtitle to this week's column. Hint: it's from a British heavy metal band.

Let's dump out the mailbox and see what we get.

I am taking over this column!
Q: How does Rule of Law interact with Guile? Specifically, if I play a spell, and my opponent plays some spell to counter it, can he still play my original spell with Guile's ability?

A: Even Guile must submit to the rule of law. Or the Rule of Law, in this case. Players can only play one spell per turn while that enchantment is in play. Guile lets your opponent play the jacked spell for free, but the fact remains that he still has to play it. Since he's already played his spell this turn, Guile will flap its useless wings in frustration and sit on that spell for the rest of the game. Since he can't play it, it remains removed from the game.

Q: If my non-creature artifact un-suspends from Jhoira of the Ghitu and I use Karn, Silver Golem to convert it into an artifact creature, does it have haste? Creatures with suspend have reminder text that says, "It has haste," and Jhoria has "If it's a creature, it has haste."

A: Crafty! However, the creature will not be hasty. Let's look at suspend:

502.59a Suspend is a keyword that represents three abilities. The first is a static ability that functions while the card with suspend is in a player's hand. The second and third are triggered abilities that function in the removed-from-the-game zone. "Suspend N—[cost]" means "If you could play this card from your hand, you may pay [cost] and remove it from the game with N time counters on it. This action doesn't use the stack," and "At the beginning of your upkeep, if this card is suspended, remove a time counter from it," and "When the last time counter is removed from this card, if it's removed from the game, play it without paying its mana cost if able. If you can't, it remains removed from the game. If you play a creature spell this way, it gains haste until you lose control of the spell or the permanent it becomes.

You didn't play a creature spell, though—you played a noncreature artifact spell. In this case, your newly-minted creature will not have haste.

Bonus: The same would be true if the artifact became a creature right away through an effect like March of the Machines.

Q: My opponent plays a Decimate, which requires him to name an artifact, creature, enchantment, and land as targets. If he targets four separate permanents I control, and I somehow sacrifice three of them while Decimate is on the stack, is the Decimate a legal target for Deflection?

A: Decimate is a spell with four targets. It went onto the stack with four targets, and it will check the legality of those four targets when it resolves. Even if you make three of them invalid before that happens, Decimate is still a spell with four targets. Deflection can't be played here.

Q: If in some strange combination of cards there exists an Artifact Creature Enchantment Land, and he names the same permanent for all four targets, is Decimate a legal target for Deflection?

A: Nope, it's still a spell with four targets. Even if all of them are the same object, the spell still has four targets. Think of the targets as arrows drawn from Decimate to the targeted object. Even if all four arrows are pointing to the same thing, that's still four targets.

Q: I have two creatures in play, a 7/7 and a 3/3. I cast Overrun and attack with both creatures. My opponent has High Ground in play and a 3/4 creature. He blocks both my attackers with the one blocker. How much damage do I need to assign to the blocker from the two attackers?

A: In order to “trample over” with excess damage, you are required to assign what would be lethal damage to all blocking creatures. Lethal damage is a creature's toughness less any damage it's already taken this turn. In this case, you need to assign 4 damage to the defending creature. You can do that all from one creature, or split up your creature's damage; as long as you assign 4 to the blocker, you can assign the remainder (a total of 12—ouch!) to the defending player.

Q: Does this answer change if the blocker is enchanted with Heart of Light?

A: Nope. “What would be lethal damage” is written as such because effects can be applied that reduce, replace, or prevent the damage you assign. None of that matters for what's considered lethal damage, though. In the case of Heart of Light, it matters not at all that the 4 damage you assign to the blocking creature will be prevented. It just means you can squish it again next round.

Your decrees cannot silence me!
Q: I have Decree of Silence in play with no depletion counters, along with Guile, and an opponent plays a spell. Normally the Decree would counter that spell and I'd put a counter on it. However it's my understanding that Guile's ability is a replacement effect, so the spell never actually gets countered. If this is right, does that mean I don't put a counter on the Decree?

A: You're right in the respect that Guile's ability is a replacement effect, but the Decree still gets a counter. Decree actually countering the spell is not the requirement for the depletion counter being added. The ability will trigger and Decree of Silence will try to counter the spell. Guile will replace that with its own “RFG it and you may play it for free” ability. Even though Decree technically didn't counter the spell, the ability triggered and will do as much as it can. Add a depletion counter.

Q: If I have two Decrees of Silence in play and an opponent plays a spell, they both would trigger and try to counter it. Since only one of them can, does the Decree that doesn't counter the spell still get a depletion counter?

A: Yup. They'll both trigger and go onto the stack. The first Decree ability to resolve will counter the spell, then that Decree will get a depletion counter. The second Decree trigger will resolve and do as much as it can. It won't be able to counter the spell, but since that's not dependent on the depletion counter getting added, the second Decree gets a counter, too.

Q: What if some non-Decree source is doing the countering, like a Chalice of the Void with the right number of counters on it?

A: In this case, you choose the order those triggered abilities go onto the stack, so you get to choose which one counters the spell. Even if you stack things so that Chalice of the Void is doing the grunt work, Decree's trigger will still do as much as it can. It still gains a depletion counter.

Q: I'm at 14 and have a Shapesharer in play. My opponent, at 13, plays Stuffy Doll, and the next turn, plays an unkickered Molten Disaster for 6. I see a chance to kill him if I copy the Stuffy Doll with Shapesharer... maybe. Since I'm copying a Doll that's already in play, do I get to choose a player?

A: Nope. This means the choice is undefined and won't be associated with any player. You can certainly copy Stuffy Doll here, but you're not going to get to choose your opponent and have him take a lot of damage as a result.

Q: If Thalakos Dreamsower's ability is redirected to itself (say by a Willbender), can I untap it in my untap step? Or does it prevent itself from doing so?

A: This guy will be sowing himself some pleasant dreams. Nothing in the ability says your creatures can't be targeted by it (i.e., it doesn't say something like “tap target creature that player controls,” referring to the player damaged), so Willbending the ability to the Dreamsower itself is legal. When your untap step comes around, the Dreamsower will be locked down by his own ability whether you choose for him to remain tapped or not.

Q: If I have Dreamspoiler Witches in play and play Humble on my opponent's 2/2 creature during my opponent's turn. Can I have the -1/-1 be applied after Humble resolves? When does the "Whenever you play a spell" trigger? On announcement of Humble or when Humble is put on the stack (or is there a difference)?

A: There's a small difference—putting a spell onto the stack happens when you announce it. The Witches, however, are looking for a spell to be played. A spell is considered “played” when the multi-step process for playing it is completed (see the 409 series of rules). The first step of this process is to announce the spell and move it from its current zone (usually your hand) to the stack.

Because the Witches' ability triggers when you play the spell, it will go onto the stack on top of Humble. This means it will always resolve first. There's no way to get Humble to resolve before the -1/-1 from the Witches resolves.

Muahaha, my takeover continues! Wait,
this question is about
sleeves? Um,
you should always play me in sleeves.
Q: I didn't care much about sleeves during sealed season, but I do now that it's time for Extended. What kind of sleeves can I use?

A: This topic always generates a lot of opinions. In reality, only one person's opinion matters: the head judge of the event. If he tells you that you can't play your sleeves because they were made while Saturn was in the house of Neptune and someone did a Lithuanian rain dance to mark the occasion, then you can't play with those sleeves.

Judges will have better (if, perhaps, less awesome) reasons for disallowing certain sleeves, though. Here are the common ones.

  • Sleeves which are excessively worn. Judges understand that sleeves will see some wear during the course of an event. If, however, your sleeves look like they went eight rounds with a hand grenade before the event even starts, then it's a good bet you're not going to be allowed to use them.
  • Sleeves which are not uniform. Sometimes, errors in cutting or dyeing the sleeves happen. Some will be longer or shorter than the rest, and some may even be a slightly different hue of the same color. This typically happens when you buy two packs of sleeves to have enough for your deck—one pack may be cut or colored slightly differently than the other.
  • Toploaders. No. Just no.
  • Sleeves which are too reflective. This typically happens on “metallic” sleeves, especially those in gold or silver. It's certainly not limited to those, though. Generally, if you can discern important details about one card in its reflection in a sleeve, that's a bad thing. (Of course, if the judge feels you knew this and were taking advantage of it, it becomes a Very Bad Thing.)
  • Sleeves which have designs all over their backs. This is the one that's currently open to the most interpretation. We've probably all seen the black sleeves that have the yellow “Magic: the Gathering” letters on their backs. These sleeves have been seen at high-level events like Grand Prix and Pro Tours. However, there's nothing that says the head judge of your PTQ has to allow them. Any design on a sleeve is a potential for abuse, moreso if the sleeve has art that reaches to the edges. Designs can be manipulated, colored slightly, and can fade on some sleeves before others—just like wear isn't always uniform on sleeves, designs aren't always affected equally through play.

It's unlikely that the yellow-lettered Magic sleeves won't be allowed at your PTQ, but it is possible. As always, check with the head judge of the event before the tournament begins if you have questions about the legality of your sleeves.

Here is a guideline that can help answer your questions about sleeve legality: all about sleeves.

Q: My Isochron Scepter (with Counterspell imprinted on it) got removed by Oblivion Ring. If I destroy the Oblivion Ring, when the Scepter comes back into play, is the Counterspell still imprinted?

A: Nope. The Scepter is coming back into play as a new permanent. Because of that, it “forgets” everything about how it existed before, including any card(s) imprinted on it. It also forgets because Scepters have very tiny brains. Counterspell will remain removed from the game, but is no longer imprinted. You'll have the chance to imprint a new card when the Scepter returns to play, though.

Q: My opponent stole my Tarmogoyf with his Vedalken Shackles. A turn later, I played my own Shackles and stole the ‘Goyf back. My opponent untapped his Vedalken Shackles on his next turn, and they remain untapped. If I untap mine, do I keep my ‘Goyf?

A: Yes. The control effect generated by your opponent's Vedalken Shackles ends when he chooses to untap it. If you untap your Shackles, you'll retain control of the creature, since you controlled it initially and no other control-changing effects are left.

Don't get tied down to a bad choice.
Q: I played Cabal Therapy on my opponent and named “Shackles.” I saw the Vedalken Shackles in his hand, but he said I had named the wrong card and that he didn't have to discard it! What gives?

A: What gives is that you did, in fact, name the wrong card. Shackles is the name of a card which is legal in Extended (click on the autocard link if you disbelieve—it wasn't very relevant outside of Invasion Limited, but there it is). You've named a card and your opponent (presumably) did not have any copies of that card in his hand. Swing and a miss.

Bonus: When something asks you to name a card, that's what you should do. Shorthand and nicknames only cause confusion, and sometimes lead to you choosing things you didn't want to (as in Shackles vs. Vedalken Shackles). If you know the full name of the card, use it. If not, as long as you can uniquely describe the card, that will suffice. “The artifact from Fifth Dawn that costs 3 mana and steals creatures based on your Island count,” for example, would be something that uniquely describes Vedalken Shackles.

Q: My opponent has two Rift Bolts suspended. If I play Orim's Chant during his upkeep, can he play the Rift Bolts?

A: Nope. Orim's Chant will make him quite unable to play spells. This applies for spells which are coming off of suspend and would be played for free. The suspend trigger is telling him to play the spell, and since he can't play spells, the Rift Bolts will rumble and grumble as they sit in the RFG zone for the rest of the game.

That brings us to a close for this edition of CI. Morningtide Prereleases happen next weekend, so I'm sure you'll see a lot of questions about the new set over the next few weeks.

Next Week: We skip Morningtide and answer questions from the next set named after a Magic card: Floral Spuzzem.

-Tom Fowler


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