Cranial Insertion: Teferi's Stately Loop, Replaced




Cranial Insertion
Teferi's Stately Loop, Replaced
or, Mobius Wants His Royalty Check

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

After last week’s monstrous review of the first 100 days of CI and a lot of old questions, it’s time to go back to the [email][email protected][/email] mailbag and answer your new questions! We’ve got wizards, effects both state-based and replacement, loops, and tournament rules to cover, so let’s get started.




Q: What's this I hear about changes in Two-Headed Giant?

A: One card ruling and one change to the format were both announced in the last week.

The card ruling concerns Brine Elemental. Under 2HG rules, if one player on a team must skip a step, the entire team must skip that step. The confusion comes from Brine Elemental's apparent ability to cause both opponents to skip the untap step directly, as some players believed that meant the next two untap steps for the opposing team would be skipped.

A recent [O]fficial ruling from Rules Manager Mark Gottleib that's been making the rounds states the entire opposing team skips only its next untap step.

The format change reduces the starting life total from 40 to 30. The DCI cut the starting life total in an effort to reduce the number of games which go to time. It's not permanent (yet) although it may become so if there are no major issues with it over the course of the upcoming tournament season.

Here's a snippet from the official announcement:

The DCI has made a Magic: The Gathering Floor Rule update which affects all tournaments run in the Two-Headed Giant format. Effective immediately, the starting life totals in Two-Headed Giant will be 30 life (instead of the previous 40 life). This change is being made to address the problem of long round times and games which tend to bog down. This change will be in affect for the upcoming Two-Headed Giant State Championships, Grand Prix-Amsterdam, Grand Prix-Massachusetts, and the Pro Tour-San Diego Qualifier round. After these tournaments have been run, the DCI and R&D will evaluate feedback with an eye towards making this a permanent change.





Let's dive into the mailbag with a couple of questions about loops. . . .

Q: Say my opponent activates his Worldgorger Dragon/Animate Dead combo with 1 land and only a Blaze in hand while I have Essence Warden in play. Essentially infinite life versus infinite damage. Who wins this, the infinite life player or the infinite damage player?

A:There's one very important piece of information missing in this scenario: whether either player has another creature card in his graveyard. If there are no other creature cards in any graveyards, the loop containing the triggered abilities of Worldgorger Dragon and Animate Dead consists solely of mandatory actions and will end in a draw. The opponent can't play Blaze during the loop to stop it, so both his large mana pool and your ability to gain life are irrelevant.

Let's say for now that somebody has a Grizzly Bears in their graveyard so that the loop can be ended at some point. Now we're talking about something much different: an "unbounded" loop that consists of optional actions. (True "infinity" doesn't exist in Magic.)

This can't cause the game to end in a draw; the player performing the loop announces a number of times that the loop happens, and then ends it (by choosing to target the Grizzly Bears with the triggered ability of the Animate Dead).

If the asker's opponent chooses the loop to happen 50 times, then (assuming his one land can produce red mana) he will be able to cast a Blaze with X=49. However, this loop will have also caused the Essence Warden's triggered ability to trigger once for each iteration, and yet again when the Grizzly Bears come into play.

Therefore, it appears that there's no way the opponent could win just with that one Blaze because the Essence Warden's controller is always going to be gaining just slightly more life.

BONUS: If the opponent controlled a second land, then performing the loop 50 times would allow him to play Blaze with X=99, easily allowing him to "outrun" the Essence Warden.




Q: If I begin an unbounded loop that causes me to gain life, can I choose a number so high that the time will run out?

A: You can certainly choose to perform the loop enough times that your opponent is highly unlikely to reduce your life total to 0 in 50 minutes. Several popular decks have surfaced in recent years that do just that with the combination of Starlit Sanctum, Daru Spiritualist, and Shuko.

That said, keep in mind the tournament clock exists as a construct to keep the tournament running smoothly, not to give players a way to "game the system" to gain wins they otherwise couldn't. When you perform such a loop, you simply state the number of times it happens and that's it. You don't get to sit there and repeatedly perform the loop until time is called . . . try to do so and some very surly judges will have a word with you.

Your opponent is never required to concede a game simply because he believes he can't win. So if you lose game 1 in a sanctioned tournament and perform such a combo in game 2, you're either going to need a way to win the game with your 1 million life or hope your opponent's deck runs out before time is called. Performing such a combo and then playing very slowly in an attempt to drag out the clock will have those judges back to the table much faster than you'd like.




And now, a couple of queries about everyone's favorite ex-Planeswalker. . . .

Q: Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir says that opponents may only play spells when they could play a sorcery. If my opponent has a Teferi on the board and i play Quicken, can I play sorceries at instant speed? What about instants? What about creatures and artifacts?

A: "When you could play a sorcery" has a specific meaning in the Comprehensive Rules. It refers to a situation in which all three of the following statements are true:
1)It is your main phase.
2)You have priority.
3)The stack is empty.

Card effects such as that of Quicken or Vedalken Orrery do not change the definition of this phrase. Therefore, playing Quicken when your opponent controls a Teferi will have no appreciable effect beyond drawing you a card.

BONUS: The reason Quicken doesn't help you work around an opponent's Teferi, but does let you suspend sorceries when you could play an instant, is that you're only restricted to suspending a spell "when you could play it." This phrase doesn't have a specific definition in the rules, so it can be changed by card effects that let you play things when you otherwise couldn't (like Quicken) and likewise by effects that don't let you play things when you otherwise could (like Meddling Mage).




Q: If I have a Teferi in play, can I play creatures with morph face down any time I could play an instant?

A: Absolutely. Morph provides you an alternate way to play a creature spell; you're still playing the spell. Since it has flash thanks to Teferi, you can play it when you could play an instant even if you're not playing it face-up.




And now those darn state-based effects. . . .

Q: I started to play during Revised but after taken a big break, I’ve come back with Time Spiral. I know that there has been a lot of rule changes but I don’t know if the way the life total is checked has changed. What happens if my opponent is at 3 life and I’m at 2, and I cast Lightning Bolt on him and in response he casts Shock on me. Is it a draw or have I lost the game?

A: As a judge who was originally certified when Fifth Edition rules were in effect, I can understand how this would be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the rules changes since Revised. Under pre-6th Edition rules, the game only checked to see if a player lost due to having 0 or less life at the end of each phase. If you went to 0, you had until the end of that phase to either raise your life total above 0, or drag your opponent down with you and end the game in a draw. So under those old rules, this situation would indeed have ended in a draw.

With the advent of state-based effects in the Sixth Edition rules, the answer is different. Commonly abbreviated as SBEs, these rules check the game for certain conditions any time a player would gain priority. At the very least, players gain priority at the beginning of most steps and phases, immediately after a spell or ability goes on the stack, and immediately after a spell or ability resolves. . . clearly much more often than once a phase! One of these SBEs is to cause a player with 0 or less life to lose a game.

So under today's rules, your opponent's Shock would resolve, putting you at 2 life. State-based effects would be checked immediately afterwards, see you at 0 life, and you'd lose the game before your Lightning Bolt resolved.

BONUS: State-based effects do more than causing players to lose the game. They also take care of things like making tokens that aren't in play cease to exist and causing equipment attached to illegal permanents to become unattached. See Section 420 of the Comprehensive Rules for a complete list of SBEs.




Q: The situation: I am at 1 life, my opponent at 11. I have in play a Djinn Illuminatus. I have a Shock in hand. I tap 5 Mountains, and tap 1 other land to activate an Izzet Signet. I now have 6 red mana and 1 blue. Using the Djinn's ability, I cast Shock and replicate it 5 times, bringing my opponent to -1. It leaves 1 mana (Blue) in my mana pool.

The question: Do I win or do we draw? I will lose a life due to the mana burn (unused blue mana) at the end of that main phase, but has he already lost due to the lethal damage he already received?

A: How 'bout them state-based effects? Are they bums or what?

In this case, they're your best friend. Since state-based effects will cause your opponent to lose the game immediately after that last Shock resolves, the game never gets to the end of the phase where you'd take mana burn. The game is yours.




And let's not forget that favorite replacement effect!

Q: How many tokens do I get if I cast Call of the Herd with two Doubling Season in play. I guess that the answer is infinite, since the tokens that the second enchantment puts into play trigger again the first enchantment, and so on. Is it true?[/b]

A: No, you'd only get four Elephant tokens. Doubling Season doesn't have a triggered ability; it has a static ability with a replacement effect. Specifically, it replaces the event of a token creature being put into play with putting double that number of tokens being put into play.

When two replacement effects are applicable to the same event, the affected player or controller of the affected object chooses the order in which to apply them. If the second one is still applicable after the first one has been applied, then it is applied as well.

In this case, it doesn't matter which one is applied first. The answer is the same: one Doubling Season doubles the number of tokens created from 1 to 2, then the second doubles it again from 2 to 4. This doesn't cause "infinite" tokens because each replacement effect can only be applied once to the same event.



Q:I have a Rakdos Guildmage and a Doubling Season in play. I decide to activate the Guildmage's token-creating ability. What happens at the end of my turn: do both tokens die, or just one?

A: The former. The delayed triggered ability that causes the token to be removed from the game at the end of the turn will affect any token created by that ability. Doubling Season only modifies what that ability does, so both tokens will be removed from the game at the end of the turn.




Q: I’m fond of Stuffy Doll. So I’d like to know whether Wrath of God destroys it or not. And the same for Porphyry Nodes.

A: Any question in the form of "Can X destroy Stuffy Doll?" gets the same answer: no. The definition of indestructible in Magic is the same as it is in English; an indestructible object cannot be destroyed. Therefore any effect which says it destroys an object (including the state-based effect for lethal damage on creatures) cannot destroy Stuffy Doll.

The case with Porphyry Nodes is related, but slightly different because a choice is involved. Since you can't choose to do something illegal, you can never choose to have it destroy Stuffy Doll. That means that if there are no other 0-power creatures in play, you have no legal choice that can be made when the triggered ability resolves, so nothing happens.

If there are other 0-power creatures in play, and at least one isn't indestructible, then you must make the legal choice by picking one of those creatures. You can't choose the Stuffy Doll even if you want to.




Q: I wanted to know if using Simian Spirit Guide's ability to make mana adds to my storm count. I don't know if that counts as playing the card.

A: It doesn't. You're playing an activated ability printed on the card, which is not the same as playing the card itself (which would involve paying its mana cost and putting it on the stack as a creature spell).




Q: If I control a Terramorphic Expanse, and I cast Boom from Boom // Bust targeting my Expanse and an opponent's land, can I use the Expanse's ability safely, or will it counter Boom since one of the targets is missing?

A: A targeted spell is only countered if all of its targets are illegal when it tries to resolve. If at least one target is still legal, the spell still resolves and does as much as possible against the legal targets.

So in this case, you get the effect of your Terramorphic Expanse and your opponent still gets one of their lands destroyed.

BONUS: Keep in mind that you still need the correct number legal targets to play a spell in the first place. You can't legally play Boom if you control no lands to target.




Q: I'm not sure about the order to stack different power/toughness modifiers. If I use a Saltfield Recluse to give a creature -2/-0, and then use Merfolk Thaumaturgist to switch that creature's power and toughness, does it become -0/-2?

A: A forthcoming edition of Cranial Insertion will go into more detail about layers than you'd ever dreamed of, but for now we can answer this question fairly easily.

When evaluating effects that alter a creature's power and toughness, "switch" abilities like that of Merfolk Thaumaturgist are always applied last. Therefore the net effect in this case will be that the creature's "printed" power will be reduced by 2, then that new result will become the creature's toughness.




Q: I was playing magic with a person at a store I go to and he had a 113-card deck. I don't know if that is a legal card deck. Also I want to know that when I was playing him he was mocking me with every turn I made. Is there any way rule that says that you can't have a 113-card deck? And how do I deal with a player that always makes fun of my moves without getting the urge to beat the heck out of him?

A: Two very different questions on tournament rules rolled into one e-mail!

The first one is straightforward enough: While most players will tell you that your deck should never be larger than 60 cards, that's a matter of strategy rather than one of legality. The only maximum deck size mentioned in the tournament rules is that your deck must be small enough to be easily and sufficiently shuffled in the time allotted for such actions (which is usually 2 minutes at the beginning of each game). While your opponent may be hindering his chances of winning with a 113-card deck, as long as he can shuffle it well there's nothing a judge can or should do about it.

The second question is one where a judge definitely needs to get involved if it happens during a tournament. The DCI and its judges take seriously the push for sporting conduct in tournaments, and can assess penalties to players who persist in mocking their opponents. (Assault is also dealt with severely, so attacking your opponent isn't a great idea either.) You might want to give the tournament organizer or head judge an idea of what's going on so they can consider talking to the player before the next tournament... but if that player persists in mocking you during your next tournament then the right course of action is to call a judge and let them take care of it.




Rumblings have come forth from the DCI that the Penalty Guidelines will be updated soon to reflect some new policy changes (including clarifying Unsporting Conduct). We’ll cover the highlights of any changes when they’re released.

So until next time …

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