Cranial Insertion: Flightless Birds

Cranial Insertion
Flightless Birds
or, Turkey Never Stood a Chance

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'd just like to point out that not only is "Turkey" not a valid creature type, but "Chicken" is no longer officially recognized either. The Lorwyn update to the Comprehensive rules removed all of the Un-world creature types from the list (in the Glossary under "Creature Type"), so Chicken a la King just seems that much less special.

"Boar" is still a recognized creature type, for those of you who prefer ham.

Anyway, those of you who chow down on the weekend instead of Thursday can now work on digesting that feast while consuming some rules questions and answers from our [email][email protected][/email] mailbox!

Q: Say you've got Hostility out, and you play Incendiary Command, choosing the first two modes. Do you get to keep your four 3/1 Elemental Shaman tokens, or does the Pyroclasm mode destroy them?

A: Your tokens will not be long for the in-play zone. Whenever an effect does multiple things, you always perform them in the order in which they are printed. So the damage to your opponent is replaced by the creation of 4 3/1 tokens, then all creatures take 2 damage . . . including the tokens that were just created.

Q: What would a Lorwyn shapeshifter (such as a Changeling Hero) be if a Life and Limb is in play? Would it be a 1/1 Saproling with changeling or would it keep its power and toughness?

A: The Changeling Hero is all creature types, including Saproling, so it's definitely affected by Life and Limb. It will get to retain all of its creature types due to Life and Limb's "in addition to" phrase, but will get knocked back down the evolutionary ladder to a 1/1.

Q: Would the Changeling Hero get a +1/+1 for being both a Saproling and a Treefolk from a Verdeloth the Ancient or just a +1/+1? Also would this work for a Pallid Mycoderm?

A: The Hero would only get +1/+1 in either case. Both of these creatures only check to see if another creature matches at least one of the criteria; matching more than one doesn't grant any additional effect.

Q: If you have a Sinew Sliver and a Mirror Entity in play, then activate the Entity's ability for 0, what happens to all of your creatures?

A: They’ll all be 1/1 creatures with all creature types. Peeling away the layers to determine the creature’s characteristics, the Mirror Entity’s ability falls under the “catchall” layer 6b. Sinew Sliver’s static ability changes power and toughness without setting them to specific numbers, so it applies in layer 6d. This is true regardless of the order in which these effects began.

Q: With Guile’s “reshuffle” triggered ability on the stack, my opponent uses Withered Wretch to remove Guile from the game. Now, when the shuffle effect tries to resolve and sees that Guile was boomed out of existence, does it still try to shuffle a non-existent card into my deck, or does it just give up and not even bother shuffling my deck?

A: Guile must have snapped his leg doing one too many Sonic Kicks. He won't make the walk back to your library; since the card's not there to shuffle, nothing gets shuffled.

Q: Is there any time I can play Ego Erasure to make Thundercloud Shaman do nothing, rather than 1 for itself after it comes in but before the ability resolves?

A: The Thundercloud Shaman only checks the number of Giants in play when its ability resolves. Since its triggered ability has to go on the stack like most other triggered abilities, you can play Ego Erasure while it’s on the stack. When the ability resolves, assuming there aren’t any other Giants in play, the ability will resolve and not deal any damage.

Q: When cards like Horde of Notions and the hideaway lands say play without paying the mana cost, does it matter when you play them?

A: Not only does it matter . . . you don’t really get a choice. These effects simply tell you to play the card without paying its mana cost. Since it doesn’t say how long you have to play the spell, then you have to play it immediately (i.e. while the effect telling you to play the spell is resolving). You can’t “bank” that effect and play the spell later on in the turn; you get one chance to play it, take it or leave it.

Q: If Wydwen, the Biting Gale were resurrected with Makeshift Mannequin, and became the target of a spell or ability, could her ability be used to return her to your hand before the sacrifice ability resolves?

A: Makeshift Mannequin grants the creature a triggered ability when it returns to play. That ability triggers when the creature is targeted by a spell or ability. It goes on the stack just as a normal triggered ability would, and you will get priority at least once before that ability resolves . . . which is your opportunity to play Wydwen's ability.

Unlike Kim Cattrall, this time she can come back for the sequel.

Q: If my opponent controls two Mannequined creatures, can I play Hunt Down targeting one to block the other? All it says is "Target creature blocks target creature this turn if able," so I should be able to target two creatures controlled by the same player despite the fact that one would never be able to block the other, yes?

A: All you need to play Hunt Down, aside from the mana and the card, is one or two creatures in play. (Yes, you can choose the same creature for both targets because the word "target" appears in the text twice.) Neither of them even have to be attacking.

So you can play Hunt Down and target both creatures, which will subsequently be sacrificed. Then Hunt Down will be countered on resolution as both of its targets are now illegal.

Q: My opponent controls a Garruk Wildspeaker and a Forest. I control an Elvish Champion and a Llanowar Elves. Can my Llanowar Elves attack Garruk directly because of forestwalk or my opponent can declare blockers?

A: Forestwalk essentially means "This creature is unblockable if the defending player controls a forest." Rule 306.2 defines the identity of the "defending player":

306.2. During the combat phase, the active player is the attacking player; creatures that player controls may attack. As the combat phase starts, the active player chooses one of his or her opponents. The chosen opponent is the defending player; that player and planeswalkers he or she controls may be attacked. Some multiplayer games allow the active player to attack multiple other players. See rule 602, “Attack Multiple Players Option,” and rule 606, “Two-Headed Giant Variant.”

Since your opponent is considered the defending player here, even though he isn't being directly attacked, your Elf is still unblockable because he controls a forest.

Q: I control a Cairn Wanderer. And now, the following creatures in my graveyard:

- a Mystic Enforcer, along with 20 more cards,
- a Black Poplar Shaman,
- a Kithkin Greatheart (I control Cairn Wanderer, so I control a giant),
- and a Sedge Sliver (and I control a swamp).

Assuming there are no other creatures in any graveyards, what abilities does my Changeling have?

A: Let's look at each one of these four creature cards individually.

- Mystic Enforcer: Will get your Cairn Wanderer Protection from Black, but not flying as that threshold text is only checked when the Enforcer is in play.
- Black Poplar Shaman: Doesn't have any of the abilities listed in Cairn Wanderer's text, so no help here.
- Kithkin Greatheart: Same as with the Enforcer's flying; the Greatheart doesn't check for that condition unless it's in play.
- Sedge Sliver: As with the Shaman, regeneration isn't an ability listed in Cairn Wanderer's text.

All of these "This creature has (some ability) as long as (some condition is true)" abilities aren't characteristic-defining abilities (as CDAs can only define type, subtype, power, toughness, or color). Therefore they only apply in play.

So to summarize: Your Cairn Wanderer will have protection from Black, and nothing else.

Warning: the following question involves older rulesets!

Q: When walls had the "cannot attack" rule attached to them, what would happen if you attacked with a Mistform Dreamer and then made it a wall in mid-attack? If the rules hadn't been changed, could Amoeboid Changeling stop other creatures from attacking?

A: Before the creation of the Defender keyword, the Wall creature type had rules attached to it which prevented the creature from being declared as an attacker. This was only relevant when declaring attackers; a creature gaining the Wall subtype later would not remove it from combat. So under the old rules a Mistform Dreamer that had become a wall after being declared as an attacker was still an attacker . . . just more vulnerable to Goblin Digging Team.

The same holds true for Amoeboid Changeling; under the old rules, it couldn't stop a creature that had already been declared as an attacker . . . but using it on a creature before that creature would have been declared as an attacker would be sufficient to plant its foundation far away from the defending player.

Of course, these days the creature type "Wall" doesn't have any rules text associated with it, and all those old Walls were errated to add the Defender keyword. So now a creature having all creature types can attack without hindrance, even though it is a Wall.

Shame the old glyphs aren't legal anymore . . . wouldn't they be fun with Changelings?

Q:If I wish to destroy my opponent’s only creature in play by casting Nameless Inversion or Shriekmaw and I have a Tidespout Tyrant in play, may I destroy the creature first or do I have to bounce their creature before I would destroy it?

A: The Tyrant's ability triggers "when you play a spell": that is, when you complete the process of putting the spell on the stack, choosing modes and targets, and paying costs as outlined in section 409 of the Comprehensive Rules. This ability will go on the stack and resolve before the spell that triggered it. So by the time the Inversion or Shriekmaw resolves, you will have already returned some permanent to its owner's hand.

Q: When I play a creature with Evoke, such as Mulldrifter, may I respond to the evoke trigger with Recurring Nightmare’s sacrifice ability?

A: Recurring Nightmare's ability can only be played any time you could play a sorcery: when it's your main phase, you have priority, and the stack is empty. If you're responding to a triggered ability, then the stack isn't empty, so you can't play Recurring Nightmare's ability.

Q: May I respond to Mulldrifter’s evoke trigger by bouncing it to my hand if I have a Tidespout Tyrant in play?

A: The instance of the Tyrant's ability that triggered when you played the Mulldrifter will have already resolved by the time it enters play, so you'll have to play some other instant to cause the Tyrant to trigger again. Assuming you have an instant to play, you can return the evoked creature to your hand and avoid sacrificing it.

Q: May I respond to Mulldrifter’s evoke trigger with Waterfront Bouncer’s ability, so that I could get back my Mulldrifter before it goes to the graveyard?

A: Yes. You will always get priority at least once while the evoked creature is in play but before the evoke trigger resolves, and that's the time to play the Bouncer's ability.

Q: May I respond to Mulldrifter’s evoke trigger with Cabal Therapy’s Flashback ability, or does it not work because Therapy’s flashback still acts as a sorcery?

A: Flashback only lets you play a spell from a zone other than your hand by paying its flashback cost. It doesn't allow you to play the spell at a time you normally couldn't. Cabal Therapy is still a sorcery when you're playing it with flashback.

Bets are currently being taken as to whether Dr. Tom will awake from his turkey coma in time to write next week's article. The verdict will be in next week!


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