Cranial Insertion: Planar Time Chaos of Elemental Temporal Spiral

Cranial Insertion
Planar Time Chaos of Elemental Temporal Spiral
By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

You probably already have two questions about this article.

Yes, this week's installment of Cranial Insertion is named in honor of the card named in honor of most other Red cards.

No, the rest of this article has absolutely nothing to do with that card, nor Unglued.

It has to do with your questions! This week's article is devoted solely to answering questions we've received in the [email][email protected][/email] mailbox over the last week. We've had an influx of questions, many regarding new cards from Planar Chaos and still more about timeshifted cards from Time Spiral. And then there are the other questions about older cards we like to hear as well. A veritable smog . . . smorg . . . buffet of rules questions. [Am I the only one who remembers when "buffets" were "smorgasbords?" -Ed.]

As always, if you have a question that isn't answered here, feel free to drop us an email, or visit MTG Salvation's Rulings Forum, where other non-CI gurus can give you a hand with rules questions as well.

First off, a couple of questions about a split second card from Planar Chaos that seems to have everyone's attention. . . .

Q: My opponent is playing Dragonstorm and is about to start his combo with Rite of Flame. Can I, in response, Extirpate that same Rite of Flame to hopefully catch a second one in his hand?

A: A spell enters the stack as soon as a player begins the process of playing it, and stays there until either the last step of its resolution or some other effect makes it leave there. If you're responding to an opponent's spell, then it's definitely not yet in that player's graveyard, therefore Extirpate can't target it.

And assuming it's your opponent's turn, they'll gain priority immediately after that Rite of Flame resolves and goes to the graveyard, so if they have a second one, they'll be able to play it before you ever gain priority to play your Extirpate.

Split second spells may seem fast, but they're not fast enough to target cards before they've moved to the right zone.

Q: I dredge Life from the Loam. My 3 cards are removed from my library to my graveyard. Can my opponent target Life from the Loam with Extirpate, causing me to lose my 3 cards, my draw, and remove Life from the Loam from the game?

A: Not quite in the way you think. Dredge is a replacement effect; it replaces your card draws with the option of letting you put a number of cards from the top of your library into your graveyard to put the dredge card in your graveyard into your hand.

There is very little any player can do while replacement effects are being handled. Neither player gets priority so nobody can play spells or abilities. So in this case, your opponent can't jump in while you're in the middle of dredging and try to remove your Life from the Loam from the game. The only opportunity they have to do so is to play Extirpate before your draw effect resolves. So at the time they have to play their Extirpate, they don't know for certain whether you're going to try to dredge or not. If they wait until you start dredging, they can't play their spell and will have to wait until after the Life from the Loam is already in your hand.

If you're trying to replace your normal draw for the turn with dredge, it gets even trickier for your opponent. Since your normal draw doesn't use the stack, your opponent can't even respond to that with Extirpate. They'd have to play it (at the latest) during your upkeep before the game progresses to the draw step.

Q: Clockwork Hydra says, "Whenever Clockwork Hydra attacks or blocks, remove a +1/+1 counter from it. If you do, Clockwork Hydra deals 1 damage to target creature or player." The first part of it makes it sound like you have to and then it says -if- you do. Do you have to remove the counter or not?

A: While that “if you do” phrase may make it appear that the triggered ability is giving you the choice of removing a counter, it doesn't. You must remove a counter if possible. That phrase exists to make sure you're not getting a “free” point of damage if the Hydra was removed from play after the ability triggered but before it resolved. . . if the Hydra isn't in play, you can't remove a +1/+1 counter on it, so you don't get the damage.

Q: Crovax, Ascendant Hero has the ability to pay 2 life return him to your hand. Can this be done when he is in the graveyard?

A: No. One of the standard rules of abilities is that they only work when the card is in play, unless the card says otherwise or the ability clearly needs to be able to function from another zone to be useful. Since Crovax's activated ability doesn't meet either of those criteria, it can't be played from the graveyard.

Q: I have Genju of the Spires on a Mountain. Can I then cast Consecrate Land on it?

A: Sure, why not? The land's still a land, after all. Of course, that “can't be enchanted by other Auras” phrase will cause the Genju of the Spires to be put into your graveyard as a state-based effect immediately after it resolves, and since the Genju card, not your Mountain, is going to the graveyard, it won't come back to your hand.

Q: If I have Consecrate Land on a land. Can it be destroyed by Armageddon?

A: The Oracle text of Consecrate Land makes the land indestructible. So the answer to any question that begins with “Can this land be destroyed by” is no. It can still be removed from the game, returned to your hand, sacrificed, etc., but it can't be destroyed as long as Consecrate Land enchants it.

Q: I just played a Genju of the Spires on a Mountain I've had in play for a couple of turns. My opponent says I can't turn the Mountain into a creature and attack with it because it doesn't have haste. Is that right?

A: If that were true, a whole lot of cards that temporarily turn noncreature permanents into creatures would be flying out of decks and back into trade binders. Thankfully, it isn't.

Many of these questions arise because people learn an abbreviated version of the rule commonly called “summoning sickness” and don't know the real rule. Here it is:

212.3d A creature’s activated ability with the tap symbol in its activation cost can’t be played unless the creature has been under its controller’s control since the start of his or her most recent turn. A creature can’t attack unless it has been under its controller’s control since the start of his or her most recent turn. This rule is informally called the “summoning sickness” rule. Ignore this rule for creatures with haste (see rule 502.5).

What's relevant here isn't what types the permanent has had, only that you've controlled that permanent continuously since the beginning of your most recent turn. How long that permanent has been a creature isn't relevant . . . only that you've controlled the permanent for long enough and that it's a creature at the moment you decide to attack with it.

So in this case, you can freely attack with your 6/1 “Basic Land Creature – Mountain Spirit” because it was already under your control at the beginning of the turn. You wouldn't be able to do that with a Mountain you'd just played this turn because it just flew in and boy are its arms. . . .

Never mind. Next question!

Q: Is it possible to get the flip effect of cards such as Brine Elemental or Thelonite Hermit if you return them to your hand via a card like Crystal Shard when they are morphed? I am not positive on this because I know that when you return a morph you reveal/flip it first.

A: First off, a bit of terminology: when the rules talk about “flipping” a card, they refer to the split cards that were first printed in the Kamigawa block (think Erayo, Soratomi Ascendant). When the rules talk about changing a creature between face-down and face-up, they use the word “turn.”

That aside, you won't get the abilities of these creatures to trigger if you return them to your hand. While it is true that you always reveal a face-down creature when it moves to any zone other than the “phased-out” zone, or when the game ends, this isn't turning the creature face-up. A creature can only be turned face-up if it's in play both before and after the card is revealed. Then and only then can such abilities trigger.

So if you want that Brine Elemental to mess with your opponent's next untap step, Crystal Shard isn't the way to do it.

Q: In the same way that I could cast Mystic Snake just for the 2/2, could I Remand for the card draw?

A: This question goes back to the Cranial Insertion on triggered abilities I wrote back in October. The difference between these two cards is that Mystic Snake is a creature spell with a targeted triggered ability, and Remand is a targeted spell.

If you want to put a targeted spell or ability on the stack, you need a legal target. This isn't a problem for Mystic Snake because the spell doesn't target anything; it simply puts a 2/2 creature into play when it resolves. That causes its ability to trigger, and that ability is what requires a target. If there's no spell to target, the triggered ability is simply removed from the stack without effect and the Snake happily slithers about in play.

Remand requires a legal target when it goes on the stack. Since spells can never target themselves, that means another spell already needs to be on the stack before Remand can be played. If there isn't one, you can't even put Remand on the stack, let alone hope to draw a card from it.

Q: My friend played Spellshift on one of his opponent's spells, then responded to his own Spellshift by playing Trickbind on one of his opponent's cards. He and his opponent automatically assumed that the new card played by the Spellshift would be countered, but I wasn't sure. How and why would this play out?

A: First off, Trickbind targets abilities, not cards. If there isn't a triggered or activated ability on the stack, there's no legal target for Trickbind and it can't be played. So at first glance it looks like your friend tried an illegal play.

For the sake of the question, let's assume the activated ability of, say, Tim was on the stack and that was the target for Trickbind. In that case, the Trickbind would resolve, counter the activated ability, and leave the stack before the Spellshift ever resolves. When the Spellshift resolves, there's no Split Second spell on the stack and it works normally.

(For much more detail on how Split Second spells work with the stack, see my previous Cranial Insertion on Split Second and Morph.)

Q: I had a creature enchanted with Spirit Loop, and during one of my opponent's turns, he played an Enslave on it. Would the Spirit Loop fall off because I no longer control the creature, or would it stay on the creature and stop the damage, or would my opponent gain control of it as well as the creature?

A: I'll take Door #1, Monty.

Spirit Loop can only legally enchant a “creature you control.” The “you” here refers to the controller of Spirit Loop. Therefore, the creature and the Spirit Loop have to be controlled by the same player, otherwise Spirit Loop is attached to an illegal permanent and gets put into its owner's graveyard by a state-based effect.

When your opponent's Enslave resolves, he gains control of the enchanted creature and only the creature, not any other Auras that might be attached to it. So it's goodbye for Spirit Loop . . . until its triggered ability resolves and it returns to your hand.

We received a lot of follow-up questions regarding a question about Dust Corona we answered in last week's article. The conclusion we arrived at there was that no creature could be legally declared as a blocker against a flying creature enchanted with Dust Corona.

Q: Shouldn't any creature with the Web ability be able to block it, since it is neither flying and can block a creature with flying, like good old Giant Spider or any of its kin?

A: No, not even the venerable Giant Spider can block a flying creature wearing a Dust Corona. When a creature that “can block as though it had flying” blocks, that creature actually has flying for purposes of determining whether it's a legal blocker only. (So if you're having ideas about Thunderbolting a Giant Spider to death, you're out of luck.)

So when you try to block such an attacker, the game sees the Spider as having flying, and the blocking restriction created by Dust Corona doesn't let you get away with it.

If you want to block a flyer with Dust Corona, you'll need something like Flash Foliage that blocks the creature without requiring you to declare a blocker.

Q: How does Silhana Ledgewalker work if it has Dust Corona on it?

A: The same as if Dust Corona were on a flying creature. There are two different blocking restrictions here: Silhana Ledgewalker restricts blocking creatures to those with flying (just as if the Ledgewalker had flying itself) and Dust Corona restricts blocking creatures to those without flying. For a creature to be legally declared as a blocker, it must meet all blocking restrictions. Since it is impossible for a creature to simultaneously have flying and not have flying, no creature can be legally declared as a blocker.

Here's one that's a little more tournament-oriented, but still worth some discussion.

Q: It was the start of my second game with an opponent and he passed his deck to me so I could cut it. I then proceeded to cut the deck the same way I have always done so, including the first game with the same person. First, I placed the top half on bottom, then I placed the top 15 or so cards on the bottom of that. He was angered and said that was against the rules; I said I was pretty sure it wasn't but I let it go anyway because I wanted to get on with the game.

A: First off, you're never obligated to take your opponent's word on something regarding the rules of the game. If your opponent says they thing something is illegal, call a judge to explain the correct rules to both of you. One of the many reasons we have judges is to prevent people from “letting go” what they think is a legal action simply because their opponent objects.

That said, the rules call what you did a shuffle and not a cut. Here's how the DCI Universal Tournament Rules (available on define a cut:

One time only, removing a single portion of a deck and placing it on top of the remaining portion without looking at any of the card faces. Anything more than this one cut is considered a shuffle.

That doesn't make what you did illegal, however. Whenever an opponent presents a deck to you after shuffling it, you have the right to shuffle that deck as well. (At Rules Enforcement Level 3 and higher, it's not even optional; you are required to shuffle your opponent's deck when it is presented to you.) After shuffling, you may perform a single cut.

When you return the deck to your opponent, if you only cut the deck, then they can do nothing further to change the order of its cards. If you shuffled the deck, or shuffled then cut, your opponent may perform a single final cut of the deck before resuming play.

So while your opponent was correct in that the action you performed wasn't a cut, he was certainly incorrect in asserting that your shuffle was illegal.

Next time on Cranial Insertion: Tom is tasked with titling an article in honor of Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental.

Will such a long title break the article system? Tune in next week . . . same Moko-time, same Moko-site!


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