Published on 07/28/2014

The Dying of the Light

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

You don't want to be on the beach
when it hits.
With Magic 2015 on shelves, Standard is in its yearly "lame duck" phase, when it's as large as it ever gets but many of the cards don't have much longer to go until rotation. In just a few short months, Khans of Tarkir will release, Standard will rotate, and we'll bid a fond farewell to Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze and Magic 2014. But as long as there's a bit of life left, we'll be here delivering yet another grab bag of rules questions!

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: If I attack with Preeminent Captain, can I use its ability to get an attacking Basilica Guards? Or does defender shut that down?

A: You actually can do this! Defender only makes it illegal to declare the Guards as an attacker at the start of the declare attackers step; it doesn't interfere with any other effect that might cause Basilica Guards to become attacking at some other time. So this will let you get one attack out of Basilica Guards or any other Soldier with Defender, should you find yourself preeminently in need of it.

Q: If I cast Shahrazad in a Commander game, will my commander be available in the subgame? What about everyone else's commander?

A: Well, first of all your play group would need to allow Shahrazad, since it's banned in Commander. But as long as your local group is OK with it (it's debatable whether Shahrazad has ever made any format more fun), your commander will move into the subgame's command zone, so long as it was in the main game command zone at the time Shahrazad started to resolve. The same will be true of other players' commanders, so you'll probably want to pick a time when your commander is ready to go in the command zone but your opponents' commanders aren't.

Q: I've got a Generator Servant and a Kiora's Follower, and I want to cast Chord of Calling. Can I tap Generator Servant for Convoke, then use Kiora's Follower to untap it and sacrifice it for mana?

A: Generator Servant can generate some mana for you, but not quite that much. Once you start the process of casting a spell or activating an ability, you can't cast any other spells or activate any other abilities until you're done (exception: you can activate mana-producing activated abilities). So there's no point in the middle of casting Chord of Calling when it would be legal to activate Kiora's Follower, meaning Generator Servant will either be able to pay by tapping for convoke, or by being sacrificed for its own ability, but it will never be able to generate by doing both this way.

Q: I know that when I cast something like Show and Tell, I get to see what my opponent chose in order to name it with Phyrexian Revoker; is the same true with Liliana of the Veil's discard ability, or other things that involve everybody making a choice?

A: All effects which require every player to make a choice and take an action work the same way, but the way they work is a bit more subtle than presented here. First, have each player make their choice, going in turn order around the table starting with whoever's turn it is currently. Then once all the choices are made, the action (putting cards on the battlefield for Show and Tell, discarding for Liliana of the Veil) happens simultaneously for all players.

If the choices involve cards in a hidden zone like the hand, each player can simply set aside their chosen card face down in a way that makes clear which card they've chosen; those cards are still in the hand at that point, though, and are not revealed to any other player until everyone has chosen their card.

Q: So how does the Phyrexian Revoker/Show and Tell trick work, then?

A: It works because putting the chosen cards onto the battlefield does requires that every player see all of them in order to check whether any replacement effects will modify how they enter. So at the time you're applying Phyrexian Revoker's replacement effect and naming a card, you've already seen all the cards that will be put onto the battlefield. Just remember that as Show and Tell is resolving, you won't know what your opponent has chosen at the time you decide whether Phyrexian Revoker is the card you want to put on the battlefield; it's only after everyone's made their choice of a card to put on the battlefield that you'll see the other choices and get to name something for the Revoker.

If Standard gets much bigger, it'll burst
Q: In last week's article you explained why Undergrowth Scavenger counts itself when entering the battlefield from a graveyard. Would it also count itself if I cast it from my graveyard (say, using Karador, Ghost Chieftain)? What if it's brought back by Living End?

A: The answer is no in both of those cases; when cast from a graveyard, Undergrowth Scavenger enters the battlefield from the stack (just like any other time it's cast), not the graveyard, so its replacement effect doesn't "see" itself in the graveyard as it's about to enter. And Living End exiles creature cards from graveyards, then puts them onto the battlefield from exile, which causes the same issue.

Q: If I equip a Fireshriker to Brago, King Eternal, can I get and 4 damage from tapping and "blinking" a Meteorite with Brago's two triggers?

A: The Meteorite will enter the battlefield twice if you do this, for a total of 4 damage. And you will get to tap it for mana 3 times: once before the first "blink", once after it returns to the battlefield from that, and then once after the second "blink". But Brago's two triggers occur in separate combat damage steps, and your mana pool empties as you move from the first one to the second one, so you'll only be able to get into your pool at any given time this way (either in the first combat damage step, if you tap again immediately after Brago's ability has resolved, or in the second step if you tap before Brago's ability resolves the second time).

Q: My opponent exiled my Cosi's Trickster with Detention Sphere. If I cast Deglamer on Detention Sphere, will Cosi's Trickster get a counter when it comes back?

A: In order to trigger, Cosi's Trickster needs to be on the battlefield when your opponent shuffles. But Cosi's Trickster won't be on the battlefield again until Detention Sphere's leaves-the-battlefield trigger has resolved, and that trigger can't even be put on the stack until after Deglamer has completely resolved. So the Trickster will return much too late to see your opponent shuffling, and won't get a counter.

Q: If I cast Ensoul Artifact on an Ornithopter, will it be 5/5, or does the Ornithopter's ability saying that it's 0/2 overwrite the new "base" power and toughness?

A: The Ornithopter will be 5/5. The numbers that appear in the lower right of a creature card are not an ability; they are the normal starting point for figuring out the creature's power and toughness. Ensoul Artifact applies on top of that, setting Ornithopter's power and toughness to 5/5 (for all the gory details, check out our article on layers — Ensoul Artifact applies in layer 7b).

Q: Does Ensoul Artifact (or Turn to Frog, or other cards with the "base power and toughness" effect) work differently with Humility than older cards that set power and toughness?

A: Nope. The "base power and toughness" wording actually doesn't change any rules interactions; it's just a new wording for the same old power-and-toughness-setting effects we know and love, and is meant to improve the chances of being able to work out what these effects do without having to turn to the rulebook for a refresher on layers.

Q: If I have enough creatures, can I still cast a spell with convoke for no mana while Trinisphere is on the battlefield and untapped?

A: You can! When casting a spell, you determine what its cost will be before you pay the cost. And convoke is simply a way of paying the cost by tapping creatures instead of spending mana, so by the time you're tapping stuff, Trinisphere has already applied and (if necessary) bumped up the cost, at which point you can just tap some more creatures to pay for it. Just remember that you still can't tap more creatures than the amount of mana the spell would have cost; both of these are a result of the way convoke's rules were rewritten at the time Magic 2014 released, and both would have had the opposite answer prior to that.

Q: If I turn one of my lands into a 4/4 Elemental with Nissa, Worldwaker, and then cast Mercurial Pretender to copy it, what will the Pretender be?

A: It will be a boring old un-animated land (though it will have the ability to return to hand). When copying a permanent, you copy what's printed on the card plus other copy effects, but you don't copy other effects applying to it (like Nissa's ability which makes it into a creature).

Q: If both Glaciers and Blood Moon are on the battlefield, what happens to nonbasic lands? is it just a matter of whether Glaciers is the most recent effect?

A: Nonbasic lands will all be Plains, no matter what order Blood Moon and Glaciers entered the battlefield in. This is an example of a dependency (applying one effect will change what the other one applies to), to Blood Moon will always apply first regardless of timestamps.

Q: If I cast Vanish into Memory targeting Thassa, God of the Sea, I know I'll draw 5 cards. But if Thassa returns as a non-creature (due to devotion getting low before my next upkeep), how many cards will I discard?

A: You will very memorably not have to discard any cards! When Thassa isn't a creature, she doesn't have power/toughness values, so Vanish into Memory asks for Thassa's Toughness and gets back, essentially, "none". So Vanish into Memory has you discard that many cards, which turns out to be... none.

Q: If my opponent casts Shattering Spree and replicates it a bunch of times to target all o fmy artifacts, can I redirect all of that to my Spellskite?

A: So long as you're able to pay to activate Spellskite enough times to cover the original Shattering Spree and all the copies from replicate, sure. The first copy to resolve will destroy the Spellskite, and then all the rest of the copies, plus the original, will end up in a countering spree as the rules counter all of them for now having an illegal target.

Wait, he doesn't have fading...
Q: Why do I still have to follow timing restrictions (like only casting creatures during my main phase) when using Chandra, Pyromaster's second ability, but not when using her third ability?

A: Because of the way the two abilities are worded. When you see an effect telling you "you may play" a card for a certain duration (like "this turn"), all it's doing is giving you special permission to play a card you (presumably) normally couldn't play otherwise. It's not changing any timing rules (if it were, it would say so). On the other hand, when an effect just instructs you to cast something, with no other qualifications such as duration, it means to do it right then and there, and that is sufficient permission to ignore the normal timing rules (since a card can always override the rules, so when a card tells you to do something, you do it).

Q: If Wall of Frost blocks an attacking creature, and then Fog is cast, will the attacking creature still stay tapped during its controller's next untap step?

A: Yup! Wall of Frost doesn't care whether any combat damage was dealt, just that it blocked something; in fact, its ability will trigger and already be on the stack before any player can cast spells in the declare blockers step. So the poor creature it blocked will not only get fogged up that combat, it'll get frozen up for the next turn, too.

Q: If I control Chief Engineer, can I tap two creatures for convoke to cast Myr Superion?

A: Myr Superion's ability doesn't forbid casting it without spending mana; it just says that if you do spend mana, that mana has to have been produced by creatures. So any way you can come up with of casting it without paying mana — such as giving it convoke and tapping two creatures — is perfectly fine.

Q: If I control a swamp, and I exile Jorubai Murk Lurker from my graveyard with Rotfeaster Maggot, do I gain 3 life or 4?

A: Just 3; abilities of creatures (and other permanents) only work on the battlefield unless the ability says otherwise. So in your graveyard, the Murk Lurker's toughness is always 3.

Q: What's going on with Reconnaissance? I had heard something about no longer being able to activate it after combat damage; is that true?

A: For a little while, this was true. Cards from very old sets were printed with wordings that worked under the rules at the time but don't always make sense or work as intended under the current rules (especially cards printed prior to 6th Edition). Reconnaissance was one of these; originally it wasn't intended to be usable after combat damage had been dealt (effectively letting you attack with a creature, then untap it after damage and have it ready to block during your opponent's turn). The Journey into Nyx update to the Oracle card-wording database changed the wording to remove that ability, but since it had been that way for years and lots of people had begun relying on it functioning in the unintended way, it was changed back with the Magic 2015 update, and now you can activate the ability after combat damage again.

Our supply of questions is starting to fade for now, but be sure to check back next Monday when Eli will take up the hero's path and serve up another epic helping of rules questions in the next 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.

About question 8 (Cosi's Trickster):
What if it was exiled by Banishing Light?
Or what if it was enchanted by Darksteel Mutation?
#1 • Date: 2014-07-28 • Time: 03:25:08 •

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