Published on 01/13/2014

The Snow Pillars of Hercules

or, Monday the Thirteenth

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Snow-Covered New England
The joys of writing for the future: Winter Storm Hercules is just finishing smacking New England around as I write this, but that'll be old news by the time you read this. On the other hand, these two-story mounds of snow will still be there. [Update from THE FUTURE: Yup, they sure are.] They were still there last spring when I moved here. Who wants a delicious road slushie?

Anyway, now it's Born of the Gods season, where we'll see if a proper Hercules expy pops up (Polukranos and/or Mistcutter Hydra stopped being a good Hercules-based card after it stopped being Human, so it doesn't count). Either way, enjoy the exciting and inspiring new cards, but remember: we're going to hold off on answering questions about new cards until the Release Notes are published or an official statement is otherwise made regarding an interaction. As with all new sets, the rules, they are a-changin'.

If you've got questions in the meantime, send them over to , tweet us at @CranialTweet, or concentrate really hard and try to telepathically ask us. The first two will get you an answer, the last one might get you an answer from Cthulhu instead. Here's some of the fun ones we got over the last week!

Q: My opponent casts Path to Exile targeting Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, then casts a second one targeting Kira. If I change the target to Spellskite, does the ability from Kira trigger for it, or does it get exiled?

A: Kira's ability will trigger and save your Spellskite. Unlike heroic, which triggers "whenever you cast a spell that targets this," Kira's ability triggers "whenever this becomes the target." That difference is significant: Kira's ability doesn't care if the spell was cast or how the creature became the target. It became the target in some way, so boom, trigger!

Q: Can I activate Mutavault to attack after I see whether my opponent feeds my Desecration Demon?

A: You sure can. You won't move out of the beginning of combat step into the declare attackers step without both players receiving priority and passing with the stack empty. When you have priority, just activate Mutavault rather than pass and you'll have a cute little Demon Jellyfish God to swing with.

Q: My opponent said something about staying alive with 0 life until later in the turn. What is he talking about?

A: He's talking about the distant past, when moxen roamed the land and Shivan Dragon was a good card. Back before the Sixth Edition rules changes, you didn't lose for having 0 life until the end of a phase. Luckily, that's been removed and losing the game for having no life is lined up with every other state-based action, and now you lose the game as soon as those state-based actions happen - generally, that'll be immediately after a spell/ability resolves or immediately after combat damage is dealt.

Q: My Judge's Familiar has a Magma Jet heading at its face. If I sacrifice it targeting Magma Jet and my opponent pays , does he still scry?

A: Nope. It's escaped the birdy's squawking attempt to counter it, but now its only target is illegal. That means that when it goes to resolve, it gets very sad and is countered instead of resolving. Just like any spell that's countered, none of its effects happen, including the scry.

Nope, still not useful.
Q: Can I use Quicken and Trait Doctoring to make Gary drain life for devotion to red?

A: Once an ability has triggered, it exists on the stack independent of its source. Even if you convince Gary to sell a different color of flower, the trigger's still looking for black mana symbols, and it will remain unconvinced.

Q: If my opponent draws before untapping, he missed his chance and doesn't get to untap now, right?

A: Untapping for the turn is not optional. He'll still untap his permanents. In a tournament, this may or may not even carry a penalty due to the joy of out-of-order sequencing, but it would be exceptionally rare to have a case where rewinding to untap wouldn't be the correct fix.

Q: Will Ratchet Bomb without counters destroy an attacking Mutavault?

A: It'll survive. Your Mutavault may be a Rebel Anteater creature, but it's still a land. Ratchet Bomb only kablooies nonland permanents, which means "is not a land," not "has a type other than land," so it can't touch Mutavault.

Q: What happens if I Wear // Tear an Elixir of Immortality in response to its activation? Can I even do that?

A: You can do that - the cost of the ability is some mana and tapping it. It's still on the battlefield while the activated ability is on the stack. However, when it resolves, it'll take its controller's graveyard (which now contains that Elixir card) and itself (which no longer exists, so that's ignored) and shuffles them into their owner's library. You won't accomplish very much there, since the Elixir still ends up back in the library.

Q: If I activate the [+1] ability of Jace, Architect of Thought, play a second one and keep it, then activate the [+1] of the new Jace, will both work to give -2/-0 to attackers?

A: That will work. You can activate the ability of the second Jace since loyalty abilities are tracked to once-per-turn on a per-permanent basis, not per-player or per-planeswalker-type. Each Jace creates a delayed trigger; they're the same text, but separate triggers. Then they each trigger for each attacking creature, gum up the stack, and when it's finally clear, the attacking creatures will all have -2/-0.

Q: If I target one creature twice with two Warriors' Lessons, do I draw two cards?

A: Yup! This works out exactly like Jace above except it's an ability the creature has twice rather than two delayed triggers floating in the void: You have two triggered abilities waiting around to trigger, and each one triggers independently even though they have the same text.

Q: Can Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver spend ten loyalty on the [-X] to get a Mistcutter Hydra where X is 8?

A: He/she/it can't do that. You're not casting the spell, so there's no prompt to choose a value for X. That makes X equal to 0, so the converted mana cost is just 1. Ashiok can only take off one counter to get the Hydra, and it'll enter as a little 0/0 Hydra which is adorable but has the life expectancy of a Game of Thrones character.

Q: Since Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge's trigger says I can cast a sorcery, does that mean I have to wait till after combat to cast it?

A: Nope - you can't even wait if you want to! When an effect from a resolving spell or ability says that you may cast a spell without specifying a duration (like Chandra, Pyromaster does), you have to cast it right away or you can't cast it ever. Luckily, there is no rule that says you can't cast a sorcery during the combat phase. You can't normally cast one there because there's no rule that says that you can, but there's also no rule that says you can't attack with your library. Magic's rules are permissive rather than restrictive: You may do what they say, you may not do anything that's not stated, and then cards add new rules, permissions, or restrictions.

Q: If I cast a second Tymaret, the Murder King, can I use the first to throw it at my opponent before I have to lose one?

A: State-based actions are checked immediately before a player would receive priority. Without priority, you can't take any voluntary actions such as activating the Murder King. But lo, by the time you have priority, state-based actions have already made one Tymaret poof off into the graveyard, so he's not around to be the sacrificial fodder of a very confused Tymaret #2. If you've seen Back to the Future Part II, I suppose this is really for the best.

Q: When do I have to discard down to seven cards?

A: Only as your cleanup step begins. You can have more than seven cards at any other time without any problems, including your main phase, your end step (before your cleanup step), your opponent's cleanup step, and so on and so forth. While exceedingly unlikely, if you somehow manage to draw a card during your cleanup step, you'll have another cleanup step and still have to discard before leaving your turn.

Poor Juan.
Q: I control Experiment One and cast Reverent Hunter. Is there a way to stack the triggers so Experiment One evolves?

A: There isn't, but that's because there is only one trigger! Evolve has an intervening "if" clause, so that condition has to be true at the time it triggers and at the time it resolves. If it's not true as it resolves, the trigger does nothing; if it's not true at the time of the trigger event, though, it doesn't even trigger in the first place. Since Reverent Hunter's counter-adding ability is a trigger (denoted by the word "when," rather than "enters the battlefield with" such as seen on Mistcutter Hydra), it's only a 1/1 at the time it enters.

Q: Does Tithe Drinker gain me extra life when it extorts?

A: Nope. Lifelink only cares about damage, and extort causes loss of life rather than damage. Yes, small details like this actually matter in the game. Yes, it can be frustrating sometimes!

Q: Do Pack Rat tokens add to my devotion to black?

A: While tokens usually have no mana cost, tokens that are a copy of something do. An object's mana cost is one of its many copiable values. Tokens that are a copy of Pack Rat will have a mana cost of and happily be counted by Erebos or Gray Merchants.

Q: If Soldier of the Pantheon blocks Reaper of the Wilds who gets deathtouch, does deathtouch still happen even though the damage is prevented?

A: In order for deathtouch to apply, the damage has to actually be dealt - unlike "real" Gorgons, simply staring one in the face isn't enough to turn our Soldier to stone. (I got paid to go to Greece to test this comparison, so those college interns did not get stoned in vain.) With the damage prevented by protection, deathtouch won't do anything.

Q: Horizon Chimera and Sedge Scorpion both get blocked by Coastline Chimera. Can I assign it 1 damage from the Scorpion and then assign the Chimera's 3 damage to the player?

A: When it's time to assign combat damage, you can assign it however you'd like - 1 to the blocker, 3 to the player, 27 to the moon. After that, the game checks the validity of the assignment and says "Um, the moon? Seriously? Go home, player, you're drunk." In this case, assuming you assign no damage to the moon and instead assign 1 damage from Sedge Scorpion to the blocker and 3 from the Chimera to the player, the game looks at whether this assignment is legal. It sees lethal damage (1 from a source with deathtouch) assigned to the blocker, and a creature with trample whose blocker has been assigned lethal damage assigning its damage to the defending player, so it checks that off as legal.

Q: After Angel's Grace resolves, can I activate Griselbrand or keep Ad Nauseaming below 0 life?

A: Ad Nauseam has you lose life, and you can keep losing life to get to a very, very negative life total. Note that you're just repeating a process that causes you to lose life; you're not paying life. This is important because Griselbrand, on the other hand, does ask you to pay life. You can't pay what you don't have, so you can't activate its ability with less than 7 life.

Q: I have two untapped Triton Fortune Hunters, and I want to target both with Hidden Strings but not tap them - can I do that?

A: When something calls for targets and says that you "may" affect them, that "may" is chosen on resolution. Even if you never intend to do anything to the target, you choose it while casting the spell, which triggers heroic. On resolution, you just say "nah, I don't want to tap my guy, I want to beat you with it!"

Q: Does Pithing Needle stop Aetherling's abilities, or are they all mana abilities?

A: None of them are mana abilities. Remember, a mana ability is an ability that produces mana (with some other limitations that'll come up very rarely), not an ability that costs mana.

Oh, look, the snow's turning into towering walls of mist and fog so thick I can't see the laptop screen anymore! I think that means it's time to sign off for this week. Join us next week for more rules goodies, and I'll see you again after the Gods have been Born.

Until next time, may your weather be delightful!

- 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.

If I am under the effect of Angel's Grace, and I am at -10 life, can I hit myself with shock to stay at +1?
#1 • Date: 2014-01-13 • Time: 14:53:51 •
No you cannot. The Grace's effect will only work if you're at 1 or more life and damage would reduce your life total to less than one. It won't do anything if your life total is already below one. From the Grace's Gatherer rulings:

If your life total goes below 1, being dealt damage will not increase it back up to 1.
#2 • Date: 2014-01-13 • Time: 20:46:00 •
Re: Path and Kira / Spellskite. I can\'t wrap my head around this one. What gets countered, what gets redirected and does either path actually do anything?

Re: Warriors Lessons... I thought a spell can\'t target something multiple times unless it specifically has multiple instances of the word \"target\" on it, such as Common Bond. What\'d I miss?
#3 • Date: 2014-01-14 • Time: 09:42:03 •
The first Path triggers Kira's ability, and will eventually get countered. The second Path gets past Kira's ability, but when it's redirected to Spellskite it ends up triggering the ability Kira gave to the Spellskite. That Path will also get countered.

The Warrior's Lesson question is about two different Lesson spells targeting one creature, not one Lesson spell targeting the same creature twice.
#4 • Date: 2014-01-14 • Time: 12:28:50 •
@Rhada: Thanks. Not until just reading now did I notice the "two" in the Question.
#5 • Date: 2014-01-15 • Time: 08:23:11 •

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