Published on 08/25/2014

Going Bananas

or, The Full Monkey

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Hello again, dear readers! If you came expecting James, you must not have remembered the signoff last week - James and I are switching places in rotation to accommodate schedules. The change has nothing to do with keeping our zombie chimp secretary in the air between writers for additional time, I promise. We love Moko. Moko is good. I am not writing this under threat of banana beatings.

The last week's been relatively quiet, so if you want to distract Moko and keep him from inflicting bodily harm with a Cavendish, send in your questions to (or click on Moko's little portrait at the top-left of the page), or send a short question for a short answer to @CranialTweet. Remember, though, as preview season starts: we won't be answering questions about new cards and new mechanics in Khans of Tarkir until the rules behind them have been officially released, which usually means the Release Notes just before the prerelease.

And now, let's all get ready for our daily dose of potassium. No, Moko, potassium should not be introduced aurally. Nor nasally. You fail nutrition forever.

Q: With morph all over the place, I keep wondering - how do I know my opponent's not cheating?

A: If a face-down spell or permanent is going to a hand or library, including when the game's over and all the cards zip back into their deck, that object has to be revealed to all players. Unsummon a morph? Reveal it! Remand a morph? Reveal it! Door to Nothingness a player with three morphs? Reveal them all!

If you're thinking "that sounds like a weird rule that was added just to stop people from cheating," you'd be exactly right. It's one of those rules that Magic wouldn't need if it only existed as MTGO.

Q: Does Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth let me use Mana Confluence for black without paying life?

A: If you'd like; the trick is that there's no such thing as simply "use Mana Confluence for black." There are two activated abilities, one which produces black mana, and one which produces one mana of any color. Both have a cost of , and one also has a cost of "Pay 1 life." If you activate the former ability, the costs of the latter don't get involved at all, so there's no life payment to make.

Q: I stole Vines of Vastwood with Spellskite, and now my opponent says I can't take any more of his spells this turn. Is that right?

A: Vines of Vastwood sounds a lot like hexproof, but it's not. Your opponent made it so that spells that "your opponents control" can't target your Spellskite, and that "your" still refers to your opponent who was the controller of Vines. You're the opponent Vines references, so your spells can't target Spellskite, but the Vines player's spells sure can. You can go on redirecting spells like usual.

Q: My Scrapyard Mongrel wearing Rogue's Gloves is blocked by Black Cat. I have no cards in hand, though. Do I draw and discard, or not discard then draw?

A: Both abilities trigger at the same time, and they're controlled by different players, so the trigger of the player whose turn it is resolves last. You're attacking with your adorable dog wearing gloves, so it must be your turn; your trigger is put onto the stack first, then the discard trigger, and the objects on the stack resolve top to bottom. You discard nothing, then draw a card.

Q: Is Armageddon legal in Modern now that it's been printed with the new border?

A: Nope! "The modern border" (counting the M15 change as a tweak rather than an overhaul) is a guideline to what is legal in Modern, but it is not a rule. The rule is "printed in one of the expansions listed as Modern-legal," and that list is Core Sets from Eighth Edition on and the expansions that formed the blocks from the original Mirrodin block on. Promotional printings (From the Vault), supplementary product printings (Conspiracy), and such do not affect whether cards are legal in Modern.

Q: Can Sapphire Charm really make Batterskull phase out forever?

A: If your "forever" is until the game's over, then yes. By directly phasing out the token, the attached Batterskull phases out indirectly. An object that phases out indirectly will only phase in when the object it was attached to phases in rather than phasing in on its own. But phased out tokens? They cease to exist, leaving Batterskull sad and lonely and untouchable for the rest of the game.

Q: Does Blood Moon make Darksteel Citadel a nonartifact so I can't Shrapnel Blast it?

A: Blood Moon only changes the subtype and abilities of lands. It won't change supertypes (snow, legendary) or other types (artifact (creature? what do you mean? nope, there are no creature lands, la la la)). Darksteel Citadel will end up a Mountain artifact land with only ": Add to your mana pool."

Q: Does my artifact that's ensouled lose its abilities?

A: Blue isn't a cliché Disney villain. It'll grant your artifact a soul without a Faustian contract, singing crickets, or saccharine morality play. Blood Moon strips abilities from lands because that's part of setting a land's subtypes to a basic land type, but that rule doesn't apply to other type changes. Artifacts can grow arms, legs, and scissors without losing abilities.

Q: Will Pithing Needle shut down Underworld Connections?

A: Sort of. Underworld Connections doesn't have an activated ability, so trying to Needle it is legal but entirely useless. If two Underworld Connections are enchanting two Swamps, you can shut them both down by naming Swamp, but a third Underworld Connection on a Mountain will keep doing its thing until another Needle hops in to stop it.

Q: My opponent has two Islands untapped, and I'm pretty sure he has Syncopate. Can I cast Chord of Calling tapping eight mana and say "Chord for four?" so he thinks I'm tapped out when I have one mana floating?

A: No. You can't try to sneakily float mana like this; if you have mana floating in your mana pool, you have to say so. That rule was added specifically to disallow things like this.

Q: When Ajani Steadfast puts on Urza's Armor, am I invincible?

A: Yes, casual players may need a healthy fear of armored cats. Ajani's emblem and Urza's Armor both create prevention effects, and as the affected player, you can choose their order. So if a source is poised to deal 53,163,618 damage to you, you may have Ajani prevent 53,163,617 of that damage first before having Urza's Armor prevent 1, resulting in a grand total of 0 damage being dealt.

Q: Does Courser of Kruphix let me keep playing lands from my library till I hit a nonland?

A: The Courser only gives you permission to play lands from a different zone than normal, but it doesn't give you permission to play more lands than normal.

Q: I cast Animate Dead targeting Erebos, God of the Dead, and have no devotion to black. Do I get to keep Erebos?

A: The God of the Dead shall return to the dead. Animate Dead's trigger returns Erebos to the battlefield and then tries to attach Animate Dead to it, but it can't - Erebos isn't a creature! After the trigger's done resolving, state-based actions are checked, and Animate Dead is put into your graveyard since it's not legally attached to anything. This causes the trigger to fire that makes you sacrifice Erebos, even though it isn't a creature.

Q: Okay, I have Necropotence now and Animate Dead Erebos. Now can I keep my God around?

A: Then you'll get to keep Erebos. You'll return Erebos, and since your devotion to black is now five, it's a creature now. Animate Dead tries to attach itself to Erebos, and does so just fine. You may be confusing this with Imposing Sovereign, which deals with replacement effects and works entirely differently than sequential actions.

Q: I know that a creature hit by Turn to Frog keeps its +X/+X effects. Does that mean Scrapyard Mongrel will be a 3/1 if I have an artifact?

A: It won't. A +2/+0 effect would make a Scrapyard Frog into a 3/1, but that effect won't exist due to the joy of layers. In layer 6, Scrapyard Mongrel loses the ability to gaze lovingly at artifacts, so when the bonus would get applied in layer 7c, there's no bonus to apply. If you had instead put Rancor on your Mongrel, or given it the Boon of Erebos, it'd get to be a 3/1.

Q: Can I make Wall of Roots a 0/0 to get mana and also tap it for Chord of Calling?

A: This sneaky old trick hasn't changed with the change to convoke, so be on the lookout for it coming up in Modern! As you go through the steps of casting a spell, step six asks you to generate mana to pay with. This is where you put the fifth -0/-1 counter on Wall of Roots to make it into an itty bitty 0/0 Wall, but having 0 toughness doesn't kill creatures - state-based actions kill creatures! (Especially those with 0 toughness.) State-based actions aren't performed during the process of casting a spell, so when you get to step seven and pay your costs for the spell, the Wall is still there to be tapped for convoke. Immediately after you're done casting Chord of Calling, before you can take any other voluntary actions, the Wall will hit your graveyard.

Q: One opponent cast Damnation, triggering my Perplexing Chimera. Another opponent responded with Humble to shut down Massacre Wurm before everything died, triggering my Chimera again. Can I Ray of Command the Wurm, trade my Chimera for Humble, have Humble target something else, then trade the Chimera that the Humble-player has for the B player's Damnation so everyone can take a lot of pain?

A: Yes. Isn't Perplexing Chimera fun? The two key points to remember for this hilarious pile-up of spells: 1) The stack doesn't resolve, the stack is a game zone. Objects on the stack resolve one at a time, and players get priority in between each one resolving. 2) When you exchange control of two things, you don't have to control either of those things.

Q: If I destroy Rancor's target when it's cast, does it resolve, die, and go back? Or does it stay in the graveyard?

A: It'll stay in your opponent's graveyard. An Aura spell has a target as defined by the enchant keyword, and like any targeted spell without a legal target, it'll be countered if all of its targets are illegal when it begins to resolve. Countered spells never touch the battlefield on their way to the graveyard (even if they're sitting in the same physical space as stuff on the battlefield while you're waiting for it to resolve), so Rancor's trigger condition isn't met.

Q: I activate Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, untap it with Kiora's Follower, and activate it again. Do I get two two-drops, or a one and a two?

A: You'll search for two things with converted mana cost 2. The flavor of Yisan is to serenade bigger and bigger beasties, but that's not the exact function: you count the verse counters as the activated ability resolves, and no matter how Yisan got the extra counters (mmm Contagion Engine), that counter count is counted to account for the converted mana cost you get to search for.

Q: Can I play Raise the Alarm in a draft if we don't open the right token cards?

A: You can use anything non-disruptive as a token - scraps of paper, glass beads, bananas, unsleeved cards if your deck is sleeved, sleeves if your deck is unsleeved, or even the actual handy-dandy nifty-looking tokens distributed randomly in booster packs. Having the printed tokens is never, ever a requirement, at any level of play.

It's time to sign off before Moko tries to jam any more bananas into my head so I can load the little guy into our catapult for a trip to Kansas. If you live between Massachusetts and Kansas and see a light rain of banana, now you know why.

Until next time, may all your monkeys behave!

- 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.

For the Crazy Damnation Question(TM), when precisely does the value of "you" get determined for the chimera's trigger?
#1 • Date: 2014-08-24 • Time: 22:51:20 •
"You" in the chimera's trigger refers to the controller of the triggered ability. Since the ability exists independently of its source, by switching the chimera twice you can give a spell owned by one opponent to a second opponent but choose the new target(s) yourself.
#2 • Date: 2014-08-25 • Time: 04:11:22 •
"[…] like any targeted spell without a legal target, it'll be countered if all of its targets are illegal when it begins to resolve."

*like any targeted non-bestow spell […]
#3 • Date: 2014-08-30 • Time: 11:37:30 •

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