Cranial Insertion: Saviors: Stealing the Shape





Cranial Insertion
Stealing the Shape
By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Jeff Vondruska


The entire Articles Department is celebrating Saviors of Kamigawa which released last Friday. That means Cranial Insertion is celebrating too, with another week full of Saviors questions!






Shapeshifters mean guaranteed fun
Q: I have a question about the card Shape Stealer. Let's say I attack with it, and my opponent blocks with two creatures, a 1/4 and a 2/2. Can I choose how big by Shape Stealer becomes? If so, can I make it a 3/6? Or at least a 2/4?

A: You will have some say in the new P/T of your shapeshifter. However, you'll have to choose between 1/4 and 2/2, the sizes of the creatures that blocked it. Here's why: when Shape Stealer becomes blocked, its ability triggers for each creature that blocks it. When they resolve, one of them will try to turn your creature into a 1/4. The other will want to make it 2/2. Only one ability can resolve at a time, so the end result depends on which of these two abilities gets the last word. That one will overwrite the change made by the other trigger. Because you are the controller of both triggered abilities, you are allowed to pick the order in which they go on the stack. If you put the 1/4 ability on the stack first and the 2/2 on top of that, the 2/2 will resolve first, followed by the 1/4, so Shape Stealer will end up being 1/4. You can also do it the other way around to make your creature 2/2. All this happens before combat damage is assigned, so it will affect how much damage your shapeshifter can deal and receive.





Q: I attack with Shape Stealer, and my opponent blocks it with his Hand of Honor. How does Shape Stealer interact with the Hand's bushido ability in such a situation?

A: Both bushido and Shape Stealer's ability trigger at the same time, when the Hand is assigned to block the Stealer. This time, the abilities are controlled by different players. In this case, the one(s) controlled by the active player go on the stack first. It's your turn, so your Shape Stealer's ability is first to go on the stack, followed by your opponent's bushido trigger. The bushido resolves first and makes the Hand of Honor 3/3. The Shape Stealer's ability resolves and tells you to "change Shape Stealer’s power and toughness to that creature’s power and toughness until end of turn." 'That creature' is now a 3/3, so that's what Shape Stealer becomes. The two creatures will end up killing each other unless one of you has a combat trick.

If the situation were reversed and your opponent attacked with his Hand of Honor while you blocked with your Shape Stealer, the result would be different. This time around, your opponent is the active player, so the two triggers go on the stack in reverse order from the above. That means that your Shape Stealer will imitate the Hand while it's only 2/2. Then then Hand becomes 3/3 due to bushido, making it big enough to kill the shapeshifter and live. The Shape Stealer only sees the P/T at the moment its ability resolves; any changes that happen later won't affect the shapeshifter's own power and toughness.





Q: I'm holding Zombify, One with Nothing and some big creature I want to get into play. Can I do that?

A: Nope. In order to do this, you'd need to play Zombify while the creature card is in your graveyard. If the creature card isn't in your graveyard at the time, then you can't target it with Zombify. So you'll need to play and resolve One with Nothing before you play Zombify. But if you do that, the Zombify will be in your graveyard!

Note that it still wouldn't work if you could play Zombify as an instant (through, say, Vedalken Orrery). It's purely One with Nothing's fault that this combo doesn't work. What are you doing with that card in your deck, anyway? Wink






Erratami!
Q: Why was Erayo, Soratami Ascendant given errata?

A: The original text of Erayo's flipped half reads:
Counter the first spell played by each opponent each turn.
It's more or less clear what the ability is supposed to do. But problems start to appear when someone wants to attempt something out of the ordinary. For example, if your opponent is also holding Stifle, can he counter Erayo's ability to save his first spell from being countered?

There are two types of effects in Magic: continuous effects and one-shot effects. One-shot effects are the ones that actually do anything, telling players to take action. Continuous effects don't do anything: they sit around and modify stuff, like the characteristics of objects or the rules of the game. Now, countering a spell is an action, so it can only be done by a one-shot effect. Two types of abilities can generate one-shot effects. These are activated and triggered abilities. As originally worded, Erayo is neither. That's where the problem comes from.

The errata rewords the ability as follows:
Whenever an opponent plays a spell for the first time in a turn, counter that spell.
Due to the appearance of the word "whenever", this ability is now a triggered ability. Such an ability is capable of generating one-shot effects and countering stuff, so this card no longer does something that the rules don't understand. And now we know that Erayo's ability can be Stifled.





Q: I think there's something wrong with the rules for the epic keyword. It tells me I get to play a copy of the spell every upkeep, bu it also tells me can't play spells. So technically, the epic ability doesn't let me make those copies, right?

A: Fortunately, the epic ability works as it's supposed to. You made a small mistake when reading the rules for epic:
From the SoK FAQ:
502.44. Epic

502.44a Epic represents both a static ability and a delayed triggered ability. "Epic" means, "For the rest of the game, you can't play spells." and "At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, copy this spell except for its epic ability. If the spell is targeted, you may choose new targets for the copy." See rule 503.10 for more information about copying spells.
The second ability never tells you to play any copies. It simply makes the copy and puts it directly on the stack. Because the verb "play" isn't used, this is perfectly fine with the first ability.





Q: I know that my opponent is holding a Ninja of the Deep Hours. Can I use Curtain of Light to prevent my opponent from using its ninjutsu ability?

A: No, that won't work too well. If you wait for your opponent to use the ninjutsu ability and then try to respond with Curtain of Light, you'll find you have a problem: the creature that was attacking you is no longer in play! It is returned to your opponent's hand as part of the ninjutsu's cost, and costs are always paid before anyone gets the chance to respond. If you try it the other way and act first, then your opponent can simply respond to your Curtain by using the ninjutsu ability. The creature you targeted will be returned, so your spell will be countered on resolution because its target is no longer there. You won't even get to draw a card. Frown

What you can do, is wait for a Ninja to unexpectedly appear in play in place of some innocuous attacker that you decided not to block. Your chance to declare a creature as a blocker has passed by then, but Curtain of Light can still save you from the Ninjas with their scary "deals combat damage to a player" abilities.





Q: I know Godo's Irregulars allows me to deal damage to its blockers before normal combat damage is assigned. But does that trick also work if the Irregulars are blocked by a creature with first strike?

A: Sure it works. The first striker would still have to wait for a combat damage step before it got to assign any damage. You have the entire declare blockers step to use the ability before the blockers get to strike back.

Something to keep in mind: even if you manage to kill all blockers with the ability before combat damage is assigned, the Irregulars are still considered blocked. They won't get to deal damage to your opponent: only unblocked creatures get to do that. Or creatures with trample. This works the same as double strike in that respect.






The Kirin that burns brightest burns
without haste
Q:Most effects which let me gain control of my opponent's creatures for a turn also give the creature haste (like Threaten). Skyfire Kirin doesn't mention anything about haste. Does that mean that the creature I steal will be affected by summoning sickness?

A: Unless the creature already has haste or you can give it haste some other way, the stolen creature will be affected by "summoning sickness": it won't be able to attack or use activated abilities that have the tap symbol tap symbol as part of their activation cost. Any creature that hasn't been in play under your control since the beginning of your most recent turn will be affected this way, so a creature that just jumped over to your side of the table will feel slightly queasy in the stomach. This makes the Kirin's ability somewhat less useful, but there's still all sorts of fun things you can do with the creature while it's on your side: it can block your opponent's creatures and maybe use other abilities that don't require it to :symtap:. Or you can sacrifice it to pay for one of your own abilities to prevent the creature from going back to your opponent.

Another card from Saviors of Kamigawa, Footsteps of the Goryo, works in a similar way. It also gives you a creature for a single turn without giving it haste.





Q: My opponent controls Kiyomaro, First to Stand. He has five cards in his hand, so it's now a 5/5. It receives 2 damage from somewhere, making it a 5/3. Later on the same turn, I steal it using Skyfire Kirin. I have only three cards left in my hand. How big is the Maro when I control it?

A: You're making an important mistake here. Damage does not reduce toughness. While your opponent controlled it, it was a 5/5 with 2 damage on it, which is different from a 5/3. As soon as you gain control of it, the Maro's power and toughness drop to 3/3, so it'll be a 3/3 with 2 damage on it. One more point of damage that turn will kill it.





Q: I'm building a Measure of Wickedness deck with lots of ways of putting cards in my graveyard. There's one thing I'm not sure about, though. Say I manage to give Measure to my opponent and keep it there so that he controls it when then end of turn step begins. In response to the first ability ("At the end of your turn, sacrifice Measure of Wickedness and you lose 8 life."), my opponent manages to put another card in his graveyard and give the Measure back to me. What happens if I manage to put the Measure back under his control before that ability resolves, and what happens if I don't?

A: In either case, your opponent will still control Measure of Wickedness's ability. When the ability resolves, he has to sacrifice the enchantment, and he loses 8 life. If he controls the enchantment (again) at that point, then everything will work fine: the enchantment goes to your graveyard, and your opponent loses those 8 life. If he doesn't control the enchantment, then he won't be able to sacrifice it: players can only sacrifice permanents they control. However, the other part of the ability will still go ahead and resolve. Resolving spells and abilities always do as much as possible. The result is that your opponent loses 8 life and Measure of Wickedness will still be hanging around in play. Assuming you built your deck well, this probably wasn't a smart move to make for your opponent.






Egdirb Gniransne
Q: Can I combo Reverence with instant power reducers like Oboro Envoy to stop big creatures from attacking me?

A: Yes, but you have to be careful how you do it. If you wait for your opponent to declare what creatures he's attacking with, then you'll be too late. Reverence can only stop creatures from being declared as attackers. Creatures that have already been declared as attackers won't be affected even if their power suddenly drops to 2 or below.

So here's how you do it. In the beginning of combat step (the first step of the combat phase), use Oboro Envoy or what have you to shrink any creatures you don't want to attack this turn. If their power is now 2 or less, then your opponent won't be able to declare them as attackers. Of course, you have to anticipate your opponent's plans to determine what creatures to shrink, and your opponent can just make a new plan of attack when he finds that his original plan no longer works.

Many players don't declare when they go from main phase to combat phase, but immediately start declaring attackers. This is usually a reasonable thing to do, because the beginning of combat step isn't normally the most eventful part of a turn. If your opponent does this, you have the right to call him back: he has to give you the time to play spells and activated abilities first. After all, both players will have to pass priority before the game goes from the beginning of combat step to the declare attackers step.





Q: Exactly how well do Uyo, Silent Prophet and Inner Calm, Outer Strength combo together?

A: Very well. In fact, I found myself on the receiving end of this combo when I played in the prerelease last week. Smile You play ICOS followed several times by Uyo's ability to put some more copies of the spell on the stack and some more cards in your hand. Don't let any of the copies resolve before you're done activating Uyo's ability for maximum effect. Each ICOS will check your hand size when it resolves, and see all the lands you returned to pay for Uyo's ability. Even if your hand was empty after you played the original ICOS and you made just 2 copies with Uyo, this will allow you do give out a +4/+4 bonus three times!





Moko tells me there's still a few more Saviors of Kamigawa questions in the pipeline, but I can't have all the fun. I have to save a few Q's, so that Eli can cover them next week. And maybe he'll have more word on the whereabouts of Jeff, too. Until then, enjoy the remaining Saviors Set Review articles here on MTG Salvation!

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands








































No, Moko, this article really has to end now! I promise we'll get to those other questions soon! Now, be a good zombie and do as I tell you. Yes, that's it.

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