Cranial Insertion: City of Angels




Cranial Insertion
City of Angels


By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Tom Fowler
Edited by Goblinboy

Magic players the world over had their eyes trained on Los Angeles this past weekend, and not just for the celebrities and Hallowe’en costumes. The City of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels hosted the Pro Tour, giving all of us the first glimpse of the new Extended format. Most of the questions you’ll see here deal with Extended, since we’re now in the beginning of that PTQ season. Some of these questions came from the floor of the PT itself.

However, you don't have to play in a Pro Tour to ask us questions here at CI. As always, your questions can be sent to [email][email protected][/email]. You’ll get a timely answer from one of us, and we’ll probably use the question in a future edition of CI. The only easier way to get your name in lights is to kill a celebrity!


Q: So what exactly is the new Extended format?

A: Extended after the rotation, duh.

. . . Oh, you wanted details. Alrighty then.

As of October 20th of this year, Extended now consists of all base sets from 7th Edition forward, and all expansion sets from Invasion forward. You’ll notice that this exactly mirrors the sets which have been in “Online Extended” on Magic Online for some time now (except Ravnica is legal too ;)). Every three years, Extended will jettison itself of three blocks worth of expansions and either one or two base sets. This means your Invasion, Odyssey, and Onslaught Block cards are only safe until 2008.

Most of the cards which were on the Banned list rotated out. Four remain: Entomb, Skullclamp, Aether Vial, and Disciple of the Vault.


Q: I'm aware that spells that cause players to make decisions simultaneously are handled so that the active player makes the decisions first. How about discarding cards at the same time? If I activate Lore Broker at the end of my opponent's turn, will I see what he discards and then choose what to discard?

A: It works mostly like you think it does. Your opponent, as the active player, will choose which card to discard first. Then you will choose, but you don't necessarily know which card your opponent has selected to go to the bin. Once you’ve both chosen, the cards are officially discarded. In general, choices made are made publicly, so the non-active player will know which choices the active player has made. In this case, your opponent can indicate which card he is discarding without revealing it until it actually goes to the graveyard.



Remand need not apply.
Q: If I flashback a Firebolt, and my opponent responds by playing Remand, where does the Firebolt go?

A: It will be removed from the game. The Comprehensive Rules glossary definition for Flashback tells us this:
Flashback is a static ability of some instant and sorcery cards that functions while the card is in a player’s graveyard. “Flashback [cost]” means “You may play this card from your graveyard by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost. If you do, remove this card from the game instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack.” Playing a spell using its flashback ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 409.1b and 409.1f–h. See rule 502.22, “Flashback.”
So we can see that the flashback spell will remove itself from the game instead of going anywhere else when it would leave the stack. Technically, the flashback and Remand are setting up competing replacement effects, but Flashback will always win out. If you apply Remand first, it can’t do anything to it, since it refers to a spell which would be going to the graveyard, and a flashed-back Firebolt is not bound for the grave. Ergo, Remand will fail to return it to your hand and it will be removed from the game. If you apply flashback first, it gets removed from the game, and Remand can’t find it there.

Note, however, that the spell is still countered and the player who played Remand still draws a card.


Q: I tapped all my lands and cycled a Decree of Justice, announcing X was 6. My opponent played Stifle and said I take 6 mana burn. Is this right?

A: No, it’s not. It’s also not very sporting. Your opponent is attempting to capitalize on the imprecision when you cycled your Decree. When you cycle it, all you need to do is pay 2W and discard it. The activated ability of cycling to draw a card, and the triggered ability of Decree of Justice to make soldier tokens, both go onto the stack. This is your opponent’s chance to play Stifle, and he can Stifle either the soldier-making or the card-drawing (unless he has two Stifles, in which case he can hit both). When the triggered ability resolves, you then have the chance to pay X and put that many 1/1 Soldier tokens into play. You can see that it works this way because Decree says, “When you cycle Decree of Justice, you may pay X . . .” It’s a triggered ability which triggers when the card is cycled.

This particular ruling was the subject of some controversy when it was first issued, but in the time since Scourge, it has become accepted. The DCI now looks at a player’s intent when he tries to play something, even if his playing was not technically precise. Trying to force mana burn when someone has cycled Decree of Justice incorrectly is unsporting conduct and should be treated as such.


Q: I tried to dredge back a Life From the Loam and my opponent Stifled it. Is this legal?

A: It is not. Dredge is neither an activated nor a triggered ability, which is all Stifle cares about. Dredge is a static ability that allows you to replace a card draw by dredging away n cards and putting the card with dredge into your hand. There’s nothing there for Stifle to affect.


Q: So what about Stifle and playing spells with madness, like Arrogant Wurm?

Even arrogance can be Stifled.

A: Was there a closeout sale on Stifles at some card store recently? Wow.

Madness is actually two abilities, one of which can be countered by Stifle. Let’s look at the Comprehensive Rules glossary definition of Madness:
Madness
Madness is a keyword that represents two abilities. “Madness [cost]” means “If a player would discard this card, that player discards it, but may remove it from the game instead of putting it into his or her graveyard” and “When this card is removed from the game this way, until that player passes next, the player may play it any time he or she could play an instant by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost. When the player passes next, he or she puts it into his or her graveyard.” See rule 502.24, “Madness.”
Discarding the card and choosing to remove it from the game with Madness is a replacement effect (notable by the use of “instead”). When that happens, it sets up a triggered ability. If that triggered ability resolves, the player can then play the card for its Madness cost. If the triggered ability is Stifled, the player will get no such opportunity.


Q: I resolved a Mind’s Desire with a storm count of 12. My opponent insisted I shuffle my library before each copy of the Desire resolved. Can he do this, or can I just shuffle once and flip over the top 13 cards?

A: While it’s technically correct that you’re supposed to shuffle the library each time, it’s an acceptable shortcut to shuffle it just the one time and flip over the top however-many cards. The reason is that the order of the library is random each time, so why do you need to shuffle it again? (Note that playing something that orders any of the cards in your library will require you to shuffle it before resolving the next Desire.) Be warned that not all judges will agree with my answer; some may insist that you shuffle each time. Me? I’m all about the acceptable shortcuts.

Bonus: An opponent who insists on you shuffling your library each time may be trying to use up the time remaining in your match. This is going to be situational, of course, but if he’s up a game, you’re in game two with 5:00 left on the clock, and he’s insisting on a shuffle and cut each time, then it’s reasonable to expect shenanigans may be afoot. Desire players, look out for this, and absolutely call a judge if you think it’s happening.



How do I Desire thee?
Let me count the ways...
Q: Speaking of Mind’s Desire, what’s the best way to keep track of spells played in a turn? Do I even have to? Doesn’t the game “know” the spell count?

A: Three questions for the price of one. Now how much would you pay?

(Pssst. This column’s free, dummy.)

Oh. Damn. Foiled again!

Anyway, yes, the game does know the spell count each turn. However, if you’re going to play a deck whose purpose is to resolve a storm spell, you need to know how many copies to put onto the stack. The best way to track this is by making tally marks on your scorepad (you are keeping your life total with pen and paper, right?) The number of spells played in a turn is public information, and if your deck needs to know that, you should keep track of it (and so should your opponent). You should also keep track of your floating mana in a similar fashion, for the same reason.


Q: I have a Suppression Field out and my opponent paid 2WW to unmorph his Exalted Angel. Didn’t he have to pay 4WW?

A: Suppression field increases the cost of activated abilities. Morph, however, is not an activated ability; it is a static ability, as we’ll see in its CompRules glossary definition:
Morph is a static ability that functions any time you could play the card it’s on, and the morph effect works any time the card is face down. “Morph [cost]” means “You may play this card as a 2/2 face-down creature, with no text, no name, no subtypes, no expansion symbol, and a mana cost of {0} by paying {3} rather than its mana cost.” Any time you could play an instant, you may show all players the morph cost for any face-down permanent you control, pay that cost, then turn the permanent face up. This action does not use the stack. See rule 502.26, “Morph.”
Note also that because turning a creature face-up is a special action that does not use the stack, you may not respond to it. So no Smothering that Exalted Angel “in response” to it being turned face-up.


Q: OK, I’ve heard conflicting answers on this one. Can Meddling Mage naming, say, Magma Jet, stop my opponent from playing Magma Jet copies with his Isochron Scepter?

A: You’ve heard conflicting answers on this one because it was a much-debated ruling at one point. Meddling Mage says, in part, “The named card can’t be played.” I emphasized “card” there because that’s the important part: the Mage only stops physical cards from being played. When your opponent plays a copy of a spell created via Isochron Scepter, he is not playing a card, just a spell copy. Since Meddling Mage can only stop actual cards, the spell copy goes right past it. In short, no, Meddling Mage does not stop copies from being played with Isochron Scepter.


Q: Is cycling affected by Pithing Needle? What about by Suppression Field?

A: Cycling is an activated ability, so it will fall victim to both of those. The card named by Pithing Needle cannot by cycled. Any card cycled under a Suppression Field will cost 2 more than normal to cycle.


Q: It’s the beginning of my upkeep. I have Genesis and several other creatures in my graveyard, and a lot of mana. Can I activate Genesis multiple times?

A: You can’t "activate" Genesis at all, since it doesn’t have an activated ability. Here’s how it works: at the beginning of your upkeep, if Genesis is in your graveyard, it’s ability will trigger, and you choose a target creature card in your graveyard. If it’s still in the graveyard when the ability resolves, you may then pay 2G to return that creature card from your graveyard to your hand. Because Genesis has a triggered ability, it will trigger once at the beginning of your upkeep, and only that one time. Because it only triggers once, you can only pay 2G once, meaning you can only get back one creature card per turn.


Q: Is Withered Wretch good against things like Madness and Dredge?

A: It doesn’t do anything against Madness. As we saw a few questions ago, discarding a card with Madness allows the player to choose to remove it from the game instead. The Madness card will never be in the graveyard for the Wretch to remove it. Against Dredge, you’ll have to use Withered Wretch before the event that allows your opponent to draw a card. Once he’s chosen to use Dredge to replace his draw, it’s too late for you to remove the card with the Wretch’s ability. What you can do, though, is remove Dredge cards during his upkeep, or in response to a spell or ability that lets him draw cards.

While Extended might be all the rage right now, it’s not the only format out there. Here are a few questions dealing with other formats.


Q: I drafted five Galvanic Arcs. Can I only play four of them?

A: The rule restricting you to four copies of any card which is not a basic land exists only in the world of Constructed. In Limited, you may play as many copies of a card as you have in your cardpool. While it’s rare to have more than two of anything in Sealed, it’s possible to draft more than four of a card. Go ahead and play with all five of your Galvanic Arcs. There are certainly far worse cards to have a quintet of in your draft deck!


Q: My opponent has a Glare of Subdual out. He then plays a Veteran Armorer and taps the Armorer to tap one of my creatures. How is this legal?

A: Creatures without haste may not attack nor use abilities requiring them to tap symbol on the turn they come into play. However, nothing stops them from being tapped to pay the cost of an activated ability. Glare of Subdual’s ability has a cost of tapping an untapped creature you control. It is legal to tap a creature you just played to pay this cost, since you’re neither attacking with it, nor using it for one of its own tap abilities.



Ach, Hans, run! It's Humility!
Q: I’m sorry, but my question is about Humility.

A: Surely I must have done something to incur the wrath of Great Cthulhu.

Q: Um . . . yeah. So, can I ask my question now?

A: Well, it looks as though I’m destined for an eternity of torture, so a Humility question can’t be any worse.

Q: Ok. Does Humility stop me from turning a morph creature face-up?

A: Yes. The reason for this can be found in the wording of rule 502.26d, which says, in part:
Any time you could play an instant, you may turn a face-down permanent you control face up. To do this, show all players what the permanent’s morph cost will be when the effect ends, pay that cost, then turn the permanent face up.
The bolded part there is the key. Turning a morphed creature face-up requires you to reveal what its “morph cost will be when the effect ends.” However, it won’t have that cost, since it won’t have that ability at all while Humility is in play.



A Humility question seems like a good note on which to end this week’s column. This weekend, I’ll be in Philadelphia for the Legacy Grand Prix , and I’ll make note of any interesting questions I get for the next time I take my turn behind the CI desk. Peace.

-Tom Fowler

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