Published on 08/04/2014

Hail Hydra

or, Gentle Snowfall upon Hydrozoans

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Magic never has major releases in August, making this month one of the saddest of the year. Meanwhile, we can just get excited for Khans next month, and the Duel Decks leading up to it, while we ponder the age-old question: mint in sweet tea or no?

But for now, it's time for some questions! In a strict departure from my last article, this one contains zero Slivers. While this makes me sad, we shall forge on with another creature type that did deliver questions to our inbox: Hydras!

So if you have more questions, whether about Hydras, Slivers, or even Starfish Anteaters, email them over to or tweet a short question to @CranialTweet for an answer and the potential fame and glory of having your question featured in an upcoming article.

Q: If two 2/2 creatures with lifelink hit my opponent, how many counters does Ajani's Pridemate get?

A: Ajani's Kitty Buddy gets two counters. The amount of life gained doesn't matter, only how many times it happened, so four counters is right out. An ability that triggers whenever a player gains life is secretly read (according to 118.9) as "whenever a source causes you to gain life," and two sources did that, so you get two triggers.

Q: I'm at 3 life and cast Resolute Archangel to go with my Rhox Faithmender. What's my life total now?

A: Dipping back into section 118 of the rules (guess what this section covers), specifically 118.5, setting a life total means to gain or lose the life required to reach that new total. So you're gaining 17 life (assuming this is a normal game), which inspires Rhox Faithmender to paroxysms of religious glee and gets doubled to gaining 34 life, putting you at a final total of 37.

Q: How much does it cost to Turn // Burn the same creature if I've got a Battlefield Thaumaturge

A: Even when fused, you're still just casting one spell, and it targets just one creature. Battlefield Thaumaturge counts the number of creatures targeted by the spell, not how many times it's targeted, so it'll just cost less for a total of .

Q: If I use up all of Jace, the Living Guildpact's loyalty to activate his last ability, does he get shuffled into my library?

A: He does! After activating the ability, it's on the stack and hasn't done anything yet, and now it's time to check state-based actions. One state-based action is that a planeswalker with no loyalty goes to the graveyard. A short time later, when the ability on the stack actually resolves and does its things, Jace, the Graveyard-Sitting Guildpact will be among those cards shuffled in.

Q: Genesis Hydra turns up a happy shiny Spectra Ward! Can I put it on my Hydra?

A: Your Hydra won't be quite that shiny. Its ability triggers when it's cast, not when it enters the battlefield, so that trigger goes on top of the Hydra spell on the stack. The trigger resolves first, letting you put the Ward out before the Hydra's resolved.

He uses magic to keep his
many heads off the ground.
Q: If Genesis Hydra for 6 gets me Chromanticore, can I bestow it onto a creature?

A: Bestow is an alternative cost to cast the creature as a non-creature Aura. With the help of Genesis Hydra, you aren't casting what you find - you're putting it onto the battlefield. You can't pay a cost no matter how much you want, so you'll have to settle for just a mere 4/4 keyword soup creature.

Q: When Rise of the Dark Realms gives me Body Double and Hydra Omnivore, can I copy the Hydra?

A: You can! This is just like how Undergrowth Scavenger reanimated works from a couple of weeks ago. You have to choose what Body Double will copy immediately before anything actually moves, and at that point the Hydra's in a graveyard for you to copy, even though it already has a ticket to Battlefield Land.

Q: Can I still get a land from Evolving Wilds after I cast Aggressive Mining?

A: Yup - putting a land onto the battlefield is the result of playing a land, but the two are not synonymous at the nitty-gritty level of detail we have here. You can put a land onto the battlefield just fine when you're not allowed to play a land.

Q: Can an Ensoul Artifact-enchanted Batterskull equip itself? Or is it 9/9 anyway?

A: An Equipment that's also a creature can't ever be attached to anything. It's a strong, independent artifact. Its ability only refers to the creature it equips, not itself, so it won't make itself any stronger, but its feelings of self-worth from being a 5/5 that attacks all on its own will make up for that.

Q: I know that I can activate The Chain Veil then activate Garruk, Apex Predator's abilities twice. If I cast a new Garruk after that, can I activate two abilities of the new one, too?

A: Yes, you can have many Garruk abilities this way. Since The Chain Veil's ability doesn't modify characteristics, it just modifies the game rules. Only continuous effects that modify characteristics get locked in to their affected objects as the parent spell or ability creates them. Since the Veil doesn't fall into that bucket, the objects it affects will update as the set of matching objects changes.

Q: Does Hushwing Gryff stop me from drawing cards off Ephara, God of the Polis?

A: Nope, Ephara can keep on being awesome. That trigger condition isn't a creature entering the battlefield - the trigger condition is "beginning of each upkeep." Whether a creature entered is just an intervening "if" condition checked to make sure the ability gets to trigger when its condition is met.

Q: Since Polukranos, World Eater doesn't use fight, can I give it a Blight Sickle to wreak havoc on my opponent's creatures and they smack back for a lot less?

A: That is exactly the difference between fight and damage-damage spelled out on some older cards. Unless otherwise specified, each verb action is done one at a time, in order. Polukranos has to use that wording since R&D didn't define one creature fighting many creatures, but it also falls into that happy camp of sequentiality.

Q: When Golgari Grave-Troll makes me dredge 6, can I reorder them as I like?

A: Yes. When multiple cards are put into one zone at once, their owner chooses the relative order of those cards. They don't have to be in the same order, or reversed order, as they existed in your library.

Om nom nom
Q: Hydra Omnivore attacks my opponent who's at 6, so he concedes rather than have my other opponents also take 8 damage. Is that legal?

A: Yes, with a caveat. Players may concede at any time, for any reason. The game can't very well tell players "yes, I understand that you're in labor, but you have to keep playing" or "your appendix surgery can wait until one of you hits 0 life." Nor can it differentiate between a life-altering event and political shenanigans. Sometimes the game just isn't that smart. However, in a casual game, players are free to take one or more additional courses of action, such as agreeing "yeah, you still take damage because that's just fair" or "strategic concessions are stupid, you can't do that, and we won't play with you anymore." Don't be That Guy.

Q: If I use Generator Servant to cast Xenagos, God of Revels, but don't have sufficient devotion, will it still have haste if I get another creature out after that to make Xenagos into a creature?

A: A non-creature permanent with haste isn't all that special; haste only overrides the rules that apply to creatures. But hey, nothing says they can't have meaningless keywords like haste, flying, and horsemanship! The spell on the stack gains haste as you cast it, and the permanent it becomes still has haste. It'll keep on having haste when Xenagos resumes being a creature, and then Xenagos will get on up and dance into the red zone.

Q: I heard something about Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool locking opponents out of the game. What's that?

A: Knowledge Pool instructs players to cast a spell during the resolution of its triggered ability. You can't do anything while an ability is resolving except for what it tells you to, so it's a good thing that Knowledge Pool gives you that permission. However, restrictions trump permissions, and "can only" is a restriction. Even if the particular card your opponent wants to cast is a sorcery, the restriction of "only any time you could cast a sorcery" isn't literal - it's shorthand for "only any time you have priority with an empty stack during your main phase." It may be your opponent's main phase, but the stack won't be empty (the trigger's still there resolving) and that player won't have priority (no one has priority while resolving a thing).

Q: Does Brimaz, King of Oreskos give me a token when it attacks with Preeminent Captain?

A: Only if you mean that you control both and declare both as attackers at the same time. If you put down our esteemed King of the Internet with the Captain's trigger, it doesn't attack; it simply comes into the game attacking, so it won't trigger.

Q: If my opponent casts Banishing Light and targets my Hydra, and I Naturalize it in response, does the Hydra flicker out and back with no counters, or does it not move at all?

A: It won't move at all. "Exile until" works extremely similarly to "gains for as long as" - if the duration condition is false when the effect would begin, or when the exiling would be performed, that never happens in the first place: no effect is created (Master Thief dying in response won't cause the artifact to shimmy across the table), and no exiling happens (your Hydra will stay big and buff on the battlefield).

Q: If I discard Grave Scrabbler and madness it up, will I get a Zombie from Necromancer's Stockpile?

A: You will have yourself a nice Zombie jamboree. As long as the discarded card is revealed at some point - which it is, in order for madness's replacement effect to apply - the Stockpile's ability can tell what sort of card was discarded. The effect doesn't demand that the discarded card actually reach the graveyard as a result of being discarded, so it'll kick in its last clause and give you a token.

Q: Wrath of God in From the Vault has Theros art - is it legal in Standard?

A: Nope. Any product that isn't in booster packs doesn't shove its way into Standard; the cards will only be legal if they're otherwise legal. For example, if From the Vault: Annihilation were to include the devastating Storm Crow and the Pro-Tour-winning Trait Doctoring, the former would not be allowed in a Standard tournament but the latter would, since its printing in Dragon's Maze does add it to the Standard card pool.

Q: I asked my opponent if his Athreos, God of Passage was a creature, and he said no, so I attacked. Then as he started to declare blockers he realized that he did have seven devotion. What happens now?

A: When a player makes a mistake and says something false about information visible to opponents, that's a Communication Policy Violation. No, the other player is not automatically assumed to be cheating and does not get disqualified blindly. The judge can investigate as with any other infraction. Foremost among the potential remedies for the situation, the judge may rewind the game to the first action taken on the false statement.

It's time for these Hydras to lay all of their many, many heads to rest on the nearest pillow factory. Come back next week when Carsten brings us another delightful helping of questions about Slivers, Hydras, and/or Salamanders.

But not Zombie Apes. No Zombie Apes exist in Magic except changelings, and that's cheating. Woe.

Until next time, may all of your flips come up heads!

- Eli Shiffrin

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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