Published on 09/15/2014

It's Morphin' Time!

Armodon! Pteron! Ceratok! Felidar! Tyrannax!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

"Ah! After 10,000 years, I'm free!
It's time to conquer Zendikar!"
Previously, on Cranial Insertion: During the PAX Magic worldbuilding panel, we discover that the vampire planeswalker Sorin Markov had arrived on Tarkir in search of the dragon planeswalker Ugin, hoping that they could join forces to help seal the Eldrazi away once more. But finding his comrade and presumably friend's corpse moldering away in an icy wasteland means he's going to have to come up with some other way of defeating the Eldrazi.

Luckily, Tarkir has the perfect solution: morph! If the Power Rangers have taught us anything, it's that morphing is always the answer to defeating the forces of evil. Using the power of the morph ability, the creatures of Tarkir can transform into mighty...nameless, colorless, typeless 2/2s. Huh. Might have to rethink that plan a little. But since I've already written up a whole morph-themed article, we might as well run with it for now. Morph's a complicated ability, so it's not surprising there's a whole lot of questions to be answered about it.

If you have your own rules questions, be they morph-related or not, you can email us by clicking the zombie monkey to the left, or filling out the 'To' field yourself with . For shorter questions you can tweet @CranialTweet. We'll provide you with an answer directly and possibly include your question in an upcoming issue.

Q: Could Bile Blight kill multiple morph creatures? I mean, a morph creature has no name, so does "no name" count as a name?

A: No, it can't. If something doesn't have a name at all, it can't possibly have the same name as something else. Bile Blight targeting a face-down morph creature will kill that one creature, but nothing else.

Q: I have Underworld Dreams and so does my opponent. I cast a Prosperity big enough to kill us both. Who dies first, why, and does the answer change if I do it on his turn instead of mine?

A: If you cast Prosperity on your turn (which is likely, considering it's a sorcery), then you lose. If you cast it on your opponent's turn (less likely, but still possible), then your opponent loses.

While Prosperity is resolving, both Underworld Dreams will trigger. After Prosperity is done resolving, all of the active player's triggers will be put onto the stack first, and then all of the other player's triggers will be put onto the stack on top of them. The stack resolves from the top down, so the active player will die before any of their triggers can resolve.

Q: ...So what if it was one Spiteful Visions instead of two different Underworld Dreams?

A: Then whoever controls the Visions gets to decide who wins and who loses. In this case, all the triggers are controlled by the same player, so that player decides the order in which those triggers are put onto the stack relative to each other. It's just a wild guess, but I'm thinking they'll probably have their opponent die first.

Q: I read that morph doesn't use the stack. So I'm wondering how Voidmage Apprentice's effect works. For example, I Murder an opponent's creature, and my opponent uses the Apprentice's ability to counter me. Doesn't Murder resolve first before morph is properly resolved, because it doesn't use the stack? Then the morph ability goes onto a new stack?

A: No. Morph "not using the stack" doesn't mean it waits until the stack has emptied and then does its thing—quite the opposite. What it means is that morphing a creature happens immediately, the same way that tapping a land gives you mana immediately. "Not using the stack" means it resolves right away, without the usual pause for responses that happens with normal spells and abilities.

Q: Suppose I'm enchanted with two Curse of Death's Hold. I cast Karmic Guide. Will it be put into my graveyard before I put its trigger on the stack, making it a legal target for its own trigger?

A: Yes, absolutely. Whenever anything happens, such as your Guide entering the battlefield, the game will always check for applicable state-based actions before putting triggers onto the stack.

In this case, the Guide enters the battlefield, triggering its ability. The game then checks for state-based actions, and see a 0-toughness Guide on the battlefield, so they put it into your graveyard. Then the waiting Guide trigger gets put onto the stack, and the Guide in your graveyard is a legal target for it.

"Emrakul's escaped, and she's attacking
the plane. Teleport to us five overbearing,
overemotional magic users!"
Q: Can you counter a morph card?

A: That depends on what you mean. Casting a face-down morph creature is casting it as a spell, so you can counter that the same way you could counter any other creature spell.

But turning a face-down creature on the battlefield face-up is not casting a creature spell, nor is it activating an ability. It's a special action that doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to, so it definitely can't be countered.

Q: Say I have a Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Angel's Trumpet out. Would the cat that Brimaz gives me deal me a damage at end of turn, since it was put into play attacking rather than declared as an attacker?

A: Yes, the Trumpet would tap the token and ping you for the service. Your token is (presumably) an untapped creature, and it did not perform the action of being declared as an attacker this turn, so it matches the description the Trumpet's looking for. The fact that the token was at some point an attacking creature despite not having done that doesn't matter.

Q: I control a Crucible of Worlds. Does that mean I can play Zoetic Cavern as a morph creature from my graveyard?

A: No, it doesn't. To cast a card with morph as a morph creature, you first need to turn it face-down in whatever zone it's already in, and then figure out whether or not you'd be allowed to cast that face-down 2/2 creature.

If you do this with your Cavern in the graveyard, you'll turn it face-down...and won't be able to cast it, because the Crucible's effect only allows you to play lands, and that face-down 2/2 creature your Caverns has become isn't a land, so you are forced to abandon your attempts and leave your Cavern where it is.

Q: Does Crypsis remove the effect of Archetype of Imagination and give my normally-flying creature flying again?

A: Well you can cast Crypsis to untap your creature and give it protection, but that won't give it back its flying. Protection only does four very specific things, generally abbreviated DEBT. It:
  • D - Prevents all damage from things it's protected from
  • E - Stops things it's protected from from enchanting or equipping it
  • B - Stops things it's protected from from blocking it
  • T - Stops things it's protected from from targeting it
Archetype of Imagination isn't doing any of those four things to your creature, so protection won't stop it.

All your Crypsis can do to the Archetype is stop it from being able to block your creature.

Q: What happens if I Clone or otherwise copy a face-down creature?

A: Your Clone will be a nameless, colorless, typeless 2/2 creature with no abilities. And it'll be face-up. It won't copy whatever's "under" the morph, because it can't see that, and it's already face-up, so it can't possibly be turned face-up anyway.

Q: So what happens if a face down creature becomes a copy of another permanent?

A: Not much. "Underneath" the morph effect it'll be whatever it copied, but the rules for being face-down basically apply "over top" of that, so as far as anyone can see it'll still be that same nameless, colorless, typeless 2/2 with no abilities.

If what it copied didn't have morph itself, then you won't be able to turn it face-up, either, because it won't have a morph cost to reveal and pay in order to do so. If whatever it copied did have morph, though, then you'll be able to turn it face-up for its new morph cost, and if you do it'll be whatever you copied.

Q: ...How about if someone casts Turn to Frog targeting a face-down creature? Does the same thing happen there?

A: Not quite. The effects of Turn to Frog apply over top of the rules for being face-down, so it'll be a 1/1 blue Frog with no abilities. However, it will stop the creature from being able to turn face-up, (if your opponent didn't just turn it face-up in response, anyway), because when your opponent goes to show what the morph cost would be if it were face-up, they'll find that it wouldn't have one, thanks to Turn to Frog removing its abilities.

Q: Can I change the color words on Wrath of Marit Lage in time to say green instead of red so my monogreen opponent is affected?

A: Depending on what you're using, maybe. Something that affects the text of permanents on the battlefield, like Mind Bend, won't work, because once the Wrath enters the battlefield, its tap-things ability will trigger and go onto the stack before any player can cast spells, and once the trigger is on the stack, changing the text on the Wrath itself won't affect that trigger.

To do what you want, you need to change the text of the Wrath before the ability triggers, and to do that you need to use something that affects spells on the stack, like Glamerdye. If you change the text of the Wrath while it's still a spell on the stack, those changes would continue to apply to it once it entered the battlefield. The ability would say "green" at the time it triggered, so green things would get tapped.

Swirl the Mists would also work, because at the time the ability triggers, the Mists would already be applying to it.

Q: If you lets say have a morph creature turned face down. If you blink it it will not trigger its "When this is turned up do x, y and z abilities'? Right?

A: Correct. A creature that's entering the battlefield face-up is not being turned face-up, in the same way that a creature that's entering the battlefield untapped isn't becoming untapped.

In order for something to "be turned face-up" it has to transition directly from being on the battlefield face-down to being on the battlefield face-up. Being exiled for a little while in between doesn't cut it.

Q: I've notice that a lot of flash cards such as Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery go out of their way to say "nonland." So what happens if a land had flash? Are there rules for flash lands?

A: There are rules...but they're kind of weird, which is why those cards exclude lands. A land having flash allows you to play it any time you could cast an instant...but it doesn't allow you to play it during other players' turns, and it doesn't allow you to exceed your normal number of land plays.

So you'd be able to play your flash land any time you could cast an instant...during your turn, and only if you hadn't already reached your maximum number of land plays for the turn. Which isn't really all that exciting.

"No! Not that! Not planeswalkers!"
Q: I block with a morph and flip it face-up. Does my opponent have a chance to respond before damage (provided no flip trigger)?

A: Yes. The game only moves on to the next step of the turn when both players pass priority in succession on an empty stack, without doing anything else with it. Turning a morph creature face-up is definitely "doing something else", so the game will pass priority back to your opponent and give them a chance to respond.

In general, there's never a time when you have a chance to do things without allowing your opponent a chance to also do things before the game moves on to the next part of the turn. The game's specifically designed to not to let that happen.

Q: If a planeswalker is attacked, and a third player gains control of the planeswalker in combat, does the attack continue? What if the attacking player gains control of it?

A: If a planeswalker that's being attacked changes controllers, it's removed from combat and is no longer being attacked. That's the case no matter who's gaining control of it. Changing control of something that's in combat always removes it from combat.

Q: Does Training Grounds reduce morph costs?

A: No, it doesn't. Morph isn't an activated ability, so Training Grounds doesn't affect morph costs in any way.

To identify activated abilities, look for the colon. ( : ) All activated abilities use a colon to separate their cost(s) from their effect(s), and nothing that's not an activated ability will ever use them.

Q: If I have an Altar of Dementia and want to end the game by decking my opponent, can I ask my opponent how many cards are left in their library? Or do they not have to provide that information if they don't want to (for obvious reasons)?

A: Sure you can. And at any Regular-level event, such as Friday Night Magic or a Prerelease, they have to tell you, though to find out, they may have to count themselves—I don't know many players who habitually keep track of the number of cards in their library at all times. At such events (and in casual play), you're entitled to know the number of objects in any zone.

At a Competitive tournament, such as a Grand Prix Trial, Pro Tour Qualifier, and so on and so forth, your opponent isn't required to tell you, but they also aren't allowed to lie to you, and they aren't allowed to try and prevent you from figuring it out yourself, say by counting.

Q: If I'm playing a Morph theme deck and I have several creatures flipped up, then flip them back upside down with Weaver of Lies or Ixidron, am I able to rearrange my field and move some creatures around so that my opponent doesn't know which creatures are which?

A: Absolutely not. If you have multiple face-down creatures on the table, you need to keep them distinct from each other so that your opponent can tell which is which. And if she asks, you have to tell her which is which. You are not allowed to shuffle your creatures around to stop her from knowing which one was which.

Q: If I cast Gifts Ungiven and my opponent has in play Ivory Mask, can I even casts Gifts, or do I get all four cards?

A: You can't cast it at all. Gifts Ungiven has exactly one target: your opponent. If you can't choose your opponent as a target, you can't select legal targets for it, so you can't cast it.

Q: I control Jhoira of the Ghitu. I suspend Scornful Egotist with her activated ability. Can I have the Egotist come into play face down?

A: Nope. In order to cast a card face-down with morph, you need to pay rather than pay its mana cost...but the Egotist's suspend ability is telling you to cast it without paying its mana cost at all. Since you're not going to be paying the mana cost at all, you can't pay the morph cost instead of it.

Both morph and "without paying its mana cost" are alternative costs for the spell, and you can't use multiple alternative costs when casting a spell—the whole point behind an alternative is that you do it instead of whatever you would normally do.

Q: Is '+10/+10' equivalent to 10 +1/+1 counters? I'm wondering about Eldrazi Conscription + Gyre Sage, because if +10 = 10x +1, that's a great combo...

A: No. Giving a creature a bonus only involves counters if the effect actually says it's putting counters on the creature. If it doesn't say it uses counters, it's just applying an invisible coat of paint on the creature that says "this creature's actually bigger/smaller than normal in {this way}". There's no physical object involved.

A +1/+1 counter, on the other hand, is an actual physical thing that you put on the creature because an effect is telling you to do so, and then that chip or paper clip or die or penny or whatever you use to represent it causes the creature to get a bonus.

Okay, so what about giant mechanical suits? Wait, what? We've done that already? What if all the smaller pieces combine to form one massive...oh all right I give up. You win this round, Magic Creative!

Be sure to come back next week, for another exiting edition of Cranial Insertion!

- Callum Milne

About the Author:
Callum Milne is a Level 2 judge from British Columbia, Canada. His home range is Vancouver Island, but he can be found in the wild throughout BC and also at GPs all along the west coast of North America.


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