Published on 03/30/2015

The Top Tin

or, Ten Years of Rules on the Wall

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Aluminium already has
its own card while tin doesn't.
The modern anniversary gift for a tenth anniversary is diamond, but the traditional gift is either tin (possibly because puns are always in vogue) or aluminum. In order to not start a riot over the proper spelling of aluminium, and because "diamond anniversary" has a much better-known connotation, we're going to stick with tin for this anniversary.

What we're going to do is hop in Ugin's time machine and look at two questions from each year we've been writing. We'll look at the old answer, and then form a shiny new answer for you to feast your eyes upon! Now, we did this five years ago for our fifth anniversary, and it wasn't easy. Magic's rules are fairly stable, with the 6ED and M10 overhauls being the single sets of sweeping changes. This mission could turn into a hilarious failure, but at least it will be an educational failure. [Note from the future: It wasn't quite as bad as I was afraid, with only two drifting off-topic into a joke...]

Meanwhile in the present, you can send in questions you have to or send short questions for short answers to @CranialTweet on Twitter. Not only will you get an answer from one of the writers, and your question may appear in a future article, but you may also be quoted five or ten years in the future!

Q: I have a Forest with Genju of the Cedars on it. My opponent uses Blind Seer to make my Forest black. I activate my Genju, animating my Forest. What color is it?

A: Old Answer: The Genju's effect modifies the Forest's type to be a creature land, and its subtype to be a Spirit. That means that the entire effect (including the color-changing and P/T-changing parts) falls in layer 4, where it is applied before Blind Seer's effect from layer 5. First, the Genju makes your Forest into a 4/4 green Spirit creature land. Then Blind Seer makes it black instead of green.

New Answer: As you can see, the layer system took a while to find its feet. Its early days were more about attempting to keep every interaction intuitive, and all of the whorls and loops caused even stranger things like this to happen. At some point not too far from here, it was decided that a programatically-simple system was better than relying on every player having the same intuition, and the current layer rules were born.

Now, a single effect that affects multiple characteristics like this gets applied over the course of multiple layers. In layer 4, the Forest gains a new type and subtype. In layer 5, we apply effects in timestamp order, with the Seer's earlier effect giving the colorless Forest a color, then the Genju's effect replacing that color with a more appropriate color.

Oh, hey, April of 2005 was the first time one of us noted that Magic did not have a Zombie Ape, which remained true right up until Khans of Tarkir gave us Sidisi's Pet. Took them long enough.

Q: This time the Shapeshifter is copying a Bringer of the Black Dawn and has 3 combat damage assigned to a creature and 2 to the player. The combat damage is still on the stack, and before it's dealt, I discard Phage. Do I win?

A: Old Answer: Yes, this one works, too. At the moment the damage is dealt to the player, the object formerly known as Bringer of the Black Dawn but currently known as Phage the Untouchable will have an ability that was waiting for just that event (namely, the object in question dealing combat damage to a player). The ability will trigger, and your opponent is soon going to lose.

New Answer: Since combat damage no longer uses the stack, the described scenario is obviously impossible. However, it's sadder than that - there's just no way at all to get Phage to trample through damage all on her own by changing form in combat. There's still a trick you can do: your Prized Elephant or whatnot can go hang out in your graveyard, let the Shapeshifter gain trample, and then it'll still have trample when Phage joins your Elephant, letting your Volrath's Phageshifter touch your opponent to death.

Q: This has probably been asked before, but I want a definitive answer. My opponent played Gifts Ungiven and found only two cards, which he said I had to put in his graveyard. But Gifts says to search for four cards. Can he do this?

A: Old Answer: He can indeed. To see why, let's look in the Comp Rules, under the glossary definition of "search."

New Answer: Imma stop you there, Tom in the Past - the answer continues to explain very deeply a pretty complex and not entirely intuitive part of the rules. But while it's not intuitive, it is important for gameplay: If you're searching, and there's criteria to the search, you can fail to find because otherwise you would have to reveal your deck to prove you can't find. Rather than make players memorize that rule, the new standard is to include "up to" or "may" in the effect to make it clear without knowing the rule if there's a reasonable chance it'd come into effect. So Gifts Ungiven? It's got errata to make it explicit that you search for "up to four cards," and anything new like it would have that printed on it. So the answer remains true, but the question's less questiony now.

Q: Who would win a Jello-wrestling match: Serra Angel, or Akroma, Angel of Wrath?

A: Old Answer: Moko, Moko, why hast thou forsaken me?

New Answer: Oh, right, because I threw out your squeaky brain. Time Spiral's legendary-creature poll taught us that Akroma wins everything, so that's answered. Also, 6/6 versus 4/4, duuuuh.

Sorry, Gerard, you don't know
about "being the best."
Q: Master of Arms [is among the cards that have received errata. Why was it changed?]

Old Oracle Text: First strike. : Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms.

New Oracle Text: First strike. : Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms. Prevent all combat damage that creature would deal this turn.

A: Old Explanation: Believe it or not, the new Oracle wording actually preserves the original functionality of this card. To explain why requires a trip back to the rules when Weatherlight was originally released, before the Sixth Edition rules. Cue the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future:

Thousands of years ago, in the dark times before the stack and when interrupts roamed the land, the rules of Magic were much different. There was a "between-turns" phase and triggered abilities couldn't be responded to with instants. And tapped blockers didn't deal combat damage.

New Explanation: It got more errata!

Old Oracle Text: First strike. : Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms. Prevent all combat damage that creature would deal this turn.

New Oracle Text: First strike. : Tap target creature blocking Master of Arms.

Yeah, that old errata got pulled off because no one in the modern day would know why it made sense, and it doesn't say it on the card, and oh well, a bad card is worse with a rules change. Life goes on.

Q: If I play a land with Exploration out, and then Exploration is bounced, can I play another land?

A: Old Answer: Did you announce that the first land was played for Exploration's allowance? If you didn't, it's assumed that you played that land as your land drop for the turn. But if you said "I play this land for Exploration," then you still have your normal land drop to use.

New Answer: Did that sound confusing? That's because it was confusing. Now it's not confusing because it's not the rule anymore. You just add up how many lands various effects say at this moment that you're allowed to play, compare it to how many lands you have played, and if the first number is greater than the second you may play another land.

Q: If I Mindslaver my opponent, can I cast his Burning Wish and look at his sideboard?

A: Old Answer: No. The fact that Wishes can grab from the sideboard is a tournament mechanic, but one little policy point trumps the Wishes: A player may never look at an opponent's sideboard. Therefore a player can not access his opponent's sideboard if he controls his turn. This is the same logic that keeps Platinum Angel from being a shield against Game Losses.

New Answer: The contents of a player's sideboard, much like the contents of a player's hand, is now information that the player simply always has available. It's not a game action to look at it because it's just info the player already has. When you control an opponent, you have access to all of the information that player does, including what's in the sideboard, so you can look without even having to finagle a Wish into the situation.

Q: Can we sanction Cube Drafts?

A: Old Answer: Like Elder Dragon Highlander, Cube Draft is an awesome, fun-filled format that the DCI does not approve. [Huge frowny face goes here.] The rules for sanctioning a draft are that all players must receive the same amount and type of booster pack product, but that product must be sealed; you can run some really wacky drafts with Mirage, Stronghold, Homelands, and Mirrodin if you want, but Cube is not doable.

New Answer: While unusual formats can't be sanctioned in the sense of being rated events that give you many Planeswalker Points, they can be used for FNM, which may or may not fall under your definition of "sanctioned." You'll get a participation point, and the store can award the FNM promos for the week to the Cube drafters. There won't be any sort of Wizards-recorded leaderboards for Cube drafting, just fun. Same for Commander. Meanwhile, Mirage/Stronghold/Homelands/Mirrodin drafts are still entirely valid for sanctioned, rated FNMs.

Q: In a Standard tournament, can I name Tarmogoyf with Runed Halo?

A: Old Answer: Sure, any real Magic card is legal to name with Runed Halo. Naming Tarmogoyf won't be terribly useful though, but it will get you major props from me.

New Answer: The side effect of this rule, though, was that if you used a perfectly clear shorthand like "Shackles" for Vedalken Shackles in Modern or misspoke and said "Searing Spear" instead of "Lightning Strike" in Standard, you got hosed. To reduce the chances of semantics blowing you out rather than misplays, the rules allow you to name only a card that is legal in the format you're playing - so there is very definitely still a chance to shoot yourself in the foot, but it's smaller.

Q: Can I use Tel-Jilad Stylus to kill a token my opponent got from my Hunted Horror?

A: Old Answer: Your opponent may think those are his tokens, but as far as the Stylus is concerned, they're all yours. The owner of a token is the player who controlled the effect that created it. You controlled the Horror's triggered ability, so you can etch those tokens into oblivion.

New Answer: One of the relatively minor M10 rules changes was to change who owns tokens. The owner of a token is the player who controlled it at the moment it entered the battlefield. While we all here at Cranial Insertion love shenanigans, the game has quite enough of them without quirky ones like this was.

Q: The Saviors of Kamigawa Player's Guide says that if you splice Evermind onto a Glacial Ray, the Ray is blue. But I read somewhere else that that's not true. Which is correct?

A: Old Answer: The guide is wrong. An overexcited editor slipped it in before the Wizards rules team got to the question. The official ruling is that characteristic-setting abilities are *not* copied during splicing, so your Ray is still a red spell.

Old New Answer: And not too long after the SOK FAQ said that the guide was wrong, the guide turned out to be prophetic. This must have been with either the 9ED or RAV rules update, but there's nothing special about CDAs being copied: Evermind's is copied on just fine.

New New Answer: And then along came Innistrad, with its color indicator technology for double-faced cards, which removed Evermind's CDA entirely. Bereft of that ability, there's nothing to be spliced onto the Glaciay Ray other than "Draw a card." and the now-pointless splice ability itself, and no reason at all for Glacial Ray to become blue.

Q: If I flip up Assault // Battery for Dark Confidant, do I lose 5 life or do I get to choose a side?

A: Old Answer: Split cards are very strange beings indeed. Except on the stack, they literally have two sets of characteristics. When Dark Confidant asks Assault//Battery what its converted mana cost is, it gets two answers, 1 and 4. It makes you lose "1 and 4" life, so you lose 1 and 4 life and end up 5 life below where you were.

New Answer: We used to have to say "1 and 4 is 5, so you lose 1 and 4 life, but you don't lose 5 life." That's a headache to envision and explain. Thanks to Living Lore, it's also no longer the case. If an effect asks for the converted mana cost of a split card to bind a variable, it gets the sum of them, and you lose 5 life, no messing around with "1 and 4 at once" or anything.

Comparisons continue to work as before, where "Is CMC less than 3?" gets "yes" and "no" and "yes" overrules the "no." But it's a lot easier on humans to be told "1 is less than 3, so it's true" than "1 and 4 is not 5."

Q: Can Spell Crumple really get rid of my commander? I can't choose to put it in the command zone?

A: Old Answer: You can only bop your commander over into the command zone by replacing it going to a graveyard or replacing it being exiled. Spell Crumple's self-replacement effect, which modifies what it means for it to counter the spell, immediately shunts your commander over to your library , and then the commander-to-command replacement effect can't kick in. It's mean, but it's a valid trick.

New Answer: It's so mean, in fact, that it's no longer a valid trick. Starting with Dragons of Tarkir, hand and library are added to the list of zones that let you shove your commander into the command zone.

Aluminum was once worth a very high
price, but never as much relative to weight
as a Black Lotus, currently valued at over
US$6000 per troy ounce.
Q: Can I cast a double-faced card sunny-side up (or down?) with Illusionary Mask?

A: Old Answer: No such luck. Double-faced cards can never be face down according to rule 711.4, so trying to cast one face down is an illegal action.

New Answer: This moved down to 711.8 and got an overhaul to deal with manifest, and one of those changes was allowing a double-faced card to exist or be cast face down. You can't turn one face down once it's gotten to the battlefield, so Ixidron still gets to cower in fear of Werewolves. Those Werewolves may just now wear a funky mask to conceal their true identity.

Q: What happens when I use a Phantasmal Image to copy my opponent's Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre?

A: Old Answer: Both of them will wind up in the graveyard due to the legend rule, but you probably know that. What might be surprising is that only the real Ulamog will be shuffled into its owner's library. Triggered abilities that trigger when an object is put into the graveyard from the battlefield will look back in time to see what should've triggered, but things that trigger when an object is put into the graveyard "from anywhere" like the legendary Eldrazi only trigger from the zone they're in. When the Phantasmal Image of Ulamog is in your graveyard, it's just a Phantasmal Image, so it doesn't have the "shuffle me back in with everything else!" ability.

New Answer: The legend rule won't take out either of them anymore. I really have to include that somewhere in this article, as many times as I'm reading "the legend rule kills them" on old articles. Post-M14, the legend rule only applies within the context of what a single player controls. I chose this one to put in here because the rest of the answer is still correct for when either or both of the Ulamogs die, and that's pretty awesome.

Q: I've got a 3/3 Centaur token, and my opponent casts Traitorous Instinct to steal it. In response I cast Rootborn Defenses to get another Centaur for blocking; will the one I keep be indestructible? What about the one my opponent takes with Traitorous Instinct?

A: Old Answer: Your Centaur will be quite indestructible, while the one your opponent gets will be quite... well, not. First of all, you always carry out the instructions in a spell's text in order. So with Rootborn Defenses, first you populate, then your stuff gets to become indestructible. And being indestructible is kinda weird: while most effects that do something like pump your creatures' power/toughness or give them abilities will "lock in" what they apply to at resolution, an effect that makes things indestructible doesn't. What it actually does is temporarily modify the rules of the game, which means the set of things it affects can and does constantly update as necessary. So as soon as it's no longer a creature you control, that Centaur is also no longer indestructible.

New Answer: Rootborn Defenses was worded carefully with full knowledge that indestructible would become a keyword, so in the normal-use case, it'll work the same. The question above? Not exactly normal use. You'll get your little pony, both will gain indestructible, one will be dragged away in a touching dramatic scene with violins and outstretched hands, and the traitorous one will still have indestructible. When it suddenly and inevitably betrays you and attacks, its twin can block it and both will survive to help you counter-attack next turn.

Q: Before I declared attackers, my opponent cast Frost Breath targeting two of my creatures. In response, I cast Ranger's Guile to give one of them hexproof. What happens?

A: Old Answer: Fun things happen! First, Frost Breath resolves, because it does still have at least one legal target: the non-hexproof creature. It taps that creature, and that creature won't untap during your next untap step. Now, suppose you go ahead and attack with the one that gained hexproof (and that it doesn't have vigilance)... now it also won't untap during your next untap step!

The basic issue here is that we often treat "illegal target" as being identical to "can't be affected", but that's not true; it can still have an effect on the illegal target, it's just much more restricted in what it can do. Rule 608.2b tells us that when a resolving spell or ability has at least one illegal target, then (deep breath) "the part of the spell or ability's effect for which it is an illegal target can't perform any actions on that target, make another object or player perform any actions on that target, or make that target perform any actions." So Frost Breath can't tap the illegal target (that would be performing an action on it), but can say that creature won't untap during its controller's next untap step.

New Answer: That's a whole lot of words. It caused quite a few arguments among people who like to argue, and some serious discussion (and also arguments) among people who like to actually solve problems. The answer that came down was that the interaction was beyond ridiculous, and boom, 608.2b changed with Born of the Gods to also strike out continuous effects affecting game rules from affecting the illegal target.

Q: I've heard about a play/draw rule based on Swiss standings. Does that apply to the top eight of everything?

A: Old Answer: Nope, it's only mandatory at PTQs and higher events, and is optional if announced before the event for others. For those who might not know the rule in question: With it in effect, the player with the higher Swiss finish chooses whether to play or draw for the first game of each top eight match rather than the players choosing randomly.

New Answer: Turns out that this change was extremely popular. As of Fate Reforged, it's become the new universal rule for all single-elimination top-eights. As a happy side effect, it oh-so-slightly reduces the appeal of intentionally drawing.

Q: So what happens if I turn Heliod, God of the Sun into a Frog?

A: Old Answer: First, Heliod is subject to public ridicule and mockery, the likes of which shall surely result in his wrath splashing mercilessly upon the populace at some point in the future. Next, we walk very slowly and carefully through the layers.

In layer 4, Heliod might cease to be a creature. If he doesn't, he becomes a Legendary Enchantment Creature—Frog. If he does, he does not become a Frog and is just a Legendary Enchantment.

In layer 5, Heliod becomes blue. How sad.

In layer 6, Heliod loses all abilities, causing his "creatures have vigilance" ability to not apply at all and removing indestructible and token-making. It won't undo his not-a-creature ability if it applied earlier, though. That's been worked in and isn't relevant anymore.

In layer 7b, if Heliod is still a creature, he becomes 1/1. If not, he can't have a power or toughness and this part of the effect is ignored.

Like most ugly layer situations, the answer is again to walk slowly through them, and then they're not so scary. What's scary is the fury of Heliod, because man, that guy's a jerk.

New Answer: The answer hasn't changed, but this happened, making my idle joke sort of creepy. "Coastal polis," blue spells, hmmm. Things have been very stable since 2014, except for...

Q: In a tournament, if I win the game and my opponent fails to reveal all their face-down creatures, do I also win the next game?

A: Old Answer: Well, first of all it's important to note that the penalty for failing to reveal face-down creatures at the end of the game (the rules require you to do this, as a way of verifying you played them legally) is only a Game Loss at Competitive and Professional enforcement levels. At Regular enforcement, which is used for FNM and most other events in local game stores, there's no Game Loss — instead, a judge should simply educate the player on the correct procedure, and only threaten penalties if the same mistake is repeated multiple times.

Second, the tournament-policy update for Khans of Tarkir specifically explains that the Game Loss penalty for this (at Competitive and Professional enforcement) should be applied to the game in which the failure to reveal occurred, even if the player who did it lost that game. This keeps it from turning into an effective Match Loss if there's another game left to play in the match.

New Answer: Third, an off-schedule policy update in mid-December got rid of the morph Game Loss. And good riddance. If you forget, it's a Warning; if you reveal and misplayed your Island as a morph, it's still a Game Loss. If the Head Judge thinks you chose not to reveal because you realized you cast an Island face down, it's still a Disqualification. If your Island actually has morph, you're in an alternate timeline and since Island is even better I am forced to assume that this is the darkest timeline.

But back here, where Islands emphatically do not have morph, the timeline is much brighter. That's our journey through the history of Cranial Insertion, and I hope you'll stick around with us for some many more years - thank you all, readers and co-writers and editors and translators over the last decade, for this spiffy little thing we've built.

Until next time, may all your spiffy things include monkeys!

- 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.

Congrats on 10 strong years! Lets hope for many more
#1 • Date: 2015-03-30 • Time: 09:15:17 •
Hear, hear! Love the site. Read it every week... with answers hidden! :)
#2 • Date: 2015-04-02 • Time: 00:21:46 •

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