Published on 01/25/2010

Earth Moving

or, Manland questions and other assorted goodies

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

"I can feel the earth move"
Welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. As the countdown to Worldwake continues to tick way too slowly, people seem to be strangely preoccupied with the notion of lands coming to life, at least if the unusually high proportion of questions regarding animated lands in the Cranial Insertion inbox is any indication. So, let us distract ourselves from the rumors of what Worldwake may bring by pondering the mysteries of living lands and other rules questions.

Another great way to pass the time is to think of rules questions and to send them to to ensure that we don't run out of questions for future issues.

Q: What happens if I cast Brilliant Ultimatum with less than five cards left in my library?

A: When Brilliant Ultimatum resolves, you do as much as possible. You exile what's left of your deck, and your opponent divides those cards into two piles. If you can't pull off a miracle with the cards in one of those piles, you'll probably lose the game very soon.

Q: Can my opponent Swerve my Diabolic Tutor to search my library?

A: No. Swerve can only target a spell with a single target. Diabolic Tutor has no targets, because it doesn't use the word "target" anywhere in its text. The word "you" does not indicate a target.

Q: I have heard that Swerve can be used to counter a Cancel. Is that true?

A: It sure is! While Swerve is resolving, it's still a spell on the stack, so it's legal to point Cancel at the resolving Swerve. With its job done, Swerve then goes to the graveyard and leaves Cancel hanging high and dry with an illegal target, so Cancel will be countered on resolution.

Q: If I control four Magosi, the Waterveils and use their ability to put an eon counter on each, do I skip one turn or four?

A: Unfortunately, you'll skip four turns. Effects that have you skip a turn aren't locked in in advance. Each one creates a replacement shield that says, "The next time you would take a turn, don't." Each time you skip a turn that way, one shield goes away, but the others stick around, so you have to skip a total of four turns before you actually get to take another turn.

Q: How does Guul Draz Vampire work in Two-Headed Giant? Does its ability kick in when my opponents are at 10 life or at 20 life?

A: As you probably know, Two-Headed Giant's approach to life totals is really weird. Teams have life totals, but they don't gain or lose life. Players gain and lose life individually, but they don't have life totals. When an effect needs to know a player's individual life total, the game pulls a number out of thin air by taking that player's team's life total, divided by two, rounded up.

This means that in order for Guul Draz Vampire's effect to see either one of your opponents at 10 or less life, your opposing team must be at 20 or less life.

The Trouble with Triplets
Q: My opponent controls Sen Triplets and is using their effect on me. I reveal a Swamp and Beseech the Queen. He plays the Swamp from my hand, and then he casts Beseech the Queen. Whose library will he search, and what can he search for?

A: He is casting the spell, so he is the spell's controller. The fact that the spell came from your hand means very little. All instances of the word "you" in the spell refer to him, so he searches his library for a card with converted mana cost up to the number of lands he controls.

Q: I control Elspeth, Knight-Errant and use her ability to make my stuff indestructible. Next turn, my opponent gains control of my Captain of the Watch with Mind Control. Is the Captain still indestructible?

A: No. The continuous effect that was created by Elspeth's ability covers the non-planeswalker stuff you control in a warm fuzzy blanket of indestructibility. When you lose control of a permanent, it stops being indestructible. Conversely, if you gain control of a creature, it becomes indestructible.

Q: I control a Beastmaster Ascension with four counters on it and attack with three creatures. Do the attackers get +5/+5 right away?

A: Not right away, but soon enough. Declaring three creatures as attackers triggers the Ascension's ability three times in the Declare Attackers step, resulting in three more counters being put on it. As soon as the seventh counter hits, the boost kicks in, well before the Combat Damage step. Your opponent will be in a lot of pain.

Q: I cast Burst Lightning on my opponent's Putrid Leech, which he pumps in response. So I cast Mark of Mutiny on the Leech to gain control of it. Can I pay 2 life to use its ability again?

A: No, the Leech's ability can only be activated once per turn. Even if the Leech changes controllers, the ability is still the same, and it knows that it has already been activated this turn.

Q: If I equip my Steppe Lynx with Adventuring Gear and then play a land, does the Lynx get +4/+4?

A: Yes, your kitty will become big and mighty! Each landfall ability triggers and resolves independently, and each gives the Lynx +2/+2. For extra bang for your land, play a nifty fetchland like Arid Mesa and crack it right away to give your Lynx +8/+8. Fierce kitty go rawr!

Q: I read in the last issue that casting a kicked Rite of Replication on an animated land will create five land tokens. If I do that when I have Windrider Eel on the battlefield, will the Eel get +10/+10?

A: Certainly! The Eel sees five lands entering the battlefield under your control, so its landfall ability triggers 5 times. I'm sure you'll be able to find some use for a 12/12 flier!

Q: If I gain control of an animated Mutavault with Roil Elemental, what happens at the end of the turn when Mutavault stops being a creature? Do I lose control of it?

A: No, you get to keep it. Whether the Mutavault is a creature matters only twice: When it becomes the target of Roil Elemental's ability and when the ability resolves. When the ability resolves, it creates a continuous effect that affects the Mutavault for as long as you control Roil Elemental, regardless of what changes the Mutavault might undergo.

Q: If I play Treetop Village, activate it, and then activate Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, does the Village get a +1/+1 counter?

A: Yes, it does. When Oran-Rief's ability resolves, Treetop Village is in fact a green creature that entered the battlefield this turn. The fact that it was neither green nor a creature when it entered the battlefield matters not even a little bit.

Q: If I animate Dark Depths with Animate Land and Cytoshape it into a Tatterkite, will I get a Marit Lage token?

A: No, that doesn't work. Tatterkite doesn't say that it can't have counters on it. It says that it can't have counters placed on it. If something that already has counters on it becomes a Tatterkite, the counters stay where they are.

Manufacturing pain since 1994
Q: I control a Cemetery Puca and an animated Mishra's Factory. The Factory is destroyed and I want to pay to change the Puca into a Factory. Can I do that? If yes, will the Puca be an animated or unanimated Factory?

A: Yes, that works. The Puca will become an unanimated Mishra's Factory. The Puca's copy effect looks at the last-known information of the copiable values of the Factory as it existed on the battlefield. It sees an unanimated Mishra's Factory, so that's what it becomes.

Q: I came across a crazy mono green EDH deck with Mana Reflection, Heartbeat of Spring, Vernal Bloom, and Gauntlet of Power. How does Mana Reflection interact with these other cards? How much mana would I get if I tap one Forest for mana with these cards on the battlefield, assuming that green is chosen for the Gauntlet?

A: You'll get an impressive five green mana from one measly Forest. Mana Reflection creates a replacement effect that causes the Forest to produce two green mana instead of one. This triggers the triggered abilities on the other cards, who each contribute one additional green mana. Sadly, this additional mana is not subject to Mana Reflection's doubling because it's not produced by a permanent being tapped for mana. Still, five mana from one land is nothing to sneeze at.

Q: If I flip up Assault//Battery for Dark Confidant, do I lose 5 life or do I get to choose a side?

A: Split cards are very strange beings indeed. Except on the stack, they literally have two sets of characteristics. When Dark Confidant asks Assault//Battery what its converted mana cost is, it gets two answers, 1 and 4. It makes you lose "1 and 4" life, so you lose 1 and 4 life and end up 5 life below where you were.

Note that this doesn't mean that the card's converted mana cost is 5. For example, it won't win a clash against Ajani Goldmane.

Q: If I control a Lord of Extinction and a token creature, what happens to the Lord of Extinction's power and toughness when the token is destroyed? Does it go up by +1/+1 for a fleeting moment until the token ceases to exist, or does Lord of Extinction never actually see it in the graveyard?

A: Neither, actually. The Lord of Extinction sees the token in the graveyard, but it doesn't care. It counts cards, and tokens aren't cards, so it won't get a boost from the token.

Q: What happens when a face-down creature is destroyed after it has been given persist with Cauldron Haze? Does it come back face-down or face-up? Will it trigger any enters-the-battlefield abilities?

A: The face-down creature arrives in the graveyard face-up. The persist ability then puts that card onto the battlefield, and because it doesn't say otherwise, the card will be face-up. If the creature has an enters-the-battlefield ability, that ability will trigger because it did, in fact, enter the battlefield. On the other hand, a "when this is turned face-up" ability won't trigger, because the creature arrived on the battlefield face-up.

Q: I am running the Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry combo. A friend suggested adding Master of Etherium to boost the thopter tokens, but doesn't that disrupt the combo?

A: It certainly does. The Master's boost affects the Thopters immediately as they enter the battlefield, so they enter the battlefield as not very meek 2/2 creatures and the Sword's ability won't trigger. You should look into Sigil Captain instead.

This concludes this week's edition of Cranial Insertion. Join us again next week when the wait for Worldwake is finally over and Eli brings us a bunch of questions from the prerelease.

- 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.


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