Cranial Insertion: We'll Take a Couple Questions Yet

Cranial Insertion
We'll Take a Couple Questions Yet
or, And There's an Answer, My Trusty Fiere

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

Happy New Year, readers! We've all been up celebrating in a perfectly nonalcoholic fashion (except for Moko, whose mother won't read this and cut him out of her will. By the way, hi Mom!) so none of us could commit to a full article this week.

So we each did a partial article. All of the goodness, less stress on us. Everyone wins.

Remember, City Champs tournaments are coming up! Go and have fun!

Also remember to keep sending us your questions, to [email][email protected][/email].

First Tom picked up the pen to write the article. . . .

Q: I have Counterbalance out, and my opponent plays Loxodon Hierarch. If I reveal Fire // Ice, is the Hierarch countered?

A: No. Counterbalance is checking to see if the revealed card’s converted mana cost matches the CMC of the spell on the stack. It will only be able to use one of the CMCs of any split card. This is different than Dark Confidant’s ability, which asks what the CMC actually is. Here’s how both scenarios would play out:

Dark Confidant: Top card, what is your CMC?
Fire: 2
Ice: 2
Dark Confidant: I’m getting 2 and 2, so that’s 4 life.
Dark Confidant’s controller: Ow! Stupid Bob!
Dark Confidant: Hey! Mad Just be glad you didn’t flip up Hit // Run, jerky.

Counterbalance: There’s a spell with CMC 4 on the stack. Top card, is your CMC 4?
Fire: Mine is 2.
Ice: Mine is also 2.
Counterbalance: I’m only hearing 2. Looks like Hierarch resolves. Frown

And here are some rules citations:

505.5. An effect that asks for a particular characteristic of a split card while it’s in a zone other than the stack gets two answers (one for each of the split card’s two halves).

505.6. An effect that performs a positive comparison (such as asking if a card is red) or a relative comparison (such as asking if a card’s converted mana cost is less than 2) involving characteristics of one or more split cards in any zone other than the stack gets only one answer. This answer is “yes” if either side of each split card in the comparison would return a “yes” answer if compared individually.

Q: If I sacrifice Chromatic Star for mana, can I use Academy Ruins to put it on top of my library before I have to draw?

A: Yes. Chromatic Star’s draw ability is triggered upon it going to the graveyard from play. With that ability on the stack, you can activate Academy Ruins to put the Star on top of your library, then draw it when the triggered ability resolves.

Q: My opponent has a Curse of the Cabal suspended. At the beginning of my upkeep, can I sacrifice two permanents to put 4 suspend counters on the Curse?

A: No. The ability triggers only once, and when it resolves, you have the choice to sacrifice a permanent or to sacrifice no permanents. If you sacrifice a permanent, 2 time counters get put on the Curse.

Bonus: With two Curse of the Cabal suspended, each will trigger separately. While the result might be that you’re sacrificing two permanents, you’re sacrificing one to each Curse trigger. In this case, each Curse would get 2 counters.

The last 1 life is worth a fortune
Q: Will Fortune Thief save me from a hellbent Demonfire that would normally kill me?

A: Fortune favors the bold, and Fortune Thief favors you in this case. Fortune Thief’s ability is not a prevention effect, so it will happily leave you at 1, regardless of how much damage the hellbent Demonfire is dealing to you.

Q: I control Mishra, Artificer Prodigy, and I play a Sculpting Steel, choosing to copy my Simic Signet. With Mishra’s ability, would I search for Sculpting Steel or Simic Signet?

A: You would search for Sculpting Steel. Mishra’s ability actually triggers when you play Sculpting Steel. At that point, it’s just a spell on the stack, and its name is still Sculpting Steel. You then search your hand, graveyard, and library for cards named Sculpting Steel and put them into play. As they come into play, you may choose to copy an artifact in play for each one. Once that’s finished, the original Sculpting Steel will resolve and present you with the same choice as it comes into play.

Q: My opponent has Annexed one of my lands. I play Brooding Saurian. What happens at the end of my turn?

A: The Saurian broods and then gives you your land back. Your opponent’s Annex will remain on it, but the control effect is essentially overwritten by Saurian’s ability. Both are layer 2 effects, and Saurian’s has a later timestamp, so the land comes back to you.

And then Eli picked up the pen when Tom dropped it into his cup. . . .

Q: Can I play a removed sorcery with Muse Vessel on my opponent’s turn?

A: Not unless something else lets you. Muse Vessel only changes one thing: the fact that you can play this card that’s not in your hand at all.

Compare this to Eye of the Storm or suspend that say that “You [may] play that spell.” Period. This grants you permission to play it immediately during the resolution of the trigger and break the normal rules for when you can play stuff.

Q: If I play a legendary creature when I have that same creature and Pandemonium in play, will the new legendary creature deal damage before it dies?

A: It will actually deal damage after it dies. When you would receive priority after playing the creature, state-based effects are checked. The legends see each other and die of fright or shock or something –- I think the details of this effect were covered in Back to the Future II. Once state-based effects have carried them away, triggered abilities go on the stack. Pandemonium saw that the creature came into play as soon as it did, and its trigger has been patiently waiting. Now it goes on the stack, and will use the legendary creature’s last known information from just before it died to have it deal damage to a target of your choice.

Q: Will Herd Gnarr get a pump when I play Ixidron?

A: Your Gnarr is a small blob of former Gnarrness. Ixidron’s “as comes into play” ability replaces its coming into play with “turn everyone face down and come into play”, so the Gnarr will be happily encased in its bubble of goo and lacking triggered abilities as Ixidron actually does come into play.

Q: My opponent gave me a Forest with Yavimaya Dryad, so I bounced it with Boros Garrison. Where does the Forest go?

A: Your opponent’s hand.

217.1a If an object would go to any library, graveyard, or hand other than its owner’s, it goes to the corresponding zone of its owner’s instead.

There is absolutely no way in normal Magic (though there is in the Un- world) to get cards you don’t own in any of those three zones.

Q: My opponent and I are both playing very, very slow decks where we gain extremely large amounts of life. There’s no way we can even finish one game on time – can we just call it a draw, or do you have to be in a special position to ID?

A: Yes, that’s a fine intentional draw (ID). Most players intentionally draw a match to ensure that they make the Top 8 of a tournament, but there are only two restrictions on when you can and cannot ID in normal Swiss matches: you can’t ID once a player has actually won two games, and you can’t ID in exchange for a prize, bribe, etc.

Q: Does madness cause damage from Megrim? Does it cause double damage if the player removes it but doesn’t play it?

A: It sure does. Madness replaces the card-to-graveyard with card-removed-from-game, but it’s still going there as part of the act of discarding.

However, if the player decides not to play the card, it is put into the graveyard, not discarded there. You can only discard from your hand, not from the removed-from-game zone, so no double damage.

Noooo, math!
Q: What is K-value?

A: Oh boy . . . the K-value is part of a big, elaborate formula to calculate your player rating and ranking. In the most basic terms, your rating will go up more if you defeat a player higher ranked than you, and will go down more if you’re defeated by a player with a lower ranking than you. How far up and down it can go per match is determined by the K-value – the higher the value, the more your points can swing.

You can read more about the ELO rating system, which Magic uses, at Wikipedia:

The big, scary formula for the number of points you'll get or lose is:

KValue * (Points - Win Probability)

Points are 1 for a match win, .5 for a match draw, and 0 for match loss.

Win Probability is 1/(10^((OpponentRating - YourRating)/400)+1)

Q: Does Tsabo's Web stop Forgotten Cave from untapping?

A: It does. The fact that Forgotten Cave's activated ability (cycling) can't be played while it's in play is irrelevant - it has an activated ability that isn't a mana ability, and that makes the Web spaz out and lock it down.

And Ted took the pen from Eli when Eli started dancing with lemurs. . . .

Q: What happens when I cast Remand on a flashback spell like, say, Deep Analysis?

A: Eli answered this question back in October, but it still comes up so often that it bears a second run.

Rule 502.22a tells us what flashback does:

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.” Playing a spell using its flashback ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 409.1b and 409.1f–h.

That part about "instead of putting it anywhere else" is what we're concerned with. If a spell card played with flashback tries to leave the stack for anywhere other than the removed-from-game zone, then flashback replaces that by removing it from the game. So the Remanded spell card will be countered, but it won't go back to its owner's hand. It will be removed from the game instead. Then you still get to draw a card because Remand resolved... it just didn't do what you might expect.

If the spell card is being removed from the game for some other reason, flashback doesn't interfere with that. This is important for cards like Eye of the Storm; playing a flashback spell when an Eye of the Storm is out will cause the Eye (not the replacement effect of flashback) to remove the card from the game, so it will work with the Eye just as if you'd played the spell from your hand normally.

Q: I play Brain Pry on my opponent and uniquely describe the forecast card I have seen him play earlier in the game. Where's the rule that says I can do this instead of giving the actual name of the card?

A: There isn't a rule in any of the official documents that explicitly allows this. However, most judges are willing to accept that if you can provide enough information about a card to uniquely describe it, that's sufficient instead of having to memorize the name of every card in the format.

For example, playing in an Legacy tournament, saying "black Dragon" for Brain Pry isn't going to be enough to uniquely identify Kokusho, the Evening Star, as there are at least 12 creatures that are Black and have the subtype Dragon. Saying "the black Dragon from Champions of Kamigawa" or "that black Dragon that Drain Lifes your opponent for 5 when you put it in a graveyard" would both be acceptable to most judges.

If you only play in a casual group, it might be a good idea to bring this up to the group and determine what everyone would like to do. For sanctioned tournaments, since this is not part of official policy, it's always a good idea to ask the head judge of the tournament you're going to be playing in whether this standard will be applied. Finding out your judge doesn't follow this un-[O]fficial policy in the middle of a match is a scary proposition indeed.

Q: How does Ancestral Vision interact with Eye of the Storm?

A: Ancestral Vision won't do anything special when you suspend it . . . it'll get removed from the game with 3 counters just as if Eye weren't in play.

It's when that last time counter is removed and you play the Ancestral Vision that things get interesting. When the "when you remove the last time counter" trigger of suspend resolves, you play the Ancestral Vision without paying its mana cost. Since it's a sorcery, it causes Eye of the Storm to trigger. When the Eye's triggered ability resolves, it removes the Vision from the game and creates copies for you of all the cards it's removed from the game so far . . . including the Vision. If you have a way to play a "costless" suspend spell without paying its mana cost, you can do so without using Suspend. So you'll be able to play a copy of Ancestral Vision every time the Eye's ability resolves, and you won't have to wait three turns for the cards.

Q: My opponent brought a Palinchron into play with Animate Dead and untapped seven lands. I tried to do that last year and was told I couldn't. What gives?

A: The Oracle card text of quite a few cards changed in mid-July of this year. In his "Latest Developments" column on, Aaron Forsythe described a movement to remove "power-level errata" (that is, errata that changed a card away from its original function due to being more powerful than anticipated). Palinchron and friends (Cloud of Faeries, most notably) received errata shortly after becoming tournament-legal so that they'd only cause lands to untap if they were played from the hand, not snuck into play through some other means. The errata on those cards was rescinded during this update, so Palinchron now untaps seven lands regardless of how he comes into play.

At least, I think it's a he. Are YOU going to tell a 4/5 flyer that throws lands up into the air that he looks like a girl?

And then Moko ate the pen. So much for his share of the work.

And that’s a wrap! We’re going to go recover from our celebrations, and Ted will be back next week with a slightly more normal article. Whatever passes for "normal" around here.

Until next time, enjoy 2007!

-Your Cranial Insertion Team


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