Cranial Insertion: All That Glitters



Cranial Insertion
All That Glitters
By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Tom Fowler
Edited by:

Welcome, ladies and germs, to yet another stellar edition of the most stupendous rules column on the internet. It's the 50th edition, in fact, but we'll chat more about that at the end. We’ve looked at the mechanics of all three of the Guildpact guilds, we’ve looked in-depth at the sometimes-complicated process of declaring legal attacks and blocks, and we’ve covered some more tournament-related questions. That means that, this week, we’ll be covering . . . uh, rules stuff. A little of this, a little of that, and I promise you’ll even learn something when it’s all said and done.

As always, send your rules questions to us at [email][email protected][/email]. We have a few folks who email us pretty regularly already. What’s keeping the rest of you? We’ll answer your question and might even use it in a future edition of this column. The only easier way to get your name in lights is to date Brad Pitt!

Let’s get rolling with the questions.


Q: MTGO handled differently than I think it would. Is that a bug?

A: Maybe. There are two reasons why MTGO might be handling something incorrectly. The first is that it’s an actual bug. Magic Online has a reputation for being buggy, which is, in my opinion, undeserved. The Leaping Lizards days are long over, and bugs are much rarer now that WOTC has competent programmers in-house. Most bugs are squished with giant WOTC flyswatters during the beta periods before new sets are released. The occasional bug does still slip through, however, and bugs should be reported via Bugzilla so that they can be found and fixed.

The second reason that MTGO may handle something differently than expected is because of limitations in the version 2.0 code. A lot of improvements have been made to the code over the years, but it still can’t do everything that can be done with paper cards. The upcoming 3.0 interface is built completely from scratch and should be free of these limitations.

Because I go the extra mile for my readers, I broke into the WOTC offices to try and find the answer in their Super Secret Vault of Super Secret Things. It was only after disabling the guards with my mad ninja skills that I realized I had broken into the Lizards of the Coast building. Rife with embarrassment, I returned home and contacted an MTGO programmer to tell me what the program can't do, but he hasn't cleared dispensing that information with the higher-ups at the time this goes to press. Believe me when I say that there are some things the current MTGO interface will not do, and they are not bugs. I know one of them, and I think I know a second, but since the programmer apparently needs authorization to release that information, I'll respect that and keep quiet. Version 3.0 should eliminate all this hush-hushery, of course.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that you don’t know the situation as well as you might think. To make sure everything is on the up-and-up with your understanding, drop us a line at the email address above.


Q: I have some artistic modifications on my cards. Can I still play with them in a tournament?

A: It depends. First of all, I’m going to be operating under the presumption that the modifications aren’t inappropriate for tournament play (meaning they don’t contain curse words, pictures of hot, sexy, lustful naked or scantily-clad women, etc.). If they are, then you’re much better off leaving them at home.

Let’s take a look at this entry from the Universal Tournament Rules:

28. Taking Notes
Players are allowed to take brief written notes regarding the current match and may refer to those notes while this match is in progress. Players are expected to take their notes in a timely fashion. Players who take too much time will be subject to the appropriate provisions of the DCI Penalty Guidelines.

. . .

Cards used in a tournament may not have writing on their faces other than signatures or artistic modifications. Modifications may not obscure the artwork so as to make the card unrecognizable. If modifications to a card are deemed by the head judge to constitute outside notes or unsporting contact, the owner of the deck are subject to the appropriate provisions of the DCI Penalty Guidelines.


There are two key points to glean from that:

1. The card must still be recognizable by its art. It’s OK to alter the art, as long as those alterations leave it recognizable. The alterations also should not be anything like stickers, which can alter the thickness and pliability of cards.

2. There cannot be anything on the cards which could constitute outside notes. This means you shouldn’t make marks on your sideboard cards to indicate that they are, in fact, in your sideboard. (It’s legal to have a copy of your decklist with you so you know how to desideboard, but you obviously can’t refer to it during a match.)

2a. The modifications cannot be considered unsporting conduct. This means nothing obscene, no nudies, and no hate speech.

Here is an example of a modified card that, in my opinion, is perfectly fine for tourney play. The image was originally posted in the Rulings forum by Salvation member MasterBeeble.



The cards are still recognizible by their artwork, and the name of the card can clearly still be read. For a more awesome example of artistic modifications, check out this thread for the Star Wars Diabolic Edicts.

If you’re at all unsure about whether an artistic modification is legal in the tournament, show the card(s) to the head judge before the event begins.


Q: I have Miren, The Moaning Well and Yosei, The Morning Star, with a +1/+1 counter on it and a +3/+3 from Giant Growth. Then Yosei takes 5 damage from something. If I want to sacrifice it with Miren, how much life will I gain?

A: You gain life equal to the last-known value of the creature’s toughness. In this case, Yosei’s toughness was 9, so you will gain 9 life. The amount of damage Yosei had taken does not matter, since damage does not reduce toughness.

Bonus: A resolved Last Gasp, or similar spell or ability, will reduce a creature’s toughness and cause you to gain less life from activating Miren.


Q: I have a Searing Meditation in play. My opponent enchants it with Faith’s Fetters. Does this affect the Meditation at all?

A: Well, it makes it faithful. And, uh, fettered. But apart from that, it doesn’t accomplish much. Searing Meditation has a triggered ability, which Faith’s Fetters doesn’t do anything about. You can still pay (1) when the triggered ability resolves and do something Shocking.


Q: Can a Royal Assassin tap to destroy himself?

A: Those assassins are notoriously careful with their poisons, and the Royal Assassin is immune to his own blade (perhaps he’s spent the years building up an immunity to iocane powder?). Targets must be declared before costs are paid, so you must choose a tapped creature before paying the cost (tapping the Assassin). Since the Assassin will be untapped when targets are chosen, he can’t stick his knife into his own back.



No sixth turn for you!
Q: If we’re in the five extra turns of a tournament game, and my opponent plays Time Walk (or any spell that gives him another turn), does this add another turn to the five we normally have?

A: No. The five extra turns remain five extra turns. It does not matter who takes them. Normally, one player gets three of the turns, and the other one gets two, but things like Time Walk can change that.

Let’s say the progression would normally be like this:

T1: Me
T2: You
T3: Me
T4: You
T5: Me

On the first extra turn, I play Time Walk. Now, the progression goes:

T1: Me
T2: Me (Time Walk turn)
T3: You
T4: Me
T5: You

So there’s a still a 3-and-2 structure, but extra-turn effects (as long as only one is played) just change the sequence in which those numbers fall.

Bonus (OMG Strategy!):It’s of more benefit to you to play something like Time Walk when you’re the player with two of the five turns. It changes the progression from You-Me-You-Me-You to You-Me-Me-You-Me. In that case, it actually gives you another turn instead of just shuffling the order.


Q: I have a creature with Provoke. If I attack with it and provoke one of my opponent’s creatures, can he tap the creature so that it can’t block?

A: Presuming he’s tapping it as part of paying for some activated ability, sure. He can’t just tap the creature for no reason to avoid provoke. Here’s the relevant text of provoke:

502.29a Provoke is a triggered ability. "Provoke" means "Whenever this creature attacks, you may choose to have target creature defending player controls block this creature this combat if able. If you do, untap that creature."


The key words there are “if able.” Because provoke is a triggered ability, your opponent let it resolve and then tap the targeted creature as part of paying the cost of an ability. Thus, Llanowar Elves can tap for G and avoid the sharp, pointy claws of a Krosan Vorine.


Q: My opponent plays Electrolyze, choosing to divide the 2 damage between me and my Sakura-Tribe Elder. If I sacrifice the Elder in response, does he still draw the card?

A: Ah, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Great Fizzler of spells and abilities. In this case, however, even the mighty Elder will not prevent your opponent from drawing a card with Electrolyze. The reason is that Electrolyze has either one or two targets when it is played. A spell is only countered upon resolution if all of its targets are invalid when it tries to resolve. In this case, you are still a legal target for 1 damage from the Electrolyze, so you’ll take 1 and your opponent will draw a card.

Bonus: If your opponent targeted your Elder and your Frostling, and you were able to sacrifice both in response, then Electrolyze would be countered upon resolution and your opponent would not draw the card.


Q: If I play Academy Researchers and I use Quickchange to turn it Green, can I enchant it with Wurmweaver Coil when the Researchers’ ability resolves?

A: As long as you respond to the Researchers’ trigger by playing Quickchange, yes. The Researchers will be Green when their triggered ability resolves, and that will mean you can legally attach Wurmweaver Coil to them. Researchers are flighty folk, though, so they won’t remain Green for long – remember that Quickchange’s effect only lasts until end of turn.


Q: I just started playing and I don’t know how many cards to put in a deck. I’ve heard 40 and I’ve heard 60. Which is right?

A: It depends on what you’re playing. Constructed formats (where you bring your own deck) have different deck construction rules than Limited events (where you build a deck using a provided cardpool).

121. Deck-Size Limits
Constructed decks must contain a minimum of sixty cards. There is no maximum deck size; however, you must be able to shuffle your deck with no assistance. If a player wishes to use a sideboard, it must contain exactly fifteen cards.

With the exception of basic lands (Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and Forest [including snow-covered variants]), a player's combined deck and sideboard may not contain more than four of any individual card, counted by its English card title equivalent. (Note that snow-covered lands are permitted only in formats that allow the Ice Age set to be used.)


And for Limited:

131. Deck-Size Limits
Main decks must contain a minimum of forty cards. There is no maximum deck size. All cards a player received but is not using in his or her main deck become that player's sideboard.

Players are not restricted to four of any one card in Limited tournament play


While neither Constructed nor Limited have a maximum deck size, there is no good reason in my opinion to exceed 60 (or 40) cards in your deck.


Q: So why do the 9th Edition precons only come with 40 cards?

A: They’re just designed to get you started and help you learn to play. Remember that base sets like 9th Edition are Advanced Level sets, meaning they’re appropriate for new or inexperienced players. Black-bordered expansion sets are Expert Level, so they have more complex cards, and theme decks which are 60 cards out of the box. If you’re looking to play with a theme deck, I would suggest getting one of the Ravnica or Guildpact ones which suit your tastes as a player.


Q: What happens if I give a creature with double strike first strike? What if I give it first strike twice?

A: Then it strikes with blinding swiftness in combat, and someone will make a movie about it, whose title will be amusing in later years, like “Zorro, the Gay Blade.”

The reality is that it accomplishes absolutely nothing. Multiple instances of first strike and double strike are redundant.

On a semi-related note, attacking with a creature that has quadruple strike would be awesome.



The balance must be maintained.
Q: I have Equilibrium in play. If I play Gilded Drake, can I pay 1, return the Drake to my hand, and “steal” the creature I’d be exchanging the Drake for?

A: This doesn't work, and there are two reasons why.

First, Equilibrium triggers when the creature spell is announced. Its ability goes onto the stack above the creature spell you’re playing. Because of this, it will always resolve before the creature spell. So you’ll never be able to return the creature you’re playing with Equilibrium.

Second, Gilded Drake’s ability creates an exchange. For an exchange to happen, you must both give up and receive something. If you don’t give up the Drake, you can’t get the other creature.


Q: I showed up late for a sealed deck event. Frown When I got there, deck registration was already going on, and the judge wouldn't let me register late. Should he have?

A: Well, nothing forces him to, but there’s certainly no harm in allowing a late player to enroll during sealed deck registration. What you as the late player need to know is that the tournament waits for no one, and you’ll be receiving no extra time to register your deck. If 30 minutes were given for deck reg, and you stroll in 16 minutes late, then I hope you can build and register a deck in 14 minutes, because that’s all the time you have. You’re only hurting yourself by showing up late, which is why I don’t think it’s a problem to allow late players to enroll. Late enrollment in a booster draft event, however, would be pretty much impossible. And saying, “here, build a deck out of these three booster packs,” would force you to play a rubbish deck.


Before I bid you all adieu, I’d just like to point out that this is the 50th Cranial Insertion column we have done for MTGSalvation. Yay for golden anniversaries. Magic writers (and their columns) come and go, but CI has been on the site every Monday for the last 50 consecutive weeks. That doesn’t exactly make us the Cal Ripken of rules columns, but I think it’s pretty dashed impressive nonetheless, considering this site and all its content are 100% free.

This column obviously couldn't exist without the people who write it; more importantly, however, it couldn't exist without the people who read it every week. We couldn't have made it to our golden anniversary column without you, the readers. So our hats (a fedora for me, a top hat for Eli, and some tasteful European hat for Thijs) are off to you for clicking on the link every Monday. Double props to those of you who leave feedback and send us your questions. If you have any suggestions for improving this column, leave them here or shoot us an email at [email][email protected][/email].

Next week: Tournaments may attack, but what happens when DCI Reporter fights back?

-Tom Fowler

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