Cranial Insertion: From the Frozen Tundra

Cranial Insertion
From the Frozen Tundra

By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Tom Fowler

Welcome to this week’s Cranial Insertion, from the frozen tundra of Dominaria. No, we’re not at Lambeau Field – we’re talking about the Coldsnap Prerelease, which took place this past weekend. If you played in it, then I hope you had a good time. If you missed it, then keep an eye out for the Coldsnap Release events, scheduled for the weekend of July 22nd. This week, we’ll cover some Coldsnap questions, and also some questions about tournaments in general, since this is a Prerelease weekend. Some of the questions used in this column came from the floor of the Coldsnap Prerelease.

Want us to cover your questions? Then give us a blanket! (OK, that was pretty bad.) Or, you could send the question to [email][email protected][/email]. We’ll give you a fairly prompt answer, and might use your question in a future edition of CI. The only easier way to get your name in lights is to be a walking Chia Pet with a love of launching missiles!

(Note that some card images and/or card tags may not work properly until Gatherer or is updated with Coldsnap cards.)

On with the snow . . . er, show.

Q: With the unusual release date of Coldsnap, when does it become tournament legal?

Coldsnap will become legal for Constructed play on August 20th. The official release date of the set is July 21st, and you’ll start seeing sanctioned Limited events after that time.

Q: What do I do with this deck registration sheet?

A: Filling it out is a smashing idea. Exactly how depends on the type of event you’re playing in.

For Constructed events, you’ll want to sort your deck by its individual cards. Then record them on the deck registration sheet. Make sure you use English numerals, not tally marks, and the full English name of the card. Your maindeck must be at least 60 cards, and your sideboard must be either 15 or 0. Make sure your name and DCI number are on the sheet at the top; the rest of the information up there isn't really that important, but if you're a completist, go right ahead and fill it out.

For Limited events, you’ll get a registration sheet that has all the cards listed on it already. It may be two-sided if more than one set is being used, so make sure you look at the front and the back. Write your name and DCI number in the field marked “Player registering deck.” The event might do a deck swap, which means you would probably not be playing with the product you opened. After that, you want to record your cardpool. There are two columns for each card: “Played” and “Total.” All of your numbers (numerals again, not tally marks) should go into the “Total” column. Sort the cards by color and by letter as best you can. If the event is doing a deck swap, the product will be collected and passed back out at random.

Once you have the product you’ll be playing with, you want to verify that the list you have is accurate. Be sure to check it carefully. Once you’ve finished checking it, report any mistakes to a judge and have the list corrected. Put your name and DCI number in the field marked “Player using deck.” Then you’ll need to build your deck. It must be a minimum of 40 cards, including basic lands; everything not in your maindeck is part of your sideboard. Mark the cards you’re playing on the sheet by putting the appropriate numbers in the “Played” column. Don’t forget to record the number of basic lands you’ll be playing.

Once that’s done, you’re ready to play.

Q: How come I’m not getting an Ice Age tournament pack at this Prerelease?

A: Two reasons. First, Ice Age had no tournament packs. Back then, they were called “starter decks” and contained 60 cards, not 75. The other reason is supply and demand. The number of Ice Age starters is small, and they would cost more than a modern tournament pack because of this. Some tournament organizers are offering individual flights with Ice Age and Alliances (for sealed and draft) for their Prerelease and Release events, but this will vary by TO.

Now available in a 6-pack for extra suck!
Q: So I got five of the same common out of my five Coldsnap boosters. Can I play all of them?

A: Yup. In Constructed, this would be problem, but in Limited, you’re not bound by the four-of restriction. With the exception of ante cards (and there is one in Ice Age, if you have an event that uses Ice Age product), you can play with whatever you have. If you get five of a card because the sealed pool is five boosters, fee free to play them all. If you drafted six copies of Zephyr Spirit in your RGD draft, and you really want to play them for some reason, go right ahead.

Bonus: The writers take no responsibility for the quality of your deck if you play six copies of Zephyr Spirit.

Q: What’s “snow mana?”

A: It’s what happens when you tap your lands in a blizzard. Also, it’s mana generated from a snow permanent. Snow-covered lands will produce snow mana. Boreal Druid produces 1 mana when you tap it, but that mana is snow mana. “Snow” isn’t a type of mana, just a description. You can’t add S to your mana pool, and no permanents have S in their mana costs, only in the costs of their activated abilities.

Bonus: “Snow” is a supertype, which you may remember as being “Snow-Covered.” There are still lands which have “Snow-Covered” in their names, but Snow is the supertype they have now. Snow-Covered lands have become Basic Snow Lands, which means you can put more than four of any of them in your Constructed decks. Other permanents also have the supertype Snow, but there are no special rules associated with this.

Q: So does that mean Thermopod’s ability produces snow mana?

A: Yes. It has the ability: “Sacrifice a creature: Add R to your mana pool.” Because Thermopod is a snow creature, the mana generated by its ability will be snow mana. It doesn’t matter if the sacrificed creature was a snow creature or not.

Q: Why does Stalking Yeti’s ability say, “if it’s in play?”

A: This way, the ability will do nothing if the Yeti is not in play when it resolves. The ability triggers when the Yeti comes into play (note that you must pick the target for the ability at this time, when it goes onto the stack). At that point, both players may play spells and abilities in response to the Yeti’s triggered ability. If the Yeti is still in play when its ability resolves, then it and the targeted creature will engage in the gentlemanly art of fisticuffs. If the Yeti is not in play when the ability resolves, nothing happens. (This is also true if the targeted creature is not in play when the Yeti’s ability resolves.)

Note the intervening "if."
Bonus: When a triggered ability is worded in the format, “When/Whenever/At . . . , if [condition], [effect],” that is called the “intervening if” clause. Standard players will recognize this format on Ebony Owl Netsuke. What the “intervening if” clause means is that the trigger condition must be true both when the ability would go onto the stack and when it would resolve. If it is not true at either of those times, the ability does nothing. See also Oversold Cemetery.

Q: My opponent attacks with a 1/1 and plays Resize on it before damage. In response to the Resize, I kill his attacking creature. Does the recover ability on Resize trigger?

A: It doesn't. Let’s look at the rules for recover:

502.55a Recover is a triggered ability that functions only while the card with recover is in a player's graveyard. "Recover [cost]" means "When a creature is put into your graveyard from play, you may pay [cost]. If you do, return this card from your graveyard to your hand. Otherwise, remove this card from the game."

The important words up there are “while the card with recover is in a player’s graveyard.” In order for recover to trigger, the card must be in the graveyard. In this case. Resize is still on the stack, and it will still be on the stack when the erstwhile attacking 1/1 is put into the graveyard. Recover will not trigger.

Q: If my Karplusan Wolverine is blocked by my opponent’s Surging Sentinels, can I use its ability to kill the Sentinels before they would deal first strike damage?

A: Yes. The Wolverine’s ability triggers whenever it becomes blocked, bub. What this means is that it triggers once the Sentinels have been declared as a blocker. Because this is still inside the declare blockers step, the Sentinels haven’t come close to dealing any damage yet. They’ll take 1 damage and (barring any responses) die long before they would get to deal their first strike damage.

Q: If my Kjeldoran Javelineer is killed in response to my activating its ability, what happens?

A: It will still deal the appropriate amount of damage to the target creature. Once the ability is on the stack, it is independent of its source. However, the game needs to know something about that source – in this case, the number of age counters that were on it. When this happens, the game will use the object’s last known information to determine the number of age counters that were on it just before it left play. This is how the Comp Rules Glossary defines Last Known Information, or LKI:

Last Known Information
The last known information about an object is the information that it had just before it left the zone it was in. Effects from resolving spells and abilities use last known information if the object they require information from isn’t in the zone it’s expected to be in (unless the effect divides damage).

Q: Does Gelid Shackles counter mana abilities?

A: No, but it does stop them if they’re activated mana abilities. A mana ability doesn’t use the stack, and thus can’t be countered. However, an activated ability that produces mana, like that of Boreal Druid, can be shut down by Gelid Shackles.

Q: What happens if Rimescale Dragon, after putting ice counters on a few creatures, leaves play? What if it later returns to play?

A: Rimescale Dragon has a static ability that prevents creatures with ice counters on them from untapping. This ability will only work while Rimescale Dragon is in play. If it leaves play, creatures with ice counters on them may untap as normal. Note that the ice counters are not removed, since there is no instruction on the Dragon to remove the ice counters when it leaves play.

If Rimescale Dragon later returns to play, creatures with ice counters on them will not untap during their controllers’ untap steps.

Bonus: Rimescale Dragon will prevent any creature with an ice counter on it from untapping, regardless of how that creature got an ice counter.

Q: My opponent said I had to choose my targets for Karplusan Minotaur’s abilities before I flipped the coins. Was this correct?

A: No, it wasn’t. It’s true that you choose the target(s) for an ability when you put it onto the stack, which is probably what your opponent was thinking of. Karplusan Minotaur, however, has cumulative upkeep. When the cumulative upkeep trigger resolves, you’ll flip some number of coins. Based on the results of those flips, the Minotaur’s other abilities will trigger, and you’ll put them onto the stack in whatever order you want.

Peep this, from the Coldsnap FAQ:
When Karplusan Minotaur's cumulative upkeep ability resolves, you either flip a number of coins equal to the number of age counters on it, or you sacrifice it. Once you start to flip, you can't stop; you must continue until all flips are made. If you flip, you call heads or tails for each flip. Each time you're right, the Minotaur's second ability triggers. Each time you're wrong, the Minotaur's third ability triggers. The triggers wait until after you're done flipping, then they all go on the stack in whatever order you choose. Each may have a different target.

Q: All right . . . what the devil is cumulative upkeep?

A: It’s an ability that will trigger at the beginning of each of your upkeep steps. When the ability resolves, you’ll put an age counter on the permanent, then choose either to pay its cumulative upkeep cost for each age counter or sacrifice it. If something has cumulative upkeep R, it will cost you R, then RR, then RRR, etc. You always have the option not to pay cumulative upkeep, but once you’ve started paying, you can’t stop in midstream.

Here’s some more explanation, from the Coldsnap FAQ:
502.13a Cumulative upkeep is a triggered ability that imposes an increasing cost on a permanent. "Cumulative upkeep [cost]" means "At the beginning of your upkeep, put an age counter on this permanent, then sacrifice this permanent unless you pay [cost] for each age counter on it." If [cost] has choices associated with it, each choice is made separately for each age counter, then either the entire set of costs is paid, or none of them are paid. Partial payments are not allowed.

Example: A creature has "Cumulative upkeep {W} or {U}" and two age counters on it. When its ability next triggers and resolves, the creature's controller puts an age counter on it and may then pay {W}{W}{W}, {W}{W}{U}, {W}{U}{U}, or {U}{U}{U} to keep the creature in play.

502.13b If a permanent has multiple instances of cumulative upkeep, each triggers separately. However, the age counters are not linked to any particular ability; each cumulative upkeep ability will count the total number of age counters on the permanent at the time that ability resolves.

Example: A creature has two instances of "Cumulative upkeep--Pay 1 life." The creature currently has no counters but both cumulative upkeep abilities trigger. When the first ability resolves, the controller adds a counter and then chooses to pay 1 life. When the second ability resolves, the controller adds another counter and then chooses to pay an additional 2 life.

Q: What I have a permanent with cumulative upkeep and another with an “at the beginning of your upkeep” trigger?

A: Then, since you control both triggers, you can put them onto the stack in any order you choose.

Q: What happens if my upkeep step is skipped for some reason?

A: Then cumulative upkeep will never trigger, meaning the permanent won’t get an age counter for that turn, and you won’t have the choice to pay the cost or sacrifice it.

Ooooh, I help reduce cumulative upkeep!
Won't someone play me now!? Frown
Q: How does Chisei, Heart of Oceans, interact with cumulative upkeep?

A: It depends on how you stack the upkeep triggers. If Chisei’s trigger resolves first, you’ll have to remove a counter from a permanent you control or sacrifice it. If a permanent you control has an age counter on it already, you may remove that age counter to satisfy Chisei’s hunger. If you’re still waiting for a permanent to get its first age counter, and you have no other counters to remove, then Chisei will search for food in your graveyard.

If you resolve cumulative upkeep first, then you’ll put an age counter on the permanent(s), then choose either to pay the upkeep costs or sacrifice them. Let’s say you have one permanent with cumulative upkeep, and you just put the first age counter on it. You choose to pay the cost. Now Chisei’s ability resolves and he munches on the age counter. Next turn, you do the same thing. The best you can do is have to put one age counter on the permanent and pay one instance of its cumulative upkeep cost.

That’s all for this week’s installment of Cranial Insertion. Come back next week, when we spend some more time shivering with Coldsnap. At the end of this month, we'll be bringing you questions from the floor of US Nationals, running the gamut from triple Coldsnap draft to Extended.

A final note before we depart: WOTC announced this weekend that several cards which received "power level" errata are being reverted back to their original wordings and/or intents. This list of cards includes Intuition, Palinchron, Basalt Monolith, Treachery, Cloud of Faeries, and others. Scott Johns talks more about it in an column you can read here, and Aaron Forsythe will have more to say this coming Friday.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled sign-off.

-Tom Fowler


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