Published on 02/09/2015

Leashing the Monster

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion!

After traveling back in time over a millennium, the planeswalker Sarkhan Vol has successfully reforged the fate of his homeworld by healing the mighty Spirit Dragon Ugin and in doing so saving the dragons of his home plane from their long-past extinction. He's also revived possibly the multiverse's best hope for dealing with the monstrous threat of the Eldrazi titans, who we last saw devouring the plane of Zendikar piece by piece.

But of course, the Eldrazi aren't the only monsters to be found in the multiverse. The dragon planeswalker Nicol Bolas, the one who defeated Ugin (through the vilest of treachery) in the first place, is also out there...somewhere. Watching, plotting, and letting out a self-satisfied evil chuckle every so often as events unfold. We don't know where he is, sadly; if we did, we could tell Ugin and get him to sort the smug jerk out.

Maybe you can help us with that. If you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of Nicol Bolas, send us that information encoded into a Magic rules question. (Wouldn't want to tip him off—I think he's reading our email.) We'll acknowledge receipt by sending you an answer, and possibly use your question to help broadcast the message to Ugin by encoding it in an upcoming article.

But for now, enjoy a hearty helping of rules questions that definitely don't have any secret messages to help bring about the downfall of Nicol Bolas encoded into them.

...You think he bought it?

Q: I cast Wild Slash on my opponent's 2-toughness creature while I have ferocious, and my opponent responds with Gods Willing to protect it. Since damage can't be prevented, does the creature still take 2 damage?

A: No, it doesn't. You're right that if damage can't be prevented, protection won't stop the creature from taking damage, but protection also makes your opponent's creature an illegal target for Wild Slash. Since Wild Slash's only target is illegal, it will be countered and none of its effects will occur. The opponent's creature won't take any damage, and damage will still be preventable.

Q: My opponent and I each control a Kruphix, God of Horizons. I don't have enough devotion to make it a creature, but my opponent does. I cast Mind Control on my opponent's Kruphix, but even then my devotion's not enough to animate the Kruphixes.

As I understand it, two things are checked: (1) the legend rule, and (2) Mind Control enchanting an illegal object. Does the legendary rule take effect first, letting me sacrifice my opponent's Kruphix, or does Mind Control fall off first, making the legend rule no longer apply?

A: You're right that there are two state-based actions to be applied here. But neither one happens first—when there are multiple state-based actions to be applied, they all happen simultaneously. So both the Mind Control and your choice of the Kruphixes (probably the one owned by your opponent) will be put into the graveyard at the same time.

Q: If I have Brutal Hordechief, Ajani's Pridemate, and six white 1/1 Soldier tokens on the battlefield and attack with everything, do I end up with eight counters on my Ajani's Pridemate or just one?

A: Each attacking creature will trigger Brutal Hordechief's ability separately from the others—even though all the attacking happens at the same time, it doesn't combine into one big combined trigger. Each trigger resolves independently, so you'll end up gaining 1 life eight separate times, which means Ajani's Pridemate will trigger eight times and get eight counters.

Q: What happens if I try to manifest while Grafdigger's Cage is on the battlefield?

A: If you're trying to manifest it from somewhere other than a library or graveyard, then you manifest just fine. But if you're trying to manifest it from a library or graveyard...well, you tried. Sure, you failed horribly and nothing happened because the Cage made it impossible, but the motivational posters all say that trying is the important part, right?

It doesn't matter whether the card you're trying to manifest is actually a creature card on its face, because it's a card and you're trying to manifest it as a creature—the Cage doesn't like that.

A new, more glorious dawn awaits;
Not a sunrise, but a galaxyrise.
Q: If I control Havengul Lich, can I use its ability to cast Erebos's Emissary with bestow?

A: Yes, you can. Havengul Lich allows you to cast the card you target from your graveyard and doesn't add on any requirements for how you're supposed to pay for it, so you can choose to use the alternative cost provided by bestow just as you could if you were casting it from your hand. And if you do that, your Emissary becomes an Aura spell.

Q: ...So would the Lich get the ability of Erebos's Emissary even if it wasn't cast as a creature ?

A: Yes, it will. The Lich cares about whether you cast the card that it targeted, and you did that. The fact that it wasn't a creature at the time doesn't really matter, because as far as the Lich is concerned it's still the same card.

Q: If I use Stain the Mind, and have Ob Nixilis, Unshackled on the field, does my opponent lose 10 life?

A: No. Your opponent's library is indeed being searched, but you're the one doing the searching, and Ob Nixilis, Unshackled specifically says that it triggers when your opponent is doing the searching. Ob Nixilis may be a megalomaniacal demon lord, but he's not so crass as to blame your opponent when you're the one at fault.

Q: I control Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Courser of Kruphix. If I activate Tasigur, will my opponent know the new top card of my library before choosing what to return to my hand?

A: Yes, she will. Tasigur has put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard, so the card that's now on top of your library (and thus revealed by Courser) is whatever card used to be the third card.

This is different from effects where you're instructed to look at or reveal the top few cards of your library before making a decision, like on Kruphix's Insight or Dig Through Time, because with those kinds of effects the cards don't actually leave your library before you make a decision. While you might have physically picked them up to look at them, as far as the game is concerned they're still in the same positions in your library they were before until you're actually instructed to move them, so the Courser's still revealing whatever it already was.

Q: If I have Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver on the field, use Ashiok's +2 ability, and exile a Torrent Elemental off the top of my opponent's deck, who has control over the Elemental while it's in exile? Can my opponent cast it from exile, or is it reserved for me to play with Ashiok's -X ability?

A: Cards outside the stack or battlefield don't have "controllers", but they do have owners, and it's the owner who has the option of using Torrent Elemental's ability while it's in exile. That means your opponent is the one who gets to bring back the Elemental, not you. The fact that your Ashiok is what exiled it in the first place doesn't matter at all.

Q: I cast a Yasova Dragonclaw before combat. Can my opponent stop it from stealing her creature by Hero's Downfalling it, or does it trigger right away?

A: You can never move on to the next part of the turn without giving your opponent a chance to do things first. The rules are set up so that the only way the turn can progress is for both players to choose to let it do so by not doing anything else.

So your opponent has the chance to use Hero's Downfall during your main phase, before the game moves on to the combat phase and Yasova can trigger. If she does so, then Yasova won't be around at the beginning of combat, and won't trigger.

Q: If my opponent controls Anafenza, the Foremost, will Whisperwood Elemental's sacrifice ability work?

A: Well, you can still sacrifice the Elemental if you want, but it won't accomplish much of anything. The triggered abilities granted by Whisperwood Elemental's sacrifice look for those creatures "dying", which means "being put into a graveyard from the battlefield". Thanks to Anafenza, your creatures won't ever do that—they'll just go straight to exile instead—so they won't ever set off the triggers Whisperwood gave them. If you want your Whisperwood's sacrifice to mean anything, you'll have to deal with Anafenza first.

Q: I have a Bow of Nylea and attack with Shockmaw Dragon. If it hits my opponent, does it wipe her field, or is the Dragon no longer attacking after it deals combat damage?

A: It'll wipe your opponent's board pretty much clean. Your Dragon has deathtouch, so any creatures it deals damage to with its ability will be destroyed.

Creatures don't stop being attacking or blocking creatures as soon as combat damage is dealt—they remain attacking or blocking even after that, right up until the end of the combat phase.

Q: I have a Yasova Dragonclaw and a Xenagos, God of Revels in play. All other things being equal, can I stack the abilities so I can steal something with power 4-7? Or is it too late to change Yasova's power for a theft check by the time I enter combat?

A: It's too late. Yasova's ability targets a "creature an opponent controls with power less than Yasova Dragonclaw's power", and just like any other targeted ability, you need to choose that target at the time the ability is put onto the stack. In this case, that will be right at the beginning of combat, well before Xenagos will have had a chance to boost Yasova's power.

If you want to boost Yasova in order to steal bigger things, you're going to need to do it before the beginning of combat. Or perform some shenanigans.

Sheep: the most melodious of animals.
Q: Can Supplant Form copy Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker when he turns into a Dragon? And if yes, is the token a Dragon, or a Sarkhan?

A: If Sarkhan has turned himself into a Dragon, then he's a creature, and therefore is a legal target for Supplant Form. The token produced by Supplant Form, however, will not be a creature; it will be a normal, unanimated Sarkhan planeswalker.

When something copies something else (or makes a token copy of something else, as in this case) the only things that are copied are the underlying card (or token) itself, plus other copy effects. (With a few minor exceptions, none of which apply here.)

Q: If my opponent has resolved Gather Specimens this turn and I'm instructed to manifest the top card of my library, do I get a chance to look at it?

A: No, you don't. It goes straight from being the top card of your library, which you can't look at because it's a card in your library, to being a face-down card on the battlefield, which you can't look at because you don't control it. You can only look at face-down spells or permanents if you control them, and at no point was the manifested card ever in a position where you were allowed to look at it.

Q: My opponent has 3 different creatures, and I use Polymorphist's Jest. If I use Bile Blight on one of the creatures, will all creatures under the effect of Polymorphist's Jest die?

A: Nope, just the one. Polymorphist's Jest changes those creatures' power, toughness, abilities, and creature types, but it doesn't change anything else about them, and that includes their names. They're still named whatever they were named before Jalira played her little joke, so Bile Blight will only be able to kill one of them.

Q: Can I pay dash or delve as an alternative cost to unmanifest a creature?

A: No, you cannot. Dash is an alternative cost that can only be applied when casting the card it's on as a spell, and delve is an optional method of payment that again only applies when casting the card it's on as a spell. Neither of them can be used when doing other things with the card, even if those things involve paying the card's mana cost.

By the same token, cards like Sphere of Resistance and Heartless Summoning don't affect the cost you need to pay to turn a manifested creature card face up.

Q: If I attack with multiple Dragons with Dromoka, the Eternal out, what happens?

A: Dromoka, the Eternal's ability triggers once for each Dragon you're attacking with, including itself. Those triggers are put onto the stack in a big pile, and then resolve one at a time. Each time a trigger resolves, you choose a creature you control that currently has the lowest toughness among creatures you control, and put two +1/+1 counters on that creature.

For example, let's say you attack with both Dromoka and Wardscale Dragon. You control no other creatures. Dromoka's ability triggers twice. When the first trigger resolves, you will put two +1/+1 counters on Wardscale Dragon, since that's currently the creature you control with the lowest toughness (4, compared to Dromoka's 5). Then, the second trigger resolves, and you will put two +1/+1 counters on Dromoka itself, since it is now the creature you control with the lowest toughness (5, compared to the Wardscale's 6).

Q: Abzan Advantage - can this resolve if the targeted player does not control an enchantment?

A: Yes, it can. Unlike cards like Erase, which require you to choose an enchantment as a target, Abzan Advantage only requires you to choose a player as a target. There's nothing saying that the player you choose needs to controls an enchantment, so they don't.

When Abzan Advantage goes to resolve, it tries to force the targeted player to sacrifice an enchantment. If it can't (say, because they control none), then it shrugs and moves on to its next instruction. And you bolster for one.

Q: My opponent controls Archfiend of Depravity and I cast Mardu Scout for its dash cost and attack. At the end step, do I get my Scout back in hand first, or does I choose my two creatures first?

A: Sadly for you, you need to choose your two creatures and sacrifice the rest before the dash ability can return the Scout to your hand. If you don't choose the Scout, it will die and go to your graveyard, where dash won't be able to find it and where it will remain indefinitely.

This happens because it's your turn and your opponent controls the Archfiend, while you control the Scout. When multiple triggered abilities have triggered and need to be put onto the stack, the active player's abilities (the Scout's) are put on first. Then the other player's abilities (the Archfiend's) are put on the stack on top of them. Since the stack resolves from the top down, the Archfiend's ability therefore resolves before the dash ability from the Scout.

Q: If I cast a spell with Delve, can I change my mind about what or how much I'm delving and how much mana I'm spending to pay for it?

A: As long as you're still in the process of casting it, sure. If physically walking yourself through the motions of tapping and exiling in various combinations helps you think about the best way to do it, that's just fine.

What you can't do is finish casting it, then change your mind later, especially based on your opponent's reactions to your decisions. You're not allowed to bait your opponent into reacting and then back up to take advantage of that knowledge.

Q: Is the number of cards in your hand common knowledge? If you ask someone to show you how many cards they have do they have to tell you?

A: The number of cards in a player's hand is what's known as derived information. This means that in a regular-level event such as a prerelease, FNM, or basically any other small local event, if you ask your opponent how many cards are in their hand they have to tell you.

By contrast, in a competitive-level event such as a GPT, PPTQ, or GP, your opponent doesn't have to tell you directly if you ask. They can't try to stop you from counting their cards yourself, and they can't lie about it either if they do answer, but they can choose not to answer your question at all if they don't wish to.

That's all we have for today's article, so be sure to come back next week when Eli will be back with another exciting coded message for the Resistance episode of Cranial Insertion!

- 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.


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