Published on 08/11/2014

Sliver Hydra Salamander Stew

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Hydras are a rich source of
rules questions and protein.
Greetings! It's Monday, which means it's time for another issue of Cranial Insertion. Last week, Eli promised a helping of rules questions involving Slivers, Hydras, and/or Salamanders, so I'm delivering on all three of those, and then some. I've taken all those delicious rules questions from our inbox and from the tournament floor, and I've slow-cooked them into a hearty stew for your enjoyment.

If you have questions about Magic rules, feel free to send them to , or tweet short questions at @CranialTweet. If you have questions about cooking, you could send those in, too, but our answers might not be as competent.

Q: Earlier I played a Genesis Hydra for 5, and now my opponent wants to destroy it with Abrupt Decay. Can he do that?

A: Yes, he can do that. When you calculate the converted mana cost of a permanent, or any card that's not on the stack, X is considered to be 0. Regardless of how much it cost to cast or how many +1/+1 counters are on it right now, the converted mana cost of a Genesis Hydra on the battlefield is 2, so it'll decay just as abruptly as a Runeclaw Bear.

Q: So, can I counter Genesis Hydra with Spell Snare?

A: Unlikely. On the stack, X counts for however much was chosen for it, so the converted mana cost of that Genesis Hydra on the stack is 2 plus X. You can only Spell Snare it if your opponent chose X=0, which is unlikely to happen.

Q: Can I block an attacker with Aetherling and then blink it to save it?

A: Sure, that works. An attacker that's been blocked stays blocked even if its blocker goes away. Unless it has trample, it'll be too busy in the combat damage step looking for that AEtherling that was just there a moment ago, so it won't deal any combat damage to you.

Q: I cast Chord of Calling and in response my opponent sacrifices his Judge's Familiar to make me pay more. Can I pay that by tapping a creature?

A: Unless that creature is a mana dork, no. Convoke only helps while you're casting the spell, and it only helps you pay the total cost to cast the spell. Judge's Familiar doesn't add to the cost of the spell, and you're way past the point of casting your spell. Judge's Familiar simply demands that you pay to not get your spell countered, and it won't accept any substitutes.

Q: When I cast Chord of Calling, do I have to announce what I plan to search for before my opponent decides whether to counter it?

A: Nope. Like with all searches, you decide what to search for while you're searching, during the resolution of Chord of Calling. At that time, it's way too late to counter Chord of Calling.

Q: I've got a Chandra's Phoenix in my graveyard and I hit my opponent with Magma Jet. What happens first, the scry or returning the Phoenix to my hand?

A: Triggers never go on the stack during resolution of a spell. They always wait until a player would get priority, and then they go on the stack. Before the Phoenix's trigger can even go on the stack, let alone resolve, Magma Jet has to finish resolving first, so you'll scry first.

Q: Let's say I cast Tendrils of Agony with a large enough storm count to kill my opponent and then some, but I am at 2 life. My opponent misdirects the top copy on the stack to me. Am I at 0 life long enough to lose the game, or do I live and kill my opponent?

A: You'll live and kill your opponent. You lose 2 life and then immediately gain 2 life, and then the game checks state-based actions. By the time the game looks at your life total, you're back at 2, so there's no reason for you to lose the game. You were at 0 life ever so briefly, but that doesn't matter because the game only cares about your life total being 0 or less when state-based actions are checked.

Every cloud has a Sliver lining
Q: Do I have to pay extra if I target my opponent's Diffusion Sliver with Chandra, Pyromaster's +1 ability?

A: Yup. Your opponent's Diffusion Sliver's ability triggers when it becomes the target of a spell or ability you control, and that's exactly what happened here. The fact that the ability didn't cost any mana to begin with doesn't change that fact. If you want to avoid it getting countered, you're going to have to pay .

Q: I control Waste Not and I hit my opponent with Thoughtseize. I really want a Zombie token from Waste Not, but the only creature card in my opponent's hand is Loxodon Smiter. If I choose that, will I get a Zombie?

A: You sure do! Thoughtseize tells your opponent to discard the Smiter, and that's what triggers Waste Not's ability. Loxodon Smiter's replacement effect changes the zone in which the Smiter arrives, but it doesn't change the fact that the Smiter is being discarded.

Q: My opponent's 2/3 Tarmogoyf got two -1/-1 counters earlier from an infect creature, and now I cast Sudden Spoiling. Does the Goyf die?

A: Yup, that Goyf's dead. Effects that set the base power and toughness are applied before effects from counters and other effects that add or subtract power or toughness, even if the setting effect happened later. This means that your opponent's Goyf is first set to 0/2 and then the counters are applied, so it's a very unhealthy -2/0 and dies.

Q: I control Bloodchief Ascension with three counters on it, and my opponent Disenchants it. Does Bloodchief Ascension's ability trigger one last time?

A: Nope. Disenchant resolves and destroys Bloodchief Ascension, and then it goes to the graveyard itself. At the time Disenchant goes to the graveyard, Bloodchief Ascension is no longer on the battlefield, so its ability doesn't function anymore.

Q: Does Nissa, Worldwaker's ultimate ability make Purphoros, God of the Forge happy?

A: Not so much. Nissa's ability first dumps a whole bunch of lands onto the battlefield, and then they become creatures. At the time they entered the battlefield, they weren't creatures yet, so they don't trigger Purphoros's ability.

Q: If I control Perilous Vault and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, can I activate the -X ability, activate the Vault in response, and then put my X-drop onto the freshly cleaned battlefield?

A: Yes, that works. Ashiok's ability is independent from its source, so it will resolve even if Ashiok is no longer on the battlefield at the time. The -X ability is linked to Ashiok's other abilities, so it can find the cards that were exiled with those abilities regardless of whether Ashiok itself is still around.

Q: I control Midnight Guard enchanted with Burning Anger and cast Triplicate Spirits. Can I tap the Guard in between its untap triggers to get in three activations of Burning Anger's ability?

A: Certainly! Triplicate Spirits triggers Midnight Guard's ability three times, so three "untap me" triggers go on the stack. Those triggers resolve one at a time, and players get priority in between each of them, so you can re-tap Midnight Guard in between each of those untap triggers.

In a recent poll of experimental
ice cream flavors, Vanilla Salamander
was voted least successful.
Q: I control an Amphin Cutthroat and Muraganda Petroglyphs, and I cast Overwhelming Stampede. How big is my Salamander after Overwhelming Stampede has resolved?

A: It'll be 6/8. Overwhelming Stampede creates one continuous effect, and before it can create that effect, it has to figure out what X is. At that time, Amphin Cutthroat is still a vanilla Salamander without any abilities, so it's 4/6 thanks to the Petroglyphs and Overwhelming Stampede determines that X is 4. It now creates the continuous effect that gives your Salamander trample and +4/+4, and suddenly your Salamander is too fancy to get the Petroglyphs bonus, so in the end it's a 6/8 with trample.

Q: Can I Animate Dead a God in the graveyard?

A: Yes, you can. Animate Dead enchants a creature card, and the Gods are always creature cards everywhere except on the battlefield where they are only sometimes creatures. Animate Dead's enter-the-battlefield ability resolves, pulls Erebos onto the battlefield, and tries to attach itself to Erebos. If you have enough devotion for Erebos to be a creature, Animate Dead gleefully attaches itself to Erebos and they live happily ever after. If you don't have enough devotion, Erebos doesn't meet the enchant ability of Animate Dead, which is now "creature put onto the battlefield with Animate Dead," so it says "I have no idea what that is, but I'm not attaching myself to it." Shortly thereafter, Animate Dead goes to the graveyard on account of not being attached to anything, which triggers the delayed triggered ability that makes you sacrifice Erebos.

Q: In Two-Headed Giant, can I cast an Aura on my teammate's hexproof creature?

A: Sure! Hexproof means "can't be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control." You are not your teammate's opponent, so hexproof won't stop you from enchanting your teammate's creature.

Q: In a Two-Headed Giant game, one of my opponents casts Supreme Verdict, and I respond with Golgari Charm's last mode. Does that save my teammate's creatures?

A: Nope. Golgari Charm only regenerates each creature you control, and the word "you" doesn't automatically take on a different meaning in Two-Headed Giant. Your teammate and you are still separate players, and you each have your own set of permanents you control. Your Golgari Charm will only regenerate your creatures.

Q: Does Gray Merchant of Asphodel drain double the amount of life in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Absolutely. Gray Merchant's ability makes each of your opponents lose X life, and you have two opponents, so their team's life total goes down by 2*X. You gain that much life, which adds 2*X to your team's life total.

Q: I control Dictate of Kruphix, my opponent just forgot to draw her additional card and I forgot to remind her. How would a judge handle this at Competitive Rules Enforcement Level?

A: The judge will investigate what happened, and assuming that you didn't intentionally "forget" the trigger, two things will happen. First, the judge would issue a Warning to you for Game Play Error—Missed Trigger since the trigger in question is a symmetrical trigger that affects both players equally, and the half that affects your opponent is generally considered detrimental to you. Secondly, the judge will apply the remedy of asking your opponent whether she wants the trigger to happen. Chances are she wants the trigger to happen, so she'll get to draw that card.

And that's all the rules stew I can handle for now. Callum is up next week, and I can't wait to see what he's got in store for us. See you then!

- Carsten Haese

About the Author:
Carsten Haese is a former Level 2 judge based in Toledo, OH. He is retired from active judging, but he still writes for Cranial Insertion and helps organize an annual charity Magic tournament that benefits the National MS Society.

With the goyf and -1/-1 counters question. Would the goyf survive if there is not an instant in a graveyard? Since it won't die till state based effects which is after the instant hits the graveyard
#1 • Date: 2014-08-11 • Time: 06:44:48 •
No, since Sudden Spoiling removes abilities, so the Goyf doesn't "grow".
#2 • Date: 2014-08-11 • Time: 07:26:17 •
To clarify, Tarmogoyf sets its own power and toughness to X/X+1 in layer 7A, and then turns into a 0/2 in layer 7B, then gets -2/-2 in layer 7D. The removing of the ability, in this instance, isn't what is preventing it from "growing".
#3 • Date: 2014-08-11 • Time: 20:10:34 •
To clarify the clarification, nothing is happening in layer 7a, since the ability that defines the power and toughness is removed in layer 6.

Other than that, you're right, Goyf doesn't grow because its power and toughness are being set to 0/2 in layer 7b.
#4 • Date: 2014-08-11 • Time: 21:42:41 •
Which is why it's good that all the cards that remove all abilities also set the creature's power and toughness...sorry, BASE power and toughness. Hooray for proper templating.
#5 • Date: 2014-08-13 • Time: 06:07:53 •

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