Published on 09/22/2014

Release the Tarkirs!

or, Happy as a Clan

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Sarkhan, Who Whispers
Sweet Nothings to Dragons
For years, we've made our allegiances to the guilds and the shards, defining ourselves as any two colors or any three allied colors. Now, old bonds are tested with the clans, one color and its two enemies (even if Khans of Tarkir focuses them on one color and one of its allies and one of its enemies). Do I remain Dimir, or drift to Sultai? Will Carsten stay true to the Boros, or kick it up with the Jeskai? Does Moko stay Gruul, with a splash of black yet dismissing Jund, or does he claim the banner of the Temur and punch a bear right in the brainpan?

And what does all that mean? Why, it's time for a new set! Welcome to Tarkir! Every new set brings awesome new questions and puzzling new interactions, and this one's even more juiced up with the return of morph, as Callum discussed last week in depth. Make sure to go back and read that if you haven't already done so; the rules for morph have not changed at all.

Here's a sampling of useful questions from around the world leading up to the release, as well as a couple major questions from the KTK Release Notes, which are also required reading if you want to be smat. Got more questions? Send them in to or tweet us short questions for short answers to @CranialTweet. Please do remember to choose the correct medium - email if you need explanations, Twitter for short answers, and both can end up in the next article because they all funnel through our beloved zombie chimp secretary. If he's not too busy exulting over Sidisi's Pet adding a new long-awaited creature type pairing.

Q: Why would I sacrifice Polluted Delta instead of just tapping it for mana?

A: While most of the 490 lands in Magic add mana to your mana pool, the fetch lands are among the 44 or so that do not. They have no mana ability printed on them, and no basic land type granting an intrinsic mana ability, so they can't produce mana on their own.

Q: What happens if Ghostfire Blade's target turns face up and becomes colorful in response to the equip ability?

A: Nothing special. The color (or lack thereof) of the target matters only as costs are determined. After that, even if the target somehow gains a color while generating mana to pay for the activation, it'll still cost just . Giving it a color before the equip ability resolves is well after that point.

Q: Can I outlast as an instant with Prophet of Kruphix or Vedalken Orrery or anything?

A: Unfortunately, "any time you could cast a sorcery" is not read that literally. It means that activating the ability follows the normal rules for "sorcery timing" - your main phase, empty stack. No effects that modify how you may cast sorceries will interact with abilities with that restriction.

Q: Does Hardened Scales apply to creatures like Hooded Hydra that enter the battlefield with counters?

A: Yup! Placing a counter includes both "object on battlefield gets a counter" and "object enters the battlefield with counters on it." It'll apply to the Hydra if cast, turned face up, or targeted with High Sentinels of Arashin's ability.

Looking awfully urbane and out
of place on this plane, Sorin.
Q: I activate Sorin, Solemn Visitor's [+1] ability and attack, and a creature dies. I get a token with Abzan Ascendancy. Is it 2/1 lifelink?

A: Sorin's ability modifies the characteristics of objects, so the set of affected objects is locked in at the moment the effect's created. That little Spirit token that comes in later doesn't belong to that set, no matter how much it wishes with its little ethereal Spirit heart, and no matter how special Saturday-morning cartoons told it that it could be. It's still not going to get +1/+0 or gain lifelink.

Q: What happens when one of two targets for Abzan Charm's third mode gets killed?

A: Announcing how you'll distribute the counters is done as you cast Abzan Charm. After that, it's set in stone. If a target is removed, the spell just won't put counters on that target, and the counters it would put aren't put anywhere. The targets that are still legal will get the number of counters you assigned to them while casting the Charm and won't pick up the missing counters.

Q: I cast a spell and get a prowess trigger, but then my opponent counters it. Does my creature still get buffed?

A: It does. A spell becomes cast after the steps of casting it are complete, and whether or not it resolves later isn't relevant to abilities that trigger when a spell is cast. Without a counterspell interfering, the trigger will even resolve before the spell possibly could!

Q: What happens if Clever Impersonator copies an Aura or a creature bestowed as an Aura?

A: If an Aura is entering the battlefield without being cast as an Aura, the player who'll control it gets to choose where it goes. This isn't choosing a target, so you can pick things that the Aura couldn't legally target, as long as it can enchant them. So hexproof won't stop it, but protection will.

If you copy a bestowed Aura, though, now you're in a separate case. The choice to bestow the creature is only a copiable value if you're copying it while it's a spell, and no, that isn't possible with any existing cards. When you copy it as a permanent, you'll get the base object, and it'll be a non-Aura creature.

The real question might be how someone goes about impersonating an Aura. Possibly with a clever light show.

Q: We're both at 5, and two 5/5s are attacking me. I stop one with Deflecting Palm, and then what? Is the game a draw?

A: First 5 damage is dealt you and 5 damage is prevented. Immediately after, before anything else happens, 5 damage is dealt to your opponent. When state-based actions are checked shortly after, they'll find two players sitting around with 0 life and you both lose, resulting in a draw.

Q: Does Mystic of the Hidden Way become unblocked if I turn it face up after blocks?

A: Abilities that play with the legality of blocking only matter while blockers are being chosen. Once it's blocked, it's blocked. You'll have to turn your Mystic face up before blockers are chosen if you want it to slip through.

Q: During my main phase, I try to Scout the Borders and then exile all those cards to cast Treasure Cruise, but my opponent wants to activate Tormod's Crypt to stop me. Can he do that?

A: Nope! Immediately after Scout the Borders resolves, you have priority. If you choose to cast a spell, you'll complete the steps of casting it, which includes paying for it by exiling stuff, before your opponent can have priority again. The only way he can interfere is by guessing that you'll need more than the six cards from Scout the Borders in your graveyard (don't forget Scout itself!) and exiling it in response to Scout the Borders.

Q: With Kheru Spellsnatcher, can I keep casting the exiled spell over and over? Will Rest in Peace help?

A: The first step of casting a spell is to put it onto the stack from wherever it is - no matter whether you're casting it from your hand, graveyard, or exile. At this point, "for as long as it remains exiled" has ended. The spell will resolve and be put into its owner's graveyard (or the battlefield if you snagged a nifty permanent, but let's say it dies right after), and not return to exile. If Rest in Peace does exile it, not only has the permission effect expired, but the card in exile is a new object with no relation to the one that you ever had permission for.

Q: Can I cast Dead Drop if my opponent only controls one creature?

A: Yes, that's a very expensive way to effectively ruinate a lonely creature. When a player has a direct instruction to take an action that can only be partially be completed, that player does as much as able. You could even cast it targeting a player with no creatures, since "as much as possible" is "do nothing." Poor Crocodiles will need an alternative food source.

Meanwhile, Ugin's just dead.
Q: How does Disdainful Stroke work with delve or X costs?

A: The converted mana cost of a spell is a static number formed by the mana cost, regardless of what you actually paid. For example, Dead Drop always has a CMC of 10, even if you paid . One of the only exceptions isn't even really an exception: X. Looking at Villainous Wealth, the CMC is X+3. In your hand or library, there is no X, so it's just 3. But on the stack, you have chosen a value for X, so if X is 4, then the CMC is 7 and Disdainful Stroke will strike it right down.

Q: Do my attacking creatures need to survive combat to enable raid?

A: Nah, if you attacked, you attacked, even if the creature's not around anymore to show off its "I attacked today! :)" sticker. Yes, this means that Bloodsoaked Champion can triumphantly return from the grave because combat happened, even if it's the same combat where it attacked and died an embarrassingly ignoble death.

Q: If Ashcloud Phoenix dies face down, does it come back?

A: While it's face down, the Phoenix has no abilities. Triggers that care specifically about battlefield-to-graveyard zone transfers look at the object immediately before it left to determine whether or not to trigger, and there was nothing to trigger at that time.

The easy way to remember this rule is that if Clever Impersonator copies a Goblin Arsonist and dies, it gets to deal damage. The side effect is that if it copies Ashcloud Phoenix, it'll come back face down anyway and not copy anything and be unable to turn face up, but oh well. Free creature.

Q: Does Mardu Charm work like a counterspell by taking a card out of their hand in response to trying to cast it?

A: Going back a few questions, I mentioned that the first step of casting a spell is putting it onto the stack - that applies here, too. The card isn't in your opponent's hand after it's done being cast, and you can't take any actions while it's being cast. Mardu is more proactive than blue mages, so you'll have to take out a card before it's cast rather than trying to stop it after.

Q: If Zurgo Helmsmasher gives a 2/2 creature a Swift Kick, will it get a counter in time to save it?

A: If it's your turn, sure, Zurgo's indestructible. Otherwise, Zurgo's top-heavy form is going to go sliding out from under him. The ability will trigger since the creature dies at the same time Zurgo does, when both have lethal damage marked on them. But dead Zurgos can't get counters, and the trigger does nothing.

Q: Can I get extra bonus for ferocious stuff by having a bunch of big creatures?

A: Every ferocious check is "do you control a creature with power 4+?" For a yes/no question, only one answer comes out, even if your answer is an eyebrow-raising "yes yes YES YES!!!" For an effect to scale, it'll be very clearly noted with "for each" or "equal to the number of" or somesuch.

Q: Does Secret Plans trigger if a morph dies, since it's turned face up as it dies?

A: It's not being turned face up, though. It's just changing zones and ceasing to have a face up/down status, the same as a tapped creature losing a tapped/untapped status when it dies. Something is only turned face up if an explicit instruction says so, like paying the morph cost or resolving Break Open.

Q: Does Secret Plans pump Insectile Aberration?

A: A double-faced card can't ever be face down. If its back face is showing, it's still face up, just a different face. It's not face down, can't be turned face up or face down, and generally exists in insolent disregard for the whole KTK set.

Q: In response to Stubborn Denial, my only 4/4 creature got destroyed. Does it still counter the spell?

A: If its controller doesn't pay , yes. As with most self-replacement effects (effects that cause their parent spell to do something other than normal if a condition is true), the condition is checked only as the normal spell ability is about to be performed. You don't need a 4-power creature as you cast Stubborn Denial to get a hard counter, or while it's on the stack, but only when it begins to resolve.

That's all for this week, but make sure to come back next week as we start to get more in depth and examine the clans' interactions with the shiny new Standard, as Return to Ravnica block and Magic 2014 pass on to the halcyon fields of Modern.

Until next time, may your wedges be sweet!

- 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.

Quote (Question 16):

If Clever Impersonator copies Ashcloud Phoenix, it'll come back face down anyway and not copy anything and be unable to turn face up.

It seems to me that the Clever Impersonator should return to the battlefield as a face down copy of a creature, if I choose one.

As the triggered ability resolves and moves the Clever Impersonator from the graveyard to the battlefield face down, we apply replacement effects before actually performing the event, and by then the Impersonator is still in the graveyard, rocking his cloning ability. What am I missing here?
#1 • Date: 2014-09-22 • Time: 09:21:25 •
707.3. Objects that are put onto the battlefield face down are turned face down before they enter the battlefield, so the permanent’s enters-the-battlefield abilities won’t trigger (if triggered) or have any effect (if static).
#2 • Date: 2014-09-22 • Time: 15:45:51 •
It doesn't seem to me that rule 707.3 applies since the Impersonator doesn't have an enters-the-battlefield ability, does it? There must be something else causing it not to copy anything?
#3 • Date: 2014-09-23 • Time: 19:09:08 •
It's true that replacement effects apply before performing the event they try to replace, but this particular replacement effect refers to a permanent entering the battlefield, so it wants to know the characteristics of the permanent after it moves to the battlefield.

This means that, before the event happens, we have to "look at the future" to determine how the permanent will look like. Rule 614.12 covers this special case. Looking at it, we determine that the Clever Impersonator will enter the battlefield a 2/2 face down creature with no abilities, so the replacement effect is nowhere to be found and doesn't apply.

614.12. Some replacement effects modify how a permanent enters the battlefield. (See rules 614.1c–d.) Such effects may come from the permanent itself if they affect only that permanent (as opposed to a general subset of permanents that includes it). They may also come from other sources. To determine which replacement effects apply and how they apply, check the characteristics of the permanent as it would exist on the battlefield, taking into account replacement effects that have already modified how it enters the battlefield (see rule 616.1), continuous effects generated by the resolution of spells or abilities that changed the permanent's characteristics on the stack (see rule 400.7a), and continuous effects from the permanent's own static abilities, but ignoring continuous effects from any other source that would affect it.
#4 • Date: 2014-09-24 • Time: 02:28:06 •

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