Published on 12/29/2014

Bouncing off the Walls

or, They Are No Longer Decked

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Beebles are eternal and unstoppable
just like the Eldrazi and Phyrexians.
Welcome back for the best holiday edition of Cranial Insertion. This one is clearly better than the last few articles because the writers have finally let me out of my cage to throw together some words for you all.

It's been a while since my last article, so introductions are in order. Look at the top left of the page. See that chimpanzee digging through mail? That's me. Moko. Hi there. Eli killed me after the very first article, and Thijs Zombified me in the second. I'm Gruul with a splash of black and enjoy eating only the finest brains. Or any brains. Yeah, I think I mean any brains.

So let's see if yours are up for the challenge. Try to answer these questions and then click the button to see the answers after you think you know. If you get them all right, perhaps I'll visit you some night.

You can send more questions for the regular writers to me at or Twitter at them @CranialTweet. I gladly accept bribes.

Not that it changes anything. I just accept them.

Q: You control three permanents with extort and cast a spell. How much white and/or black mana can you pay for how much total life drain at the very most?

A: The right answer, without sufficient bribery otherwise, are...

A: One mana to drain 1 life.
B: One mana to drain 3 life.
C: Three mana to drain 3 life.
D: Three mana to drain 9 life.
E: Any amount of mana to drain that much life.
F: Any amount of mana to drain three times as much life.

The answer is
C, pay three, drain 3!

Extort is a triggered ability that triggers when you cast a spell, and on resolution it asks you whether you wish to pay (w/b). If you do, the effect drains 1 life from your opponent. If you don't, it doesn't. Since you control three permanents with extort, casting a spell triggers three separate and independent instances of extort, and each one gives you the option of paying one mana to drain 1 life.

Q: Which of these can Disdainful Stroke counter?

A: Choose all that are worthy of this disdain...

A: Boon Satyr being bestowed onto a creature
B: Launch the Fleet that's targeting four targets
C: Treasure Cruise that's paid for with and exiling five cards.
D: Hooded Hydra cast with X=2
E: Hooded Hydra being turned face up

The answers are
C and D.

Disdainful Stroke cares about the converted mana cost of the spell you're targeting, and the converted mana cost (CMC) is a number that's based on the mana cost, which is the string of mana symbols that's printed in the top right corner of the card. That number has very little to do with how much mana a player has spent, might spend, or will spend to cast the card.

Boon Satyr's CMC is 3 regardless of whether it's being bestowed, and Launch the Fleet's CMC is always 1 regardless of how many targets it has, so those spells don't cause enough disdain to be stricken.

Conversely, Treasure Cruise's CMC is always 8 even if it's being cast for less than 8 mana. Hooded Hydra can be countered with Disdainful Stroke if X is at least 2 because the chosen value for X counts when calculating the CMC of a spell on the stack.

Turning a face-down creature face up is a special action that can't be countered at all, let alone with Disdainful Stroke.

Q: You control a Runeclaw Bear that's equipped with Dragon Throne of Tarkir and you activate its ability. In response, your opponent sacrifices her Blood Pet and casts Tragic Slip on your Bear with the resulting mana. What happens when the Dragon Throne ability resolves?

A: The slippery answer is...

A: Nothing happens.
B: Your other creatures only gain trample.
C: Your other creatures gain trample and get +1/+1.
D: Your other creatures gain trample and get +2/+2.
E: Your other creatures gain trample and get -11/-11.

The answer is
E! An E is right!

First off, Tragic Slip's effect is morbid because of the Blood Pet having died, so your Bear gets -13/-13. This turns your Bear into a pitiful -11/-11 creature that dies as soon as state-based actions take a look at it after Tragic Slip has resolved. The ability that the Throne gave the Bear still resolves, although you'll probably wish it wouldn't. It looks at the power of your Bear, but your Bear isn't around anymore, so the ability uses the last known information from when your Bear was last seen on the battlefield. At that time your Bear's power was -11. In many cases, the game will use zero rather than use a negative number, but this isn't one of those cases because the number is used to modify a creature's power and toughness.

For those who are new to Cranial Insertion quiz articles, by the way, E is almost never the right answer.

Q: I cast Show and Tell. I choose to put a Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur onto the battlefield, and my opponent chooses a Chains of Mephistopheles. What happens at the beginning of my end step?

A: Auguries tell me your answer is...

A: You'll draw seven cards, then discard seven cards.
B: You'll discard seven cards, then draw seven cards. If you don't have seven cards to discard, you'll put the top seven cards of your library into your graveyard instead.
C: You'll discard a card, then draw a card, then discard a card, then draw a card, then discard a card, then draw a card, then discard a card, then draw a card, then discard a card, then draw a card, then discard a card, then draw a card, then discard a card, then draw a card, unless you had no cards in hand to begin with, in which case you'll just put the top seven cards of your library into your graveyard instead of doing anything else.
D: You'll put the top seven cards of your library into your graveyard and discard your hand.
E: You'll wish you'd chosen something else for that Show and Tell.

The answer is
C, and possibly also E. Chains of Mephistopheles applies to each of the seven cards Jin-Gitaxias instructs you to draw, and replaces each one with discarding a card and then drawing, or with putting the top card of your library into your graveyard if you're unable to discard.

Q: I want to cast a Treasure Cruise. Which of the following are legal ways to pay for it?

A: You can try to cruise into the answers of...

A: Pay .
B: Pay and exile 7 cards from your graveyard.
C: Pay , and exile one blue card and 4 non-blue cards from your graveyard.
D: Pay , and exile 4 cards from your graveyard.
E: Pay , and exile 8 cards from your graveyard.
F: Pay and sacrifice a chicken.

The answer is
A, B and D are all ways you can pay for a Treasure Cruise. But unlike convoke, delving away cards with a specific color can't pay for mana symbols of that color, so C doesn't work — a blue card can only ever pay for , not for . And you can't "overpay" delve, so E is out too.

Q: My opponent controls Anafenza, the Foremost. Which of the following cards would Anafenza exile if they were about to be put into my graveyard?

A: Among the foremost exiled cards are...

A: A bestowed Boon Satyr.
B: A Butcher of the Horde.
C: An animated Inkmoth Nexus.
D: A face-down Zoetic Cavern.
E: A Queen of Hearts.

The answer is
B, C and D. Anafenza creates a replacement effect, which has to apply before the event it replaces would happen (in order to replace it with something else). So she looks at the characteristics of the thing that's about to be put into the graveyard, not the characteristics it would have in the graveyard. A bestowed Boon Satyr is not a creature (it's an Aura), so she won't exile it. Butcher of the Horde is always a creature, so it will get exiled. Inkmoth Nexus and Zoetic Cavern are lands as printed, but when animated and when face-down are creatures so Anafenza will get them too. And a Queen of Hearts is not even a Magic card, let alone a creature, so she can run as fast as she can just to stay where she is... preferably in some other deck.

Q: You have a Sylvan Library on the battlefield, and during your upkeep, you cast Brainstorm, drawing Terminus as the first card and revealing it for miracle, and drawing and replacing Tarmogoyf and another card. You cast Terminus off of Miracle, and it gets hit with a Remand, returning to your hand. Still in your upkeep, you cast Dig Through Time, putting that Tarmogoyf into your hand along with a Strip Mine that was deeper in your library. During your draw step, you dredge a Darkblast on your draw for the turn and draw two Tropical Islands with Sylvan Library. (It's a weird deck.)

After all that, which (if any) of the following cards is it legal for you to choose to put on top with your Library?

A: The answers are...

A: Terminus
B: Tarmogoyf
C: Strip Mine
D: Tropical Island
E: Darkblast
F: Sylvan Library

The convoluated answers are
D, and only D.

Strip Mine and Darkblast were put into your hand, but the effects that put them there didn't use the word "draw", so they weren't "drawn" at all. And while Tarmogoyf and Terminus were initially drawn, once they left your hand they became new objects and so were no longer considered the same card as the one you drew, even if the same piece of paper represents them.

Not that one.
Q: Which of the following statements (if any) are true about the dredge mechanic?

A: The slimy answers are...

A: If your library is empty, you can use dredge to avoid decking yourself.
B: You can dredge while under the effects of Maralen of the Mornsong.
C: If you're resolving Treasure Cruise with only one dredge card in your graveyard, if your first "draw" turns up more dredge cards, you can dredge those cards for the second or third draws.
D: When you dredge, you can reorder the cards you put into your graveyard however you like.
E: It's the least broken and most fun mechanic in Magic.

The answer is
C and D are correct!

Since multiple draws are performed sequentially, cards you turn up during your first dredge will be in your graveyard and ready to be dredged themselves by the time you're asked to make the second draw. And since all the cards from a single dredge are put into the graveyard at exact the same time, you choose the order in which they end up relative to each other.

As for B, you can dredge your way out from under a card like Possessed Portal, but not Maralen of the Mornsong. The Portal and dredge both use replacement effects to change your draw, so as the affected player you can choose which to apply, but Maralen outright stops you from being able to draw cards at all, and without a draw to replace, dredge can't apply.

Dredge doesn't allow you to avoid decking yourself because it only applies if there's enough cards in your library to dredge in the first place. No cards means you can't dredge at all.

Q: I cast Farseek and use it to pull up a Steam Vents. Can I pay life to have it enter untapped?

A: The fetching answer is...

A: You may pay life, and then it enters tapped anyway.
B: You may pay life, and then it enters untapped.
C: You can't pay life, and it enters tapped.
D: You can order the triggers to get A, B, or C.
E: You can order the triggers to get E.

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the Vents
A, no untapped land for you.

Shocklands aren't asking you to pay to get them untapped. They're threatening you. "Pay life or so help me I will tap this land." Rude little things. You can give in to their threats if you want, but Farseek's going to tap the land if the Shockland ability doesn't, so it's pretty pointless.

Q: One player got out Dual Nature, I cast a Brine Elemental face down. What does the token look like? Then a third player guessed what it was and destroyed it after I got the token, does that also kill the token?

A: The answer is...

A: The token is a 2/2 blank, and it gets exiled after the original dies.
B: The token is a Brine Elemental, and it gets exiled after the original dies.
C: The token is a 2/2 blank, and it doesn't get exiled.
D: The token is a Brine Elemental, and it doesn't get exiled.
E: The token is Exile, and it gets Brine Elementaled.

The salty answer is
C, formless blobs are for life, not just the holidays.

When you copy a face-down creature, you get a 2/2 creature with no name, mana cost, color, or subtypes. You don't get a copy of what the face-down creature really is. When the face-down Brine Elemental dies, Dual Nature triggers and tries to find creatures with the same name as the dead creature. Remember how it had no name, though? The name isn't "This Space Intentionally Left Blank," it's just empty, so the name can't match to anything. The token survives to fight another day.

Q: My opponent controls Imposing Sovereign and I control Future Sight. First I cast Thassa, God of the Sea which reveals Ixidron, so I cast that, too. What happens?

A: Which of the following answers are true...

A: Thassa is tapped.
B: Thassa is face down.
C: Ixidron is tapped.
D: You choose whether B is true or not.
E: You choose whether C is true or not.
F: Your opponent chooses whether C is true or not.
G: Randomly choose whether C is true or not.
H: I, Moko, choose whether C is true or not.
I: Thassa, God of the C chooses whether C is true or not.
J: God of the C, C for Catwoman!

The mind-boggling answers are
C, and only C! The purrfect crime.

The key to everything here is to remember that you apply an object's abilities that affect itself specifically before applying replacement effects, and apply other effects after determining how all replacement effects will apply.

Thassa versus Imposing Sovereign: Apply Thassa's effect that affects itself. Your devotion to blue is currently three, so Thassa isn't a creature as far as replacement effects are concerned, and Imposing Sovereign doesn't care.

Thassa versus Ixidron: Ixidron asks who's a creature. Your devotion to blue is four - remember, Ixidron isn't on the battlefield yet - so Thassa doesn't respond. It'll be safe from turning face down.

Ixidron versus Imposing Sovereign: There's no order involved here, so there's no choice for anyone to make. Both effects will apply, and Imposing Sovereign will be turned face down and Ixidron will be tapped.

Ixidron, Thassa, and Imposing Sovereign versus the players: No one wins.

Q: Who can overrule an L2 Head Judge during a Competitive event?

A: The answers are...

A: An L3 judge at the event.
B: An L3 judge anywhere.
C: An L5 judge at the event.
D: An L5 judge anywhere.
E: The tournament organizer.
F: The Magic rules manager.
G: The Organized Play judge manager.
H: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
I: His Majesty Moko the Zombie Chimpanzee.
J: This potato chip I found behind the couch.

The answers judged correct are
None of the above!

During an event, the Head Judge is the final authority. Period. Even if that judge is being a complete idiot, the ruling is final. Now, that's not to say that there might not be consequences, or that a wrong ruling should carry any weight outside of the event - Magic is a game based on rules, not isolated rulings, and incorrect rulings don't somehow change the underlying rules.

The issue of politely informing a HJ that a ruling is totally dumb (so you can get the same HJ to overturn the ruling after additional consideration) is an art of tact and diplomacy that I've never cared for when I can just eat the HJ's entire skull and go home for a nap. That may be why I don't play in tournaments. But you, who aren't blessed with my dazzling jaw power, will have to show restraint, take one shot at explaining why the ruling is wrong, and accepting it if the HJ doesn't listen.

That's all for now, quizzes are tough. Gotta find questions with more than one reasonable wrong answer and have to stay away from general knowledge without delving into impossibly arcane shenanigans. If you managed to get all twelve questions right, then maybe you could handle arcane things before I eat your brain. Hmm.

If you got ten or eleven, you're definitely still smart and I should eat you next.

Have a happy new year, readers!

- Moko

About the Author:
Moko was born in Tanzania, and died in a tragic accident involving a catapult while being transported from Eli Shiffrin to Thijs van Ommen between the first two Cranial Insertion articles. Subsequently zombified, he helps sort their mail and occasionally answers questions. His pastimes include bananas and brains. Mmm brains.

Nice trick question.

Also, the formatting seems a little off for the Show and Tell, casting Treasure Cruise, and the Anafenza question.

Please dont eat my brains Moko
#1 • Date: 2014-12-28 • Time: 22:31:51 •
E: The token is Exile, and it gets Brine Elementaled.

Sheer brilliance :)
#2 • Date: 2014-12-29 • Time: 08:49:02 •
Re: Jin-Gitaxias & Mephistopheles
"...replaces each one with discarding a card and then drawing, or with putting the top card of your library into your graveyard if you're unable to discard."

So there are actually 8 possible outcomes, matching a hand with 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0 cards respectively, right? Of which 'C' only covers the first and last possibilities?

For example, if you had 1 card in hand, then it would be: You'll discard a card, then draw a card, then put the top 6 cards of your library into your graveyard.


#3 • Date: 2014-12-31 • Time: 01:48:37 •
No, take for example the 1 card in hand. Draws happen 1 at a time even though the card may read to \'draw X cards.\'

So as you correctly stated, you will discard your one card, then draw one. Then for your second card you now have 1 card in hand, in which case you will discard it and then draw 1 card. And then for the 3rd you will do the same. etc

So if you only have 1 card in hand at the start its not very interesting, it is discard 1, mill 6, draw 1.

If you have any more cards in hand, you now get to choose what to discard. The card you discard could be the card you just drew before, or one you had in your hand at the beginning, it doesn\'t matter.

I hope that helps.
#4 • Date: 2015-01-01 • Time: 14:51:09 •

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