Published on 02/16/2015

Bold Predictions

or, Future Perfect

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

I predict:
This won't see Legacy play in the 2015
calendar year despite the awesome combo
with Index and Orcish Spy.
The Elder Dragons are all battled out, New England appears all snowed out, and we're approaching the start of our journey back to the present to a Dragon-happy Tarkir as previews for the aptly-named Dragons of Tarkir loom on the horizon. But most importantly, we have a bunch of questions for you to learn from! You'll even get to learn how Feldon should have gone about his quest to save his dead love, knowledge that can be applied to real-life situations should your beloved family pet pass on. Or not. Yeah, let's go with not.

If you've got more questions, send them in to or sent short questions for short answers to @CranialTweet and our zombie chimpanzee assistant Moko will get them to us, with or without ichor splatters. He's got a new mount these days to ride around on, but you probably don't want to know what it is. Don't forget what Callum said last week about sneaking messages past that dastardly Nicol Bolas.

Don't forget, if you're in the Ohio area or just want to meet the infamous Carsten and support a great charity, his annual [url=]Cast a Spell on MS[/c] event is coming up soon! What better way to snag a premium Force of Will than to help save lives while winning it?

And on the topic of saving lives, let's check in with poor, bereft Feldon...

Q: Can I keep a token from Feldon of the Third Path forever by equipping Assault Suit?

A: That is indeed a fine trick. The delayed triggered ability instructs you to sacrifice the token, but you can't. Due to the nature of delayed triggers, it will never trigger again - that only happens if there's an explicit duration like "whenever event this turn" or "until end of turn, whenever event" - so you'll be able to repeat it over and over, even.

If only Feldon had realized that if he build a chainsaw suit, his wife would not only live forever, but he could have a dozen copies of her.

You know, I'm starting to think we should never, ever get into the marriage counseling business.

Q: I keep reading that you can use Humble Defector's ability, untap it, and use it again in response, but why doesn't that make the first activation fizzle since the targeted opponent is no longer Humble Defector's opponent?

A: Who said that makes the target illegal? The requirement is to target a player who is an opponent of the ability's controller, and you still control the ability even though you no longer control Humble Defector (otherwise you wouldn't draw the cards, either, and that would be very sad). It would take an ugly, convoluted wording to care about whether the opponent were an opponent of the controller of Humble Defector, and the simpler wording creates greater happiness, so everyone wins. Except your opponent, but who cares about that?

Q: Can tokens be face down?

A: Using only Fate Reforged there's no way, but the question's come up with a lot of misinformation floating around it, so now's as good a time as ever to address this very plainly: Yes, tokens can be face down. Anyone who says otherwise is confusing the design principle of "let's not do that" with the rules and development principle of "let's disallow that." The rules are very clear that permanents can have either status (110.6), and there is no exception for face-down tokens like there used to be for face-down double-face cards (the rule now prohibits them being turned face down, but allows them to be face down if they never start face up, so they can be manifested).

What throws people off is Ixidron skipping tokens, but then people forget that you can Cackling Counterpart a Vesuvan Shapeshifter and get extra morphing cloney goodness.

Q: Does Athreos, God of Passage trigger if a manifested Murderous Cut dies?

A: It is a creature immediately before leaving the battlefield - that's what matters for Athreos and other such "dies" triggers. Leaves-the-battlefield triggers check the game state immediately before the event, instead of after it as usual, to compare the condition. The resolving effect doesn't care about whether it's still a creature card, so it'll go back to your hand.

I predict:
This also won't see Legacy play,
even in the most dedicated,
crazy Dredge decks.
Q: If Ghastly Conscription makes me shuffle the cards, I can't see which is which, so how do I figure the cost to turn one face up?

A: That would be a real challenge. As luck would have it, you do get to see which is which! Thanks to the shuffling, your opponent can't know what they each are, but as their controller, you may look at them at any time.

Q: If Yasova Dragonclaw steals a Savage Knuckleblade that gives me the last two devotion I need to animate Xenagos, God of Revels, can Xenagos attack right away?

A: Your devotion updates at the very moment you kidnap Knucks, during the beginning of combat step. That's a whole step before the declare attackers step, giving Xenagos plenty of time to get on up and dance before the game prompts for your attackers. So long as you've controlled Xenagos continuously since your turn began, it can swing, but if you just cast it this turn, it'll be affected by the "summoning sickness" rule and not attack.

Q: Do you guys have a link to the fabled "banding explanation fit into one tweet" from years ago?

A: Attk crea w/banding pick buddy. Block one, block all buddies. If assign comb.dmg & crea w/band in line, its contr. assign freeform instead

To use more than 140 characters:

First determine attackers as normal. Then, after having done so, each attacker with banding picks another creature to form a band with. If that creature also has banding, the band can grow beyond two creatures. After declaring blockers as normal, any creature that blocks any creature in a band becomes a blocking creature for each other creature in that band, even ones it couldn't block.

Next, when it's time to assign damage, look at each assigner and see if there's a creature with banding somewhere in its order. If so, rather than use the damage assignment ordering system, the controller of that creature with banding gets to assign the damage any way he or she likes, regardless of the ordering. This applies if one creature blocks two with banding and a third, and it applies if two creatures without banding and one with banding all block one big creature.

See, banding is totally simple.

Q: When I manifest Skaab Ruinator, it doesn't need any exiling to turn face up, does it?

A: You don't kick in additional costs when you're told to pay an object's mana cost. Those are only added on when it comes to the act of casting a spell, and that isn't what manifest tells you to do. Ugin has no problem with writing a gigantic corpsetacular abomination into being for your deck.

Q: Can I turn Hand of Emrakul face up by sacrificing four Eldrazi Spawn when it's been manifested?

A: You can, oddly enough. Just about everything is ignored when you're checking what cost to pay for manifest, but "you may pay other cost rather than this card's mana cost" still gets checked, as it does in every other non-spell situation where you have to pay (like Pendrell Flux and Back from the Brink). The one thing to watch out for, though, is that the effect does not apply only to casting spells, like Rooftop Storm does. The wording matters!

Q: You said that Ixidron won't let me turn the creatures face up, but what if they were manifested and then turned face up before Ixidron turned them face down?

A: When Ixidron tucks your creature into its nice warm morph ball, it's not being re-manifested. The manifest rules stopped caring about the creature as soon as it turned face up once, and now they won't start caring again. Your creature will have to stay tucked in its cozy blob of blankness forever unless it has morph or you have other external shenanigans.

Q: I control Anvil of Bogardan and Maralen of the Mornsong. Can I stack the triggers so that my opponent discards what he tutors but I don't?

A: Is that more evil than Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool? Maybe not, but wow, that is evil. Both triggers fire as each player's draw step begins, and you choose the order to resolve them since you control both sources. Each time the triggers go off, you can choose a different order, so you can always let yourself discard nothing then tutor, and only let your opponent do so if you feel like being benevolent (or think you have a way to turn it into a cruel taunt...).

Q: After combat, I Howl of the Horde and cast Pyrotechnics. How do copies of the spell work with all of those choices about how to deal damage?

A: They work out simpler than you think. The number of targets and the division is locked in on the copies, so you can't change any of that. All that you can change is what the targets point at.

For example, if you have two copies of a 2-1-1 Pyrotechnics, you have each copy deal 2 to one target and 1 to two other targets. If you had a single 4-damage gift-wrapped package, you'll get two more lumps of 4 damage with no split. A 2-2 split just lets you deal more Shocks around the table.

Q: Do Brutal Hordechief and Mardu Ascendancy get me an extra trigger for the Goblin tokens?

A: That Hordechief is brutal, but not quite this brutal. A creature only attacks (active verb) when it's declared as an attacker during the turn-based action during your declare attackers step. A creature that is put onto the battlefield attacking (adjective) can be said to attack (verb), but only in the English sense and not the Magic-rules sense. You can guess which Hordechief's trigger watches for - yup, the verb only. So while we will defend your right to speak like a human being and say that the token attacks (verb) your poor, hapless opponent, the rules still care about the strict details.

I predict:
This also sees absolutely zero Legacy play.
What a weaksauce card.
Q: If Yasova Dragonclaw steals a Goblin Rabblemaster, do I also get a token to attack with?

A: Your new Rabblemaster will be too late to the party to invite friends. The trigger condition for an "at" trigger is a specific point in time, and once it's passed, it's gone. If your spaceship departs Planet Earth at 3 o'clock and you show up at 3:08 (in this magical analogy, spaceships are a lot more precise on their timing, and also you have one), you will have missed it.

But that's okay, because you really don't want space anyway.

Q: Does Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest make my Stubborn Denial unstoppable with its prowess trigger?

A: Given a certain value of "unstoppable" that can still be stopped by other counterspells, yes indeed! "When you cast" triggers like prowess always go on the stack on top of the spell that was cast, with no choice or variance in this. Self-replacement effects on spells (those that modify their own effects) apply or don't apply as they begin to resolve. The stack resolves top to bottom, so first the prowess trigger resolves, Shu Yun becomes 4/3, and then Stubborn Denial begins to resolve and replaces its soft-counter with a hard-counter, and finally Stubborn Denial does its thing and counters that spell good and hard.

Q: What exactly are the rules for dealing damage to a planeswalker?

A: There are at this time three ways to deal damage to a planeswalker:

1) Attack a planeswalker. To do so, you choose attackers like normal, but as you choose individual creatures you say "This one's going at Jace, this one's going at Garruk, and this one's attacking YOU!" If unblocked, they deal damage like attacking creatures normally do.

2) Spells and abilities that deal damage directly to planeswalkers. These are pretty rare.

3) Spells and abilities that deal damage to an opponent. Unlike the other two methods, your opponent won't know that the damage is going to a planeswalker - you choose at the moment that damage would be dealt who gets it. So if you Shock your opponent, he or she must respond without knowing whether or not you'll redirect the damage to a planeswalker.

You can't attack or Shock your own planeswalker, although Magmaquake can kill one good and dead. You can't redirect combat damage from an opponent to a planeswalker, only noncombat damage can be redirected.

Q: I have Feat of Resistance and my opponent attacks with a Lightning Shrieker after casting Ojutai, Soul of Winter. Which color do I call for to stop the trigger from tapping my creature?

A: Either of white or blue work. Lightning Shrieker can scream till it's blue in the face, but it's not the source of the trigger - Ojutai is, since that's the object with the ability right on it. And the source of the trigger rather than the cause of it is what matters for protection, hexproof, and anything like that.

Q: Sultai Emissary and manifests a Sultai Emissary. When it dies, does it trigger? What about Kozilek, Butcher of Truth?

A: Dying blue blobs of manifested goo don't have abilities immediately before they die, and that same time Athreos a few questions back cares about whether or not the thing's a creature, the game also cares about whether or not it had any leaves-the-battlefield abilities to trigger. Sultai Emissary's trigger checks then, and fails because it doesn't exist.

But check out Kozilek! That isn't a leaves-the-battlefield trigger. It cares about being put into a graveyard "from anywhere," not just the battlefield. That sort of trigger follows the more normal trigger rules and checks immediately after the event, so it'll trigger even if it used to be a blob.

The best way to remember this distinction is Worldspine Wurm, which has both kinds of trigger on one card. If it's manifested and dies, it won't break up into baby Wurms (because that's a reward for getting it out to begin with), but it will shuffle itself away (so you can't reanimate it with shenanigans).

Q: Does a manifested Ravaging Riftwurm never vanish after I turn it face up?

A: Your Wurm will live long and prosper so long as no cruel soul tosses a time counter onto it. Vanishing represents a replacement effect and two triggered abilities - the enters-the-battlefield replacement that puts time counters on it is entirely skipped because it didn't enter the battlefield with that ability; the upkeep trigger to remove a counter has an intervening "if" clause so it can only trigger if there's a time counter on it; and the final trigger triggers on the action of removing the last counter, which won't ever happen since there it had [c]z[/b]ero counters to begin with.

If someone figures out some sneaky way to get a counter onto it, then the first trigger will be live again, and when it resolves and takes off the counter, the last ability also triggers. But I'm pretty sure that it's more likely the Wurm will eat a Doom Blade than the extreme shenanigans to get a time counter on a permanent without one.

Q: You mentioned last week that you can Abzan Advantage an opponent without an enchantment, but can you Abzan Advantage an opponent if you don't have a creature to bolster?

A: Both of Abzan Advantage's actions, the sacrifice and the bolstering, operate independent of each other and have no requirement for a target other than the spell's requirement of "target player." You can cast it without any enchantments on the battlefield, or any creatures on the battlefield, or with nothing at all on the battlefield, even, but that's such a waste I feel bad for you.

All that you need to cast a spell is the required targets as denoted explicitly with the word "target" (including the rare keywords like enchant that has "target" baked into its rules text), following any very explicit prohibitions or requirements such as Talara's Battalion and Even the Odds, and paying whatever cost you must pay. The ability to perform the spell's effect is never a consideration.

Q: What is "token"? A card type? Supertype?

A: There is no specific term for what a token is, but we can say for sure what it is not: it's not a type, supertype, subtype, creature type, or anything like that. You can't choose it for Obelisk of Urd or Extinction. It's not any sort of named qualification that you can ever choose other than a theoretical choice of "token or nontoken." Being a token, a card, or an emblem are just states of being.

Q: When's the latest I can go without mentioning my prowess triggers?

A: You just need to point it out when or before the power/toughness boost matters. What does that mean, though? In the normal case, that means that as damage is dealt, you must acknowledge that an extra point of damage is dealt, or that your creature survives the damage equal to its printed toughness. But it could matter sooner - for example, if your creature is targeted with Last Breath and you counter the spell rather than call it out as an illegal target, you can't claim it got the prowess boost later. For other triggers besides prowess, this rule can also manifest as "the first time it is visible in the game state," such as counters on an object, being tapped or untapped, or zone transfers.

That's all for now. I'll be gone a little longer than usual, but I'll be back at the end of next month for an exciting event: our tenth anniversary! Ten years of writing about rules, longer than the retention expectancy of the average player and one heck of a journey.

There are still three more normal articles and then the DTK special before then, but it's never too early to get ready for the future.

Until next time, may your bold predictions be half as awesome!

- 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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