Cranial Insertion: It's the End of the Year as We Know It




Cranial Insertion
It's the End of the Year as We Know It
or, The Magic New Year Is Really in October

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson


Here we go again - a bright new year is upon us, one filled with four new sets of Magic and over a thousand Cranial Insertion questions. Did you realize it's that many? Roughly twenty questions per article, 52 articles per year; that's 1040 questions. Each one carefully selected by our loving zombie chimpanzee and thoroughly answered by Tom, Ted, or me.

And we bring you today another juicy bunch of questions, fresh from the [email][email protected][/email] inbox, piping hot! Keep sending your questions in, and we'll keep answering them.

As for now, on with the show!




Q: Do the tokens created by Waylay receive the bonus from Muraganda Petroglyphs, or is substance a . . . substantial enough ability to prevent this?

A: Sending us puns is proof that you love us. <3

Substance may be an ability that does absolutely nothing (cf. my cat), but it is nonetheless an ability. Apparently this entirely meaningless ability that is used only as a temporal placeholder is far too complicated for the Muragandans, and these Knights will not get the bonus.




Q: If Forsaken Wastes is in play, is it possible for me to pay Wall of Shards' cumulative upkeep, even though players can't gain life?

A: Asking strange and unusual questions is also proof that you love us. <3

If Forsaken Wastes actually said "players can't gain life," then it would be an impossible choice to have an opponent gain life. However, that's not quite what Forsaken Wastes says or does - it merely replaces life gain with null, so choosing to have a player gain life is still a valid option, and you can pay the cost. The opponent(s) just won't actually gain any life from your payment since that legal action is replaced.




Q: At the Lorwyn pre-release, while I was playing in a match, I saw a player two seats down play Spellstutter Sprite. Both he and his opponent seemed to think that the wording was "counter target spell unless its controller pays X, where X is the number of faeries you control." This is, of course, not what the card says and I alerted them to that. Did I do the right thing?

A: Nope. As a player, you are not allowed to interrupt any other game. This example is fairly mild, but what if the question was whether Spellstutter Sprite counted itself and you incorrectly believed it didn't? What if other players see you jumping in, and assume that's OK, and they give some absurdly incorrect information?

The only correct thing to do in this situation is to get a judge. If you're in the middle of a game, you have the right to call for a judge; otherwise, you need to walk (do not run (okay, but walk fast)) to the nearest judge and get him or her over there quickly.




Q: Can I get away with using Whim of Volrath during each of my upkeeps to change Karma's wording to say Mountain instead of Swamp so my Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth hits my opponent hard?

A: That won't quite work. Once Karma has triggered, its ability exists on the stack independent of Karma, and the ability cares about Swamps. Since Karma triggers at the beginning of your upkeep and no player receives priority during the untap step, there is no way you can Whim the Karma before the trigger.

What you can do, though, is use Whim of Volrath to change Urborg's type-changing ability to turn all lands into Mountains. The number of Swamps and thus damage is counted only as the trigger resolves.





Q: Is there any way of gaining control of an indestructible creature through Debt of Loyalty?

A: There are ways, but all of those ways involve first making the creature destructible.

Regeneration replaces the destruction of a creature with oodles of other stuff. However, for an indestructible creature, the game will never even try to destroy it in the first place, so there is nothing for regeneration to replace. Since the creature will never regenerate "this way" (or any other), Debt of Loyalty's control switch will never fire.




Q: Do I draw a card if I play Needle Drop and no player or creature was dealt damage this turn? Or can I not cast it since there are no available targets?

A: The latter option - you need a legal target to play a spell that demands a target, so your Needles can't be Dropped.




Q: If I Donate Colfenor's Plans to my opponent, can that opponent look and play those cards? I was reminded of the ruling on Ice Cauldron that says you can't.

A: Ah, but Colfenor has Plans, not a Cauldron. Which is, frankly, a good thing. I don't think Ice Cauldron's current Oracle wording would fit on a Magic card, even one with Greater Morphling's layout.

On Colfenor's Plans, the ability, "You may look at and play cards removed. . . ." is separate from the "Remove 'em" ability. This is a static ability, and will always apply to the controller of the Plans, regardless of who removed the cards.

Ice Cauldron, on the other hand, includes, "oh, by the way, you can play that" as part of the "remove a card" ability. This is part of the activated ability, and always applies only to the player who controlled the activated ability as it resolved.




Q: If I choose for Browbeat to deal 5 damage to me, can my opponent then choose to have it deal that damage to my planeswalker?

A: He sure can. The planeswalker-damage-redirection rule replaces "Browbeat deals 5 damage to the player that chooses to take some damage" with "Browbeat deals 5 damage to that player unless you want to hit his planeswalker instead."




Q: How does that "Experiment Kraj is a planeswalker now!" trick work? I understand using March of the Machines and Mycosynth Lattice to make the planeswalker a creature, but then what?

A: Then you win, most likely.

For those who aren't familiar with it, the idea is to turn a planeswalker into an artifact planeswalker with the Lattice (since planeswalkers are permanents), and then into an artifact creature planeswalker with the March. Then you toss a +1/+1 counter on the artifact planeswalker creature with Kraj, and Kraj can use those abilities all you want. The trick hinges on two facts:

1) Planeswalker abilities are activated abilities, where the "+1" represents a cost of "Put one loyalty counter on this permanent." Not "this planeswalker," but "this permanent." (See rule 104.7)

2) The restrictions of playing these activated abilities is built into the planeswalker type, not into the abilities, and although Kraj suddenly wields stupid amounts of power, it still does not ascend and become a planeswalker. (Rule 212.9f)




Q: Can Commandeer steal planeswalkers? It only says artifacts and enchantments in the reminder text.

A: At the time Commandeer was printed, artifacts and enchantments were the only noncreature permanent spells. But that doesn't mean that planeswalkers are not spells when you play them, or that they are not permanents when they resolve, or that you won't put one into play under your control if you Commandeer it.

Which you in fact will, despite the outdated and inaccurate reminder text on Commandeer. Remember, reminder text has no significance in the game - it only helps players to figure out what the card does without having to call the judge so much.




Q: If I say "Persecute white" and my opponent lets it resolve, can I choose blue then since the color is actually chosen upon resolution?

A: Nope. The Shortcut Guide (section 51 in the Penalty Guide) says that if you announce a choice that should be made on resolution as part of announcing a spell, you are tied to that choice if the opponent doesn't respond. The idea is: when you say "Persecute white," you're saying "I'm playing Persecute, and it resolves, and I choose white." If your opponent doesn't respond, that's what happens. Persecute resolves with the choice of "white."

If you dislike this, keep in mind that a fairly good number of judges would have disqualified you for even trying this trick prior to the latest version of the Penalty Guide. [And some of us still think you should be DQed for it now. -Ed.]

Q: My opponent plays Persecute. Can I ask him which color he's going to choose, then respond, similar to making him take the shortcut you described?

A: Not unless you make it so clear that it'll ruin your plan. Asking a player to tell you the choices that he makes on resolution, unless you make it abundantly clear that you're not letting the spell resolve yet, means you're saying it's resolved. And if you say "So, that Persecute has not resolved yet, and I still have priority, but what do you plan to name?" isn't even forcing him into a shortcut - that's just asking him to make statements about the future, which he can happily lie about.

I'd claim to name purple.




Q: I want to attack my opponent's planeswalker but forget to say that - I just said "swing." Now what?

A: Now you're attacking the player. If the opponent hasn't done anything yet, or otherwise agrees to you suddenly changing where your attackers are going, you might be attacking the planeswalker, but the default is your opponent.





Q: Will Momentary Blinking a face-down Brine Elemental make my opponent skip his untap step?

A: Nope. Brine Elemental is in play face down, and then in play face up, but it's never actually turned face up while in play. It just happens to be face up after it leaves the game, and never sees a reason to go back to face down as it comes back.

You'll see lots of Blinking Elementals for a different reason, though: 5UU is more expensive than 1W plus 1U to turn up a Vesuvan Shapeshifter.




Q: When my opponent and I clash, who decides where to put the top card first?

A: As in many other cases where both players have to do something, the active player (that is, the player whose turn it is) will make the decision first.




Q: How do Rebel searchers like Amrou Scout interact with Nameless Inversion, which is a Rebel card?

A: Not very much at all. They gaze longingly at that Nameless Inversion, but alas - Nameless Inversion is not a Rebel permanent card, and Amrou Scout (and all cards like it that put cards into play) have received errata to search for permanent cards and not just cards. These "permanent cards" are cards which have a permanent type - artifact, creature, enchantment, land, or planeswalker. Instants and sorceries don't cut it, nor do tribals.




Q: If I have Pyromancer's Swath in play and Ignite Memories hits a land card, how much damage will it deal?

A: Pyromancer's Swath adds 2 damage if a spell would deal damage. Unfortunately for you, Ignite Memories isn't dealing damage - dealing 0 damage is exactly the same as not dealing damage. Since damage isn't being dealt, the Swath doesn't care, and you'll still be dealing 0 damage.




Q: I forgot about a Grim Harvest when my creature died, and two turns later just before another of my creatures died, I remembered it. Can I recover it, or should it be removed from the game after all?

A: Recover is a trigger with a default action: not paying the recover cost. As soon as the missed trigger is noticed and a judge comes over, you'll have to resolve that missed trigger choosing the default immediately without that trigger even going on the stack.

This sort of trigger does not fall under the turn cycle concept; that concept is only used for triggers without a default but with a visual, non-optional effect on the game.




Q: What happens if play a creature with champion and champion something that isn't normally a creature, like Faerie Conclave or a token that'll cease to exist?

A: Nothing special. You remove the championed object from the game, and when the creature with champion dies, you'll get it back if it's not a token (even if it's no longer a creature, such as the Conclave.)

The champion ability requires you to remove a creature if you want the creature with champion, but it doesn't care what happens to that once it's removed; champions are not enchantments.




Q: What is Elder Dragon Highlander?

A: Elder Dragon Highlander, more commonly known as EDH, is a variant format with a lot of unusual rules. The most important ones:

You have 100 cards, and every card except for basic lands is restricted - only one of each card in your deck. One of these cards must be a legendary creature, which is your general. Every other card must be of only your general's colors. Your general starts removed from the game, and you can play it from there.

You can see the full rules at Gavin Duggan's site. If you play on Magic Online, you might get a kick out of this thread - that's right, happy New Year, have a new format, and EDH is finally on MTGO! (Sort of. See that thread for details.)




It's time to wrap up Cranial Insertion for the year. I hope you've enjoyed 2007, and the lot of us here, living and unliving, wish you a fantastic 2008!

Until next time, happy celebrating!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

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