Cranial Insertion: The Power of Vesuvan Skulls



Cranial Insertion
The Power of Vesuvan Skulls

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

Welcome back to another edition of Cranial Insertion! US and UK Nationals are in the books, so it’s time for Standard to become irrelevant in those countries again. It’s never irrelevant here, though, as we keep getting questions that run the gamut of formats. The TSP Block PTQ season is in full swing, and you can bet your Brine Elementals that we’ve been getting questions about that format.

Speaking of questions, keep them coming to [email][email protected][/email]. The mailbox has been busy the past couple months, and that’s just how we like it.

If you were in Baltimore for US Nationals, you might have seen Eli and me there. Eli even dragged Moko along, and we tried to get a picture with the “three” of us, but that would have involved a long walk to a hotel before dinner. Maybe at Worlds. Eli was clad in his judge stripes, but, for a change, I was not. Instead, I decided to branch out and try my hand at event coverage, the results of which you can read at the US Nationals page. It was a much different experience than patrolling the floor as a judge; I had a great time doing it and hope to pick up the notebook (in both spiral and computer forms) again at some point.

On to the questions!




Q: My girlfriend is deaf, and she and I communicate through sign language. I normally play as the dominant head in 2HG for purposes of interpreting. A friend of mine claimed that using sign language was actually against the tournament rules of 2HG, saying that there was a rule that said 2HG required the use of the national language of the tournament site to communicate. I read the comprehensive rules, and there was no such mention. Does his claim have any validity?

A: None whatsoever. First of all, if you’re in the US, we are a country that does not have a national language. Second, forcing communication in any language would have made PT San Diego a nightmare, since you had 2HG players from all over the world. It’s a fairly common occurrence to see matches at the PT where the players do not share a common language.

Teammates can communicate in any language they choose. Strategically, it’s best to communicate in a language you don’t think your opponents can speak. If you and a teammate want to speak Klingon during your matches, that’s perfectly acceptable. And more than a little weird.





Feed me, Seymour! And turn off this
forcefield while you're up.
Q: I have a Greater Gargadon suspended with nine time counters on it. In play, I have a Mogg War Marshal, its Goblin token buddy, and a Keldon Marauders. My opponent plays Damnation. Does the new token the Mogg War Marshal creates die to the Damnation, also? Is there any benefit to sacrificing the Marshal before Damnation resolves?

A: Whether there is a benefit depends on what you want to accomplish, and that’s more of a strategic question than a rules question. If you have no responses to Damnation, your Gargadon loses no counters. If you sacrifice the Goblin token and the Marauders, you’re down to seven counters. Damnation will kill the War Marshal, but the new token won’t come into play until after Damnation has resolved. If you sacrifice your team to the Gargadon in response to Damnation, the token will come into play before Damnation resolves. At that point, it’s strategically best to sacrifice it, as well, leaving you with five counters on your Gargadon.




Q: If a Furnace of Rath and Tok-Tok, Volcano Born are both under my control, and I use a red source to deal 1 damage, does it get one added and then doubled, or doubled and then added? What if one is under my opponent's control?

A: The answer to this depends on the choices made by the player being damaged, or the controller of the creature being damaged. The Comprehensive Rules tell us this about the interaction of replacement effects:

419.9a If two or more replacement or prevention effects are attempting to modify the way an event affects an object or player, the affected object’s controller (or its owner if it has no controller) or the affected player chooses one to apply. Then the other effect applies if it is still appropriate.


In this case, your opponent will probably choose to double the damage to 2, then add 1, making it 3. The other way adds 1 (2), and then doubles that (4). Remember that replacement effects don’t have controllers; when they compete, 419.9a tells us who sorts things out.




Q: Will you gain life from activating a Martyr of Ashes equipped with Loxodon Warhammer?

A: Nope, no soup life for you. The reason is because you have to sacrifice the Martyr to play the ability. By the time she gets around to dealing damage, she’s long since been in the graveyard. Loxodon Warhammer gives the equipped creature lifelink, but there’s no equipped creature at that point, so you don’t gain any life.




Q: My opponent has a Megrim out and plays Cry of Contrition. The only card in my hand is Reckless Wurm. The CR defines a discard as, “a player discards a card by putting a card from his or her hand into his or her graveyard.” Presuming I play it via madness, does Megrim still trigger?

A: It does. While the first part of madness allows you to change where the discarded card goes, it doesn’t change the fact that you still discarded the card. When you discard a card with madness, you have the option to replace the card going to the graveyard with going to the RFG zone. The act of discarding the card still happens.

502.24a Madness is a keyword that represents two abilities. The first is a static ability that functions while the card with madness is in a player’s hand. The second is a triggered ability that functions when the first ability is applied. “Madness [cost]” means “If a player would discard this card, that player discards it, but may remove it from the game instead of putting it into his or her graveyard” and “When this card is removed from the game this way, its owner may play it by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost. If that player doesn’t, he or she puts this card into his or her graveyard.”





Q: I have a Life and Limb and a Juniper Order Ranger in play. I play a Forest. Is the Forest/Saproling affected by the Ranger’s triggered ability?

A: It is. There is no point when the Forest is in play that it won’t also be a Saproling. That means the Ranger sees a creature come into play, and its ability will trigger.

Bonus: When a permanent is coming into play, we do three things to
see exactly what happens:

1. Apply replacement effects
2. Apply continuous effects
3. Check for triggered abilities

There are no replacement effects here. The second step is where Life and Limb kicks in, making the Forest a Saproling as soon as it enters play. Once it’s come into play, we then check for triggered abilities and see a Ranger about to hand out some +1/+1 counters.





Even funnier in French.
Q: I understand that if I play a creature spell that had been removed with Delay, I have the choice to pay kicker costs. Is the same true when I put a creature into play with Wild Pair?

A: No, it’s not. The reason is the key difference between playing a creature spell and putting a creature into play. When you play a creature spell that’s coming off Delay, you have the choice to pay optional additional costs like kicker. You’re still playing the spell, just doing so without paying its mana cost, since it was suspended. When you put a creature into play, you’re not actually playing anything, so you never get a chance to do things like pay kicker.




Q: Can I use Magus of the Arena in 2HG to pit one of my teammate’s creature’s against an opponent’s creature?

A: Nope. “You” means you, even in 2HG. You’ll have to pick one of your own creatures to square off with whatever creature the opponent chooses.




Q: Since the Magus taps to use its ability, can you have it square off with an opponent’s creature, or do you have to send one of your other creatures into the pits?

A: The Magus can mix it up just fine. I guess your concern is that it taps for its ability, and what happens when a creature targeted by the ability is tapped by the time it resolves. Fear not, young planeswalker. The Magus' ability can target tapped creatures just fine; it won't tap them when it resolves, but they'll still deal their damage.




Q: I have a face-up Brine Elemental and two face-down Vesuvan Shapeshifters. I turn Shapeshifter #1 face-up, copying the Brine Elemental. Next, I turn Shapeshifter #2 face-up, copying Shapeshifter #1. Since it also becomes a Brine Elemental, that will cause my opponent to skip his next two untap steps, right?

A: Yes. If the “next” something is skipped twice, then the next two instances of it are skipped. Here’s the rule.

419.6f Anything scheduled for a skipped step, phase, or turn won’t happen. Anything scheduled for the “next” occurrence of something waits for the first occurrence that isn’t skipped. If two effects each cause a player to skip his or her next occurrence, that player must skip the next two; one effect will be satisfied in skipping the first occurrence, while the other will remain until another occurrence can be skipped.





Q: Because it’s copying Shapeshifter #1, does this mean Shapeshifter #2 has two instances of the triggered ability that allows it to be turned face-down?

A: Actually, it does. It has its own intrinsic instance of the ability, and it picks up the instance from the other Shapeshifter. Here’s another rule:

503.9. Some copy effects give an ability to the copy as part of the copying process. This ability becomes part of the copiable values for the copy, along with any other abilities that were copied.


The first Shapeshifter’s triggered ability becomes part of its copiable values, so the second Shapeshifter copies that. Its own instance of the ability gives it two.




Q: Is there a situation where having two instances of the ability would be relevant?

A: Sure, there are several. The turning face-down ability is triggered, so it can be responded to (and countered) with cards like Stifle or Trickbind. Even if the ability were countered the first time, you still have another chance to use it. Also, because the card can turn itself face-down twice, that means you get to turn it face-up twice, and can even copy different things each time.




Q: So how does the turning it face-up twice part work?

A: At the beginning of your upkeep, the Shapeshifter’s two instances of the turn-me-face-down ability trigger. Let the first one resolve, and choose to turn it face-down (remember, it’s optional). The second is still on the stack at this point. With that second ability on the stack, pay 1U and turn the Shapeshifter face-up, copying whatever. Now let the second ability resolve and turn the creature face-down again. You can now pay 1U anytime to turn it face-up again. If you copy the first Shapeshifter again, the second one will continue to have two instances of the triggered ability.





The Skull. That is all.
Q: I use Necropotence to set aside five cards. While it’s still in my main phase, my opponent destroys the Necro. What happens to the cards I set aside?

A: The power of The Skull survives even its own destruction. Guess that “Necropotence” name was a pretty good choice, eh? In this case, the cards will be put into your hand at the end of your turn. The text “ Put that card into your hand at the end of your turn.” on Necro sets up a delayed triggered ability each time you activate the ability to remove a card. Even though The Skull is long gone, the delayed triggered ability still goes off when your end of turn step rolls around.




Q: So if one of those delayed triggered abilities gets Stifled, do I still pay the life?

A: You pay the life when you activate the ability to remove a card. That’s well before the delayed triggers try to put any removed cards into your hand.




Q: If I have Necropotence out and I discard a madness card, can I still use madness?

A: Yes. This is another case of competing replacement effects. In this case, both of them are telling you to remove the discarded card from the game instead of putting it into your graveyard. You’ll want to use madness, though, if you want to play the spell. The other part of the madness ability starts, “When this card is removed from the game this way. . . .” If you just plop the card into the RFG zone with Necro’s effect, you don’t get to play it for its madness cost.




Q: If my opponent has removed five of my cards from the game face-down with Jester’s Scepter, can I try to get one back with Glittering Wish?

A: No, you can’t. You have no way of knowing which, if any, of the removed cards are multicolored. Because you can’t make that determination, you can’t retrieve any of those removed cards with Glittering Wish. Even if you had some external way of knowing that a removed card was multicolored, it doesn't matter. The information has to be game-visible and verifiable.

Bonus: Death Wish can retrieve a card removed from the game face-down, since there are no restrictions on the characteristics of the card you can get. However, in the case of Jester’s Scepter, Death Wish will retrieve you a random card from that face-down pile. You still can’t look at the face-down cards.




Q: I have March of the Machines and Wild Pair in play. If I play a Prismatic Lens, will Wild Pair let me search for a creature card with combined P/T 4?

A: Yes. Because of March of the Machines’ static ability, the Prismatic Lens will enter play as a 2/2 creature. This will trigger Wild Pair, and when the trigger resolves, you can search for a creature with combined P/T of 4.

Bonus: Because the Lens is a creature, it will be affected by “summoning sickness.” You won’t be able to tap it for mana the turn you play it.




That’s all we have for this week. Remember to keep sending us your questions so we can keep answering them!

[Bonus: Look for Eli doing non-Magical stuff for WotC at GenCon this weekend coming up! Moko, however, will be staying in Tucson feeding the cat. Sorry. -Eli]

-Tom Fowler

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