Published on 12/15/2014

... A Lot Like No

or, Hibernation Time

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Foglio's still life of
winter in New England.
In another instance of time flickering by way too fast, we're already at the end of 2014. Not that calendar years matter that much to any of us compared to the Magic year that starts at the end of September. But still, it's time for holidays, good cheer, abysmal snow storms, and paid vacation time!

But before I jet away to a tropical island or desert or something, I've got some questions to share with you all. If you've got more, send them over to or @CranialTweet for short ones, but someone else will have to get them because I'll be hiding from the cold, cold world somewhere warmer.

Q: After a 4/4 creature with double strike hits an opponent, will Impact Resonance split 4 or 8 damage?

A: You'll only get 4 damage. Impact Resonance checks each instance of one source dealing damage to one thing, and takes the greatest amount of damage it finds in one of those instances. It won't combine multiple instances to get the total damage dealt by one source.

Q: Will Lodestone Golem or Trinisphere interact with Treasure Cruise?

A: Everything interacts with everything, even if the interaction is only to sob softly because of not having a meaningful effect. In step five of casting a spell, you determine the total cost to pay by taking the chosen cost (), adding additional costs ), subtracting reductions (none, how sad), and then applying Trinisphere (spell costs 9, so it doesn't care). Delve modifies how you pay the of that, but that's later on and Trinisphere has missed its window to have an effect.

Q: How does Propaganda work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Creatures attack a team rather than attacking individual players. Unfortunately, if you're attacking a team, you're also attacking each player on that team. That makes Propaganda kick in and charge the creatures a toll of per axle to cross the battlefield.

Q: If I sac Bloodsoaked Champion to Butcher of the Horde for haste, then attack, can I activate Champion in time to bring it back for lifelink?

A: You have plenty of time to do that. The Champion's ability doesn't have any timing restriction listed, so you can activate it in the middle of combat. As soon as your Demon starts its way through the red zone, you have attacked with a creature, so the raid condition is satisfied. That means that you'll be able to bring it back only to die another horrible death in both the declare attackers step and the declare blockers step.

Q: Can I use the third mode of Abzan Charm to put all the counters on one creature but still target a second creature (to trigger heroic)?

A: When you're dividing damage or distributing counters among targets, each target must get at least one of that thing - 1 damage or one counter. In the case of the Charm, that means that if you have two targets, each will get one counter, and if you really want two counters on one creature, it must be the only target.

Splitting headaches never
looked so shiny.
Q: If I cast a spell without paying its mana cost, X has to be 0 if it has X. What if I cast Mind Grind this way, where X can't be 0?

A: Either a) this paradox destroys the very fabric of time and space, resulting in the obliteration of existence as we know it; or b) the restriction makes casting Mind Grind an illegal action. Option b seems better by a wide margin, so let's go with that. In Magic, when one thing says that something must happen and another thing says that thing can't happen, the "can't" wins out, and depending on the context this means that the "must" is ignored or the "must" combines with the "can't" to make the action overall impossible - the former usually comes with "if able" to make it easier to see, such as when "must block if able" and "can't block" conflict.

Q: Can I let my opponent get a Kor token from Nahiri, the Lithomancer and then kill it before it's equipped or Stifle the attachment or something?

A: If you want to Stifle the ability, you have to do so before it resolves. Once it begins to resolve, no player may take any voluntary actions like casting Doom Blade or Stifle. The game won't even jump in with its janitor, State-Based Actions, to clean up the token if there's some reason it shouldn't be on the battlefield. Once that ability begins to resolve, it'll do its thing.

Q: If Doubling Season gives me two tokens from Nahiri, the Lithomancer, do I get to attach one Equipment to both of them? Do I get to choose two Equipment and attach one to each?

A: Neither - you'll pick one of the tokens and attach one Equipment to it. When an instruction tells you to attach something to multiple things at once, you just pick one of those things to attach it to. You don't try to multiply the instruction for each of them or to cram two creatures into one suit of armor.

Q: When I throw an Ordeal of Purphoros on Satyr Hoplite and heroic gives it its third counter, does the Ordeal immediately pop?

A: The sacrifice for Ordeals is part of the same ability that places the +1/+1 counter. It triggers when the creature attacks, not when it just happens to have counters on it. You'll have to wait until you attack with your Hoplite, but on the plus side, it'll also add a fourth counter before being sacrificed for 3 damage.

Q: I saw something about Darksteel Reactor triggering infinitely under some conditions, and then I wondered why it doesn't always trigger infinitely and end the game. How do the rules make this work the way that makes sense?

A: Darksteel Reactor has what's called a "state trigger" - no relation to state-based actions other than that they both observe the game state and lie in wait like tigers stalking a tuna sandwich. A state trigger triggers immediately when the game state is met, without waiting for state-based actions to be performed or waiting for the point where triggers are put onto the stack, but once they have triggered, they will not trigger again until the resulting instance of the triggered ability has been put onto the stack and then left the stack in some way.

As a development rule, a state trigger will have some way of ensuring that once the triggered ability instance has resolved it won't trigger again. Darksteel Reactor does that by ending the game, which is pretty definitive for "no more triggers." However, if you can't win the game because of Platinum Angel, you can defeat the expectation and cause an infinite loop of triggers after one's resolved, grinding the game to a screeching halt.

Q: What does Magus of the Vineyard do in Commander when my opponents aren't running green?

A: The variant rules for the format already disallow mana symbols in your deck that don't match your commander, but then they go even further and disallow mana of that color from entering your mana pool! If your commander isn't green and someone tries to oh-so-generously give you green mana, you get that much colorless mana instead.

Q: If one opponent has Blazing Archon and I attack another opponent while I control Mardu Ascendancy, can I send the Goblin tokens at the Archon player?

A: You can do that. When a creature is put onto the battlefield attacking, check to see if the effect says who it's attacking. If there isn't a specified victim, you can pick any opponent or planeswalker an opponent controls. Blazing Archon's effect only modifies the declaration of attackers, and won't affect creatures that enter attacking. Which means...

Q: Can I attack a planeswalker if its controller has Blazing Archon?

A: ... that you can do exactly that, and then send the tokens at the player even if you're not in a multiplayer game. Planeswalkers you control don't fit under the happy shiny Two-Headed Giant aegis that lets Blazing Archon protect you and your teammate, so they'll be wide open and vulnerable.

Q: When a 4/4 creature with double strike and lifelink gets blocked by a 2/2, do I gain 2, 4, or 8 life?

A: You'll gain 4 life. Creatures in combat deal damage equal to their power, without a limitation of what they're hitting. Lifelink cares about how much damage was dealt, not how much damage needed to be dealt. Creatures can take more damage than they have toughness (similarly, players can be dealt more damage than they have life, and planeswalkers can be dealt more damage than they have loyalty). All together, that means that your critter will smack the other for twice what it needs to and give you four life.

But it won't smack the creature twice. After you move on from double-strike damage to regular damage, there's nothing there at all to deal damage to, so damage isn't dealt, and you don't gain another 4 life.

Q: Will Satyr Firedancer trigger if I Deflecting Palm combat damage at my opponent?

A: Yup! Deflecting Palm looks a lot like it redirects damage, but it doesn't, and the distinction is important here. It prevents the damage, and then Deflecting Palm itself deals the new damage, skipping out on lifelink or any "when this creature deals combat damage" triggers from the deflected creature. The source of damage isn't just Palm, but Palm as it last existed on the stack, where it was a spell you controlled, causing Satyr Firedancer to trigger.

Look kids! It's Santa!
Q: One of my opponents has Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite on the board and I have Sakura-Tribe Elder in hand. Can I cast the Elder and use its ability before Elesh Norn kills it?

A: After a spell resolves, the game does try to give the active player priority - but two things happen whenever the game tries to give a player priority. First it performs state-based actions (such as putting -1/-1 creatures into graveyards), then puts triggers on the stack, and only then does the player get priority. By that point, your Elder is already living in its new graveyard home, and its ability can't be activated from there.

Q: So Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite will stop me from getting Stoneforge Mystic's trigger, then, won't it?

A: When the game goes to the "puts triggers on the stack" step from the last answer, it doesn't care whether or not the source is still alive or whether the condition that cause the trigger is even still true. Stoneforge Mystic queued up its trigger as soon as it entered, so it'll still go on the stack there with a dead Mystic.

Q: I control Hardened Scales and kick Joraga Warcaller three times. Does it enter with four counters or six?

A: It'll only have four counters. In Magic, unlike in software coding, "for each" doesn't represent a loop unless it absolutely has to. Otherwise, it'll multiply the effect. For example:

Can you put one-times-three counters? Yes, that's four counters.

Can you gain one-times-five life? Yes, that's five life.

Can you sacrifice-it-unless-you-pay-3-life-times-three? Not really, I had trouble even typing it with all those hyphens.

Can you draw-a-card-times-three? No, but that's because a rule specifically says card draws are always sequential.

Q: Can Stubborn Denial counter anything I want if I've got a 4-power creature?

A: Nope, you'll counter "that spell." And what is "that spell?" It's the noncreature spell you targeted when you cast it! The ferocious replacement effect doesn't kick in until the spell's resolving, and the target is already chosen and locked in.

Q: I cast Silent Arbiter, Galvanic Juggernaut, and Woodvine Elemental, then realized I might have made a mistake. Can I attack with the Elemental at all now?

A: Not until your Juggernaut dies. You have to maximize requirements met without violating any restrictions. If the Juggernaut attacks, you meet one requirement. If it doesn't, you meet zero requirements. If it attacks along with Woodvine Elemental, you've violated a restriction. So attacking with the Juggernaut alone is the only legal choice you have.

Q: My opponent said "Naming?" when I cast Cabal Therapy so I told him "Force of Will". Then he tried to Spell Pierce it! It's too late for him to do that, right?

A: It's too late. Cabal Therapy's choice of name happens on resolution, not casting. If you jump the gun and say it too soon, your opponent can interrupt and make you back up to respond to the spell, but if your opponent lets you resolve it, either explicitly with "it resolves" or implicitly by asking you what to name as it resolves, he can't back up if he realizes that wasn't what he meant to do.

Q: My opponent exiled three cards and spent to cast Murderous Cut targeting my Narset, Enlightened Master. I point out that that's illegal. So now does my opponent lose the Cut, the delved cards, the mana, or all three, or what?

A: None of that. Illegal plays are rewound entirely. Put the spell card back in hand, the delved cards back in the graveyard, and untap the lands that generated the mana. In some edge cases, some of that rewind may not be possible (most commonly mana abilities that revealed new information), but start with this as the rule of thumb.

And that's time for me to sign off for the year. I'll be back for the Fate Reforged special in January, when we celebrate our travels forward in time by traveling back a thousand years. Because when you're a warlord on a devastated plane with zero awesome dragons, you get bored enough to develop time travel.

Until next time, chag urim sameach, merry Christmas, happy vacations, and have a safe entrance into the new year!

- Eli Shiffrin

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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