Published on 11/10/2014

My Wish is Your Commander

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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

Elves Assemble!
Greetings! It's Monday, which means it's time for another issue of Cranial Insertion! Last Friday saw the release of the Commander 2014 decks, so today we celebrate that release with a bunch of questions dedicated to the cards from those decks.

We can only scratch the surface of the wacky interactions that those decks can produce, so we'll probably leave many questions unanswered. If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. You'll always receive a direct answer from one of our writers, and your question might appear in a future article.

Now, let's dive in!

Q: So, can I use any planeswalker as a commander now?

A: No, at least not according to the official rules. The rules require that your commander be a legendary creature, and a C14 planeswalker commander can only be your commander because it has a special ability that creates an exception to the deckbuilding rules. Other planeswalkers don't have that ability, so they can't be used as commanders. Of course, your playgroup is free to make house rules that deviate from the official rules, but in this article we focus on answers that follow from the official rules.

Q: Do tokens from Freyalise's +2 ability count for Elvish Archdruid?

A: Absolutely. Elvish Archdruid counts how many Elves you control, and the tokens from Freyalise's ability are Elves, among other things. Elf Druid tokens have two creature types, Elf and Druid, and the fact that they are Druids doesn't make them any less Elves.

Q: If I Reanimate a Griselbrand and my opponent controls Containment Priest, can I activate Griselbrand in response to the ability that exiles it?

A: Nope. Containment Priest's ability creates a replacement effect that exiles the creature instead of it entering the battlefield. The ability doesn't use the stack, it can't be responded to, and Griselbrand won't even be on the battlefield for a nanosecond.

Q: My opponent controls Containment Priest and I play Dryad Arbor. What happens?

A: What happens is that you'll wish you hadn't played Dryad Arbor. At the moment the game wants to move Dryad Arbor from your hand to the battlefield, Containment Priest steps in and says "Halt! Were you cast?" Dryad Arbor pleads that it was played, but Containment Priest is not moved by that argument. Since Dryad Arbor is not a spell, it wasn't cast, so it's getting exiled instead of entering the battlefield. Poor Dryad Arbor.

Q: Does Containment Priest's ability mean that commanders can't enter the battlefield anymore?

A: No, it doesn't mean that at all. Even if you cast your commander from the command zone, you've still cast it. Containment Priest doesn't care from where the creature was cast; it only cares that it was cast. There are some methods for getting a commander onto the battlefield without having cast it, such as Aether Vial or Derevi's activated ability, and Containment Priest shuts those methods down, but casting the commander from the command zone is not affected by Containment Priest at all.

Q: Can I use Aether Vial to bring in Containment Priest, or does the Priest just end up exiling itself?

A: Yes, you can do that. The Priest won't exile itself. Containment Priest only affects creatures that attempt to enter the battlefield while it is already on the battlefield. At the moment Aether Vial is moving Containment Priest to the battlefield, the Priest's replacement effect isn't in place yet, so Containment Priest enters the battlefield as usual.

Q: The game is down to just me and my opponent, and I cast Volcanic Offering. My opponent wants to target the same land and creature that I targeted. Can he do that?

A: Yes, that's perfectly legal. The targets that your opponent chooses are separate instances of the word "target", so they can target the same thing that another instance of the word "target" already targeted. Also, you choose your target first, so your opponent knows what you chose before he has to make his choice.

That's a knife!
Q: Can Masterwork of Ingenuity copy a Stoneforged Blade token?

A: Sure. Stoneforged Blade is an Equipment token, and Masterwork of Ingenuity doesn't specify that it can only copy nontoken Equipment.

Q: Does Hallowed Spiritkeeper count itself?

A: In most cases, yes. The ability goes on the stack after Hallowed Spiritkeeper has gone to the graveyard, and it counts how many creature cards are in your graveyard when the ability resolves. Unless it suddenly wandered into Tormod's Crypt or something like it, it'll still be in your graveyard at that time.

Q: Can I use Dulcet Sirens to make a creature attack its controller?

A: Nice try, but no, that only works in silver-bordered games. In normal games — and I use the word loosely here because this is still Commander, after all — a creature can only attack a defending player (or a planeswalker controlled by a defending player), and only the active player's opponents are defending players.

Q: Arya, Bran, and Catelyn are in a three-player game. Arya kills Bran with a 20 point Fireball. Can she now use Impact Resonance to spread 20 points of damage across Catelyn's army of Wolf tokens?

A: Yup! Impact Resonance looks at the history of the current turn for events in which a source dealt damage to a permanent or player. Even if the permanent or player that was dealt the damage no longer exists, the damage was still dealt, and the game remembers that the damage was dealt.

Q: If Lifeblood Hydra dies with negative power thanks to a morbid Tragic Slip, do I lose life and discard cards?

A: Fortunately for you, no. For most situations, the game uses the number zero instead of using a negative number. There are some exceptions, but determining how much life to gain or how many cards to draw aren't among those exceptions, so you gain no life and you draw no cards, and that's that. Besides, the opposite of drawing a card would be to put a card from your hand back on top of your library, but I digress.

Q: I've heard that Song of the Dryads removes abilities even though it doesn't say so on the card. Why is this?

A: First off, yes, that is correct. This loss of abilities is a side-effect of the enchanted permanent having all its subtypes replaced with a basic land type. The enchanted permanent becomes "just a Forest", and something that's just a Forest only has the ability to make green mana, and no other abilities. This is just like what blue mages used to do with Spreading Seas, except that Song of the Dryads can enchant any kind of permanent, not just lands.

Q: My opponent controls Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Can I get a copy of Jace by enchanting his Jace with Song of the Dryads and copying the resulting Forest with Vesuva?

A: Yes, that is not only entirely legal, it's also really funny. Well, maybe not in your opponent's opinion. After enchanting Jace with Song of the Dryad, Jace is a Forest, so it's a legal choice to copy with Vesuva. However, Vesuva only copies what is printed on the card. It doesn't copy the "you're a Forest" effect from Song of the Dryads, so your Vesuva is now a fully functional Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

- What do we want?
- When do we want it?
Q: Once I get the emblem from Teferi, Temporal Archmage, can I use an ability of each planeswalker on every turn?

A: Certainly. There is no rule stating that you can't activate loyalty abilities on other players' turns. The only thing that normally keeps you from doing that is the fact that the rules don't give you permission to do so. Teferi's emblem gives you permission, so have at it!

Q: Can I cast Afterlife on an indestructible creature just to get a 1/1 Spirit token?

A: Sure, that works. An indestructible creature is a legal target for Afterlife, and when Afterlife resolves, it does as much as it can. It fails to destroy the creature, but the part that makes the token is not contingent on the creature being destroyed, so it still makes the token.

Q: I try to clear the board by targeting my Ornithopter with Fell the Mighty. In response, my opponent kills my Ornithopter. Does Fell the Mighty still clear the board?

A: I'm afraid not. Fell the Mighty only had one target, namely your Ornithopter. That target is now illegal, so Fell the Mighty is countered on resolution and does nothing.

Q: I have Twinflame and Dualcaster Mage in my hand and enough mana to cast both. Can I make an arbitrarily large number of Dualcaster Mages?

A: That depends on whether you already control a creature that you can target with Twinflame. If yes, you start out by casting Twinflame targeting that creature, and then you respond with Dualcaster Mage. Dualcaster Mage's enter-the-battlefield ability copies Twinflame, and you can point the copy of Twinflame at Dualcaster Mage. This will make a Dualcaster Mage token that can copy the original Twinflame again, and you can repeat that process as often as you want to.

Q: Does Drove of Elves count Forests?

A: Only the green ones, and most Forests aren't green. A permanent is green if it has green mana symbols in its mana cost, if it has a green color indicator, or if an effect paints it green. The existence of Dryad Arbor notwithstanding, most Forests have neither a mana cost nor a color indicator, so they're usually not green.

Q: My opponent aims a Lightning Bolt at me and I respond with Comeuppance. She responds to my response with a Comeuppance of her own. What happens?

A: First off, the two Comeuppances resolve and created their respective prevention effects. Then, Lightning Bolt resolves, and hilarity ensues. Your Comeuppance prevents the damage and sends 3 damage back at your opponent. Your opponent's Comeuppance prevents that damage and sends 3 damage back at you. Your Comeuppance prevents that damage and sends 3 damage back at your opponent, and now we see that the game has entered an infinite loop of mandatory actions. There is no way to stop this loop, so the game ends in a draw.

Q: In which tournament formats are Commander 2014 cards legal?

A: Outside of casual games, cards that were first printed in Commander 2014 are only legal in Eternal formats, so Legacy and Vintage. They're legal in those formats because they are black-bordered cards that are officially released by Wizards of the Coast. Because Commander 2014 is neither an expansion set nor a core set, cards from Commander 2014 are not legal in set-based formats such as Standard or Modern, except for reprints of cards that were released in an expansion set or core set.

And that's all the time we have for now. Please come back next week for another exciting installment of Cranial Insertion!

- Carsten Haese

About the Author:
Carsten Haese is a former Level 2 judge based in Toledo, OH. He is retired from active judging, but he still writes for Cranial Insertion and helps organize an annual charity Magic tournament that benefits the National MS Society.

For the Comeuppance question, is the "If damage is prevented this way ..." stuff a replacement effect or a triggered ability?
#1 • Date: 2014-11-10 • Time: 10:44:36 •
Quote (MAHK):
For the Comeuppance question, is the "If damage is prevented this way ..." stuff a replacement effect or a triggered ability?

Neither. It's an additional effect of Comeuppance's prevention effect.
#2 • Date: 2014-11-10 • Time: 16:32:54 •
Quickie: Song of the dryads on an artifact doesn\'t make it a non artifact, right?
#3 • Date: 2014-11-18 • Time: 06:03:10 •
Quote (ZoidbergForPresident):
Quickie: Song of the dryads on an artifact doesn't make it a non artifact, right?

It does, actually. It replaces all card types with "land," so the enchanted permanent has no other card types anymore.
#4 • Date: 2014-11-18 • Time: 09:47:23 •
* Invalid user.

Interesting, thanks.

ps: the quote button seems broken. :/
#5 • Date: 2014-11-21 • Time: 01:09:51 •

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