Published on 03/03/2014

The Winds of Winter

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Visual approximation of my back yard
Greetings and welcome back to Cranial Insertion! It's March now, which means that winter should soon come to an end, but at least here in Toledo it's still cold and snowy (assuming I can trust the weather forecast as of writing this). I guess I'm glad that I'm getting exercise in the form of shoveling snow, but that's getting quite tedious. I'm looking forward to being able to take walks in the park again.

So, let's huddle together, drink some hot chocolate, and enjoy the latest selection of rules questions from our inbox. As always, if you have questions for us, please email us at or tweet short questions at @CranialTweet. We'll send you a direct answer and your question might appear in a future issue.

Q: My opponent controls a bunch of Soldier tokens, and I'd like to get rid of them. Will Homing Lightning on one of them do the trick?

A: Yup, that'll do nicely. When an effect makes a token without giving it a name, which describes most token-making effects, the token's name is derived from its creature type or types. This means that all your opponent's Soldiers are named "Soldier." This has two consequences. For one, their lunchtime gossip is very confusing, and for another, Homing Lightning will kill them all if you target one of them.

Q: My opponent plays some God with insufficient devotion, so it won't be a creature. Can I respond to the devotion check with Selesnya Charm and exile it before it stops being a creature?

A: Nice try, but that doesn't work. The God's devotion check is a static ability that creates a continuous effect. It doesn't use the stack, you can't respond to it, and the God stops being a creature at the same time as it arrives on the battlefield.

Q: I control Warstorm Surge and I cast Xenagos, God of Revels while my devotion to red and green is less than seven. Does Warstorm Surge's ability still trigger?

A: That depends. Xenagos doesn't actually care what your devotion is while you cast it. What matters is your devotion when it enters the battlefield, and at that time it counts itself. If your devotion is now seven or greater, Xenagos entered as a creature, so it triggers Warstorm Surge's ability for 6 damage. Otherwise, it didn't enter as a creature and Warstorm Surge's ability doesn't trigger.

Q: I still control Warstorm Surge, and I also control Purphoros, God of the Forge and some other stuff so that my devotion to red is four. If I cast another Purphoros, will Warstorm Surge's trigger deal 6 damage?

A: That also depends. The second Purphoros enters the battlefield as a creature, because your devotion to red is now five. This triggers Warstorm Surge's ability, but before it can be put on the stack, you have to deal with the state-based action check, specifically with the legend rule that's currently being violated. You choose one of the Purphoroses to toss into the graveyard and keep the other one, and that choice drives whether you get to deal damage. When the Warstorm Surge trigger resolves, it looks at the new Purphoros's power to find out how much damage it should deal. If you binned the new one, the game uses its last known information and sees that it had a power of 6, so it deals 6 damage. If you binned the old one, the new one is no longer a creature because your devotion is now four, so it has no power and won't deal any damage.

Q: I'm at five devotion to white and blue, including an Ephara, God of the Polis, and I cast a second Ephara. Will I draw a card at the beginning of the next upkeep?

A: Yup, as long as you throw away the new Ephara when the legend rule asks you to choose which one to keep. (That's because Ephara's ability only looks for other creatures, so if you keep the new one, its ability won't trigger for itself.) Since your devotion was seven when the second Ephara entered the battlefield, it entered as a creature. This means that on your next turn, your old Ephara triggers because you had another creature enter the battlefield under your control last turn. The fact that that creature is no longer alive doesn't matter.

Q: I control Nylea, God of the Hunt and my devotion to green is three. If I cast Prime Speaker Zegana, does Zegana see Nylea as a creature to get six +1/+1 counters?

A: Sadly, no. Zegana's ability creates a replacement effect that changes how Zegana enters the battlefield, which must be applied immediately before it enters the battlefield. At that time, Zegana isn't on the battlefield yet, so it doesn't count towards devotion and Nylea isn't a creature yet.

Q: If I use Triad of Fates's second ability to exile an opponent's creature, can I respond to the "then" trigger by ending the turn with Sundial of the Infinite so the creature doesn't come back?

A: No, that doesn't work. The "then" part is not a triggered ability that you can respond to. It happens immediately after the creature has been exiled, and you can't do anything in between those two instructions.

Q: If I target Akroan Crusader with Reap What Is Sown, can I target the resulting Soldier token to get a +1/+1 counter, too?

A: I'm afraid that's not possible. When you cast Reap What Is Sown, you have to declare all its targets at the same time before the heroic ability even triggers. The Soldier token hasn't been created by then, so you can't target it with this Reap What Is Sown.

Q: Can I make Polukranos, World Eater monstrous if my opponent doesn't control any creatures?

A: Sure, that's not a problem. The monstrosity ability itself doesn't target anything, so you can activate it if your opponent doesn't control any creatures. The ability resolves, and it makes Polukranos big and monstrous. This triggers Polukranos's second ability. That ability requires at least one target, but if there isn't one available, the ability is promptly and harmlessly removed from the stack.

Q: So, my opponent is attacking me with a creature that's 8/8 thanks to a Hunter's Prowess, and a vanilla 3/3. If I cast Hold at Bay, can I prevent 7 damage from the 8/8 so that my opponent only draws one card?

A: Yes, you can do that. If a prevention effect wants to prevent a certain amount of damage and you would be dealt more than that at one time, you choose which portion of that damage gets prevented. So you could prevent 3 from the 3/3 and 4 from the 8/8, or none from the 3/3 and 7 from the 8/8, or any other combination in between.

Q: Can I cast Dissolve on Abrupt Decay just for the scry?

A: It's your party, and you'll scry if you want to! Even though Abrupt Decay can't be countered, it's still a legal target for Dissolve, since all that Dissolve looks for in its targeting criteria is that you target a spell. It doesn't care whether it might actually be able to counter that spell once it actually resolves. When Dissolve resolves, it does as much as possible. It fails miserably at countering Abrupt Decay, but the scry is not contingent on that part, so the scry still happens.

Q: Does Corpsejack Menace double the counters that Kalonian Hydra gets as it enters the battlefield?

A: Absolutely. Kalonian Hydra doesn't use the word "place," but it doesn't have to. When an effect such as Corpsejack Menace's replacement effect refers to a counter being placed, it refers to a counter being put onto a permanent or to a permanent entering the battlefield with a counter on it, so the effect still applies in this situation.

Q: Let's say I control a Tidebinder Mage that I used to tap down my opponent's Purphoros, God of the Forge. My opponent's devotion to red has dropped below five, so Purphoros is no longer a creature. Does it stay tapped by the Mage?

A: Yup! Tidebinder Mage only cares about its target being a red or green creature when its ability is put on the stack and when its ability resolves. When it resolves, it creates a continuous effect that's locked in on the particular object it targeted, and the duration of that effect is "for as long as you control Tidebinder Mage." That duration hasn't ended yet, so the effect remains and keeps your opponent's Purphoros tapped down.

Q: If I have Stab Wound enchanting one of my opponent's creatures and I play Gray Merchant of Asphodel, does it count Stab Wound for my devotion to black?

A: Sure. Even though it's attached to your opponent's creature, you still control Stab Wound, so the black mana symbol in its mana cost totally counts.

So cold...
Q: Let's say my opponent casts Read the Bones, he scries, and keeps both cards on top. Can I ruin his plans by playing Thought Scour to make him mill those two cards?

A: No, you can't do that. Scrying and drawing is all part of Read the Bones' resolution, and once it has started to resolve, you can't do anything in the middle of it. Yes, this is very similar to the Sundial of the Infinite question above. Thanks for paying attention :)

Q: Does Rootwater Shaman allow me to bestow as an instant?

A: I am afraid not. You have to check for permission to cast the spell before you make any choices such as bestowing it. Before you make the choice to bestow it, it's not an Aura card yet, so Rootwater Shaman won't give you special permission to cast it.

Q: If I control a 0/1 Tarmogoyf and cast Prey Upon, does my Goyf deal 1 damage?

A: Nope. Your Tarmogoyf will fiercely but harmlessly savage your opponent's creature with its gums like a toothless kitten. The fight happens while Prey Upon is resolving, and at that time Prey Upon is still on the stack. Prey Upon goes to the graveyard after it's done resolving, and that makes Tarmogoyf a 1/2, but that's just a bit too late to have an impact on the fight.

Q: If I control Doubling Season and get two Spirit tokens by destroying an attacking creature with Broken Visage, do I have to sacrifice both tokens at the end of the turn?

A: Yup. Doubling Season replaces what Broken Visage does, so any reference to the token Broken Visage created becomes a reference to all tokens it created. Hence, when Broken Visage creates the delayed trigger for sacrificing "the token," it actually creates a delayed trigger to sacrifice the tokens, which means both tokens it made in the previous instruction.

Q: In a multiplayer game, Arya plays Witch Hunt. In her end step, control randomly passes to the player on her left, Bran. Bran takes four damage in his upkeep, and in his end step Witch Hunt randomly passes to the player on his left, Catelyn. In her upkeep, Catelyn dies. Where does Witch Hunt go?

A: It goes back to Bran. Each end-of-turn trigger creates a new control-changing effect, and those effects last indefinitely. By the time Catelyn meets her untimely demise, there were two control-changing effects in place on Witch Hunt, one to give control to Bran and one to give control to Catelyn. When Catelyn leaves the game, the latter effect ends, but the effect for Bran is still there, so that's where Witch Hunt goes.

Q: If I give Master of Cruelties lifelink, do I gain life when my opponent's life total is taken down to 1?

A: No. Lifelink only applies to damage, and Master of Cruelties isn't dealing any damage. The ability causes loss of life, and while that can easily be considered harmful, it's not damage.

That's all the time we have for today. Before I go, I'd like to take the opportunity to remind you of my annual charity tournament for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Cast a Spell on MS. This year's event is happening in just a few weeks, on March 29th, in Toledo, Ohio. If you're in the area that weekend, come on by for the chance to win some sweet prizes and to play Magic for a good cause.

Next week Eli will be back with more rules questions, and I'll be back in four weeks on March 31st. See you then!

- 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.

Re: Warstorm, Purphoros and Purphoros... The original Purphuros will also have it\'s trigger hit the stack before the player gets to choose which Purphuros to bin, yes?
#1 • Date: 2014-03-03 • Time: 11:08:14 •
Quote (thepowda):
Re: Warstorm, Purphoros and Purphoros... The original Purphuros will also have it's trigger hit the stack before the player gets to choose which Purphuros to bin, yes?

The trigger actually hits the stack right after choosing which Purphoros to keep, but yes, it does go on the stack.
#2 • Date: 2014-03-03 • Time: 16:15:20 •
With Polukranos, if your opponent has creatures, can you not choose zero for "any number of targets?" (in case you want him to get larger without taking damage)
#3 • Date: 2014-03-06 • Time: 09:22:42 •
Quote (eleite):
With Polukranos, if your opponent has creatures, can you not choose zero for "any number of targets?" (in case you want him to get larger without taking damage)

Only if you activated the ability for X=0. If you chose a nonzero amount of damage, you also have to choose a nonzero number of targets:

107.1c If a rule or ability instructs a player to choose "any number," that player may choose any positive number or zero, unless something (such as damage or counters) is being divided or distributed among "any number" of players and/or objects. In that case, a nonzero number of players and/or objects must be chosen if possible.
#4 • Date: 2014-03-06 • Time: 15:39:10 •

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