Published on 09/01/2014

Declare Blockers

or, Two's Company

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Hopefully the transition will be bloodless;
no need to sweat it out.
In case you haven't seen it, this week brought some big-time news to the world of Magic. Starting in 2015-2016, expansion sets will be released using a new block structure which switches to two expansions per block, two blocks per year, three blocks at a time in Standard, and no more core sets after summer 2015. For the details and reasoning behind this change, you can check out the full announcement. But of course one thing won't change: we're here (and will still be here) every week with a new roster 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: I control a Golgari Decoy and an Elvish Mystic. I cast Enlarge on the Mystic, then attack with it and the Decoy. Assuming my opponent has 5 creatures that could block, how can he block?

A: Golgari Decoy and Enlarge both create requirements to block; the Decoy creates one requirement per potential blocker, and Enlarge creates one requirement, for a total of 6 requirements. The rules tell us that the declaration of blockers must obey the maximum possible number of requirements (without disobeying any restrictions, like "can't be blocked by more than one creature"); in this case, the maximum that can be obeyed is 5, and there are two ways to do that: have all 5 creatures block the Decoy, or have exactly one creature block the Enlarged Elvish Mystic and the other 4 block the Decoy.

Q: So, suppose my opponent has activated the +2 ability of Gideon Jura, but before combat on my turn I cast Dreadbore to destroy Gideon. Can I attack my opponent now?

A: You can! Attacking also can be subject to requirements (and restrictions). In this case, "attack Gideon Jura if able" is a requirement, and it sticks around even after Gideon himself has been dreadfully bored, but it won't prevent you attacking your opponent. Since your creatures aren't able to attack Gideon, they don't have to try to attack him.

Q: In a three-player free-for-all game, one of my opponents controls Avatar of Slaughter and the other controls Ghostly Prison. Do I have to attack?

A: There is one exception to obeying attacking/blocking requirements, and that's when some effect is imposing a cost to attack or block. In that case, you're not forced to pay the cost if you don't want to, which means you can choose not to attack. And in a two-player game, that's what you could do. But Ghostly Prison only applies to attacking the player who controls it, which means there'd be no cost to attack your other opponent. So attack you must, though if you do want to pay for Ghostly Prison you can choose which opponent each of your creatures will attack.

Q: If I cast Genesis Hydra with X=0, and the top card of my library is an Ornithopter (suppose I know this because of a Courser of Kruphix), can I put the Ornithopter onto the battlefield?

A: If the Ornithopter were among the zero cards you'll be revealing from your library, you could do this. But since you're revealing zero cards, there's zero chance of the zero-CMC Ornithopter being among them, and it'll just have to stay in your library.

Q: OK, so instead I cast Genesis Hydra with X=4. If I reveal a Leafcrown Dryad, can I bestow it onto something since the CMC of its bestow is 4?

A: Well, first of all, Leafcrown Dryad's converted mana cost is always 2, no matter how you cast it. But second, and more importantly, you can only choose to use bestow when you're casting the card, and Genesis Hydra doesn't tell you to cast; it just says to put the card onto the battlefield. So if you choose Leafcrown Dryad with Genesis Hydra's ability, you're always going to get a 2/2 creature with reach, never an Aura.

Q: In a multiplayer game, one of my opponents controls a bunch of creatures including an Aegis of the Gods. Can I cast Life's Finale and search that player's library for some cards to put in his graveyard, since the Aegis will be destroyed before Life's Finale does anything specifically to that player?

A: Life's Finale targets the opponent whose library you'll search, and you choose targets during the process of casting a spell (well before any of its effects happen). So at the time you'd have to target your Aegis'd opponent, it's illegal to do so, and you'll have to settle for delivering a Finale to one of the other players in the game instead.

Q: I have four untapped lands and want to cast Farseek, but my opponent has a Leonin Arbiter and a Judge's Familiar. Is there any way I can wait to pay for the Arbiter until I know whether my opponent is going to use the Judge's Familiar on my Farseek?

A: To search out an answer to this, we'll first have to familiarize ourselves with how Leonin Arbiter actually works. Its sets up a special action — paying to ignore its effect — which you can take any time you have priority. If you cast Farseek, and then pass priority, your opponent can simply choose not to do anything, pass, and Farseek will resolve without you getting another chance to pay for the Arbiter. On the other hand, if you cast Farseek, then pay for the Arbiter, then pass, your opponent will get a chance to use the Judge's Familiar. Which, since you're now tapped out, will counter the Farseek.

So it's probably best to seek to draw and play some further lands before you try casting Farseek in this situation.

Don't shed any tears for the old block structure;
have no fears for the future.
Q: If I control Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, Kitchen Finks and a Viscera Seer, If I sacrifice the Finks to activate Viscera Seer, do the +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters the Finks will get cancel each other?

A: While it's true that if a creature has both +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters on it, they "cancel" each other (the matched pairs of counters get removed until there's only one type left, or no counters left). But that won't be happening in this case; when the Kitchen Finks is sacrificed, both persist (which it has naturally) and undying (which it gets from Mikaeus) will trigger. Since you control both triggers, you choose the order in which to put them on the stack. The first one to resolve will return the Finks, with only the type of counter that ability places. So if you decide to have persist resolve first, the Finks will return with a -1/-1 counter, and the next time you sacrifice it only undying will trigger.

Q: I control Phyrexian Unlife and I'm at exactly 0 life. My opponent casts a Lightning Bolt targeting me, and I respond with Angel's Grace. What happens?

A: Your life total stays at 0 and you get three poison counters. Phyrexian Unlife says that since you're at 0, damage is dealt to you as though the source had infect, which means Angel's Grace doesn't see any life-changing results to modify (of course, without Phyrexian Unlife, it wouldn't stop an already-below-1 life total from going lower, but without Phyrexian Unlife you'd also be dead at zero life).

Q: I'm at 6 life and I control 6 Swamps. I cast Corrupt, but my opponent uses Redirect to make Corrupt target me. Do I lose when I go to 0 life?

A: You only lose the game if you're at 0 (or have met other conditions for losing) at a time when state-based actions get checked. Although they get checked a lot, they don't get checked while a spell is resolving (they get checked right after the spell finishes resolving). And since you'll be back at a positive life total when Corrupt finishes resolving, you'll live to find other ways to corrupt your opponent's plans.

Q: I activate Thespian's Stage to have it become a copy of Raging Ravine, then I play Vesuva choosing to copy the Stage. What will Vesuva look like?

A: When copying a permanent, you copy what's printed on it, plus the results of other copy effects, but not anything else. So you'll get an un-animated Raging Ravine with the Thespian's Stage ability (since that's added on as part of the copy effect).

Q: In a Commander game, I use Oblivion Ring to exile someone else's commander, and they choose to have it go to the command zone instead. Will it return to the battlefield when Oblivion Ring leaves? What if I used a Banishing Light instead?

A: Oblivion Ring won't return a commander that's been sent to the command zone, but Banishing Light will. The difference here is Oblivion Ring's use of "the exiled card" in the wording of its second ability — since the card isn't in the exile zone, that ability doesn't see an "exiled card" to return. Banishing Light, on the other hand, will happily return the card, since it doesn't use the "exiled card" wording.

Q: My opponent managed to build up a gigantic storm count — in the hundreds of thousands — with an infinite mana combo, and then cast Brain Freeze on me. If I have an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in my library, do we just go to the point where it's the only card left?

A: Nope! While you can shortcut through a lot of types of repeated actions in Magic, you can only do that if the resulting game state after the necessary number of iterations is predictable. Since Emrakul will cause your graveyard to be shuffled into your library over and over, and shuffling randomizes everything, there's no way to predict what the resulting game state would look like. Which means you can't shortcut this and — if you have the patience — would need to go through all the iterations of Brain Freeze and Emrakul's shuffle trigger individually. If you don't have that kind of patience, though, you and your opponent can agree to call that game a draw and try to avoid that in the next game.

Q: My opponent controls Chandra, Pyromaster. I attack with a bunch of creatures; if he doesn't block, do I have to redirect all the damage to Chandra, or can I decide how to split it up?

A: When you attack a player, and that player controls a planeswalker, you need to state during the declaration of attackers whether each creature is attacking the player or the planeswalker. You can mix it up a bit and have some creatures attack the player and others attack the planeswalker, but it needs to be clear which creatures are attacking which way (meaning your opponent will know what you're planning before deciding whether to block). To streamline things a bit, in tournament play if you don't say anything about this it's always assumed you attacked the player and not the planeswalker.

Q: If I attack with Geist of Saint Traft, can I use Trickbind at end of combat to keep the Angel token from being exiled?

A: Your opponent will be in quite the bind as a result of this; the Geist's ability sets up a delayed triggered ability for the end of combat step, and since that's a triggered ability it's perfectly legal to use Trickbind to counter it.

Don't lock yourself out of the fun;
stock up and get ready for the new schedule.
Q: Can I attack with Brimaz, King of Oreskos, get the token, then tap Brimaz and the token to help convoke a Stoke the Flames and kill a potential blocker? If so, will Brimaz and the token still deal their damage?

A: Yes, and yes. Since both Brimaz and his Cat Soldier buddies have vigilance (and since Brimaz doesn't say to create a tapped token, so the token is put onto the battlefield untapped and attacking), they won't be tapped as a result of attacking, and that lets them be tapped to help convoke an instant. And since tapping or untapping a creature, after it's already attacking or blocking, doesn't remove it from combat, they'll both still be feeling stoked enough to hit your opponent for some combat damage, too.

Q: I control a Phyrexian Tower. Can I cast Flash, put a creature from my hand onto the battlefield, and then activate Phyrexian Tower, sacrificing the creature to get ?

A: You can! Although normally you can't activate abilities while a spell is resolving, there is a general exception: if an effect of the spell asks for a mana payment, you can activate mana abilities. And since Phyrexian Tower's ability is a mana ability, it's legal to activate when Flash asks you for a payment during its resolution.

Q: My opponent has no cards in hand, and I control Black Cat and Blood Host. Is there any way I can make my opponent discard the card he draws in his turn before he can play it?

A: You do get a chance to activate Blood Host's ability during your opponent's draw step, after he's drawn his card, and if you sacrifice Black Cat to do that, it will cause the random-discard ability to trigger during the draw step. So your opponent better hope to draw an instant he can cast in response to the Black Cat trigger; otherwise, the card he drew will be long gone by the time his main phase starts.

Q: I control an Aeronaut Tinkerer and an Ornithopter. Can I attack with the Tinkerer, wait until my opponent doesn't block, and then sacrifice Ornithopter to cast Shrapnel Blast and still have my Tinkerer unblocked?

A: You can! All blocking creatures have to be declared in one go; after that, the set of blockers is locked in and can't be changed, even if a better set of blocks later becomes possible (say, because an attacking creature lost flying). So once your opponent has finished declaring blockers (or the lack of blockers), your Tinkerer is safe even if you get rid of your only artifact.

Q: I control Yisan, the Wanderer Bard with two verse counters on it, and I activate its ability. In response, my opponent casts Lightning Strike on Yisan. Do I get to search for anything?

A: You do! Whenever a spell or ability is resolving and needs information about something that's no longer around (unless that something was a target of the spell or ability, but Yisan doesn't target anything), it uses the last known information instead. In this case, you'll search based on the number of verse counters — 3 — which were on Yisan the last time it was seen on the battlefield.

That's all I've got for this week, so it's time to once again load Moko up in the catapult and send him on his way; next week Carsten will be back with another issue of Cranial Insertion, and in the meantime he'll be having as much fun as one can have with a barrel of monkeys.

- 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.

I thought a card is treated as a different object once it changes zones. If Banishing Light can bring back a Commander from the command zone once it leaves the battlefield, will it also bring back a creature that's been put into the graveyard using Pull from Eternity? And what if it changes zones again even before that? (ie. graveyard to hand, graveyard to library, graveyard to exile, graveyard to battlefield under opponent's control).
#1 • Date: 2014-09-16 • Time: 15:43:35 •
Quote (ludovore):
I thought a card is treated as a different object once it changes zones

Yes, but the key thing here is that if an effect specifically moves an object from one zone to the other, it tracks the object to that second zone (as long as it's public). This is why Banishing Light is able to work at all. Its effect knows which card in exile is the one it moved there, so it knows which one to bring back later. If another effect moves that card out of exile (Pull from Eternity, etc.), then Banishing Light's effect will lose track of it and can't bring back anything.

The "go to command zone" option, however, is a replacement effect. Replacement effects change the result of the event they modify, meaning it changes the result of resolving Banishing Light's effect to "move something to the command zone until Banishing Light leaves the battlefield". If that card moves out of the command zone before Banishing Light leaves the battlefield (probably because the owner cast it), then Banishing Light's effect will lose track of it.
#2 • Date: 2014-09-17 • Time: 07:37:51 •

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