Cranial Insertion: Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shrouds



Cranial Insertion
Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shrouds
or, No More Obscure 80's Songs in CI Titles

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

Rather than jumping right into the [email][email protected][/email] mailbag as in the last few rounds, let's break away from Q&A for a bit.

With all the excitement of the Future Sight spoiler and the Prerelease events, it's easy to miss the fact that many existing rules get tweaked and older cards received errata in the Oracle update. Let's look at how some existing cards have changed and what this means for you as a player.

(Please note that while Gatherer has the new wordings of these cards, www.magiccards.info has not yet been updated as this article was published, so the wording you will see for the card links depends on your autocard settings.)




Elvish Piper

Old Oracle Text: G, :symtap:: Put a creature card from your hand into play.
New Oracle Text: G, :symtap:: You may put a creature card from your hand into play.

The addition of "may" to this text doesn't seem like much, but it makes judges happy. Why? Under the old Oracle text, you were obligated to put a creature card from your hand into play if you had one when the ability resolved. If you didn't, you had to call a judge over to verify for your opponent that your hand was creatureless. With the new text, you can simply choose not to put a creature card into play, even if you have one. This may seem like a small favor until your opponent responds to your Piper's ability by making you discard all the creature cards in your hand except Phage, the Untouchable. Bet you're happy with this change now!




Master of Arms

Old Oracle Text: First strike. 1W: Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms.
New Oracle Text: First strike. 1W: Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms. Prevent all combat damage that creature would deal this turn.

Believe it or not, the new Oracle wording actually preserves the original functionality of this card. To explain why requires a trip back to the rules when Weatherlight was originally released, before the Sixth Edition rules. Cue the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future:

Thousands of years ago, in the dark times before the stack and when interrupts roamed the land, the rules of Magic were much different. There was a "between-turns" phase and triggered abilities couldn't be responded to with instants. And tapped blockers didn't deal combat damage.



Thousands of minutes ago, a film was
released starring this robot that had poor
overall gross but a respectable per-screen
average.
When the Sixth Edition rules came about, that last bit became obsolete: if a creature was tapped after it became a blocker, it still dealt combat damage. The problem with Master of Arms is that its wording never changed to account for this; it could still tap creatures blocking it, but that didn't mean as much as it used to.

The sentence added to the new text allows this creature to survive being blocked again, restoring the function stolen from it by those accursed Sixth Edition rules.

Interrupt windows forever!




Burning Wish

Old Oracle Text: Choose a sorcery card you own from outside the game, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. Remove Burning Wish from the game.
New Oracle Text: You may choose a sorcery card you own from outside the game, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. Remove Burning Wish from the game.

(Note that all of the Wishes from Judgment received similar errata; we just used Burning Wish because we like it.)

Much like the Elvish Piper, the addition of "may" to this effect reduces the burden on judges. You're not obligated to find a sorcery card now, even if one is in an appropriate place (in a tournament game, either your sideboard or a card you own in the removed-from-game zone).

Some players already thought this was the case, citing cards such as Gifts Ungiven. Gifts is different because it uses the word "search," and players are not required to find a card in a hidden zone (such as the library or hand) if the search effect requires the found card to have certain characteristics. Wishes do not use the verb "search" and as such didn't fall under this rule.

This also has some added interest for Vintage players, who can now force their opponents to play a Wish without putting a card into their hand in return.




Giant Spider

Old Oracle Text: Giant Spider can block as though it had flying.
New Oracle Text: Reach (This creature can block creatures with flying.)

That's right . . . Giant Spider's rules text has been reduced to a single keyword. The new keyword "Reach" was introduced in the Future Sight rules primer, and interestingly has no actual rules text associated with it. The change to the rules that allows this to happen is to the definition of "Flying."

Quote from CompRules change from Future Sight primer »
502.4b A creature with flying can't be blocked except by creatures with flying and/or reach. A creature with flying can block a creature with or without flying.


This change easily resolves a whole (insert your favorite nesting creature)'s nest of issues with the "as though it had flying" text. Under the old text, the Spider was always considered to have flying for the sole purpose of determining whether it could legally block a creature. It didn't have flying, so it wasn't affected by things like Hurricane, but it "pretended" to have flying long enough to block a flying creature.

The new rule removes all this "pretend" business: the Spider doesn't have flying, is never considered to have flying, and doesn't behave as a flying creature at any time. It can still block flying creatures as was originally intended, but can no longer block Silhana Ledgewalker and similiar creatures.

Among other things, it also means that a flying creature enchanted with Dust Corona is no longer effectively unblockable; a Giant Spider can now fulfill all of the blocking restrictions such a creature would have. Also, the confusion over Talruum Piper and spiders is no more, since spiders no longer "pretend" to have flying for any reason.




Ivory Mask

Old Oracle Text: You can't be the target of spells or abilities.
New Oracle Text: You have shroud. (You can't be the target of spells or abilities.)

This isn't much of a functional change; it's simply taking an ability that has become quite common in Magic and turning it into a keyworded ability called "Shroud." Here are the new rules for Shroud:

502.36. Shroud

502.36a Shroud is a static ability. "Shroud" means "This permanent or player can't be the target of spells or abilities."

502.36b Multiple instances of shroud on the same permanent or player are redundant.


Note that this ability prevents the creature from being the target of spells or abilities controlled by any player. Cards such as Troll Ascetic which only prevent targeting by certain players won't be getting errata for shroud as there isn't any such thing as "half-shroud" or "opponents-only shroud."





There are more rules changes in store which we'll be able to fill you in on once we've seen the full FAQ. Until then, it's time to get to the mailbag to answer your questions!

Q: What happens if I play Momentary Blink on a Voidstone Gargoyle and name a different card? Can the first chosen card be played?

A: Just as Glorious Anthem's static ability doesn't apply when it's not in play, neither does Voidstone Gargoyle's "can't play the named card ability." That ability ends as soon as the Gargoyle leaves play for any reason, even if it comes right back into play. When it reenters play, it's considered a new Voidstone Gargoyle with no memory of its previous existence, including what card you may have named when it originally came into play.




Q: Can I Whitemane Lion my Magus of the Disk in response to activating the Magus's ability and still destroy everything and have the Magus safely back in my hand?

A: Absolutely. (Players have been doing this with Nevinyrral's Disk and Boomerang for over a decade.) What makes the Disk and its associated Magus different from many other similar abilities is that sacrificing the permanent isn't part of the activation cost of the ability; the ability simply destroys the creature (or artifact) as part of the resolution. If the permanent is no longer in play when the ability resolves, it makes no difference; the ability still resolves normally.




Q: The land called Urborg can remove the first strike ability from a creature. Can it remove the ''first strike'' ability from double strike?

A: Given the deluge of questions we've had recently regarding Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, it's refreshing to see a question about the original Legendary Land that gave rise to it.

But no, Urborg's anti-first strike ability can't do much to double strike. Even though double strike allows the creature to deal damage during the first-strike combat damage step, it doesn't actually give the creature first strike. Urborg's effect is rather picky in that it doesn't have an effect unless the targeted creature really does have first strike.




Q: I have quite a large number of mana (say 1000) in my pool and control a Mana Screw. Can I now use the Screw to empty my mana pool?

A: This question seems simple on the surface, but goes to the heart of one of the rules regarding unbounded loops:
Quote from CompRules »
421.2. If the loop contains one or more optional actions and one player controls them all, that player chooses a number. The loop is treated as repeating that many times or until another player intervenes, whichever comes first.


What makes this question difficult to answer is that the rule only allows the player to choose a number of times for the loop to reoccur, not to choose an outcome of the loop and allow the loop to repeat until that outcome is reached. So you can choose to repeat the loop 1000 times, but you can't state that you're just going to repeat the loop until you run out of mana.

There's a second, related "rule" that is generally agreed upon by rules gurus. While not codified in the rules, it makes sense as an extrapolation of the previous rule: if the outcome of the loop isn't definite, then the "shortcut" rule can't be applied to it.

While it's easy to determine through multiplication the outcome of an unbounded loop such as repeatedly equipping Shako to a Daru Spiritualist, you can't use simple math to determine the outcome of 1000 iterations of a loop that requires a coin flip. While an average can be determined, the actual outcome can't be guaranteed without flipping 1000 coins. Starting a loop that requires such flipping is very likely to draw a judge's attention, as performing 1000 coin flips at the fast rate of once per three seconds will alone consume all 50 minutes in a standard tournament round.

All of these same principles apply to a somewhat more common situation in real Vintage tournament play, wherein one player controls Ambassador Laquatus and an arbitarily large amount of mana, and knows that the opponent has both an odd number of cards and a Gaea's Blessing somewhere in the deck. The ideal situation for the Laquatus player is to repeat the loop (working through many shufflings due to the Blessing's triggered ability) until the Blessing is the bottom card of the deck, and then using only as many activations as is necessary to ensure that the last card doesn't get put from the library into the graveyard. However, since this outcome cannot be guaranteed after any given number of iterations, such a shortcut isn't possible.





I'm tired of these #*$#%&$*ing fractions
on my #$#*($%@ing Magic cards!
Q: I have two 1/1 Saproling tokens in play as well as a 2/2 bear token, and my opponent plays Pyroclasm. Would I be able to play Embolden and prevent 1.5 damage to each Saproling, and 1 to the bear allowing everything to survive?

A: In Un-world, where fractions run free and wear nifty multi-colored costumes, you could get away with this.

However, in "normal" Magic, we only deal in integers. So no matter how you divide the damage prevention of Embolden, one of those three creatures isn't going to survive.




Q: If I have a card with dredge in my graveyard, and I activate Fa'adiyah Seer, is my draw automatically replaced with the dredge option (to mill cards or not)? If so and I choose not to mill cards, is the card I draw from Fa'adiyah Seer's ability or from the card with dredge?

A: This is the flip side of the question we're used to seeing with Fa'adiyah Seer (whether you have to discard if you replace the draw with dredge to get back a non-land card... which you don't).

If you choose not to dredge, then dredge has no effect on your draw at all. The draw is still coming from the Seer, so you're still going to have to discard that card if it isn't a land.




Q: My opponent blocked one of two attacking creatures with Darien, King of Kjeldor. Despite Darien taking lethal damage, he declared that he now had tokens from the unblocked attacker. Is this correct?

A: It sure is. Even though Darien suffered lethal damage at the same time your opponent took damage, the important point is that Darien was still in play when the trigger event happened. So after combat damage resolves, there's a Darien trigger hanging around waiting to go on the stack. Before that can happen, state-based effects are checked and see a creature with lethal damage, destroying it.

Although Darien is no longer in play at this point, that triggered ability is still waiting to go on the stack, which it does right after the state-based effects are dealt with. When that ability resolves, your opponent will have some new Soldier tokens.




Q: In your last article I saw a question about Phthisis and I had been wondering for a long time what would happen if it was used on a Viscid Lemure that was -100/3. Would I lose -97 life, thus gaining life 97 life or would I just lose 0?

A: If an effect needs to know a creature's total power and toughness, and that total is less than 0, the total is treated as 0. You will lose 0 life.




Q:If have have a Stuffy Doll enchanted with an Ophidian Eye, what will happen when I play Kindle the Carnage? Will I be able to Kindle endlessly, discard-deal damage-draw-repeat, or only draw after all of the Kindle activations?

A:The latter. The Stuffy Doll triggers each time Kindle the Carnage does damage to it, but neither player gets priority in between each instance of the damage, so there's no time for those triggers to go on the stack. Since the Ophdian Eye won't trigger until those triggered abilities resolve, you'll have to make all the decisions about discarding cards for Kindle the Carnage before you can start drawing cards.




There's plenty more Future Sight ground to cover and plenty of interactions even us rules gurus haven't pondered yet. Be sure to keep those questions coming! And join us next week, when we tackle Future Sight in depth, which questions coming from the Prerelease floor.

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