Published on 11/10/2008


or, Bet You Didn't Realize That Was a Card

Cranial Translation
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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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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.

Admit it, you like the pun.
Yes, Statecraft really is a card. A pretty bad one. Frankly, I'd take the sharks over this, especially if they come with head-mounted lasers.

The reason for this series of atrocious puns and that new dent on your desk that matches your forehead is, of course, the return of State Champs. Not only did it bring an onslaught of Standard questions, but it simmered with a mixture of Extended questions in the wake of Pro Tour: Berlin.

And so we present to you this exciting paella of puzzles for your dining pleasure, specially prepared by our resident zombie chimp chef from the mailbox and from my exhausted brainmeats following States. Enjoy!

Q: I have a Nettle Sentinel enchanted with Dragon Fangs, and then a Predator Dragon comes in and noms the Sentinel. Can I put the Fangs on it?

A: Your Dragon will be fangless and ungrateful. As part of the comes-into-play event, you sacrifice the Sentinel, but nothing tells you to sacrifice the enchantment – it's sitting happily in play, spinning around humming as the Dragon waddles onto the table, fat from its feast of Elfmeat. Then state-based effects are checked, and the Fangs fall into the yard; but lo, the Dragon has already come into play and so the Fangs don't care.

Q: When I play Demigod of Revenge, is there any way to get the spell to resolve before the triggered ability?

A: The only way to do that is to violate the game rules and get penalized for it, but let's assume you're actually playing Magic and not Cheatyland. The first step of playing a spell is to put that spell on the stack; the last step is for the spell to "become played" and then resume where we left off in the turn. Since Demigod triggers on this last step, the trigger will always end up on top of the spell and resolve first.

Q: If I target a Wee Dragonauts with Inside Out, can I stack the trigger and spell so the wee ones become a 3/1 and then get the +2/+0 bonus?

A: Similarly to the Demigod issue, the Dragonauts's trigger will always be on top of the spell you play. However, in this case, it doesn't matter: power/toughness switches are always applied after all other power/toughness effects, so the Dragonauts will become 3/3 and then get the switch.

On the bright side, you get to draw a card!

Q: If I control a Tatterkite with Everlasting Torment in play, then block a creature with deathtouch, will the Tatterkite die to deathtouch, or will it live since the deathtouch creature couldn't leave its mark?

A: It'll explode in a melty ball of twine. Tatterkite's ability stops counters from being put on it, but it does not prevent damage.

That part is sometimes tricky to get your mind around: the damage is dealt, but nothing at all is done because of it. Normally damage is put on a creature - and with wither -1/-1 counters are instead put on the creature – but these are not the damage being dealt, merely a result of that damage.

I just like this card.
Q: Can I play Cruel Ultimatum without a creature card in my graveyard? What about if my opponent has shroud?

A: Cruel Ultimatum has exactly one target, since "target" is only written on the card once: an opponent. Everything else is entirely irrelevant. No creature in the graveyard? Just don't return anything. No creatures in play? Just don't sacrifice anything. No cards in library? Oops, good job.

And shrouded opponent? Well now, that sure matters, so you can't play the spell at all. If your opponent gains shroud in response to the Ultimatum, the whole shebang will be countered and you'll get none of the effects.

Q: Can we sanction Cube Drafts?

A: Like Elder Dragon Highlander, Cube Draft is an awesome, fun-filled format that the DCI does not approve. [Huge frowny face goes here.] The rules for sanctioning a draft are that all players must receive the same amount and type of booster pack product, but that product must be sealed; you can run some really wacky drafts with Mirage, Stronghold, Homelands, and Mirrodin if you want, but Cube is not doable.

Q: If I conspire Undying Flames with Wort, the Raidmother, will I get two copies each turn?

A: You will, and that's pretty disgusting. Each resolving Flames, the original and the copy, sets up the epic trigger and the redundant "no more spells for you" effect; so each upkeep, you'll get two more.

Q: If I tap Nettle Sentinel to convoke a Chord of Calling, will it get untapped?

A: That works just fine. Nettle Sentinel's untap ability triggers on that last part of playing a spell, and you tap it as a cost in the step just before that. Even if these two steps could somehow be reversed, the Sentinel doesn't need to be tapped to trigger! If you play a green spell while it's untapped, you can tap it in response for Heritage Druid or something and it'll untap.

Q: Will Jungle Shrine pump my Wild Nacatl?

A: Your Cat wants Mountains and Plains (and a steak), not shrines. And Jungle Shrine isn't even a real Shrine, just a shrine. What a rip-off.

The types of mana it can produce is irrelevant; all that matters is the type line. Jungle Shrine only has "Land" on this line, while Stomping Grounds has "Mountain Forest" in addition to "Land"; the Stomping Grounds will make kitty happy, but not Jungle Shrine.

Q: How do I tell if something is an activated ability for Skill Borrower?

A: :

No, that's not a typo, that's the answer.

Look for a colon, that delightful typographical symbol :. No, two dots, that last one is a period, or a full-stop if you're cool. See, like that! A colon is just : - (now it looks like a frowny face emoticon, though) one dot balanced on top of another.

Everything before the colon is a cost to play the ability; everything after the colon is what happens when the ability resolves; and that right there is a semicolon, not a colon. This is the concrete, set-in-stone format for activated abilities, the ability cannot be an activated ability without one. Some keyword abilities are also activated abilities, and these can be determined by a colon present in their full rules text as well as in the reminder text.

Q: Can I still unearth creatures through a Steel Golem?

A: Unearth looks like flashback for creatures, but it's really an activated ability! If you look at the reminder text, you can see that there colon. This isn't playing a creature spell, and putting a creature into play is not playing a creature spell, so you're safe to unearth stuff.

Q: If my opponent taps down my creatures with Cryptic Command so they can't attack, is there a way I can still activate and swing with Treetop Village?

A: Both players have to pass priority with an empty stack to move into the declare attackers step. Once Cryptic Command has resolved, you'll get priority back and you can make your great trees to high red zone come against him. Of course, he can play another Cryptic Command after that activation resolves, but that'd be a hilarious waste.

Q: Can Faeries pummel my planeswalker if I have Raking Canopy out?

A: Raking Canopy rakes things that attack you, but it doesn't care one bit if things attack your closest friends – the trigger specifically says "attacks you." So little flying Faeries can poke your planeswalker to death, and he or she can't even hide under the trees.

Q: If time is called while my opponent is saying "your turn," is my turn turn one or turn zero?

A: The very first thing that happens in a turn is the untapping of lands; nothing can happen before that. So until you've started to untap your permanents, it's not your turn. In your scenario, you'd be turn one.

Note that sitting there going "I'll just wait a few seconds so you'll be turn one, ho hum" is stalling. Do not do it. It will be the saddest disqualification for something really pointless.

Q: If I use Mirror Entity to make my Wirewood Symbiote an Elf (among other things), and bounce it to its own ability, can I play it and use that ability again? It says "only once each turn."

A: You can only play the ability of Wirewood Symbiote once each turn, but once you bounce it and play it again, it's a new Wirewood Symbiote, one whose ability hasn't been played this turn. So if you can somehow generate each iteration, you can pay for the Symbiote, pay to the Entity, bounce the Symbiote, and repeat the process with left over.

Note that you do have to play the Entity's ability each time – "it's a new object" is the reason that you can play the ability more than once, and that's also the reason that the Entity's ability won't keep giving it all types.

Q: Can I use three Oblivion Rings and just force a draw?

A: If there are no other nonland permanents in play, sure – that's entirely legal by the rules of the game and rules of tournaments, even though your friends might not be amused with your ingenuity.

But if any other nonland permanents are out, you must eventually break the loop and choose one of them.

Q: Can I activate Mutavault over and over just to burn up mana and tap all my lands for Wakethrasher?

A: Mutavault still has its happy shiny ability once activated, and just because it's normally pointless to play the ability doesn't mean you can't. Activate it all you want, your fish will thank you.

Q: My friend attacks me with a Kitchen Finks, and I block with my Murderous Redcap. When the Kitchen Finks and Redcap both persist, can I finish off the persisted Finks with my Redcap?

A: Nope. Both die at once, so both persist triggers are put on the stack at the same time. They're put on the stack in APNAP (Active Player, NonActive Player) order, which means that the player whose turn it isn't - yours! - will have his trigger resolve first. Normally this is a good thing for you, but in this case, it means that your Redcap comes back before the Finks, so you can't shoot them.

If you were attacking with your Redcap, then you could finish off those dirty, lousy Finks.

Q: In response to my opponent trying to turn his Figure of Destiny into an 8/8 that I can't deal with, I Nameless Inversion it. When everything resolves, what's the Figure look like now?

A: It'll be a 7/1 for a short while that you – maybe – can deal with. As the six-cost ability resolves, the Figure is not a Warrior, so the ability fails to do anything.

Don't get too happy if you want to block with a 1/1, though. He can still play the first ability, and the 2/2-setting will overwrite Nameless Inversion's +3/-3.

Q: I control Everlasting Torment and my opponent blocks my Grizzly Bears with a Little Girl. Now what?

A: Now this little girl will torture your teddy bear TO DEATH. Well, not that much. There is really only one fair way to resolve this: it gets a -½/-½ counter. No, such a counter does not exist in real Magic, but neither do fractional powers.

Q: What types of sleeves are banned for PTQs?

A: None at all.

But before you rush out to get the strangest sleeves you can find, there are some caveats to that. Primarily, the head judge of that PTQ can still ban certain kinds of sleeves or otherwise deem them too markable or even marked. Most notably, any highly reflective sleeves will earn you death glares from most judges.

This old article has some fine advice on when judges should disallow sleeves, but it's also advice to you as a player on what sleeves you should expect to be okay. The gist of it for a Competitive-level event like a PTQ is to get sleeves with a solid border (that is, any artwork does not touch the border) and with simple or no artwork.

Q: Are the Jace vs. Chandra cards legal for Standard FNMs?

A: Sure, if the cards are also printed in Tenth Edition, Lorwyn block, Shadowmoor block, or Shards of Alara. Just like From the Vaults: Dragons, the Duel Decks are special printings and do not count for set legality; the cards contained therein are legal for Standard and Extended only if the cards are also printed in a set that does count for set legality in those formats.

That's all for now, but join us next week when we reveal a stunning surprise!

Until then, keep away from my cattle prod.

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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