Cranial Insertion: Eight Monkeys

Cranial Insertion
Eight Monkeys
or, Do Not Set Monkeys on Fire

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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Not that kind of oil.
It seems that Paskoff always gets the Chanukah article, but lo, I got it this year! Depending on your time zone and religious factors, Chanukah is in one to three days, so yay! Break out the candles and/or oil and make some fire! And chocolate pirate treasure, but really, that's a year-round thing.

(For the record, Chanukah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday; it's mostly so well-known due to being a holiday that falls during the gift-giving season. It's the celebration of the miracle of the oil that just kept on burning and burning and burning.)

However, since Chanukah lasts for eight days, and overlaps Christmas this year, we're going to wait till next week to give you our super awesome holiday present. Consider it for Chanukah, Christmas, Moko-day, or whatever reason you have to celebrate! It'll be awesome. You'll see next week.

Sadly, there's still this week before the awesome, though it's still pretty awesome. It's a bunch of questions from the [email][/email] inbox and @CranialTweet Twitter feed! Yay! Got more rules questions? Send them on in, and you'll get an answer from us, no matter how deep we have to dig, and your question may show up in a future article.

Q: I know that Sun Titan can put a Pacifism on a creature with hexproof - but can you explain why?

A: 303.4f is the magic rule. Also note that 114.1b only refers to Aura spells, and this isn't a spell; the first rule I noted covers what happens when the Aura isn't a spell, and it just looks for something that can legally be enchanted, not something that can legally be targeted by the Aura if it were cast.

Q: Can I cast a double-faced card sunny-side up (or down?) with Illusionary Mask?

A: No such luck. Double-faced cards can never be face down on the battlefield or, according to rule 711.4, on the stack, so trying to cast one face down is an illegal action.

Q: Double-faced cards can't normally be face down, but does that change if they're in a sleeve?

A: Nope. Sleeviness doesn't affect the rules of the game. While sleeves may make being face down at all plausible for double-faced cards, the rules don't take sleeves into account in any way, shape, or form, and are written with the average non-sleeving player in mind.

Q: When I flash back Mind Spring, can I pay X to draw cards?

A: You sure can! Just like Devil's Play has an X in its flashback cost, Mind Spring will have a flashback cost of XUU. You'll choose a value for X as you cast it, just like normal, and draw that many cards.

And I thought a seafood allergy was annoying.
Q: Can two Heartless Summonings plus Corpse Curs plus Flesh Allergy end the game?

A: That will end the game pretty nicely. With the two Summonings, you can cast Corpse Cur for free. Its ability triggers, but before it's put on the stack, state-based actions see your 0/0 puppy and shove it off to the graveyard. Now you go to put the trigger on the stack, and this is the point where you choose a target. And hey, look at that fine-looking Corpse Cur in your graveyard! Why not bring it back to your hand?

Repeat the process twenty-some times, and then cast Flesh Allergy. Even though it was just a single card in a vicious cycle of undeath, each time it died it was a new object since it kept changing zones, so each time it died it upped the count for Flesh Allergy. The only catch is that you'll need a creature big enough to survive your Summonings to cast Flesh Allergy in the first place, since you can't sacrifice Corpse Cur before state-based actions kill it.

Q: I'm at 5 life and two 5/5 creatures are coming at me, but I have a 2/2 lifelink creature. Will I survive if I block?

A: You'll survive. Lifelink happens at the same time as damage being dealt, without state-based actions looking for 0-life players in between, so you'll be dealt 5 damage, lose 5 life, and gain 2 life all at once.

Q: Will Light from Within pump my Porcelain Legionnaire?

A: It will. Phyrexian mana symbols are also colored mana symbols of the color of the circle, so Phyrexian White Mana is a white mana symbol, regardless of how you pay for it.

Q: What does Platinum Emperion do with Phyrexian mana?

A: Nothing polite. Since your life total is unable to change, you can't pay life, so you'll have to pay that Phyrexian mana with the appropriate colored mana.

Q: What about Platinum Angel and Moltensteel Dragon? Can I pump it to infinity and beyond?

A: Sadly, Space Ranger, there is no infinity in Magic, much less a beyond, and you can pump it until you're down to 0 or 1 life. You can't pay life you don't have, even if you wouldn't die from going that low.

Q: Can I wipe out my opponent's 4/4 creatures by copying my Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite with Phantasmal Image, or does the legend rule apply first?

A: All state-based actions apply simultaneously. Your pair of Norns will look at each other confused yet curiously, and while the legend rule shoves them off to the graveyard, everything your opponents control will have -4/-4 and be shoved off at the same time if that's enough to make them dead.

Q: How does Phyrexian Metamorph work with Essence of the Wild if I want to copy a Sword of War and Peace? Do I still have to apply the Essence effect first?

A: Since these are both replacement effects creating copy effects, you can choose which to apply first. If you apply the Essence effect first, the Metamorph effect no longer exists; if you apply the Metamorph effect first and choose to copy a Sword, the Essence effect is no longer applicable. So you can have the last Sword!

Q: Can I turn my opponent's creature into artifacts with Transmogrifying Licid, Shatter that creature, and hop my Licid off to save it and repeat the process?

A: Alas, that won't work. Shatter's target needs to be legal as Shatter resolves, and if you hop the Licid off, it won't be an artifact anymore and Shatter will be countered. If you let Shatter resolve, the creature dies and the oddball Aura is put into its owner's graveyard as a state-based action before anyone gets priority. The ability to pay 1 to end the Licid effect is a special action, but you need priority to take that action.

Q: Can I bounce my Forced Worship in response to the creature it's on being Flung at my face?

A: You can't. Sacrificing the creature is a cost to cast Fling, and from the time Fling's announced to the time it's been cast, you can't do anything to interrupt that process. Once it's cast, the answer is much like above: state-based actions are checked before anyone gets priority to do anything, and that puts Forced Worship into your graveyard.

Q: My opponent has two planeswalkers out, and I have a bunch of 1/1 creatures. Can I send some of them at one walker, some at the other, and some at my opponent?

A: You can. The declaration of what you're attacking is made on a per-creature basis (508.1b), not on a per-combat basis. Each creature can attack any defending player or planeswalker controlled by a defending player.

I feel kinda obligated to use this image.
Q: What happens if I hit three of the same legendary creature with Genesis Wave?

A: Then they all die if you put them all out. Genesis Wave puts them onto the battlefield simultaneously, and the next state-based action check will see a bunch of legendary things with the same name hanging around and fix that problem by moving them all to your graveyard. Since Genesis Wave's ability is a may you can just put one onto the battlefield, though, and put the rest into your graveyard.

Q: My opponent cast Act of Treason on my creature and then tried to sacrifice it to his Viscera Seer. I thought you could only sacrifice creatures you own, though.

A: Close, but no cigar - you can only sacrifice creatures you control. He doesn't own your creature there, but he does control it since that's what Act of Treason does, and so he can tell it to hop up on the sacrificial altar and get reaped.

Q: Can I Redirect a Reverberate to itself to counter it?

A: You can't, but here's what you can do: Redirect Reverberate to Redirect. A spell is always an illegal target for itself (CR 114.4), but spells don't go to the graveyard until the last step of resolving (CR 608.2k). This means that when the resolving Redirect says "so what's that Reverberate targeting now?" Redirect is still on the stack and is still a legal target. It will very shortly become not a legal target, and so Reverberate will be countered when it goes to resolve.

Q: One of my three opponents blocked with a 3/3, and then the attacker got huge and tramply and killed the player. Will my Kresh the Bloodbraided get counters?

A: It will! Simultaneously, the creature dies and the player loses the game. This causes Kresh to trigger and it causes all of that player's stuff to vanish, but his creature did die immediately before all of his stuff fell into a black hole, and it doesn't matter that that graveyard no longer exists when Kresh's trigger actually goes on the stack or resolves.

Q: In a big crazy five-player free-for-all game, does the player who goes first get to draw a card? I thought that was only for Commander, but my friend says it's for everything.

A: Everyone gets to draw on his first turn. The rule isn't specific to Commander; it's specific to multiplayer free-for-all games, which include Commander (usually - let's not get into the madness of Two-Headed Giant Commander...).

Q: I went to play a Mercadian Masques draft on MTGO, and I got a couple of cards from Prophecy in my pack! What sort of crazy bug is this?

A: It's not a bug, just a confusing thing that doesn't seem to have been well-published. Rather than releasing each of the Masques sets individually, MTGO uses packs including all of the cards from the block. Read the draft queue description carefully, and you'll see the word "block" hiding in there where you'd normally overlook it since hey, new set's out, and of course it's Masques since that's the next one in line!

Q: What happens if I enchant my opponent's creature with Laccolith Rig?

A: You control the Rig, so you control the trigger. You'll get to choose which creature the enchanted attacker smacks, and then the enchanted creature won't deal combat damage to your blocker.

Q: Someone's trying to Mindslaver me in a multiplayer game! Can I concede before he gets my turn so he can't make me kill myself and everyone else?

A: You can, though many play groups frown upon using concessions for in-game strategy. The rules of the game allow a concession at any time for any reason - the rules can't force someone to play if that person wants to stop! However, discuss with your playgroup whether or not they're okay with concessions like this, since if they aren't, the rules of the game also won't force them to let you play with them again.

That's all for this week, but we'll be back next week with our big surprise.

Until then, may those of you who observe either holiday in any form have a very merry Christmas and/or a happy Chanukah!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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