Cranial Insertion: Jingle Bells, Kormus Bells

Cranial Insertion
Jingle Bells, Kormus Bells
or, Grandma Got Run Over by Akroma

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

I didn't really get
that many presents. :/
Hey, it's Christmas. Screw the article, I'm going to open presents!

. . .

. . .

Okay, I'm not. Not only am I vaguely Jewish, I already opened all my presents. It's a beautiful part of living alone – no one can stop me! Except Moko, but I could smell that he got me a porterhouse brain. I got Moko a bunch of bananas, and they're all black and rotten now, just the way he likes them.

We'll open up this week's article with a gift from Wizards: The official rules for Two-Headed Giant draft!

Q: How many teams sit down at a table to draft?

A: Three to five teams; just like a normal draft, you want to have between six and eleven players per table, while eight is the optimal number (four teams).

Q: How many packs does each team get?

A: Packs are distributed to each player; it's recommended that each player receive three packs, but the organizer can give more or less for a non-premier event.

Q: So how do you open and pass and whatnot?

A: Each team opens one player's pack, selects two cards, and passes. They take the new pack from the team on their left, pick two, and pass again. At the end, they'll get a single card that's probably utter junk. Then you repeat the process going in the opposite direction with the same set's pack from the team's other player.

This means that in a RAV-GPT-DIS draft, you will pass one of each set in each direction, always passing to the left when you hit a new set.

Q: So each player picks one card?

A: No - the two cards are part of a shared team pool, and your 40-card minimum decks are built out of the total pool. The chosen cards are not assigned to a player in any way, shape, or form until deck building.

Q: Can we talk while we draft?

A: Yes! Unlike normal draft, teams may talk. Make sure to talk fast, though, since time limits for drafting, less than one minute per pair of picks, will be enforced.

Feel free to discuss your picks in Spanish, German, sign language Esperanto, Quenya, or Klingon to keep your thoughts secret from the other teams.

Q: What happens to the cards we don't use?

A: This is a change from the previous rules –- those cards are now your team's shared sideboard (and the same is true in sealed deck). You will never be able to sideboard in and out, but anything like Death Wish that wants a card you own outside of the game will be able to fetch them.

Isn't that fun? If you have any more questions, please send them in to [email protected] Remember, Two-Headed Giant Champs is 3 March, and 2HG Pro Tour Qualifier season starts early next year for the 2HG Pro Tour in San Diego at the end of June! You can also ask your Friday Night Magic coordinator about having 2HG FNM, which is loads of fun and lasts till midnight or so.

Q: If Giant Solifuge blocks a creature with flanking, will it survive to kill that creature?

A: Not unless you somehow raise its toughness. Flanking does not use the word “target” in its definition, so the bug's ability won't stop it from being squashed. (See Comp Rule 502.3a)

It's fun when things
turn into other things.
Q: Will my Opal Acrolith die if I block, put combat damage on the stack, and then turn it into an enchantment?

A: Not at all! Combat damage will not be assigned if its destination is no longer in play or no longer a creature. (See Comp Rule 310.4c)

Bonus: The damage the Acrolith put on the stack will still be dealt.

Q: You mentioned last week about Liege of the Pit being turned face down with its trigger on the stack. Would the now-face-down Liege be able to be sacrificed for this ability?

A: Nope, he's safe. Turning a creature face down only changes its characteristics (CR 502.26e), not what it is. Since rule 202.2 tells us that an object referring to itself by name only means “this object,” the fact that its name is no longer “Liege of the Pit” won't make it eligible to eat itself.

Q: Does Aether Snap work with suspended spells?

A: Not at all. Aether Snap only removes counters from permanents, and rule 200.6 defines a permanent as “in play.” Suspended stuff is removed from the game, thus not a permanent.

Q: I played Empty the Warrens with Mana Echoes out. My opponent wants to Sulfurous Blast before I get my mana, and I say he can't because it's a mana ability.

A: He's right. A mana ability is either an activated ability that produces mana, or a triggered ability that produces mana and triggers off of a mana ability. (CR 406.1) Since the Goblins' grand entrance was obviously not a mana ability, Mana Echoes isn't one either, and your opponent can nuke them all to cut back on the mana you'll receive when the Echoes triggers resolve.

Q: I drew a card on my opponent's turn, and now I have eight cards in hand. Do I have to discard at the end of his turn?

A: Nope, only the player whose turn it is has to discard down to seven. Your hand will happily remain overflowing until the end of your turn, by which point you've hopefully played a couple cards. (CR 314.1)

Q: I played Conflagrate, discarding three cards. Will my opponent's Kaervek the Merciless hit me for seven?

A: You or a creature you control (unless, of course, your opponent is a masochist, in which case there are much better cards he could use to inflict pain upon himself). To play a spell with flashback, you go through the steps listed in section 409.1 of the rules, which include deciding a number for X. In this case, you decide X is 3. Then you pay the cost; since you're using flashback, your cost is red mana and three cards. However, the X on the spell is still 3, so the converted mana cost is 3+3+1, or 7.

Note that you do not discard a number of cards, and then make X that number. You choose X first, which defines how many cards you must discard.

Q: Do I have to have a sideboard? I never sideboard anything, and the extra cards are a pain.

A: Sideboards are optional (Magic Floor Rules 122). There's no need to bring one if you'd prefer not to do so. There is also no need to ever actually use it, which is how Squire ended up in a Standard Champ decklist. . . .

Q: Can I hit Haakon, Stromgald Scourge with Tormod's Crypt in response to my opponent playing him?

A: You can Crypt, of course, but Haakon won't be hiding there. The first step of playing a spell, as described in 409.1a, is to put it on the stack. By the time he's played and your opponent gives you priority, he's been on the stack for quite a while.

Ordering things around is fun!
Q: When I dredge, can I choose the order of the cards?

A: While it's common to just put the cards into the graveyard in the opposite order they were on top of the library, that is not required – and it can make a difference for Legacy and Vintage players! Rule 217.4c notes that, if more than one card is put into your graveyard at once, you choose the order, so you can drop that Ashen Ghoul on the bottom or put Ichorid on top so you won't forget about him.

(Do note that you can't rearrange your graveyard. If Ichorid dies, and then stuff goes on top of him, you can't shovel him back up to the top as a memory aid. (CR 217.4b))

Q: I have two Firemane Angels, one card in hand, and two life. My opponent has The Rack pointed at my face. It's my upkeep –- am I dead?

A: You are dead! Since it's your turn, you're the active player. Your triggers go on the stack first, then your opponent's Rack. (CR 410.3) His will resolve first since it's on top of the stack, and you take two damage. Then state-based effects murderize you before your abilities get to resolve (Give section 420 of the CR some love).

Q: Does Grand Arbiter Augustin IV increase suspend costs?

A: No, but you'll have to pay 1 when you actually play the spell. Looking over the suspend rules in section 502.59 helps – suspending something is not playing a spell, but when you remove the last counter, then you play that spell.

Since Augustin adds an additional cost, you can choose not to play your suspended spell, although the circumstances in which you won't want to do that are rare indeed.

Q: My Samurai of the Pale Curtain is enchanted with a Rancor. If the Samurai dies in combat, does my Rancor get removed from the game since it goes to the graveyard at the same time as the Samurai?

A: Ah, but it does not go at the same time as the Samurai! You don't check state-based effects one at a time, you check them all at once, then repeat the check as necessary. (CR 420.3) On the first check, you find a dead Samurai. The Samurai removes itself from the game, and then you do another check. Now you find a Rancor floating in the air, and it goes to the graveyard – with no Samurai replacement effect hanging around to remove it instead. And then Rancor goes back to your hand.

Q: I was reading the rulings on Ertai's Meddling and saw this one:

“If Ertai's Meddling is used to copy a spell being played face down due to Morph ability, the spell will create a face up, 2/2, colorless, nameless creature with no text. This may be a little counter-intuitive, because you might expect the card to enter play face down like it would have when originally played, but Ertai's Meddling copies only the original spell and not the entire card the spell represented.”

What the HECK?

A: Just like the ruling says, Meddling only copies the original spell –- “2/2 creature with no other details.” Rule 217.7b causes the card to be removed face up, and the face-down-ness of the original spell is not copied when Meddling has you play that spell.

So Meddling has you play the spell, and it's face up because nothing says otherwise. Now you have to slap on that 2/2 blank set of characteristics for the spell, and you end up with a very weird creature.

Q: I have Droning Bureaucrats, but my opponent has Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Darksteel Colossus. If I don't use the Bureaucrats for 11, he'll attack with the Colossus, but if I use them, he can copy the Colossus and attack with the copy, can't he?

A: Not quite. Rule 418.3b explains that continuous effects from activated abilities that modify game rules don't apply only to the creatures in play as they resolve. In normal English -– if the ability changes a characteristic of something (or the controller), it will only apply to the things it applies to as it resolves. If it does other things, it applies to everything that fits, even if it comes into play later.

So if you play Insurrection, you get all creatures. But if someone plays another creature that turn, they get to keep the new creature.

And if you drone for 11, no creature with a converted mana cost of 11 can attack that turn, regardless of when it comes into play.

Q: Can I choose not to loot with Looter il-Kor?

A: There is no “may.” so the draw-and-discard (known as "looting" to some) not optional. You have to loot. Loot like a pirate! Arrrr!

Time for more egg nog!

So a merry Christmas to those of you celebrating, a belated happy Chanukah to those who celebrated that last week, a happy upcoming Kwanzaa to anyone who celebrates that, and have a nice monkey!

Until next time, may you receive many happy presents!

-Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, AZ


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