Published on 03/10/2014


or, Time Travel Made Easy

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

One cause of, and use for, Mental Misstep.
One of my hours vanished last night. :/ I like my hours, so this bothers me greatly. With any luck, someone will see the fliers I posted and have more information on where it's gone. I already checked under the couch cushions and I'm pretty sure Moko didn't eat it. This "daylight savings" thing people talk about here might have something to do with it.

While I wait for information on my missing time to come in, I'll whip up some answers to your questions! If you've still got more you want answered, please send 'em in by email to or on Twitter at @CranialTweet. Please do remember that if your question needs a lot of setup or if you need details behind the answer that Twitter is not the medium to use - email those ones in so we can use more than 140 characters to answer.

Q: Is Remand legal in Standard when Jace vs. Vraska comes out?

A: It won't be. While cards from supplementary products like the Duel Decks are tournament-legal, Standard and Modern only care about blocks, not supplementary products. The super shiny Jace and super shiny Vraska will be legal in Standard (they're in RTR), but Remand, Tainted Wood, and Control Magic will not be.

Q: Can Eidolon of Countless Battles sit on Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts?

A: Yes indeed! As soon as you decide to cast it for its bestow cost, it ceases to be a creature, and Teysa no longer has protection from it. It continues to be a noncreature Aura (since a creature Aura isn't a thing that can exist on the battlefield) while attached to her, insisting "no, really, I'm not a creature, don't hate me." It might even hold up a boombox to play music for her while she attacks.

Q: How do I know what order state-based actions happen in?

A: Easy enough: There is no order. They all happen simultaneously. All creatures with lethal damage or 0 toughness after combat damage die at once; Elesh Norn's Clone dies at the same time that your 4/4-turned-0/0 dies; and a 1/1 with 1 damage from a source with deathtouch is destroyed once since destroying it twice is redundant.

Q: Is devotion a state-based action?

A: Devotion is a number. Like any other number in the game, it constantly updates, and the effect asking for the number is whatever it is and gets it as needed. This question is asked most often in regards to Gods becoming or ceasing to be creatures; that's a continuous effect that constantly updates between each game event, and is also not a state-based action.

Q: I control Necrotic Ooze and activate Pack Rat's ability from my graveyard - what do I get?

A: You're not activating Pack Rat's ability; you're activating the Ooze's ability. It gained it from Pack Rat, but that's not really important - where the ability refers to the object by name, that means "this object," not "a random card from outside the game named Pack Rat."

Q: Why does Porphyry Nodes make me choose a destructible creature if it's tied with an indestructible creature for lowest power?

A: Because you're not just instructed to choose a creature and then destroy the chosen creature. You're instructed to choose a creature to destroy. Destroying an indestructible creature is impossible, and you can't make impossible choices, so you have to destroy a creature that can be destroyed. Compare this to Doom Blade, where the targeting process is entirely separate from the destruction that happens much further down the line.

Q: Two of my opponents both have Perplexing Chimeras and I cast a spell. What happens?

A: The player closest to your left puts his trigger on the stack first, then the player closest to your right puts his on after that. The last trigger put on resolves first, and that player gets to choose whether to exchange control or not. If he doesn't, the other trigger presents the same option and this is all quite boring, so let's assume he chooses to exchange his Chimera and your spell.

Now you control his Chimera, and he controls your spell that the third player's Chimera is looking at hungrily. That trigger resolves, and now that player can exchange his Chimera with the spell that you cast but now the player on your right controls! If he does, the player on your left now controls the spell you cast, you control the Chimera from the player on your right, and the player on your right controls the Chimera from the player on your left.

Perplexing indeed!

Q: If Mnemonic Wall gets Fated Infatuation, can the copy get Fated Infatuation back?

A: Yes, when your Wall falls in love with itself, that love just goes on and on. You must finish resolving the spell entirely before any triggers can go on the stack, and putting Fated Infatuation into your graveyard is the final step of resolving it. You only choose a target for Mnemonic Wall's trigger as the trigger is put on the stack, not at the moment it triggers, and at that point Fated Infatuation is already in your graveyard. Pick it back up and prepare your Wall for another mirror-gazing session!

Q: Can I pay a whole bunch of mana to get a whole bunch of tokens when Felhide Spiritbinder untaps?

A: Felhide Spiritbinder's trigger (and all the other inspired token-making triggers) say that you may pay a certain amount of mana. You can't decide to pay more, or to pay that amount multiple times, or to pay a banana instead - you may pay exactly what it says you may.

Q: If a Wolf is Raised by Wolves, does it raise itself?

A: It does! Perhaps this Wolf is its own grandpa. Raised by Wolves counts all the Wolves you control, and while it logically doesn't fit for the orphan child of the wilderness to see itself as one of its loving parents, that doesn't change what the card says it does.

Q: Can Mutavault pay the Ultimate Price?

A: Your Giant Jellyfish Skeleton can't pay. "Monocolor" means "having exactly one color," and colorless isn't a color. Zero does not equal one no matter how hard you squeeze it, so the Cyclops Goat Assassin is safe.

Q: Can I use Quicken and Urban Evolution to play a land during my opponent's turn?

A: You can never, ever play a land when it's not your turn. Some effects like Walking Atlas let you put lands onto the battlefield, but playing them is entirely impossible. When something says "You may do this" and something else says "You may not do this," and the former doesn't specifically give you permission to ignore the latter, the "can't" rule or effect wins.

Q: Can Progenitus block True-Name Nemesis or vice versa?

A: This is the same as the age-old White Knight/Black Knight problem. Protection from Foo means that the creature can't be dealt damage by Foo, can't have Foo attached to it, Foo can't block it, and Foo can't target it. Contrary protection abilities don't cancel each other out, and protection doesn't let it block where another effect disallows it. True-Name Nemesis can't block Progenitus because Progenitus has protection from everything, and Progenitus can't block True-Name Nemesis because it has protection from Progenitus's controller, so their love can never be.

Sometimes you can, in fact,
be rewarded for nothing!
Q: Can I cast Acolyte's Reward without any damage coming up just to get a couple heroic triggers?

A: Yup! Acolyte's Reward doesn't care whether damage is coming, or even whether your devotion to white is greater than zero. The only targeting requirements are "creature" and "creature or player."

Q: If I control Courser of Kruphix and play Temple of Mystery, which cards get revealed?

A: You'll reveal the top card before the Temple's trigger resolves, and you'll reveal the top card after it's done resolving - which might be the same card if you like it. You won't reveal the second card down while you're scrying. The card you look at is still the top card of your library while you're looking at it.

Q: When do I pick a creature to put down with Aether Vial?

A: You'll choose whether or not and which creature card to put as the ability resolves. If you announce the ability with something like "Vial in Walking Sponge," and your opponent responds in any way (perhaps changing the number of counters on the Vial, or just casting a spell), you can (or must) change your mind on what to put down.

Q: I block a creature with lifelink and target my blocker with Crypsis. Does my opponent gain life?

A: He won't - damage that would be dealt to a creature with matching protection is prevented, and with the prevented damage never dealt, lifelink won't add its happy little bonus to that damage.

Q: Does Brimaz, King of Oreskos help trigger battalion?

A: Nope. Battalion counts how many creatures attack, not how many are attacking, and Brimaz's little kitty token didn't attack. A creature only attacks if you declare it as an attacker during that turn-based action. The token simple bursts out of its cardboard box attacking, as kitties are wont to do, without being declared. It'll count for Path of Bravery, which cares about attacking creatures specifically, but not battalion.

Q: Can I activate Jace, Architect of Thought, cast a new one, ditch the old one, and activate an ability of the new one?

A: You can. The "once per turn" rule on loyalty abilities is per-permanent, not overall or per-planeswalker-subtype. The new Jace is a new object which hasn't had a loyalty ability activated, so you can activate one of them.

Q: My opponent accidentally looked at the top card of his deck, and the judge had him shuffle. Can't that be abused with scrying?

A: It can, which is why there's more to it than what you saw (or the judge did it wrong). Rather than just "well, shuffle," the remedy is to shuffle the unknown portion of the library. If that's all of the cards, then that's all of the library, but if the player scried, then the scried cards are a known portion and won't be shuffled. It's entirely plausible that the judge observed no cards with scry and skipped asking to save time.

Q: Can I really use Steam Augury to make the Minotaur Horde give me five cards when playing against the challenge deck?

A: The human player makes all choices for the automated (AI?) deck, so yes, that's technically legal. You've defeated the Horde through guile and exploitation. Rather than a grand feast in honor of your bravery, the citizens shuffle around awkwardly with punch and cake. Some hero you are.

The challenge decks are extremely exploitable like that. Defeating them through quirks like that also defeats the purpose of the decks: to provide a challenge for you without having to play against another human and that human's deck.

Q: My opponent tried to cast a spell and pay for it by tapping two Forests and Arbor Elf as though it were a Llanowar Elves. That isn't legal, is it?

A: It's not technically correct, but unless you plan to interrupt the correct play (generate mana, untap land, cast spell), it's fine. The tournament rules support "out of order sequencing," which is, when you strip all of the boring judgespeak from it, just rules that enforce that playing like a human rather than a robot is good. It means that you may do things in a technically-incorrect order if it produces a legal outcome, doesn't provide information, and can be done correctly if necessary to allow interruptions.

Well, I just killed a few hours there, so maybe their ghosts can seek out my missing hour. But I'm pretty sure Moko does eat ghosts, so that might not work out.

Either way, that's all for this week! Join us next week as we gear up for Cranial Insertion's ninth birthday, which is sure to do something strange and unusual.

Until next time, may you have the time of your life!

- 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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