Published on 01/05/2015

Five by Five

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Fireworks on Tarkir
Happy New Year, and welcome to the first edition of Cranial Insertion in 2015! If you've been paying attention to the history of this column, you'll know that 2015 is a big year for Cranial Insertion and for myself. I started writing regularly for Cranial Insertion back in 2010, so this year is my fifth anniversary, which is a pretty significant milestone in itself, but it pales in comparison to Cranial Insertion as a column, which will celebrate its ten year anniversary this year! That's quite the accomplishment, and I hope that we can keep it going for many more years.

If you want to help us keep this column going, please make it your New Year's resolution to send us lots of rules questions to answer. You can email questions to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will reply with a direct answer, and your question might appear in a future article, possibly alongside an obscure pop-culture reference.

Without further ado, let us get to this week's selection of questions.

Q: My opponent says that he can respond to Hornet Queen with Hero's Downfall to keep me from getting Insect tokens from it. Is that true?

A: No, that is a common occurrence of wishful thinking, but wishing doesn't make it so. The truth is that responding to Hornet Queen is illegal, because Hero's Downfall can't target the spell on the stack, and casting Hero's Downfall after the Queen has resolved is ineffectual. By the time your opponent can destroy the Queen, the triggered ability for making the tokens is already on the stack, independently from its source, and the ability will resolve even if the source gets destroyed.

Q: I control Dragon-Style Twins and my opponent tries to Murder them. If I respond with Stubborn Denial, will its ferocious effect kick in?

A: Yup! Stubborn Denial is a noncreature spell, so casting it triggers the Twins' prowess ability. The ability goes on the stack above Stubborn Denial, so it'll resolve first. Stubborn Denial checks its ferocious condition when it resolves and it sees that you now control a creature with power 4.

Q: When a bestow creature stops enchanting a creature, does it reenter the battlefield so that Imposing Sovereign would tap it?

A: No. A bestowed Aura that stops being an Aura simply changes its characteristics from being an Aura enchantment to being an enchantment creature. It doesn't leave and re-enter the battlefield, so it doesn't trigger any enter-the-battlefield abilities and it's not subject to replacement effect that change how something enters the battlefield.

Q: Can I target my Agent of the Fates with Doom Blade just to trigger heroic?

A: No, that's illegal. In order to cast Doom Blade, you need to pick a legal target, and Agent of the Fates does not fit Doom Blade's targeting criteria of "nonblack creature."

Q: If I attack with Heir of the Wilds, Goblin Rabblemaster, and two other Goblins, can I stack the triggers so that the Rabblemaster pumps itself and enables Heir of the Wilds's ferocious trigger?

A: No, that's not possible. Heir of the Wilds's ability has an intervening if-clause that is checked not once, but twice. In addition to being checked on resolution like a normal if-clause, an intervening if-clause is also checked at the moment the ability triggers in the first place, and if the condition isn't true at that time, the ability doesn't even trigger. At the moment the Heir attacked, you didn't control any creatures with power 4 or greater, so the ability didn't trigger and didn't go on the stack at all.

Q: I control Goblin Rabblemaster and I just got a token from its ability. Can I tap the Rabblemaster and the token to convoke Stoke the Flames instead of attacking with them?

A: Sure, that's no problem. The Goblin-making ability triggers and resolves in the beginning of combat step, which happens before the declare attackers step. After the ability resolves, you get the chance to cast spells and activate abilities, so you can cast Stoke the Flames then.

Q: Can I cast Desolation Giant without kicker and in response to its trigger trade it to my opponent so that it'll destroy my opponent's creatures?

A: Well, you can do those things, but that won't have the end result you're hoping for. The "you" in Desolation Giant's ability refers to the controller of the triggered ability, which is not necessarily the same as Desolation Giant's current controller. The controller of a triggered ability is the player who controlled its source at the moment the ability triggered, so even if you give control of the Giant to your opponent in response to the ability, you controlled it at the time the ability triggered, so you control the ability.

The fondue is ready!
Q: If I control Hardened Scales and Corpsejack Menace, what happens if I put a +1/+1 counter on one of my creatures with Travel Preparations for example?

A: You choose between three or four counters for the creature. Both Corpsejack Menace and Hardened Scales create replacement effects that want to modify how your creature is affected by Travel Preparations, so you choose which of those effects to apply first. If you apply Corpsejack Menace's effect first, one counter gets doubled to two and then Hardened Scales adds one to make it three. If you apply Hardened Scales's effect first, it increases one counter to two and then Corpsejack Menace doubles that to four.

Q: My opponent is about to win on his next turn thanks to his empty library and a Laboratory Maniac, and I'm out of removal spells. Can I take over his turn with Worst Fears and force him to draw a card and lose rather than winning the game?

A: No, that doesn't work. Laboratory Maniac's ability doesn't involve a choice. It's a mandatory replacement effect that replaces drawing from an empty library with winning the game, so your opponent can't ignore the effect and you can't make him ignore it.

Q: Earlier in the turn, my opponent cast an enchantment to trigger Doomwake Giant's ability. Now he's attacking me and I cast Raise the Alarm to make a couple of blockers. My opponent says that the tokens die due to Doomwake Giant's ability. Is that right?

A: Not so much. The effect from Doomwake Giant's ability changes characteristics of objects, and as such the effect locks in what it applies to at the time it's created. Your Soldier tokens didn't exist at that time, so they won't be affected by Doomwake Giant's effect.

Q: Can I really cast Crater's Claws for 0? I thought X couldn't be 0.

A: You thought incorrectly. Unless stated otherwise, any nonnegative integer number can be chosen for X, which is why cards like Mind Grind and Helm of Obedience have to explicitly forbid X being 0. Crater's Claw has no such restriction, so 0 is a legal choice for X.

Q: I control a creature with power 4 or greater and I cast Crater's Claws. In response to Crater's Claws, my opponent destroys my big creature. Does Crater's Claws still deal 2 extra damage?

A: Nope, sorry. Crater's Claw doesn't lock in the ferocious effect when you cast it. It checks during resolution whether you currently control a creature with power 4 or greater, and since you don't it only deals X damage.

Q: If I Sneak Attack a Purphoros, God of the Forge onto the battlefield and I don't have enough devotion for it to be a creature, do I still have to sacrifice it at the end of the turn?

A: I'm afraid so. The phrase "that creature" refers to the particular permanent that the card became when it arrived on the battlefield, so it's essentially a shorthand version of the much less user-friendly description "that thing that's probably, but not necessarily, a creature." Since Purphoros is that thing regardless of whether it's currently a creature, you'll have to sacrifice it.

Q: I control a Steel Hellkite with a +1/+1 counter on it and Experiment Kraj. I attack only with Steel Hellkite and it deals combat damage to my opponent. Can I activate both the Hellkite's and Kraj's "blow stuff up" abilities, and if so, can I activate them for different values for X?

A: Well, you can activate both of them, but Kraj's instance of the ability will do absolutely nothing. The name "Steel Hellkite" in Steel Hellkite's ability isn't an absolute reference to anything named "Steel Hellkite". It is a reference to the object that has that ability. In other words, when Kraj gains Steel Hellkite's ability, you have to imagine the name "Steel Hellkite" being replaced with "Experiment Kraj." Since no player was dealt combat damage by Experiment Kraj this turn, activating its ability for varying values of X is merely an exercise in building varying subsets of the empty set, which may be a fascinating philosophical endeavor, but it won't help you win the game.

Q: If I discard a creature with undying, does it pop onto the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it?

A: Nice try, but no. Undying only triggers when the creature dies, which means it has to go from the battlefield to the graveyard. When you discard it, the card goes from your hand to the graveyard, so undying doesn't trigger.

Q: Let's say I attack with a creature and my opponent conjures a surprise Ambush Viper to block it. Can I tap the Viper with my Azorius Guildmage to prevent it from blocking?

A: Absolutely. Since declaring blockers is the very first thing that happens in the declare blockers step, your opponent has to cast the Viper in the declare attackers step after you've declared your attacker to have any hope of declaring it as a blocker. However, after the Viper has resolved, there is another round of priority passes that has to happen before the game moves on to the declare blockers step, which gives you the opportunity to activate the Guildmage and tap the Viper.

Q: My opponent casts a face down creature spell and pays 3 mana. If I reveal a card with converted mana cost 3 for Counterbalance, does that counter her spell?

A: Nope. Even though morph asks for a payment of 3 mana for casting the spell face down, the converted mana cost is based on the mana cost that's printed in the top right corner of the card, not on how much was paid for the spell. Since there is no mana cost on a face-down card, the converted mana cost is 0, so you'll have to reveal something with a converted mana cost of 0, such as a Memnite, a land, or something else that doesn't have a mana cost in order to get that spell countered.

Q: My opponent casts Decree of Pain in his main phase. I want to respond by tapping my mana dorks and cast Fresh Meat to get tokens. Can I do that?

A: Yes, if you do it correctly. You don't want to cast Fresh Meat in response to Decree of Pain, since Fresh Meat will resolve first and do a lot of nothing, and then Decree of Pain resolves and lays waste to your army of mana dorks. Instead, you just tap your Elves in response to Decree of Pain to add mana to your mana pool where it'll float and chill out for a bit and maybe play some Marco Polo while Decree of Pain is resolving. After Decree of Pain is done resolving, you pull the mana from the pool to cast Fresh Meat and you'll get a bunch of tokens.

Q: Can I cast suspend spells like Ancestral Vision with Narset, Enlightened Master's ability?

A: Yes, that works. While Ancestral Vision can't be cast normally because it has the unpayable mana cost of "this space intentionally left blank," you can cast it just fine if an effect gives it an alternative cost. The resolution of suspend's "time's up" trigger is one such effect, but any effect that gives Ancestral Vision an alternative cost will do. Narset's ability allows you to cast Ancestral Vision for the bargain-bin alternative cost of absolutely free, so you can cast it for that alternative cost.

Q: I've been reading up on Missed Trigger rules in the Infraction Procedure Guide, and it talks about "A triggered ability that changes the rules of the game" and that a player has to show awareness of such a trigger by preventing an opponent from taking any resulting illegal action. Can you give me an example of such a trigger?

A: With pleasure! The classic example for this kind of trigger is Pyreheart Wolf since it was a problem child in Standard at the time the current approach to the Missed Trigger rules was conceived, and this clause solves that problem rather neatly. The resolution of Pyreheart Wolf's attack trigger creates a blocking restriction, which is essentially a rule-changing effect, because it changes the rules for the declare blockers step. The controller of the trigger doesn't have to announce it when it triggers or resolves, but he or she has to point out if their opponent tries to declare a block that violates the blocking restriction that was created by the trigger. If the opponent declares a block that violates this restriction and the Wolf's controller allows it, the trigger is considered to have been missed.

And that brings this week's celebration to an end. Please come back next week when Callum presents the last pre-Fate Reforged issue!

- 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.


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