Published on 12/24/2007

Decorating the Christmas Treefolk

Or, Dashing Through the Snow
in a One-Beast Arcum's Sleigh

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

It's Monday, so it's time for another edition of Cranial Insertion. This isn't just any Monday, though... it's the 83rd year that Albania has been a republic!

What's that? There's something more important about December 24th? Albanians may disagree, but I suppose there is. On this day in 1943, American General Dwight Eisenhower became the Supreme Allied Commander. Better?

What? There's still something more important? The independence of Libya in 1951? The crew of the Apollo 8 orbiting the moon in 1968? Oh, I get it. It's Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to our awesome readers, all over the world. And if you don't celebrate Christmas, then a hearty "Bah Humbug" to you and yours! [I will send Moko to eat your brains tonight. Oh yes. Just like an evil Santa Claus, coming down your chimney to gift you with zombieism... -Eli, Who Doesn't Celebrate Christmas]

Two years ago, when I last did the Xmas CI, we only fielded questions on cards in the traditional holiday colors. This year, we're taking questions on anything! While green, red, and white might be the colors commonly associated with Xmas, you could put blue and black ornaments on your tree. So, for those of you into freakishly-decorated trees, now all colors of the Magical rainbow are represented in our holiday column. You can be represented in the column, too. Send us an email to . We'll answer your question and most likely put it in the column for all the world to see.

Ho, ho, ho ... on with the questions!

You! Give me the Fiery Temper!
Q: My opponent targets my morph (Gathan Raiders) with a Terror. I respond by turning the Raiders face-up, discarding a Muck Drubb and playing it for its Madness cost. Given that the Muck Drubb is an illegal target for the Terror, does the target get changed?

A: Nope. If the target of a spell or ability can't be changed to a legal one, then it doesn't get changed at all. That's the first thing to consider when changing a target: whatever you want to make the new target has to be legal. If Muck Drubb is the only other creature in play, then Gathan Raiders are going to become very scared right before they die.

415.7a The target of a spell or ability can change only to another legal target. If the target can't be changed to another legal target, the original target is unchanged.

Q: What's the difference between something that says, "change the target..." and something that says, "you may change the target..."?

A: Without the "may," you have to change the target, as long as it can be changed to something legal. If not, then you ignore the instruction, since you can't perform an impossible action. With "you may change the target," that gives you the option to, should you want to. For Ignite Memories, you probably don't want to change the storm copies to target yourself, but you could if you wanted to indulge your more masochistic side. If you were an illegal target (you control a True Believer, say), then you couldn't do this.

Q: What happens if I play Makeshift Mannequin and return my Draining Whelk? Can I counter a spell my opponent played this way?

A: Sure. Makeshift Mannequin resolves and returns Draining Whelk to play. When the Whelk comes into play, its ability triggers and you target your opponent's spell. That spell gets countered and your Whelk gets fat. Just make sure you differentiate between the +1/+1 counters and the mannequin counter.

Q: Even more tricky: what if I counter my own Makeshift Mannequin with the Draining Whelk? Do I get a 5/5 flier?

A: This one isn't going to work out the way you want. During the resolution of Makeshift Mannequin, the Whelk returns to play and triggers, but its triggered ability does not go on the stack yet. Mannequin must finish resolving first, and when it does, it leaves the stack. Then the Whelk trigger goes on the stack, and Mannequin is not there to counter anymore. You keep your Whelk, but it's a puny one.

Q: I played Ego Erasure on my opponent, modifying his Ethereal Whiskergill's power, making it 2/3. Later in the turn, my opponent played Wings of Velis Vel on his Ethereal Whiskergill. Is it a 4/4 or a 2/3?

A: It's a 4/4. Both of these effects apply in layer 6b. Since neither is dependent on the other, we apply them in timestamp order. Start with the Whiskergill's base P/T (4/3), account for Ego Erasure (2/3), then apply the P/T-setting effect of the Wings, leaving us with a 4/4.

You can't decorate me. I'm indestructible!
Q: What is the power and toughness of a card that has */* while it is in your library? For example, if I play a Dauntless Doubark while Wild Pair is in play, can I fetch another Doubark (nothing else is modifying the P/T of cards in play)?

A: The ability that determines the Dourbark's P/T is a characteristic-defining ability (CDA). CDAs work in all zones, so if you have a 7/7 Dourbark in play, you also have a 7/7 Dourbark in your library (it's the same size there since it doesn't count itself—it's not in play). You can use Wild Pair to fetch Dourbark #2 after you play Dourbark #1. This isn't true for all */* creatures (see Lost Order of Jarkeld), but it's true for most of them.

Q: I have one Venser, Shaper Savant in play and another in my hand. If I play the second, targeting the first, can I stack the abilities so that the first one is returned to my hand before it dies?

A: Venser is a good man, but even he can't overcome the "legend rule." The second Venser's ability will trigger when it comes into play. Before that ability goes onto the stack, however, the legend rule will whisk both Vensers off to your graveyard. State-based effects are very different from triggered abilities; while you can stack your own triggers in any order you choose, SBEs are quite outside of this.

Q: My opponent has Guile in play. I play a creature, and he counters it with Remove Soul. Can he play the creature with Guile's ability, even though it doesn't have flash?

A: He can. And he must play it then, if he wants to play it at all. Guile's ability says, in part, "you may play that card without paying its mana cost." There's no duration for this (compare it to Mind's Desire), so you have to do it now. Immediately. As the ability is still resolving. It's normally not legal to play spells while an ability is still on the stack, but Guile's ability breaks this rule. If your opponent doesn't play the creature right then and there, it stays removed from the game forever.

Q: We just finished our second game when time was called. The judge told us we couldn't begin game three since we'd be starting it in extra turns. Is this true?

A: It is. It's policy that a game cannot begin in extra turns. Once time is called, the current game goes into its normal end-of-time procedure. But if the current game ends after time has been called, then another game can't begin. This is a policy interpretation of MFR 116, which tells us, "If the game finishes before the fifth turn is completed, the match is over and no new game begins."

Q: My opponent has a Razormane Masticore and it's his upkeep. With the trigger on the stack, I play Word of Seizing and take the Masticore. When the upkeep trigger resolves, who chooses to discard a card or sacrifice the Masticore?

A: The controller of the Masticore's ability will make the decision He controlled the ability when it went onto the stack, so even though the Masticore found itself in your possession all of a sudden, its original controller will make the decision on the trigger. Lucky for you that he can't sacrifice something he doesn't control, so even if he doesn't discard a card, you still get the keep the new poison lion.

Q: So this means I get to decide which creature to hit with the 3 damage ability?

A: You'll be the controller of that ability when it goes onto the stack in your draw step next turn. The trick is controlling it that long, since Word of Seizing wears off this turn, and won't trigger since it's not your turn and you control the Masticore.

Q: Can the epic copies of a spell like Enduring Ideal be countered?

A: Sure. You can counter them the same way you could any other spell. The only thing special about the epic copies is that they're put directly onto the stack instead of being played, but they can be countered like any other spell.

Bonus: You can also counter the epic triggered ability with spells like Stifle. That will prevent a copy from being made that turn.

Q: I know that adding loyalty counters to a planeswalker is part of the cost of the ability. What if my Garruk Wildspeaker has two counters on it, I play the +1 ability, and my opponent Incinerates it while the ability is still on the stack? Do I get to untap my lands?

A: Yes. Planeswalkers are unique and have stretched the Magic rules in several ways, but not this one. An ability on the stack is independent of its source, whether that source is Prodigal Sorcerer or a planeswalker. Your Garruk is going to die, but your lands will still untap.

Q: If Blood Moon (or Magus of the Moon) is in play, can I still play Land Grant for a forest-based dual land, or do I have to get basic Forest?

A: It will be a mountain only when it's in play. A dual land (say, a Tropical Island) in your library is a Forest and an Island. This means you can find it with Land Grant. What it will be when it's in play doesn't matter. Blood Moon only affects nonbasic lands in play In general, whenever something refers to a card type without another qualifying noun, it means "an object of that type in play." Nonbasic lands (in fact, lands of any flavor) can only exist in play; in any other zone, they are land cards.

More Forests = more trees to decorate.
Q: If I use Tideshaper Mystic on a Desert, does it keep its ability?

A: Nope. You can splish-splash around in it, though, because it's an Island. As an Island, the only ability it has is the intrinsic mana ability that any Island has: ": Add to your mana pool."

Q: I have a creature in play with a mannequin counter from Makeshift Mannequin. If my opponent plays Cryptic Command, choosing to bounce that creature and draw a card, would the Cryptic Command be countered?

A: It would. With the modes chosen, Cryptic Command has only one target: the creature with the mannequin counter on it. Because the creature will be sacrificed when it's targeted by a spell or ability (and this will resolve before Cryptic Command), then Cryptic Command will have no legal targets when it tries to resolve. Thus, it will be countered upon resolution.

Q: Does Stormscape Familiar reduce the cost I have to pay if I evoke a Shriekmaw?

A: It does. The Familiar is a crafty bird, and knows the rules well. It knows that evoke is just an alternate play cost, but you're still playing the spell when you use it. Thus, the Familiar flies down from his perch, squawks a lot, and tells you that you only need to pay instead of to evoke the Shriekmaw.

Q: I know the 2HG format forbids the use of sideboards. How would this affect the Wish spells?

A: In Constructed 2HG, no sideboard means no sideboard. You'll only be able to play a Wish to retrieve an appropriate card that's been removed from the game. In Limited, while you still don't have a sideboard, all the cards in your pool that you're not playing are "cards you own outside the game." So while they're technically not in your sideboard, you can still Wish for them.

That brings us to a close for this edition of CI. ‘Tis the season for parties, friends, family, and travel, which means ‘tis the season not to have as much time as usual to write one's rules column. Have a good Christmas, everyone.

Next week: the last CI of 2007.

-Tom Fowler

About the Author:
Tom is a Level 2 judge who frequently works in the MD, DC, and PA areas. He is also an active player, and has written articles from both perspectives. Tom has judged numerous Pro Tours, but would like to make it there as a player at least once.


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