Cranial Insertion: Forty Candles

Cranial Insertion
Forty Candles
or, One Year Older, One Year Wiser?

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Cranial Translations
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I couldn't find a forty-branched candelabra,
so I'm improvising.
Greetings and welcome to another episode of Cranial Insertion. If you're a regular reader with a good memory for pointless trivia, you'll recall that the issue from 52 weeks ago fell right on my birthday. Since weekdays have a tendency to shift from year to year, the same coincidence has failed to occur this year, and instead today's episode is on the eve of my birthday. In fact, today is the last day that I get to call myself a thirty-something, and tomorrow I will enter a new decade of my life.

While I am acutely aware of the fact that this makes me significantly older than the average Magic player, or even the average Magic judge for that matter, I console myself with the fact that I'm still younger than most trees. Also, playing and judging Magic and answering rules questions keeps me young, so please help me with that by sending your questions to [email][/email] or tweeting them to @CranialTweet.

Now, let's get this show on the road and take a look at this week's selection of questions!

Q: My opponent just activated Tree of Redemption's ability to exchange his life total with its toughness. Can I respond with Twisted Image to make the Tree an unhealthy 13/0 to kill my opponent?

A: Nice try, but no. After Twisted Image resolves, state based actions are checked, see that the Tree has withered away, and put the Tree into your opponent's graveyard. Then, the Tree's ability resolves and does nothing because it tries to exchange something, and exchanges are only allowed to happen when both sides of the exchange are there.

Q: If I ping an animated Gideon Jura with Olivia Voldaren's first ability, does he become a Vampire even though the damage is prevented, and does Olivia get a counter?

A: Yes and yes. Olivia Voldaren's ability does three things, and none of those things are conditional on the others succeeding. The damage is prevented, but the other two effects still happen.

Q: So I can steal him with Olivia's second ability?

A: That depends on when you do it. If you were hoping to ping Gideon on one turn and steal him later, that won't work because he'll stop being a Vampire when he stops being a creature. That is because Vampire is a creature type, and only creatures and tribals are allowed to have creature types. Olivia's effect is still there, but it can't do anything when Gideon is not a creature.

Even if Gideon is animated later, he still won't automatically be a Vampire again. The reason for that is that Gideon's animation effect has the later timestamp, and Olivia's effect is not dependent on Gideon's effect, so Olivia's effect is applied first, does nothing, and then Gideon's effect is applied. In order to make Gideon a Vampire, you'll have to activate Olivia's ability after Gideon has been animated.

However, if you have enough mana to activate both Olivia abilities on the same turn, go for it! The second ability creates a control-changing effect on the Vampire Gideon Jura that'll last as long as you control Olivia. Once this effect is created, it is locked in on that Gideon Jura regardless of what it looks like, so the effect will remain even when Gideon stops being a creature.

Q: I control Precursor Golem and a few Golem tokens, and I cast Travel Preparations targeting one of those Golems. When Precursor Golem makes copies of Travel Preparations, can the copies target two targets?

A: No, that's not possible. The ability makes one copy of the spell for each Golem it could target and makes the copy target that Golem. You decide the order in which the copies are put on the stack, but you don't actually choose any of the targets for the copies.

Q: Can I use Spellskite's redirection ability if there's a Spellskite in a graveyard and I control Necrotic Ooze? If yes, what will the spell be redirected to?

A: Yes, you can use the ability to redirect a spell or ability to your Necrotic Ooze, provided that it can actually be targeted by the spell or ability. Spellskite's ability refers to Spellskite itself by name, so when Necrotic Ooze acquires that ability, you treat the ability as though it says "Necrotic Ooze" in place of "Spellskite."

Q: A member of my playgroup claims that my tokens created by Timely Reinforcements can't block his Stromkirk Noble because they are Human Soldiers. He says that every creature must have a class and a race, and that the Soldier tokens are Humans by default because they don't have a race. Is that true?

A: Only in his dreams! While each creature type may have a race-like flavor or a class-like flavor, Magic doesn't divide creature types mechanically into races and classes, and there are no default creature types. A creature token has exactly the creature types that are specified in the Oracle text of the effect that made it, so the tokens that Timely Reinforcements makes are Soldiers and nothing else.

Q: So, what's up with Sundial of the Infinite? I thought the rules already let me end my turn whenever I want.

A: Well, you can say "Go" to your opponent when you're done with what you want to do during your turn, but that doesn't really end the turn. You're merely stating that you don't intend to do anything else on your turn, but the remainder of your turn still happens. You can't avoid attacking with a Bloodcrazed Neonate, you can't dodge Unholy Fiend's life loss ability, and you can't prevent your opponent from activating Moorland Haunt's ability in your end step simply by saying "Go."

The Sundial's ability lets you avoid attacking with the Neonate and it lets you dodge Unholy Fiend's ability, because it actually makes the game skip steps and phases all the way to the cleanup step. Of course, it only does this when the ability resolves, so your opponent could still respond with Moorland Haunt's ability to make a token if he wishes to do that.

Pew pew pew!
Q: How does the Thrull-making ability of Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder interact with Blasting Station's untap ability?

A: It interacts very well! Endrek Sahr makes X Thrull tokens in one big batch, which triggers Blasting Station's untap ability X times. The triggers resolve one by one and you get priority in between them, so you can use the Blasting Station to fire all those Thrulls into your opponent's face if you'd like. Now you have a machine gun! Ho-ho-ho!

Q: Does Mirror Gallery allow me to have several copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor on the battlefield without blowing each other up?

A: No, you'll have to make do with just one Jace. While planeswalkers are kind of similar to legendary permanents, they are governed by the planeswalker uniqueness rule, which is not the same as the legend rule. Mirror Gallery doesn't touch that rule, so it won't save your multiple Jaces from blowing each other up.

Q: Does Mycosynth Lattice turn Cleansing Beam into an expensive pseudo-Pyroclasm?

A: No, you just made a very expensive pseudo-Shock. Mycosynth Lattice turns all permanents colorless, and colorless is not a color. Colorless permanents have no color at all, so they can't have a color in common with anything.

Q: Can I discard an artifact card and another card to Thirst for Knowledge?

A: Sure! "Discard two cards unless you discard an artifact card" means the same as "You may discard an artifact card. If you don't, discard two cards." After you choose not to discard a lone artifact card, you simply proceed to discard two cards, and the game doesn't care whether any of those cards are or aren't artifact cards. You can even discard two artifact cards if you'd like.

Q: If I control Leyline of Anticipation, can I transmute Muddle the Mixture with instant timing?

A: Nope. "Only when you could cast a sorcery" actually means "only during your own main phase, when the stack is empty and you have priority." This definition is hard-wired into the rules, and the fact that Leyline of Anticipation allows you to cast sorceries outside of those times doesn't change that hard-wired definition.

Q: If my opponent controls Yixlid Jailer, can I still use Snapcaster Mage to give a card in my graveyard flashback and then cast it with flashback?

A: Sure, that works. Yixlid Jailer's effect and Snapcaster Mage's effect are both effects that add or remove abilities, so they both live in layer 6. Since neither effect depends on the other, they're applied in timestamp order. Since Snapcaster Mage's effect is more recent, it applies after Yixlid Jailer has robbed the card of its abilities, so the card has flashback in the graveyard and you're allowed to cast it.

Q: If I give the Shattering Spree in my graveyard flashback with Snapcaster Mage, can I still replicate it?

A: Certainly! Replicate is an additional cost that applies whenever your casting the spell. Even though it's coming from an unusual zone, you're still casting Shattering Spree when you cast it with flashback, so replicate away!

This Sun Titan has seen better days.
Q: Can I target a Karmic Guide in my graveyard with Animate Dead? If I can, what happens then?

A: First off, yes you can. Karmic Guide's protection from black doesn't apply in the graveyard, so you can target the Guide with Animate Dead, and Animate Dead gladly attaches itself to the Guide in the graveyard when it resolves. Then, a lot happens.

For starters, Animate Dead's enter-the-battlefield ability triggers. During its resolution, Karmic Guide pops out of the graveyard, causing the Guide's enter-the-battlefield ability to trigger, and Animate Dead tries to attach itself to the newly revived Karmic Guide. However, since Karmic Guide's protection is now fully operational, Animate Dead fails to attach itself to Karmic Guide, so it is now attached to nothing. State-based actions toss Animate Dead into the graveyard, which triggers the ability that demands the sacrifice of Karmic Guide.

With state-based actions out of the way, you now get to put Karmic Guide's Zombify trigger and the "sacrifice Karmic Guide" trigger on the stack in any order, which allows you to return another creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield. The Karmic Guide can't return itself, though, because it's not in the graveyard (yet) when you put its ability on the stack.

Q: I control a Centaur Omenreader and I cast a random creature spell with convoke. If I tap the Omenreader for convoke, does the cost reduction kick in?

A: I'm a frayed knot! Tapping creatures for convoke is part of the total cost that's paid as the last step of casting the spell. Before you start to pay the total cost, you have to figure out what cost you actually have to pay, and then the cost is locked in. At the moment you figure out the cost, Centaur Omenreader is not tapped yet, so the cost reduction effect doesn't apply.

Q: My friend says that double-faced cards are simultaneously face-up and face-down, so he can destroy my Mayor of Avabruck with a Nosy Goblin. Please tell me he's wrong.

A: He's wrong, and I'm not just saying that because you told me to. Double-faced cards are always face up. They can never be face-down and stubbornly ignore any instruction that attempts to turn them face down. Your puppies are safe from the Nosy Goblin.

Q: Does Linvala, Keeper of Silence shut down Glory's ability?

A: Nope! Glory's ability only works in the graveyard, where it's not a creature but a creature card. Linvala only affects creatures, so Glory's ability is not affected by Linvala's ability.

Q: Let's say I'm in a multiplayer game, and someone controls Dueling Grounds. I swing with Geist of Saint Traft at one opponent, and send the token towards another opponent. Which one of them gets to block?

A: Both of them, actually! Each gets to block with one creature. They declare their blocks in turn order, but as the following rule tells us, the blocking restriction is checked for each player's blockers individually:

802.4b When determining whether a defending player's blocks are legal, ignore any creatures attacking other players and any blocking creatures controlled by other players.

Q: I'm playing Commander, and my opponent sets some of my lands ablaze with Obsidian Fireheart's ability. If I manage to eliminate him from the game, do the counters go away?

A: Nope, sorry. When a player leaves the game, a bunch of things happen such as him leaving the game along with all cards he owns and ending control-changing effects that gave him stuff. However, removing counters that were placed by spells and abilities of his is not one of those things. The continuous effect that makes your lands burn you remains in effect, so your opponent might even kill you from beyond his metaphorical grave.

And that's it for me for this week, and indeed for this year. I wish you a peaceful and joyous holiday season and a safe New Year's celebration, and I'm looking forward to being back in 2012. See you then!

- Carsten Haese


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