Cranial Insertion: Begin the Begin

Cranial Insertion
Begin the Begin
or, The Second Consecutive Cranial Insertion Title to Reference R.E.M.

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

It's so delicious and moist.
It's the beginning of a new year for those of you who use the Roman calendar, and as everybody (including us here at CI) were out partying instead of playing Magic, the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox was a bit understuffed. (It needed time to recover from all the turkey and ham it got last week.)

But just like a good filet mignon, what was there was juicy and tasty...

Q: If I have Skeleton Scavengers with one +1/+1 counter on it, can I spend 2 mana, activating its ability two times in succession, spending 1 each time? Will it put two +1/+1 counters on it if I activate Pestilence three times?

A: As with other regeneration abilities, this ability puts a “regeneration shield” on the creature to be used later. If you foresee the Scavengers needing to regenerate multiple times in one turn, you can pay for multiple shields early when they're cheaper and they'll still work even if the Scavengers have accumulated additional counters in the meantime.

The Scavengers will still receive a +1/+1 counter each time one of the regeneration shields created by its ability is used, so the end result is that your Skeleton Scavengers will be 3/3 and tapped.

Q:If I play Humble on a Knight token creature created by Waylay does the knight token get removed from the game when Humble resolves? Is the clause "Remove them from the game when they lose substance" granted by Waylay not a "creature ability"?

A: Waylay is pretty stingy with what it gives its offspring; the only thing “granted” by Waylay to the Knight tokens is the Substance ability. The delayed triggered ability that removes the Knights from the game when they throw away their parent's lovely gift is set up by Waylay and isn't part of the token's “text.” So those Knight tokens learn quickly that being humble gets you killed in the world of wizard-on-wizard combat, and are promptly removed from the game.

Q: If Thawing Glaciers was animated into a creature and its ability used, would removing all abilities from it prevent its departure to its owner's hand?

A: Much as with the previous question, the ability that returns the Glaciers to its owner's hand is a delayed triggered ability that is created when its activated ability resolves. Once that triggered ability has been created, it's going to trigger at the appropriate time even if the Glaciers lose that ability in the meantime. Not even a humble glacier can ignore the laws of physics.

Q: My opponent has a Cairn Wanderer. It's my turn and I play Duplicant, targeting the Cairn Wanderer. Nobody has responses so the Duplicant comes into play, removing the Cairn Wanderer. Does my Duplicant have all creature types or just the Shapeshifter type?

A: The Changeling ability changes the subtypes of the creature who has it. That makes it a characteristic-defining ability, which therefore works in all zones. Your Duplicant will not have the Changeling ability itself, but it will have all possible creature types.

EXTRA: You don't “play Duplicant targeting a creature.” The Duplicant spell doesn't target anything; when it comes into play, the Imprint ability triggers and that's when you choose a creature to target. Your opponent has to decide whether or not to counter/otherwise respond to the Duplicant spell without knowing what you're planning to target.

Q: I have an Ice Cauldron in play and I have played the first ability for, say, 4R. If I add more charge counters on the Cauldron (with Coretapper, for example), can I play its second ability multiple times, getting the 4R each time?

A: The number and color(s) of mana used to add the first charge counter aren't tied to the charge counter; Ice Cauldron simply “remembers” what mana was last used to pay the activation cost of its first ability. Every time the second ability is activated, that mana will be added to its controller's mana pool, even if the charge counter was created by some other ability.

Of course, if you want to get that 4R multiple times in one turn, you're going to need a way to untap the Ice Cauldron, as tapping it is part of the activation cost of its second ability.

Q: Serrated Biskelion with one -1/-1 counter on it is enchanted with Sadistic Glee. If the Serrated Biskelion uses its ability to kill another creature, are the -1/-1 and the +1/+1 counters canceled out due to rule 420.5n and the Serrated Biskelion saved?

A: The problem in this case is that the Biskelion never survives long enough to get that +1/+1 counter. Immediately after its activated ability resolves, it will be 0/0. At this time the Sadistic Glee trigger that adds a +1/+1 counter is waiting to go on the stack, but state-based effects are checked before that happens, see a creature with 0 toughness, and put it into your graveyard. Then the Glee's triggered ability goes onto the stack, but nothing happens when it resolves as the creature is no longer in play... making Biskelion a former member of his high school's Sadistic Glee Club.

It has wings.
Why does it not fly?
Q: If I have a Guile in play and Delay a spell, what happens should I decide to not play the spell with Guile's own ability? Will it suspend? For whom? And what happens if I do?

A: Guile's ability replaces the action of countering the spell with removing it from the game and allowing you to play it. Since the rest of Delay's text uses the “if you do” clause, and you didn't, then it doesn't.

In other words, the removed spell won't get suspend counters from Delay whether you play that spell immediately or not. If you choose not to play the spell, it simply stays removed from the game.

Q: Smokebraider's mana ability is also an activated ability, right? So if I activate it, Ceaseless Searblades will get +1/+0?

A: An activated ability is still an activated ability even if it's also a mana ability. And since Smokebraider has the Elemental subtype, playing that ability will cause the Searblades to trigger.

Q: How does a planeswalker like Ajani Goldmane gain loyalty?

A: The primary way by which a planeswalker gains loyalty is through its own activated abilities. As of the printing of Lorwyn the first activated ability of every planeswalker has an activation cost of gaining loyalty. The appropriate number of loyalty counters are added at the time the ability is played, just as a player would pay mana or tap a permanent to pay for an activated ability.

Planeswalkers can also gain loyalty counters through the use of cards such as Clockspinning or similar effects that can add counters.

Q: If I use Ghitu Firebreathing to pump up the creature it’s enchanting then return Ghitu Firebreathing to my hand, does the creature still get the bonus?

A: Once the “pump” ability is on the stack, it's independent of its source, and the creature will still get the bonus.

Ovinize has not been given errata
yet to make the creature a sheep.
Q: If I use Unnatural Selection to make a creature with Changeling a sheep, will the creature’s changeling ability still make it all creature types or will it only be a sheep?

A: Both Changeling and Unnatural Selection change the creature's subtypes, so they're both applied in the same layer (Layer 4). However, since Changeling is changing the subtypes of the object that has it, it's considered a charateristic-defining ability. These abilities are always applied first in a layer regardless of timestamp.

And since a subtype-changing effect by default causes the object to lose all other subtypes it might have had, your Changeling will no longer be a Mutant Juggernaut, Jellyfish Knight, or Elf Thopter. It'll be nothing more than a sheep (and no, it won't be a “baa baa black sheep” even if it's a Cairn Wanderer.)

Q: Is there an order I can play Celestial Dawn and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in so that my lands are not swamps but everyone else's are?

A: There's no trick to be performed here: your lands are always going to be Plains and your opponent's lands are going to be whatever they say are. While both type-changing abilities apply in the same layer (there's that Layer 4 again), timestamps alone don't solve the problem because there's a dependency issue. As applying Celestial Dawn's ability changes the existence of the Urborg's ability (by removing it), Celestial Dawn will always be applied first, turning the Urborg into nothing more than a non-basic Plains.

Q: If I Clone Hidden Gibbons after it's changed into a creature, will the clone be a copy of the card as printed or will the transformation change the card's copiable values?

A: A card's copiable characteristics are always what's printed on the card, modified by any other copy effects. Hidden Gibbons is printed as an Enchantment, and its trigged ability isn't a copy effect, so copying it will get you a Hidden Gibbons that's only an Enchantment. You'll have to get your opponent to play another instant, whether through Mindslaver or good old-fashioned taunting, to get your copy Ape-ified.

Q: I know that, in a tournament setting, it's against the rules for me to provide advice or coaching to a player in another game. However if I see a play error occur do I have an obligation to alert the players in that game?

A: Not only do you not have an obligation to alert the players... you absolutely should not directly interfere with the game in progress.

You are, however, obligated to call a judge immediately if you see a play error occur. They're best equipped to deal with correcting errors, as well as being authorized to hand out penalties for those who make them.

I've recently been enlisted to help a new game shop get regular tournaments started, so I'll be back in three weeks with stories and questions from some real sanctioned tournaments and questions about tournament policy. Until then, let Tom and Eli regale you with questions and answers more astonishing than the latest escapades of your favorite Hollywood celebrities!


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