Cranial Insertion: Gobbling Bombardment

Cranial Insertion
Gobbling Bombardment
or, Hey, That Can Win the Game!

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

Many turkeys were sacrificed
to deal a whole lot of damage.
And lo, did the turkeys descend upon mankind, who awaited their arrival with knives and forks and the dreaded gravy boat to push back the gobbling tide. And the fields ran red with cranberry sauce and the bones of the devoured. And then sleep.

And then Black Friday, but I was too busy sleeping in to care about that. Didn't leave the house except to sneak past the traffic to FNM. It's time to put together our Christmas wish lists!

And ours, as usual, asks for more questions! Send them in to [email][/email] or tweet them @CranialTweet, and we'll give you the gift of an answer and possibly a monkey.

Here's an assortment of questions that came in over the last week, as well as a couple from the big events that just happened. Dig in, folks!

Q: When I conspire a spell with X in its cost, is X what I paid or is it 0?

A: X will be what you chose for it. The value chosen for X is one of the many copiable values defined in 706.2. X being 0 comes from when you cast a spell without paying its cost, but putting a copy on the stack is not the same as casting a spell.

Q: Is there any difference between "when it goes to the graveyard" and "when it dies"?

A: Well, "goes" isn't used like that on a Magic card, so I guess that's a difference!

But to actually answer your question: "When this dies" is exactly the same as "When this is put into a graveyard from the battlefield." The only real difference is that one is so very much shorter than the other allowing more text on the card.

Q: If I cast a Regrowth and "fork" it with Riku of Two Reflections, can I return card X and the Regrowth from the graveyard to my hand?

A: You can't. You have to choose a target as soon as the copy is put on the stack, and at that point, Regrowth is still on the stack, not in your graveyard. Even if Regrowth didn't target and just had you return a card of your choice upon resolution, the copy will resolve before the original Regrowth!

Q: Can I sacrifice a creature before putting Sheoldred, Whispering One's trigger on the stack to get that same creature back?

A: Much like the Regrowth question above, triggered abilities need a target chosen as soon as they're put on the stack. It's not possible to activate any abilities or resolve any other triggers before Sheoldred's trigger is put on the stack unless the world is Topsy Turvy or has multiple upkeep steps in one turn.

Q: How many cards will I draw from Damia, Sage of Stone with Thought Reflection if I have no cards in hand?

A: Fourteen! In order to process Damia's effect, first you determine how many cards you'll draw, then you perform each of that number one at a time. As soon as you lock in how many to draw, that number doesn't change, even though you'll have eight cards in hand with three more draws to perform, each of which get turned into two more draws.

Not at all related to Corpse Lunge.
Q: If I bring back Erayo, Soratami Ascendant with Postmortem Lunge and then cast a few more spells so Erayo flips, will I get to keep Erayo?

A: Sadly, no. 201.5 explains that saying "that creature" just means "that thingy I just mentioned, which I expect to be a creature, even if it's not actually a creature anymore." Putting all that text on the card, especially "thingy," would be awkward. "Thingy" won't be an official Magic term until the release of M13*.

Q: Does Grand Abolisher stop me from cycling a creature?

A: Cycling a creature would be a good trick – creatures only exist on the battlefield. In your hand, it's a creature card, not a creature, so Grand Abolisher doesn't care about it and you can cycle it to your heart's content.

Q: Can I make Mizzium Transreliquat into a Bone Saw, attach it, and then make it into Argentum Armor without it becoming unattached?

A: That works fine. Becoming a copy doesn't cause an Equipment to become unattached, as long as it becomes a noncreature Equipment.

Q: How come Tarmogoyf gets a bonus from tribal cards, but not from legendary cards?

A: Tribal is a card type that only appears with other card types; legendary is a supertype rather than a card type. The distinction tends to only matter for Tarmogoyf (it matters for other cards, but those cards don't see much play), but it's important: subtypes can only be tied to a card type, not to a supertype, so tribal must be a card type so it can have subtypes which is the whole point of tribal.

Q: At what point before a game do I need to choose to play or draw? Can I wait till I see my opening seven? Wait until after my opponent's done sideboarding?

A: You can choose at any point before you start drawing from your deck. Both players sideboard, shuffle, present, and shuffle each other's decks simultaneously, even if they actually perform them rather sequentially, so you can wait until after your opponent's done sideboarding.

Just remember that if you forget to announce a choice and start picking up cards, you're locked into choosing "play."

Q: Forbidden Alchemy turns up a whopping four Narcomoebas. So what zone are the Moebas in while I choose which one to put into my hand?

A: There isn't a "look at me" zone, and Forbidden Alchemy doesn't say that the cards move to any other zone, so they must still be in your library – happy triggering Narcomoebas! Unfortunately, you must put one in your hand since Forbidden Alchemy doesn't say "may" and it isn't a search effect, so you'll only get three for free.

Q: I Traitorous Blood a creature equipped with Blazing Torch – can I make the creature throw the Torch now?

A: You can't. The creature has the ability, so you can pay the cost of tapping it, but you can't pay the cost of "sacrifice Blazing Torch" because you don't control Blazing Torch. You can only sacrifice things you control, and gaining control of a creature doesn't cause you to gain control of stuff attached to it; that stuff is still attached, but not yours.

Q: What happens when I flashback a Black Sun's Zenith with the ability from a Snapcaster Mage?

A: The Zenith is exiled, and you don't shuffle your library. Amusingly enough, this is exactly the example given in the Comprehensive Rules for an effect telling you to shuffle something into your library with something else exiling the card instead, so you can just show your friends 701.16d if they don't believe me for some reason.

Mmm leftovers.
Q: How does Heartless Summoning interact with Primordial Hydra?

A: Surprisingly tenderly, for something so heartless. If you remember the Wort question at the very top of the article, I mentioned the value chosen for X rather than the value paid for X – the difference matters. In this case, you can choose, say 6 for X, making the cost before modifiers 6GG, and then reduce that by 2. So you only pay a total of six mana, and get six counters!

Q: Are there any wacky shenanigans I can pull off by suspending a spell with split second and a couple other spells via Jhoira of the Ghitu?

A: Not really. All of the suspended cards trigger at the same time saying "remove a counter from me," and then one of those triggers resolves. After that one trigger does, its "cast meeee" trigger resolves, and then you cast it. That spell resolves, and you finally go on to resolve the next "remove a counter" trigger. The spells won't be on the stack together, so split second won't protect anything.

Q: I suspended Jokulhaups with Jhoira of the Ghitu, but I don't want to cast it anymore! Do I have to? What if there's a Thorn of Amethyst out?

A: You still have to cast it if you can. Suspend doesn't give you a choice. However, do you have a choice in whether or not to tap a land for mana – if you don't have one little mana in your pool when casting Jokulhaups, you can't cast it and it just stays in the exile zone. The game never forces you to tap a land for mana to meet a "pay mana right now" requirement without an effect explicitly saying so.

Q: What happens if I Rewind a spell and it becomes uncounterable in response?

A: Then that spell isn't countered. It's still a legal target for Rewind, since Rewind only targets a spell, not a spell it can counter, so Rewind resolves. It doesn't counter the spell, but you still untap four lands.

Q: Can I give Spellskite shroud or protection from a color, and then redirect a spell of that color to Spellskite?

A: Nope. If Spellskite isn't a legal target for a spell, you can't make it target Spellskite. Do it the other way around: change the target, and then give Spellskite protection. Now that spell will just be countered (if it targets only Spellskite) since Spellskite isn't a legal target as it goes to resolve, but Spellskite became the target while it was still a legal target.

Q: Can I activate Mikaeus, the Lunarch's remove-a-counter ability, taking off his last counter, and respond by exiling him with Moorland Haunt to get a 2/2 Spirit token?

A: That all works. The set of creatures to gain counters isn't determined until the ability resolves, so creating a creature in response will net that creature a counter as well. State-based actions put Mikeaus into the graveyard well before the ability resolves, since removing a counter is a cost to activate the ability, so there's plenty of time to exile him for a token, too.

Q: Will dying token creatures ever matter for Splinterfright?

A: Nope. They exist in the graveyard for a very brief time, but they aren't cards, and Splinterfright only cares about creature cards.

Q: With Parallel Lives and Essence of the Wild, I cast Spider Spawning - can I choose what I get for some or all of the tokens?

A: You don't have any choice, as is generally the case with Essence of the Wild. When applying replacement effects to an enters-the-battlefield event, you have to apply copy effects before any other effects (with a single card exception). So your Spiders will become Essences, and then you'll double your big beefy ground-pounder count.

Q: I have Heartless Summoning and a Dragon Broodmother on the battlefield. Do I have a chance to sacrifice another creature to the token's devour ability before the Summoning kills it?

A: Devour is a replacement effect; before the token actually enters the battlefield, you decide how many creatures to sacrifice, and then it gets scheduled to have that many counters as it enters the battlefield. Let's say you just sacrifice one creature. Now you have a 1/1 entering the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters – it'll enter as a 2/2 creature and happily survive.

With the fowl menace vanquished, we can relax for another week. But come back then for another round of rules questions as we get into the last month of the year.

Until next time, may all of your Bird tokens be so delicious!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

*: No, not really, at least that we are currently aware of, he, he.


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