Cranial Insertion: We Are the Champions!



Cranial Insertion
We Are the Champions
or, Drowning in Text

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, & Ted Dickinson

It’s the final Champs week – Standard Champs! Some of you have already had yours, and the rest are coming up in a few days. Time Spiral is really making a splash in Standard, and players are slowly coming to terms with the loss of Sensei’s Divining Top. Lots of strange interactions with old, old cards and weird new ones. . . .

And yet, questions are still popping up even at the Pro Tour whose answers are right on the card but drowning in text. So today’s first lesson:

*STOP AND READ THE CARDS*

This isn’t by any means meant to insult anyone. We all understand that Time Spiral has ridiculous amounts of rules text, including only three cards with no abilities out of 422. Just be aware that in Time Spiral, more than ever, you really do need to pay close attention to the text box. The extra time taken to read the cards carefully can save you the game, save time on judge calls, and save yourself some embarrassment in a tournament. And this little reminder applies to us as judges, even me, as much as to you as players.

Out of respect for our readers, we will not be posting these "RTC" questions in the column unless they come up a whole lot. Don’t feel bad if you send them to [email][email protected][/email], though, since we have lots of free time and any questions are good!

The biggest reason to try to avoid the "RTC" questions is that there are so many other weird questions for you to worry about – and they just keep pouring in. Moko may soon need an assistant, though I’m not really in the mood to Zombify any more monkeys. Maybe I could Resurrect one. . . .





Yay, rules nightmares!
Q: If Vesuvan Shapeshifter copies an animated Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII as it comes into play, and then copies an animated Paradise Plume later, and I've chosen “Blue Camarid” for the book, will I get Blue mana with the Plume?

A: This should have been published last week, but was accidentally left out after a big rules debate regarding another issue. Of all of the questions, this one that will likely never come up sparked the most debate, and the debate went all the way to the top of the rules food chain! And thus did the word come down from on high that yes, you will get Blue mana.

With Sarpadian Empires, you’re making one choice which contains two choices in it – a chosen color and a chosen type.




Q: How do I become a judge?

A: First of all, read about the DCI Judge Certification Program and make sure this is something you really want to do.

If you're still interested, you should start by getting ahold of a level 3 (or higher) judge. You can probably find them at a prerelease, PTQ, Champs, or other large events. You can also check out http://dciexam.com – just log in with your DCI number and password, go to "People", and search for your area. If there’s a level 2 judge nearby and no level 3 within convenient distance, you might want to ask about having the level 2 start your training before passing you up to a level 3.

If you have no upper-level judges anywhere nearby, contact the closest. If there isn’t even one in your state/country/planet, you’ll need to get to a Pro Tour, Grand Prix, Nationals, or Worlds. You can also click on "Roles" and search for "Trainer" - these are level 2 judges who have been granted special permission to certify new judges.




Q: For Premature Burial, when is “since your last turn ended”? The beginning of my end step, or cleanup?

A: Premature Burial doesn’t have any sneaky, rules-specific meaning on it. It simply refers to the normal English language usage: since your turn was over and another turn began.




Q: Does Djinn Illuminatus combo with Ancestral Visions?

A: Nope, not a combo. Ancestral Visions will indeed have replicate, but the replicate cost will be undefined. Undefined mana costs can’t be paid, so you’re out of luck trying to get that replicate to do anything.




Q: Will Locket of Yesterdays reduce flashback costs?

A: That depends on what you mean. If you only have one Strangling Soot in your graveyard and you flash it back, it won’t reduce anything. The first step to playing the Soot is to remove it from your graveyard and put it on the stack, so it’s no longer around to help out with the Locket.

If you’re trying to reduce the flashback cost of something like Chatter of the Squirrel and there are two in the graveyard, then you’ll only have to pay G to flash it back. The Locket will not only reduce mana costs but alternative costs to play a spell.




Q: What happens if I play Angel’s Grace in response to Flames of the Blood Hand?

A: You survive to see another turn (in which you’ll probably be very quickly Shocked to death). Angel’s Grace doesn’t prevent damage; it just changes how the damage affects your life total, just like Worship.




Q: If I use Trickbind to stop the suspend trigger, where does the suspended card go? Is it RFG forever?

A: It’s gone forever. As soon as the last time counter is removed, the card is no longer suspended, so its suspend triggers won’t trigger anymore. More importantly, the “play me” trigger only triggers when the last counter is removed, and there aren’t any left to possibly remove.




Q: Will my token come back if I Momentary Blink it?

A: Yup. Tokens only cease to exist when state-based effects are checked, and they aren’t checked during the resolution of a spell. This contradicts the trailer at the end of rule 216.3, which should have been removed with the creation of Momentary Blink.

(Wizards jumped on our question after the article was complete but before posting - you can see a confirmation of this goodie plus lots of other awesome questions at this Pro Tour Kobe page.)




Q: I have Poisonbelly Ogre in play and my opponent plays Ixidron. Does he lose one life?

A: He does not. The Ogre is turned face down just before the giant mutant spider freak comes into play, and won’t have its ability to see it enter.




Q: Can I use Sphere of Resistance to make my Wheel of Fate cost 1 so I can play it from my hand?

A: You’ll have just as much trouble trying to pay UNDEFINED+1 as you’d have trying to pay UNDEFINED, so that sneaky trick won’t work.





Yay, old cards!
Q: I have Celestial Dawn out and play Vigor Mortis. Can I spend one white mana as though it were green mana to get a +1/+1 counter?

A: Not really, no. No matter how much you say you’re spending some of that White mana as Green, it’s still actually White mana and the game is not fooled. This also holds true for Guildpact’s and Dissension’s color-sensitive creatures. You’ll need to pop a Chromatic Star if you want to get the bonuses.




Q: Can I use an Alpha Psionic Blast in my deck?

A: With some restrictions, yes. For one, if you include Alpha cards in your deck, they must all be sleeved (in opaque sleeves) since Alpha cards are cut slightly differently from others. Second, older cards tend to be very easy to tell from newer ones by the shine on the back. So while any Alpha card reprinted in Time Spiral, Ravnica block, or Ninth is perfectly legal to play with, you just have to ensure that your deck isn’t marked.




Q: What happens if I Sudden Spoiling my opponent’s army while he has Glorious Anthem in play?

A: He ends up with an army of 1/3 creatures. Sudden Spoiling applies in layer 6b, while Anthem applies in 6d (static abilities that modify but do not set power and toughness), so the Anthem will always come after the Spoiling.




Q: Can Mirari copy Sudden Death?

A: Sure. Mirari’s ability is triggered, and split second doesn’t stop that. It also copies the spell instead of making a copy for you to play, so there’s no issue there.




Q: Does Leyline of Singularity shut down morph?

A: Not really, no. You’ll have a legion of legendary creatures with no name, so they’ll never share a name that they don’t have.




Q: My opponent tries to use Clockspinning on his Plaxcaster Frogling with buyback. If I Sudden Death the frog in response, does he get the Clockspinning back?

A: Nope. If you successfully Sudden Death the frog, the Clockspinning will be countered on resolution. In order for buyback to yo-yo the spell, it has to resolve successfully, which it sure isn’t doing here.




Q: Does Paradox Haze let me untap or draw twice?

A: Neither. It gives you another upkeep. Remember that the upkeep step is only part of the beginning phase, the other parts of which are the untap and draw steps. Read more about the turn structure here.




Q: If Mangara of Corondor’s only target is bounced before the ability resolves, does Mangara still get removed from the game?

A: He will not! His ability has exactly one target, the victim. If the victim is gone, the entire ability is countered on resolution. Note that Mangara removes himself as part of his ability’s effect and not as a cost, since the removal comes after the colon.




Q: Will my Sacred Foundry still be a Mountain under Celestial Dawn since it’s already a Plains?

A: Now it’s only a Plains. Giving a land a subtype – even if it’s not a new subtype – wipes the old ones. If the ability adds on a new subtype in addition to the old ones (like Blanket of Night) that wording will be on the card.




Q: Can I use Remand on a card I play with flashback?

A: Certainly. Flashback has you play the spell, and a spell is a legal target for Remand.

But I don’t think you want to. Flashback removes a card from the game if it would go anywhere at all from the stack, so it’ll still go away. You’ll get a card, though.





Yay, strategy!
Q: You had mentioned last week that Circle of Protection: Red couldn’t stop mana burn, but it can – just spend it all on the ability!

A: While this is correct, it’s not the question that was asked. We had two rules issues to address with that question: Lands are colorless, and mana burn is loss of life. If you want savage strategy that’ll win you the game, I’m sorry to say that Cranial Insertion isn’t really the place to go. Although almost all the time, if a play is truly horrible due to a rules misunderstanding (see the Remand-flashback interaction above), we’ll point that out in the column.

“Judges should not be playing the game. Um, except when they’re playing.”

The point of this awesomely silly quote from a fellow judge is that judges don’t deal with good plays and bad plays, but legal plays and illegal plays. If you ask in a tournament situation “Can I target flashback spells with Remand?” we’d have to answer the question you asked, not the question you mean – “Will it go back to my hand?” Providing unrequested information in a tournament is coaching, and that’s something judges definitely need to avoid.

While we have the leeway to break out with the strategy discussion here, since the site is definitely not a tournament, it’s not something we can do for every question (especially when the article is written close to the publication deadline!)

The CoP - Mana Burn issue would actually be rather unclear if asked in a tournament, since the question could really be “Can I activate it without a source to choose?” (yes) and not “Will the replacement shields stop the mana burn?” (no). It’s not a serious issue in the column since our beloved readers will jump all over the forum to highlight these strategy points, but make sure you ask the question you mean to ask in a real tournament.




That wraps it up for this week. Have fun at your Champs if you haven’t already – I’ll be judging AZ States in Phoenix if you want to say hi. We’ll be back next week with a look at three magical words that tend to cause some confusion.

Until next time, enjoy the lack of Kamigawa!

-Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

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