Cranial Insertion: The Firemind Speaks!



Cranial Insertion
The Firemind Speaks!

By Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, Parun of the Izzet, Pyrosaurus Rex, Inventor of Magic, The Great Burninator etc.
(and some other guys)


Today we have a very special installment of Cranial Insertion, because we have a very special guest in the studio: Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind!

Gandalf: Niv-Mizzet, it's a real honor to have you with us today.

Niv-Mizzet: I know. I don't do this for just any column, of course.

Q: Do Magemarks stack?

Gandalf: Yes, they...

Niv-Mizzet: Hey, he said stack. He's supposed to say cumulative.

Gandalf: Yeah, it might be better to avoid the word "stack" except when talking about the zone. As I was saying, the Magemarks are cumulative: If you control two Infiltrator's Magemarks, then each creature you control with at least one enchantment on it gets +2/+2 and hard-to-blockability. However, each Magemark can give out its bonus only once to each creature, no matter how many Auras are on it.

Niv-Mizzet: My name looks really bad in black like this. It should be in bright red and blue.

Gandalf: I suppose that can be arranged...

Niv-Mizzet: That's better. Here's another question I liked:

Q: If I control Wee Dragonauts and play Gigadrowse with 4 replications, does that give the Dragonauts +10/+0?

Niv-Mizzet: Nope. The Dragonauts care about spells being played, but replicate's rules text doesn't use the verb play. It just causes some copies to pop into existence.

Gandalf: That question seems to come up a lot lately.

Niv-Mizzet: I just love a good bit of replication. And those Faeries found a pretty inventive way to convert magical energy into electric energy. Not bad at all, for such small folks. But let's see if there are any other questions.

Q: How much damage do I deal to my opponent if he casts Savage Twister with X=4 and I respond with Parallectric Feedback?

Niv-Mizzet: Nah, that question is boring. How about this one:

Q: I have Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, Tibor and Lumia and Gelectrode in play and Electrolyze in my hand. How many Grizzly Bears can I kill without using any other cards?

Niv-Mizzet: The most intelligent course of action in this situation is to play Electrolyze targeting two different Bears. Playing that spell triggers Gelectrode and both of Tibor and Lumia's abilities, which you get to put on the stack in any order you like. As long as you stack Gelectrode's untap trigger above Tibor and Lumia's Tremor trigger you'll get the optimal damage quota, so you won't have to worry about giving anything flying. Sometime before Gelectrode's trigger resolves, you'll want to activate it to deal 1 damage to a third Bear, and then the fourth after the Gelectrode untaps. In the meanwhile, the Tremor-trigger will make sure all those Grizzlies actually die. Finally, the card you draw from Electrolyze when it resolves, combined with the one you get for tapping me will cause me to trigger twice and kill Bears five and six.

If one of those cards you draw is a Red spell, you can even kill arbitrarily large numbers of Grizzly Bears!

Q: Can I block an incoming Silhana Ledgewalker with my Stratozeppelid?

Gandalf: There are two abilities at work to affect what blocking assignments are legal. The Ledgewalker's ability says that creatures without flying can't block it. Stratozeppelid has flying, so that's not a problem.

Niv-Mizzet: I actually called that creature Stratomizzlepid when I coughed it up. That must've gotten lost somewhere before the card was printed. Oh well, anyone can tell who invented it, anyway.

Gandalf: Then there's the Stratomizzlepid's own ability, which keeps it from blocking anything that doesn't have the ability "flying". Since the Ledgewalkers don't actually fly, the Mizzlepid can't block them. Niv-Mizzet, what is your opinion the Nephilim?

Niv-Mizzet: They're intriguing. I haven't figured out yet how their magic works, which frustrates me a bit. But I'm confident that I'll find out soon enough.

Gandalf: Ok, here's a question about one of them:

Q: I control Ink-Treader Nephilim and my opponent controls Standard Bearer. If play Quickchange on my Nephilim. What happens and why?

Niv-Mizzet: Even though I don't yet know how their magic works the way it does, I've studied this Nephilim enough to answer this question. The answer depends on whose turn it is. That's because the Nephilim and the Flagbearer both have a triggered ability that triggers during the process of Quickchange being played. Then a player will receive priority and the abilities have to go on the stack. The order in which that happens under such circumstances depends on who the active player is.

So let's see. If it's your turn, then the Nephilim's ability will go on the stack first, followed by the Flagbearer's ability. That last ability is the first to resolve, changing the target of Quickchange. Then the Nephilim's ability begins to resolve, but because the Nephilim is no longer the only target of the spell, the ability does nothing. Finally, the spell Quickchange resolves, changing the color of Standard Bearer and drawing you a card.

Now for the good part. If you do this on your opponent's turn, the two abilities will go on the stack in reverse order, so the Nephilim's ability gets to resolve while he's still the target of Quickchange. This will cause a bunch of copies to be created, so that each creature has a Quickchange pointing at it. This triggers Standard Bearer. This card is rare in that its ability doesn't care about the spell being played; unlike Wee Dragonauts and the like, it functions even for copies that are put on the stack without any mention of the word "play". All Quickchange copies will now get their target changed to the Flagbearer, which causes her to change colors like mad and giving you a nice bunch of cards when the Quickchange and its copies resolve one by one. If I'm around to see that happen, I'm gonna freak out.

Gandalf: And burn everything up, you mean? The Standard Bearer will be first to bite the dust, in that case. Here's a question that concerns you more closely:

Q: I used Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind to turn up Repeal. On his turn, my opponent plays Vedalken Plotter and steals Nivix. Will I still be able to play Repeal after I lose control of Nivix, so that I can wait to see what else my opponent is going to do on his turn?

Niv-Mizzet: Those Vedalken are such bores. Even a display of burnination couldn't light them up. They'd better not try anything funny with my aerie like that. But even if they do, you'll still be able to play the card you removed until your next turn, as always. The continuous effect created by Nivix will continue to exist for its duration, regardless of what the Vedalken do to Nivix itself.

Gandalf: Your guild's keyword mechanic sure raises a lot of questions. Especially when Djinn Illuminatus starts playing around with it.

Q: I have Djinn Illuminatus out and want to deal 2 damage to each of 2 creatures with Electrolyze. Does it matter how I do that?

Niv-Mizzet: For best results, having the original Electrolyze and its replication each target both creatures will usually be the right thing to do. If one of the two creatures becomes an illegal target for some reason, both spells will still resolve because each still has at least one legal target. If you do it the other way around by targeting a single creature with each spell, and one of the creatures becomes illegal, then one of the two spells will end up being countered. You'll draw one fewer card if that happens. Drawing any fewer cards than you possibly can would make me really sad.

Q: Do Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind and Djinn Illuminatus work together?

Niv-Mizzet: Of course they do, that's how I designed them. Nivix allow you to "play" the card you removed, so the Illuminatus gives it replicate, and you're allowed to use it, too.

Q: With Djinn Illuminatus in play, I play Fiery Conclusion. I pay the spell's mana cost, plus two times extra for replicate (:3mana::symr::symr::symr: total), and I sacrifice the Djinn for Fiery Conclusion's additional cost. Does that work?

Niv-Mizzet: You sacrificed the Djinn?! That's an interesting idea, I've never tried that out. *flies away*

Gandalf: And he's gone. I hope he comes back soon, but I'll tell you the answer according to the rules in the meanwhile. Replicate does two different things. First, it gives you the opportunity to pay the replicate cost in addition to the normal cost, as often as you want. Second, when the spell becomes played, it creates the copies you paid for and allows you to change their targets. This second part is a triggered ability, that triggers when you play the spell. To be precise, this trigger event happens after you're done with all the other parts you need to do to play a spell, like choosing targets and paying costs.

While you're choosing what costs to pay, the Djinn is still around and gives replicate to the spell you're playing, so you're allowed to pay for replicates. Right after, you have to actually pay those costs. The Djinn mysteriously vanished, and so does replicate. Finally, the spell becomes played, but with replicate no longer around, no trigger goes on the stack and you don't get any copies, even though you might have paid for them.

Niv-Mizzet hasn't come back yet. Let's move on to another question.

Q: I want to blow up my opponent's artifact using Shattering Spree. I think he might have a counter for one of my spells, so I could replicate once to make sure the artifact gets destroyed. Is there a way to do that without wasting mana in case he doesn't actually have a counter?

Gandalf: No, you're going to need to make a guess here. You decide how many replicates you want as you play the spell, and you can't change that number later. You're only going to know if your opponent has a counter for it when he gets priority. Before that happens, you first need to finish playing your own spell and pass priority yourself. That's quite a while after you decide on the replicate count.

Niv-Mizzet: *flies back in* That thing with Djinn Illuminatus didn't work.

Gandalf: You have a rather unconventional way of solving rules problems. I could've told you that answer from the rules.

Niv-Mizzet: Yeah, but that wouldn't have been any fun, now would it?

Gandalf: Er, ok. We just finished the section on replicate questions while you were away, unless you had any more?

Niv-Mizzet: Not really. But I do have this great story that involves replicate. The other day, I was playing against this kid who played Grozoth against me. In response to its comes into play ability, I played Quicken followed by Mimeofacture with two replications. I took all his Grozoth's from his library and put them into play on my side, and he found nothing in his library to put into his hand. That was just so much fun! But let's get on with the questions.

Gandalf: Yes, we'll do that.

Q: My opponent has activated Living Inferno (8/5), pointing 4 damage each at my Izzet Guildmage (2/2) and Steamcore Weird (1/3). I respond with Schismotivate, making my Weird +4/+0 and his Inferno -4/0. How do we determine how much damage ends up where?

Niv-Mizzet: I'll try to answer this question "by the rules". Under the header "409. Playing Spells and Activated Abilities", the rule numbered 409.1e tells the player to choose how to divide the damage among the targets chosen in rule 409.1c. After this point, the game doesn't refer to the Inferno's power again. The 8 points of damage will be deals as your opponent distributed them. On the other hand, the game doesn't look at the power of your creatures until the Inferno's ability is resolving, so the power bonus on the Weird means the Inferno will have bitten off more than it can chew.

Gandalf: You answered that question quite well.

Niv-Mizzet: The Inferno has a bitter pill to swallow.

Gandalf: Oh no, you just invented the pun!

Niv-Mizzet: Isn't that Weird?

Gandalf: What is? ... Never mind, we're moving on.

Q: If I play Runeboggle and my opponent pays :1mana:, do I get to draw a card or not?

Gandalf: Yes, you'll still get to draw a card. The payment of 1 mana only affects the countering part, but the card draw always happens if Runeboggle resolves.

Q: My opponent played Master Warcraft and attacked with some guys. I blocked with AEtherplasm, and put Belltower Sphinx in play in the AEtherplasm's place. Does my opponent get to change that blocking assignment?

Niv-Mizzet: I should point out the your creature's name is actually Izzoplasm. But no, your opponent doesn't get to change this blocking assignment, because it was made by a game effect and as a normal Declare Blockers Step assignment. Things that can affect normal blocking assignments can't do anything with Izzoplasm.

Gandalf: I thought this Izzoplasm was a Simic invention?

Niv-Mizzet: Simic? Who are they? Anyway, I got the idea for creating such a creature a long time before anyone else actually created it. Look, here's another question.

Q: If AEtherplasm blocks two creatures (for example, because I have High Ground in play), what happens? Do I get to put one or two creatures into play? Which attackers will they be blocking?

Niv-Mizzet: Izzoplasm's ability triggers for each creature it's assigned to block. The trigger for one of these creatures will be the first to resolve. That ability returns Izzoplasm to your hand, and then allows you to put a creature card from your hand into play blocking the attacker that caused that particular ability to trigger. The second ability won't be so successful: it fails to return the Izzoplasm to your hand, and then doesn't get to do anything else because of the "if you do"-clause.

Gandalf: I believe that was our last question for today. Niv-Mizzet, thank you again for being with us and sharing your insights with us.

Niv-Mizzet: Join CI next week when they answer more questions sent to [email][email protected][/email]. Until then, may you know how to pact your guilds!

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands


Niv-Mizzet: I kinda like that country of yours. You should get some volcanoes, though.

Gandalf: *turns off mike*

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