Cranial Insertion: Matters of State




Cranial Insertion
Matters of State


By Tom Fowler, pinch-hitting for Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Jeff Vondruska
Edited by Goblinboy


“Hey, you’re awesome and all, but you don’t normally write this column.”

Right you are. However, Eli has come down with an Engineered Plague, so he can’t take his turn this week. As a result, I’m filling in. We’ll stick to the same format and be just as splendiferous as this column normally is, don’t you worry. I, however, have no zombified chimps in my possession, so the Moko Madness will have to wait until your regular hosts return. I do, however, have a big pimpin' new banner for this column, courtesy of ILoveAtogs. Bask in its magnificence a moment, won't you?

This week, I’m going to focus on questions concerning post-Ravnica Standard, since I’m sure that’s on many of your minds. A new Standard, of course, means States (swap in something else if your geographic subdivision if not a state) is on the horizon. The date is October 22nd, and it will give us the first real glimpse of the new Standard metagame. To get you ready for that, most of the questions this week will deal with the new Standard.

As always, send your questions to [email][email protected][/email]. Since I’m just filling in, I’m going to encourage everyone to send in questions by promising you that Eli will buy you strippers, balloons, and candy if you send a question to us. He’s not here to tell me I can’t. Muahahahaha!

(On second thought, who needs the balloons and candy?)

Before I get into any more trouble, let’s get started.


Q: I have a Hell's Caretaker and a Mindslicer in play, and I sacrifice the Mindslicer for the Caretaker’s ability. Can I essentially put a creature from my hand into play, since my hand is going to the graveyard anyway?


Welcome to Hell; I'll be your caretaker.
A: Sorry, but your Caretaker must have something to . . . uh, caretake, when you first play the ability. When you play the ability of Hell’s Caretaker, you must choose a target creature card in your graveyard. This is done before you pay the cost of sacrificing a creature. While Mindslicer’s triggered ability will cause you to discard your hand when it resolves, the card you want to “reanimate” must be in the graveyard when you announce the Hell’s Caretaker ability.

The process of playing a spell or ability is as follows (more details can be found in rule 409 of the Comprehensive Rules):

  1. Announce the spell or ability.
  2. Declare choice of modes (modal spells and abilities begin with “Choose one – “). This is also when you declare if you’re using splice, state the value of X, and decide about alternate and special costs.
  3. Choose targets.
  4. Decide how each target will be affected. Divide/distribute counters and damage.
  5. Determine and pay the cost(s).


In the case of Hell’s Caretaker, you choose a target creature card in your graveyard in step 3, and don’t sacrifice the Mindslicer until step 5.

Random observation: I very nearly typed “Mindslaver” for every instance of “Mindslicer” in that answer.


Q. So, just how good is Boros Swiftblade with Umezawa’s Jitte or Glorious Anthem?

A: Pretty good. Glorious Anthem makes the Swiftblade into a 2/3 creature with double strike. This means it will deal 4 damage to your opponent if it is unblocked, can go Cuisinart on any x/2 in the first strike damage step and live, and can trade with any x/4 out there, unless that x/4 is really large and has first strike [Or has protection, or has Involiability on it, or... -Ed].

A Swiftblade carrying a Jitte is potentially even better, though. When it deals damage in the first strike damage step, the Jitte will gain two charge counters. Those two counters can be used in the upcoming normal combat damage step. In this case, an unblocked 1/2 Swiftblade will deal 6 damage per turn, and it will have two counters left over from dealing regular damage. And, if your Jitte already had charge counters on it when you equipped it, this particular meatball becomes even spicier. Mamma mia!



Bad hair day?
Q: My opponent played Pithing Needle and named Firemane Angel. I have one in my graveyard and he said it totally shut the Angel down. Is he right?

A: Not exactly. Pithing Needle can stop only nonmana activated abilities of the named card from being played. The Angel’s “6RRWW: Return ~this~ from your graveyard to play” ability is an activated ability, which we can see because it follows the “cost: effect” format for activated abilities. The Angel’s life-gaining ability, however, is a triggered ability (noticeable for beginning with “when,” “whenever,” or “at”), and Pithing Needle does absolutely nothing to that. So while that particular Angel probably won’t be flying again anytime soon, it can still be a nuisance to your opponent.


Q: I know I can’t kill Phytohydra with a burn spell. What about Last Gasp?

A: As long as the Phytohydra is 3/3 or smaller, Last Gasp kills it dead. A creature with 0 toughness is put into its owner’s graveyard as a state-based effect. Having a toughness of 0 is very different than lethal damage. Consider Konda, Lord of Eiganjo. He’s indestructible, so lethal damage doesn’t send him to the graveyard. Volcanic Hammer is merely a brief spot of heat to Lord Konda. Last Gasp, however, crushes his lungs and sends him to an early grave.


Q: I have 6 +1/+1 counters on Kilnmouth Dragon(from Shivan and Ryusei, if you must know). Is my friend's newly-cast Duplicant an 11/11, a 5/5 with 6 +1/+1 counters(making it 11/11), or is it a 5/5?


Counters need not apply.
A: It is a mere 5/5. Counters, equipment, and auras which modify a creature’s base power and toughness are not copied by copy effects, nor by abilities like Duplicant's (just to clarify -- Duplicant does not have a copy effect, but will use the same "copiable values" for what it takes that a regular copy effect would). Here’s the relevant rule:

Quote from CompRules, rule 503.2 »
503.2. ... The “copiable values” are the values that are printed on the object, as modified by other copy effects, plus any values set for face-down spells or permanents and any values set by “comes into play as” abilities. Other effects (including type-changing effects) and counters are not copied.


Also, note that once the imprinted creature is removed from the game, it will no longer have any counters on it, so Duplicant will have to use its base power and toughness numbers.


Q: If my creature is enchanted with something like Cage of Hands or another card that does not allow it to block, can I sacrifice it?

A: Not so much. At least, not normally. You can only sacrifice a creature when a spell or ability instructs or allows you to, not just because the creature is no longer beneficial. If your opponent were to play a Cruel Edict, however, you can get that Caged man into the graveyard posthaste.

And is it just me, or is the idea of a magical cage made of disembodied hands pretty creepy?



I'd rather have a bottle in front of me...
Q: I’ve used my Circu, Dimir Lobotomist to remove some of my opponent’s cards from the game. If he kills the Circu, can he play those spells again or not? What if I play another Circu later?

A: Circu’s continuous effect only applies while it’s in play. If Circu dies, then cards with the same name as those removed by its ability can once again be played. If he’s out of play temporarily (he took a ride on the Astral Slide, for example), then those spells can safely be played while he’s not around to keep an eye on things. And, when Circu returns to play, he’ll be treated as a brand new creature, with no “memory” of the cards he’d previously removed, so they’re quite safe to play until this new Circu removes another one. The same is true if you replaced your recently deceased Circu with a fresh one.


Q: If my opponent plays Perplex and I have no cards in my hand, can I discard my “hand” to meet the requirement?

A: You certainly may. It’s pretty easy discarding zero cards, isn’t it? Even if you have no cards in your hand, you still have a hand since it’s still a zone of play, and zero is a valid number of objects to have in a zone.

However, anything that would require you to “discard a card” cannot be done if you have no cards in your hand. There are limits to these hands-free shenanigans, after all.


Q: Can I tap Selesnya Evangel for its own ability?

A: I’m afraid this doesn’t work. If you’re tapping the Evangel for the tap-symbol part of its cost, it won’t be an untapped creature you can use to pay the other part of the cost. You’ll have to tap another untapped creature you control to make this work. Since the Evangel can pump out a creature a turn, though, this should not present an overwhelming challenge.


Q: My opponent plays Gifts Ungiven, cackling maniacally as those Gifts players are known to do. In response, I play Shadow of Doubt. I know he can’t search his library, but does he still have to shuffle it?

A: He does indeed. You’re correct in that Shadow of Doubt will nullify the searching part of Gifts Ungiven. However, the spell was not countered, so its instructions must still be followed as best your opponent can. This means he’ll have to shuffle after not searching.



"Kaysa? I killed her."
Q: Does a Selsnya Guildmage get +2/+2 from Tolsimir Wolfblood?

A: Since it is both a White and a Green creature, the Guildmage gets +2/+2 from Tolsmir. While it’s possible to play a hybrid card with only one color of mana, they are still considered to be all colors in their mana cost. Any creature that is both Green and White will be doubly lucky while Tolsmir is around, including his trusty wolf Voja.

And now for a quote, here’s CompRules!

Quote from Rule 203.2e »
203.2e An object with one or more half-half mana symbols in its mana cost is each of the colors of that mana symbol, in addition to any other colors the object might be. Most cards with half-half mana symbols in their mana costs are printed in a two-tone frame.



Q: If I play one of the Onslaught fetchlands and then sacrifice it and get another land, do I put two counters on my Vinelasher Kudzu, or just one?

A: Two. The fetchland came into play under your control, then the land you got with it also came into play under your control. Each one will give your Kudzu a +1/+1 counter. In this case, your Kudzu will grow to love you, despite what its flavor text says.


Departing from the new Standard questions, here are some Q&A pairs about older cards.

Q: Lion’s Eye Diamond lets me add three mana of any color to my mana pool. Can I play a card in my hand with the mana, considering I also have to discard my hand?

A: You may not. Lion’s Eye Diamond’s ability can only be played when you could play an instant. Even though it gives you mana like any other mana ability, you're restricted in when you may use it. Using LED to pay for a spell in your hand would require you to interrupt the five-part process I described above, and that can’t happen. You can, however, play a spell from your hand, pay for it through more “normal” means, and then sacrifice the LED for more mana in response. This is especially good if you’re responding to your own Yawgmoth’s Will and just added some saucy cards to your graveyard (don’t wait for the Will to resolve, though – you probably don’t want to remove your hand from the game).


Q: How does Defense Grid affect a Force of Will played via the alternate cost?

A: Presuming the Force of Will is being played during another player’s turn, Defense Grid will add 3 to the cost. Even though the mana cost of Force of Will is not being paid, Defense Grid will still tack on an additional mana payment. To figure out how much a spell or ability costs to play, you start with the base cost, add all cost increasers, subtract all reductions, and then you have the actual play cost. Here, you have (pay 1 life and remove a Blue card in your hand from the game) standing in for the normal mana cost of Force of Will, plus an additional 3 for Defense Grid, minus zero, since there are no reductions to apply. So the final cost is one life, a Blue card removed from the game, and 3.


Q: Some guy at a hobby shop just decided to give me a stack of cards. In said stack were a Blasting Station and a Summoning Station. My question is, would these two cards form a loop and allow you to win the game, or not?

A: Sorry, no. Summoning Station’s untap ability only triggers when an artifact is put into a graveyard from play. While the tokens Summoning Station creates are colorless, they are not artifacts. Artifacts are (usually) colorless, but just because something is colorless does not mean it is an artifact.

Also, if you haven't done so already, be a peach and thank that fellow for giving you a stack of cards.

And that’s a wrap for this week’s edition of Cranial Insertion. Join us next week, when the special topic is, “Are the Universal Tournament Rules null and void if Magic is played in another universe?” Polish up your quarks, it’ll be a barn-burner!

-Tom Fowler

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