Published on 03/16/2015

Soon, Suddenly Dragons

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

...of dragons?
With Callum heralding the end of the PTQ era last week, this week we get to usher in a new era, an era of preliminaries! That's right, this issue of Cranial Insertion is the preliminary to our Dragons of Tarkir special, coming up next week from Carsten. Until then, feel free to send in your questions about the new cards and mechanics in Dragons of Tarkir (by emailing , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet), in order to make sure he's well-stocked.

And in the meantime, we've got a full — though less dragon-scorch-fire-burn-y — issue this week to tide you over!

Q: I just cast an Animate Dead to reanimate a huge monster (let's say, Griselbrand) from my graveyard. But in response my opponent flashed in a Containment Priest! Since I've already passed priority, does that mean I don't get a chance to kill the Priest before Animate Dead tries to bring back my Griselbrand?

A: You do get another chance! Spells and abilities resolve one by one, most-recent-first, and all players get priority after each one resolves but before the next one does. So you can let that Containment Priest resolve, then use your preferred (so long as it's an instant) implement of destruction to kill it, keeping it safely contained in your opponent's graveyard so Griselbrand won't be contained by it.

Q: If my opponent attacks me with a Mirran Crusader and I control Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts, will the Crusader deal 4 damage to me, or just 2?

A: Just 2. After the Crusader deals damage to you in the first combat damage step, Teysa's ability will trigger and destroy it (this doesn't enchant, equip, block, target, or deal damage to the Crusader, so its protection from black won't prevent this), and then it won't be around in the second combat damage step to deal any more damage.

Q: My opponent has 4 1/1 Spirit tokens and a Blood Artist. I've got a Deceiver Exarch freshly enchanted with Splinter Twin, but I'm at 5 life. If I make a few thousand tokens with Exarch/Twin and attack with them all, is the game a draw since my opponent takes lethal combat damage and the Blood Artist triggers (assuming he blocks with everything he has) also put me to 0?

A: This isn't even close to a draw: so long as you make enough tokens to deal lethal combat damage to your opponent, you'll win. First, combat damage will be dealt, then state-based actions will be applied. Your opponent's Blood Artist and tokens (assuming they all blocked) will die... but so will your opponent, whose life total will be less than zero right then and there, and won't even get to put the Blood Artist triggers onto the stack.

Q: How does a Phyrexian mana symbol, like the one on Phyrexian Metamorph, work in a Commander deck? Since the Metamorph is an artifact, can I just play it in any deck?

A: Phyrexian mana symbols can be colored just like any others, and they contribute to the color and the color identity of a card just like any others. So Phyrexian Metamorph — which has a blue Phyrexian mana symbol in its mana cost — is a blue artifact, and its color identity is blue, so you can only put it in a Commander deck if your commander has blue in its color identity (though of course, once you've got a legally-built deck, you'll still be able to cast the Metamorph for either or for plus 2 life).

Q: I play a deck that tries to cast a wildly-unbalanced Restore Balance, by sacrificing all my own stuff in response to Restore Balance and thus making my opponents sacrifice all their stuff too. So I play easy-to-sacrifice lands like Irrigation Ditch, but I worry about counterspells. Is there any point where I know it's safe to sacrifice all my lands for mana since it'll be too late for my opponent to use a counterspell?

A: Unfortunately for you, there's not, and this is part of the game's way of making sure things stay balanced. You can only activate most types of abilities when you have priority, and you can only activate mana-producing abilities either when you have priority or when something demands a payment. So to get what you want from Restore Balance, you'll always have to sacrifice all your stuff before it resolves, and open yourself up to the possibility of an opponent who lets you do that and then (since they'll always get priority again before Restore Balance resolves) decides to pull out a counterspell.

What can we anticipate next week?
Q: I used Mastery of the Unseen to manifest the top card of my library, which turned out to be an Arcbond. Then my opponent exiled my manifested Arcbond with a Banishing Light. If the Banishing Light gets destroyed later, how do I go about putting the Arcbond onto the battlefield?

A: You don't! Although manifest can allow some wonky stuff to be on the battlefield courtesy of being face down, any card exiled by Banishing Light tries to return face up, and the rules simply don't allow an instant or sorcery to enter the battlefield like that. Instead, such a card just stays in the zone it's currently in, meaning that your Arcbond is going to be bonding with the exile zone for the rest of the game.

Q: I know from scrying that the top card of my library is a Torrent Elemental. Can I exile it with Pyxis of Pandemonium, then activate Torrent Elemental's ability to put it on the battlefield from exile?

A: Nope. The Pyxis exiles cards face down, and a card that's exiled face down has no characteristics for as long as it stays that way. So your Torrent Elemental doesn't have the ability that would let you put it on the battlefield, and will just have to wait around until you pop the Pyxis to get out of exile.

Q: My opponent is attacking me with a Siege Behemoth and enough other creatures to kill me, if they all get to deal their damage directly to me. Can I block the Behemoth with some first-striking creature with 4 or more power, though, would that turn off the Behemoth's damage-assigning ability in time to save me?

A: Assuming none of your opponent's other creatures have first or double strike (and would deal enough damage on their own to kill you), sure. During the first combat damage step, only creatures with first or double strike get to assign damage, so the Behemoth and any other non-first/double-strikers your opponent is attacking with won't be assigning damage at that point. And if the damage dealt to it in that step is enough to kill the Behemoth, it won't be on the battlefield and won't be attacking when the second combat damage step rolls around, meaning its ability won't be giving your opponent the option of assigning damage directly to you.

Q: I attacked with four creatures this turn (so I have four tapped creatures), one of which was a Dragonscale General. But my opponent has an Archfiend of Depravity. At the beginning of my end step, do I bolster 4, or only 2?

A: Just 2. Both the General's and the Archfiend's abilities will trigger, and the rule tell us you, as the active player (it's your turn), put your trigger on the stack first, meaning it resolves last. Meanwhile your oppoonent's Archfiend's ability will be put on the stack last, meaning it resolves first. So you'll sacrifice all but two creatures you control, then — assuming you kept two tapped ones — you'll bolster 2.

Q: If I control a Leyline of Singularity and a Hero's Blade, will every creature that enters the battlefield under my control trigger the Blade to attach to it?

A: Yup! Although it's not something we often think of as being change-able, type-changing effects are free to make things legendary or not, just the same as they can mess with any other supertype, card type or subtype. And Hero's Blade doesn't care whether something actually has the "legendary" supertype printed on it, or gained that supertype some other way; it just cares that the creature that just entered the battlefield is legendary, and will trigger and happily attach itself.

Q: My opponent attacks me with an Arrogant Wurm and a Trygon Predator, and I control a Spellskite and an Everflowing Chalice with 4 counters on it. If I block the Wurm with Spellskite, will I get a chance to activate Spellskite on the Trygon Predator's trigger and save my Chalice?

A: Your Chalice will be flowing no more. In the combat damage step, first the damage is dealt, then state-based actions are applied (destroying any creatures that took lethal damage), and then triggered abilities are placed on the stack and have their targets chosen. But by that third step, your Spellskite is already in your graveyard, and so you won't be able to activate it, much less have it be around to actually redirect the Predator's trigger.

Q: I had a Butcher of the Horde, and sacrificed a creature to give it lifelink until end of turn. Then the Butcher died; can I now exile it to delve a Soulflayer, and have the Soulflayer get lifelink?

A: You can certainly exile the Butcher from your graveyard to help pay for Soulflayer, but in your graveyard the Butcher didn't have lifelink (and it also didn't have vigilance or haste), so Soulflayer won't have lifelink. It will have flying, though, since that's an ability the Butcher has in every zone.

Q: If I manage to assemble the combo of Painter's Servant choosing white, Gloom, and Enchanted Evening, would that effectively lock everyone out of tapping lands for mana (since doing so would cost )?

A: Yes, and that's going to be one gloomy-looking game. Unlike more recent cards which are careful to exclude mana-producing abilities from their activation cost increases, Gloom just imposes its increase on every activated ability of every white enchantment. And since all lands are, in this situation, white enchantments, activating their mana-producing abilities will require an up-front payment of .

Q: During my opponent's turn, I cast Wake the Dead and brought back a Phyrexian Metamorph, choosing to copy a Gilded Lotus. Since the Metamorph-copying-Lotus is no longer a creature, do I still have to sacrifice it at the beginning of the end step?

A: You do still sacrifice it. When a card uses a shorthand like "those creatures" on Wake the Dead, it means "all of those returned permanents which are still on the battlefield at that point, and which likely but not necessarily will be creatures", not "only those permanents which happen to still be creatures".

Q: I control a Blood Scrivener and I have two cards in hand, one of which is a Wild Guess. If I cast Wild Guess, discarding my other card, will I draw 3 cards and lose 1 life?

A: Well, you'd draw 2 cards, lose 1 life, then draw 1 card, but the end result is the same. "Draw two cards" actually means "draw a card, then draw a card", so Scrivener replaces the first draw from Wild Guess with "draw 2 cards, lose 1 life", and then you carry out the second card draw from Wild Guess.

Avoid vacations during the dragonstorm
Q: I cast Mob Rule, choose to gain control of everything with power 4 or greater, which includes my opponent's 5/5 Knight of the Reliquary. But I don't have any lands in my graveyard; will the Knight still get untapped and gain haste until end of turn?

A: Yup! The set of creatures which will be affected by Mob Rule is calculated only once, and then the entire effect (gain control, untap, gain haste) is applied to all of those creatures. It doesn't and won't re-check power at any later time to see if it should apply or continue applying to a creature.

Q: I control an Eon Hub, and cast a Pact of Negation to counter a spell. If the Eon Hub gets destroyed many turns later, will I have to pay when I eventually get an upkeep?

A: Well, you won't have to, but it'll be a good idea to pay if you don't want to lose the game. Pact of Negation simply sets up a delayed triggered ability for the beginning of your next upkeep step, and that ability will trigger when your next upkeep step begins, no matter how many upkeep-less turns you have in between.

Q: Since banding allows multiple creatures to attack as one, does that mean I could declare some creatures attacking in a band and have exalted trigger for all of them? Say, an Aven Squire and some other Birds which have been given banding by Soraya the Falconer?

A: Banding is weird, but not that weird! In particular, banding just changes some rules about how you declare attackers (you need to declare which creatures attack as a band), how blocking works (a band becomes blocked when any creature in the band becomes blocked), and how damage assignment works (the controller of a creature with banding gets to assign its damage in a nonstandard way when it blocks or is blocked). But it doesn't change the number of creatures attacking, or make some group of creatures "count as" fewer. So in this case, you're attacking with more than one creature as a band, which is not attacking with only one creature, and exalted won't trigger.

Q: If my opponent targets my Frost Walker with a spell to kill it, can I counter the spell to save my Walker?

A: You can counter the spell if you want to, but it won't save your poor Frost Walker — all that matters to it is that it became a target at some point, and as soon as that happens its ability triggers and will make it go "poof!", no matter what happens to the spell or ability that targeted it.

Q: If I cast Shrapnel Blast and for some reason it has rebound (say, because I control Cast Through Time), will I need to sacrifice another artifact when it rebounds?

A: You will. Although rebound gets you out of the mana cost of the spell, you'll still have to pay any additional costs to cast the spell, or pay for any cost-increasing effects which would apply to it.

I'm all preliminary'd out for the week, but be sure to check back in next week when Carsten will answer a grab-bag of questions about Dragons of Tarkir 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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