Published on 08/19/2013

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Avengers assemble!
Welcome to the Restricted Underground Laboratory for Esoteric Sciences! In this top secret facility, we study only the strangest specimens of Magic rules questions. Please proceed with caution and try not to feed any of the creatures you see during your visit.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet to us at @CranialTweet. You will get a direct answer from one of our agents, err, writers, and your question may be featured in a future episode.

Q: If I have nothing but counterspells in my graveyard and i cast Spelltwine, do I have to counter the spell I cast from my opponent's graveyard?

A: No. You choose the order in which you cast the two copies, so you can start by casting the counterspell. Depending on what kind of counterspell it is, the resolving Spelltwine may be a legal target for it. If it is, you cast the counterspell targeting Spelltwine, which is harmless because Spelltwine is already resolving, and the counterspell will be countered on resolution. If the counterspell can't target Spelltwine, for example because it's Remove Soul, you simply fail to cast it, and then you move on to casting the second spell.

Q: Can I choose "creatures" with Pay No Heed so I won't receive any combat damage?

A: No, that doesn't work. When you're asked to choose a source of damage, you have to choose one particular object. You can choose a creature to prevent the damage that would be dealt to you by that creature, but that won't help you if you're being overrun by a million Zombie tokens.

Q: Does Pay No Heed prevent damage from an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Progenitus?

A: Yes, it can do that. Emrakul and Progenitus don't like being targeted, but Pay No Heed says "of your choice," not "target," so it's not targeting the source whose damage is being prevented.

Q: Say I look at the top card of my opponent's library with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and put it back on top. My opponent then rearranges the top three cards of his library with Sensei's Divining Top. If I ask, is my opponent required to tell me where he put the card I know?

A: No, you are not entitled to that information. When a player puts two or more cards on the top or the bottom of his or her library, that player is not required to reveal their order. That is true even if the cards are coming from a public zone, for example with Terminus, and it's especially true if the cards are coming from a hidden zone.

Q: If I control Birthing Pod and Leonin Arbiter, and I sacrifice the Arbiter to search for a three-drop, do I need to pay for the Arbiter ability?

A: No. You sacrifice the Arbiter as part of the cost to activate Birthing Pod's ability, which happens long before the ability resolves. By the time Birthing Pod's ability resolves, the Arbiter is in the graveyard and its ability is no longer in effect.

Q: Suppose my opponent draws and reveals his first card for the turn, and it's a Terminus. Can I respond by playing Silence or Aurelia's Fury to make him unable to cast the spell after it is revealed?

A: Yup, that works. Revealing the miracle card triggers an ability that goes on the stack, and you can respond to that with "shut up" effects. When the miracle trigger resolves, it wants to allow your opponent to cast the revealed card, but he now find himself suddenly speechless and unable to cast it.

There's no place I can be
Since I've found Serenity
Q: I control Karmic Justice and two other enchantments when my opponent's Serenity goes off. How many of his permanents do I get to blow up?

A: Three! Serenity destroys all enchantments at the same time, and Karmic Justice sees itself and the two other enchantments being destroyed, so Karmic Justice's ability triggers three times.

Q: I use Chandra, Pyromaster's ultimate ability and I reveal Breaking // Entering. I know I can't use fuse it, but can I vary which side I'm casting, or would it be three of the same only?

A: You don't have to choose the same side each time. You copy the card three times, and then you cast each copy (if that's what you want). For each copy of Breaking // Entering that you choose to cast, you choose which side you're casting, and that choice is made independently for each copy. Note, however, that you have to decide how many copies and which halves to cast before any of them resolve, so you can't start by resolving one Breaking and then deciding from there what to do for the other two copies.

Q: Can I cast a spell exiled by Chandra, Pyromaster's 0 ability during my end step?

A: As long as it's a card you can cast during your end step, sure. Chandra's ability creates an effect that allows you to cast the card, and the duration of that effect is "this turn." That effect ends in the cleanup step, and the end step happens before the cleanup step.

Q: What would happen during my upkeep if I copied one of my Beast tokens with a Progenitor Mimic from my hand.

A: Then you'll get a menagerie of Beast tokens, one at a time! Progenitor Mimic is a card, and whether an object is a card or a token is a physical property of that object that can't be copied or overwritten, so Progenitor Mimic is a card even when it copies a token. As such, it will pop out a Beast token on each of your upkeeps.

Q: How does a Clone effect interact with a Level-7 Lighthouse Chronologist?

A: Not terribly well. The number of level counters on the Chronologist is not a copiable value, so your Clone will just be a level 0 Chronologist for now. The Clone copies the level up ability and the level-specific benefits, so you can advance it to level 7 if you'd like, but that'll take a bunch of mana.

Q: If I exile four Scourge of Valkas with Legion's Initiative, what will happen when these Dragons come back?

A: Lots of screaming and dying will happen. The four Dragons all enter the battlefield at the same and see each other entering the battlefield, so they'll set off a whole bunch of enter-the-battlefield. Sixteen, to be precise. Each of those triggers counts four Dragons when it resolves and deals 4 damage to your opponent, which is probably more than enough to fry your opponent extra crispy.

Q: If I control Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, gain 7 life from a Heroes' Reunion, and then summon a Voracious Wurm, how much life will I gain from Trostani's trigger?

A: That'll be 9 life. Right before the Wurm enters the battlefield, it checks how much life you gained, sees that you gained 7 life, and it enters the battlefield with that many counters, so it'll be a 9/9 right away. When Trostani's trigger resolves, it sees a 9/9 Wurm and gives you 9 life.

Q: If I control a planeswalker and a creature or spell would deal damage to me, can I remove loyalty counters from my planeswalker instead of taking it off my life total?

A: No, that's not how planeswalkers work. Your planeswalker is a powerful ally at your side, but he or she is not your bodyguard who will take a bullet for you. There is a damage-redirection effect for non-combat damage built into the rules, but that rule exists so that your opponent has a way of dealing with your planeswalker.

Q: I control Ajani's Chosen and a 3/3 Fathom Mage. I cast Trollhide and use Ajani's Chosen's ability to make a Cat and put Trollhide on the Cat. Does Fathom Mage evolve?

A: Nope. While the Cat does become 4/4 very shortly after entering the battlefield, it was only a 2/2 kitten the moment it entered the battlefield. That wasn't big enough for Fathom Mage, so the evolve ability didn't trigger.

You can't take the sky from me
Q: If I pump my Firefly to 11/1 and my opponent hits it with Turn, does it become a 0/1?

A: No, the layer system says that it'll be a respectable 10/1. Turn's effect is applied first, in layer 7b, and then Firefly's own effect is applied in layer 7c. Your opponent should have Burned your Firefly instead!

Q: If I cast Parallectric Feedback on my opponent's overloaded Mizzium Mortars, will he take 2 or 6 damage?

A: Only 2 damage, I'm afraid. The converted mana cost of a card is a number that's derived only from the string of mana symbols that's usually printed in the top-right corner of the card. It has nothing to do with how much a player has paid, will pay, or might pay, to cast it as a spell. Mizzium Mortars' mana cost is always , so its converted mana cost is always 2.

Q: What happens if I use Akroma, Angel of Fury as my commander? Can I cast her face-down for regardless of how often I've cast her from the command zone?

A: You can cast her face-down, but it'll cost more for each time you've already cast her from the command zone. The alternative cost of for casting her face down is only an alternative for her mana cost, which is . The additional commander tax must still be paid on top of that alternative cost.

Q: A friend played Callous Oppressor against a Sharuum the Hegemon Commander deck. When the Sharuum player is prompted to name a creature type, is "artifact" sufficient?

A: No, that's not a creature type. Artifact is a card type, like creature, enchantment, or instant, to name a few. Creature types are things like Cephalid, Sphinx, Angel, Vampire, Mutant, or Anteater, and they're listed behind the dash on the type line.

Q: I have Spawnsire of Ulamog in my Kamahl, Fist of Krosa Commander deck. The shop I went to follows the banned list, and does not use sideboard rules. They did object when I tried to use Spawnsire to cast all three legendary Eldrazi, stating that I cannot cast a banned card with the Spawnsire. Is that true?

A: Yes, that's true. First of all, "outside the game" normally only refers to your sideboard, so if you're not playing with a sideboard, Spawnsire can't get anything at all. Secondly, even if you're using a sideboard, you can't put banned cards in your sideboard, so Spawnsire won't cast any banned cards for you. Finally, if you use house rules that allow you to get cards from your collection, it's still up to the playgroup whether they'll allow you to bring banned cards into the game, and I can't fault them for disallowing banned cards.

Q: In a three player game, to whom do I show my hand if I target myself with Nightmare Void?

A: The rules actually define what it means to reveal a card:
701.13a To reveal a card, show that card to all players for a brief time. [...]

In other words, you have to show your hand to both of your opponents.

Q: I keep hearing confusing and conflicting things about splitting and drawing. Can you shed some light on what's allowed?

A: I'll try. First off, splitting prizes is legal because we, judges and tournament organizers, can't dictate what players can and can't do with prizes they have won or expect to win.

Secondly, players are allowed to mutually agree on any particular match result because we can't force players to play out a match they don't want to play for whatever reason. However, this agreement can't be influenced by any kind of incentive or reward, since we want planeswalker points and Pro Tour invites to go to the best Magic players, not to the Magic players with the deepest bribery purses. "We'll both make top 8 if we draw, wanna draw so we have time to eat dinner?" is perfectly fine. "I'll give you a large sum of money if you concede to me" is not.

Now, while drawing a match is fine by itself and splitting prizes is fine by itself, it gets problematic when players combine splitting and drawing into a single transaction. Depending on the exact circumstances, it's quite possible that the proposed prize split would be seen as an incentive for the match result, and that would be bribery, which is Very Bad.

And that's all the time we have today. We hope you have enjoyed your visit at R.U.L.E.S. Please proceed to the exit in an orderly line, and—No! What are you doing?!? Don't provoke the Mutant!


Grrr! Argh!

-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.

About Q4 (Jace, the Mindsculptor + Sensei's Divining Top):

Is the player controlling Jace allowed to attentively look at how his opponent is arranging his cards, or would that count as cheating?

If it is cheating, is there a possibility where it won't be? Say, if the opponent didn't put enough efforts to hide the cards arrangements?
#1 • Date: 2013-08-19 • Time: 03:49:08 •
Quote (Rocket_Knight):
About Q4 (Jace, the Mindsculptor + Sensei's Divining Top):

Is the player controlling Jace allowed to attentively look at how his opponent is arranging his cards, or would that count as cheating?

If it is cheating, is there a possibility where it won't be? Say, if the opponent didn't put enough efforts to hide the cards arrangements?

No rule prevents you from trying to track the top card, just as no rule prevents your opponent from shuffling the cards around in his hand to stop you from trying.

Paying attention to what your opponent is doing is not an infraction.
#2 • Date: 2013-08-19 • Time: 14:33:42 •
Gideon Jura is a bodyguard, he would take a bullet for me!
#3 • Date: 2013-08-20 • Time: 08:12:16 •
The converted mana cost of a card is a number that's derived only from the string of mana symbols that's usually printed in the top-right corner of the card. It has nothing to do with how much a player has paid, will pay, or might pay, to cast it as a spell. Mizzium Mortars' mana cost is always 1R, so its converted mana cost is always 2.

The wording of this answer makes it sound like I can normally cast Mental Misstep on a Fireball. (By putting so much emphasis on the word "paid".)
#4 • Date: 2013-08-25 • Time: 14:24:56 •
Well, while Fireball is on the stack the mana symbol has the chosen value so the quoted explanation still checks out. It might take a little extra thought, but making the explanation cover everything in minute detail would have made it pretty clunky.
#5 • Date: 2013-08-26 • Time: 07:25:23 •

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