Published on 12/16/2013

Deck the Lists

or, 1x Fa 8x La

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Christmas carols while charging
into war may provide a significant
psychological advantage.
Strange to think that we're already near 2013's cleanup step. This will be my last article for the year, with Callum and either James or Moko wrapping it up. After that, we'll move on to 2014 with all sorts of exciting new developments!

But that's the future. In the present, it's time to deck the halls with lists of decks! Stuff some stockings with rules questions and put out brain pieces for Santa Moko!

If you'd like to get into the spirit of giving, you could give us some more rules questions. Email them over to or send short questions be Twitter to @CranialTweet. Please remember to send questions in English only - we've started getting more questions that we can't read lately!

For other sorts of giving, remember Carsten's support of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and that you can donate Magic stuff for the annual Cast a Spell on MS tournament. Please send us an email if you're interested.

Q: How do I go about playing in a Grand Prix?

A: Anyone can play in a Grand Prix. They are huge open events, no invitation or special permission required. Grand Prix Trials, run at stores all over the world, offer byes so you can skip the early rounds, but you can play without those byes.

There's one huge change to the Grand Prix: Players are no longer allowed to register on Saturday morning due to the logistical concerns with enrolling that many players that fast. You can register Friday afternoon and evening at the tournament venue, or register ahead of time at the organizer's site. Find the Grand Prix you're interested in at the Grand Prix info page and click "info" for it to find out how to preregister.

Q: Since "when you cast" triggers resolve first, if I Titan's Strength a Fluxcharger, does it get to be 8/2?

A: Nope, it'll be a tiny, itty bitty 6/4 Weird. This may seem weird in addition to being Weird, but there's an easy rule to remember: if an effect switches power and toughness, you always apply it after anything else dealing with power and toughness, no matter in what order those effects were created. Go go Order of Operations! Upon calculating its stats, the Fluxcharger becomes 4/6 then switches to 6/4.

Q: Are planeswalkers players for things like Bident of Thassa?

A: Planeswalkers are never, ever players. You can attack them, and you can redirect noncombat damage from a player to his planeswalker, but they are still never players. You can't target them to fulfill "target player," triggers from dealing damage to a player won't trigger, they can't choose a pile for your Steam Augury, and if you prick them, they do, in fact, not bleed.

Q: Can I tap a Mutavault to activate itself?

A: Sure - you can tap Mutavault for , and then nothing for its animation ability says it needs to be untapped to activate it. You'll get a tapped Dudevault, so it won't be able to block, but it'll be a creature for any effects that like creatures.

Q: If I use Strionic Resonator to juice up an Isochron Scepter, do I get both spells for ?

A: You do! When a linked ability performs an action on an object and there happen to be two such objects because of strionics, that action is performed upon both of those objects. You'll copy one or both spells, then cast one or both. Or you can copy none or cast none, if you really want to waste your mana.

Daxos's hatred of lands started
when a Rath's Edge killed his father.
Q: Can I play lands exiled with Daxos of Meletis?

A: Daxos demands that you cast the card; lands can never be cast, so you won't be able to do so. This gets into the distinction between "cast" and "play," which could certainly be clearer: you cast a spell, and you play a land. If an effect says that you may cast something, you can't play it, but if an effect says that you may play something, you may actually cast it. That's just a quirk of the rules to learn.

Q: Can I use Deathrite Shaman to pay for Propaganda?

A: If you sacrifice it to Ashnod's Altar, sure. But in the real world that most people care about, the answer is no. An activated ability that makes mana is usually a mana ability, but there are two exceptions: abilities that target, and loyalty abilities. They can never be mana abilities, so you can't activate them during the process of declaring attackers. If you generate mana in the beginning of combat step, then it's gone by the time you get to the declare attackers step, and then the very first thing that happens in that step is to choose attackers and pay for them and so on.

Q: If I activate an equip ability and the target's killed in response, does the Equipment stay unattached or does it go back to the creature it was on before?

A: The Equipment never even moved! It stays right where it is until the equip ability resolves. That ability never does resolve here - with its only target illegal, it's countered upon resolution.

Q: What happens if I kill Merieke Ri Berit in response to its ability?

A: Merieke dies and is dead. Now its ability goes to resolve. First, it wants to create a control-change effect with a "for as long as" duration, so it checks whether that duration has already expired. Whoops, it has! The effect isn't even created, and control of the creature doesn't change at all. Now it creates a delayed triggered ability and puts it up in the attic with other useless knickknacks. That trigger didn't exist at the time Merieke died, and it can never trigger because the object it's referring to no longer exists, so it'll just clutter up the mystical place where unloved delayed triggers wait.

Q: Does Melira, Sylvok Outcast play nicely with Devoted Druid?

A: Only as a therapist. Devoted Druid wants to torture itself to do its job better, and Melira steps in and helps it to understand the true cause of its pain and how to conquer it. That's nice, isn't it? It doesn't help you get green mana, but isn't the life of a little Druid worth more than that?

Oh, who are we kidding, you'd sacrifice a fleet of puppies for a turn-three win. It won't turn out nicer for you: putting a -1/-1 counter on the Druid is impossible thanks to Melira's ability, and if the cost of a spell or activated ability can't be paid, you can't cast/activate it.

Q: Do level-up creatures like Echo Mage start at level 1 or 0?

A: In a departure from D&D, creatures start out at level 0. This is because their "level" is really just the number of level counters on them, not a separate statistic, and no ability on the card says for them to enter with any number of level counters.

Q: Can I rearrange my graveyard so my reanimator targets are on top?

A: As long as you're not playing Legacy or Vintage, you can do that. In tournaments that don't include any "graveyard order matters" cards, which were discontinued as of Urza's Saga so many years ago, the order of your graveyard was de facto meaningless, so the DCI made it de jure meaningless as well. Modern, Standard, and Limited tournaments won't include those cards, so the Tournament Rules includes a note that allows players to ignore the rules against reordering your graveyard, and there was much rejoicing. If you're playing casually, then do whatever makes sense anyway.

Q: In a Sealed Deck event, can I ask to see my decklist between rounds to make sure I desideboard correctly?

A: You can certainly make that request - whether it'll be honored depends on how busy the judges are. For best results, either write down the decklist, or take a picture of the list or of the cards in your deck laid out.

Knowing real names is overrated, anyway.
Q: I can't remember where Daxos is from without the card image in front of me. Can I just write "Daxos" on my decklist?

A: You really shouldn't - it's a bad habit to get into - but if you accidentally did, you'll be fine: a "storyline" card (eg, planeswalkers and legendary cards) that's unique to the format and referred to by its truncated proper name rather than the full card name should not be penalized. This comes with the standard caution, however, that not all judges know this and that if you receive a penalty for using truncated names, you aren't allowed to argue with the head judge for the event.

Q: So is "Elspeth" okay on a Standard decklist?

A: Since there's only one Elspeth in Standard, that falls under the same provisions as using "Daxos" from the previous question. However, this is a gigantic step into the danger zone - it's an even worse habit to get into, and judges are more likely to issue a penalty. The fact that the name is not 100% unique steps from "this must not be considered an infraction" to "this may not be considered an infraction, given the format."

Q: I got confused after five weeks of Daxos = Dexter jokes and wrote down Dexter of Meletis on my decklist. Am I in trouble? :(

A: And now we get to the crux of all of this: Decklist error penalties are not meant as a gotcha for minor clerical errors. They're meant to enforce "you need to register your list unambiguously." Small errors and misspellings, so long as the intended card is absolutely definite, aren't what the infraction is meant to cover.

"Daxos" is unambiguous. Definitely not an infraction, though you may get a talking-to about being lazy.
"Dexter" is very ambiguous. It's not a card name.
"Dexter of Meletis" is up in the air - I consider it unambiguous, others may not.
"Elspeth" in Standard is unambiguous relative to the format, but it's not entirely unambiguous, so it may incur a penalty.
"Elspeth" in Modern is totally ambiguous and should definitely incur a penalty.
"White Walker" in Standard is bad. Do you mean Ajani, Elspeth, or Wight of Precinct Six?

Q: Can I print my decklist before coming to an event?

A: Yes, please do! This does two great things:

1) It's easier to read and you have plenty of time to make sure it's accurate. No accidentally scribbling "Daxos" because you're distracted or pressed for time. No wonky handwriting that looks like "zobfires." No ambiguous numerals. If you use a spreadsheet, you can even auto-sum the totals to make sure you have 60/15!

2) By committing to your list ahead of time, you avoid the most common cause of Constructed-format decklist errors: last-minute changes that aren't properly noted. Even if the judge demands that you hand-write a decklist, you can copy from your printed list and avoid this problem.

Q: Is a Grand Prix Trial a Competitive event, or Regular?

A: GPTs are Competitive REL. They are generally the most casual Competitive event you'll find, and the overall atmosphere I've seen has always been very friendly and laid back, but infractions do result in penalties.

Q: I want to try out a Competitive event, but I keep hearing about Game Losses for doing things wrong. How can I avoid those?

A: Let's go down a list of the infractions in the Infraction Procedure Guide that carry a Game Loss penalty:

* Tardiness: Be on time. Listen for time limits and adhere to them. Know when a round's time is up, and make sure that you're in the venue and ready to find your seat for the next round by that time. The easiest way to do that is not to leave the venue unless you're positive you can make it back well before time.

* Deck/Decklist Problem: Print out your decklist ahead of time, and keep a copy so you can make sure you desideboard correctly. As you begin to shuffle for each game, count your deck and make sure you have the right number of cards. Never put other cards with your sideboard, either, even if you just traded for them and want to keep them safe - find another place to put them.

* Drawing Extra Cards: Always make sure that you know why you're drawing, and verbally communicate it to your opponent. This gives him a chance to stop you if you make a mistake.

* Game Rules Violation with hidden information: Always be careful to not violate the game rules, but when the game rules involve something your opponent can't verify, such as casting a spell face down or not revealing a card to show that an action is legal, the penalty is upgraded from a Warning to a Game Loss and frowntown ensues.

* Marked Cards with advantage: Keep your cards clean. Check them at the end of each round to make sure that there aren't significant markings, especially markings that have a pattern. Lands often get scuffed differently due to tapping them more. Don't let that happen. Bring a fresh pack of sleeves in case you need to re-sleeve your deck.

* Unsporting Conduct—Major: This one is probably the easiest infraction of all to avoid. Don't be a jerk.

* Outside Assistance: This one is actually a Match Loss rather than a Game Loss. It's very easy to avoid: Don't comment on any games or matches in progress. If you see a rules violation, ask the players to pause and get a judge, but do not tell them what is wrong. Otherwise, just don't say anything.

Q: I attack with a Flamespeaker Adept enchanted with Aqueous Form and scry. Opponent doesn't block. I say he takes 4, he says I forgot the trigger, but I say it just didn't matter yet. Help?

A: You're right - at Competitive REL events, the first time you need to call attention to a trigger is the first time it has an effect on the visible parts of the game or the first time a choice is required. That includes changing life totals, dealing with results of damage, choosing targets, choosing "may," and so on. At Regular REL events like FNM, the policy is even looser, so at all levels of play you got that trigger.

And now, I'm signing off for the year. I'll see you all again once Born of the Gods excitement is underway - maybe Santa Tabak will bring us some interesting rules changes to unwrap.

Until next time, have a merry Christmas and/or a happy new year!

- Eli Shiffrin

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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