Published on 12/01/2014

Standard Bearers

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

No, not that kind of standard.
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. If you're a reader in the US, I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving weekend and that you're ready to tackle some fun rules questions. I recently had the pleasure of head judging a $5K Standard tournament in Richmond, Kentucky, and I have returned with a bunch of questions from the tournament floor. Mixed in with those Standard questions is the usual fare of assorted questions from our inbox.

Speaking of our inbox, if you have questions for us, please email them to to get an answer from one of our writers and to possibly have your question appear in a future article. As always, you can also tweet short questions to our Twitter handle @CranialTweet. While you're at it, you might also want to follow our Twitter account. We're at 995 followers as of writing this, and getting to 1000 followers would make Moko very happy.

Q: Let's say I target my Burnished Hart and one of my opponent's creatures with Daring Thief's ability. Can I sacrifice the Hart in response so I get my opponent's creature and my opponent gets nothing?

A: No, you're being too greedy here. You can certainly sacrifice the Hart in response, but if you do, Daring Thief's ability won't do anything. An exchange only happens if both sides of the exchange are actually there. Since that's not the case if you sacrifice the Hart, the exchange doesn't happen.

Q: If I control Jeskai Ascendancy and I cast Magma Jet, can I scry from Magma Jet before I loot for the Ascendancy trigger?

A: No, that's not possible. Jeskai Ascendancy's triggers go on the stack above Magma Jet, so the looting from Jeskai Ascendancy happens before the scrying for Magma Jet.

Q: If I activate Polukranos's monstrosity ability to put counters on it but I don't want it to fight because my opponent's creatures have deathtouch, can I choose not to target any of my opponent's creatures?

A: No. While it's true that "any number" usually includes zero as a possibility, the fact that you're dividing damage throws that possibility out the window.

107.1c. If a rule or ability instructs a player to choose "any number," that player may choose any positive number or zero, unless something (such as damage or counters) is being divided or distributed among "any number" of players and/or objects. In that case, a nonzero number of players and/or objects must be chosen if possible.

Q: I control an Abzan Battle Priest that's getting +1/+1 from my Paragon of New Dawns. Does it give itself lifelink?

A: Nice try, but no. Abzan Battle Priest specifically checks for +1/+1 counters, such as what it gives out with its outlast ability. Other power/toughness bonuses that don't come from counters don't, um... count.

Q: If I have Gift of Immortality on a face down creature and the creature dies, what happens?

A: Gift of Immortality's ability triggers, and when it resolves, it returns the card to the battlefield under your control. The card is returned face up since the effect doesn't specify otherwise. The resulting creature is what the delayed triggered ability for returning Gift of Immortality itself calls "that creature," so as long as the creature is still on the battlefield then, Gift of Immortality will attach itself to that creature.

Q: Can I respond to morph?

A: Yes and no, depending on what you mean. You can't respond to the special action of turning a face-down creature face up. That action doesn't use the stack, so it can't be responded to and happens as soon as it's announced and the necessary cost is paid. However, if turning the creature face up triggers an ability, for example with Icefeather Aven, that ability still goes on the stack, and you can respond to it.

Q: Can I regenerate my opponent's creature to tap it so that it can't block?

A: No. Regenerating a creature doesn't do anything visible right away. It simply wraps the creature into an invisible protective bubble that does something the next time a rule or effect tries to destroy the creature during that turn. When that happens, the creature gets tapped and some other less interesting stuff happens instead of the creature being destroyed. This means that you'd also have to destroy the creature to tap it, but if you have a destroy spell readily available, that's already all you need to get rid of a would-be blocker!

It's raining frogs!
Q: My opponent plays a mono-green deck and I use Polymorphist's Jest in his upkeep to shut down his mana dorks. Does his Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx still produce green mana?

A: Yup. Polymorphist's Jest changes a lot of things about your opponent's creatures, but changing their mana costs isn't one of those things. Even though the creatures are blue now, they still have the same number of green mana symbols in their mana costs, and that is what devotion to green looks for.

Q: If I control a creature with power 4 or greater, can I cast Crater's Claws for just to deal 2 damage?

A: Sure, that works just fine. Choosing 0 for X is perfectly legal, and the ferocious effect adds 2 damage to that for free.

Q: My opponent and I are both at 2 life, and she swings with two 2/2 creatures. If I Deflecting Palm the damage from one of the attackers back at her, what happens?

A: In the combat damage step, one 2/2 punches through and deals 2 damage to you, while the damage from the other 2/2 is prevented. Immediately after that, Deflecting Palm deals 2 damage to your opponent. There is no state-based actions check in between those two events, so the fact that you reach 0 life just before your opponent doesn't matter. By the time state-based actions are checked, you're both at 0 life, so you both lose the game at the same time and the game ends in a draw.

Q: I control an Ornithopter that's a 5/5 because of Ensoul Artifact. My opponent targets it with Suspension Field. What happens?

A: Well, first off, Suspension Field's ability sees that its target indeed has toughness 3 or greater, so the ability resolves and exiles the Ornithopter with a duration of "until Suspension Field leaves the battlefield." Ensoul Artifact stays behind on the battlefield very briefly until state-based actions send it to the graveyard. The Ornithopter in the exile zone no longer has toughness 3 or greater, but that doesn't matter since Suspension Field's ability only cared about that when it was put on the stack and when it started to resolve. The exile effect doesn't constantly recheck the toughness, and the Ornithopter remains exiled as long as Suspension Field remains on the battlefield.

Q: Can I redirect damage from Purphoros, God of the Forge's ability to a planeswalker?

A: Absolutely! The redirection rule applies to any noncombat damage that a source you control would deal to an opponent, and that's exactly what Purphoros is doing with its ability. The fact that your opponent is not being targeted by the ability doesn't matter in the slightest.

Q: If I target two of my creatures with Abzan Charm and one gets killed in response, can I put two counters on the creature that's left?

A: Sorry, no such luck. When you cast Abzan Charm, you locked in the targets and the distribution that each target gets one +1/+1. When Abzan Charm resolves, it does as much of that as possible, which means that the target that's left gets one counter and the counter for the other target is simply lost.

Q: Suppose I bestow my opponent's creature with Crystalline Nautilus and then I blow it up by targeting it with an ability. Does the Nautilus come back as a creature under his control or under my control?

A: The Nautilus doesn't actually leave the battlefield and come back. It stays on the battlefield, stops being an Aura and goes back to being a creature. You controlled it when it was an Aura, and you continue to control it when it is a creature.

Q: If I control Reflecting Pool and Cavern of Souls, what kind of mana can Reflecting Pool tap for?

A: Reflecting Pool only cares about the type of mana that could be produced, which means only the color or lack thereof. Type of mana does not include any spending restrictions or additional effects. Since Cavern of Souls can tap for mana of any color, so can Reflecting Pool. That mana can be spent on anything, but it won't make your creature spells uncounterable.

It's raining pigs!
Q: If I control Battlefield Thaumaturge, can I cast Curse of the Swine on all my opponent's creatures for just ?

A: Certainly! Many players believe that an X spell looks at how much was paid and scale the effect accordingly, but the truth is actually the other way around. To cast Curse of the Swine, you choose the X you want, and then you calculate the corresponding cost. Since Curse of the Swine targets X creatures, Battlefield Thaumaturge gives you a discount of , so the total cost is always regardless of which value you choose for X.

Q: My opponent controls a Qasali Pridemage that's ready to pounce on whatever enchantment or artifact I'm foolish enough to play. If I cast Birthing Pod, will I get the chance to activate it once before my opponent throws his cat at it even though its ability can only be activated at a time I could cast a sorcery?

A: Yup! After Birthing Pod resolves, the game is still in your main phase, and you get priority first because you're the active player. Also, the stack is empty assuming that no triggered abilities were set off by Birthing Pod entering the battlefield. This means that the conditions for activating Birthing Pod's ability are met, and your opponent can't activate Qasali Pridemage's ability until you pass priority.

Q: Let's say Akroma, Angel of Fury is my commander, she gets bounced to my hand somehow, and I replay her face down. If I deal combat damage with her, does that damage count as commander damage, and if so, how do I prove to my opponent that the creature is my commander?

A: Well, the answer to the first part of that question is yes. "Commanderness" is a quality that's inherent in the physical card regardless of any changes to its characteristics from continuous effects or things like being face down, so even while being face-down, Akroma is still your commander. If your opponents don't want to take your word for it that the face down creature is Akroma, you can simply reveal the card to them to prove it. The identity of your face down creatures is private information that's only available to you, and the game rules allow you to reveal such information to other players as you see fit.

Q: I have taken over my opponent's turn with Worst Fears and he has Phyrexian Dreadnought in hand. He doesn't have enough creatures in play to add up to power 12. Can I make him play the Dreadnought and then sac all his creatures including the Dreadnought?

A: Sure, that's legal and deliciously evil. The Dreadnought's ability gives your opponent two choices. One choice is to sacrifice any number of creatures with total power 12 or greater. The other choice is to sacrifice the Dreadnought itself. Since the former choice doesn't say "other creatures", including the Dreadnought in that option is perfectly valid, and the total power is indeed greater than 12, so that is a legal choice even if the player would not normally do this himself.

Q: If my opponent takes a mulligan, does that fulfill the condition for me to cast Archive Trap for free on my first turn?

A: No, for two reasons. First off, Archive Trap doesn't care about your opponent having shuffled his or her library. It cares about him or her having searched their library, and taking a mulligan doesn't involve searching the library. Also, taking mulligans is part of the pre-game procedure that happens before the first turn starts, so those happen well before the turn in which Archive Trap checks its condition.

Q: Willow and Tara are playing Two-Headed Giant against Rupert and Wesley. Willow casts Volcanic Offering and picks Rupert to choose the targets of an opponent's choice. Can Rupert target a hexproof creature that Tara controls?

A: Yes, that's perfectly legal. Hexproof on Tara's creature means that the creature can't be targeted by a spell or ability that's controlled by Tara's opponents. It doesn't matter to hexproof who actually chooses the target. The spell is controlled by Tara's teammate, so Tara's hexproof creature has no objection to being selected as a target.

Q: I'm in a tournament and time's up in the round, so my opponent and I are playing our five additional turns. What happens if I blow up my Ugin's Nexus now?

A: Ugin's Nexus tries to give you an extra turn, but it doesn't add any additional turns to your game, so whether the extra turn actually happens depends on whether there are still any additional turns to play. For example, if you blow up Ugin's Nexus on turn five, the effect is wasted because the tournament rules end the game before you get the chance to take that extra turn. If you'd normally take turns one, three, and five, and you blow up Ugin's Nexus on turn one, you'll instead take turns one, two, and four.

And speaking of time being up, that's all the time we have for this week. Please come back next week to see what Callum has in store for us!

- Carsten Haese

About the Author:
Carsten Haese is a former Level 2 judge based in Toledo, OH. He is retired from active judging, but he still writes for Cranial Insertion and helps organize an annual charity Magic tournament that benefits the National MS Society.

On the Birthing Pod question, I take it that if an ability triggers off of the Pod entering the battlefield - for example, if a Battered Golem is on the battlefield - the opponent can destroy the Pod before it can be activated?
#1 • Date: 2014-12-01 • Time: 16:33:30 •
Quote (AluminumAngel):
On the Birthing Pod question, I take it that if an ability triggers off of the Pod entering the battlefield - for example, if a Battered Golem is on the battlefield - the opponent can destroy the Pod before it can be activated?

That's correct.
#2 • Date: 2014-12-01 • Time: 18:09:48 •

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