Cranial Insertion: 'Tis the Season

Cranial Insertion
‘Tis the Season
or, Giving Thanks for a Good Cardpool

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, and Ted Dickinson

With Standard Champs in the books, Time Spiral sealed season is in full swing. All around the world, players are hoping to open Akroma and get to smash face with Our Lady of the Purple-Haired Beatings. This week, we have the majority of our questions taken from the floor of a sealed PTQ, as well as other questions from the world of Magic.

As always, you can send us your questions to [email][email protected][/email]. We’ll answer your question, and we’ll probably use it in a future edition of CI. The only easier way to get your name in lights is to write a book about how you would have slaughtered your ex-wife and her friend “if” you had done it!

By now, Thanksgiving has come and gone in the USA. To our American readers, we hope you had a good Turkey Day. To our readers elsewhere in the world . . . um, we hope your Thursday was good!

On to the questions!

Q: I have a 2/2 creature targeted by Deathspore Thallid’s -1/-1 ability twice. If I play Might of Old Krosa to give it +2/+2, what happens at the end of the turn? Does it matter whose turn it is?

A: Because the +2/+2 and -2/-2 cancel each other out, the creature will be a 2/2 until end of turn. When the cleanup step rolls around, all “until end of turn” and “this turn” effects expire simultaneously. Whose turn it is doesn’t factor into things; the effects wear off at the same time, and the creature is again its normal 2/2 self.

Bonus: In case you’re curious about what happens during the cleanup step, here you go:
314. Cleanup Step

314.1. If the active player’s hand contains more cards than his or her maximum hand size (normally seven), he or she discards enough cards to reduce the hand size to that number (this game action doesn’t use the stack).

314.2. After discarding, the following actions happen simultaneously: all damage is removed from permanents and all “until end of turn” and “this turn” effects end (this game action doesn’t use the stack).

314.3. If the conditions for any state-based effects exist or if any triggered abilities are waiting to be put onto the stack, the active player gets priority and players may play spells and abilities. Once the stack is empty and all players pass, another cleanup step begins. Otherwise, no player receives priority and the step ends.

Hi, I'm looking for Cephalid Illusionist.
Q: I play Tromp the Domains and attack with my two creatures, which are now both 6/6. My opponent blocks one with Outrider en-Kor and a 3/3. I assign 2 to the Outrider, 3 to the 3/3, and 1 to my opponent. If he then uses the Outrider’s ability to redirect 2 damage from it to the 3/3, does he take any more damage?

A: No. Damage will be dealt as assigned, modified by any replacement effects. The Outrider’s ability will add 2 damage to the 3 that your opponent’s 3/3 is already facing. The result is 5 damage will be assigned to it and it will (presumably) be destroyed when damage is dealt. All assignments of damage were legal, as were the activations of the Outrider’s ability, so nothing needs to change.

Q: I have a Clockwork Hydra which my opponent has enchanted with Temporal Isolation. I attack with it, removing the last counter. Since this puts both the Hydra and the Isolation into the graveyard, does the Hydra’s triggered ability deal damage?

A: No, the damage will still be prevented. The counter is not removed until the triggered ability actually resolves. When it does, the Hydra becomes a 0/0, but during the resolution of the same ability, it tries to deal 1 damage. State-based effects haven't been checked yet, so the tiny Hydra has not yet bitten the dust and is still rather isolated.

Q: I have another Temporal Isolation question. If a creature enchanted with Temporal Isolation attacks, will its damage still be put on the stack? If so, can I then bounce the enchantment and have the creature deal its damage?

A: Yes, the damage will still be put onto the stack. Temporal Isolation (and similar enchantments) don’t prevent a creature’s damage from going onto the stack, they simply prevent any damage that would be dealt. If the enchantment is removed before the damage would resolve (and be prevented), then it will be dealt as normal. The last chance you have to do this would be after damage goes onto the stack.

Q: Does Momentary Blink change the “counting” done by Strength in Numbers?

A: Yes. The creature that leaves play and then comes back into play from Momentary Blink will not come back into play as an attacking creature. The result is that the number of attacking creatures will be reduced by one. Strength in Numbers counts the number of attacking creatures on resolution, so if you were expecting +4/+4 but Blinked one of your creatures, you’ll end up with +3/+3.

308.2g Each chosen creature becomes an attacking creature if all costs have been paid, but only if it’s still controlled by the active player. It remains an attacking creature until it’s removed from combat or the combat phase ends, whichever comes first.

Q: My opponent attacked with a Vampiric Sliver and a Venser’s Sliver. I blocked the Vampiric Sliver with a 3/3 and chumped the Venser’s. The Vampiric Sliver, the 3/3, and my chump blocker were all destroyed as a result of combat damage. Does the Venser’s Sliver still get a +1/+1 counter?

A: Yes, it does. The Venser’s Sliver had the “Sengir ability” when it dealt damage to the creature blocking it. Technically, it loses that ability when the Vampiric Sliver is put into the graveyard. However, because the object that created the ability is no longer in play, the game needs to “look back in time” to see what triggered. Here’s what the CompRules say about it:

410.10d Normally, objects that exist immediately after an event are checked to see if the event matched any trigger conditions. Continuous effects that exist at that time are used to determine what the trigger conditions are and what the objects involved in the event look like. However, some triggered abilities must be treated specially because the object with the ability may no longer be in play, no longer be in a zone visible to all players, or no longer be controlled by the appropriate player. The game has to “look back in time” to determine if these abilities trigger. Abilities that trigger specifically when an object leaves play, when an object leaves any visible zone for a hidden one, or when a player loses control of an object will trigger based on their existence, and the appearance of objects, prior to the event rather than afterward.

Q: My opponent attacks with a Fury Sliver and a Venser’s Sliver. I kill the Fury Sliver during the first strike damage step. Does Venser’s Sliver still deal regular damage?

A: No. The normal combat damage step is for creatures with double strike and those that did not assign damage in the first strike combat damage step. Here’s the rule, with emphasis added:

310.5. At the start of the combat damage step, if at least one attacking or blocking creature has first strike (see rule 502.2) or double strike (see rule 502.28), creatures without first strike or double strike don’t assign combat damage. Instead of proceeding to end of combat, the phase gets a second combat damage step to handle the remaining creatures. In the second combat damage step, surviving attackers and blockers that didn’t assign combat damage in the first step, plus any creatures with double strike, assign their combat damage.

Q: If I have two face-up Weathered Bodyguards in play and my opponent attacks with three creatures (no first or double strike). If I don’t block, can I divide the damage between the two Bodyguards?

A: No, you can’t. One of the bodyguards is going to take a bullet for you. Weathered Bodyguards has a static ability that creates a replacement effect. When you’re being damaged, you can choose which of the Bodyguards’ replacement effects to apply. This means that one of them gets to take all of the damage. You can’t make any other choice.

Respond to morph? Take that!
Q: Can I respond to morph?

A: That depends on what you mean by “morph.”

Can you respond to an opponent paying 3 mana to play a face-down creature spell? Barring anything that would prevent you (like Teferi’s ability), yes. It’s a spell, and it can be countered like any other spell.

Can you respond to an opponent turning a creature face-up by paying its morph cost? No. That is defined as a special action that does not use the stack. Sometimes, turning a creature face-up will cause an ability to trigger. Those triggered abilities can be responded to, but the action of turning a creature face-up cannot.

A friendly reminder from someone who judges regularly: be sure to ask your questions in a manner that clearly conveys what you want to ask. Judges should only answer what you’re actually asking, not what they think you might mean, and not what you think you mean (we don’t know what you meant to ask, after all – despite our vast powers, we are not mind readers). Sometimes, a judge will ask you to clarify your question (and if I were asked, “Can I respond to morph?” at an event, I would ask the player to clarify). That means that what you’re going after isn’t clear. There’s no hurry when you call a judge over. If the ruling takes a while, we’ll give you extra time for your match. So take your time and formulate the question you really want to ask.

Bonus: Turning a creature face-up is one of several game actions that does not use the stack. So what does use the stack? Glad you asked. There’s a very easy way to remember what uses the stack. Knowing this will also enable you to know what doesn’t use the stack. Things that use the stack are:

Triggered (non-mana) abilities
Activated (non-mana) abilities
Combat damage objects

I first saw our own MadWarper use this in the Rulings forum. I’m not sure if he came up with it, but he’s the first person I saw using it, so I’ll give him the props for it.

Q: I have Mirari in play and I play Sudden Shock. Can I pay 3 mana to copy Sudden Shock, or does split second prevent this?

A: Split second prevents players from playing spells and non-mana activated abilities. Mirari is a triggered ability. The payment confuses players into thinking it’s activated, but read the ability again and you’ll see that it’s triggered. Mirari will trigger when you play Sudden Shock. When that trigger resolves, you may pay 3 mana to put a copy of Sudden Shock onto the stack. Split second sits idly by and watches this happen. I imagine this was suddenly shocking for your opponent.

Q: What is the converted mana cost of a spell being played by removing the last suspend counter?

A: Whatever its converted mana cost would normally be. Phthisis, for example, has a converted mana cost of 7. This is true regardless of whether the spell is played normally, or whether it was suspended. The suspend spells with no mana costs, like Restore Balance, have a converted mana cost of 0.

Bonus: It’s pronounced [THIGH-sis] or [TIE-sis], with the former being preferred.

Q: If I have two Plague Slivers in play, do I take 2 damage during my upkeep?

A: Actually, you take 4 damage. Each of the Plague Slivers has two instances of the “this creature deals 1 damage to you” ability. At the beginning of your upkeep, those four triggers will go onto the stack. Presuming they all resolve, you take 4 damage.

Q: Can I play Angel’s Grace during my upkeep if I have no cards in my library to keep me from losing that turn?

A: Yes. Angel’s Grace will prevent you from losing the game when you try to draw off of your empty library. It will also keep you from losing in any other conceivable manner until its effect wears off during the cleanup step. State-based effects are checked during the cleanup step (see above), so if something else has happened to cause you to lose the game, Angel’s Grace isn’t saving you anymore.

I'm INVINCIBLE... unless you pay 2.
Q: If I Sudden Shock a Knight of the Holy Nimbus, will that kill it?

A: Not normally, no. Knight of the Holy Nimbus’ regeneration ability is a static ability. Split second doesn’t mess with those, so the Knight will be able to regenerate. As an activated ability, you can pay 2 mana to stop the Knight from regenerating, but you can’t do this while Sudden Shock is on the stack. If you want to kill the Knight with Sudden Shock, you’ll have to pay to stop its regeneration ability first, then hit it with the spell.

Q: I opened two Psionic Blasts and a foil Akroma! Can I just drop and leave with my mad loot?

A: While judges can’t stop you from leaving, know that you’re not supposed to leave before the deck swap is done. This is because the cards you open aren’t yours – the cards you receive in the deck swap are yours. If you find you get mad loot after the swap is done and want to leave at that point, you can. However, you’ll be taking a loss in the first round to do so. You’re in the event, and you received product, so you have to be accounted for in the pairings.

If you choose to ignore the judges and leave before the swap, you will be getting a loss for the first round, and almost certainly a penalty for unsporting conduct. There might also be a nastygram from the DCI in your future. Your best option is to register the cardpool and swap it . . . y'know, like everyone else is doing.

Q: Several newer players at my store don’t seem to understand the difference between lands and mana. They tap a Llanowar Elves for mana, and think they can pull a Forest out of their deck. How can I explain the difference to them?

A: The best analogy I’ve heard was told to me by John Carter. Lands are fruit, and mana is juice. If you squeeze fruit, you get juice. If you squeeze (tap) lands, you get mana. I think a big cause of the confusion is the big mana symbols that have been on the lands for a while. They don’t help new players see a distinction between lands and mana. Look at that Llanowar Elves and an older Forest: both say, “:symtap:: add green mana to your mana pool.” The older lands clearly stated that the land itself was a way of producing mana. I would use the fruit/juice analogy, and have some older lands handy to make your point.

Q: Can I use FNM promo cards, like Life // Death, in my Standard decks?

A: Promo cards are only legal if the card’s normal printings appear in a Standard-legal set. Life // Death is not in any of the sets currently legal in Standard (9th, Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, and Time Spiral). It is legal in Extended, Legacy, and Vintage, since the Apocalypse set is legal in those formats. Generally, the FNM promo cards (at least recently) are legal in Extended, but may not be legal in Standard.

Q: A Mischievous Quanar and Enraging Licid both loan their abilities to Quicksilver Elemental. The Elemental turns into an enchantment and sits on a creature, then turns face-down. What now?

A: This is a correction from what we ran with a couple weeks ago. After some discussion and answers from [O]fficial-type persons, this is what happens: the Elemental is a face-down aura that doesn't really do anything exciting. It's face-down because it's been turned face-down, it's an Aura (with enchant creature) because that's its most recent type, and the only “ability” it has is letting you pay red mana to turn it into a face-down creature (which isn’t actually tied to the Aura but to the licid effect).

That’s all we have for this week. Be sure to join us again next week, and good luck with your sealed cardpools!

-Tom Fowler


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