Published on 09/30/2013

Three-Keyword Pile-Up

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

You'll never meet a more devoted Soul.
Welcome back to another edition of Cranial Insertion! With the gods, heroes, and monsters of Theros finally free to roam at will across the gaming tables of the world, the Cranial Insertion inbox has become completely clogged up with Theros-themed questions. We've started looking for an e-plumber to help clear the tubes, but those guys charge a fortune, so it might take several weeks for us to find one we can afford. Until then, I hope you like Theros!

Some of you may think you notice a rather conspicuous omission in today's column. I'd just like to state for the record that it has nothing to do with chronic recurring mechanic-induced headaches. Nothing whatsoever.

As always, you can send us an email at to get an answer (well, as soon as the e-plumber arrives), or you can Tweet us @CranialTweet to get the short answer. Either way, your question may just show up in a future edition.

Q: Do split cards like Turn // Burn count as one or two instants in the graveyard for Spellheart Chimera?

A: Just one. Spellheart Chimera is counting the number of cards in your graveyard with the instant or sorcery card types, and while Turn // Burn might have the type "Instant" printed on it twice, it's still just one card, so it only counts once.

Q: How does Spear of Heliod's destruction ability work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Not very well, if your opponents know what they're doing. In Two-Headed Giant, creatures attack the defending team as a whole, but when it comes time to assign combat damage, the controller of the attacking creature gets to choose which "head" is actually dealt that damage. So if one head controls the Spear, the attacking team can choose to have all their creatures deal their damage to the other head instead, so the Spear won't be able to destroy anything.

But...what if your opponents don't know what they're doing? Technically they have to choose which head to deal damage to, but a lot of players don't actually know they need to do that, so they don't bother. If you're playing in a tournament, then in such cases the Magic Tournament Rules step in with a default: if they don't specify, it's assumed they're dealing damage to the primary player on the team (which is the one seated on the right, from their perspective).

So if you have the Spear player sit on the right, then when your opponents attack and don't specify who they're dealing damage to, it's assumed they're damaging the Spear player, and that player can smite them at will. At least until they call a judge, learn how the rules work, and then proceed to assign damage properly for the rest of the game.

Q: In Two-Headed Giant, can I trigger my teammate's Heroic creatures by casting spells that target them?

A: No. Heroic abilities trigger their controller casts a spell that targets them, and while you might be joined at the shoulders with their controller, you still aren't the same player, so heroic won't trigger if you target your teammate's creatures.

Q: Do my Two-Headed Giant team share devotion?

A: Again, no. The only resources that are shared in Two-Headed giant are life totals and the steps of the turn itself. Devotion looks for mana symbols among the permanents you control, and you don't control your teammate's permanents, so they don't count.

Q: Let's say I have Master Biomancer on the battlefield, and I cast Nylea, God of the Hunt. Will Nylea enter the battlefield as a Mutant God with two +1/+1 counters on it?

A: If Nylea is shown the proper devotion, then yes. As long as your devotion to green is high enough that Nylea will enter the battlefield as a creature, then Master Biomancer will apply, turn her into a Mutant God, and give her counters.

If your devotion to green is insufficient, however, then the Biomancer will see that Nylea won't be a creature when it's on the battlefield, and won't bother mutating her.

Q: ...What if I lose enough devotion to green that Nylea stops being a creature, and then get it back? Will she still be a God Mutant, or will she just be a God now?

A: She'll still be a Mutant. The continuous effect from Master Biomancer's ability never stops applying to her, even when she happens to not be a creature any more—it just doesn't accomplish anything, because losing the creature card type removes all her creature types as well. Once her ability's no longer removing the creature card type, we see her for the Mutant she is once more.

Q: Since Spear of Heliod is an enchantment artifact, will it trigger the heroic ability of my creatures when I cast it?

A: No. The only spells in Magic that target things are instants and sorceries that specifically use the word "target" and Aura spells. Enchantment spells that aren't Auras don't target anything, no matter what their abilities would affect once they're on the battlefield.

You may not want to quarrel with old men
on the road, but I'm pretty sure quarreling
with zombies on the road is A-OK.
Q: When Gray Merchant of Asphodel enters the battlefield, what happens if my opponent kills it in response to its ability?

A: Your devotion to black goes down and the amount of life you'll drain from your opponent lowers accordingly. the Gray Merchant's ability only counts your devotion at the time it resolves, so if the Merchant himself is gone, he won't boost your count.

Q: ...So if I kill Mogis's Marauder in response to its ability, fewer creatures will get haste and intimidate? Which ones?

A: Aaaand now the exception rears its ugly head. Killing the Marauder in response to its ability won't lower the number of targets for the ability.

While other activated or triggered abilities count your devotion only upon resolution, the Marauder uses your devotion to set the number of targets for its ability, and targets are chosen as the ability goes onto the stack, so it needs to make its count right then, and changing your devotion later won't change the number of targets that were chosen.

Q: I have three Pyxis of Pandemonium out and mill with two of them. The third I crack open. Do I get the cards I exiled with the other two Pyxis?

A: No. When a card refers to itself by name like Pyxis of Pandemonium does, it just means "this specific thing", not "anything with the same name as this." The cards exiled by the first two Pyxis won't be affected by sacrificing the third.

Q: Does my Akroan Crusader make a token if I exile it from the graveyard with Vile Rebirth?

A: No. Like any activated or triggered ability that makes sense functioning from the battlefield (and doesn't say otherwise), heroic abilities can only trigger on the battlefield. Targeting your creature cards while they're in your graveyard won't trigger their heroic abilities.

Q: If my opponent tries to destroy my Shipwreck Singer before her combat phase, can I use its second ability now so her creatures will be smaller if she attacks?

A: You can use the ability if you like, but it won't accomplish anything. The Singer's ability will only affect creatures that are actually attacking at the time the ability will resolve; if something becomes an attacking creature later on in the turn, it won't be affected.

Q: If I have a Staunch-Hearted Warrior out and I cast Prey Upon to let the warrior fight another creature, will my Warrior have the +1/+1 counters from heroic before the fight?

A: Yes. The Warrior's heroic ability will trigger upon you casting Prey Upon and will go onto the stack on top of it, so it will resolve first, giving the Warrior an additional boost before the Prey Upon can resolve and make it fight.

Q: I have Experiment One on the field with no counters. If I play Chronicler of Heroes, is it possible to draw a card if I stack the triggers correctly?

A: Yes, you can. Chronicler of Heroes's ability triggers regardless of whether or not you control a creature with counters on it. It only checks whether or not a creature has counters at the time the ability resolves, so if you have the Experiment's evolve ability resolve first, the counter will be in place before the Chronicler checks, and you'll draw a card.

Conditions that affect whether or not a triggered ability triggers are called "intervening if" clauses, and they always appear in between the ability's trigger condition and its effect. If the condition appears after the effect, it's not an "intervening if", and is only checked on resolution.

Why so confused? It's only nine lines of text.
Q: Say I have a Rest in Peace and Daxos of Meletis on the battlefield. Daxos' combat damage trigger exiles an instant or a sorcery. When the exiled card is cast, upon resolution, it goes back into exile. Can I cast it again, or is it a different object?

A: It's a different object, so Daxos won't allow you to cast it a second time. It became a new object and Daxos lost track of it as soon as you cast it, and Daxos can't find it again even if it gets exiled some other way.

Q: I have 3 devotion thanks to Nylea, God of the Hunt and Garruk, Caller of Beasts. I want to -3 Garruk to put a Prime Speaker Zegana on the battlefield. How many cards will I be able to draw?

A: Prime Speaker Zegana will enter the battlefield with no counters and you'll only draw one card. Zegana checks the power of your creatures before it actually enters the battlefield, so at the time it checks, you don't have enough devotion to make Nylea a creature. As far as Zegana's concerned you don't control any creatures at all, so you won't get any counters.

Q: Both Daxos of Meletis and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver allow you to get creatures from the opponent under your control. But what happens if you use Portent of Betrayal to regain control of your own stuff?

A: You gain control of it until end of turn, and then the effect wears off and it goes back to your opponent. The fact that you happen to own the card doesn't make any difference—since it was put onto the battlefield under your opponent's control, they will continue to control it as long as nothing says otherwise.

Q: I have a Greater Good in play, and I activate Polukranos's monstrosity ability with X=2. From here I assume that once that ability resolves, the monstrous ability goes onto the stack, and I can then sacrifice my Polukranos to Greater Good in response to that trigger, drawing 7 cards. Correct? And if I do that, does Polukranos still deal damage?

A: Yes, that's correct, and Polukranos will indeed still deal damage. While fighting may require that both creatures be on the battlefield, Polukranos's ability isn't the same thing, and has no such requirements. If Polukranos isn't on the battlefield when the ability resolves, the damage will still be dealt to the other creatures, though they won't be able to deal any back, since Polukranos isn't there to receive it.

Q: If I cast Mogis's Marauder and target Tormented Hero, will the Tormented Hero's heroic ability trigger?

A: No, because heroic requires that you cast a spell that targets the creature, and the Mogis's Marauder creature spell doesn't target. Once the spell resolves and the Marauder enters the battlefield its ability will trigger, and the ability will target the Hero, but an ability isn't the same thing as a spell, so the heroic ability won't trigger.

Q: I control a Boros Reckoner as well as a Whip of Erebos. I block something with Reckoner such that Reckoner dies. Do I gain life from the Reckoner trigger, or not because it's no longer on the battlefield?

A: You gain life. At the time the damage is dealt, the game tries to look at the Reckoner to see if it has lifelink, but since it's no longer there it has to use last known information to determine that. Since the Reckoner did indeed have lifelink when it was last on the battlefield, you will gain life equal to the damage dealt.

Q: Say you've made a Hundred-Handed One monstrous, and you blink it with Cloudshift. Is it still monstrous?

A: No, it's not. Hundred-Handed One became a new object as far as the game's concerned once it changed zones, even though it came back almost immediately. This new Hundred-Handed one may bear a striking resemblance to the one that just left, but it's not monstrous.

Q: I attack with Purphoros, God of the Forge and my Boros Reckoner. The Reckoner gets blocked by a first strike creature with enough power to kill it, which would reduce my devotion to red below 5. Will Purphoros still deal combat damage?

A: Sadly for you, no. As soon as you devotion drops below 5, Purphoros stops being a creature, and things that stop being creatures get removed from combat. Purphoros would have needed to remain a creature until the second combat damage step if you wanted him to deal combat damage.

Q: I control Dawn Elemental and Heliod, God of the Sun. My opponent casts Withdraw on those two, with Heliod as the second target. If I chose not to pay, would Heliod stay on the battlefield since it's now an illegal target?

A: No, Heliod would get bounced. Spells and abilities check whether or not their targets are legal as they start resolving, but don't re-check later, so while Heliod does stop being a legal target mid-resolution here, Withdraw doesn't care, because it's already resolving. It affects Heliod normally even though he's now an illegal target.

Q: What happens if I cast Purphoros, God of the Forge without the proper devotion while Humility is on the battlefield?

A: The game explodes. Nice job breaking it, hero.

More seriously, thanks to the layer system, since Purphoros's devotion ability changes types, it'll always be applied before Humility can remove it, so Purphoros will shift between the mortal realm and Nyx as your devotion dictates as it normally would. The only difference is that while it's a creature it will be a 1/1 and lose all of its abilities, so you might want to keep your devotion low enough that that doesn't happen.

That's it for this week's monstrous edition of Cranial Insertion! Be sure to come back next week, when James will heroically step in to tackle even more questions.

Until then, may your devotion never waver.

- Callum Milne

About the Author:
Callum Milne is a Level 2 judge from British Columbia, Canada. His home range is Vancouver Island, but he can be found in the wild throughout BC and also at GPs all along the west coast of North America.

As a note to Nylea & Master Biomancer question, if your devotion on the board before Nylea is 5 or greater, Nylea gets the counters, if it is exactly at 4, she won't be a creature during the replacement effect of Biomancer battlefield, so no counters. And obviously, no counters at 3 or less.
#1 • Date: 2014-01-09 • Time: 16:43:30 •

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