Published on 11/24/2014

A Feast of Rules

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Sometimes, the turkey is thankful for you.
This week is Thanksgiving in the US, a holiday when we gather together with friends and family, eat too much food, and watch people run around on a field. Or, in my case, on a tournament floor — I'll be visiting sunny San Antonio for a Grand Prix, and a gathering of Magic friends and family. Which is plenty to be thankful for, but the icing on the cake (or, I suppose, the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie, in keeping with the holiday) is another week of rules questions to answer!

And as always, if you've got questions you'd like to be thankful for answers to, you can send them to us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: So, how does Snapcaster Mage work with a spell with delve, like Treasure Cruise? Do I just have to pay the full , or can I delve as I flash it back?

A: You can go delving for up to 7 cards, just as when you cast Treasure Cruise from your hand. Delve is simply another way of paying for the generic mana symbols in the spell's cost. That's no matter where you're casting it from, so that's how much you can delve.

Q: Can I delve the Treasure Cruise I'm casting when I flash it back with Snapcaster Mage?

A: Be careful not to delve too greedily or too deep — which is what this would be. At the time you actually exile cards, Treasure Cruise is on the stack, not in your graveyard (remember your steps of casting!), so it's not eligible to be delved away to cast itself.

Q: What if there's a Trinisphere out when I cast a Treasure Cruise from my hand? Am I limited to only delving 5 cards so I still end up paying 3 actual mana?

A: Once again the process of casting rears its head! Delve only gets used after you've figured out the total cost to cast the spell... and figuring the total cost requires taking Trinisphere into account. So at the time you're determining the total cost, Trinisphere will see that the cost includes not just 3 but a whopping 8 mana, and sees nothing to change. Then the total cost is locked in, you get a chance to activate mana abilities, and finally you actually pay the cost, which is the point in the process where you actually use the delve ability and exile some cards. So if you've got 7 cards burning a hole in your graveyard and a measly untapped Island lying around, together they'll still be able to send you on a Cruise.

Q: Partly for fun and partly to stay alive, I put a Song of the Dryads on my opponent's Griselbrand. Now she's casting a Gray Merchant of Asphodel; Griselbrand won't give her any devotion to black since it's a land with no mana cost now, right?

A: Unfortunately, Griselbrand is still very much devoted to black, and to draining your life via his Returned buddy. While Song of the Dryads does a number on Griselbrand's type line (no longer a creature or a Demon, though still legendary) and wipes out his color, power, toughness and abilities, it doesn't change Griselbrand's mana cost or any of the symbols in it, and those symbols — in all — are what the Gray Merchant counts.

Q: In a multiplayer game, I slapped an Assault Suit on my Ruhan of the Fomori, then helpfully donated it to my opponent. But I was the player who got randomly chosen by Ruhan's triggered ability; does that mean Ruhan can't attack?

A: Ruhan's ability creates a requirement for him to attack you... if able. And, well, he's not able due to that cool chainsaw-hand suit he's wearing. Which means the requirement can't be obeyed no matter what, and is basically void. Which in turn leaves Ruhan free to wander over and give someone else a chainsaw hug.

That wasn't the kind of whipped cream I wanted
Q: I have more questions about Containment Priest!

A: Go ahead :)

Q: My opponent Entombed a Griselbrand and just cast Exhume. If I cast Containment Priest in response, does the Griselbrand get exiled?

A: It depends. Exhume doesn't actually target any cards, which means the choice of what to put on the battlefield happens as Exhume resolves. So if your opponent has some other creature card in the graveyard, or can put some other creature card in there before Exhume resolves (say, with another Entomb), then it'll be legal to choose that other card instead (and, assuming Containment Priest is still around, that other card will be exiled). Just note that Exhume isn't optional and affects everybody: any player, including you, who has a creature card in their graveyard will have to choose one and try to put it on the battlefield (and get it exiled by the Priest).

Q: What if I Chaos Warp a Containment Priest? If my opponent reveals a creature, will it get exiled?

A: Nope. Containment Priest's effect only works while it's on the battlefield. And when resolving a spell or ability, you follow the instructions in order: first, the Priest gets shuffled into the library (so no longer on the battlefield), then reveal the top card and possibly put it on the battlefield.

Q: I just activated my Windswept Heath, and I know the only Forest or Plains left in my library is a Dryad Arbor. But my opponent responded by activating Goblin Welder to put a Grafdigger's Cage on the battlefield. Do I have to try to fetch the Dryad Arbor? And what happens to it in that case?

A: You don't have to fetch anything if you don't want to; any time a spell or ability tells you to search in a hidden zone (like your library) for a card with specific characteristics (like "Forest or Plains"), you're not required to find such a card even if it's in there (the rules are this way to avoid situations where you'd have to reveal a bunch of supposed-to-be-hidden information to your opponent to prove there wasn't anything there). So you can just "fail to find", give your library a shuffle, and move on. If you do decide to find the Dryad Arbor, though, the result is effectively the same: since it can't enter the battlefield, it doesn't move from where it is (your library). Then you shuffle your library and move on.

Q: What if I cast Scrap Mastery while there's a Grafdigger's Cage on the battlefield? Does that stop any artifact creatures from coming back?

A: Scrap Mastery works just fine with a Grafdigger's Cage (and, in fact, works regardless of whether the Cage was on the battlefield to begin with, or in a graveyard to begin with). First of all, Grafdigger's Cage only stops cards trying to enter from graveyards and libraries, and Scrap Mastery (along with its more creature-oriented friends, Living Death and Living End) causes things to enter from exile, which is a Zone the Cage doesn't affect. Second, Grafdigger's Cage will only stop things from happening if it's on the battlefield: if the Cage is on the battlefield when Scrap Mastery is cast, it gets sacrificed before Scrap Mastery tries to put anything on the battlefield (notice the order of the instructions in Scrap Mastery's text), and if it's in a graveyard instead it can't possibly be on the battlefield until Scrap Mastery has put everything on the battlefield.

Q: If I reveal Epochrasite from Chandra, Pyromaster's second ability and cast it, it'll be a 4/4, right?

A: Yup! Chandra doesn't put cards into your hand, she puts them into exile and lets you cast them from there. So Epochrasite sees that it wasn't cast from your hand, and gets its power-up.

Q: I know Bile Blight can knock out both a "real" Llanowar Elves and the tokens made by Llanowar Mentor. Can it also hit the tokens from Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury?

A: Well, Bile Blight can certainly target one of those tokens, since they're creatures. And if Freyalise has made multiple tokens she'll be pretty furious at all of them dying since they do all share a name — in the absence of an explicit name, tokens default to being named the same as their creature types. But that means her tokens are all named "Elf Druid", so they don't share a name with any other Elf creatures that might be hanging around (not even the ones from Llanowar Mentor, since it explicitly names its tokens "Llanowar Elves").

Q: I have a Workhorse with four +1/+1 counters on it, and give it persist with Cauldron of Souls. Does this let me make infinite mana, since I can remove all the counters, have it die and come back, let one +1/+1 counter pop off with the -1/-1 from persist, then repeat?

A: Although it's good to be aware that -1/-1 and +1/+1 counters essentially "cancel out" (if a permanent has both types, you remove them in matched pairs until only one type is left), there's a minor issue that'll keep this combo from being really persistent: when the Workhorse returns to the battlefield, it's a new game object with no memory of its previous existence. Which means it no longer has persist, and so you'll also need a way to untap Cauldron of Souls and give the Workhorse persist all over again in order to repeat the process.

Q: If I use Whip of Erebos to bring back a Meandering Towershell, what happens?

A: You'll have a big turtle that wanders off absentmindedly, then comes back during your next turn. Whip of Erebos only tries to interfere if the creature tries to go somewhere other than exile, but exile is conveniently where the Towershell wants to saunter away to. And, again, when it returns it has no memory of the fact that it got Whipped before, and the Whip no longer is able to track it, so it'll be able to go to the graveyard if it somehow dies again.

Q: Does that mean reanimating my commander with Whip of Erebos will put my commander in exile?

A: If you're resolving the trigger at the end step, yes. The command zone is not exile, and so trying to send your commander there will make the Whip step in and say "nope, off to exile instead". Each effect only replaces the event once, so that's what you get. If your commander dies before that, though, you can choose to apply Whip's effect and then the commander-to-command-zone rule to get it back to the command zone.

Q: I know I can use Feldon of the Third Path to just copy the same creature from my graveyard every time. But if I also have a Mimic Vat, when I sacrifice the copy from Feldon can I imprint that on the Vat and start getting two copies every turn (one from Feldon and one from the Vat)?

A: Unfortunately, Mimic Vat only triggers when a nontoken creature dies, and the copy produced by Feldon is a token. So Mimic Vat won't trigger when you sacrifice Feldon's tokens. Even if it did, the tokens cease to exist as soon as they realize they're in a zone other than the battlefield, so it wouldn't be possible to get or keep one imprinted.

The best part of a good meal is the nap afterward
Q: What if I use Feldon to make a copy of Bosh, Iron Golem and then sacrifice the copy to its own ability? How much damage does it deal?

A: Although many tokens have a converted mana cost of zero, tokens that are copies of other things can be different. Whenever you copy something, you copy everything printed on it including the mana cost — which is — which then gives it a converted mana cost of 8 and will mean the sacrificed Bosh-copy will bash for 8 damage.

Q: I have a Battlefield Thaumaturge and there are three other creatures on the battlefield. Does that mean I can cast Blasphemous Act for just , since it reduces its own cost by and then Thaumaturge reduces by another ?

A: There's a slightly off-target assumption here, namely that Blasphemous Act targets anything. It doesn't (since the word "target" doesn't appear anywhere in its text), so Battlefield Thaumaturge doesn't reduce the cost. So only Blasphemous Act's own cost reduction kicks in, and it'll cost you .

Q: I have a creature that I took from someone else's graveyard with Coffin Queen. If I get hit with a Sudden Spoiling, do I have to exile the creature?

A: Not unless Coffin Queen somehow gets untapped. Although the Queen herself no longer has any abilities, the continuous effect which put the creature onto the battlefield and will exile it when she becomes untapped is independent of whether she still has abilities; it was created in its entirety back when Coffin Queen was activated, and doesn't end just because the Queen lost her activated ability later.

Q: I control a Sphere of Safety, two other enchantments and a Warmonger Hellkite. That means my opponent can't attack if they're tapped out, right?

A: While it's true that you don't have to obey an attacking requirement if the attack would require a cost (you can refuse to pay and not attack), a player will still have to attack if it's possible to attack someone without paying; so in this case, if there are any other players in the game, even a tapped-out opponent would have to do some attacking, since those other players aren't protected by your Sphere of Safety and can be attacked for no cost.

Q: Is it legal in a tournament to "mana weave"?

A: Assuming that by "mana weave" you mean pulling all the lands out of the deck, putting them back in evenly distributed, and then shuffling, yes, it's legal so long as it doesn't take up an unreasonable amount of time. It is pointless however: you're still always required to perform a real shuffle of your deck, so either the deck will end up in a random (that is, lands will no longer be evenly distributed) order, or you'll be breaking the rules by not performing a shuffle that actually randomizes. Plus, it's difficult to do this quickly enough to avoid being penalized for slow play, so it's best to just stick to ordinary shuffling.

Thanks for all the questions this week, but that wraps up this article. Thankfully, Cranial Insertion will, as always, be back again next week, and thanks to the questions submitted by readers like you we'll have another full article of questions and answers ready to go!

- 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.


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