Cranial Insertion: Dawn of the Undead

Cranial Insertion
Dawn of the Undead
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
Italiano Nederlands

Welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! If you follow our regular rotation, you were probably expecting an article by Eli. I hope you're not too disappointed that I've taken this issue in his place, but Eli just returned from two back-to-back Grand Prix weekends when this issue was due, so he was approximately as fit for that task as one of the gentlemen pictured to the right. Fear not, Eli will be back to normal for next week's issue.

As you know, Grand Prix Indianapolis was last weekend, but since we write a week ahead, I don't know yet which interesting Legacy questions I'll have collected there. Fortunately, we get a steady stream of questions sent to our mailbox at [email][/email] and our Twitter feed @CranialTweet, and this week's selection features quite a few questions about creatures coming back from the graveyard in some form or another, which pleases Moko to no end. If you have questions about undying Zombies or anything else, send them in and we'll answer them!

Also, now that Cranial Insertion is on its own site, hosting translations is easier than ever, and we're looking for additional translators to reinforce the existing translation teams or even to add more languages. If you're interested in helping out an existing translation team, please see the existing translation for contact information. If you'd like to start up a new translation team, please send an email to [email][/email] and we'll get you set up.

Now, let's dive into this week's questions!

Q: If my opponent has enchanted me with two Curse of Death's Hold, can I blow one of them up with Acidic Slime?

A: Yup, that's no problem at all. Even though Acidic Slime enters the battlefield as a 0/0, its enter-the-battlefield ability still triggers, because it did indeed enter the battlefield. Once an ability has triggered, its resolution is not dependent on the continued survival of its source. The ability is put on the stack after the state-based action check that tosses the Acidic Slime into the bin, and it'll blow up one of the Curses when it resolves.

Q: If my opponent plays Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, do I have enough time to kill it with my Intrepid Hero before my Hero dies?

A: Unfortunately, your Intrepid Hero will experience an uncharacteristic moment of trepidation. It can't target Elesh Norn on the stack, so it'll have to wait for Elesh Norn to resolve. However, after Elesh Norn resolves, state-base actions are checked before you get priority, so your Hero bites the dust before you get the chance to use its ability on Elesh Norn.

Q: If I have a creature of mine block multiple attackers through the use of an equipped Echo Circlet, how does damage work?

A: It works just like when a single attacker is blocked by multiple blockers, except in reverse! You, as the blocker's controller, announce a damage assignment order for the attackers it is blocking in the declare blockers step. In the combat damage step, you assign damage to the attackers in that order, keeping in mind that you have to assign lethal damage to an attacker before you can assign any damage that are behind it in the damage assignment order.

Q: My opponent claims that Act of Treason with Sundial of the Infinite lets him steal one of my creatures permanently because Act of Treason's effect misses its chance to end. That's not true, is it?

A: You're right, that's not true. Ending the turn fast-forwards the game to the cleanup step of the turn, so any "until end of turn" and "this turn" effects still end before the game proceeds to the next turn.

Q: I am at 9 life, and besides a hungry Archdemon of Greed I control nothing but lands. Can I respond to the Archdemon's upkeep trigger with Tainted Strike to buy myself some time?

A: Yup. The Archdemon deals 9 damage to you when the ability resolves, and it only checks at that time whether the Archdemon has infect. Since it has infect now, it deals the damage in the form of 9 poison counters rather than knocking you down to 0 life, so now you have one more turn to get some demon food.

Q: Does Flayer of the Hatebound's ability trigger for creatures that are cast from the graveyard, like, say, Gravecrawler?

A: Sadly, it does not. A creature that's cast from the graveyard goes from the graveyard to the stack, and then it goes from the stack to the battlefield when it resolves. To trigger Flayer of the Hatebound's ability, a creature has to go straight from the graveyard to the battlefield. Examples of the latter are Reassembling Skeleton's ability, the unearth ability, Reanimate and friends, and of course the all-star of generating rules questions in the current Standard environment, undying.

Q: If Phantasmal Image copies a Cryptoplasm, does the "if you target me I die" ability go away when the Imaged Cryptoplasm copies something else?

A: Yes, it does. That ability only exists as part of Phantasmal Image's own copy effect. The new copy effect that's created by Cryptoplasm's ability overwrites that with copying something else and gaining Cryptoplasm's upkeep ability.

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Zombies are coming, nothing can save you.
Q: What happens if I restart the game with Karn Liberated and I exiled cards with enter-the-battlefield abilities. Do those abilities trigger at the start of the game? For example, do I get Zombies from Grave Titan?

A: You do! The permanents enter the battlefield before the game starts, and their triggers go on the stack at the beginning of the first upkeep of the game. Note that this means that you've controlled Grave Titan since you've started the turn, while the Zombies arrived a little bit after the turn began. In other words, the Grave Titan can attack right away, but his little friends have to stay behind because they still have summoning sickness.

Q: If my opponent uses Sorin, Lord of Innistrad's ultimate ability on a counterless Geralf's Messenger that I control, what happens? Who gets the Messenger, does the Messenger get a counter, and who loses life for the Messenger's enter-the-battlefield trigger?

A: Geralf's Messenger is destroyed and then immediately returned to the battlefield during the resolution of Sorin's ability. Sorin's ability doesn't give it a counter, so it doesn't get a counter. The undying ability triggers, but it can't do anything when it resolves because it can't find the card in the graveyard on account of Sorin having snatched it up right away. The Messenger enters the battlefield under your opponent's control, so he controls its enter-the-battlefield ability and he hits you with the life loss trigger.

Q: Let's say I control an Amulet of Vigor and I play a Golgari Rot Farm. Could I stack the triggers in a way that it would untap, I could tap it for mana, and then return it to my hand?

A: Sure, that works. You control both triggers, so you choose the order in which to put the abilities on the stack. In between each resolution, both players get priority to act, so you can tap the Farm for mana between untapping it and bouncing it.

Q: I control a Gravecrawler and a Grisly Bear. Can I continually sacrifice Gravecrawler to Phyrexian Altar for B and recast it with that mana to build up for a big Bitter Ordeal finish?

A: Sure, that works just like you imagine. Each time Gravecrawler crawls back out of the grave, it's a new creature, so each time it counts anew for Bitter Ordeal's gravestorm.

Q: My opponent controls a Cellar Door and a Wheel of Sun and Moon enchanting himself. A creature card is on the bottom of his library. Does he get a token if he targets himself with Cellar Door's ability?

A: Yup. Cellar Door's ability doesn't care where the card actually ends up. It only cares whether the characteristics of the card can be determined. Since Wheel of Sun and Moon's replacement effect reveals the card before putting it back on the bottom of the library, the card's characteristics can be determined, so he gets a Zombie token.

Q: I control Reaper King, Scuttlemutt, Gold Myr, and Xenograft, naming Scarecrows. If I cast Sudden Disappearance on myself, how many permanents do I get to blow up during my end step?

A: You'll get to blow up two permanents provided that you name Scarecrows again when Xenograft comes back in your end step. It's a new Xenograft, so you could name a different creature type if you want to. Anyway, after all your permanents have come back, the game checks for enter-the-battlefield triggers. Reaper King's ability sees two other Scarecrows that entered the battlefield at the same time, so the "blow stuff up" ability triggers twice.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead!"
"We'll see..."
Q: Suppose I control Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and I cast Ball Lightning. When does Ball Lightning die, this turn or next turn?

A: Both, in fact. At your turn's end step, Ball Lightning triggers, dies, and undies. At your opponent's end step, though, it triggers and dies again, and it will not come back this time unless you somehow got rid of the +1/+1 counter it received.

Q: Experiment Kraj's first ability works in all zones, right? So I could exile it from my hand with Elvish Spirit Guide's ability if there's one with a +1/+1 counter on the battlefield? Or forestcycle if if there's an Elvish Aberration with a +1/+1 counter?

A: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the answers are no, no, and no, in that order. The abilities of permanent cards, of which Kraj is an example, only function on the battlefield unless there's a specific reason for the ability to function elsewhere. Kraj's ability has no reason to function elsewhere, so it only functions on the battlefield.

Q: I control a Nether Traitor and some other creatures, and my opponent blows up the world with Wrath of God. Can I return Nether Traitor for B?

A: Nope. Unlike Kraj's ability, Nether Traitor's ability only works in the graveyard because it talks about returning Nether Traitor from the graveyard. As such, its ability only triggers if it's already in the graveyard when something else dies, and it won't trigger when it dies in a group with something else.

Q: I have a question about Fact or Fiction, Covenant of Minds, Intuition and Gifts Ungiven. Do any of these cards trigger the "goes to your graveyard from your library" ability of Gaea's Blessing?

A: Yes, they all do. All of those tell you to reveal cards from your library and then put them into your graveyard. "Revealed" isn't a zone. While the cards are revealed, they're still in your library, so Gaea's Blessing goes to your graveyard from your library if it's among those cards.

Q: I'm assembling a persist combo with Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Kitchen Finks, while my opponent controls Lethal Vapors. My opponent destroys Kitchen Finks, which sends the game into an endless loop of the Finks persisting and being killed by Lethal Vapors. Which player has to stop the loop by activating Lethal Vapors' ability and skipping a turn?

A: Neither, actually! This is a loop that consists entirely of mandatory actions, so if neither player wants to stop the loop, the game simply ends in a draw. The fact that both players have access to an openly visible means of stopping the loop doesn't change that. A player is only forced to take an action to end a loop if that action is called for by an object that's involved in the loop. While Lethal Vapors is involved in the loop, activating its ability to destroy it is not an action that's called for by the loop, so no player is forced to do that.

Q: Oops! Someone at the table accidentally tips over a bottle of soda and it gets a player's whole deck wet and many cards are ruined right in the middle of a match at FNM. What happens now?

A: As tempted as I'd be to yell at the players for not listening to my "no food and drinks on the table" announcement, "I told you so" is probably not what a player wants to hear while his cards are turning into the Tabernacle of Ginger Ale. Instead, I'll give the player some time to clean up the mess, save what can be saved and find replacement cards for what can't be saved. If any of the cards can't be replaced, I can issue proxies for those cards if I'm the head judge because the cards were damaged accidentally during the tournament. The proxies are only valid for that tournament, though. For the next tournament, the player will have to find real replacements for the damaged cards or play a different deck.

And that's all the time we have today. Before I go, I'd like to remind you of my annual charity tournament for the National MS Society. The third annual Cast a Spell on MS is coming to Toledo, Ohio on March 24th, and we have an insane prize pool waiting to be won. We'll even give out random door prizes including a judge foil Dark Confidant! If you're in the neighborhood that day, come on over and play Magic for a good cause!

Thanks for reading, and please come back next week when Eli continues the countdown to Cranial Insertion's seventh anniversary!

- Carsten Haese


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