Cranial Insertion: Bureaucracy is Best

Cranial Insertion
Bureaucracy Is Best

By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Tom Fowler

WHEREAS, it has been resolved that this entertaining, informative column (hereafter “Cranial Insertion”) dedicated to explaining the rules and intricacies of Magic: the Gathering trading card game (hereafter “Magic”) to an audience of thousands (hereafter “the readers”) connected via personal computers using Internet Protocol technology (hereafter “the Web”), has been granted full and unrestricted access to the inner workings of the Azorius Senate, pursuant to Article MCMVIII, Section MMMXIII, Subsection XVIII, Proviso MCXVI, Stipulation III, Paragraph IV, adopted in Year MMDMXVI of the Guildpact, of the Grand Code of Laws, Order, and Rules adopted concurrently with the signing of the Guildpact Charter in accordance to Chapter VII.

Translation: CI is all about the Azorius Senate this week. It’s like C-Span, but without having to suffer through people like Ted Kennedy.

As always, you can send your rules questions to us at [email][email protected][/email]. We’ll answer your question, and may even use it in a future edition of CI. The only easier way to get your name in lights is to get voted off American Idol!

Random observation: I always want to spell “Azorius” as “Azorious.” It just looks more correct to me. I’m not sure why, really – mine is the country that eschews spellings like “honour,” after all, and I’m fine with that. Maybe the added U looks more proper and . . . bureaucratic? Anyway, before the bureaucrats come back in and start talking in legalese, let’s get started.

The next case... is about me?
Q: Can you explain how the cost reductions and increasers of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV work?

A: When you play a spell, the last step of that process is to calculate and pay the cost(s). To determine how much the spell will cost, do the following:

1. Start with the printed mana cost (or flashback cost, if you’re flashing back the spell).
2. Add all cost increasers.
3. Subtract all cost reductions.
4. This is what the spell costs to play. Pay up.

For your White and/or Blue spells, Augustin’s ability will apply in step 3 of this process. For your opponent’s spells, it will apply in step 2.

Q: So how much does Absorb cost me to play if I control Augustin?

A: It still costs WUU. Augustin only reduces generic mana costs. Whatever white mana and/or blue mana you have to pay is not affected.

Q: OK, so I play Iridescent Angel. How much does that cost?

A: Let’s go through the process. We start with the base mana cost, which is 5WU. Next, add all cost increasers. We’ll presume there are none here, so we’re still looking at 5WU. Next, subtract all cost reductions. Augustin reduces the cost of White spells and Blue spells by :1mana:. Since the Angel spell is both White and Blue, you apply both of Augustin’s abilities, which will reduce the cost by :2mana:. Now the cost of the Angel is 3WU. This is the final cost that you’ll have to pay.

Q: What about X spells?

A: For X spells, you’ve already declared the value of X by the time you get around to paying the cost, so you know what the base mana cost is. For Overrule with X = 5, the base mana cost is 5WU. After you apply Augustin’s cost-reducing abilities, you’ll end up paying 3WU.

Q: If I somehow manage to get two Augustins in play, are their reductions cumulative?

A: Yes. If you manage to get two of the Grand Arbiter in play, your White spells and your Blue spells will each cost 2 mana less. (Yes, this means your spells which are both White and Blue will cost 4 mana less.) Also, your opponent’s spells will cost 2 mana more to play. That might be better arbitration than some baseball players get.

Q: So Augustin makes my opponent pay 1G for his Llanowar Elves. Can I now counter them with Spell Snare?

A: No. While Augustin changes the cost that you and your opponent will pay to play your spells, the mana cost of the spell never changes. Llanowar Elves, regardless of how much you have to pay to play it, still has a mana cost of :symg:. Spell Snare will never be able to target it.

Q: If I deal damage to my opponent with Isperia the Inscrutable, can I name “Ace of Spades” as the card?

A: Only if you bang your head and sing Motorhead in your best gravelly voice. “The only card I need is the ace of spades, the ace of spades!” If you can’t sing like Lemmy, though, you’re probably better off naming a real Magic card (which is what you have to do – sorry to all you aspiring rockers out there). If you don’t know the name of the card, you can uniquely describe it and get the name from a judge.

Bonus: “Uniquely describe” means exactly that – you have to describe the card in such a way that there can only be one card that fits your description. “The White and Green enchantment from Ravnica” could describe several things. “The White and Green enchantment from Ravnica that costs 4 mana and lets you tap your creatures to tap other creatures and artifacts” can only be Glare of Subdual.

Q: Does Swift Silence counter all the storm copies made by a card with storm?

A: As long as you play it correctly, yes. When a spell with storm is played, the storm triggered ability goes onto the stack. When that ability resolves, it creates copies of the storm spell, one for each spell played in the turn, and those copies go onto the stack. Once that has happened, a single Swift Silence will counter them all. If you were to play Swift Silence before the storm trigger resolved, you would counter only the original spell.

Bonus: Swift Silence also counters all replicate copies of a spell, and the original, in much the same way.

And now, for some questions about everyone’s favorite would-be win condition . . .

Tippi Hedren's least favorite card

Q: If I somehow managed to get two Dovescapes in play, would I get twice the tokens for each noncreature spell played?

A: Yes. Each Dovescape will trigger when you play a noncreature spell. When the triggered abilities resolve, since neither is contingent on the spell actually being countered to give you the tokens, you’ll get the appropriate number of bird tokens from each. Note, of course, that this works for noncreature spells your opponent plays, also.

Q: If Dovescape has triggered on a spell I played, can I play Voidslime and counter the trigger?

A: You can play Voidslime, but I’d only recommend it if you really want three more tokens. Dovescape will counter all noncreature spells which are played, which includes a Voidslime that tries to counter its triggered ability. If you want to counter the ability, you’ll have to use another ability to do it, or find a way to get Voidslime (or a copy of it) onto the stack without playing it.

Q: How do Dovescape and Eye of the Storm interact?

A: The answer, essentially, is, "it depends." In this case, it depends which ability resolves first.

First, noncreature spells that are not instants or sorceries will be completely ignored by Eye of the Storm, so we can rule those out right off.

Presuming you control both enchantments, both abilities will trigger when you play an instant or sorcery spell. If you choose to resolve Dovescape first, this is what will happen:

1. Dovescape will counter the spell and give you [n] bird tokens.
2. Eye of the Storm will fail to remove the spell card from the game, since it’s already been countered (and thus, removed from the stack) by Dovescape. However, you'll still be able to play copies of anything already removed by it.
3. If you do, those copies (since they're played) will be countered by Dovescape, and you'll get [n] birds for each one that gets countered.

If you choose to resolve Eye of the Storm first:

1. Eye will remove the instant or sorcery from the game (it doesn't resolve -- it gets yanked right off the stack). Then you'll be able to play copies of anything already removed by Eye.
2. Dovescape will still give you bird tokens for the initial spell removed by Eye. This is because, as we’ve already seen, the token-making ability is not contingent on Dovescape actually countering the spell, and DS will use last-known information to determine the number of tokens.
3. Dovscape will trigger for each of the copies you chose to play in step 1, and will give you [n] birds for each.

If your opponent controls both enchantments, he'll be able to stack the triggered abilities in the order he chooses whenever either of you play an instant or sorcery spell. The results will be the same as described above, depending on which resolves first.

If you control one enchantment and your opponent controls the other (it doesn't really matter which), then the abilities will stack in active player, nonactive player (APNAP) order. The nonactive player's ability will resolve first. Use the answers above, depending on which resolves first.

Q: What about Dovescape and split cards?

A: You’ll get bird tokens equal to the CMC of the half of the card you’re playing. While a split card is on the stack, the half that’s not being played is treated as if it simply didn’t exist.

Quote from CompRules »
505.2. In every zone except the stack, split cards have two sets of characteristics. As long as a split card is a spell on the stack, only the characteristics of the half being played exist. The other half’s characteristics are treated as though they didn’t exist.

Q: Does Dovescape counter the epic copies of Enduring Ideal?

A: No, and the reason is because those copies are not being played. The epic ability triggers at the beginning of your upkeep. It simply creates a copy of Enduring Ideal and puts it onto the stack. The copy is not being played, so Dovescape will blithely ignore it.

Next set: Gluttony of the Clouds
Q: I have four flying creatures in play, a 4/4 Pride of the Clouds and three Mistral Chargers. My opponent plays Pyroclasm. Does my Pride die?

A: It will, but not at the same time as the rest of your flying squad. When Pyroclasm resolves, it deals 2 damage to each creature, then goes to the graveyard. State-based effects see three lethally-damaged 2/1s and destroy them. Stare-based effects check again and see your now-1/1 Pride of the Clouds with 2 damage on it. It’s bound for the grave.

Q: If I return lands to my hand to pay for Meloku the Clouded Mirror’s ability, can I also pay 1 mana to draw a card with Azorius AEthermage?

A: Yes, this is legal. The ability of Azorius AEthermage will trigger whenever a permanent is returned to your hand, regardless of how it got back there. When that triggered ability resolves, you have the option to pay 1 mana and draw a card. Essentially, this means you can pay :2mana:, bounce a land, get a 1/1 flying Illusion token, and draw a card.

Q: If I put a Court Hussar into play thru some means other than playing it, is there any way I can spend white mana to keep it from being sacrificed?

A: No, there isn’t. The only way you get to pay white mana for the Hussar is to play it the normal way. Since you can’t pay the white mana any other way, the Hussar will be sacrificed.

Bonus: You’ll still get to use the other comes-into-play ability.

WHEREAS, Cranial Insertion has now drawn to a close for this seven-day calendar period, and the full and unrestricted access to the Azorius Senate granted to the authors is hereby ended, pursuant to Aribtration 4587, issued by his Excellence Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, in the Senate Chamber –

Enough of that. The Azorius article is complete, as is our in-depth look at the three guilds of Guildpact. Next week, it’s back to a grab bag of rules questions and general highjinks. Do your part to contribute to the merriment by sending your questions to [email][email protected][/email].

-Tom Fowler


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