Cranial Insertion: Three Spheres for Sister Sara

Cranial Insertion
Three Spheres for Sister Sara

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

It's Monday, so it must be time for another edition of Cranial Insertion. Thankfully, there were a lot of questions in the CI mailbox this week, so we'll get to those, plus questions taken from local events. We'll cover something old, something new, nothing borrowed, and probably several somethings blue.

If you want to add your Magical queries to the CI mailbag, send them to [email][email protected][/email]. As we've shown the past couple weeks, we empty the mailbag pretty often in this column, so if validation from your friends is what you seek, we can offer you a small sliver of that.

Let's shake the mailbag and see what falls out!

Q: When I destroy my opponent's Yixlid Jailer, what happens to the Bridge from Below in my graveyard?

A: It remains in the graveyard, waiting to give you Zombies. This is a case where the game has to "look back in time" to see if any abilities would trigger, which commonly happens when objects leave play. Rule 410.10d says, in part:

However, some triggered abilities must be treated specially because the object with the ability may no longer be in play, may have moved to a hand or library, or may no longer be controlled by the appropriate player. The game has to "look back in time" to determine if these abilities trigger. Abilities that trigger specifically when an object leaves play, when an object is put into a hand or library, or when a player loses control of an object will trigger based on their existence, and the appearance of objects, prior to the event rather than afterward.

The key part is that we have to look at the situation prior to the trigger event, rather than afterwards. Prior to the Jailer going to the graveyard, it was in play, where it caused Bridge from Below to lose all abilities. Ergo, the Bridge doesn't have the remove-me-from-the-game ability when the Jailer dies, so it stays in the graveyard.

Avatars are no damn good, but
they will always need land.
Q: How does Herald of Leshrac work in multiplayer? What constitutes a land you don't control? We've been playing it as, you pick the opponent and they pick the land.

A: A land you don't control is simply a land played (or stolen) by another player. With Herald of Leshrac, you pick the lands you want to steal. You can pick on one player exclusively, or you can share the misery among your friends. You can even steal lands from your teammates if you're playing a team game. The Herald gets +1/+1 for each land you've pinched in this manner – you now control them because an ability says you do, but their owners are the players who began the game with those lands in their decks or sideboards.

Q: Chalice of the Void (set to 1) is in play. If I play Mystic Speculation with buyback, is its converted mana cost 1 or 3? What if the cost is altered in another way, say by Cloud Key or Sphere of Resistance?

A: A card's converted mana cost is always determined using the symbols and numbers in the mana cost (I would say "in the upper right corner of the card," but we now have a bunch of ugly cards with their mana costs printed elsewhere). Mystic Speculation's converted mana cost will always be 1. Even though you're paying 3 to flash it back (or 4 if Sphere of Resistance is in play), its CMC is still 1.

Q: If a face-down creature blocks Mistmeadow Skulk and then, while damage is on the stack, is turned face up to become a creature with CMC greater than 2, does Mistmeadow Skulk take any damage?

A: No. The source of damage is the creature as it currently exists in play (or as it most recently existed, if it left play). When the creature is turned face-up, the Skulk will use its abnormally large eyes to see that the thing that slammed into it now has a CMC of more than 2. It will then cry glowing yellow tears of joy at surviving the encounter, poisoning the ground water in Dominaria for years to come.

Q: Regarding Mirari, does the payment get made when the ability triggers or during its resolution? Can it be responded to before you make the payment, and then again after you make the payment but before the effect you paid for occurs?

A: The payment is made during the resolution of the ability. Once the ability starts resolving, neither player gains priority. If you pay 3 mana during the resolution of the ability, then Mirari will generate a copy of whatever the original spell was and put that copy onto the stack. Only when this ability has completely resolved (and the game has checked for state-based effects and triggered abilities) does a player receive priority.

Q: I have Dralnu, Lich Lord in play, and a Whispers of the Muse in my graveyard. If I activate Dralnu to give Whispers a flashback cost of :symu:, can I still spend 5 mana to buy it back?

A: You can still spend the :5mana:, but the result isn't going to be what you wanted. Buyback and flashback are competing replacement effects, both trying to have their way with your Whispers. Since you control the affected object, you get to order the replacement effects however you want. If you let flashback go first, the spell is removed from the game, and buyback won't apply, since it has lost track of the spell. If you apply buyback first, the spell will leave the stack and try to go back to your hand. However, flashback still applies here, so the spell ends up getting removed from the game.

Why does flashback still apply after we've applied buyback?

502.22a Flashback appears on some instants and sorceries. It represents two static abilities: one functions while the card is in a player's graveyard and the other functions while the card is on the stack. "Flashback [cost]" means "You may play this card from your graveyard by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost" and "If the flashback cost was paid, remove this card from the game instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack."

Look at the bolded part – remove it from the game if it would go anywhere else when it would leave the stack. Buyback tries to take the spell from the stack to your hand, but flashback dashes those hopes.

Bonus: This is why we at CI like to say, "Flashback always wins."

Bonus II: Yes, flashback does always win. With effects like Delay, it just never picks a fight to begin with.

Mmmm, tasty humanoid snacks!
Q: Before combat, I activate my Zombie Boa and choose white. I attack with it, and my opponent blocks with Akroma, Angel of Wrath. He says that Akroma's protection from Black saves her from the Boa's ability. Is he right?

A: He is not. Protection does some very specific things, which we commonly abbreviate to DEBT because we love mnemonic devices. (And on that note, why is it so hard to remember how to spell "mnemonic?") A creature with protection from ~foo~ cannot be Damaged, Enchated/Equipped, Blocked, or Targeted by ~foo~ sources. Zombie Boa has a triggered ability, which triggers when a creature of the chosen color blocks it. No damaging, enchanting/equipping, blocking, or targeting of Akroma is happening here. Your opponent's Angel of Ability Text is a goner.

Q: Blood Moon is in play, and I have a legendary land in play. If someone plays another legendary land, does the "legend rule" take care of them, since they're both now Mountains?

A: The legend rule will only banish the lands if they have the same name. Blood Moon doesn't change the name of affected lands to Mountain; it simply gives nonbasic lands the subtype Mountain. Thus, Pendelhaven's type becomes Legendary Land – Mountain, and its text box becomes the intrinsic mana ability of a Mountain.

Q: On a related note, if a Flagstones of Trokair under the effect of a Blood Moon goes to the graveyard, do I get to search for a Plains?

A: Nope. While Blood Moon is in play, Flagstones is, in all respects other than name, a Mountain. When it leaves play, the game sees a Mountain going to the graveyard (remember, the game has to "look back in time" when dealing with leaves-play triggers), and nothing of interest happens when a Mountain goes to the graveyard.

Q: My opponent has a Safe Haven in play, and has removed one creature with it. If he uses Dream Stalker to bounce the Safe Haven, what happens to the removed creature?

A: It is forever lost in the mists of the removed-from-game zone. If Safe Haven leaves play without being sacrificed for its ability, all the creatures it was housing remain removed from the game. Even if you play the Safe Haven again, it's treated as an entirely different permanent, and it won't have any "memory" of the creatures previously removed.

Q: If I fetch a pair of Dryad Arbors with Hunting Wilds (kicker paid), are they 3/3s?

A: Yes. Dryad Arbor has the type Forest, so it can be found with Hunting Wilds. A kickered Hunting Wilds will untap the Dryad Arbors, make them 3/3 creatures, and give them haste.

Q: Same situation, but now what if I have Life and Limb in play?

A: Then it's time to break out the slide rule and figure out what the Dryad Arbors will be. Thankfully, the slide rule really isn't necessary in this case – this is a matter of timestamps. If Life and Limb was in play before you played Hunting Wilds, then the Arbors are 3/3 Saproling Dryad Forests. If Life and Limb came into play after Hunting Wilds was played, then the Arbors are 1/1 Saproling Dryad Forests. Both the power and toughness setting abilities of Life and Limb and Hunting Wilds function in layer 6b, so whichever one has the more recent timestamp will apply.

Q: Judges have to take action if a game violation occurs, even if they are told by a spectator, correct? Can you show me a rule that says this?

A: For this, you need to look in the Universal Tournament Rules.

14. Spectator and Press Responsibilities
Spectators are expected to remain silent during matches and are not permitted to communicate with players in any way while matches are in progress. Players may request that a spectator not observe their matches. All such requests must be made through a judge.

Spectators and members of the press who believe they have observed rules violations should inform a judge, but must not interfere with the match.

15. Judge Responsibilities
Judges have the responsibility to deliver fair, impartial rulings and to assist the head judge and other tournament officials in any area that is required to ensure a well-run tournament. Judges must take action to resolve any floor or game rule infraction they notice or that is brought to their attention.

The bolded parts should be what you're looking for. Yes, judges are required to step in and handle any violation they see or that gets reported to them.

Q: I have a Venser's Sliver currently enjoying the bonuses given by a pair of Might Slivers. My opponent blocks the Venser's Sliver with a 2/2, then uses Serendib Sorcerer to make the Venser's Sliver an 0/2. Do the Might Sliver bonuses still apply?

A: They do, and your opponent will be the proud owner of a dead 2/2. The reason those bonuses still kick in is because they apply in a later sublayer of layer 6. Here's the breakdown of the power/toughness layer:

6a: Characteristic-defining abilities. (Korlash, Heir to Blackblade)
6b. Anything not applying in c, d, or e. (Serendib Sorcerer, Giant Growth)
6c. Changes from counters (Scab-Clan Mauler)
6d. Effects from static abilities that modify but don't set P/T. (Might Sliver, Gaea's Anthem, Moldervine Cloak)
6e. P/T-switching effects (Windreaver)

So, we start with the creature's base values and then work through the layers. Venser's Sliver starts as a 3/3. In 6b, Serendib Sorcerer makes it a 0/2. In 6d, a pair of Might Slivers give it a total of +4/+4, making it a 4/6. That's enough to brutalize the 2/2 standing in its way.

We'll close down the column this week with some Trinisphere questions.

I will gladly pay you 3 on Tuesday
for a hamburger today.
Q: Trinisphere applies to spells played via Isochron Scepter, right?

A: Yes. Trinisphere looks at every spell that gets played, and if it sees that you're paying less than 3 mana for the spell, makes you pay 3. Because you're paying 0 mana to play a spell imprinted on Isochron Scepter, Trinisphere makes you pay :3mana:. In addition to the 2 mana activation cost of the Scepter, that means you're investing 5 mana in each spell.

Q: So Trinisphere will always apply here? It doesn't come down to timestamps or anything like that?

A: Nope. Timestamp order doesn't enter into this.

Q: Does Trinisphere know that you paid additional costs, or does it go strictly by the mana cost?

A: Trinisphere is a smart one; it knows how much you paid for your spell. Here's how you too can be a smart one and figure out how much you're paying:

Final cost = base cost (or flashback cost) + cost increasers - cost reducers.

So, you're playing a plain old Orim's Chant with Trinisphere out. It costs :symw:, and there are no increasers or reducers. Trinisphere wants you to pay 3, so your Chant will end up costing 2W.

Now you're playing Orim's Chant with kicker. It costs :symw:, plus another white mana for the kicker cost. There are no reducers. Trinisphere again wants you to pay 3, so your Chant will have a final cost of 1WW.

This time, you're playing Orim's Chant with kicker, and there is also a Sphere of Resistance in play. It costs :symw:, plus white mana for kicker, plus 1 mana for the Sphere. Trinisphere demands that you pay 3 . . . and you already are, so it leaves you alone. Your final cost is 1WW.

Q: Will America's missile shield over Europe affect prices of foreign cards?

A: It will. WotC will use its Magic Online programming team to hack into the missile shield control center. This will cause the control center to crash frequently . One of those crashes will lead to the bombing of every distributor in Europe. I'm afraid the effect on card prices will be catastrophic. Frown

Bonus: Yes, we really did get this question. It was an obviously humorous one tacked onto the end of an email that had six questions about Trinisphere.

That's all we have for this week. Join us next week, when we talk about the economic fallout of the European distribution center bombings. Oh, and some rules stuff.

~Tom Fowler


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