Cranial Insertion: Dawn of the Dead


Cranial Insertion
Dawn of the Dead, or:
When a Body Meets a Body...

By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Jeff Vondruska


Welcome to our third week of Cranial Insertion! I think we can officially call ourselves an established column now - viven les fluffy bunnies! This week will deal with more common or basic questions, but don’t worry – we’ll also touch upon a couple recent, pressing tournamentish questions. And once again, Moko has been so gracious to help me select these questions using his incredible zombie-monkey powers.

Thijs chose to return Moko to my desert castle in much the same way that I sent the poor Ape to him - riding first-class on a catapult volley! What better way to travel? Of course, this leads to a very good question: Why didn’t he throw more monkeys to me?

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Wheee!
Q: I played Fling and tried to sacrifice five creatures to hit my opponent for 20. He said I can’t do this, but Fling has the ability “Sacrifice a creature:” so I should be able to use it more than once.

A: Unfortunately, your opponent is right: you can only throw one monkey. Wizards has issued errata for Fling to bring it in line with what they originally intended it to do:

Quote from Oracle »
Fling. 1R.
Instant.
As an additional cost to play Fling, sacrifice a creature.
Fling deals damage equal to the sacrificed creature's power to target creature or player.
Sacrificing “a” (as in one, only one, and nothing but one) creature is part of the cost, and you can only pay it once. This is how the card has always worked, but the older wording was less explicit.

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Q: If my opponent taps his Prodigal Sorcerer to throw a monk- er, to ping me for one, and I Shock it in response, do I still take one damage?

A: Unfortunately, you do. Let’s look at our recent simian transport situation. Say that Thijs has loaded up his monkeypult and launched it. Seeing this, I send a team of highly-skilled Dutch ninjas to kill him in his sleep (even flying by catapult, it takes a long time to cross the Atlantic...) The ninjas are successful, and now I only have to take down Jeff to become the sole writer of the column! But wait! There’s still 100 pounds of flying undead Pan troglodytes headed my way! Alas, I failed to stop the incoming Moko by having Thijs inhumed.

This is also referred to as the “hand grenade scenario” – killing the grenadier doesn't stop the grenade, and killing the source doesn’t stop the ability. The CompRules are more technical:

Quote from Comprehensive Rules »
402.6. Once activated or triggered, an ability exists independently of its source as an ability on the stack. Destruction or removal of the source after that time won’t affect the ability.
If you want to stop the ability, you’ll need to Stifle or Squelch it.

**Don’t worry, Thijs is still alive. We already have one zombie in this column, two would be gratuitous.**

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Just because I love these puking fish.
Q: Going back to the “flinging the monkey” question, what if I only have one 8/8 creature, and my opponent uses Sickening Shoal to make it 1/1 in response to my Fling – how much damage will the creature do? The 8/8 that’s printed on it?

A: Your opponent can’t even do that, sadly. Refer back to the last issue of Cranial Insertion – you pay the additional cost of Fling by sacrificing a creature, and your opponent won’t have a chance to do anything until that creature is gone.

However, if you use Grab the Reins instead, the situation is different – Grab the Reins doesn’t ask you to sacrifice a creature until it resolves, so your opponent can weaken your creature in response to reduce the damage that’ll be coming at him. Since Grab doesn't require you to choose which creature to sacrifice until it resolves, you can at this point choose a creature that your opponent hasn't weakened. But if you don't, this will result in a puny Grab for one damage according to the ever-popular Last Known Information (LKI) rule.

Quote from Comprehensive Rules »
413.2f If an effect requires information from the game (such as the number of creatures in play), the answer is determined only once, when the effect is applied. The effect uses the current information of a specific permanent if that permanent is still in play, or of a specific card in the stated zone; otherwise, the effect uses the last known information the object had before leaving that zone.


Since the object – your big-but-now-tiny creature – was a 1/1 right before it left the play zone, that’s what the LKI rule tells Grab the Reins to do.

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Q: Can I play Uktabi Orangutan if there are no artifacts in play?

A: Sure, though he’ll be a hungry monkey. Uktabi Orangutan’s triggered ability (“When THIS comes into play...”) doesn’t matter until it actually comes into play. It’s not a play restriction like Rock Jockey or Skyshroud Condor . When the Orangutan comes into play, its ability triggers, but without a legal target the ability is immediately removed from the stack - and the sad monkey sits in play with no banana.

Remember that if YOU control an artifact, he’ll be just as happy to nosh on it. If there are *any* artifacts in play that can be targeted, you have to target one for the ability. The same applies to Nekrataal.

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Moko just shambled in and asked me to stop talking about him. He handed me this question, my first fan mail! Well, it’s addressed to me, so I call it fan mail.

Q: Dear Eli, MODO has a bug. Opponent played Hideous Laughter and it killed my White Knight even though he has protection from black

A: While saying “MODO has a bug” is like saying “Tucson is warm in July,” this isn’t a bug. Protection from X is commonly abbreviated as “DEBT” – it can’t be Damaged, Enchanted/Equipped, Blocked, or Targeted by X.

I’d quote the Comprehensive Rules so you can see how simple and easy it is, but this is almost a full page of text, and I’m not that desperate to take up space yet. If you go check them out, look at section “502.7. Protection” for all of the details.

Unfortunately for your White Knight, Hideous Laughter does not Damage (it just lowers his power and toughness), Enchant or Equip (it’s not an enchantment or equipment), Block ( ...umm yeah ), or Target (the word “target” is not used anywhere on the card, nor is it a local enchantment) him.

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Q: An Eager Cadet equipped with Umezawa’s Jitte attacked me, and I blocked it with my Sakura-Tribe Elder. With combat damage on the stack, I sacrificed the Elder for a land. Does the Cadet get any counters?

A: Very definitely not – first of all, whenever the equipped creature deals damage, the Jitte gets counters, not the creature.

However, the equipped creature isn’t going to deal any damage here.

Quote from Comprehensive Rules »
310.4c If a creature that was supposed to receive combat damage is no longer in play or is no longer a creature, the damage assigned to it isn’t dealt.
It strikes a valiant blow, but alas, the snake is already dead and can’t take the damage. The Jitte will receive no counters.

On the other hand, the Elder’s damage will still be dealt to the equipped creature, which will die a sad death.

310.4a Combat damage is dealt as it was originally assigned even if the creature dealing damage is no longer in play, its power has changed, or the creature receiving damage has left combat.
As a quick, more advanced note, since this came up twice at Friday Night Magic – if combat damage is on the stack and you take control of your opponent’s creature, the damage will still be dealt. Stealing the creature causes it to leave combat, but the last part of 310.4a says that leaving combat doesn’t remove damage from the stack. If it won’t survive that damage, you might want to steal it *before* damage is on the stack.

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Q: I know that Portal cards aren’t legal until October, but can I play with a Portal Wrath of God now?

A: Yes, you may – give the Portal god a shining moment to wipe the board all by itself! The Universal Tournament Rules say (in many, many words which would inspire confusion) that you may play with any previously printed copy of a currently legal card.

Portal’s Wrath of God, despite the horribly non-Magic wording, is still a Wrath of God, and may be played in any format in which any other Wrath of God may be played. You just have to use the actual Oracle wording (“Destroy all creatures. They can’t be regenerated.”) instead of the Portal or Alpha wording, both of which are rather different.

In case you have any Alpha cards lying around, keep one thing in mind: you can not play Alpha cards in a deck with non-Alpha cards unless you use sleeves. The Alpha cards have a different cut on the corners, which makes them marked cards. You could play an unsleeved deck with nothing but Alpha cards, but then people would give you looks of abject horror.

Remember, kids - Portal I, II, and III Kingdoms will only be legal in T1 and T1.5 (aka Vintage and Legacy). No Portal cards at FNM!

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Did you know that there is no creature
in Magic with the creature types
“Zombie Monkey”? Or even “Zombie Ape”?
Q: Can I use Volrath's Laboratory to make purple Zombie Monkeys?

A: Your question makes Moko very sad. Mostly because the answer is “no”. “Zombie Monkey” is in fact two creature types, not one. “Zombie-Monkey” would be a single creature type, but you must choose a creature type that already exists in Magic – so no Zombie-Monkey, no Emu, no Spleen, although "Pixie-Queen", "Island-Fish", and "Brownie" are perfectly fine if you're going for laughs.

The same thing applies to the color. There are only five colors in Magic – White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green (“Artifact” or “colorless” aren’t colors). Of course, if you’re playing with Unhinged cards, your play group may choose to allow any color (or creature type) you can imagine. You could even do this in casual play without Un- cards, but it’s not advisable, since you don’t want to get into that habit.

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Q: If I cast Patriarch's Bidding, can I name “Legendary” to bring back all of my Legends?

A: Not anymore! Technically, you never could, but before Kamigawa got rid of creature types with inherent meaning, you could use Bidding naming “Legends”. Now that creature type no longer exists – creatures that were Legends have received errata to be Legendary Creatures. Since this isn’t a creature type (creature types always appear after the dash on a creature card), it’s neither a valid choice for the Bidding, nor would it return anything if it were.

“Legendary” is a supertype – it appears before any types. You also can’t name a type (such as Artifact) with bidding, so the Patriarch also won’t be able to return your artifact hoard. I’m sure he’s taken a hit in the polls for this, but enough Zombie and Goblin players love him enough to keep him in office.

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Q: Why can’t I use Boomerang to return a creature from my graveyard to my hand? Could I use Consuming Vortex instead?

A: Because that little piece of magical wood has trouble cutting through six feet of dirt and a hard pine box.

Or, rather, because a card in your graveyard isn’t a permanent. By definition:

Quote from CompRules »
200.6. A permanent is a card or token that’s in play.
If it’s not in play, it’s not a permanent. Cards in your hand, library, graveyard, removed-from-game zone, and the stack are all just cards (and a spell, if it’s on the stack).

If a card talks about a “creature”, “artifact”, “land”, or “enchantment”, it’s referring to a permanent; compare this to cards that return “a creature card” or “a basic land card” instead of destroying “target creature”. So the Vortex also won’t do this. The card you’re looking for is Raise Dead. Notice the difference in the wording.

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Q: If my opponent lays a Cage of Hands on my monkey, and I sacrifice it in response, can he pay 1W to return the cage to his hand?

A: His Hands are heading right for the graveyard. Abilities on a card can only be played if that card is in play, unless they reference another zone (cycling, for example, says to “Discard this card from your hand”, so it can only be played while in your hand.) If you kill your monkey while the Cage is still on the stack, the Cage will still be on the stack after the monkey is gone. Its abilities can’t be played from there, so it’s stuck looking at the monkey-shaped void that it had intended to enchant, and will be countered upon resolution for lack of legal target.

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Q: Is “flying” an ability?

A: It is, although one not usually associated with monkeys (ow, stop hitting me, Moko!) It’s what’s known as a “keyword ability”.

502.1. Most abilities describe exactly what they do in the card’s rules text. Some, though, are very common or would require too much space to define on the card. In these cases, the object lists only the name of the ability as a “keyword”; sometimes reminder text summarizes the game rule.
For a full list of these, check out section 502 of the Comprehensive Rules. On more recent keyword abilities, or in a core or starter set, these are usually spelled out with reminder text (the stuff between parenthesis in italics), but some abilities like flying, first strike, and trample that have been around forever don’t use reminder text in “expert” expansions like Kamigawa and Mirrodin blocks. You can still see a shorthand explanation of them in 8th Edition, and presumably in 9th as well.

Since these keyword abilities are still abilities, Humble and Humility will remove them.

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And that’s all for this week, folks! Stay tuned for next week, when Thijs discusses effects that happen to be continuous.

Until next time, here’s hoping to see “Zombie” and “Monkey” on the same card.

-Eli Shiffrin, L1 DCI Judge, Tucson, AZ

Thanks to Thijs and Jeff for chief proofreading, and to the Writer's Forum for secondary proofreading!

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