Cranial Insertion: Dreadful Questions

Cranial Insertion
Dreadful Questions
or, "BOO!" Says the Subtitle

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

Halloween is right around the corner, and the haunt ability has just left Standard entirely. Coincidence?

How many nights has Mark Gottlieb
lain awake in terror of this card?

But Moko found me something scarier. Something to make your hair stand on end and to make you scream in the night. He found. . . .

Rules questions with Humility!!! [cue dramatic thunderclap]

Oh yes, dear readers, Humility and Humility-style effects have infiltrated the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox, and now . . . there is no . . . turning . . . back.

There is, however, Disenchant.

Q: Will Yixlid Jailer stop Darksteel Colossus from being shuffled back into my library if he's killed? What if he's milled?

A: In both cases, the Colossus will happily shuffle itself into its owner's library. The point of the replacement effect (note the "if . . . would . . . instead" wording on the Colossus, versus the "when" triggered ability on things like Hostility) is that the entire action of "put into graveyard" never happens – instead of that, it gets shuffled, and is never in the graveyard for the Jailer to care about.

Q: What color are Crimson Kobolds with Lignify on?

A: You will have some red trees. Rule 405.2 tells us that abilities that set an object's own color are characteristic-defining abilities, and the second paragraph of 418.5a tells us to apply those before anything else. Setting colors and removing abilities both fall in layer 5, so your Kobolds will blush furiously, and then become trees.

Q: If I Lignify a Sower of Temptation, do I lose control of the stolen creature? What about when the Sower dies?

A: The Sower's triggered ability sets the control effect, and defines the duration. The Sower itself doesn't do anything itself once the trigger goes off (well, maybe it swings for 2).

Sower loses all abilities? That's fine, the trigger created the control effect, and the control effect knows the duration and watches the ability-free Sower. Even if the Sower dies or has its name changed, the control effect will still be watching it silently for the duration to end, waiting for it to die a horribly messy death.

Q: Does Lignify remove indestructibleness from the creature it enchants if I have Timber Protector out?

A: Nope. Timber Protector does not cause other trees to gain "This is indestructible," it simply makes them indestructible. Since the trees aren't gaining an ability, there's nothing for Lignify to take away.

The DCI doesn't want you to
believe that Licids exist.
Q: How does Lignify interact with morph?

A: The same way Sudden Spoiling and Humility do. The first step of opening up your big, squishy present is to reveal what the cost will be. (This is terribly rude to do in real life with real presents, but on Dominaria, with squishy morph presents, it's unthinkable not to do so.) Under the effect of Spoiling, Humility, or Lignify, there will be no cost, and a nonexistent cost can't be paid, so you're fresh out of luck there.

Q: When do I get to play a spell removed with Guile?

A: When Guile says. And Guile says "PLAY IT NOW AAAAAH!!!" The triple exclamation point is very important. Guile is not subtle.

Mind's Desire sets a duration in which you may play the removed spell: "until end of turn." So does Intet, the Dreamer: "as long as Intet remains in play." And so does Spelljack: "as long as it remains removed from the game." But Guile just screams like a drunken banshee and says "PLAY THAT CARD!!!" Unlike the other three cards I mentioned, which are glancing in disgust at Guile as Guile vomits into the umbrella stand, Guile instructs you to do something; the others grant you permission to do something later.

Q: Does Doran, the Siege Tower also apply to Arena's ability?

A: As much fun as it is to say that Doran is really a 5/5 for 3, he isn't. Doran's oddball ability does not alter, set, raise, or in any way adjust a creature's power, nor does it ever affect how much damage it does for anything except combat damage. Arena just looks at actual power.

Flavorfully, Doran would slap someone around for 5 with an Arena activation, but flavorfully, Whippoorwill would also fly.

Q: If my Thorn Elemental somehow becomes 8/9 and I have Doran, the Siege Tower in play, and I want to assign damage to my opponent from the Elemental, does he assign 8 or 9?

A: It will assign 9 damage. Thorn Elemental doesn't specify that it assigns damage equal to its power to the defending player as though it weren't blocked, it just assigns combat damage as though it weren't blocked, taking any other effects into consideration.

Q: Can I Shunt Oblivion Ring to target something my opponent controls?

A: As a spell, Oblivion Ring doesn't target. The choice of which creature to stick in the Ring is made as the comes-into-play triggered ability goes on the stack, well after the Ring has resolved and is no longer a spell. Willbender will work here, but not Shunt.

Q: After I play Colfenor's Plans, can I Disenchant it and play all seven cards?

A: Oh my.

1) How did you play Disenchant? Colfenor's Plans counts itself when it says you can't play more than one spell per turn.

2) When you play a spell off of the Plans, you must pay its mana cost. As awesome as it would be, Colfenor doesn't give you a free lunch, and nowhere on the card does it say "without paying its mana cost."

3) Once you get rid of the Plans, your happy little pile is stuck in limbo. Unlike Mind's Desire and Spelljack, the ability allowing you to play the removed cards is not tied to the ability that removed them; it's a distinct ability on the Plans, and no Plans means no playing.

Q: If a creature with champion gets Lignified and dies, will the creature it champions ever come back?

A: Nope, it's stuck. Unlike Sower of Temptation, the champion ability does not give a duration (or, more plausibly, set up a delayed trigger) telling the removed card when it can come back; it simply establishes two triggered abilities on the creature with champion. If the second triggered ability isn't there as that creature leaves play, it can't trigger, and the championed creature will be forever removed from the game.

Q: If I evoke a Mulldrifter, can I play another one with Twinning Glass and keep it?

A: Sure. Evoke is just an alternative cost to play the spell; you're still playing that Mulldrifter, so Twinning Glass is happy to let you spit out another one. Since the "sacrifice me when I come into play" ability is tied to evoke, and you did not (and cannot) pay the evoke cost for the second one, you'll get to keep that one forever!

Q: Will Humility let me keep creatures I evoke?

A: You won't have to sacrifice them, but you're probably not going to get your mana's worth anyway. Evoke includes a triggered ability on the creature, and if all abilities are wiped as it comes into play through Humility, the "sac me" ability from evoke won't trigger. But any other abilities, like Mulldrifter's "draw two cards," also will not trigger, so this isn't a combo as much as a cute trick.

Okay, the errata on this card
is more funny than scary. But
try to memorize it. Ooooh.
Q: What happens when a vivid land runs out of charge counters?

A: It's less vivid. That's it. Gemstone Mine and Saprazzan Skerry may freak out and explode when they run out of counters, but the vivid lands just can't have their second ability played.

Q: Can I reveal Humans in my hand for Daru Stinger?

A: As horrifying and disturbing as that may sound, you can indeed. The Stinger was originally only a Soldier, but now it's a Human Soldier, and amplify does a little bit more than its original flavor text says:

Quote from 502.27a »
Amplify is a static ability. "Amplify N" means "As this object comes into play, reveal any number of cards from your hand that share a creature type with it. This permanent comes into play with N +1/+1 counters on it for each card revealed this way. You can't reveal this card or any other cards that are coming into play at the same time as this card."

Q: I use Blades of Velis Vel to make my two Vampire Bats all types. If I pump one twice with its own ability and then make it a copy of the other Vampire Bats with Shapesharer, can I play the pump ability two more times?

A: You can. While the abilities are written exactly the same, and they're both on the same object in turn, they're still separate abilities. And since power and toughness boosts are applied long after copy effects, you'll end up with a 6/1 Bat Lightning.

Q: Will Cloudpost count creatures with changeling?

A: Cloudpost will look at them and say "You're not a land. You suck." The changelings will say "Locus is a land type and I am not a land, so yeah, I really do suck." And then the changelings will cry a lot, Cloudpost won't add more mana for them, and your intended outrageous-amount-of-mana combo will fall flat.

Q: Can I pick "draw a card" twice on Cryptic Command or "target player loses X life" twice on Profane Command?

A: That's not choosing two, that's choosing one twice. You need to select two different modes.

Q: I make all of my creatures 3/3 with Mirror Entity. Will my Kithkins actually be 4/4 due to my Wizened Cenn?

A: They will! Abilities that set power and toughness are applied in layer 6b, while static abilities that pump are layer 6d.

Don't forget – all of your creatures are now 4/4 except for your Cenn itself, since Mirror Entity so kindly gave them all creature types.

Q: Is my States promo Imperious Perfect legal for FNM?

A: It has a normal Magic back, it's a Standard-legal card, and it's a promotional printing distributed by Wizards of the Coast . . . yup, that's sure legal!

Unless your FNM is a draft or sealed deck. Then you're not only cheating, you're epically failing at it.

Q: How much power does my Silvergill Douser take off if I control only that and a changeling?

A: -2/-0. The Douser, unlike Ulasht, the Hate Seed and more like Coat of Arms, looks at each creature and asks "Are you a Merfolk or Faerie?" If that creature answers in the affirmative, the Douser adds to his power-draining.

Q: What happens if I Crib Swap my opponent's Root Sliver and he gives it shroud in response?

A: You . . . er . . . um . . .

"Sliver spells can't be countered," eh?

Remember how Urza's Rage can't be countered by spells or abilities but Obliterate simply can't be countered? This is sorta why.

Going by a strictly literal reading, the Crib Swap would not be countered because not even game rules can counter it. So the illegal target would not be remove from the game, but the target's controller would get a 1/1 Shapeshifter.

But you know what? I'd put money on this li'l Sliver getting himself some errata so he works in a remotely sensible fashion, and I'd rule that the Crib Swap would be countered. This is one of those places where MFR 103 kicks in nicely, giving the head judge of an event the right to say "The current Oracle wording is in error. Do it this way."

(If you're weird enough to build a deck around this interaction, check with your head judge before insisting that it works either way. As long as the Oracle wording is weird, your HJ is perfectly in the right to rule non-permanent Slivers as uncounterable.)

That's all for October, folks. I hope these chilling questions of strange and unholy effects added a bit of fright to your week. If it didn't, try dressing up as Humility for Halloween and walk around town telling kids to sit down and do nothing.


- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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