Cranial Insertion: Question Salad

Cranial Insertion
Question Salad
By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Mmm, bacon!
Hi there! The year is not quite new anymore, but since this is my first Cranial Insertion for this year, I'd still like to wish you a happy new year! As in previous years, my resolution for this year is to exercise more and eat healthier in order to shed some excess weight, and early results so far are encouraging. In keeping with that theme, I'm serving you a healthy question salad from our email inbox and from our Twitter feed. This delicious salad is made with fresh Mycosynth Lettuce, crispy Bacon of Immorality, tangy Thousand Island Sanctuary Dressing, and many other ingredients, and it is sure to please all your brain cells!

If you have questions you'd like us to answer in future episodes, please email them to [email][/email] or tweet to @CranialTweet. Now, let's dig in!

Q: Can I Mental Misstep a Fireball with X=10?

A: Nope! The converted mana cost of a spell on the stack includes the choice for X if there's an X in its mana cost, so that Fireball has a converted mana cost of 11.

Q: So if my opponent shoots a Fireball with X=0 at my Phantasmal Image to blow it up, I can Mental Misstep that?

A: You can, but that won't help your Phantasmal Image. It is already targeted by Fireball, so its ability is already on the stack and waiting to resolve. Countering the Fireball won't prevent that ability from blowing up your Phantasmal Image.

Q: Does returning Reassembling Skeleton from the graveyard trigger Burning Vengeance?

A: Sadly, it does not. Casting a spell from the graveyard is a process that entails moving a card from the graveyard to the stack. When you reassemble the Skeleton, you activate an ability of a card in your graveyard, which is not the same as casting a spell. Also when the ability resolves it moves the card from the graveyard to the battlefield, again which is not the same as casting a spell.

Q: Can Thrun, the Last Troll regenerate from being dealt 4 points of infect damage?

A: No, it can't. Regeneration replaces destruction, and a creature that reaches toughness 0 or less is simply put into its owner's graveyard. This is not destruction, so regeneration can't replace this event.

Q: If my opponent plays Batterskull, can Spellskite steal Batterskull by redirecting the living weapon effect that attaches Batterskull to the Germ token?

A: No, that doesn't work. Spellskite can only change the target of a targeted spell or ability, and will change it only if Spellskite is a legal target for that spell or ability. In order to target, an ability has to use the word "target" or a keyword whose definition uses the word "target." The living weapon ability is not targeted, so Spellskite is powerless against it.

Q: Does Djinn of Wishes allow me to play an extra land on my turn, or a land on my opponent's turn, if I reveal a land with its ability?

A: No, the Djinn isn't that good at land grants. Most timing rules are permissions that allow you to do certain things at certain times, and the Djinn extends those permissions by giving you an additional opportunity to play the revealed card at a time the rules wouldn't allow that. However, lands have additional rules that produce actual restrictions. Those restrictions explicitly forbid you from playing lands on another player's turn or if you've already used up all your land drops for the turn, and the Djinn doesn't remove or override those restrictions.

It's a trap!
Q: My opponent attacks me with five dudes. Can I flashback Stone Idol Trap with Snapcaster Mage for just R?

A: Sure, that works. Unlike most other traps such as Mindbreak Trap, Stone Idol Trap's "cast me for cheap" ability creates a cost reduction effect rather than an alternative cost. This cost reduction applies even if you cast Stone Idol Trap for an alternative cost such as the flashback cost it gets from Snapcaster Mage.

Q: If I control Mycosynth Lattice, can I imprint an Opal Acrolith from my graveyard onto Myr Welder?

A: No such luck, sorry. The Opal Acrolith in your graveyard is not an artifact card. Mycosynth Lattice only turns permanents on the battlefield into artifacts. The cards in your graveyard are turned colorless, but that doesn't mean that they're artifacts.

Q: I control two Honor of the Pure and a Nightsky Mimic. If I cast Unmake, does my Mimic become 4/4 or 6/6?

A: It'll be a titanic 6/6! Effects that set power/toughness to specific values are applied before effects that increase or decrease power/toughness, so "becomes 4/4" is applied first, followed by the +2/+2 from the two Honors.

Q: I cast five spells in my turn, then I activate Chandra, the Firebrand's -2 ability and follow up with a Grapeshot, how much damage am I dealing with that?

A: The Grapeshot you cast sees that you cast five spells before it, so its storm ability makes five copies. The copy that Chandra's ability makes is not being cast, so its storm ability doesn't trigger to make more copies. Overall, you get the original Grapeshot, five storm copies, and one Chandra copy, so that's seven Grapeshots total.

Q: I took control of my opponent's Dark Confidant with Vedalken Shackles, and I had a lot of fun with it, but now I want to give it back to my opponent, so I untap the Shackles in my untap step. Do I still get the Confidant trigger for this turn?

A: Nope. Your untap step happens before your upkeep step, and you lose control of Dark Confidant immediately upon untapping your Shackles. By the time your upkeep begins, you no longer control Dark Confidant and his ability has no reason to trigger.

Q: How does Beacon of Immortality work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: It's pretty straightforward. You target a player, and you double that player's life total. And then you realize the problem: that player doesn't actually have a life total because the life total belongs to his or her team. To solve this problem, we have the following rule:

810.9a If a cost or effect needs to know the value of an individual player's life total, that cost or effect uses the team's life total instead.

So, you simply double the team's life total instead, easy-peasy!

Q: How do cards like Island Sanctuary or Circle of Protection: White work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Those are actually two very different questions. In Two-Headed Giant, one team as a whole attacks the other team as a whole. Restrictions that prevent a player from being attacked prevent that player's entire team from being attacked. This means that Island Sanctuary allows you to protect your entire team from certain attackers by opting not to draw your card. Your teammate still gets to draw, since you're just skipping your draw as opposed to skipping the entire draw step.

However, if an attacker goes through, it must assign that damage to one player or the other player, and Circle of Protection only prevents the damage that would be dealt to whichever player controls the Circle. This means that it's generally trivial to play around Circle of Protection simply by assigning the damage to the head that doesn't control the Circle.

Q: Can I go below 0 life and draw lots of cards with Yawgmoth's Bargain if I control Platinum Angel?

A: No, you can't do that. While Platinum Angel will happily keep you alive at 0 or less life, you can only go below 0 life by losing life. Paying life is different and only works if you have enough life to cover the payment. In order to pay 1 life, you need to have at least 1 life.

Remember to see your dentist
twice a year to preserve
your beautiful smile!
Q: What exactly happens if I target my Massacre Wurm with a kicked Rite of Replication and then Twincast the Rite?

A: Well, the Wurm will definitely live up to its name! First, the Twincast copy of the Rite resolves, and since the copy of a kicked spell is also kicked, it'll make one batch of five Massacre Wurm tokens. Five separate abilities now go on the stack to give all your opponents' creatures -2/-2, and after each resolution, state-based actions are checked and creatures whose toughness has reached 0 or less are carted off to the graveyard. Each dying creature triggers the death ability of six Massacre Wurms, causing its controller to lose 12 life. At the end of all that, each creature that started with a toughness of 10 or less is dead and its controller has lost 12 life from that.

If you still have opponents after that, the original Rite of Replication resolves and makes another batch of five Massacre Wurms. This triggers another round of -10/-10 to your opponents' creatures -- if any are left -- and each creature that dies from that triggers the death ability of eleven Massacre Wurms, causing its controller to lose 22 life. Ouch!

Q: What happens if I activate Words of Waste three times in response to my Burning Inquiry?

A: Let's break it down. When an effect instructs multiple players to draw cards, each player performs all their draws individually in turn order, starting with the active player. You're the active player, so you'd perform your draws first. Your draws get replaced by Words of Waste, so instead each of your opponents discard three cards. After that, your opponents draw three cards each. Finally, everybody including you discards three cards at random.

Q: I'm building a Damia, Sage of Stone commander deck, and I'm considering combining Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger with Contamination. How do those two actually interact when I tap a land for mana?

A: Contamination generates a replacement effect that changes any mana that a land would produce to a single black mana. Vorinclex's ability is a triggered ability that resolves after that. It looks at what the land produced, sees that the land produced one black mana, and gives you a second black mana for your troubles. I hope you like lots of black mana, because that's all you're going to get.

Q: Let's say I have a Blighted Agent equipped with a Sword of War and Peace. I attack my opponent who has seven cards in his hand. The agent hits, my opponent now has three poison counters, and the Sword trigger goes on the stack. If I respond by turning the Sword into a creature with Karn, Silver Golem and cast Tainted Strike on it, is my opponent dead?

A: Yes, this would indeed kill your opponent. The damage is dealt by the Sword when the ability resolves, and the Sword's characteristics at that time determine how the damage is dealt. Since the Sword is now a source with infect, the damage is dealt in the form of seven poison counters that finish off your opponent.

Q: Can I use Riftsweeper in a commander game to send a commander from the command zone to its owner's library?

A: No, that would be too mean. Once upon a time, way back when commanders were still called generals and the Commander variant was named for Elder Dragons and inhabitants of the Highlands, the general/commander would reside in the exile zone and Riftsweeper was banned to prevent such shenanigans. Then, the command zone was introduced and the commander took up its residence there. The command zone is a different zone than the exile zone, so Riftsweeper can't touch a commander that's in the command zone.

Q: If both my opponent and I are mulliganing to six, can I suggest that we both just draw seven again? I heard that's legal. If it is, how should I go about suggesting that so my opponent doesn't think I'm trying to trick him into drawing extra cards?

A: Well, just going back to seven for no reason is not legal. However, you could offer your opponent an Intentional Draw for the current game. If he accepts, the game ends in a draw and both of you get to draw seven for the next game. Note that this drawn game affects the game-win-percentage tiebreakers, so you have to count it when you record the final match result.

And that's it for this week. Brian will be back next week, and the week after that Eli will bring us the much anticipated Dark Ascension special. Until next time!

- Carsten Haese


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