Cranial Insertion: We Have No Bananas





Cranial Insertion
We Have No Bananas
By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Jeff Vondruska


Welcome back to Cranial Insertion! Eli is off for a week to spend some quality time with Moko, so I'll be your host for today. (Actually, Eli couldn't write an article this week due to a problem with his computer, but don't let Moko know about that!)

Before we get to the questions, there's something else that must be set straight. In Adrian Sullivan's article from last week, he talks about an interaction between Pulse of the Forge and Twincast: supposedly a Twincast copying a Pulse may return itself to your hand if the condition is true. This is incorrect. What Twincast does is create a copy of the Pulse. The Twincast itself does not become the Pulse. The copy will be able to return to your hand under the right circumstances. However, copies of spells can exist only on the stack, and this copy in your hand will cease to exist as soon as state-based effects are checked, before you can do anything with it. The Twincast card itself goes to the graveyard after it has made the copy, and will never end up in your hand at all.

The printed wording of Fork causes Fork to become a copy of the spell instead of creating an independent copy. I doubt the judges will be happy to see you bring a deck with Fork and R&D's Secret Lair to a tournament, though. Smile



Q: I have Erayo Essence (the flipped mode of Erayo, Soratami Ascendant) in play along with Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, and my opponent casts Shock targeting Kira. Is the Shock countered by Erayo's ability first, or Kira's?

A: You get to choose, but it doesn't really matter which one you pick. The reason is that both the Essence and Kira have triggered abilities. Kira triggers when the target for Shock is chosen, and the Essence triggers when the Shock becomes played as the last step of announcing the spell. The small delay between the two triggers is irrelevant: all triggers have to wait until someone receive priority before they go on the stack, so both triggers will be trying to go on the stack together. You control both triggers, which means that you get to choose the order in which they actually end up on the stack. Both will try to counter the Shock, even though one would probably have been enough. But both abilities will be "used up" for that turn even though one of them didn't counter the Shock: the trigger conditions "first spell played by an opponent this turn" and "first time that Kira became the target of a spell or ability this turn" have happened and won't happen again that turn. If you have other creatures out, their versions of the ability granted by Kira will still work, though.




Kaldra needs to do a head count
Q: Mirror Gallery can cause funny situations sometimes. Me and my opponent both had out a Sword of Kaldra. I also had a Shield of Kaldra and two Helm of Kaldra. When I make a Kaldra token, which of these get attached to it?

A: Hmm, that's a tricky one. Helm of Kaldra doesn't seem like it was written with the possibility of multiples of some of the Kaldra pieces in mind. (For that matter, it probably wasn't written with the possibility of multiple Kaldra tokens in mind, either.) Let's try to parse the ability. At the end, it refers to "those Equipment," so we have to figure out what Equipment it's talking about exactly. The only thing it could refer to is at the beginning of the sentence: "If you control Equipment named Helm of Kaldra, Sword of Kaldra, and Shield of Kaldra, ..." Those Equipment will be attached to the newly created token. So it'd get your Sword, your Shield, and both your Helms. It wouldn't get your opponent's Sword, though.




Supposedly combos well with
Gwendlyn Di Corci
Q: The card Vedalken Shackles keeps confusing me. Could you tell me everything I need to know about it please?

A: I suppose I could at least walk through an activation of the ability step by step. That should enable you to answer most questions that come up about this card. So here goes:

You announce that you are playing the Shackles' ability. You put the ability on top of the stack, choose a target creature, and pay the cost (:2mana: and :symtap:). The target must be a "target creature with power less than or equal to the number of Islands you control". If you complete all these steps succesfully, the ability is officially played. Otherwise, you have to take it back and do something else instead (like passing priority and doing nothing :)).

After the ability is played, both players get the chance to respond to it, so various things may happen before the ability resolves. When the ability does get to resolve, you first check if the target is still legal. It must still be a creature and you count your Islands again to see that the creature's power is less or equal. Also, abilities like Protection from Artifacts will make the creature an invalid target.

If this check for the legality of the target fails, the ability is countered by the game rules. If it succeeds, the ability resolves and will set up a continuous effect taking control of the target. However, if the Shackles are no longer tapped at this point, then the effect never applies: it was literally over before it began.

At this point, it no longer matters if the target is still legal: it doesn't need to be a creature, and it doesn't matter if its power increases or your lands get destroyed. The effect will only end if the Shackles are no longer tapped. (Note that cards out of play are never "tapped", so if the Shackles leave play, the effect ends.)

That probably left plenty of questions unanswered, but I hope it helped a little. Smile



Q: My opponent has Reverence out. Can I attack with Fangren Firstborn and a bunch of 2/2 creatures? In other words, would the 2/2's get their +1/+1 counters in time to get past Reverence?

A: Nope, that doesn't work. Fangren Firstborn uses a triggered ability (recognizable by the word whenever). Such abilities need to go on the stack before they do their thing. On the other hand, Reverence has a static ability which functions continuously. It will see the 2/2s trying to attack and stop them right away, before the Firstborn's ability can even start to think about giving them counters.



Q: Ok, here's a tougher question then. I'm trying to attack my 2/2s into my opponent's Reverence again, but this time I control Orcish Oriflamme. That's a static ability, too, right? So does it give the +1/+0 bonus in time?

A: Yes, it's a static ability, but no, it doesn't allow you to attack in this situation. To know the answer, we have to look at the precise order in which the declare attackers step works:
From the CompRules:
308.2. To declare attackers, the active player follows the steps below, in order. If at any point during the declaration of attackers, the active player is unable to comply with any of the steps listed below, the declaration was illegal; the game returns to the moment before the declaration (see rule 422, "Handling Illegal Actions," and rule 500, "Legal Attacks and Blocks").

308.2a The active player either chooses to not attack, or chooses one or more creatures he or she controls and then determines whether this set of creatures could attack. Only creatures can attack, and the following creatures can't attack: tapped creatures (even those that can attack without tapping) and creatures the active player didn't control continuously since the beginning of the turn (except those with haste). Other effects may also affect whether or not a set of creatures could attack. (See rule 500, "Legal Attacks and Blocks.")

308.2b If any of the chosen creatures have banding or a bands with other ability, the active player announces which creatures, if any, are banded with which. (See rule 502.10, "Banding.")

308.2c The active player taps the chosen creatures. Tapping a creature when it's declared as an attacker isn't a cost; attacking simply causes creatures to become tapped.

308.2d If any of the creatures require paying costs to attack, the active player determines the total cost to attack. Costs may include paying mana, tapping permanents, sacrificing permanents, discarding cards, and so on. Once the total cost is determined, it becomes "locked in." If effects would change the total cost after this time, ignore this change.

308.2e If any of the costs require mana, the active player then has a chance to play mana abilities (see rule 411, "Playing Mana Abilities").

308.2f Once the player has enough mana in his or her mana pool, he or she pays all costs in any order. Partial payments are not allowed.

308.2g Each chosen creature becomes an attacking creature if all costs have been paid, but only if it's still controlled by the active player. It remains an attacking creature until it's removed from combat or the combat phase ends, whichever comes first. See rule 306.2.
The relevant parts for this question are rule 308.2a where the assignment of attackers is made and then checked for legality, and rule 308.2g, where the creatures become attacking creatures. Only when the creatures are marked as "attacking" by step g does Orcish Oriflamme start to apply to them, making them 3/2. However, they'd still be 2/2 at the moment the legality is checked in step a. So the result is the same: your creatures aren't allowed to attack.




Do tokens want to share
card types with it?
Q: Reweave tells a player to look through his library for the first card that shares a card type with the sacrificed permanent. Tokens aren't cards, so my question is: do they have a card type? 'Cause if they do, I plan to build a funky Proteus Staff/Reweave deck using creature tokens!

A: The rules don't mention the kind of type known as "card type." They only talk about type, supertype, and various kinds of subtypes. "Card type" is simply used to make sure you know they're talking about "type" and not about something else. The appearance of the word "card" in there doesn't imply that Reweave ignores the type of a token. It's bad news for your combo idea, but a token will work just like a real card when Rewoven.



Q: Playing a land doesn't cause you to pass priority, right? Then how come two legendary lands with the same name will go to the graveyard before I can use their abilities?

A: Even though you're not passing priority to your opponent, you still "lose" priority for a moment while you're playing the land: no player has priority while the land is being played. After the land is in play, you will receive priority again. This causes state-based effects to be checked. If they see two lands with the same name that are both legendary, both will be put in the graveyard before you actually receive priority and get to do anything with your newly played land.




The artist formerly known as
Volrath's Shapeshifter
Q: If you discard Phage the Untouchable with a Volrath's Shapeshifter in play, do you lose the game?

A: You'll survive. The Shapeshifter is a perfectly safe way to get a Phage look-a-like into play. Phage only triggers if it comes into play. A Volrath's Shapeshifter that's already in play and turns into Phage later didn't come into play while it was in Phage-form, so the ability won't trigger.



Q: This time the Shapeshifter is copying a Bringer of the Black Dawn and has 3 combat damage assigned to a creature and 2 to the player. The combat damage is still on the stack, and before it's dealt, I discard Phage. Do I win?

A: Yes, this one works, too. At the moment the damage is dealt to the player, the object formerly known as Bringer of the Black Dawn but currently known as Phage the Untouchable will have an ability that was waiting for just that event (namely, the object in question dealing combat damage to a player). The ability will trigger, and your opponent is soon going to lose.



Q: If I have Heartbeat of Spring in play, can I add purple mana to my opponent's mana pool when he taps a land for mana?

A: As much as I admire your creativity, I'm still going to answer "no." First of all, if an effect tells you to choose a color, you have to pick one of the five basic colors. Second, Heartbeat of Spring isn't telling anyone to choose a color: it adds mana of the same type as the land added. If the land added several types of mana to your mana pool (for example, Crystal Quarry), it's the controller of the land who gets to choose which type to add, not the controller of the Heartbeat.



Eli has been judging at Regionals this past weekend, so the number of interesting questions in next week's article will surely make up for this one being somewhat shorter than usual.

I'd like to thank Eli for contributing most of the questions in this week's column.

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands

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