Published on 03/02/2015

Marching into March

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. The short month of February is behind us, which means that we're marching straight into March, and March promises to be an exciting month! Dragons of Tarkir previews have started, and the prerelease and release will happen towards the end of the month. Also, this March has five Mondays, which means you'll get an extra issue of Cranial Insertion this month, and that issue will be the much-anticipated tenth anniversary edition. I can't wait to see what Eli has in store for us!

Meanwhile, let's take a look at this week's selection of questions from readers like you. As always, if you have questions for us, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. Your question will be answered by one of our writers, and it might appear in a future issue.

Q: Suppose I play Rageform and the card it manifests happens to be a Polis Crusher. If I turn the Crusher face up, what happens to Rageform?

A: It falls off. Polish Crusher has protection from enchantments, which means among other things that enchantments can't enchant it. After you turn Polish Crusher face up, the game checks state-based actions, sees that Rageform is illegally attached to Polis Crusher, and puts Rageform into your graveyard.

Q: My opponent controls Gruul War Chant and attacks with two Goblin tokens. I control Brave the Sands and two Soldier tokens. Can I block his Goblins with my Soldiers?

A: Yes, you can block. The blocking restriction only checks whether you're blocking each attacker with at least two creatures. It doesn't care whether those blockers are also blocking other attackers. If you block Goblin 1 with Soldier 1 and Soldier 2, and block Goblin 2 with Soldier 1 and Soldier 2, you're obeying Gruul War Chant's blocking restriction to the letter, so the block is legal.

Q: So how does combat damage work in that situation?

A: It's a bit complicated, but the short version is "Rocks fall, everyone dies." Your opponent's Goblins are being blocked by multiple blockers, so he has to announce the damage assignment orders in which his Goblins assign their damage. Your Soldiers are blocking multiple attackers, so you have to announce the damage assignment orders in which your Soldiers assign their damage. There are lots of possible configurations, but since all the creatures in this situation are 1/1s and 2/1s, the damage assignment order doesn't matter too much and each player can assign their creature's damage such that their opponent's creatures die.

Q: My opponent and I are both at 3 life, and she just cast a Chain Lightning targeting me. If I can pay the , would that let me snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat?

A: No. The part of Chain Lightning that allows you to turn the tables by paying doesn't deal damage right away. Chain Lightning makes a copy of itself, and that copy goes on the stack and waits to resolve. Before it can resolve, state-based actions are checked and the game sees that you're at 0 life. You lose the game, and your copy of Chain Lightning never gets the chance to resolve.

Q: If I control a manifested Thassa, God of the Sea, can I turn it face up by paying its mana cost if my devotion to blue is less than five?

A: Certainly! The rule that allows you to turn a manifested creature face up only cares whether the card has the card type creature printed on it, which Thassa does. The ability that makes Thassa stop being a creature if your devotion is too low is irrelevant to that rule.

Q: Do cards like Training Grounds and Heartstone reduce the cost for turning morph creatures face up?

A: Nope. Turning a morph creature face up looks similar to an activated ability in that you pay a cost and then something cool happens, but the similarity is entirely superficial. In actuality, it's a special action that the morph rules allow you to take. It's not an activated ability, so it's not affected by effects that change activation costs.

Q: Does Muraganda Petroglyphs give a bonus to face-down morph creatures, or is it put off by the morph's ability to be turned face up?

A: It gives the bonus. As we just discussed in the previous question, the fact that you're allowed to turn it face up is not an ability of the face-down creature. A face-down creature has no abilities at all, so it gets the Petroglyphs bonus.

We're buzzing with anticipation.
Q: If I manifest a Hornet Queen and pay the cost to turn it face up, do I get the Insect tokens?

A: No. In order to enter the battlefield and trigger its ability, Hornet Queen has to go from "not on the battlefield" to "on the battlefield." When you turn a face-down creature face up, it doesn't leave the battlefield and come back; it stays the same object that simply changes what it looks like.

Q: What happens if I control Brutal Hordechief and I attack my opponent's planeswalker?

A: When a creature attacks a planeswalker, its controller is the defending player, so your opponent still loses 1 life and you still gain 1 life for each creature that attacks.

Q: If I use Molten Rain to destroy one of my opponent's nonbasic lands, can I redirect the damage to his planeswalker?

A: Absolutely! The damage redirection rule for planeswalkers applies anytime a source you control would deal noncombat damage to an opponent of yours. Molten Rain would deal noncombat damage to your opponent and you control Molten Rain, so the redirection effect is applicable. The fact that your opponent isn't actually being targeted by Molten Rain doesn't matter.

Q: If my opponent attacks me with Blighted Agent and I use Deflecting Palm to aim the damage back at my opponent, does my opponent lose life or get a poison counter?

A: Your opponent loses life. Deflecting Palm prevents the damage, and then Deflecting Palm itself deals damage to your opponent. Since Deflecting Palm doesn't have infect, the damage is dealt normally and results in loss of life.

Q: If I equip Acidic Slime with Viridian Longbow and then target a creature with the Longbow ability, does that kill the creature?

A: It sure does. Viridian Longbow gives the equipped creature the ability to deal 1 damage, and deathtouch applies to any damage that's dealt by a source with deathtouch. Since the target creature was dealt damage by a source with deathtouch, it dies. While the deathtouch flavor of a creature so deadly that it kills you by touching you doesn't really mix with Viridian Longbow's flavor of a creature shooting an arrow from a bow, the game rules aren't concerned with such flavor considerations. If they were, you'd have to wonder whether an Ooze such as Acidic Slime could even operate a bow and arrow in the first place, and it's probably best not to think about that too hard.

Q: Does Ugin, the Spirit Dragon's -X ability exile Dryad Arbor?

A: Yup. Even though Dryad Arbor has no mana cost, it still has a converted mana cost, which is 0. It's green because it has a green color indicator, so it fulfills all conditions for being a permanent with converted mana cost X or less that's one or more colors.

Q: If I control two Constricting Slivers and I play a Predatory Sliver, do I get to exile two of my opponent's creatures?

A: Sure! Upon arriving on the battlefield, your Predatory Sliver gets one instance of the "exile something" ability from each of the Constricting Slivers, for a total of two abilities. Each ability triggers and resolves independently, so you'll exile two creatures.

Don't worry, this won't hurt a bit.
I'll hurt a lot.
Q: If I control Leonin Arbiter and Pithing Needle naming Leonin Arbiter, does that lock out players from searching libraries?

A: Nope. Activated abilities are always written in the form "[cost]:[effect]," and Leonin Arbiter doesn't have any abilities that are written in that form. Its ability is a static ability that allows players to take the special action of paying a cost to ignore its effect. Just like unmorphing a face-down creature, this bears some superficial similarities to activating an ability, but as far as the game is concerned, it's something entirely different.

Q: If Warp World brings in a bunch of creatures and Confusion in the Ranks, does Confusion in the Ranks trigger for the creatures?

A: It does not. Warp World puts stuff onto the battlefield in two groups. Artifact, creatures, and lands go in the first group, and any enchantments go in the second group. Confusion in the Ranks isn't on the battlefield yet at the moment the creatures enter the battlefield, so it doesn't see them enter the battlefield in time to trigger. However, if any other enchantments enter together with Confusion in the Ranks, it will trigger for those since permanents that enter the battlefield at the same time see each other entering.

Q: My opponent controls Grave Betrayal and I attack with an animated Mishra's Factory. My opponent kills it with Doom Blade and she claims that Grave Betrayal gives her the Factory at the end of the turn. Is that right?

A: Yes, that's correct. While your Factory won't be a creature card in your graveyard, what matters is that it was a creature at the moment it died. "Dies" triggers in particular and leave-the-battlefield triggers in general look back at the game state before the event to see if they trigger, so Grave Betrayal's trigger looks at the Factory as it existed on the battlefield.

Q: What happens if a manifested planeswalker dies while Mimic Vat is in play?

A: Well, as we've seen in the previous question, triggers like the one on Mimic Vat care about what the creature looked like on the battlefield, where it was indeed a creature, so the ability triggers and allows you to exile the card that died. The exile effect simply refers to "that card", so it exiles the card even if it's not a creature card in the graveyard. By the same token — pun very much intended — the ability that spits out tokens only refers to "the exiled card," so it doesn't care even a little bit whether the card is a creature card, which means that it produces nifty planeswalker tokens.

Q: What if the manifested card is an instant or sorcery instead of a planeswalker?

A: The first part of the answer doesn't change: The thing that died was a creature, so the ability triggers and allows you to exile the instant or sorcery card that went to the graveyard. You can even activate the ability that makes tokens, but that ability won't do anything. Instants and sorceries can't be put onto the battlefield, so the impossible action of putting an instant token or sorcery token onto the battlefield is ignored.

Q: What happens if I target my opponent's commander with Sorin, Lord of Innistrad's -6 ability?

A: Your opponent gets to choose whether to let her commander go to the graveyard or to put it into the command zone instead. If she chooses to put it into the command zone, it wasn't "put into a graveyard this way," so you won't put it onto the battlefield under your control. You'd get it if she for some reason chooses to let it go to the graveyard, which is quite unlikely.

And that's it for this week. I'd like to close with a reminder of another exciting event that's happening this month, which is my charity tournament Cast a Spell on MS that's coming up this weekend in Toledo, Ohio. All entry fees will be donated to the National MS Society, so if you're in the area, come on by to play Magic for a good cause. Hope to see you there!

- 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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