Cranial Insertion: Bloody Pens, Bloody Moons, Bloody Slivers

Cranial Insertion
Bloody Pens, Bloody Moons, Bloody Slivers
or, A Return to Abnormalcy

By Ted Dickinson, Eli Shiffrin, and Tom Fowler

We here at Cranial Insertion apologize for the minor insanity last week. Moko got a few mojitos in him and next thing we know the CI pen was gone. We could have just waited for it to pass through his system naturally, but we're not sure how zombie monkeys would digest pens, or if it would ever even come out. Surgery seemed like the cleanest of all choices.

So after some sterilization, we're back to as normal as we can hope for. . . .

The following two questions were shamelessly stolen from Eli from tournaments he judged in over the weekend.

(While the previous sentence will not protect me from intellectual property lawyers, nothing in here is intellectual to begin with so we shouldn't have anything to worry about.)

Q: I control a Shadowmage Infiltrator and my opponent controls a Triskelavus. I attack with the Infiltrator. My opponent says something like, “Well, I can't block him.” Am I obligated to correct my opponent and point out that, because the Triskelavus is an artifact creature, it can legally block my creature?

A: The DCI Penalty Guidelines states a player can't intentionally misrepresent the game state or rules. For example, you can't tell your opponent that your Shadowmage Infiltrator has flying hoping that he won't block it.

However, there is no penalty mentioned if your opponent makes a disadvantageous choice based on his incomplete knowledge of a card. While your opponent is always welcome to call a judge for clarification on the text of a card, you are not obligated to clarify that text yourself.

Q: The text of Mind's Desire says to shuffle the library before removing the top card from the game. Do I really have to shuffle for every copy of Mind's Desire that resolves?

A: Based solely on the card's wording, yes. When you resolve a copy of Mind's Desire, you perform its entire effect, and that includes shuffling your library. However, shuffling can be a time-consuming process, especially if a player has to do it ten times in the middle of a game . . . and if the deck is sufficiently randomized after one round of shuffling, another round won't make a significant difference.

Therefore, most tournament judges allow a shortcut for the sake of expediency. The library is assumed to be sufficiently randomized after the first round of shuffling, and the player simply removes cards from the top of the library face-up as needed.

If anything happens to the library before all of the copies resolve that would cause the order of one or more cards to become known (perhaps the player resolved Brainstorm with some Mind's Desire copies still on the stack), then additional shuffling is required to restore the library to a random order when the next copy resolves.

This is not based on an official document, but is instead a generally agreed-upon shortcut employed by judges, so if you're playing in a tournament be sure to consult the head judge beforehand if you have any questions about whether this shortcut will be implemented.

Q: I have a large number of Slivers in play, including multiple Sedge Slivers, Winged Slivers, and so on. How do I know when multiple copies of an ability are relevant?

A: With at least 60 Slivers now available, creating an exhaustive list of which ones grant “redundant” abilities and which ones don't would take far too much time and room . . . not to mention it wouldn't be useful when Planar Chaos is released and introduces yet more Slivers to the mix.

That said, there are a few general statements regarding multiple instances of abilities that will help in this or any other similar situation:

1)Keyword abilities that are redundant in multiples are typically denoted as such in the Comprehensive Rules. Evasion abilities such as Flying or Fear are redundant (having multiple instances does not confer any additional benefit).

2)Triggered abilities (and keywords that are shorthand for triggered abilities, like Flanking) are not redundant, and each instance will trigger separately. Having multiple Harmonic Slivers in play will grant every Sliver the ability to destroy multiple target artifacts or enchantments when they enter play.

3)Multiple instances of the same activated ability on a permanent are often redundant, unless the ability has a limitation on how many times it can be played per turn. In such cases, the restriction on each instance of the ability is tracked separately.

4)Continuous effects that add or subtract power/toughness are not redundant and will be applied in the appropriate layer/sublayer. Having four Muscle Slivers and four Might Slivers in play will grant each Sliver a total bonus of +12/+12.

Some Slivers fall into multiple categories. For example, Sedge Sliver grants an activated ability (B: Regenerate) that is redundant in multiples, and a continuous power/toughness bonus that is not redundant.

Following these guidelines you should be able to figure out for yourself which abilities are useful in multiples and which ones aren't.

And now four from the [email][email protected][/email] mailbag. . . .

Q: I want to flashback a Repeal with Dralnu, Lich Lord. Will my flashback cost be U or XU and can I bounce something else other than a zero-mana creature?

A: Dralnu gives the card a flashback cost equal to its mana cost; in other words, equal to what's printed in the upper-right corner of the card. Since XU is what's printed there, that's what the flashback cost of Repeal will be. Since you're playing the Repeal (instead of having some other effect simply put it onto the stack) you get the opportunity to choose the value of X just as if you'd played it from your hand. Of course, you'll still need to pay enough mana to cover the cost when the time comes, but you can target a non-land permanent with a CMC greater than zero assuming you have the mana available.

Q: If my opponent has a big creature and I cast Spirit Link on it, I gain the life after damage is dealt, right? But, what if I put an enchantment like Blessing of Leeches on my opponent's creature? I own it but does he control it? Do I take the upkeep damage from the Blessing of Leeches or does he? Does he activate the regeneration for zero or can I do it and tap his creature? I have the same question with creatures with Spirit Link. Does the owner or controller get the life gain?

A:First off, I should clarify the difference between “owner” and “controller.” A card's owner is the person who began the game with that card in his deck or sideboard. The owner of a card cannot change during a game except through the use of ante cards like Jeweled Bird which are illegal in all tournament formats (and generally disallowed in casual play as well). In the case of non-card objects like tokens, the owner is the person who controlled the effect which put the token into play.

That leads to the definition of “controller.” An object only has a controller when it is on the stack or in play. The controller of a permanent is by default the player who put that object into play, whereas the controller of a spell is by default the player who played it. In the case of copies of spells, the copy's controller is whoever put the copy on the stack, and for triggered abilities, the controller is whoever controlled the source of the triggered ability at the time it triggered. The controller of an object can change during the course of the game due to any of a number of effects such as Control Magic or Commandeer.

For the purposes of these questions, the identity of the owner of the Auras is the person asking the question. Since nothing is included that would give any other player control of the Auras, then the controller is the same as the owner.

Now that the difference between these two terms is clear, we can look at each one of these questions in turn.

My opponent has a big creature and I cast Spirit Link on it, I gain the life after damage is dealt, right?

Spirit Link triggers when the enchanted creature deals damage. Since you control the Sprit Link when the ability triggers, you control the triggered ability and gain the life.

But, what if I put an enchantment like Blessing of Leeches on my opponent's creature? I own it but does he control it?

Attaching a permanent to an opponent's permanent doesn't change control of either one; you still control the Aura and your opponent still controls the creature.

Do I take the upkeep damage from the Blessing of Leeches or does he?

Whenever an ability's text refers to “you,” it means “the player who controls this ability.” Since you control the Aura when its ability triggers, you control the triggered ability and lose one life. (Note that this is life loss, not damage, so Circle of Protection: Black can't help you.)

Does he activate the regeneration for zero or can I do it and tap his creature?

You control the permanent with the regeneration ability, so you can play it to regenerate his creature. Note that when this ability resolves, all it does is create a regeneration “shield” on the creature, which means “the next time this permanent would be destroyed this turn, instead remove all damage from it, tap it, and (if it’s in combat) remove it from combat.” The creature doesn't tap immediately, only when and if the shield replaces a destruction event. So you can't just pay 0 to tap your opponent's creature anytime you have priority.

I have the same question with creatures with Spirit Link. Does the owner or controller get the life gain?

The controller of Spirit Link gains the life. This will often be the same player as the owner of Spirit Link, and as I said previously, playing Spirit Link on an opponent's creature doesn't give them control of the Spirit Link.

Q: I have some activated or triggered ability on the stack and my opponent plays Trickbind targeting the ability. I decide to turn my Willbender face up and make my opponent's Trickbind target Willbender's ability. Can I even do that? When do I chose the new target with Willbender's ability? So will Trickbind's target get changed and then the spell countered on resolution because the ability it is targeting has already resolved?

A: Yes, this is a legal play. As I covered in last month's CI on morph and Split Second, paying the cost to turn a face-down creature face-up is a special action that doesn't use the stack. It's not an activated ability, so Split Second can't stop it. Since Willbender's ability is triggered, it also isn't affected by Split Second, so we don't have to worry about that at all.

When Willbender turns face-up, its triggered ability goes on the stack. At this time you choose the spell or ability on the stack it will target: in this case, the Trickbind. When the triggered ability resolves, you choose a new target for the Trickbind: the Willbender's ability. When the ability finishes resolving, it leaves the stack.

Then, just before your opponent's Trickbind would resolve, it sees that its target (Willbender's ability) is no longer on the stack. The Trickbind is countered.

Q: I was just curious about the rules situation with Muse Vessel. You can still only play sorceries and lands on your turn right, even if you activate the Vessel during your opponent's turn?

A: Many effects allow you to play a spell from a location you otherwise wouldn't be able to. In this case, Muse Vessel allows you to play cards that it removed from the game.

However, unless that ability says otherwise, you still must obey all timing rules for the card you want to play. For all non-instant cards, this is when it's your main phase, you have priority, and the stack is empty. (Exceptions like Quick Sliver aside, of course.)

While the last sentence of the Vessel's second ability may appear to allow you to play sorceries out-of-turn, that sentence is only establishing a duration for the ability. It's not allowing you to play the card at any time you otherwise couldn't.

Q: What happens if I play a Gemstone Mine while Blood Moon is in play?

A: The interaction of cards such as Blood Moon and Humility that strip a permanent's abilities can lead to some non-obvious interactions. The key to determining what is affected and what isn't is whether the ability does something after the land comes into play.

Abilities phrased “as this comes into play” or “this comes into play with” replace or alter the event of the land coming into play. These effects aren't removed from the land until it's in play, at which point the event has already occurred.

Abilities phrased “when this comes into play” are triggered abilities. They can't trigger until after the card has entered play, at which time its abilities have already been lost thanks to the Blood Moon/Humility. The ability will not trigger.

For a quick example of both of these abilities on the same card, let's look at Izzet Boilerworks.

“Izzet Boilerworks comes into play tapped.” Since this alters how the land enters play, even with a Blood Moon out, the land will still enter play tapped.

“When Izzet Boilerworks comes into play, return a land you control to its owner's hand.” This is a triggered ability, so by the time the Boilerworks comes into play, the ability is already gone. The person playing it won't have to return a land to his hand.

Now that we know this, we can answer the original question. Gemstone Mine will come into play with three counters on it. Its only ability while in play will be “T: Add R to your mana pool.” If you tap it for mana, it won't lose a counter.

And now it's time for me to lock the CI pen in a fingerprint-protected safe. We should be OK unless Moko cuts one of our hands off.

On second thought, that's far too likely to happen. Maybe we should just go with a good ol' combination lock. At least if that gets broken it doesn't mean someone's out a limb.

Good luck to Tom on getting it out of there in time for next week. . . .


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