Cranial Insertion: Fly, Monkey, Fly!





Cranial Insertion
Fly, Monkey, Fly!

By Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Jeff Vondruska

Welcome back to Cranial Insertion! If you missed the first edition by Woapalanne and are wondering what this article is about, you can read his introduction here. Let me quickly introduce myself: I'm Thijs van Ommen, though you probably know me as Gandalf-in-a-boat. I hang around on the Magic Rulings forum a lot. I'm not a DCI judge, though - just somebody who knows the rules of the game. Smile

Before I begin with today's questions, there is something I need to tell you. I hope you remember Moko, the trained chimpanzee that helped Woapalanne selecting questions for the column last week. Naturally, I needed Moko's assistance writing this article, so I asked Woapalanne to send him over. Tragically, Moko didn't survive the transatlantic flight.

Being a wizard and all, I was able to Zombify him.

Q: Is Moko still the same creature after his trip to the graveyard?

A: No, I'm afraid not. When a card changes zones, it forgets everything about its former existence. Moko lost his counters, enchantments and equipment when he left play. Effects that were keeping track of him to do something to him later in the game (like the effect from Through the Breach) wouldn't affect him, because the game doesn't recognize Moko as the same creature. You can read the rule, straight from the Comprehensive Rulebook, right here:
From the CompRules:
217.1c An object that moves from one zone to another is treated as a new object. Effects connected with its previous location will no longer affect it. There are two exceptions to this rule: Effects that edit the characteristics of an artifact, creature, or enchantment spell on the stack will continue to apply to the permanent that spell creates, and abilities that trigger when an object moves from one zone to another (for example, "When Rancor is put into a graveyard from play") can find the object in the zone it moved to when the ability triggered.
The two exceptions mentioned in the rule were things you almost certainly already played the right way. The first means that spells like Spectral Shift actually do what you'd expect them to when you play them targeting a creature spell. Without the second exception, cards like Rancor wouldn't work properly. Even though the exceptions seem obvious, they still need to be listed in the CompRules. The purpose of that rulebook is "to be the ultimate authority for the game," to quote the thing itself. They wouldn't be comprehensive otherwise, would they?

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Q: I used Buried Alive to put a creature card from my library into the graveyard, and then played Zombify to put it into play. Zombify reads, "Return target creature card from your graveyard to play." But the creature has never been in play! What happens?

A: It is put into play. "Return to play" means the same thing as "put into play"; the former is used in certain situations because... well, mostly because it has been that way since Alpha. Rolleyes

(No monkeys were buried alive, zombified or otherwise harmed during the writing of *this* answer.)

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Q: I play Gray Ogre, and my opponent says he responds with Hideous Laughter. What happens?

A: While the response is understandable, the result is probably not what your opponent had in mind. There is no formal definition of the term "respond". There's an informal one, though:
From the CompRules:
Respond, Response (Informal)
A player can choose to play an instant spell or activated ability when something else is already on the stack, rather than waiting for the earlier spell or ability to resolve first. The spell or ability is said to be played "in response to" the earlier spell or ability. See rule 408, "Timing of Spells and Abilities."
If this is what your opponent does, then the following will happen: his Hideous Laughter will go on the stack on top of your Gray Ogre. Neither of you wants to respond to the Laughter, so it resolves, giving all creatures in play -2/-2 until end of turn. Now Gray Ogre is the top item on the stack, but you don't want to respond to that either, so the Gray Ogre comes into play, just missing the Laughter.

What your opponent probably meant to do was to let your Ogre resolve first, and then play the Laughter. Be careful not to use the term "respond" in that scenario, though!

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Q: I control a Quicksilver Elemental and a Chronatog. Can I copy Chronatog's ability twice, and then activate both its abilities to give my Elemental +6/+6 until end of turn?

A: Yes, that works. Quicksilver Elemental will have two instances of the ability, and each can be activated once that turn. Keep in mind that you'll also have to skip your next two turns, so you'd better win now!

There's another little trick that you can use here. Quicksilver Elemental copies all activated abilities it finds on the target creature. If you have the Elemental target itself instead of the Atog, you'll double the number of abilities each time! For :symu::symu::symu:, your Elemental will get the ability four times, allowing it to grow to 15/16. Pay :symu::symu::symu::symu: for an additional +12/+12, making it 27/28. Or, if you like formulas: X blue mana (let's write that as :symu:X) will make Quicksilver Elemental 3+3*2X-1/4+3*2X-1 for X >= 1.

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Q: I have Uba Mask in play. I have to draw a card for my draw step, so instead I remove a card, which happens to be Horobi's Whisper. Can I use its splice onto Arcane ability?

A: Uba Mask allows you to play the card you removed. It doesn't allow you to do anything else with it besides playing it, because the card isn't really in your hand. So you can't "reveal this card from your hand," which is what splice requires:
From the CompRules:
502.40a Splice is a static ability that functions while a card is in your hand. "Splice onto [type or subtype] [cost]" means "You may reveal this card from your hand as you play a [type or subtype] spell. If you do, copy this card's text box onto that spell and pay [cost] as an additional cost to play that spell." Paying a card's splice cost follows the rules for paying additional costs in rules 409.1b and 409.1f-h.
For the same reason, you can't cycle a card you got from Uba Mask: that would require you to "discard this card" (according to rule 502.18a).

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Q: I play a spell that requires me to sacrifice some permanents. Can my opponent respond by destroying the permanents I planned to sacrifice? What happens if he does?

A: That depends on how your spell works exactly. The easiest case is the one where the sacrifice is an additional cost to play the spell. This is obvious from the wording: such a spell will say "As an additional cost to play CARDNAME, do this and that." There are many examples out there: take a look at cards like Devouring Greed and Shrapnel Blast. The extra costs are paid at the same time that you normally pay for the spell's mana cost. You need to be able to pay all costs in order to play the spell. Your opponent can't respond to the cost payment: by the time they get the chance to do anything, you are already done paying the costs.

Unfortunately, not all of the cards this question deals with use additional costs like I just described. Frown A recent counterexample is Mana Seism. It doesn't mention anything about the sacrifice being an additional cost. The sacrifice is just part of the spell's effect, so it occurs at resolution, after everyone has had a chance to respond to your spell. If your opponent manages to destroy some of your lands during that time, then you won't be able to sacrifice those lands for mana. Keep in mind that you don't have to choose what lands you're going to sacrifice until the spell resolves, so your opponent doesn't have that knowledge while he can respond to Mana Seism. It's even perfectly legal to decide not to sacrifice any lands (but that won't get you any mana either, obviously).

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Q: Ok, so what happens if the spell I'm playing is a creature spell like Rathi Dragon, and I have a Pandemonium in play? What if I want to play Phyrexian Dreadnought instead?

A: To find the answer to this question, we need to know the difference between triggered abilities and replacement effects. This difference between the two is very useful to know in general, so let me discuss it in some more detail. The two serve a very similar purpose: both let a card wait around for a specific event to occur; then they kick in and do their thing. However, the two accomplish this in very different ways:
  • Triggered abilities wait for their trigger condition to occur. When this happens, the ability goes on the stack. Players can repond to it in the same way that they can respond to spells and activated abilities. When the responses are done, the triggered ability resolves.
  • Replacement effects watch everything that happens during the game. If something that's about to happen matches the description in the text of the ability, the replacement effect jumps in, changing the event that is about to happen and causing something different to happen in its place.
The two are very easy to tell apart if you know what to look for:
  • All triggered abilities always use one of the following words: "When", "Whenever", or "At". These words are never used except to mark triggered abilities, so if you see one of them, you can be sure that you're dealing with a triggered ability.
  • Replacement effects can be recognized by the word "instead". Everything that uses the word "instead" is a replacement effect, but not every replacement effect uses the word "instead"!
So how does all this apply to the question?In case of a triggered ability (for example: Rathi Dragon), your creature will come into play, which triggers the creature's own ability and the ability on Pandemonium. Your opponent gets the chance to blow up your Mountains in response to the Dragon's trigger. If he can do that, you will have to sacrifice your Dragon when the trigger resolves. The Pandemonium trigger will resolve and deal its damage regardless of what happens to the other trigger - even if you don't sacrifice any Mountains.

In case of a replacement effect (for example: Phyrexian Dreadnought in its current errata'd form), the game sees that your little Dreadnought is about to come into play and stops you. First, you have to sacrifice 12 power worth of creatures, and only if you do will the Dreadnought be allowed to enter play. This doesn't use the stack: neither player is allowed to do anything but sit and watch while you pick your creatures to sacrifice, until the Dreadnought is either allowed to enter play or goes to the graveyard. However, your opponent can still respond to the creature spell itself. (He could have done that in the Rathi Dragon example, too.) If your opponent manages to kill enough of your creatures (or maybe if you didn't have enough creatures in the first place), the replacement effect causes your Dreadnought to go to the graveyard instead of into play. Because it never actually reached the in-play zone, Pandemonium won't trigger in this situation. If you do make the appropriate sacrifice, then the Dreadnought will come into play, triggering Pandemonium.

Incidentally, the interaction between Phyrexian Dreadnought and Pandemonium is the reason that the Dreadnought was given errata to use a replacement effect instead of a triggered ability.

There are ways to get that Dreadnought into play without performing a massacre first, but let's leave that topic for another day.

Phew. In summary:
  • additional cost: can't be responded to, won't trigger Pandemonium unless you pay;
  • triggered ability: can be responded to, will trigger Pandemonium even if you can't pay;
  • replacement effect: only the spell itself can be responded to, and Pandemonium won't trigger if you don't pay.
You can find more on these topics in the Comprehensive Rulebook: look for rule 404 about triggered abilities, or rule 419 about replacement effects. -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q: I have Kird Ape and Goblin Kites in play, but no Forests. I use the Kites to make the Ape fly. If I play a Forest now, Kird Ape will become 2/3, so it's no longer a legal target for Goblin Kites. Will the Ape still have flying? Will I still have to flip a coin for it at end of turn?

A: It's true that the 2/3 Ape isn't a legal target for the Kites. But that doesn't matter anymore. The targets of a spell or ability are only checked twice. The first check is made when you have to announce the target (while playing the spell or activated ability, or when a triggered ability goes on the stack). If you can't find all the targets the spell or ability requires, then it is removed from the stack immediately, without affecting the game.

The target is checked a second time when the spell or ability begins resolving. If the spell or ability was targeted and all of its targets are now illegal, then it is "countered on resolution". The result is the same as countering a spell with Counterspell or an ability with Stifle, except the game rules do it for you. If at least one target is still legal (or if there weren't any targets in the first place), the spell or ability will resolve.

After these two checks are passed, the rules for targeting have done their job and won't interfere anymore. Your Kird Ape will continue to fly, and will have to make an attempt at landing safely at end of turn.

Here are the rules where the two checks are described:
From the CompRules:
409.1. Playing a spell or activated ability follows the steps listed below, in order. ...
.
.
.
409.1c If the spell or ability requires any targets, the player first announces how many targets he or she will choose (if the spell or ability has a variable number of targets), then announces the targets themselves. A spell or ability can't be played unless the required number of legal targets are chosen. ...
From the CompRules:
413.2. Resolution of a spell or ability may involve several steps. These steps are followed in the order listed below.

413.2a If the spell or ability specifies targets, it checks whether the targets are still legal. ...

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That didn't sound so hard, did it? Let's see if you can find the correct answer to this question:

Q: I play the ability of Vedalken Shackles, targeting my opponent's Kird Ape. My opponent doesn't control any Forests; I control a Forest and one Island. What happens?

A:
You'll get the Ape (while the Shackles remain tapped).

The targeting requirement for Shackles reads: "target creature with power less than or equal to the number of Islands you control". The Ape is 1/1 and you control 1 Island, so it's a legal target when you're playing the ability. When the ability begins to resolve, nothing has changed, so the target is still legal. Halfway through the resolution of the ability, the Ape comes under your control, and becomes 2/3. At this point, it doesn't match the targeting requirement anymore, but that doesn't matter - it has passed both checks already.
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Moko will soon be on his way back to Woapalanne, where he will be ready to handle the questions you send us.

Until next time, be careful with those Goblin Kites!

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands

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