Published on 04/21/2014

Why Can't This Nyx Go on Forever

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Wait just a little while...
It's almost here! Journey into Nyx prereleases are this weekend, so come on down to your local card shop and sling some spells with your friends. I know I will, but until then I'll have to content myself with slinging some rules questions. And since this article is written in advance, there won't even be any Journey into Nyx ones. Oh, well, there'll be plenty enough of that in the weeks to come, I suppose.

If you'd like to sling some rules questions at us, you can do so using the "Email Us" button to the left, by sending an email to us yourself via , or by tweeting @CranialTweet. You'll get your answer from one of our authors, and your question might also appear in a future article.

Q: I control a Hive Mind and cast Summer Bloom, then immediately Pact of Negation it. My opponent argues he can choose not to declare a target with his copy of Pact so it fizzles. I believe if he doesn't choose a new target then the target is still Summer Bloom. Who's right?

A: You are. When a copy of a spell on the stack is created, all the choices that were made for it upon casting are copied as well, and that includes its targets. The Pact of Negation copy is created already targeting Summer Bloom; if your opponent declines to choose a new target, it'll remain targeting the Bloom.

Q: In a game of Two-Headed Giant, if I give my teammate's big creature lifelink with Vizkopa Guildmage, then activate the Guildmage's second ability, would my opponents' life total be hit after life gain because my shared life total went up, or would I have to be the controller of the source of life gain?

A: You and your teammate may share a life total, but as far as the game is concerned your teammate is the one who's actually gaining life, not you. Vizkopa Guildmage's delayed trigger won't trigger when your teammate's lifelink creature deals damage.

Q: If I have Cast Through Time and cast a spell like Treasured Find that exiles itself on resolution, does it rebound? I'm not sure because spells that return to library (Beacon of Destruction) don't rebound because they are shuffled through and don't go to exile, thus can't rebound, but unearthed creatures that are flickered to exile return to play because they went to exile.

A: It won't rebound. Rebound works by replacing the normal process of going to the graveyard after the spell is done resolving with exiling and setting up a delayed trigger. But that never happens with spells that exile themselves, because they do their exiling as part of resolving them. The spell never gets to the point where the game would try to put it into the graveyard, so the rebound never happens.

The important thing to understand with both rebound and unearth isn't really where the card is going. What's important is what's putting it there. The rebounded spell doesn't come back because what's putting it in exile is the spell's own exile-it-forever effect. A flickered unearth creature will come back because what's putting it in exile is the flicker's exile-and-bring-it-back effect.

Q: Does Swirl the Mists affect things like the alternate cost of Force of Will? When you choose what cost you'll pay, the card is already on stack, right?

A: Correct. Announcing a spell and putting it onto the stack is the very first step in casting it, well before costs are determined. By that time, Swirl the Mists is already in effect, so the cards you need to exile will need to be whatever color the Swirl says they should be.

I can almost see it...
Q: I control a Nyxborn Shieldmate enchanted with a bestowed Nyxborn Shieldmate, and no other creatures. My opponent casts Barter in Blood. Does the second Shieldmate become a creature in time for Barter to force me to sacrifice it?

A: No, it doesn't. Barter tries to get you to sacrifice two creatures simultaneously, not sequentially. At the time you're instructed to sacrifice, you only control one creature, so that's the most you can sacrifice. You'll control another creature immediately after sacrificing, but the Barter doesn't care about that.

Q: I haveConsuming Aberration on the battlefield, then my opponent activates the ability of Elixir of Immortality. I have some instants in hand that can put cards in his graveyard, but is there any way to use them to rescue my Aberration, or will I lose my creature as the dust settles no matter what?

A: Afraid not—your Aberration is as good as gone. If you respond to the Elixir's ability by putting cards into your opponent's graveyard, they'll all be shuffled away when the ability eventually resolves. If you wait until the ability resolves and shuffles away your opponent's graveyard, your Aberration will die before you get a chance to cast any of those instants in your hand.

About the only way to save your Aberration is to use something that directly boosts its toughness, so that getting rid of the graveyard won't leave it with 0 toughness.

Q: I saw someone talking in an article about using Glimpse the Sun God to tap his own attacking creatures to trigger their heroic ability, but if you attack, and then tap your own creatures with the Glimpse, how are you still attacking with a tapped creature? I thought a tapped creature couldn't attack or block?

A: A creature that's already tapped can't be declared as an attacker or blocker, but being tapped doesn't remove a creature that's already attacking or blocking from combat.

And a good thing, too—declaring something as an attacker taps it, so if being tapped removed attacking creatures from combat, any non-vigilance creature would immediately remove itself from combat as soon as it attacked, rendering the whole business pretty much pointless.

Q: If I cycle a Street Wraith to dredge a Stinkweed Imp, would I place the Wraith in the graveyard before or after the cards I have dredged from the top of the library?

A: Before. You pay the costs of cycling—including discarding the Wraith—at the time you activate the ability, which is well before the ability resolves and you actually perform the dredge.

Of course, this only actually makes a difference in formats where graveyard order actually matters—for tournament play, that's Legacy and Vintage. In formats where there aren't any cards that care about graveyard order, the tournament rules allow you to reorder your graveyard however you want, because it just makes things way easier for all involved.

Q: When you play Archetype of Endurance, does that bring back any creatures your opponent's exiled with Banisher Priest? Does it return cards that are detained by Martial Law?

A: No and no, for a bunch of reasons. Targeting is something that's only done by spells and abilities that are on the stack waiting to resolve. A spell or ability that has already finished resolving doesn't target anything anymore, even if it continues to affect things in some way. As such, things already exiled with Banisher Priest or detained with Martial Law aren't being targeted any more.

Also, Archetype of Endurance only gives creatures you control on the battlefield hexproof. A creature card sitting in exile thanks to Banisher Priest isn't on the battlefield, so it doesn't get hexproof. And even if it did that still wouldn't help, because hexproof only functions while the card it's on is on the battlefield.

And creatures detained with Martial Law never went anywhere in the first place, so I'm not sure what you mean by "returning" them. A creature that's detained can't attack or block and its abilities can't be activated, but that doesn't mean it's left the battlefield.

Q: I understand that if my Lotleth Troll is exiled with Detention Sphere then any +1/+1 counters on it are gone, but what if I cast Abrupt Decay on the Sphere in response to its trigger? I think that the Detention Sphere will be destroyed before it ever exiles my creature, but my opponent says that Detention Sphere exiles the creature the exact moment it enters the battlefield, before I have the chance to respond with Abrupt Decay, and therefore all counters are lost. Who is correct?

A: Sadly, neither of you are really correct. You're right that you can destroy the Sphere before it exiles your Troll, but that won't help you at all—in fact, it'll actually make things worse.

Destroying the Sphere in response to its enters-the-battlefield trigger won't stop the trigger—it's still there, waiting to resolve and exile your Troll. All it will do is trigger the Sphere's leaves-the-battlefield trigger prematurely. The leaves-the-battlefield trigger will resolve first, and do nothing because nothing's exiled yet. Then the enters-the-battlefield trigger will resolve and exile your Troll forever, because the trigger that would have returned it is already gone.

Q: How does Vision Skeins interact with Words of Waste?

A: When multiple players are instructed to draw cards at the same time, the active player (the one whose turn it is) performs all of their draws first, and then each other player in turn order does so. The Words discards happen whenever the draws they're replacing do, so what happens depends on whose turn it is.

Let's assume you've activated the Words two times before Skeins resolves. If it's your turn, your opponent will discard two cards, then draw two cards. If it's your opponent's turn, your opponent will draw two cards, then discard two cards.

If this is a multiplayer game, any other players "in front of you" in the turn order (ones who'll get their next turn before you get yours) will draw before discarding, and any "behind you" in the turn order (ones who'll get their next turn after you get yours) will discard, then draw.

Q: I was planning on attending a PTQ this weekend, but I severely hurt my wrist this week and am unable to shuffle. Am I unable to enter in this condition? Is there some rule that would allow a judge to shuffle for me?

A: You can still enter the tournament, but you should definitely talk with the head judge in advance so that arrangements can be made to accommodate your current handicap. What form those arrangements may take will vary depending on the circumstances and what the judge decides.

Q: If I'm attacked by three 2/2 creatures, can I cast a Divine Deflection with X = 3 and prevent 1 damage from each of them? (For purposes of abusing Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker.)

A: Absolutely. If an effect is looking to prevent damage that would be dealt to you, and multiple sources would deal damage to you simultaneously, then you get to choose which points of damage actually get prevented. As such, you can prevent one point from each creature, and force your opponent to sacrifice three permanents.

It works on multiple levels.
Q: If there is creature with morph or bestow in my graveyard, can I cast it face down or as an aura when casting it with Karador, Ghost Chieftain, or can I only cast it face up or as a normal creature for some reason?

A: You can cast your morphs and bestows face-down or as auras all you like. (Well, one of them per turn, anyway.)

You can't apply more than one alternative cost (like morph or bestow) when casting a spell, but the only thing Karador's doing is changing where you're allowed to cast those creature cards from—he doesn't impose any alternative cost in order to do so. And since Karador's not imposing an alternative cost of his own, you're free to use the built-in alternative costs provided by morph and bestow to cast those cards face-down or as auras.

Q: If I use a card like Act of Treason to gain control of an opponent's creature do all of the counters attached to the creature come with it? What if some of the counters are only there because of other cards on their side of the battlefield added the counters? For example, my opponent has 5 creatures and one gets +1/+1 for each creature they control. Do all these counters stay when I use Act of Treason even though I don't control all those creatures?

A: If you Act of Treason your opponent's creature, all of its counters come with it, but the things you're asking about here aren't counters. The only things in Magic that involve counters are the things that actually say they use counters—things like Akroan Skyguard's heroic ability or Arbor Colossus's monstrosity ability.

There are plenty of effects in the game that alter a creature's power or toughness that don't use counters, things like Spear of Heliod, or Crusader of Odric. You may be confusing the two because many players tend to use dice to represent counters, and then also use those same dice as a memory aid for keeping track of non-counter-based effects that modify power and toughness. Exactly which effects will still affect the creature you've stolen and which won't depend on the wording of the specific effects involved.

On a side note for other readers, if you're someone who uses dice this way, please stop it, or at least use very different dice for each task. Keeping track of what's a counter and what's not can be very important, and using your counter dice to keep track of variables that aren't counter-based can confuse people, especially new players.

Q: I have a few foreign language cards. I know they're tournament legal as is, but for my convenience can I write on or alter them so there's a translation of the abilities in English? Basically, alter the text box so it appears just like an English language card.

A: Probably, but as with any alteration there's one big caveat: a tournament's head judge is always the final arbiter of what alterations are and are not allowed. If the Head Judge decides that your alterations have marked the card in some way, they can be disallowed.

Be especially wary of any alteration that changes the thickness of the card involved, as such alterations can render cards marked even in heavy sleeves.

Q: When is it decided who's going to play/draw in game two? Is it before sideboarding is started (since some sides change on play/draw)? Or are you siding blindly, assuming that you are on the draw?

A: Unless you're the one who lost the previous game or your opponent speaks up prematurely, you're siding blind. The determination of who's going to play or draw doesn't have to happen until after both players have shuffled and presented their decks for the next game, so if it's your opponent's choice and they don't want to say anything until you're done sideboarding, they can do that.

Of course, playing first is usually enough of an advantage that assuming that if you won the previous game you're going to be on the draw for the next is generally a very safe bet.

Q: If I attack with any creature that has battalion and Brimaz, King of Oreskos the battalion trigger won't trigger because the 1/1 from Brimaz was never declared and hence there are only two declared attackers, correct?

A: That's correct, yes. Battalion triggers (Firefist Striker) trigger when you declare attackers based on the number of attackers declared, and in this case there was only two creatures attacking, not three, so there won't be any trigger here.

Q: I have Illusionist's Bracers attached to Mercurial Chemister and I activate his discard ability. Do the Bracers cause me to have to discard a second card, or do I discard one card and deal that amount of damage twice?

A: The latter—you discard one card and deal that amount of damage twice. The card you discarded was discarded as part of the cost of activating the ability, and you won't have to pay any costs for the copy created by the Bracers. The copy will just refer to whichever card you discarded to pay the cost of the original.

Q: Mana abilities are abilities that add mana to your mana pool, correct?

A: Basically, yes. There are a bunch of other caveats as well, but that's the general idea.

In full: An activated ability is a mana ability if it could add mana to a player's mana pool when it resolves, it doesn't target, and it isn't a loyalty ability. A triggered ability is a mana ability if it triggers off of another mana ability, it could add mana to a player's mana pool when it resolves, and it doesn't target.

So Elvish Mystic and Overgrowth have mana abilities, but Deathrite Shaman, Koth of the Hammer, and Lotus Cobra don't.

Q: If Skylasher is in the grave and I control Varolz, the Scar-striped would I be able to scavenge Skylasher as an instant since it has flash?

A: Nope, afraid not. A card having flash changes the times when you're allowed to cast it as a spell, but activating a scavenge ability isn't casting the card as a spell, so flash doesn't affect that at all.

Q: I was playing a Commander game with Lazav, Dimir Mastermind as my commander and cast Psychic Intrusion on an opponent, exiling Dreadbore. Can I cast it, or am I unable to because red's not in my commander's color identity?

A: You can cast it just fine. Psychic Intrusion allows you to spend your off-color mana as though it were red to cast Dreadbore, and that's just fine with the color identity rules.

Color identity does two things in Commander: first, it disallows you from including any card in your deck that has a color identity that doesn't match your commander's. That's not a problem here, because Dreadbore isn't a part of your deck. Second, it says that any time you try to produce a color of mana that's not in your commander's color identity, you get colorless mana instead. That's also not a problem here, because you're not actually trying to produce red mana. So since you're not trying to do anything that the color identity rules disallow, you're fine.

That's it for this week's edition, so have fun at the prerelease this weekend, and don't forget to send in all the interesting questions you have about all the new cards in Journey into Nyx! Carsten be back again next week with a fresh batch of rules questions straight from our inbox.

Until then!

- 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.

I'm not saying the ruling is wrong (although I had to doublecheck because I was convinced otherwise), but wouldn't it be worth pointing out that in 2HG, evn though you are not gaining life for the purpose of triggered abilities when your teammate gains life, your teammate cannot gain life if you are affected by an effect preventing you from gaining life.
This is due to the fact that "Whenever you gain life" actually means "Whenever a source causes you to gain life" which most players don't realize.
#1 • Date: 2014-04-21 • Time: 11:47:07 •

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