Cranial Insertion: Bad Moon on the Rise

Cranial Insertion
Bad Moon on the Rise
or, One Eye is Taken for Jar of Eyeballs

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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Xiahou Dun still adds two counters.
Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.

It's time again, where all of the creepy crawly things slither out from under rocks and/or your bed to torment your soul and shatter your mind with rules questions!

Of course, those "things" are part of the exciting new Dark Ascension set, not your local judges. Your local judges are, presumably, the noble cathars wielding silver-plated copies of the Comprehensive Rules and the Dark Ascension FAQ to vanquish these creatures of the night.

But it might not be safe for them to come out tonight... which is why we answer questions at [email][/email] and @CranialTweet, where you can receive your answer while hiding under the stairs or behind the couch, and none of us have to get into the monster danger zone.

Just make sure to turn the volume off on your laptop or mobile device. You wouldn't want to get their attention, would you?

Q: What happens if I give a creature with undying persist, or vice versa?

A: When the creature dies, assuming it had no counters on it so far, both abilities will trigger. Since you control both and they both want to go on the stack at the same time, you choose which one comes first. After that ability resolves, the other goes to resolve, but it can't do anything as that creature card is no longer in the graveyard!

Q: Can I use Cauldron of Souls to give an undying creature persist, then sacrifice it infinite times?

A: Nope. After it comes back to the battlefield, it's a brand new card with no memory of its previous existence. It won't have persist anymore. But try Mikaeus, the Unhallowed giving a persist creature undying instead - now you can keep bringing the creature back with the kind of counter it didn't have over and over! Because it is a new object, it doesn't have the counters it used to have, so it'll persist without a +1/+1 counter and un-die without a -1/-1 counter.

Q: If a Strangleroot Geist with a +1/+1 counter on it gets blocked by a Phyrexian Crusader, will it come back?

A: It's going to die and stay dead. Your little ghost dies at the same time that its -1/-1 and +1/+1 counter cancel each other out, so when the undying trigger looks back to see if it had any counters, the last time it was on the battlefield, it did have a bunch of counters on it.

It's a little confusing to wrap your brain around, since I assume your brain isn't flat and like a tortilla, but just remember: At no point was the Geist on the battlefield without a counter, since state-based actions simultaneously took it to the yard and took off the counters.

Q: When Hollowhenge Spirit removes an attacking creature from combat, does that untap it? Or if I hit a blocker, does it let my blocked attacker get through?

A: Neither of those will happen.

While your attacking creature is removed from combat, that means exactly what it says: it's no longer attacking. Nothing says to untap it, so it'll remain tapped. Contrast this to Reconnaissance, which removes the creature from combat and untaps it and is overall just a silly card.

Removing a blocker from combat stops it from dealing or being dealt combat damage, but the attacking creature still blocked. It's just the same as if you bounced, blew up, or otherwise annihilated that blocking creature. The attacking creature it blocked won't deal any damage unless it has trample.

"I feel pretty, oh so pretty"
Q: Can I Fork an Increasing Confusion that I cast using flashback to mill them 4X?

A: You'll only get 3X in this case, which still isn't shabby. The copy of Increasing Confusion asks "hey, was I cast from a graveyard?" and the game answers "Dude, you weren't even cast at all!" This causes Increasing Confusion to become increasingly confused and sad and blue, and sad spells don't give you big bonuses.

Q: Does Grafdigger's Cage stop cascading into Living End from wrecking me?

A: It doesn't at all. There are two things going on, neither of which the Cage stops, oddly enough.

Cascade looks like you're casting from the library - but you aren't! You're exiling the cards, and then casting the exiled card. Grafdigger's Cage doesn't care about spells cast from exile, so your opponent can cast Living End just fine.

When Living End starts resolving, players switch creatures from the battlefield to the graveyard and vice versa... but what you're really doing is spelled out on the card: you exile the creatures from graveyards, sacrifice the creatures on the battlefield, and then plop the creatures onto the battlefield from exile! Just like cascading, nothing's actually moving from the yard to the battlefield without a trip through the exile zone, so this works just fine, too.

Q: How many cards will I draw if I attack with two Drogskol Reavers?

A: A whole lot! Rule 118.9 clarifies that "whenever you gain life" means "whenever a source causes you to gain life," and that happens twice when two creature with lifelink deal damage. So on the first-strike damage, this happens twice, and each Reaver triggers twice, for a total of four cards. On the normal combat damage, assuming that the Reavers weren't blocked by creatures that died to first-strike damage, the same thing will happen for another four cards.

Q: What happens if I dredge a Golgari Grave-Troll as my first draw off Grim Flowering and mill three more creatures?

A: The number of cards you'll draw won't change. That number is locked in as Grim Flowering starts to resolve. However, if those creatures have dredge, you can dredge them instead of drawing for the upcoming draws.

Q: Does Curse of Bloodletting multiply infect counters?

A: It sure does! Damage from a source with infect results in poison counters rather than life loss, but it's still damage, and will be doubled by the Curse.

Q: What happens to changelings during a Zombie Apocalypse?

A: At first, it rises from the grave with all the other Zombies chanting "braaaaains." They shamble onto the battlefield. And then the other Zombies say "wait a second, that guy is a Human!" The changeling protests "But I'm a Zombie! And a Starfish! And a Jellyfish, no less! Jellyfish don't have brains, this is a well-known scientific fact!" But the Zombies do not care. It is a Human, no matter what else it is, so they eat its brains - or whatever gooey matter is where its brain should be - and send it back to the graveyard.

Q: I Cloned Loyal Cathar and then it died. Do I get my Clone back? What does it look like if I copy a normal creature? Is it different if I copy a double-faced card?

A: No matter what you copy, the answer is the same: your Clone can't be transformed, so it can't enter the battlefield transformed, and thus it just enters the battlefield. You can copy anything on the battlefield you'd like, at least!

Q: What happens when an Inkmoth Nexus dies while I have Mikaeus, the Unhallowed?

A: It'll return, since it died as a creature and had undying. It won't be a creature when it returns, but it will have a +1/+1 counter on it! That counter will be pretty pointless until you animate it, but then you'll have a vicious 2/2 moth of doom.

Q: In response to Beguiler of Wills's ability, my opponent Geistflamed him so I don't control enough creatures anymore. Can I still get the creature with Midnight Haunting or is the ability already countered?

A: You can still steal the creature. Target legality is checked exactly twice: during the process of activating the ability, and as the ability starts to resolve. At any other time, the target can be illegal and it won't matter one bit!

Q: My Glint Hawk Idol got caught in some Clinging Mists during a fateful hour. Will it untap on my upkeep, though, since it's no longer a creature?

A: It'll stay tapped. Rule 201.5 clarifies that even though Clinging Mists says, "those creatures," that refers to the set of objects established earlier in the ability ("all attacking creatures") even if they are no longer creatures later on.

Q: Can I evoke Shriekmaw with Havengul Lich?

A: You sure can! Just like Karador, Ghost Chieftain a few weeks ago, Havengul Lich lets you cast the spell from an unusual place, but doesn't specify any alternate cost or casting method. Without the graveyard-casting being contingent upon an alternate cost/method, you're free to use any alternate costs or methods you'd like.

Q: I activate Havengul Lich targeting Scorned Villager and cast it. Can I tap my Lich for G or GG now?

A: You can tap it for G, but not for GG. The night face of double-faced cards only exists while the card's on the battlefield and has been somehow transformed. In every other zone, only the sunny-side-up face characteristics count.

Q: What happens if two Havengul Liches both activate pointing at the same dead creature?

A: Well, there are three questions in here:

If you control both Liches, then it's easy. You just cast the creature, and both Liches get the abilities from it! Yay!

If you control one Lich and an opponent controls another, and the creature you target has flash, then as soon as one Lich activation resolves, whoever controlled that ability gets to cast the creature right away before any other activations resolve. Only that Lich gains the abilities from the creature, and all the other activations are countered.

If the creature doesn't have flash, but two players each control one of the Liches involved, then the player whose turn it is is the only one who can cast the creature. Havengul Lich doesn't say you can cast the creature at any special times, only from a special place. Only the player who casts the creature gets to graft its abilities onto his Lich, and the other Lich is sad that its controller wasted mana.

Q: When does Chalice of Life transform in Two-Headed Giant?

A: In 2HG, each player's life total is the team's life total. Since the team starts at 30 life, the Chalice will transform when a player has 40 life. Forget anything you heard about halving life totals - those rules changed a few years ago, but some people still haven't gotten the memo!

Q: How does Warden of the Wall work in Two-Headed Giant, when it's simultaneously my turn and not my turn?

A: It can't be your turn and not your turn - if it's your turn, it's your turn, even if it's also someone else's turn. Your Warden will be nothing but a mana rock on your team's turn.

Q: If I flash in an Aura with enchant creature on Warden of the Wall, I know it'll fall off when I get a turn. But what if he gets an extra turn after the one I enchant it in?

A: There's no space between the two turns; it just goes from being your opponent's turn to being his turn again. Your Gargoyle will remain enchanted until you actually get a turn.

Q: If my first spell destroys Curse of Exhaustion, can I cast more?

A: Sure! Curse of Exhaustion's effect only exists while it's on the battlefield; it's the same as Glorious Anthem. Glorious Anthem stops pumping your creatures when it's destroyed, and Curse of Exhaustion stops stopping you from casting spells when it's destroyed.

Q: Can I loop Gravecrawler with Flayer of the Hatebound and a sac outlet for lots of damage?

A: Nope. This sounds like an awesome combo, but there's a little problem: Gravecrawler doesn't enter the battlefield from your graveyard, it enters the battlefield from the stack!

That's all for this week, but there are still lots of scaaaary questions to answer. Carsten will be back next week to slay some more, while I gear up for a madcap adventure to Baltimore and then Seattle for Grand Prix on back-to-back weekends.

Until next time, WHAT'S THAT BEHIND YOU?!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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