Published on 06/02/2014


and the rulings are easy!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Talk to your doctor if you
experience a bloom lasting more
than three months
May is over, the weather's heating up in the northern hemisphere, pools are open and people are grilling their dinners outdoors, all signs that summer is getting underway. Which of course changes nothing for Moko (who never really cared for grilled bananas or brains) or the rest of us here at Cranial Insertion, except to heat up the rules questions we'll be dealing with!

Though of course we can't do that without your help, so if you've got questions, please send them to us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: I have Phyrexian Unlife and I'm at 0 life. If I use Boseiju, Who Shelters All to make my Ad Nauseam uncounterable, do I end up at -2 life, or at 2 poison?

A: Neither! You can't activate an ability if you're unable to pay the cost, and if you're at 0 life you don't have 2 life to pay in order to activate Boseiju. So even though you're not going to lose the game immediately thanks to Phyrexian Unlife, you will have to risk having your spells countered.

Q: Is it legal to kill yourself with Spellskite's ability by paying 2 life over and over?

A: It is, so long as you have the right amount of life to pay and it's legal to activate Spellskite's ability. There actually isn't any rule that says you have to try to win, and there isn't any rule that forbids you from making yourself lose (in fact, you can explicitly concede at any time and the game will end immediately). So as long as your life total is an even number (an odd number would only let you pay down to 1 life, not to 0), and there's a spell or ability on the stack for Spellskite to target, you can activate and re-activate Spellskite until your life total goes all the way to 0, at which point you'll lose the game.

Q: How does Spellskite work with modular abilities like Arcbound Ravager's? If my opponent uses Spellskite to "steal" the ability do I have to let him have the counters?

A: Modular is a triggered ability which has you choose a target to get the +1/+1 counters, which means Spellskite can change the target to itself. But modular is optional — when the ability resolves, you choose whether to put counters on the target. So although you have to choose a target, and although your opponent can change that target to Spellskite, you can then just choose not to put any counters on it (though keep in mind it's all or nothing — you can't split up the counters, or only put a few counters on the target).

Q: I have a Harmonic Sliver already in play, and I cast a Phantasmal Image copying Harmonic Sliver. How many artifacts and/or enchantments can I destroy when it enters the battlefield?

A: You can destroy two (and remember the ability is mandatory — you could target the same permanent twice, but you can't choose not to destroy anything). The Phantasmal-Image-masquerading-as-Harmonic-Sliver will have the ability granted to it by the original Harmonic Sliver, as well as a second artifact-or-enchantment-destroying ability granted to it by itself. Both will trigger when it enters the battlefield.

Q: If I attack with a 3/4 Archangel of Thune and she gets blocked by an Inkmoth Nexus, what power/toughness does she end up at?

A: Assuming nothing else intervenes, she'll end up as... a 3/4. The Inkmoth Nexus' 1 combat damage is dealt in the form of a -1/-1 counter, temporarily knocking the Archangel down to a 2/3. But since she dealt damage, you'll gain life from her lifelink, which triggers her own ability and puts a +1/+1 counter on her. Then state-based actions notice that the Archangel has both a +1/+1 and a -1/-1 counter, and both counters get removed (they effectively cancel each other out), leaving her as just a plain old 3/4 with no counters on.

You better hope you sent
her a Mother's Day card
Q: I've put Oppressive Rays on my opponent's Nessian Asp, and I have an Akroan Mastiff. Can I wait to see if he pays the to attack, and then respond by tapping the Asp?

A: Not quite. Whenever something creates a cost for attacking or blocking, the cost is paid during the declaration of attackers/blockers, and doesn't use the stack. So the longest you can wait to tap that Asp is the beginning of combat step; if you let your opponent move into declare attackers, he'll have paid the cost and declared the Asp as an attacker before you get another chance to use the Mastiff on it.

Q: Will Trinisphere make Mistmeadow Skulk effectively immune to all spells?

A: Well, first of all remember that protection doesn't stop everything — it only stops damage, enchanting/equipping, blocking and targeting (which you can remember with the mnemonic DEBT). And second, the converted mana cost of a spell is always the sum of the mana symbols printed on the card, regardless of what cost you actually end up paying to cast it. So Trinisphere doesn't actually change the CMC of any spells, and won't change the set of spells that can legally target, enchant or damage a Mistmadow Skulk.

Q: Polukranos, World Eater says it can deal damage to "any number" of creatures, and 0 is a number, so why can't I choose 0 targets for its becomes-monstrous trigger?

A: You can, actually; all you have to do is activate Polukranos' monstrosity ability with X=0. If you choose any nonzero value for X, you'll have a nonzero amount of damage to divide among the targets. And since having you divide by 0 would cause all sorts of mathematical havoc, the rules require you to choose at least one target to divide it among in that case.

Q: How does Copy Enchantment work when I want to copy an Aura? It seems like it's too late in the process to choose a target, so how do I know what it's targeting?

A: You're right that it's too late to choose a target, but that's OK — you just choose to copy the Aura as Copy Enchantment enters the battlefield, and then immediately choose something for it to attach to as it enters the battlefield. This does let you do some tricks, like getting around shroud or hexproof (since you're never targeting whatever the Copy Enchantment ends up attached to), but remember that it doesn't get around protection (since part of protection is a flat prohibition on having Auras which meet the protection criteria attached).

Q: If I have a Cavern of Souls naming Spirit, can I use it to uncounterably bestow an Eidolon of Countless Battles?

A: No, you'll have an Eidolon of Countless Counterability in this case. Cavern of Souls' ability only works to pay for a creature spell of the chosen type, and by the time you've reached the point of paying costs on the bestowed Eidolon, it's no longer a Spirit or even a creature spell (it's an Enchantment — Aura and no other types). So you can't spend colored mana from the Cavern on the bestowed Eidolon, and it won't be made uncounterable.

Q: In a Two-Headed Giant game, one member of the opposing team controls Spear of Heliod. Is there a way to attack that gets around the Spear's ability?

A: There is! In 2HG, you attack the opposing team, but when it comes time to dish out the combat damage, for each creature that's attacking you choose an individual player on the defending team to assign the combat damage to. So you can simply have all of your team's attacking creatures assign their damage to the player who doesn't control the Spear, and then it won't be able to destroy anything.

Q: If I control Karador, Ghost Chieftain, can I evoke a Shriekmaw from my graveyard?

A: Yup! Karador just straight-up gives you permission to cast a creature from your graveyard (unlike some other effects like flashback which are setting up alternative costs you have to use), which means you can cast it for its mana cost, or for any alternative cost (like evoke) that's applicable.

Q: My opponent has a Wolfir Silverheart paired with a Silverblade Paladin. If I cast Harness by Force (paying a total of because of strive) targeting both of them, will they still be paired when I gain control?

A: Unfortunately, soulbond sets some limits on how long the creatures can be soulbuddies; their pairing will be broken if either of them stops being a creature, leaves the battlefield or changes controllers. Since a control change happened here, their special bond will break and they'll just be their normal unpaired selves.

Q: If I control Athreos, God of Passage and my Mortus Strider dies, what happens? Can my opponent pay 3 life to make it stay in the graveyard?

A: Both Athreos' ability and Mortus Strider's ability will trigger, and since you control both abilities you'll put them on the stack in the order of your choice. But even if you have Athreos' ability resolve first, and your opponent pays 3 life, Mortus Strider's ability will still return it to your hand — the life payment only stops Athreos' ability from returning the card, and doesn't say anything about preventing other abilities from returning it.

Q: My opponent has a Chalice of the Void with one counter; is there any way to destroy it with Shattering Spree?

A: There is! All you have to do is use replicate — although the original Shattering Spree was cast, and will be countered by the Chalice, copies created by replicate aren't cast (they just get created directly on the stack) and so the Chalice won't counter them.

Second verse, same as the first!
Q: What happens if I copy Duplicant's triggered ability with Strionic Resonator?

A: You'll get to exile two creatures, and Duplicant will have the power, toughness and types of the last one you exile. Note that this is different from what the last printed version of the card says, but Duplicant received errata when Strionic Resonator was printed, precisely to fix this situation.

Q: I have Omen Machine, and at the beginning of my draw step I reveal Disaster Radius. Do I have to cast it?

A: You don't! Similar to the "fail to find" rule, you can say "nope, not able" to a "cast if able" instruction, but only if the spell you're instructed to cast has a mandatory additional cost involving cards with specific stated characteristics in a hidden zone (the rules are this way to prevent situations where you'd otherwise be forced to reveal hidden information to someone else in order to prove whether you could legally do something).

Q: OK, so does that mean I don't have to sacrifice my only creature if I reveal a Fling for Omen Machine?

A: You will have to sacrifice your only creature — the battlefield is a public zone, not a hidden zone, so you can be forced to pay additional costs involving things on the battlefield. Wave good-bye to your creature and think of all the fond memories you had together, as it slams into your opponent's face.

Q: Does Raging Ravine keep is +1/+1 counters when it stops being a creature?

A: Yup! +1/+1 counters can be on any type of permanent, even a noncreature one (see Llanowar Reborn for a fun example). They just don't do anything useful if the permanent they're on isn't a creature. But once the Ravine gets animated again, of course those counters will do something again.

Q: In one of your recent articles you said that a player with a Courser of Kruphix and an Overgrown Tomb on top of their library doesn't get to see the next card before deciding whether to pay 2 life to have the Tomb enter untapped. I've heard that on Magic Online you do see the card.

A: We can't comment on why it would work this way (if it does), or whether it's intentional or accidental. But we can verify that as Magic's rules are currently written, you shouldn't be seeing the next card before you make the choice. Overgrown Tomb's ability is a replacement effect which modifies how it enters the battlefield, which means it has to apply before Overgrown Tomb can be on the battlefield. And since there's no "in-between zone" for Overgrown Tomb to be in while that's happening, you'll be making the choice to pay life or not while Overgrown Tomb is still on top of your library, meaning you won't yet know what the next card is.

I'm starting to get a little exhausted from the heat, so that's a wrap on this issue. But be sure to check back next week when Eli will be revealing some rules secrets from Conspiracy in a special issue of Cranial Insertion!

- James Bennett

About the Author:
James Bennett is a Level 3 judge based out of Lawrence, Kansas. He pops up at events around Kansas City and all over the midwest, and has a car he can talk to.

Re: the Polukranos Q, the question asks whether s/he can choose 0 targets, not whether s/he can choose X=0.

So the answer should be 'no'. (Which it kind of is, because of the "since having you divide by 0 would cause all sorts of mathematical havoc, the rules require you to choose at least one target to divide it among in that case"). But I worry that the opening line, "You can, actually" might mislead a few people.

#1 • Date: 2014-06-05 • Time: 17:34:28 •
The answer given is correct and well-stated. While there are many people in this world that stop reading statements halfway through the first sentence, I don't believe it is advisable to write assuming they are your audience.

"It was the best of times . . ."

Sounds like a boring book, no excitement. I quit!
#2 • Date: 2014-06-08 • Time: 10:47:48 •

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