Published on 07/21/2014


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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Goblin Kaboomist exploded onto the scene
at my local prerelease. Well,
more like
all over it...
Hello, and welcome to a very special edition of Cranial Insertion. This week's article is dedicated to all those hardworking kaboomists who risk their lives again and again each and every day so that their planeswalker masters can be safe from the terrifying threat of attacking creatures without flying. It's a tough, thankless, job, but somebody's got to do it! (Which as usual means everybody else leaves it up to the goblins, hapless suckers that they are.)

If you would like to aid the kaboomists in their plight, you can donate them your junk commons and draft rejects—I hear they make for excellent body armor. If instead you'd like to send us some rules questions, you can drop us an email at or tweet the shorter ones to @CranialTweet, where we'll provide you with an answer directly and possibly include your question in an upcoming issue.

But for now let's all settle down and enjoy this week's batch of rules questions.

Q: How do the Land Mines made by Goblin Kaboomist work? Their ability says they might make the Kaboomist deal damage to itself, but what if the Kaboomist isn't around anymore? Can I still use them?

A: Actually, you don't flip a coin when you use a Land Mine, you flip a coin when you create one.

Try taking a second look at Goblin Kaboomist's text box. Everything within the quotation marks is part of the ability of the Land Mine, and everything outside of those quotation marks is part of the ability of the Kaboomist. To see this more clearly, try taking out everything within those quotation marks:
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a colorless artifact token named Land Mine onto the battlefield with "...". Then flip a coin. If you lose the flip, Goblin Kaboomist deals 2 damage to itself.

As you can see, the Land Mine doesn't actually say what you thought it says. The flip is done as part of the ability that puts out the Land Mine, not as part of the effect of the Mine itself.

This unfortunately means that the Kaboomist isn't nearly as good as you probably thought it was. Sorry.

Q: Will Polymorphist's Jest allow Izzet Staticaster to wipe the opponent's board of creatures? Do their names change?

A: No, it won't. The Jest changes the affected creatures' colors and types and removes their abilities, but it doesn't change their names, so the only way you can wipe your opponent's board with a single Staticaster is if they all had the same name to begin with.

Q: I get that attaching Spectra Ward to a creature won't remove any Auras already on it, and that subsequent Aura spells can't target the creature (unless it's Eldrazi Conscription). But what about Auras that get put onto the battlefield directly, bypassing all the casting and targeting spiel (for instance, via Sun Titan)? Can they be attached to a creature enchanted by Spectra Ward?

A: Absolutely. Spectra Ward works by turning off the "can't be enchanted by Auras" part of its protection entirely. Without that part of protection, you can attach Auras to the enchanted creature just fine as long as you're not attempting to target it with something colored.

Q: If I target a my own land with Ghost Quarter's land destruction ability, can I respond to it by cycling Edge of Autumn on the targeted land? Do I still get to search for a land?

A: You can respond to the ability by sacrificing the land, since destroying the land is part of the ability's effect, but if you do that you won't get to search for another one—Ghost Quarter's ability will be countered for having no legal targets, and none of its effects will occur.

*Rabble rabble rabble rabble*
Q: At the beginning of combat after Goblin Rabblemaster makes a token, is there an opportunity to use, say, Chord of Calling to tap the Goblin token that would otherwise have to attack?

A: Certainly. Whenever anything happens, you will pretty much always have a chance to do things before the game moves on to the next step or phase of the turn—the game waits until neither you nor your opponent want to do anything in the current step before moving on to the next.

Q: If Power Play is in my Cube, does he who drafted Power Play still go first game 2, even if he won game 1, or does Power Play only affect the first game of a match?

A: Power Play overrides all the normal rules for deciding who goes first, which includes the one that normally gives the losing player the choice of play or draw in the second and third games of a match. He who drafts Power Play goes first. End of discussion.

Q: When applying the layer rules, do you apply each layer to all cards at once, or to each card individually? eg, All cards have layer 1 applied, then layer 2, etc as opposed to "apply layer 1 through 8 for card A, then 1 through 8 for card B, etc"

A: That first one. The layers are applied to everything simultaneously, not to each card individually one by one. Apart from the nightmare issue of deciding what to apply things to first, applying things individually would probably make cards like Heedless One work really, really weirdly when they encounter effects that might alter the things they're trying to check.

Q: With Chief Engineer, can convoke pay for Chalice of the Void?

A: Yes, it can. When casting a spell with in its cost, you first decide what value you want X to have, and then pay whatever cost you'd need for an X of that value. So if you wanted to play Chalice with one counter, X would be 1, which makes the mana cost , which you can pay by tapping two creatures.

Q: Can you explain why Undergrowth Scavenger counts itself if it enters the battlefield from a graveyard?

A: Undergrowth Scavenger's ability is a replacement effect that affects how it enters the battlefield. In order for it to do that, it needs to apply at the moment just before the Scavenger actually enters the battlefield. It counts the number of creatures in graveyards as you apply its effect, and because the Scavenger hasn't moved yet, it's still in the graveyard, so it's counted along with everything else.

Q: Can I put Might Makes Right's trigger on the stack, then pump my guy with Xenagos, God of Revels so I can steal something?

A: Not unless you already met the Might's condition even without Xenagos's ability. Might Makes Right's ability has what's known as an intervening if clause, which means that the ability won't trigger in the first place if you don't already meet its condition.

Intervening if clauses check that they're true both when the ability tries to trigger and when the ability resolves. If the condition isn't true at both times, nothing will end up happening.

Q: Can Painter's Servant be equipped by Sword of Feast and Famine if I chose green when he entered?

A: Only momentarily. The Sword will become attached to the Servant, giving it protection from green, and will then immediately fall off thanks to its own gift of protection, which forbids green things from being attached to the creature. In fact, it'll do that no matter what creature you try to attach it to, for as long as the Servant is around.

Q: Can you pay a morph cost multiple times? Gathan Raiders has a Morph cost that helps its Hellbent somewhat, but could it help it completely? Can you empty your hand to turn it face up?

A: Sadly, no; you'll only be able to discard a single card. Once you take the special action of paying a morph cost, the card will be face-up and the morph effect that allowed you to pay the cost will have ended.

Q: If I have Attrition and just one creature on the battlefield, can I use the ability to sacrifice my creature and not kill any creature?

A: As long as it's not black or otherwise an invalid target for Attrition's ability, sure! When activating an ability (or casting a spell), you choose targets before costs are paid, which means the creature will still be on the battlefield (and therefore a legal target) when you choose those targets. The fact that you're about to sacrifice it in a few seconds is irrelevant.

Careful. She might rip you apart
with her bear hands for trying that.
Q: Suppose I want a green Standard deck, and in it, I want to run a Runeclaw Bear. Let's also say that I don't have a Runeclaw Bear in my collection, but I do have a Grizzly Bears. The two cards share the same mana cost, color, power/toughness, creature type, and neither have any rules text. The two cards are exactly the same mechanics-wise. So would I be able to use the old Grizzly Bears in my Standard deck, as it functions identically to the Standard-legal Runeclaw Bear?

A: Afraid not. Similar though the two might be in other respects, Runeclaw Bear and Grizzly Bears have different English names, which means that they're considered completely different cards, and you cannot substitute one for the other. (This also applies to Forest Bear, Bear Cub, and Balduvian Bears.) Different names, different cards.

We don't want players in tournaments to be required to know whether or not two different cards are identical, especially when one of them isn't actually present. In addition, there are many cards that key off of card names, so even if the cards are completely identical in all other respects, having different names can still be important.

However, if you're just playing casually in a non-tournament setting, it's quite likely your friends will be willing to overlook your flagrant disregard for the rules of format legality and play your Bears by any name you want. They might even go so far as to (gasp!) let you use Alpha Myr rather than Bronze Sables, and that's just crazy.

Q: I have an Ornithopter and a Young Pyromancer and my opponent is attacking into me. Can I assign both of my creatures to block, cast Stoke the Flames tapping both creatures, then cast Triton Tactics to untap both creatures to finish paying for Stoke the Flames?

A: Nope. Once you start casting Stoke the Flames, you need to finish casting it before you can do anything else, and doing that requires paying its full cost. You can't stop casting it midway through to do something else, and then pick it up later on when it's convenient. It's all or nothing.

Q: I block a lifelink creature with Wall of Frost and use Fog to prevent damage so my opponent won't gain life. Does Wall of Frost still tap that creature?

A: Yes. Preventing combat damage doesn't stop combat from proceeding as normal, it just prevents the combat damage that the creatures would normally deal.

No combat damage may have been dealt, but your Wall did indeed block your opponent's creature, which means its ability triggers and locks the blocked creature down for a turn.

Q: If I were to go to a PTQ, would I be allowed to have a piece of paper that said "When playing against this deck, sideboard out X, Y, Z and bring in A, B, C"?

A: Yes, as long as you don't look at it while actually playing. Players are allowed to look at (brief) sets of outside notes while sideboarding in between games in their matches; they're just not allowed to look at those notes in the middle of their games. As long as your notes are reasonably brief, feel free to bring them along.

Q: If Gaddock Teeg is in play, can I bestow a Celestial Archon onto him?

A: Yes. Effects that forbid players from casting certain kinds of spells look at the cards players are trying to cast before they're actually put onto the stack to determine whether or not the player is permitted to cast them. While it's not on the stack, a Celestial Archon is a creature card, so Gaddock Teeg lets you start casting it.

Later on, you decide to use Bestow and the Archon stops being a creature spell, turning into an Aura spell, but by that time Gaddock Teeg has stopped paying attention and doesn't see what's going on right under his nose. (For a community leader he has a shockingly short attention span.)

Q: "Base power/toughness" is a term I haven't seen before. Is that a change in templating for M15?

A: Yes, it is. It's a new wording that Wizards is trying out to help players understand how spells and abilities that set a creature's power and toughness to specific values work, and in addition to being used on new cards, it's been errata'd on to a bunch of old ones where appropriate.

It doesn't actually change how such cards work, but hopefully it'll make the existing functionality clearer.

Q: Can Crusader of Odric's power and toughness be changed? It seems like that would be the case, but then again, it does not say base power and toughness (in which case the base could be added onto or subtracted off of) but "power and toughness are equal to" as if it can't be changed.

A: Yes, the Crusader's power and toughness can be changed, the same way you can change any other creature's power or toughness. That ability only defines the Crusader's "normal" power and toughness, and you can still alter those qualities for the same reason you can alter a Runeclaw Bear's power and toughness despite it clearly saying "2/2" in the little power/toughness box.

That ability is what's known as a characteristic-defining ability, and the only reason it's there is because "The number of creatures you control / The number of creatures you control" wouldn't fit in that tiny little power/toughness box. So instead Wizards put some asterisks as placeholders and put the definition in the text box where there was actually room for it.

Q: I know when you have an old card you can still use it if the text and the cost etc. was exactly the same and it's just a different year. However now they have base P/T does this make the old cards void? Turn to Frog has different texts in M12 and M15, even though they mean the same thing. Are they both legal or is just M15 legal in standard?

A: They're both legal, and in fact, they both have the exact same text. (That ink on your M12 copy of Turn to Frog? It's lying to you!)

The rules text that's actually printed on a card doesn't really matter, because every card's rules text is defined not by ink and paper, but by Wizards' Oracle database, which contains the official wording for each and every card in existence. To find the Oracle text for your cards, you can look them up in Gatherer.

This is rather fortunate, because things like textless promos and water-damaged cards exist, as well as poorly-worded old cards like Simulacrum or Illusionary Mask which would be hopelessly confusing if you tried to follow their printed text.

Q: I saw some people at the recent M15 prerelease separate their lands before shuffling; some of them were doing the 2-cards-1-land method. Is that a legal way of shuffling, or something that would be sanctioned at tournaments?

A: Definitely not. In fact it's not shuffling at all—it's what's known as "mana weaving" and it's a form of stacking your deck. It is absolutely not an acceptable method of shuffling.

Now, people can still do it before shuffling if they like, the same way they can choose to sort their deck alphabetically if they so choose. And a lot of people do, because it makes them feel better. But they have to shuffle their deck sufficiently afterwards, and that means shuffling well enough that their stacking the deck doesn't have any significant impact on its final composition. Which means it was pointless.

At best, mana weaving's a superstitious practice that wastes a lot of time and looks an awful lot like cheating. At worst, it is cheating. I recommend avoiding it.

That's all for today, folks. We'll be back next week, when James will have a fresh batch of questions for you all. Until then, make sure to keep around a chieftain or king when you bring in the kaboomists, to help make their jobs just that little bit safer. (A medic or two might sound like a better idea at first, but trust me, it's really not...)

- 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.


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