Cranial Insertion: Go for the Goat

Cranial Insertion
Go for the Goat
or, Viva el Goatnapper!

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Carsten Haese

It's that time again – time for another edition of Cranial Insertion, with lots of rules questions, educational answers, monkeys, and goats! Astute readers will recall that we already had a goat-centric article over three years ago with the release of Lorwyn, but it wasn't nearly goaterrific enough, and it made far too much sense at the time.

Yes, it's time for goats. You see, Go for the Throat just seems too randomly throat-hating after my last bout of bronchitis, so I decided to make it nicer. Why? Because it's silly. Why goats? Because it's a pun. In English, anyway. I just may have found a pun that none of our fantastic translators, as amazing as they are, can handle.

I think I broke reality. Frown

Well, we'll see next week how badly reality is broken. For now, check out the hot new questions from the [email][/email] inbox! Got more questions? Send them in and we'll get you an answer and then possibly publish your question in a future column!

First, an announcement! Some of you may remember the charity event "Cast a Spell on MS [Multiple Sclerosis]" that Carsten organized last year. Well, it's back and better than ever! If you can swing by the northern Ohio area on March 19th, go support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, have fun, and win stuff. Event details are located here.

With no further ado, let's maaaaahke with the questions!

Q: Will Snake Cult Initiation and Phyresis on a Mountain Goat result in one poison counter followed by three poison counters?

A: Yessss. Damage dealt by a creature with infect is still damage dealt, even though the result is something other than loss of life; any "saboteur" triggers (things that trigger upon dealing damage to a player) will fire, too.

Q: Can I kick a creature I pull up with Green Sun's Zenith?

A: You can kick a creature spell no matter how you cast it, but Green Sun's Zenith doesn't tell you to cast that creature card you find. You just put it onto the battlefield. Since you're not casting it, you can't kick it either, except literally (which may result in marked cards).

Q: If I control a Hellkite Charger and Koth of the Hammer and seven Mountains, can I use Koth's second ability to pay for my Hellkite Charger's ability?

A: Koth's second ability looks a lot like a mana ability: it's an activated ability without a target that adds mana to your mana pool. However, the mana ability rules got an update to deny Koth his full measure of awesomeness: a loyalty ability is never a mana ability. So you can only activate Koth's second ability during your main phase, and then the mana will empty from your mana pool as you move into the combat phase, before Hellkite Charger even attacks.

Q: Does Contested War Zone's +1/+0 ability only apply to creatures that are currently attacking when the ability is activated?

A: It does. The set of objects affected by a continuous effect from a resolving spell or ability is locked in at the time that spell/ability resolves if the effect affects characteristics of those objects – and power is a characteristic. This means that activating Contested War Zone during your upkeep or main phase will be fantastically unproductive.

Keldons have a very broad
definition of "goat."
Q: What happens when I Volition Reins my opponent's Colos Yearling with an Equipment on it? Do I get the Equipment? If not, does it even stay attached?

A: Nothing says that you gain control of the Equipment, so you won't gain control of it. However, there's also nothing that says that an Equipment you don't control can't be attached to a creature you control – it's just generally hard to engineer such a situation since the equip ability can only target your own creatures.

The Equipment will still be attached until your opponent activates it to move to his own creature again or something, but it may or may not do anything nice for you. For example, Sword of Feast and Famine gives the creature protection; but its trigger has "you" – its controller, who is your opponent – untap lands, while the damaged player – also your opponent! – discards. Mortarpod says that the creature gains an ability to be sacrificed for damage, and Basilisk Collar gives the creature lifelink so you'll be the one to gain the life. However, you won't be able to activate Demonspine Whip's pump ability, and your opponent will control Argentum Armor's trigger – ouch!

Q: If I exile my opponent's Wurmcoil Engine with Mimic Vat, will he still get Wurm tokens, or not since it never went to the graveyard?

A: But it did go to the graveyard! Mimic Vat has a triggered ability (note the word "whenever" which is one way to denote a trigger) and a triggered ability only triggers when the event does actually happen. If that event happens, then Mimic Vat can trigger, and so does Wurmcoil Engine. So your opponent gets the tokens.

Contrast this wording with Leyline of the Void, which stops the graveyard-hitting from ever happening, and would stop your opponent from getting his Wurmy little tokens and stop Mimic Vat from getting Wurmed up.

Q: Can I use Apocalypse Phyrexian Ragers in Standard? I want to make absolutely sure I won't get in trouble for it!

A: You certainly won't get in trouble, unless whoever's running the event has no clue about the Magic Tournament Rules. Card legality is determined by name, and since Mirrodin Besieged makes the name "Phyrexian Rager" Standard-legal, any cards named Phyrexian Rager are equally fine. Remember, however, to use opaque sleeves! Older cards are very often distinguishable from newer ones by the back.

Q: Does Leyline of the Void beat Red Sun's Zenith?

A: Only at poker. The Zeniths shuffle into your library as part of their effects as they resolve, and will never be put into a graveyard at all since they won't still be on the stack at that "go to the graveyard as the final bit of resolution" step. But man, watch out for that Leyline, I swear it has a dozen aces up its sleeve.

Q: What do I get with I Rite of Replication a Cryptoplasm copying Zodiac Goat?

A: A lot of dangerous goats! When copying an object, you ignore most other effects that change that object, but you do take copy effects into account. So all of the tokens (because who casts Rite of Replication unkicked, obviously) will be Zodiac Goats.. with the copy-something-else trigger. Since Cryptoplasm gains the trigger as part of its copy effect, that too can be copied!

Q: You mentioned in an earlier article that Hero of Bladehold's tokens can attack anyone, not just who the Hero is attacking. What if the Hero's attacking Gideon Jura because his +2 ability was activated last turn?

A: Gideon's first ability only affects the declaration of attackers: while declaring attacking creatures, you have to attack Gideon. However, any creatures put on the battlefield attacking hop right around that requirement, since they don't attack, so they can attack the player.

Q: Can I copy all my stuff with Mirrorworks if I have Mycosynth Lattice out, too?

A: That works. When you have an enters-the-battlefield trigger, it won't be checked until after applying continuous effects. So after you go through any replacement effects, it enters the battlefield, apply continuous effects like that of Mycosynth Lattice, and then check for triggers.

Q: Does Into the Core fizzle if I sac one of its targets in response?

A: A spell only "fizzles" (for the more technically-minded, that means "is countered on resolution for lack of legal target") if all of its targets are illegal. If any targets are still legal, it will resolve and do as much as it can. In some cases, like Wing Puncture, nothing happens since the illegal target can't be made to do anything; in the case of Into the Core, you do as much as possible and exile the one legal target.

Keep in mind that this is only for when a target becomes illegal after the spell is cast. You need two legal targets to cast Into the Core in the first place!

Q: Will my Psychosis Crawler die when Teferi's Puzzle Box makes me put my hand on the bottom of my library?

A: Your Crawler will be 0/0 for a brief moment of time, but that window is too small for it to fall out of. State-based actions are what put a 0/0 creature into the graveyard, and state-based actions are not checked in the middle of resolving a spell or ability. Even though Teferi's Puzzle Box's ability has two instructions, they're part of the same ability, and cannot be interrupted either by a player or by state-based actions.

It sees you. It knows you have food.
It is coming to eat your tin cans.
Q: Clone copying Battering Craghorn dies, and I put it on Mimic Vat. Will the tokens be Goats or Clones?

A: After Clone leaves the battlefield, it forgets its serene caprine existence and remembers that it's an unwieldy mass of blue goo. Mimic Vat will make copies of the plain card Clone, and those copies will copy whatever else on the battlefield as they enter.

Q: If I sacrifice Knowledge Pool to cast Kuldotha Rebirth, will I get the last chance to grab a spell from the Pool?

A: Nope, you gave up that chance when you let the goblins turn the Pool into a giant punch bowl. A spell doesn't become cast (which is when Pool triggers) until all of the steps are completed, including paying for it. But you sacrificed the Pool to pay for it! So the Pool isn't around to trigger after the spell's done being cast, and all of the cards in it are doomed to be nothing more than flavoring for one big goblin fertility festival.

Q: My opponent controls two planeswalkers. Can I hit them both with Arc Trail?

A: You can't directly shoot a planeswalker with a burn spell – you have to target your opponent, and then redirect the damage to his planeswalker as that spell resolves. But Arc Trail requires two targets, and you can't target your opponent twice. The only way to get an Arc Trail to hit two different walkers involves an ugly complex mess of replacement effects that won't come up unless you're just trying to be silly.

Q: How big is my Quicksilver Gargantuan if it copies Darksteel Juggernaut?

A: Oh, look, a shiny new rules change! A few weeks ago, you'd have a layer issue: Quicksilver Gargantuan stays 7/7 in layer 1 as part of the copy process, and then Darksteel Juggernaut's characteristic-defining ability used to overwrite that with the */* based on the number of artifacts you control.

Now, we have a new rule that says that if a characteristic is defined by a copy effect, any CDAs that also define that characteristic are not copied. So Quicksilver Gargantuan won't have "My power and toughness are equal to the number of artifacts you control," and it will remain 7/7.

Keep in mind that this only applies to CDAs. Other abilities, such as the leveler power-and-toughness-setting abilities based on their level, are still copied and will still overwrite the 7/7.

Q: I know that normal blocks only rotate in the fall, but does Lorwyn block rotate from Extended in May, leaving Shadowmoor block?

A: The Lorwyn/Shadowmoor megablock all rotates as one single block. It won't leave Extended until "Shake" rolls around in October and rattles the format.

Q: Why doesn't Praetor's Counsel make an emblem?

A: Emblems are for a very specific thing, and cards like Praetor's Counsel and Stigma Lasher just don't fit those things.

In order to make an emblem, an effect must last for the rest of the game, and it must either a) change what it does over the course of the game, or b) change what is affected over the course of the game. For Counsel, it always says you have no hand size, and it always affects only you. For Stigma Lasher, it always prevents lifegain, and it always affects only the player that got hit.

Contrast this with Koth of the Hammer, whose ultimate affects a constantly-changing set of Mountains; and Venser, the Sojourner, whose ultimate has a new target each time it's triggered. Elspeth, Knight-Errant worked without an emblem due to a quirk in the rules, but under the philosophy of emblems, her ultimate also fits: the set of objects made indestructible is constantly updated.

Q: Since Zur the Enchanter doesn't specify that the enchantment enters the battlefield under my control, can I pull up a harmful enchantment and give it to my opponent?

A: Nope. When a spell or ability puts something onto the battlefield, it's put under the control of that spell or ability's controller by default. You'll always get your Zur-fetched enchantments.

Q: How many poison counters does it take to kill someone in Commander?

A: It still takes only ten. By the time "Action"'s been kicking around and M12 is starting to have an impact on Commander, the Magic Rules Team might have decided to up that number, but for now the Comprehensive Rules still define poison death at ten counters regardless of format.

Poisonous commanders causing trouble in your group? You really should try to see if you can't tweak decks to contain fast menaces, but if that isn't an option for whatever reason, you can also discuss changing the poison number for your playgroup. Just remember that if you play Commander with other people, you should expect the official rules to be followed – unlike Star Magic last week which has no official rules, Commander does have well thought-out entries in the rulebook.

Q: Can I give Steel Hellkite double strike and smack each player on the other Two-Headed Giant team so the Hellkite's activated ability will blow up everything they have that costs 3 rather than just one player's?

A: That works so sneakily! Each time your Hellkite is assigning combat damage while unblocked, you'll choose which head to assign the damage to. There's no rule saying that it must be the same head each time, so it can smack one head for 6, smack the other for 6, and then you can activate its ability for 3 to blow up all permanents either of your opponents control with converted mana cost 3.

That'll wrap up this week's quota of fluffy bunnies. Come back next week when Carsten tries to find a new way to cause Magic migraines mathematically.

Until next time, carpe capram!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona


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