Cranial Insertion: In the AEther

Cranial Insertion
In the AEther
or, Super Magic Fighter II Top Edition

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

In this week's episode...
Moko is threatened!
Time and space are torn apart!
"Family Guy"-esque non sequiturs are grossly overused!

... and we answer some questions from the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox.

Q: The card Waylay earned its fame during a specific moment in the opponent's end step, allowing tokens that were intended as surprise blockers to get in an attack before they died. Could the same trick work with Gilt-Leaf Ambush, allowing your Elf tokens to get in one attack while they still have deathtouch (assuming you won the clash)?

A: Effects that last "until end of turn" wear off in the cleanup step, which is the last step of a turn. The last opportunity you normally have to play instants during your opponent's turn is their end step, which is before the cleanup step. In other words, there's no time during your opponent's turn where you can play Gilt-Leaf Ambush and have the deathtouch carry over to the next turn.

And that Waylay trick doesn't work anymore either, thanks to new wording that gets the tokens out of play during the same cleanup step.

Q: I play a clash card...

A: Rock the Casbah!

Oh, you meant a Magic card.

Q: When exactly do I pay the 1 mana for Rebellion of the Flamekin? I can't do it during the resolution of the spell with clash. Is it right before or right after?

A: Whenever a spell or ability resolves that tells you to clash, the Rebellion triggers. After that spell or ability is finished, the Rebellion trigger goes on the stack and both players get priority. Then, when the triggered ability resolves, you can choose to pay 1. Since the effect asks you to pay mana, you can play mana abilities at that point without having to "float" the mana before the ability resolves.

Q: If I control no creatures at all, can I still counter a Slaughter Pact with Spellstutter Sprite? What about Giant Growth?

A: Well, you're probably controlling at least one Faerie: the Sprite itself. The Sprite can count to one without having any friends along, so you can counter either spell without requiring additional Faeries.

Q: Say I have a Plague Sliver out and I'm about to end my turn. Is there anytime between my opponent's start of his turn, like during his untap step, when I can use Shields of Velis Vel to give all of his creatures the Sliver subtype and thus make him lose some life?

A: Players don't get priority during the untap step. The first time a player gets priority is during the upkeep step, after "beginning of upkeep" abilities have been added to the stack. No shields for you, one year!

Q: Say there is a Thorn of Amethyst in play. If I meet the requirements of a hideaway land (Spinerock Knoll) and then pay the land's cost to play the removed card, and that card is a noncreature card (say, Lash Out), will I have to pay 1 anyway because of the Thorn, or will the Thorn's ability not apply to the hideaway card?

A: Even though you're not paying mana normally for the removed card, you're still playing it. The Thorn of Amethyst will still make you pay 1 for the spell.

Or, to steal a phrase from an '80s song, every knoll has its thorn. (For you conspiracy theorists, grassy knoll jokes will be left as an exercise to the reader.)

Q: I have an Oblivion Ring in my hand, and another Oblivion Ring that was removed from the game by my Colfenor's Plans. I use the removed Ring to remove the Plans from the game. Then I play the Ring from my hand targeting the first Oblivion Ring one turn later. That Ring gets removed and my Plans come back into play. I know I get seven new cards, but may I play the other removed cards from the first time ?

A: No, because of a combination of two rules. First, when an object changes zones, it is considered a new object that doesn't have any "memory" of its old life in any previous zones. Second, when a card refers to itself by name, it really means "this object."

Therefore, the Plans only lets you play cards removed from the game by the current "instance" of the Plans, not any previous ones it may have had.

Poor Colfenor obviously didn't plan for Oblivion Ring.

Q: I have an Elvish Branchbender in play, which is my only Elf creature. My opponent uses Moonglove Extract to destroy it. If I respond by using the Branchbender's ability, will the targeted forest remain a 1/1 creature once the Branchbender dies?

A: Yes, the forest will remain a creature after the Branchbender dies. The duration of Branchbender's effect is "until end of turn," regardless of the existence of the Branchbender, and the power and toughness are set as the ability resolves and won't change later in the turn.

Q: Does Shimian Specter's ability also remove the chosen nonland card, or only the cards found with the same name as that card?

A: Even though the damaged player is revealing a card, it's still in his hand. So when the Specter's ability tells you to search that player's hand, you can find the revealed copy.

And what exactly is a Shimian Specter anyway? That sounds too much like Simian Specter, and Moko might get skittish if he thinks another undead monkey is trying to horn in on his territory...

Q: What happens if I have out Guile and Familiar Ground? Is my Guile unblockable?

A: Not only is he unblockable, he can throw this really cool sonic boom with his hands and comb his hair when he wins...

Wait, wrong game.

A declared set of blocks is only legal if it obeys all blocking restriction and fulfills the maximum possible number of blocking requirements. What we have here are two different restrictions: Guile's ability prevents it from being blocked by less than three creatures, whereas the Ground's ability prevents Guile from being blocked by more than one creature.

Since there is no way to declare a block of one or less creature and three or more creatures at the same time, Guile is effectively unblockable.

EXTRA: These restrictions only apply to declaring blockers. If an effect happens to put a creature into play blocking (such as Flash Foliage) such blocking restrictions are ignored, so your Guile could get blocked that way.

Q: In the official rulings for Footbottom Feast:

10/1/2007 You can play this with zero targets. If you do, you'll get to draw a card. However, if you play this with at least one target and all of those targets become illegal, the spell will be countered and you won't get to draw a card.

Why is the spell countered? Doesn't "Draw a card" target yourself, so wouldn't Footbottom Feast still resolve and you just draw a card because there's still a legal target for one of the abilities?

A: A common misconception in Magic is that the word "target" is synonymous with "affect." The word "target" has a very specific meaning in the game. A spell or ability only targets in one of two situations:

1)The spell or ability explicitly uses the word "target," in which case the phrase that follows describes what is a legal target, or

2)An aura spell is on the stack, in which case it targets the object to which it will attach as it enters play.

It's possible, and quite common, for a player or object to be affected by something without being targeted by it. For example, Damnation has no targets, but that's not much solace for all the creatures getting whisked off to the graveyard.

In the same vein, Footbottom Feast only ever targets creature cards in graveyards. The player who played it is never a target for the "draw a card" portion. Therefore, we fall to the same rule that all targeted spells and abilities follow: if all the targets are illegal when the spell or ability tries to resolve, it is countered and none of its effects happen.

Q: I have Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in play, and I invoke its ability targeting a Goblin Matron. Before the ability resolves, my opponent destroys the Matron (by sacrificing one of his one Mogg Fanatics), and says that the replica Matron token never comes into play because there's now no target for it. I say that the Matron was already targeted and the ability remains on the stack, thus allowing the Matron token to come into play. Who's correct?

A: This is another aspect of the same rule we just discussed. Kiki-Jiki's activated ability has a single target: the creature to be copied. If that creature is no longer a valid target for the ability when it tries to resolve (such as if it's left play), the ability is countered and no token is created.

Q: Can I select another target after the Matron has been removed, before Kiki-Jiki's ability tries to resolve?

A: Once you've chosen a target, you can't change that target unless an effect allows you to do so (such as [card]Misdirection[/card). No rule allows you to change targets simply because your first one became illegal.

Q: Please explain double strike compared to first strike. When I read the rules, it sounds exactly the same. If it's the same, then why have two words?

A: Both abilities cause the creature to deal combat damage equal to its power during the "first strike damage step," which happens before the Tarmogoyf damage step when Tarmogoyfs deal damage. *

The difference is that double strike allows the creature to deal combat damage during both of these damage steps.

* All other creatures that don't have first strike deal damage during that step too, but research has conclusively proven that Tarmogoyf is the only non-first strike, non-double strike creature actually played anywhere, by anyone, and discussion of any other such creatures is purely theoretical.

Q: I have 3 Faeries in play (none of them Scion of Oona). I play Profane Command for 3, choosing to return a creature from my graveyard to play and giving 3 of my creatures fear. I choose to return a Scion of Oona from my graveyard to play. What happens?

A: This is a great question because it brings up an interaction not often seen in the game. What we have here are two effects of the same spell, where fulfilling the first part of the spell (returning the Scion to play) renders the targets for the second part of the spell (the Faeries to gain fear) illegal.

The Faeries will still gain fear. While targets are checked for legality when a spell is played and immediately before it resolves, there doesn't appear to be any consequence to the target becoming illegal while the spell is resolving, even if the part of the spell involving that target hasn't resolved yet.

Q: I have a few questions about Yet Another AEther Vortex...

A: And now comes the part where the space/time continuum breaks down worse than a bad trip by Hiro/Dan Vassar/Sam Beckett/Dr. Who/your other favorite time-traveler... thanks to a list of questions from a reader, we have to make a trip to Un-World. As with many questions regarding Un-world, the rules here aren't rock-solid. While some questions can be answered by the CompRules, Un-cards often cause strange things to happen that the rules simply don't account for. We'll try to mark those as appropriate so your play group can debate them - and even then, if your group agrees to disagree with the answers, you can still play however you wish!

Q: If I have Sensei's Divining Top in play can I pay 1 to draw a card by playing the Top, tapping the Top to draw a card, tapping the Top that's now on top of my library to draw it... wash, rinse, repeat?

A: Sure. The Top moving to the library makes it a new object. It doesn't leave play, but it does enter a new zone. Then you can play it and put it back to repeat. (Your mileage may vary - it's also fun to say that it doesn't change zones, you're only putting it somewhere else, like if you put it an inch to the left of its current position.)

Q: How does the Vortex work with Genju of the Realm?

A: As soon as the Genju is revealed as the top card of your deck, it's put into your graveyard. It's not coming into play, it just wakes up one bright, sunny morning and finds itself in play so very, very cold and alone.

Q: How does the Vortex work with Clone?

A: The same way as an enchantment - it's not coming into play, so it's not going to copy anything, and it's going to have a very short lifespan.

Q: How does the Vortex work with planeswalkers?

A: The planeswalker will get no loyalty counters and die. You'd think somebody who can walk across entire planes of existence can manage to maintain their composure through a silly little vortex, but you'd be surprised.

Q: Can I play an Orzhov Basilica to return the land on top of my library to its owners hand?

A: Absolutely. You're not really returning it to its owner's hand because it wasn't there to begin with, but that's one of the quirks of designers continuing to use that word on cards where it doesn't always make as much sense as just saying "put."

Q: If I look at the top 3 cards of my library with Sensei's Divining Top and I have a tapped card on top of my library, what happens if I move it to a different position? Does it stay tapped even if it's further down in my deck? What happens if I use the Top to make it my top card again afterwards?

A: "Tappedness" is part of an object's status. Objects can only have a status if they're in play. Since only the top card of your library is in play, all the other cards in your library aren't "tapped" or "untapped..." they're simply neither. So if you were to move that tapped card further down in your deck, it would lose that status and simply be a card in your deck. (This is one of those rules that's a bit iffy because nothing in your deck is ever tapped or untapped in normal play, so feel free to overrule this one if your play group wants some strange-looking piles of cards.)

EXTRA: The other two parts of an object's status are "flippedness" and "face-uppedness."

Q: How does the Vortex work with Burning Cinder Fury of Crimson Chaos Fire or Confusion in the Ranks?

A: First off, if you're playing Yet Another AEther Vortex and Burning Cinder Fury of Crimson Chaos Fire in the same deck, you instantly fail for playing with two of the most prosaically named cards in Magic.

Assuming you can talk your way out of that, players will be handing over the top cards of their library to their opponents if it becomes tapped, but that doesn't mean they leave their library. Objects you own can't be in other players' decks, but the rule doesn't say anything about controlling cards in another player's library.

Tune in next week, when...

Well, Tom hasn't written next week yet, so you'll just have to wait!


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