Published on 09/29/2014

Khan't Stop Me Now

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Khan I Axe you a question?
I Khan hardly believe that rotation has come and gone (or... Khan). Return to Ravnica block is now consigned (Khan-signed?) to play only in Modern, Legacy and Vintage, and Khans of Tarkir has joined Theros block in making up the composition (Khan-position?) of the new Standard format, which debuted this weekend.

And after that paragraph I'm ready to be done with the "Khan" puns, but not with answering rules questions! So read on, and have your confusion (Khan-fusion? OK, I'll stop, I promise) cleared up in yet another issue of Cranial Insertion!

And remember that if you've got a rules question you'd like to have answered, you can send it to us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet, all of which will get you answers and possibly even get your question featured in a future article!

Q: I control one creature with power 4 or greater, and I cast Force Away targeting it. Do I get to draw a card and discard a card?

A: Nope. When resolving a spell or ability, you follow the instructions in its text in exactly the order they're written. So first the creature gets returned to your hand, then you check whether you control something with power 4 or greater. Since you don't (anymore), you won't draw a card and you won't discard a card.

Q: If I Burn Away my opponent's Ashcloud Phoenix, what happens?

A: Ashcloud Phoenix and Burn Away both have triggered abilities which trigger as a result of this. The order in which they go on the stack is determined by whose turn it is: the player whose turn it is (the "active player" in technical parlance) puts their trigger on the stack first, then the player whose turn it isn't (the "non-active player") puts their trigger on the stack. The last trigger to be put on the stack will resolve first.

So if it's your turn, your opponent's Ashcloud Phoenix returns, and then all other cards in your opponent's graveyard get exiled. If it's your opponent's turn, the Phoenix gets exiled along with everything else, and then its own trigger is unable to return it to the battlefield.

Q: If I use Act of Treason to take my opponent's (face-up) Ashcloud Phoenix, and then I sacrifice it to Butcher of the Horde, who gets the Phoenix?

A: You do! Whenever an effect instructs a player to put a permanent on the battlefield, the player who's being instructed to put the permanent on the battlefield will end up being the permanent's controller (unless the effect itself says otherwise). The player being instructed to put Ashcloud Phoenix onto the battlefield is you in this case, since you're the controller of its triggered ability (because you were the controller of the Phoenix when it died). So the Phoenix is put onto the battlefield face-down under your control.

Q: My opponent controls a face-down creature. If I take it with Act of Treason, can I look at it to see what it is?

A: Yup. The game rules state that you can look at any face-down permanent you control, at any time. Since you are temporarily the controller of the treasonous morphed critter, you can take a peek and see what it actually is.

Q: Can I keep looking after I give it back to my opponent, in order to keep track of which one it was?

A: You can't, but it turns out not to be necessary. Although you can only look at face-down permanents while you control them, you'll still have the right to know which face-down creature was the one you controlled. And in general, you always have the right to be able to distinguish face-down permanents from each other, even if you don't know what each one is. So, for example, if your opponent casts a creature face-down and you announce you'd like to use Murderous Cut on that specific creature, you can, and your opponent can't shuffle things around to keep you from figuring out which one is the one that was just cast.

Did I break your Khancentration?
Q: I control a Rakshasa Vizier, and want to grow her as big as I can. Can I cast a Sultai Scavenger and just delve away all the cards in my graveyard?

A: Only if the number of cards in your graveyard is exactly 5. The delve ability doesn't let you "overpay" for a spell, so once you've accounted for all the generic mana in the spell's total cost (Sultai Scavenger typically costs , so the generic mana portion is ), you have to stop. After all, it's a bad idea to delve too greedily or too deep.

Q: What if there's a Sphere of Resistance on the battlefield?

A: As noted above, delve looks at the generic mana component of the total cost to cast the spell. The total cost is determined during the process of casting, and takes into account cost-increasing and cost-reducing effects. With a Sphere of Resistance out, Sultai Scavenger's total cost would be (note that this is just changing what you pay — the converted mana cost of the Scavenger is still and always will be 6, no matter how much or how little mana you actually pay to cast it), and you'd be able to delve away 6 cards from your graveyard to cast it.

Q: Can I even cast Burn Away when there's an Underworld Cerberus on the battlefield? Could I only target the Cerberus?

A: Underworld Cerberus prevents spells and abilities from targeting cards in graveyards, but something is only being targeted if the spell or ability uses the exact literal word "target" in its text (or in the text of one of its keywords). Since Burn Away doesn't use the word "target" to refer to the cards it will exile, it's not targeting them and Underworld Cerberus won't interfere.

Q: I activate the +1 ability of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, then attack with him. My opponent casts Turn to Frog on Sarkhan, and blocks with a 2/2. What happens?

A: Sarkhan will finally get to go join the dragons of Tarkir... in death. When Turn to Frog resolves, Sarkhan loses all those nifty abilities he's granted to himself (when multiple effects are trying to add/remove abilities, generally the most recent effect "wins"), including indestructible. In the combat damage step he'll be dealt 2 damage and, since he's a 1/1, Sarkhan the Frog will croak.

Q: Suppose my Sarkhan has 4 loyalty after I've activated his +1 ability. Then he gets blocked by a 4/4. Does he die since all 4 of his loyalty counters get removed?

A: Nope! Whenever an effect changes card types or subtypes, it completely overwrites the pre-existing types unless the effect says otherwise (usually the wording is " addition to its other types", or "it's still a (whatever the original type was)"). Sarkhan's ability doesn't say otherwise, so it temporarily overwrites his original types ("Planeswalker — Sarkhan") with the new ones ("Legendary Creature — Dragon"). And since he's not a planeswalker, damage dealt to him doesn't remove loyalty counters, so no matter how much damage he takes, your Sarkhan will still have just as much loyalty left over at end of turn as when he turned to Dragon.

Q: I control Bloodfire Expert, and cast Force Away targeting one of my opponent's creatures. Can I choose to stack things so Bloodfire Expert's prowess grow it in time for me to get Force Away's ferocious effect?

A: You're forced into a specific order here, but it's far and away the one you want. Whenever an ability is triggered by casting a spell, the ability always resolves before the spell that triggered it. So when Force Away resolves, your Bloodfire Expert will be 4/2, allowing you to ferociously loot your deck.

Q: If I have both Goblin Rabblemaster and Mardu Ascendancy, can the token from the Ascendancy pump up the Rabblemaster?

A: It can! When multiple triggered abilities trigger at once, and the same player controls them all, that player chooses the order in which to put them on the stack. So if you have the Ascendancy trigger resolve first (by putting it on the stack last), the extra Goblin token will be there and be counted when Goblin Rabblemaster's ability resolves.

Q: If I have Yeva, Nature's Herald, can I cast a face-down Pine Walker (or any other green creature with morph) at instant speed?

A: This would be a pretty flashy play... if it worked. But unfortunately it doesn't: when you want to cast a card face-down, you check for permission to cast it based on its face-down characteristics. And since the face-down characteristics include being colorless, it's not green and Yeva won't let you cast it.

The Khanflux is a dance craze that's
sweeping Tarkir
Q: I control an Ainok Tracker and my opponent is at 5 life. If I attack and my opponent doesn't block, can I let the Tracker deal 3 damage in the first combat damage step, then use Backslide to turn it face-down and make it lose first strike so it'll deal 2 damage in the second combat damage step?

A: This will only ever get you 3 damage or 2 damage. If you let the Tracker deal 3 in the first combat damage step, then turning it face-down (or otherwise making it lose first strike) won't cause it to deal damage again — in the second combat damage step, creatures which had first strike at the start of the first combat damage step are specifically excluded from dealing damage. And of course, if you turn it face-down before the first combat damage step, it'll just be a non-first-striking 2/2 and will only deal 2 damage.

Q: What happens if I cast Treasure Cruise, delving 7 cards, and my opponent uses Remand? Do the cards still get exiled from my graveyard?

A: That's one way to turn a cruise into a shipwreck. When a spell is countered, you don't get a "refund" of any of the costs you paid to cast it. And since delve is a way to pay the spell's cost, the cards you exiled are gone and will stay gone, even though your Treasure Cruise didn't have any effect. You'll either need a lot of mana, or a bunch more cards in your graveyard, to try casting it again.

Q: If I have a Whirlwind Adept enchanted with Hyena Umbra and my opponent casts End Hostilities, do both my creature and the Umbra get destroyed?

A: The hostilities won't quite be over in this case. Totem armor is a replacement effect, which steps in any time the event it cares about (in this case, destroying the enchanted creature) is about to happen. It replaces the event "destroy Whirlwind Adept and Hyena Umbra" with just "destroy Hyena Umbra" (technically, with destroying it twice, simultaneously, but that's a bit redundant since one destruction is enough).

Q: In a Two-Headed Giant game, can I look at my teammate's face-down creatures?

A: You can't pick them up and look at the, since you don't control them (in 2HG, very few things are actually shared, and control of creatures isn't one of those things). But your teammate can look at them, and can tell you what they are, or show them to you before casting them face-down.

Q: My opponent has put a Singing Bell Strike on my Polukranos, World Eater. If I cast a Prophet of Kruphix, will Polukranos get to untap during my opponent's untap step?

A: Yup! Singing Bell Strike only prevents the creature from untapping during your untap step. If something causes it to untap during someone else's untap step, it'll just untap.

Q: I control a Bear's Companion and its token, along with Temur Ascendancy. If I cast Clever Impersonator, copying the Bear token, will I draw a card?

A: You will, and you'll get to pat yourself on the back for being clever. Clever Impersonator (and most other "Clone" effects) doesn't enter the battlefield as a 0/0 and then become a copy of something (since if it did, it'd die before becoming a copy). Instead, it enters the battlefield as a copy, meaning it's never on the battlefield without being a copy of the chosen permanent. Which means it enters the battlefield as a 4/4, triggering Temur Ascendancy.

Q: In a tournament, if I win the game and my opponent fails to reveal all their face-down creatures, do I also win the next game?

A: Well, first of all it's important to note that the penalty for failing to reveal face-down creatures at the end of the game (the rules require you to do this, as a way of verifying you played them legally) is only a Game Loss at Competitive and Professional enforcement levels. At Regular enforcement, which is used for FNM and most other events in local game stores, there's no Game Loss — instead, a judge should simply educate the player on the correct procedure, and only threaten penalties if the same mistake is repeated multiple times.

Second, the tournament-policy update for Khans of Tarkir specifically explains that the Game Loss penalty for this (at Competitive and Professional enforcement) should be applied to the game in which the failure to reveal occurred, even if the player who did it lost that game. This keeps it from turning into an effective Match Loss if there's another game left to play in the match.

That's all I've got for this week, but be sure to enjoy your first week with Khans of Tarkir, and check back next week when Carsten will conquer (Khan-quer? OK, OK...) another batch of rules questions in the next issue of Cranial Insertion!

- 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.

About the Ainok Tracker/backslide question: would having an ornithoptor attack as well make this work?
#1 • Date: 2014-09-29 • Time: 17:45:16 •
Sure, if you targeted the Ornithopter with the backslide. The tracker would deal 3 in the first strike damage step, and then as long as you use the backslide on the Orni before regular combat damage step, it will deal 2 damage
#2 • Date: 2014-09-30 • Time: 05:56:00 •
That is not possible. "with morph" is a targeting restriction, not a description of what the spell does. Backslide can only turn creatures with the morph ability face-down.
So to answer jack0fhearts' question:
That would not change anything. Unless a creature has double strike, it can only deal damage ONCE per combat phase. If it dealt first strike damage and then loses first strike, it will NEVER deal damage again in the normal combat damage step. Because turning a creature face down doesn't make it a different creature, it simply changes some of the creatures characteristics, the game is able to track whether or not it already dealt damage and won't allow it to do so again.
#3 • Date: 2014-09-30 • Time: 11:04:03 •

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