Published on 12/30/2013

A cup of kindness

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Some things get big after a year
2013 is winding down, and 2014 is soon to be upon us, leading to confusion for at least a few weeks as we all adjust to writing out the new date instead of the old. But before we close out 2013, let's get in one final issue of Cranial Insertion, and answer some more rules questions, for auld time's sake!

And as always, if you've got questions, please send them to us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: So, I know I could still bestow a Celestial Archon when Gaddock Teeg is out. But what about Ruric Thar, the Unbowed? If I bestow, will he hit me upside the head for 6?

A: He most certainly will! To determine how effects that would prohibit casting get applied you consider how the spell looks at the start of the casting process (which is why bestow gets around Gaddock Teeg's restriction — at the start of the casting process, a card with bestow is still a creature spell). To determine what abilities will trigger as a result of casting a spell, though, you consider how it looked when you finished the process of casting. In the case of bestow, when you're done you have a noncreature Aura spell, which means Ruric Thar is going to smash you pretty hard for casting it.

Q: If my opponent has a Chalice of the Void with zero counters on it, will it counter a Force of Will if I cast it by pitching a blue card and paying 1 life?

A: Your opponent will need to muster up a bit more force to overcome your will. Chalice only looks at the converted mana cost of the spell, which is just the sum of the mana symbols in the upper right. Alternative and additional costs don't change those symbols, so Force of Will's converted mana cost is always 5, no matter how you paid to cast it.

Q: I've just run out of cards in my library, but I have a card with dredge 3 in my graveyard. The next time I have to draw a card, can I just choose dredge and fail at it rather than try to draw (and lose the game)?

A: You'll have to dredge up some other way to stay alive here, unfortunately. A dredge ability can only be used if you have at least that many cards in your library, so to use a dredge 3 ability you'll need to have at least 3 cards. Since you don't, you can't choose to replace the draw with dredging

Q: If I control Thassa, God of the Sea, with enough devotion to make her a creature, what would happen if she got hit with a Rapid Hybridization? Is that legal? Would it be countered due to an illegal target?

A: Casting Rapid Hybridization at Thassa is perfectly legal, so long as she's a creature when you do it. And she's a perfectly legal target for Rapid Hybridization in that case, since all it specifies is "target creature", not "target creature that could be destroyed". So Rapid Hybridization will resolve, and then will do as much as it can. It can't destroy Thassa (since Thassa has indestructible), but it can put a 3/3 green Frog Lizard onto the battlefield. So that's what happens.

Others need a bit longer to grow
Q: If my opponent casts Show and Tell and chooses Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and I choose Treachery, can I have Treachery enter attached to Emrakul?

A: When an Aura is going to enter the battlefield without being cast, its controller chooses something legal for it to enter attached to. Which means, in other words, that the choice needs to be made before the Aura is actually on the battlefield. So in this case you'd be able to choose any creature that's already on the battlefield at the time Treachery is about to enter the battlefield; unfortunately, Emrakul doesn't fit that description (since it will enter at the same time as Treachery), and so Emrakul can't be chosen for Treachery to enchant.

Q: Say I have 5 lands in play, and tap them all to cast a Warleader's Helix, because I think my opponent may have Syncopate. Then when he casts Syncopate with X=1 (because he sees I tapped out), can I just point out that I'd tapped 5 lands and so have an extra mana floating to pay for it?

A: Not only does this not work, it could get you into very serious trouble. Any time you pass priority to your opponent with unspent mana in your mana pool, the rules of the game require you to announce the amount and type of mana you're floating. So trying to "hide" your extra mana from your opponent in this way is very much illegal.

And in tournament play, depending on whether you knew it was illegal or not, this could range from earning you a Warning all the way up to being disqualified. So please look into other, legal ways to play around your opponent's counterspells.

Q: My opponent has a Blood Baron of Vizkopa and an unanimated Mutavault. I've got a Devour Flesh in hand that I'd like to use to kill his Blood Baron, and also a Doom Blade. If he animates the Mutavault in response to Devour Flesh, will I get a chance to kill it with Doom Blade before he sacrifices it?

A: Yup! A spell or ability will only resolve when A) it's the topmost object on the stack, and B) all players pass in order without putting anything else on the stack. So after the Mutavault activation resolves, each player gets priority again, and rather than pass without doing anything (which would lead to Devour Flesh resolving), you can cast the Doom Blade, destroying the Mutavault before Devour Flesh resolves and ultimately leaving your opponent's board looking rather barren without his Baron.

Q: If I cast the Turn half of Turn // Burn on a Stormbreath Dragon in response to its monstrosity ability, does the ability still happen?

A: Exactly what happens here will depend on the timing involved. The tricky thing is that Stormbreath Dragon (like many creatures with monstrosity abilities) actually has two relevant abilities here: one is an activated ability which makes it monstrous, and the other is a triggered ability which will trigger when the Dragon becomes monstrous.

If you respond to the becomes-monstrous trigger, then you're going to be facing down a 3/4 Weird and you'll be taking damage equal to the number of cards in your hand. If you respond to the activated ability that makes Stormbreath Dragon monstrous, then all you'll be facing is a 3/4 red Weird for the rest of the turn: though it'll still get the 3 counters and become monstrous, it will no longer have the "when this becomes monstrous" triggered ability, so it won't deal damage.

Q: I'm at 1 life and my opponent is at 3. I've got an untapped City of Brass in play and a Lightning Bolt in hand. Is there any way I can make the timing work out so my opponent dies and I don't?

A: There is a way! What you want to do is tap City of Brass for ; this puts the mana into your pool immediately (mana-producing abilities don't use the stack, they just happen right away), and triggers the damage-dealing ability, which goes on the stack. Then you can simply respond to the damage-dealing ability by casting Lightning Bolt, paying for it with the red mana you got from the City of Brass. Lightning Bolt will resolve before the City of Brass trigger, putting your opponent to 0 life while you're still at 1 and winning you the game.

Q: Suppose my opponent attacks me with a pair of 2/2 creatures, and I block one of them with Ajani's Sunstriker. Will I get a counter on Luminarch Ascension at the end of that turn, since my life total didn't go down?

A: Not quite. Luminarch Ascension doesn't check whether your life total changed; it checks whether you lost life. And you did lose 2 life that turn (from the 2 damage dealt by the creature you didn't block), even though the result was that your life total stayed the same, so Luminarch Ascension won't get a counter.

Q: If I Mindslaver my opponent, can I make him use a removal spell in his hand to kill his own True-Name Nemesis?

A: You can! Although you're the one calling the shots, your opponent is still the one taking all the actions, as far as protection from players is concerned. So this is yet another (though somewhat expensive and conditional) way to kill a True-Name Nemesis.

Q: So, I've heard that Willbender can affect even spells with split second, like Sudden Shock. How does that work if activated abilities can't be activated in response to a split-second spell?

A: It works because turning Willbender — or any face-down creature — face-up isn't an activated ability. It's a special action that you can take whenever you have priority and the ability to pay the morph cost (and you do get priority when a spell with split second is on the stack, you're just drastically limited in what you can do with it). So you can flip that Willbender face-up and Suddenly Shock something your opponent wasn't expecting!

Q: So a few weeks ago you answered a question about how Mutavault can't save Pack Rat and its token buddies from an Anger of the Gods. But suppose I have a Pack Rat and a token copy attacking (so they're both 2/2), and my opponent blocks one of them with a 2/2. Can I activate Mutavault to save it?

A: That will actually work. Both of your Pack Rats (the original and the token copy) will be 3/3s until Mutavault's ability wears off during the cleanup step. Which is, coincidentally, the same time that damage gets removed from creatures. So in the cleanup step the game goes straight from seeing a 3/3 Pack Rat with 2 damage marked on it, to seeing a 2/2 Pack Rat with no damage marked on it, which means the Pack Rat lives!

And some take a REALLY long time
Q: In a four-player EDH game, I have cards belonging to other players exiled with Angel of Serenity. If I die, do they get their stuff back?

A: You can serenely exit the game knowing that their cards are going to remain in exile. Although the Angel does leave the battlefield, triggering its ability, the rules tell us that once a player leaves the game, no new game objects (and triggered abilities are game objects) can be created under that player's ownership. And even if the Angel trigger somehow managed to be created, a triggered ability controlled by a player who's left the game... can't be put on the stack, and the game rules do a pretty thorough sweep to make sure any lingering objects owned/controlled by that player are cleaned up.

So when the Angel's controller leaves the game, the cards exiled with the Angel will stay in exile, since the ability which would return them never gets a chance to happen in that case.

Q: I've heard there's some trick you can do to permanently get rid of a Batterskull by phasing it out. How does that work?

A: Well, if you just phase out the Batterskull, then it'll phase back in normally during its controller's next untap step. What you want to do here — and Sapphire Charm is a versatile card for this purpose, though Reality Ripple works too — is phase out the Germ token Batterskull is attached to. This will cause Batterskull to phase out as well (when a permanent phases out, anything attached to it phases out with it). But once phased out, the Germ token will immediately cease to exist, since tokens aren't supposed to be phased out.

And once that happens, the Batterskull will stay phased out, forever; it would only normally phase in again when the creature it was attached to phases in. But that creature no longer exists, which leaves the Batterskull essentially trapped, phased out with no way to phase back in again.

Q: My opponent controls only one creature, which is enchanted by a bestowed Boon Satyr. If I fuse Far // Away, targeting his creature, will he have to sacrifice the Satyr?

A: Yup! When resolving a spell with fuse, you proceed through all the instructions on the left side of the card, then all the instructions on the right side. So to start with, you'll be bouncing the targeted creature. As soon as that happens, Boon Satyr isn't attached to anything, which causes the bestow effect to end immediately (this isn't a triggered ability, or even a state-based action that would have to wait to kick in — bestow creates a continuous effect whose duration is until the Satyr becomes unattached). So now Boon Satyr is a creature, and you carry out the instructions on the right-hand side of Far // Away. Boon Satyr is the only creature the targeted player controls, so that's the creature he has to sacrifice.

Q: I control Life and Limb and Worms of the Earth. No really. And then I activate the second ability of my Thallid. Does Worms of the Earth stop the token from entering the battlefield?

A: Your Saproling will enter the battlefield just fine. When something is about to enter the battlefield, the list of effects we take into account to determine how that event might get modified (or whether it will happen at all) is actually pretty short. In particular, we don't consider Life and Limb's effect for that, so the game doesn't see a land trying to enter the battlefield. Instead it sees a creature about to enter, and then once that creature is on the battlefield, it's immediately also a land and a Forest.

Q: If I cast Mutilate when I control five Swamps, and my opponent has a Strangleroot Geist, will the Geist die again as soon as it comes back?

A: That undying Geist will stay... undied? Undyed? Undeaded? Whatever the word for it is, the Geist will stick around: Mutilate only affects creatures that were on the battlefield when Mutilate resolved, and the moment the Geist went to the graveyard it became, from the game's perspective, a brand-new game object different from the one that was just on the battlefield getting Mutilated. So when it comes back to the battlefield as a result of undying, it's no longer getting the -5/-5 from your Mutilate, and lives to haunt another day.

Q: I have a creature enchanted with Ordeal of Thassa, and it has two +1/+1 counters on it. If I cast another Ordeal of Thassa on the same creature and then attack, do I get to draw four cards?

A: You do, and your creature will now have four +1/+1 counters on it! When you declare the creature as an attacker, the first ability of each Ordeal will trigger. And each of those will resolve: the first one will put a third counter on the creature, then sacrifice itself, triggering its own draw-two. Then the trigger from the other Ordeal will resolve, putting a fourth counter on the creature and sacrificing itself, triggering its draw-two.

Q: If I activate Chandra, Pyromaster's -7 ability, and the only instant or sorcery I reveal is Toil // Trouble, what happens? Do I get both effects three times?

A: Chandra instructs you to copy that card three times, and then cast the copies without paying their mana costs. Since you're not casting the copies from your hand, you don't have the option to fuse, so you handle them like normal split cards: for each copy, choose the half you'll cast, and cast only that half. So you can get three Toils or three Troubles or two of one and one of the other.

That's it for this issue, and for this year. May your 2014 be full of cheer and fun rules questions, and when those come up remember that Cranial Insertion will still be here to answer them, in 2014 and (hopefully) beyond.

- James Bennett

About the Author:
James Bennett is a Level 3 judge based out of Lawrence, Kansas. He pops up at events around Kansas City and all over the midwest, and has a car he can talk to.

About Q10 (Ajani's Sunstriker & Luminarch Ascension):
What if that player also has Platinum Emperion?

I know its reminder text says the player can't gain or lose life, but, is it still true in cases like this where the life total wouldn't change anyway?
#1 • Date: 2013-12-30 • Time: 13:43:02 •
The Ascension cares if you lost life that turn. The Emperion makes it so your life total can't change. Since your life total can't change, you won't lose life, so the Ascension would trigger and it would get a counter.
#2 • Date: 2013-12-31 • Time: 00:11:52 •
About Q17 (Life and Limb and Worms of the Earth):

Worms of the Earth's effect doesn't look like a replacement effect to me: it doesn't use one of the templates listed in rule 614.1. I would say it's a regular contiguous effect that modifies the rules of the game.

Also, it forbids lands from entering the battlefield, rather than land cards. This is different from Grafdigger's Cage 's template, that stops creature cards. Is this an editorial choice or a functional difference?
#3 • Date: 2014-01-07 • Time: 09:52:32 •
Indeed, Worm's effect is not a replacement effect. But it does set a prohibition rule so it looks for the event before it would happen.

This is somewhat similar to replacement and prevention effects, except it has precedence over them (you can't modify/prevent an event that can't happen).

Saying "lands" instead of "land cards" makes the effect apply to land tokens as well (Cackling Counterpart + animated Mutavault /Dryad Arbor) which is more inline with the printed wording.
#4 • Date: 2014-01-13 • Time: 12:49:14 •

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