Published on 03/24/2014

I Got Ninety-Nine Problems

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Take away the dragon, add some gore,
and you've got the CI offices.
Hello and welcome to our ninth anniversary edition of Cranial Insertion, where we've finally decided it's time to get serious about the whole "shoving fuzzy bunnies into your head" thing. Another year under our belt and we'll practically be respectable, and that kind of blatant false advertising is unbecoming of such a distinguished publication as ours.

However, thinking up a new slogan turns out to be more difficult than it sounds, so instead of changing our slogan we've started experimenting with actually stuffing people's heads with literal live bunnies. And by "people" I mean Moko. Currently the results are...mixed, but I'm sure with more time and testing we'll be able to perfect the process and significantly reduce the number of newly-zombified bunnies being thrown at our heads by angry zombie chimps.

If you'd like to volunteer as a subject for our next round of testing you can contact us by sending an email to or by tweeting @CranialTweet and we'll send you the appropriate legal waivers to fill out. Or you can send us your rules questions to get an answer from us and potentially appear in a future article; your choice. But who doesn't want to play an essential part in the advancement of science?

Wimps, that's who.

Q: I cast Fated Infatuation targeting my animated Mutavault. I get a 2/2 creature that's every creature type, but that can't go back to being a land, right?

A: No; what you actually get is a Mutavault—a plain, boring Mutavault token, exactly like your real one in every way except for being a token and for not currently being animated. Copy effects never care about any outside effects that may be changing what something looks like that aren't themselves copy effects—they'll just copy things that are actually written on the card itself, plus other copy effects.

Q: If I control Floodtide Serpent and just want to bounce enchantments, could I pay its cost and then not attack? Or could I pay the cost multiple times for a single attack?

A: No to both questions. You pay the cost as part of the process of declaring attackers, so if you're not trying to attack with the Serpent there's no cost to pay, and if you do attack, you're only given the option of paying once.

This is for the same reason you can't pay the cost of a spell in your hand without casting it, or pay it multiple times when you're only casting it once, no matter how convenient it might suddenly happen to be. (Your opponent just hit you with Pygmy Hippo, perhaps.)

Q: In a commander game, if Phyrexian Ingester targets a commander, and the owner of the commander chooses to move the commander to the command zone, would Ingester get the bonus from the exiled commander?

A: No, it'll just be a plain old 3/3. The Ingester's second ability is looking for a card that the first ability put into the exiled zone, but no such card ever arrives in exile. The second ability doesn't know or care that the imprint ability did its very best to exile something—it cares about results, not effort.

Q: In multiplayer, I use Whim of Volrath to make my opponent's White Knight have protection from red until end of turn. On the same turn, another player at the table uses Sleight of Mind to change it from protection from red to protection from green. That effect lasts indefinitely, but is it still applicable after the current turn?

A: White Knight will no longer have any instances of "red" in its text that could be changed to "green", so no. Cards like Sleight of Mind work by changing one specific color word to another, and if the first word isn't present in the first place, that doesn't amount to much—it won't backtrack and retroactively start looking for another color word to change once "red" suddenly disappears.

Moko, NO!
Get those bunnies away from the lighter fluid!
Q: If I cast Meteor Shower, can I tap 2 red and 5 green to pay for it with: () + () + , and hence get 4 damage to distribute? I was told that I can only go: () + () + , because X can not be a mixed mana cost.

A: No, whoever told you that was misinformed. (Or lying through their teeth, but we'll assume the best.) Unless something's specifically saying otherwise (like Consume Spirit) a cost of , like any generic mana cost, has no restrictions whatsoever on the color or colors of mana you can spend to pay it. Mixing colors of mana is just fine.

Q: Say I have two Renegade Krasis on board, neither of which have +1/+1 counters on them. If I drop something that would evolve both of them, can I actually place their evolve triggers above their second ability so they get another counter from each other (essentially making them 5/4s at the same time)?

A: No, you cannot. The evolve ability of both Krases (Krasi? Krasises? I give up.) will trigger at the same time, and go onto the stack one on top of the other (in whatever order you like, if it matters). When the first one resolves, that triggers that Krasis's second ability, which will go on top of the stack, above the second evolve trigger that's still waiting to resolve. When that ability resolves a moment later and hands out additional counters, your second Krasis is not eligible because it doesn't have a counter yet. Then the second Krasis will evolve and trigger its own counter-happy second ability.

You'll end up with one Krasis that's a 5/4 and one that's a 4/3. Which is which is up to you, but it shouldn't matter.

Q: I cast Erebos, God of the Dead while on the plane of Jund. What happens when he enters the battlefield if devotion requirements aren't met?

A: You can choose to sacrifice any number of creatures you control to Erebos's Devour; for each one devoured this way, Erebos will enter the battlefield with five +1/+1 counters. Whether or not he's a creature when he does so is gloriously irrelevant—devour will function the same regardless. Those +1/+1 counters might not mean anything if Erebos isn't a creature, but does he care? No.

Q: I played Agoraphobia on a Nekrataal. If I attack with a 2/2 and my opponent blocks with his now -3/1 will I be able to resolve "first strike" damage, then return Agoraphobia to my hand to keep both my creature and Agoraphobia? Or does not dealing any first strike damage mean Nekrataal would deal normal damage and kill off my attacker if I do that?

A: Yes, absolutely. No, it doesn't matter whether or not Nekrataal actually dealt any damage. The first strike damage step happens any time any creature with first or double strike is involved in combat, even if they wouldn't end up dealing any damage in it for some reason. And since the Nekrataal already got its (pretty wimpy) kicks in during that first strike damage step, you can safely return Agoraphobia to your hand before normal combat damage rolls around.

Q: My opponent attacks me with Boros Reckoner and Purphoros, God of the Forge; his devotion to red is exactly five. If I cast a removal spell on his Reckoner, and he responds with Cloudshift, does Purphoros remain attacking because state-based actions never see it as a noncreature? That's what he's saying.

A: No, your opponent is wrong. It's true that state-based actions aren't checked during the resolution of Cloudshift, but that doesn't matter, because neither Purphoros's devotion ability nor removing permanents that stop being creatures from combat are state-based actions.

The devotion ability is a static ability that's always functioning, even mid-resolution of a spell; during Cloudshift's resolution, for one brief moment the Reckoner isn't on the battlefield anymore, and thus your opponent's Purphoros stops being a creature.

And because Purphoros stops being a creature, it therefore also stops being an attacking creature, and is removed from combat. This doesn't have to wait around for state-based actions to be checked; it just happens automatically.

Q: I activate Gideon, Champion of Justice's middle ability and attack with him. My opponent uses Condemn on him. Is this a legal play? I understand that he temporarily becomes a creature, but he is also a planeswalker.

A: Being a planeswalker doesn't give Gideon any special immunity to things that affect creatures, no. That's a perfectly legal play.

Gideon is currently an attacking creature, and Condemn says "target attacking creature", so it can target Gideon. He's also a planeswalker, but that doesn't matter, for the same reason it doesn't matter that he's also white, and he also was printed in Gatecrash—those things might be true, but Condemn doesn't say it cares about them, so it doesn't.

Q: In multiplayer can I choose 4 legal targets for Pinnacle of Rage, assuming multiple opponents and multiple creatures?

A: No. Pinnacle says you can choose up to two targets, so that's all you can choose. The "and/or" doesn't mean that you can choose two target creatures and two target players, just that those targets can be a mix of the two: both creatures, both players, or a creature and a player.

Q: My opponent controls Ghosts of the Innocent, while I control Furnace of Rath. I cast Lightning Bolt on her. Does she take 2 damage or 3? Do I get to choose, since it's my spell?

A: No; your opponent gets to choose, since she's the player being dealt damage. She'll probably want to take 2.

When two or more replacement effects (like Ghosts and Furnace) are trying to affect the same event, the player being affected by the event that's being replaced chooses which one to apply first. Then the other one gets applied (if it's still applicable). In this case, your opponent will probably want to apply Ghosts' replacement effect first, halving your Bolt's damage and rounding it down to 1, before applying the Furnace to redouble it to 2.

No, you can't float mana for Daze,
only until the current step ends.
Q: I cast Fireblast for exactly lethal, tapping my mountains, then sacrificing them. In response, my opponent activated Umezawa's Jitte to gain 2 life. I then tapped two more mountains, then sacrificed them to cast another Fireblast. My opponent then cast Daze and said "Since you didn't declare that you floated your mana before you sacrificed them, your fireblast is countered."

I know that you have to tap lands to get the mana but do I actually have to say "I'm tapping this mountain to get one red mana"? How would this be ruled?

A: That depends on what the judge decides. No, in many cases you don't generally have to specify that you're tapping your lands for mana when you tap them, and this is especially true if the color's obvious or irrelevant; if you say "I cast Brainstorm" and tap a Tropical Island, it's generally understood that you're tapping Tropical Island for blue mana and then spending that mana to cast Brainstorm, even though you didn't explicitly say that.

However, you are responsible for declaring any mana you just leave floating in your mana pool unspent when passing priority. In your situation, if you had red mana floating after casting your Fireblast(s) you should have said so; not doing so's a violation of the game rules.

So, interpreting the game state is up to the judge, and exactly what they decide would depend on the kinds of nuances we can't cover in an answer in a rules column on the internet. But suffice it to say that next time, if you want to float mana to keep up for Daze, you should probably make sure you say so.

Q: If I activate Soldevi Sentry's ability three times targeting the same player, and then someone casts Vindicate targeting the Sentry, does the targeted player have the choice to draw up to three cards?

A: No, they'll only draw one. (And as laid out in the previous question, you're the one making the decisions here anyway, since it's your Sentry.)

As Vindicate resolves and attempts to destroy the Sentry, all three regeneration effects want to apply and save the day. Since it's your Sentry, you choose which of these multiple replacement effects to apply—not that it matters much, since all three of them are identical. But once you apply one of those effects, all of a sudden the Sentry is no longer slated for destruction, so the other two effects lose interest—they no longer want to apply, so they don't. The regeneration shield you chose is used up, and your opponent draws just one card. The other two effects resume lying in wait for something to attempt to destroy the Sentry.

Q: My opponent attacks with Kaalia of the Vast and puts a creature into play under my control (thanks to an earlier Gather Specimens), should that creature still be attacking me? I'm pretty sure a creature can't be attacking it's controller, but MTGO disagrees with me.

A: No, it shouldn't. If something tries to put a creature onto the battlefield attacking under the control of anyone other than the attacking player, the creature will be put onto the battlefield under that player's control, but it won't be considered an attacking creature. This is definitely a bug.

Q: With Species Gorger, what happens if you don't control any creatures at the beginning of your upkeep? Does Species Gorger die?

A: No, definitely not. But it's very unlikely that you don't control any creatures, because Species Gorger is a creature, so if you don't control any others, that oversized frog will jump right back into your hand itself.

In the extremely unlikely event that you somehow have a Species Gorger on the table that's not currently a creature, and control no other creatures at all, then nothing at all would happen when the Gorger's ability resolves, because the Gorger doesn't specify any consequences for failing to return a creature. It doesn't need to—bouncing itself if there's nobody else around to bounce is usually punishment enough.

Q: My opponent casts Agent of the Fates and then wants to bestow Nighthowler on it immediately. Can I kill his Agent before he can do that?

A: No. It's your opponent's turn, so he'll receive priority first after the Agent resolves and enters the battlefield, giving him an opportunity to bestow Nighthowler and trigger the Agent's heroic ability before you have a chance to do anything.

You can respond to the Nighthowler if you like to kill the Agent, but that won't stop the heroic ability from forcing you to sacrifice a creature, nor will it stop Nighthowler from resolving and entering the battlefield as a creature.

Q: If my opponent's True-Name Nemesis has protection from me, can I name it with Runed Halo to get protection from it? If so I still won't be able to block it, but I won't take any damage either, right?

A: Correct on all counts. No, your creatures won't be able to block it, but you probably won't care all that much since the damage it would deal to you will be prevented. Unless your opponent can find some way to remove the Halo, their Nemesis will probably end up being little more than a very, very effective blocker at that point.

Q: Battlewise Hoplite is targeted with Mortal's Ardor; the opponent targets the Hoplite and his own Heliod's Emissary with Fall of the Hammer. If the player responds to the Fall with a Gods Willing naming red on Battlewise Hoplite, what happens?

A: When a spell or ability is resolving, the part that's targeted can't perform any actions on an illegal target, nor cause other things to do so. So when Fall of the Hammer resolves, it asks whether its targets are still legal. The Emissary? Yes. The Hoplite? No. Since one of its targets is still legal, it will resolve, but it won't be able to cause the Emissary to deal any damage to the Hoplite, and since that's the only thing it's trying to do, the Fall will end up doing nothing.

Then the rest of the stack will resolve, and you end up facing down a 5/5 lifelinking protection from red Hoplite. Good luck.

Q: My opponent has a Courser of Kruphix on the battlefield and a Temple Garden on the top of his library. He says he sees the next card of the deck before choosing to pay 2 life or not. Is he right?

A: No, he's not. The choice of whether or not to pay the life for a shockland is a replacement effect that modifies the manner in which the land enters the battlefield. As such, you need to make that decision before the land enters the battlefield, but the next card of your library won't be revealed until the land actually does leave the library to enter the battlefield.

This is different from the Theros taplands like Temple of Plenty because the scry ability on those lands is a triggered ability that triggers after they enter the battlefield. At that point, the next card is already revealed.

Q: I have 3 Italian copies of Pyromancer Ascension and one English. If I play an Italian copy, and then later am searching my library (off a fetch land, say), am I allowed to swap the Italian one for the English copy?

A: That's up to the Head Judge of whatever tournament you're playing in. There's nothing in the tournament rules that specifically forbid it, so they might say yes, that's fine, but there's also nothing that allows it, so they might also say no, it's not.

The same goes for foils or alternative arts—according to the game rules, all copies of a given card are identical regardless of language, shininess, or pictures, so it makes no difference to the game which piece of physical cardboard is representing the Ascension on the battlefield and which is representing the one in your library. As such, it's a judge decision.

Q: ...How about keeping the written-out (English) text of Ascension on a piece of paper to put on top of an Italian one when I play it. Would that be OK?

A: Again, it's up to the Head Judge to say yes or no. The tournament rules do allow players to publicly refer to cards' Oracle text during games, but they're talking about things like accessing Gatherer on your phone or having a printout from an official source, not a handwritten note. It's best to run those pieces of paper by the Head Judge first.

Well, we've finally managed to pry the lighter fluid away from Moko and put out all the fires in the offices, so I guess it's time to wrap up this edition of Cranial Insertion.

Carsten will be back next week for the final Cranial Insertion of the month, but this weekend on the 29th in Toledo, Ohio he'll be running Cast a Spell on MS, his annual charity tournament to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, so if you're going to be in the neighbourhood, come on down for a chance to win some awesome prizes while supporting a good cause.

(Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with almost a hundred half-charred zombie bunnies.)

- Callum Milne

About the Author:
Callum Milne is a Level 2 judge from British Columbia, Canada. His home range is Vancouver Island, but he can be found in the wild throughout BC and also at GPs all along the west coast of North America.

(Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with almost a hundred half-charred zombie bunnies.)

Sounds like you have the theme planned for the next bake sale. Congrats on nine years!
#1 • Date: 2014-03-23 • Time: 23:25:13 •
Wouldn't Battlewise Hoplite (Q19) be a 6/6 at the end of all the shenanigans?
4/4 from Mortal's Ardor and his trigger.
5/5 from triggering off the doomed Fall of the Hammer.
6/6 from triggering off the Gods Willing.

So all in all his 2/2 hopelite gets +1/+1 until end of turn, three +1/+1 counters, lifelink and protection from red until end of turn. AND the controller gets three instances of Scry 1. Fun times.
#2 • Date: 2014-03-24 • Time: 07:31:40 •
@Xyron Fall of the Hammer will not trigger Heroic on the Hoplite, since Heroic only triggers from spells cast by the controller of the Heroic target ("Whenever you cast a spell that targets...").
#3 • Date: 2014-03-24 • Time: 08:59:01 •
Regarding the last two questions - I would think it terribly bad form to have a card in a foreign language in your deck that either A. You can't read or B. You don't know the card well enough to relay it to anyone who asks. I know it's not required, but I still dislike the concept outlined above. If you don't know the card, don't play the card.
#4 • Date: 2014-03-27 • Time: 12:29:43 •
Regarding the Whim of Volrath, White Knight and Slight of Mind question, since Whim has buyback, what would happen if the next turn it is cast targeting the White Knight again changing black to red? Is the Slight of Mind effect still present to change it from red to green (due to dependency?) or is it gone since it stopped having an effect?

#5 • Date: 2014-03-27 • Time: 19:12:40 •
@Raynfal: Ah, I thought the owner of the hoplite was casting the hammer. I must've missed 'his own' in front of Emissary rather than Hoplite.

Thanks for clearing that up!
#6 • Date: 2014-03-31 • Time: 06:29:48 •

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