Published on 02/23/2015

Under Plowed

or, Don't Hire Goblin Digging Team

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

You probably don't want to build
a snowman with them
Greetings from the increasingly-snow-covered land of Cranial Insertion! Eli's been bearing the worst of the recent winter weather here in the US, but I got a taste of it recently, too, and all I can say is I wish Coldsnap would get reprinted, or at least maybe Thawing Glaciers, because the multiple feet of snow are really getting annoying (and for our metric readers, there have indeed been multiple meters of snow in some places).

But thankfully a bit of winter weather can't keep us from turning out yet another issue of Cranial Insertion, so let's dive in to another grab bag of rules questions (and not dive into any snow — that can be dangerous!).

And if you've got some questions you'd like us to find answers for amongst our snowbanks, remember you can always get in touch with us by emailing questions to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: I was watching someone play with the Amulet Bloom deck from Pro Tour Fate Reforged, and they cast a Primeval Titan and just got a bunch of lands and then said the opponent was dead, but I didn't understand what happened. Can you explain it?

A: The basic idea here is actually pretty simple. Assuming you have a bunch of mana — and the Amulet Bloom deck is designed to do this, with Summer Bloom to play extra lands, Amulet of Vigor to untap its double-mana lands like Simic Growth Chamber, and so on — the deck will create a huge, hasty double-striking Primeval Titan.

One possible way to do it is to cast Primeval Titan and use its enters-the-battlefield trigger to get Slayers' Stronghold and a Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. Activating both makes the Titan an 8/6 with vigilance, haste, double strike and trample. Then it attacks, triggers again, and fetches a Vesuva to copy Slayers' Stronghold. Activating the Vesuva copy (which will untap thanks to Amulet of Vigor) before the combat damage step will push the Titan up to a 10/6. Assuming no blockers are available, that'll be 20 damage courtesy of the double strike (and even with a blocker or two, the Titan has trample, meaning it will still often get to deal double digits of damage to an opponent from that attack).

Q: How does Eidolon of the Great Revel work against a delve spell? Say, if my opponent casts a Tasigur, the Golden Fang and delves 5 cards, would Eidolong trigger since Tasigur's mana cost was only

A: Eidolon of the Great Revel doesn't actually pay attention to what a player paid to cast a spell, just the converted mana cost of the spell. That's always just the sum of the mana symbols in the upper right corner of the card, which for Tasigur is , giving a converted mana cost of 6 no matter how he's cast.

Q: What about a split card with fuse, like Far//Away? Would Eidolon still trigger for that?

A: It depends. On the stack, a split card only ever gives one answer to "what's your converted mana cost" (in other zones, it can give two answers). If only one half of the card was cast, only that half's mana cost gets looked at, so if you opponent cast just Far, the converted mana cost would be 2, and if your opponent just cast Away the converted mana cost would be 3 (either of which would trigger the Eidolon). But if it's cast with fuse, the converted mana cost on the stack will be the sum of the mana costs of both halves, for a total of 5 which won't trigger Eidolon.

Q: Is that why revealing Far//Away to Dark Confidant makes you lose 5 life?

A: Not quite — that's one of the cases where the card gives two answers, but the result ends up being the same. When figuring out how much life you'll lose, Dark Confidant asks Far//Away for its converted mana cost, and Far//Away answers "my converted mana cost is 2, and 3" (not "2 plus 3", which would be a single answer). So the total life loss ends up being 5.

Q: So, how does Ugin, the Spirit Dragon's -X ability work against tokens? Would it be able to activate for zero to wipe out all the tokens from a Lingering Souls, or are tokens colorless?

A: The general answer is "it depends", since a token's converted mana cost and color(s) will depend on what created a token. The basic rule here is that a token that's a copy of something has the same mana cost (and thus converted mana cost) as whatever it copied, while a token that isn't a copy of something has a converted mana cost of zero. Meanwhile, the color or lack thereof will also come from the effect that created the token; Lingering Souls specifies its tokens are white, which means Ugin sees them as having one or more colors and blows them away with his magical spirit dragon breath. But a token can just as easily be colorless (for example, if you used Fated Infatuation to make a copy of a colorless creature, the resulting token would be colorless).

The Phyrexians become unstoppable once they
compleated a plow.
Q: My friend and I got into an argument over Ensnaring Bridge. I had an Ensnaring Bridge and no cards in hand, and she attacked with a Noble Hierarch (and also controlled a Qasali Pridemage), and said I'd have to take 2 damage. I thought Ensnaring Bridge would undo the attack. Who's right?

A: Your friend is right! Ensnaring Bridge only checks the power of attacking creatures at the time they're declared as attackers and will either allow or disallow those creatures right then and there; it doesn't re-check later and remove anything from combat. At the time it was declared as an attacker, Noble Hierarch's power was 0, which is not greater than the number of cards in your hand, so the attack was legal. The fact that its power later grew to 2 is neither noticed nor worried about by Ensnaring Bridge's ability.

Q: I cast a Thoughtseize and my opponent's hand only contained lands and a Wilt-Leaf Liege. Do I have to choose the Liege, or can I just "fail to find" a card and not let my opponent get the Liege into play?

A: The "fail to find" rule applies any time you're searching a hidden zone for cards with a particular quality or characteristic (like a specific card type or converted mana cost). But Thoughtseize doesn't have you do that — it simply instructs the player to reveal their hand, and instructs you to choose a nonland card from it. If there is one, you must choose it, and your opponent will likely be very happy to have you lose 2 life to your Thoughtseize and get a free 4/4 out of the deal!

Q: What if I'm activating the +1 ability of Liliana of the Veil and my opponent discards a Wilt-Leaf Liege or a Loxodon Smiter? Since my opponent is the one who chose the card they don't get to put it into play, right?

A: Sadly, you and your Liliana will be staring down a 4/4; the abilities of Wilt-Leaf Liege and Loxodon Smiter don't look at who chose the card to be discarded, just who controlled the spell or ability that caused the discard to happen. You are most certainly the controller of Liliana and of her ability, so you'll be in for either some Elf or some Elephant beatdowns in the near future.

Q: If I use a Molten Rain on a Tectonic Edge and my opponent sacrifices the Tectonic Edge in response, does Molten Rain still deal 2 damage from using the Tectonic Edge's last known information?

A: While in general there are effects in Magic that can use information from the last time a card was seen on the battlefield, Molten Rain is a targeted spell, and its one and only target has become illegal. Which means Molten Rain is countered, and none of its effects will happen.

Q: So then what about using Abrupt Decay on my opponent's Glistener Elf when my opponent responds with a kicked Vines of Vastwood? Since Abrupt Decay can't be countered by a spell, it'll still destroy the Elf, right?

A: Abrupt Decay can't be countered by spells or abilities, but no spell or ability is trying to counter it. When the Elf ceases to be a legal target for Abrupt Decay, the game rules are what step in and counter it, and those are allowed to counter Abrupt Decay.

Q: If I cast a Dungeon Geists and target my opponent's Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, I know it won't tap Kira because her ability counters that. But if Kira becomes tapped some other way (say, by attacking), would the other part of Dungeon Geists' ability keep her tapped?

A: When a spell or ability gets countered, none of its effects happen at all; in the case of Dungeon Geists, that means the targeted creature isn't tapped, and the continuous effect that would prevent the creature from untapping never gets created. So Kira will still be able to untap just fine.

Q: I control a Whisperwood Elemental and some face down creatures. I sacrifice the Whisperwood Elemental to activate its ability, and later in that turn my opponent tries to kill one of my face down creatures. If I turn it face up in response, will I get to manifest something when it dies?

A: Whenever a resolving spell or ability says it's going to modify some characteristics of some set of game objects — say, by adding an ability to them as Whisperwood Elemental does — it locks in the set of things it'll apply to at the time it resolves. So only creatures which were face up at the time Whisperwood Elemental's ability resolved gained the "manifest when I die" ability; creatures which turn face up later will just die without leaving anything manifested behind.

Q: I attack my opponent with Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and 5 other creatures and they all deal damage to my opponent. If I control an untapped Basalt Monolith, can I target it will all 6 triggers from Derevi, tap it for mana, untap it with a Derevi trigger, tap it again, and so on to make a ludicrous amount of mana?

A: You can, but remember that your mana pool empties at the end of every step and every phase of the turn, so that mana will only be available during the combat damage step; past that it'll be gone, so you'll want to have some instant or ability to dump it all into before it vanishes.

Q: My opponent is playing with Skullbriar, the Walking Grave as his commander. If I use Grim Affliction on Skullbriar and he gets sent to the command zone, what happens the next time he's cast?

A: This is downright grim for your opponent! The -1/-1 counter from Grim Affliction will stay on Skullbriar as he goes to the command zone, and also as he goes from there to the battlefield when he's cast in the future... which means he'll enter the battlefield as a 0/0 and immediately die. And, of course, he'll still keep that -1/-1 counter as he moves to either the graveyard or the command zone again, which means that the only way Skullbriar will ever be able to stick around is if some other continuous effect (like a Bad Moon) pumps up his toughness, or if your opponent can find a way to get him into their hand or library to finally make that pesky counter come off.

Q: I control a manifested basic land and my opponent chooses it as the creature to exile with Duplicant. What will Duplicant's power and toughness be?

A: Duplicant will be a 2/4. Although the manifested basic land was a creature while it was face down on the battlefield, in exile (and it will be face up there — cards are always exiled face up unless something says to exile them another way) it's not a creature card and Duplicant won't be able to get power/toughness from it.

Q: I slap an Assault Suit on my Slash Panther, then activate Goblin Welder targeting the Panther and a Wurmcoil Engine in my graveyard. Do I get to keep the Panther and have the Wurmcoil Engine, or does this fail because I can't make the exchange?

A: It's true that you can't carry out only part of an exchange — those are all or nothing. But Goblin Welder doesn't make an exchange (its updated wording no longer has the word "exchange")! It just checks whether both targets of the ability are still legal, and they are, and then instructs you to sacrifice the one on the battlefield and return the one in the graveyard to the battlefield. So you do as much as is legal, returning your Wurmcoil Engine and not sacrificing your Slash Panther.

Q: I control two Outpost Sieges, both choosing "Dragons", and my opponent and I are each at 2 life. My opponent attacks me with an Abzan Skycaptain and an Elite Scaleguard, and I block the Scaleguard with Gore Swine. Is the game a draw since the unblocked Skycaptain puts me at 0 life and the Outpost Siege ability puts my opponent at 0?

A: Your opponent will overcome this particular siege, unfortunately for you. After damage is dealt in the combat damage step, first you apply any state-based actions and then you put triggered abilities onto the stack. Since you lose the game when state-based actions are applied (since you're already at 0 life), you never even put the Outpost Siege triggers onto the stack.

Q: If I dash a Goblin Heelcutter and copy it with Riku of Two Reflections, will the token also be returned to my hand at end of turn?

A: The original Heelcutter will return to your hand, since it was cast for its dash cost. But the token copy of it wasn't, and so will stick around to keep cutting heels in future turns. Just remember that gaining haste is also part of dash, and since the token wasn't cast with dash it won't be able to attack immediately.

Q: So I know I can use an animated Celestial Colonnade for mana after declaring it as an attacker. Does that mean I could attack with it, see if my opponent tries to block it, and then use mana from the Colonnade to activate Thassa, God of the Sea and make the Colonnade unblockable?

A: You can do that before your opponent attempts to declare blockers, but at that point you won't know whether or how they intend to block. Once your opponent has started to declare blockers, though, you can't interrupt that action, and afterward it's too late to be useful — once a creature is blocked, making it unblockable (or giving it an ability which would have prevented blocking) won't undo the declaration of blockers.

Q: My opponent played a Cavern of Souls and announced "worm" as the creature type. Since that could mean either Worm or Wurm (both are creature types in Magic and have the same pronunciation in English), what should I do?

A: Magic thrives on clear communication. If you think something your opponent has said is ambiguous, it's always best to stop right there and ask for clarification, so you'll know what the actual creature type is. Waiting to see what they try to cast with it isn't guaranteed to work out in a way you'll like (in a tournament, a judge would likely investigate a bit, but if your opponent is casting a Craw Wurm with it is unlikely to decide that "Worm" was what they actually meant).

I've got to get back to digging out from my adventures in the snow, but be sure to check back in next week to see if we have another flurry of snow, or (hopefully) just a flurry of rules questions in the next issue of Cranial Insertion!

- James Bennett

About the Author:
James Bennett is a Level 3 judge based out of Lawrence, Kansas. He pops up at events around Kansas City and all over the midwest, and has a car he can talk to.


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