Published on 12/08/2014

It's Beginning to Look...

A Bit Disgusting

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Moko left us 'presents', all right...
Hello and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! The CI offices are looking much more festive these days now that we've cleaned up Moko's Thanksgiving leftovers and started to put up our holiday decorations. (He's a very messy eater.) Someone's even painted the walls red and green!

...Wait, no, that's just more of Moko's leftovers. Excuse me, I need to go look up a good cleaning service that doesn't ask awkward questions. Speaking of questions, though, while I'm doing that how about I leave you with some much-less-awkward rules questions?

As always, if you'd like us to answer your own questions, send them to us by email at , or send the shorter ones via Twitter @CranialTweet. You'll get an answer and possibly see your question in an upcoming edition of Cranial Insertion. Now where did I put that phone book?

Q: Does the answer about Crater's Claws from last week's article mean that if I control Pyromancer's Gauntlet, I can cast Crater's Claws for X=0 and still have it deal 2 damage even if I don't have ferocious?

A: No, it doesn't. If you cast a Claws for X=0 without ferocious, it won't deal any damage, even if you control Pyromancer's Gauntlet.

Pyromancer's Gauntlet wants to replace your instants and sorceries dealing damage with them dealing more damage, but if your Claws has an X of 0 and you don't have ferocious, it will try to deal 0 damage, which is the same as not dealing damage at all. And since Crater's Claws isn't dealing any damage, the Gauntlet doesn't kick in.

Q: Another followup from last week: if I have Gift of Immortality on a face-down creature and that creature dies, it returns face-up and the Gift comes back. But what if it's Zoetic Cavern?

A: Just like last week, and for the same reason, the creature will come back face-up. It doesn't actually matter that it isn't a creature once it hits the graveyard—the Gift's ability returns whatever it was that the Gift was enchanting, regardless of what it happens to look like in the graveyard. In the case of Zoetic Cavern, that means it's coming back as a land.

However, unlike last week, the Gift won't be coming back. At the end of the turn it will try to return itself to the battlefield attached to the Caverns, but Gift of Immortality can only enchant a creature, and the Cavern isn't a creature any more. An Aura that's trying to enter the battlefield attached to something it can't legally be attached to remains where it is instead, so the Gift will stay right where it is in your graveyard.

Q: Lets say I cast Brimstone Volley, then copy it. The original kills the creature I targeted. Does the copy then do 5 damage because of its morbid ability?

A: Almost, but you have the order the wrong way around. When you copy your Brimstone Volley, it's put on top of the stack, and since the stack resolves from the top down, the copy is the one that's going to resolve first. Assuming morbid isn't active already, that copy will only deal 3 damage. But yes, if the damage from the copy manages to kill its target, the original spell will deal 5 damage thanks to morbid.

This means that if you want to kill something with 5 toughness with one of your Volleys, you need to cast the original targeting that, and then make your copy target something smaller that 3 damage will be enough to kill.

Q: If I use Dualcaster Mage to copy my Volcanic Offering, do I choose all four targets for the copy, or do I pick another opponent to choose two of them?

A: Yes, you get to choose all four targets. Dualcaster Mage says you get to choose new targets for the copy of Volcanic Offering, and it means just that—you choose those targets, even the ones that the spell normally has one of your opponents choose.

Q: Say I control a Temur Ascendancy; when is the last possible opportunity I have to cast a creature with flash and have it still be able to attack?

A: The beginning of combat step of the combat phase. The step after that one is the Declare Attackers step, and declaring attackers is the very first thing that happens in that step, before any player has the opportunity to cast any spells.

Note that since it's your turn, you can't wait to see if your opponent wants to do anything in the beginning of combat step if you want to guarantee you get a chance to cast your flash creature. You get priority first, and you need to cast your flash creature immediately once you do. If you pass priority to your opponent to see if she'll do anything first, she can pass it right back without doing anything and cause the game to advance into the declare attackers step, stranding your flash creature in your hand, unable to attack.

Q: With Retribution of the Ancients and Horobi, Death's Wail out, may I pay one black mana to activate the enchantment's ability without paying the +1/+1 counter cost and target a creature for a -0/-0, just so Horobi triggers?

A: Absolutely. Retribution doesn't say otherwise, so it's legal to choose an X of 0 for its ability. That won't generally accomplish anything other than making the creature the target of an ability, but that's all Horobi needs to jump in and destroy whatever it was you targeted.

It's just a jump to the left!
Q: Why are recent damage-redirection cards like Divine Deflection worded so differently than old cards like Captain's Maneuver? Don't they do the same thing?

A: Conceptually, yes—the basic idea behind both is that you're causing something else to get hurt instead of you. However, they're worded very differently because they each accomplish that task in a very different way, and those differing implementations mean the details often differ.

Captain's Maneuver is very straightforward—it causes whatever's trying to deal damage to deal that damage to something else instead. Divine Deflection, on the other hand, prevents the original damage, and then the Deflection itself deals an amount of damage equal to whatever it prevented to something else.

The key point of difference is that the Maneuver doesn't prevent anything and doesn't change the source of the damage, while the Deflection does. This means that things that care about the original source dealing damage such as lifelink or a saboteur ability will still work with the Maneuver, because it's still the same thing dealing the damage, but the Deflection will stop them cold because the Deflection means the original source doesn't deal that damage.

It also means that effects that stop damage prevention, such as Skullcrack, will stop effects like Divine Deflection when they wouldn't do anything against Captain's Maneuver, which doesn't prevent damage.

Q: My opponent attacks me with Nether Horror, Toxic Nim, and Silent Specter and I use Captain's Maneuver to redirect 4 of that damage from me to them. How do I handle the damage redirection with normal combat damage, infect, and a combat damage triggered ability going on all at once?

A: Since all the damage is being dealt at the same time, you can choose which 4 of that damage you want the Maneuver to redirect elsewhere. Redirecting 4 from one of the creatures and none from the other two is legal; so is redirecting 3 from one of them and 1 from either of the others, and so is redirecting 2 from one and one from each of the others. However you want to make the split is just fine.

Q: If I copy a spell that has multiple effects to choose from, say Invoke the Firemind, do the copies have to do the same thing as the original? Or can I draw X cards with the original and deal X damage with the copy?

A: Copies of a modal spell like Invoke the Firemind (or, more recently, Temur Charm) will have the same mode choice as the original spell that you copied. Dualcaster Mage and similar effects may have you select different targets, but they don't let you change other casting decisions, like modes or the value of X.

Q: God cards such as Heliod, God of the Sun don't count as creatures if your devotion isn't high enough. So does this mean that, if my devotion to white is only one or two, I canNOT use Elvish Piper to put Heliod into play?

A: No, it doesn't; you can always use Elvish Piper to put a Heliod onto the battlefield, no matter what your devotion to white may be.

The ability that stops Heliod from being a creature only functions while he's on the battlefield. Since the ability doesn't work in your hand, Heliod is always a creature card while in your hand, and is thus always a legal choice to put onto the battlefield with Elvish Piper.

Q: If I cast Assault Suit and equip it to a creature, and then have an opponent gain control of the creature, does that mean that that opponent can't use that creature to attack me or a planeswalker I control, or does the "you" of Assault Suit's text become whomever currently controls the creature?

A: The "you" in Assault Suit's text means whoever currently controls Assault Suit, and unless your opponent stole the Suit somehow, that's still going to be you, regardless of who controls the creature, because gaining control of a creature doesn't automatically give you control of things that are attached to it.

Q: Since the last spell played resolves first, can I play Return to the Ranks, use my creatures to pay the convoke cost, then respond with Fated Retribution, and effectively have my creatures stay on the board?

A: Well, Return to the Ranks will indeed resolve second, so once the dust settles and the stack clears, whatever you Returned will indeed be on the battlefield, but there's no way for any of those creatures to be any of the same ones you tapped to cast the Return in the first place.

You choose targets for Return to the Ranks at the time you're casting it, and since the creatures you're tapping to pay for it aren't in the graveyard, they aren't legal targets.

Q: If I have let's say 2 Frontline Medics and Mardu Ascendancy out and I attack with both Medics, battalion won't trigger, right?

A: That's correct. Battalion triggers such as the Medic's require that you declare at least three creatures as attackers as the declare attackers step of combat begins, and you only declared two. The fact that a third (and fourth) attacker entered the fray shortly afterwards doesn't matter, because the condition Battalion is looking for still didn't happen.

Q: If Song of the Dryads is removed from a creature does it reacquire summoning sickness?

A: Summoning sickness doesn't have anything to do with how long something has been a creature, only how long it's been under the same person's control. Casting Song of the Dryads on a creature that isn't summoning sick and then removing it won't cause that creature to become sick, because its controller hasn't changed.

A permanent will be summoning sick if and only if it's currently a creature and it has not been continuously under the control of its current controller since the beginning of that player's most recent turn.

Q: Are morph creatures tokens? Same goes for cards like Ixidron... are the face down creatures tokens when he comes into play? I'm just wondering if these creatures are tokens because usually cards specifically state if they are.

A: No, they aren't; tokens and cards are completely different things.

A token is an imaginary game object with no actual physical representation in-game, which you can decide to illustrate with whatever you have handy, whether that's a die, a scraps of paper, a token card from a booster pack, or your pet cat. (Note: cats make terrible tokens.) A card, on the other hand, is a game object that has an actual in-game representation in the form of an actual Magic card. A card can never become a token, and vice versa.

There are some people who occasionally use cards from their graveyard or spare Magic cards lying around to represent tokens. These people are evil and must be stopped. (To those people: I'm sorry for calling you evil. But you still must be stopped.)

Not even imaginary payment required.
Q: Am I able to have a Aether Vial at 3 charge counters and use it to drop Phyrexian Metamorph if I pay the 2 life? Or do I have to have 4 charge counters on the Vial before I can drop the Metamorph?

A: No, for the same reason you can't drop a Clone with your three-counter Vial if you pay . Vial doesn't have any interest in paying any of the costs of the creature you're dropping—it only checks whether or not the converted mana cost of the card you want to drop matches up with the number of counters on the Vial. If there's a match, you can drop it. If there isn't, you can't. You can't try paying partial costs to cheat things out before the numbers actually match.

Q: If I say Tooth and Nail in a Mycoloth and a Sutured Ghoul, can I exile for the ghoul what I sacrificed with the devour?

A: No, you can't. For replacement effects you first need to lay out exactly how all the involved replacements are going to affect the event that's about to happen, and only after making all of those decisions will anything actually happen and things actually start moving.

This means that at the time you're deciding what to exile for the Ghoul, the things you want to devour for Mycoloth are still on the battlefield, and thus aren't legal choices. They won't be put into the graveyard until your Mycoloth and Ghoul are actually put onto the battlefield, which will be after you've chosen the parts for your zombie.

Q: Can you cast a spell from your graveyard with flashback if it was countered or milled?

A: Absolutely. You can cast any spell with flashback from your graveyard for its flashback cost, regardless of how it got there. All that matters is that it has flashback and is in your graveyard—the game doesn't care at all how it got there or where it was before it arrived.

Q: I am a bit confused about how to exile spells to buff Nivmagus Elemental. From where are the instants and/or sorceries exiled? My hand? My graveyard?

A: None of the above—they're actually exiled from the stack. You need to cast an instant or sorcery spell, and use the Elemental to exile it before it can resolve. That spell won't resolve, so none of its effects will occur, but at least you'll be left with a bigger Elemental.

Q: Can you use cards from a Commander set in a Modern deck?

A: Not if they haven't been printed in a Modern-legal set. (That is: a core set or expansion set printed from Eighth Edition forward.)

Supplemental sets and products like the Commander decks don't affect a card's format legality; cards from those products and sets that haven't been printed elsewhere will only be legal in Vintage and Legacy.

Q: Black Cat is making me discard a card "at random". Does this mean I have to shuffle my hand and I pick one without looking, or my opponent just picks a card without looking?

A: Either one of those is probably going to be fine—the game doesn't specify a "correct" way to choose at random, so as long as each card has an equal probability of being selected, exactly how the selection is performed doesn't matter.

Any method both you and your opponent agree is random is most likely acceptable.

Q: What happens if you re-order your graveyard in a Vintage or Legacy event? We know you are not supposed to change the order since some cards care about the order, but if someone does, what would the punishment be? Does it depend on the event?

A: Accidentally reordering your graveyard when you're not supposed to (which means: when playing Vintage or Legacy) is against the game rules. At a Regular-level event, such as an FNM, determining the proper fix is up to the judge, but there's not likely to be much more involved than an admonition not to do it again. At a Competitive or higher event, it's an example of a Game Rules Violation infraction, for which the default penalty is a Warning.

If you're doing it intentionally when you know you're not supposed to, however, that is of course Cheating and will get you disqualified at any level of play.

Hm, I'm not having much luck—go figure, none of the services I can find in here mention anything about bloodstains. I wonder if the police will get suspicious if I ask for the name of the service they bring in to clean up the really messy murder scenes?

That's it for today, folks; be sure to come back next week when Eli will be dishing up another heaping helping of rules questions.

- 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.

On the Nivmagus Elemental question: People often refer to Instants and Sorceries as "spells," but this is just player slang. In the magic rules, the word "spell" means a card on the stack.* This includes pretty much all the nonland cards: Artifacts, Enchantments, Creatures and Planeswalkers, as well as Instants and Sorceries while they are on the stack. So the only way to have a spell you can sacrifice to Nivmagus Elemental is to cast a spell from your hand and then sacrifice it before the spell can resolve. Not always a great trade, but it's worth noting you can use the Elemental on spells that are about to get countered. (e.g. You cast Lightning Bolt, I respond with Cancel, you can respond by sac'ing the Bolt to your Elemental, so at least you can get something out of it.)

(*A copy of a spell on the stack is also a spell, so not all spells are cards.)

#1 • Date: 2014-12-11 • Time: 13:39:26 •

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