Cranial Insertion: Diplomacy

Cranial Insertion
or, Knowing Your Enemies (and Friends)

By Eli Shiffrin, Brian Paskoff, and Aaron Stevenson

I think she's on the Nobel committee.
It's been a great week for us here at CI. I'm up for a Nobel Prize in Chemistry thanks to my discovery of the Indestructiball, and Paskoff is up for a Grammy!

It is good to be recognized for our expertise in chemistry and music, but the greatest accolades come from you, our readers, because you ask the questions, and we answer them. Send your questions to [email][/email], and we'll get you an answer, and then maybe we'll post it here.

Let's see what people have been wondering about, shall we? I'll reach into our mail bag, and pull out...

Q: Can I sacrifice Illusory Demon to play a Bone Splinters?

A: Sure. The spell isn't completely cast until some time after you've paid all the costs, so you can sacrifice it to the spell before its own ability would trigger and make you sacrifice it for no benefit.

Q: If Sower of Temptation steals a creature that was the battlefield for a few turns, can the stolen creature attack right away?

A: Only if it has haste. Ordinary creatures have to spend their first turn with your team going through orientation so they know how to fill out the TPS reports correctly. That's true whether you've summoned them yourself or hired them away from somebody else. Once they start a turn under your control, they'll be up to speed and you can send them on an attack.

Q: When does Ethersworn Canonist start tracking non-artifact spells? If I played an Enlightened Tutor earlier this turn, then my opponent drops a Canonist, does she know about that spell, or do I get to cast another non-artifact?

A: That's game information, and the Canonist doesn't keep track of any of that herself. The Game does, though, and when the Canonist wants a report on what spells you've played this turn, The Game will happily give her the full account. She won't be happy about your non-artificial activities, so there won't be any more of those this turn.

Q: Does the Ethersworn Canonist's ability apply even after it's destroyed? If a player throws a lethal Grapeshot at it, are they able to cast more non-artifact spells afterwards?

A: Most abilities, like the one appearing on our favorite female law-enforcer, are active only while the card is on the battlefield. The Canonist can't block your spells after she shuffles off her mortal induction coil. If you kill her with your first non-artifact spell, you're then free to cast more!

Q: Wait, only most abilities?

A: That's right. The rule that abilities only work on the battlefield is a general rule, but like most of Magic's rules, it has exceptions. Fortunately, the exceptions are pretty obvious, because they'll either
a) explicitly state that they work in another zone, like Valor, or
b) only make sense in some other zone, like Nether Traitor.

If you find yourself wondering whether a certain ability works outside the battlefield, it probably doesn't.

Q: Is that also true for triggered abilities? Does Ashenmoor Liege's ability make my opponent lose 4 life if he tries to counter it?

A: Yes, and activated abilities too. The triggered ability on Ashenmoor Liege isn't one of those exceptions I mentioned, so it doesn't work while that card is still on the stack. Your opponent can counter the spell with relative impunity.

More than one mage was driven
insane by the sound of the
Sanity relentlessly grinding away.
Q: My opponent cast Sanity Grinding and reveals an Overbeing of Myth. Does that count toward the Sanity Grinding?

A: It sure does! Sanity Grinding looks for each "blue mana symbol". G/U mana is a mana symbol, and it's blue, which fits the bill. That must be driving you crazy!

Originally Posted by 107.4e
A hybrid mana symbol is all of its component colors.

Q: Can I use Rampant Growth to search for a Sacred Foundry?

A: No, because the Foundry isn't a basic land. You can tell because it doesn't say "Basic" on the type line, and because its name isn't "Forest", "Island", "Mountain", "Plains", "Swamp", nor any of those with "Snow-Covered" in the front.

Q: But doesn't it have two basic land types?

A: It does, but having "Mountain" and "Plains" on the type line doesn't mean that it's a basic land. Those just give it innate abilities to tap for the appropriate colors of mana. Things that care specifically about basic land types, like Gaea's Might, will say so.

Q: Let's say I control seven million lands...somehow. Then I cast Beseech the Queen. Can I choose not to find a card with it even though I'm able to get any card ever printed, including Gleemax?

A: Whenever you're searching a hidden zone for a card that meets a specific criterion, you can deliberately fail to find a card that qualifies. Other logical considerations, like the fact that any card must be a match, don't enter into it.

Q: My opponent cycled a Decree of Annihilation. Losing my lands was a bad prospect, so I used a Voidmage Husher to counter the cycling, but he said the lands still blew up.

A: He's right. The Husher will stop him from drawing a card, but that won't help you much, because the Decree's "destroy all lands" triggers when he activates the cycling ability. It doesn't matter whether that ever resolves; the triggered ability is already on the stack. The Decree can't be stopped by merely hushing it!

Q: How does Sigil of Distinction work with March of the Machines? Does the Sigil become whatever you paid for?

A: X in a mana cost is zero, unless you're looking at a spell on the stack. The Sigil doesn't have any legs to march with, so to speak, so it just lets out a little sigh on its way to the graveyard.

Q: I've got Tezzeret the Seeker ready to make all my artifacts into metal monsters, but my opponent has a Godhead of Awe. I think that the Godhead's effect would be dependent on Tezzeret's, which would result in my army being really small. Am I right?

A: It's true that the Godhead's effect won't apply to those artifacts until Tezzeret gives them life, but that doesn't mean there's a dependency. Those come up only when you're trying to apply two effects within the same (sub)layer. Tezzeret's type-changing effect is off in its own layer, and neither one of the two competing P/T-setting effects depends on the other, so you'll just go by timestamp on those. Your metal minions will be monsters indeed!

Plays well with Thyme Sieve.
Q: I have two Sages of the Anima. Do both of them trigger from each draw?

A: No, because they don't have a triggered ability. Triggered abilities use "when", "whenever", or "at", none of which appear on that card. What the Sages have is a replacement effect, each of which tries to kick in right before you would draw a card. Once you've applied the effect from the first Sages, the effect from the other is no longer applicable, so it does nothing. You get no more from two Sages than you do from just one. Except, you know, having another 3/4 Elf Wizard. I'm sure that could also be useful.

Q: I was thinking of using Sensei's Divining Tops as perpetual fuel for my Time Sieve. I'll activate each Top's second ability, then respond to all that by sacrificing them to Time Sieve, and when everything resolves, the tops hop out of my graveyard back on top of my library.

A: Like most perpetual motion machines, that engine of yours doesn't work out. When the Tops leave the battlefield, the abilities that say "draw, then put this Top on top" lose track of them. Each ability will look for its respective Top on the battlefield, then shrug and do the best it can without the Top. You'll draw cards and get an extra turn, though, so you're still likely to come out on top.

Q: I'm trying to get a lot of counters on my Hoofprints of the Stag, so I've got both a Sylvan Library and a Teferi's Puzzle Box. Assuming I resolve the Puzzle Box first, then the Library, would I be able to put back any two cards in my hand to satisfy the Library?

A: Sure, that works. The Library doesn't care exactly where you got the cards from, just that they were drawn this turn, and if you've already done the Puzzle Box, that's every card in your hand.

Q: I just smashed my opponent for 6 with Ball Lightning. Can I use Snakeform to make it survive, and smash for 6 more next turn?

A: It'll take a bit more effort than that, but you get the general idea. As a snake, the Lightning doesn't have its self-destruct ability, so as long as you cast the Snakeform before the end step, that ability won't be there to trigger. The thing to remember is that the ability will trigger at the beginning of your opponent's end step, too, so you'll need an extra Snakeform if you want to smash for 6 again.

Q: My opponent is at a low life total. Would it be legal to Swerve an Ad Nauseam from me to him in an attempt to finish him off?

A: You can't Swerve the Ad Nauseam, because it has no targets. The spell just tells you what to do; it doesn't target you at all.

Quote from 113.9a »
Just because an object or player is being affected by a spell or ability doesn't make that object or player a target of that spell or ability. Unless that object or player is identified by the word "target" in the text of that spell or ability, or the rule for that keyword ability, it is not a target.

Q: I used a Clone to copy a Mirror-Sigil Sergeant. The Clone is blue, so do I get a rhino population explosion starting on my next upkeep?

A: Clone is a blue card, but while he's a copy of something else he completely forgets his previous identity as a 0/0 blue shapeshifter. He's a white rhino now, so you'll need some other blue permanent to trigger the rhino replication.

Q: I have a Tarmogoyf that's currently a 3/4, with no instants in any graveyards. What bonus will it get from a Berserk?

A: It gets +3/+0. Berserk checks the Tarmogoyf's power, which is currently 3, gives it a size-3 shot in the arm, then goes to the graveyard to feed the 'goyf a little bit more. The Tarmogoyf ends up as a 7/5.

Q: My Capricious Efreet is targeting a token from my Siege-Gang Commander as well as a couple of my opponent's creatures. Then I respond to the ability by sacrificing the token. What happens when the Efreet's ability resolves?

A: Your opponent dies a little inside. And one of his creatures dies a little on the outside. The Efreet will make a random selection from among the targets that are still legal; he can't destroy anything that's now an illegal target. If you want to make it easier for him to make the right decision, that's a great way to guide him along.

Q: I have a ginormous Chaos Orb that originally came out of an old copy of InQuest. It's much bigger than a regular Magic card, so my plan is to take it to my local "Anything Goes" game, Golden Wish for it, then watch everybody's face when I flop it onto the battlefield! But I was wondering, should the height of "one foot" be scaled up to match the increased size of the card? And if so, should I scale based on the increase in length or the increase in area?

A: The monster Orb's text could have been changed to scale up the height in proportion to the size of the card, but instead it was printed with the reference to "one foot" intact, so I'd just run with that. Dropping that thing on the table is going to be like a tactical nuke, in more ways than one. Not only is it a weapon of mass destruction, you're likely to upset everybody else when you use it. If your local group is OK with that, then go for it. I know my friends would banish me for pulling that stunt, but then I'd also have the oversized Guardian Beast to go along with it.

That's all we have time for this week. Join us again in seven days for the return of Paskoff!


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