Cranial Insertion: Thyme Spiral

Cranial Insertion
Thyme Spiral
or, Garden-Variety Questions

By Eli Shiffrin, Tom Fowler, & ?

Time Spiral's prerelease was hands-down one of the best events I've worked. After a year of Ravnica and its easy-to-understand interactions, it was nice to hear, "JUDGE!!!" echoing back and forth across the room. Of course, three judge calls at the same time while every other judge is in the other room does require quite a manipulation of the laws of space and time . . . but that's what judges are paid to do. We violate the laws of reality to uphold the laws of the game.

I can tell this wasn't just in Arizona – we've had a flood of mail in our inbox at [email][email protected][/email] with a wide variety of questions, forums are exploding with queries, and Moko is gleefully pointing out exciting changes to the Oracle text of several old cards. Even as I write this, more are coming in, so if you don't see your question, just wait for next week when our new mystery writer jumps in for his first article!

All right, here we go.

When the moon hits your eye
Like a fish from the sky,
That's amore.
Q: How does Deep-Sea Kraken interact with creatures with suspend?

A: They start off through Craigslist, then progress to a dimly-lit room by candlelight.

And that pervy little joke is rather apropriate. When a player suspends a spell, that is not the same as playing a spell – it's just using a special action. The Kraken goes, "Oh boy, oh boy, I'm gonna lose a counter!" but it doesn't lose one yet. When the final time counter is removed and that suspended spell is played, then the Kraken loses a counter if he's still suspended.

Q: What does Magus of the Mirror do in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Math. Math is sad. The Magus will look at your life total and the life total of one head of the opposing team, and switch those two. Remember that a player's life total is half of the team's life total rounded up. So if your teams are at 21 and 33, the life totals are 12 and 17. You gain 5 life, and your opponent loses 5, putting the team totals at 26 and 28.

What the heck, your team still has lower life? Yeah, the Magus isn't terribly good in 2HG. If you're at even numbers, like 10 versus 40, then you go to 25 and they fall to 25, so he's not quite as bad then.

Q: We're supposed to announce the card we're playing, right? What if I can't pronounce Phthisis?

A: Pronouncing that name is an additional cost to play it. Wizards hates people with a head cold.

No, not really. Call it whatever you want, just make sure it's clear you're playing it. A lot of people can play an entire game of Magic without ever saying a word and still make sure that everything is entirely clear.

Q: What do I do if Phthisis loses its last time counter and my opponent controls no creatures?

A: If there are no creatures, Phthisis can't be played, and it stays removed from the game forever. Poor spell. If you control a creature, though, you will have to play Phthisis targeting your own creature and take a punch to the face.

Q: Will Harmonic Sliver trigger itself coming into play?

A: Harmonic Sliver's continuous effect applies the very instant it enters play, the same time as the triggers are checked. He'll trigger and get to blow something up.

Q: If I play Smallpox and discard Fiery Temper, can I burn my opponent's Saproling so he'll have to sacrifice his Paladin en-Vec to the Smallpox?

A: Nope, that won't work. As you discard Fiery Temper, you can remove it from the game, and its trigger will trigger, but it won't go on the stack (much less resolve) until after Smallpox is all done nibbling on the world.

Q: Can I Trickbind morph?

A: Morph is not an activated ability, can't be countered at all, and doesn't even use the stack. There is currently no way at all to stop the morph turn-up ability once it's started short of jumping over the table and eating the card. That option, while extremely effective, will likely also result in a DQ for you. It's a little suboptimal.

Q: Can I use flashback any time I could play an instant?

A: Sure you can, as long as the card with flashback is an instant. Flashback lets you play the spell from an unusual zone for an unusual cost, but it doesn't let you do so at an unusual time.

Some Slivers have no abilities.
We still love them.
Q: Are Slivers cumulative?

A: Many of them; some are redundant. For instance, Horned Sliver is redundant – two instances of trample do nothing special. Sidewinder Sliver is cumulative, since each instance of flanking will trigger separately. Essence Sliver and Harmonic Sliver each grant triggered abilities that each trigger individually, but Acidic Sliver and Crypt Sliver grant activated abilities that can't be played multiple times without shenanigans.

Q: Can I use Children of Korlis to save me with lethal damage on the stack?

A: Possibly – have you already lost life this turn? The kiddies will only give you life when their ability resolves, they won't peer into the future and stop future life-loss. And if your life is already below 1, it's way too late to murder them for more life.

Q: What do Children of Korlis do in Two-Headed Giant, anyway?

A: They'll gain you life equal to the life you've lost. Not the life your teammate has lost, the life YOU have lost. Damage directed at you, combat damage assigned to your head and not your teammate's, Tendrils of Agony poking at your dome . . . they'll all be gained back.

So of course your opponents could just make all of this damage hit your teammate, making your Children rather useless.

Q: If I have Lim-Dul the Necromancer and my opponent plays Lim-Dul the Necromancer, can I pay 1B to snatch his when they both die?

A: Yup. As they die, the game will look back in time to see if there existed any triggers that should go off. Each will trigger for the other, which could result in a bidding war to wrest control of one Lim-Dul.

Q: If Nether Traitor is part of a party that dies to Wrath of God, can I pull him back into play?

A: Not with Wrath, no. Just before the grave-filling event, the game does look back in time just like with Lim-Dul, but the Traitor's ability didn't apply because it specifically mentions moving it out of the graveyard. See the obscure rule 402.8g for more on this.

You CAN do this with Solar Tide, though, because it has two events. In the first one, creatures with power less than 3, like our Nether Traitor friend here, pass away. Then in the second event, if any larger creatures die, the Traitor will trigger.

Q: What's the difference between Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere?

A: One has sharp points, which rules; and the other breaks the rules. Sphere's card-draw ability is part of the mana ability, allowing you to draw cards at very inconvenient and embarrassing times, such as while playing a Panglacial Wurm from the very library from which you draw the card.

Our pointy new star has a very easy triggered ability that will wait around patiently to go on the stack instead of forcing its way through. Good ability! Have a cookie.

Q: Does Detainment Spell stop mana abilities, or is that like how Stifle can't stop them?

A: Stifle just can't be played in response to a mana ability (they don't even use the stack, so it can of course never target one). Detainment Spell says very flatly that NO activated abilities at all can be played, and that does include mana abilities.

Q: What is the "end of combat step" mentioned on Desert?

A: This article has all of the joyous information you need. To put it shortly, it's after combat damage is dealt and on-combat-damage triggers are resolved, but before the second main phase.

Q: Can I instantly play face-down creatures with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

A: Sure. While face-down creatures generally have no abilities, Teferi gives them flash. If you had a creature printed with flash and morph, and no Teferi, then you couldn't play it face-down at an instant time.

It's just a jump to the left...
Q: How do I tell which creatures were played face down and which were flipped with Ixidron at the end of a game?

A: Long ago, when Onslaught came out and someone said, "OMG teh cheatz!!!" a glorious rule was made: All face-down creatures must be identifiable by the order in which they came into play. This rule was largely ignored, making people sad. However, it has a new importance now.

Keep your Ixidron-made face-down dudes separate from your played-face-down dudes. There you go.

Q: What happens if I play Faceless Devourer with no other shadow creatures in play?

A: He goes hungry. There are no faces for him to eat. He'll still be around, just hungry.

Note that if you play three in a row with no other shadow creatures in play, you will draw the game. Don't do that.

Q: When does Flickering Spirit come back?

A: Right after it picks up a gallon of milk from the RFG zone. He's a smart spirit, so he uses the express checkout, and comes back right away, not at the end of turn. He vanishes and returns all during the resolution of his ability, untapped and as a new creature. With change for your milk.

Q: If I remove the last mining counter from a Gemstone Mine with Clockspinning, does it die?

A: No, but it won't be doing much at all. Gemstone Mine is only sacrificed as part of the mana ability, not at any time it doesn't have a counter. But you can never play the ability since removing a counter is part of the cost to play it, so you probably won't ever be sacrificing it.

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 chose "blue Camarid" for the book, will I get blue mana with the Plume?

A: You didn't choose "blue", you choose "blue Camarid." The Plume has some trouble wrapping its head around Camarid mana, even if it's blue Camarid mana, so it gives up and makes no mana at all.

[Editor's Note: This ruling has since been overturned. See the 16 October article for an explanation and retraction.]

Q: Can I fetch sideboard cards with Pull from Eternity?

A: Sideboard cards are not removed from the game, they're outside of the game. And they should be face down – turn that pile over!

Q: Will my teammate get another upkeep if I put Paradox Haze on myself in 2HG?

A: Yup, anything that gives a player an extra step or phase, or skips a step or phase, will do that for the entire team.

Q: Shouldn't Merieke Ri Berit say "You may choose not to untap Merieke Ri Berit during your untap step"?

A: Why should it say that? The designers didn't want you to untap it every turn and go on a killing spree, so you don't even get to chose; it just stays tapped.

Until you break out Twiddle on a stick.

By the way, did anyone notice that Twiddle is FINALLY fixed? Did anyone notice that Twiddle didn't work consistently before?

Q: Can I sacrifice a land to remove the last time counter from Greater Gargadon during my opponent's declare attacker step, or will he not get played until my next upkeep?

A: As soon as the last time counter slips off the Gargadon, the suspend ability will trigger to let you play him. It doesn't matter if you can't usually play creatures then – you get a creature!

Wow, I'm already out of space, and there are still 10 questions that need to be answered. We'll come back to those later – gotta leave something for our new writer to work with, and that number of questions is decidedly apt.

So who is this mystery figure?

Tune in next week to see!

In the meantime, enjoy suspense, suspend, and other things starting with sus!

-Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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