Published on 04/06/2015



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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Fun fact: There are no multicolor exploit cards.
I didn't know this until I went looking for a title image.
Hello and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! This week's article is all about exploit, the mechanic of the Silumgar clan in Dragons of Tarkir. Now it might seem odd to have a mechanic all about heroic, worthy deeds in a clan that reveres ruthlessness, but I'm sure Silumgar would tell you that wearing a teenager as a necklace takes a truly heroic amount of neck strength, and...wait, what? It's a verb? Oh. That...yeah, that makes more sense.

If you'd like to exploit our ability to answer rules questions, you can send them to us via email at , or via our Twitter account, @CranialTweet. We'll send you an answer and maybe include your question in one of our upcoming articles.

But for now, let's dive into the treasure hoard of questions we've managed to amass since your last visit.

Q: Can two Blood-Chin Fanatics eat each other?

A: No. Mutual total cannibalism is no more a thing in Magic than it is in reality, because no matter what, one of them has to die first, which will put a major cramp in his dinner plans.

You can only activate abilities one at a time, and you need to finish activating the first Fanatic's ability before the game gives you a chance to activate the second. But by then your second Fanatic is dead, and a dead Fanatic definitely can't eat anything anymore.

Q: If I exploit a Sultai Emissary with Gurmag Drowner, what happens first? Do I look at the top four cards in my library first, or do I manifest the top card of my library first?

A: You can do them in whichever order you want. Both the Emissary's ability and the Drowner's ability are triggering at the same time, and you control them both, so you get to choose the order in which they're put onto the stack relative to each other. Whichever ability you put on the bottom will resolve last.

So if you want to manifest before picking something from the top four, you can do that, or if you want to look at the top four before manifesting something, you can do it that way instead.

Q: If I manifest a creature with megamorph, can I pay either the manifest cost or the megamorph cost and still get the counter?

A: Nope; if you want to get that sweet, sweet +1/+1 counter-y goodness, you need to pay the megamorph cost, not the manifest cost. Getting a +1/+1 counter is part of the special action of paying the megamorph cost, and paying the manifest cost isn't quite the same thing, even though they both involve turning your creature face up.

Q: If I already control a Sidisi's Faithful and cast another one, when I exploit something will I bounce two creatures or only one?

A: Just the one. Whenever a creature refers to itself by name, it just means "this specific creature right here—me". The Sidisi's Faithful you already control doesn't really care if some other Sidisi's Faithful has exploited something—all it cares about is when it exploits something, and it's not doing that right now.

If a card means "everything with the same name as this", it's going to say so, like Cylian Sunsinger does.

They might be chains, but they
just feel so darn soft and smooth!
Q: Can I exile my opponent's face-down megamorph creature with Silkwrap?

A: Absolutely. A facedown creature has no mana cost, which means it has a converted mana cost of 0. 0 is definitely less than 3, so it's a legal target for Silkwrap's exile ability, and once that ability has finished resolving and exiled the creature it doesn't matter what its converted mana cost is anymore.

Q: Hey wait, my opponent says the creature gets turned face up when she breaks my Silkwrap! Where does it say that?!

A: It doesn't have to—it's built into the rules for things entering the battlefield. (And being exiled, for that matter.) Any time anything enters the battlefield from some other zone, it always enters face-up unless something specifically says otherwise. (In the same way and for the same reason that things enter the battlefield untapped unless otherwise specified.) Silkwrap doesn't tell you that the creature enters the battlefield face-down, so it doesn't. It enters the battlefield face-up, just like a normal creature would.

In fact, the creature was turned face-up even before the Silkwrap was broken, because things are exiled face-up by default as well. The creature was already face-up the whole time it was in exile.

Q: I cast Warp World, and reveal seven Dragons and Dragon Tempest. Will I get seven Dragon Tempest burn triggers for 7 damage each? It's all part of the resolution so for all intents and purposes, the permanents are entering at the same time, right?

A: I'm afraid not. While everything entered the battlefield during Warp World's resolution, it all happened in the order Warp World said it did.

Warp World says that enchantments enter the battlefield after everything else, so that's just what they do. Dragon Tempest wasn't around when your Dragons entered the battlefield, so it doesn't get to trigger. The fact that everything happened during the same spell's resolution doesn't matter.

Q: I control Illusory Gains enchanting my opponent's Wandering Tombshell. My opponent casts Profaner of the Dead, and I take it with Illusory Gains before exploit happens. If she sacrifices the Wandering Tombshell she just got back, does that bounce my board?

A: Nope—it'll bounce her own.

Your opponent controls the original exploit trigger, and therefore gets to choose whether or not to sacrifice anything, but you currently control Profaner of the Dead. Therefore, if your opponent sacrifices something, your Profaner has exploited a creature, and therefore you're the one who gets the second trigger.

Your opponent will probably be happy to realize that sacrificing for exploit is optional; not sacrificing anything would probably be a wise play for her.

Q: I have Krark-Clan Ironworks and Masticore out, but no cards in hand, and want to deal as much damage to my opponent's creatures as I can before my Masticore goes away. Can I sacrifice Masticore itself to the Ironworks to deal an extra point?

A: Surprisingly, yes, for pretty much the same reason you can sacrifice Mogg Fanatic for its own ability. (Though the timing's a bit different.) Once you've started activating the ability, it's on the stack and independent of the source, so whether or not the source is around any more doesn't affect the ability itself.

In this case, you're sacrificing Masticore in order to produce mana just before you pay the cost of the ability rather than sacrificing it as one of the costs, but the same principle applies.

Q: What happens if you kill the creature with exploit before a creature is sacrificed? Does the effect still happen even though the creature was not in play when the creature was sacrificed?

A: If the creature with exploit is removed before the exploit ability resolves, it won't be around to see if it exploited anything, so its other ability will not be able to trigger, even if your opponent does choose to sacrifice something.

...Which they probably won't, because why would they ever want to sacrifice a creature?

Q: If I cast Knowledge Exploitation and use it to grab my opponent's Spelltwine, can I use Spelltwine to re-cast my own Knowledge Exploitation?

A: No, you can't. Knowledge Exploitation causes you to cast Spelltwine as part of its resolution, which means the Exploitation itself is still on the stack. You have to choose Spelltwine's targets as part of casting it, and since the Exploitation is on the stack, it's not in your graveyard, and therefore isn't a legal target for Spelltwine.

Q: I don't have quite enough power on the board to turn on formidable, but can I pump my creatures with War Flare in response to Stampeding Elk Herd's ability to both have my creatures get trample and have them be untapped?

A: Sadly, no. Stampeding Elk Herd's formidable ability has an intervening "if" clause, which means the condition must be true in order for the ability to trigger in the first place as well as when the ability resolves. If you don't have formidable at the time you declare Stampeding Elk Herd as an attacker, the ability won't trigger, and casting War Flare afterwards won't go back in time to get it to do so.

And if you try things the other way around, casting War Flare before you declare attackers, then your creatures will end up attacking, and therefore tapping, after War Flare's resolution. They'll gain trample once the Herd attacks, but they'll still be tapped.

I see what you did there, R&D.
Q: I want to play Silumgar Butcher and use its exploit ability to kill my opponent's Zephyr Scribe. When do I target the Scribe? When the Butcher comes into play and the exploit ability is put on the stack, or when I actually sacrifice a creature? When is the latest opportunity for my opponent to use the Scribe's activated ability?

A: You choose a target for the ability after you sacrifice a creature. The exploit ability itself doesn't target anything—it's the second trigger that targets, and that ability doesn't trigger until you sacrifice something as the exploit ability resolves. Your opponent's last chance to use the Scribe's ability before it dies is in response to that second trigger.

Q: ...What about exploit abilities that do not target, like Profaner of the Dead? Can my opponents try to save their creatures after they know what the toughness of the sacrificed creature was?

A: Absolutely. Since the second ability doesn't trigger until the sacrifice is complete, and can be responded to, your opponent will absolutely know what the toughness of the creature you sacrificed was when deciding whether and how to respond.

Q: If I have an Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit out and I play an Avatar of the Resolute, can I stack the bolster trigger so that Anafenza will get the +1 from the Avatar and Avatar will enter with a +1/+1 counter as well? Or will the bolster trigger be too late to buff the Avatar?

A: It'll be too late. The number of counters that Avatar of the Resolute enters the battlefield with is determined as you're putting it onto the battlefield, while Anafenza's ability only triggers after that, once the creature has already entered the battlefield. There's no way for the Avatar to see a counter that Anafenza doesn't even know she's going to place yet.

Q: How do cards like Winter Orb and Static Orb work with cards that prevent you from untapping certain things during your untap step (like Frost Breath and Back to Basics). For instance, if I have a Winter Orb and Back to Basics in play, can I use the Orb to untap a Tropical Island?

A: All of those cards work by restricting what can be untapped during your untap step, and all such restrictions are applied. If something says that one of your permanents doesn't untap, it doesn't untap. If something says that you can only untap a certain number of permanents, you must choose from among the permanents that would actually otherwise untap.

So with all four of those cards in use, you wouldn't be able to untap the creatures affected by Frost Breath at all, nor any nonbasic lands. Of your remaining tapped permanents, you will untap two of your choice, only one of which can be a land. (If you have only one tapped permanent that's not affected by Frost Breath or Back to Basics, that's what untaps.)

Contrast Winter Orb to something like Rising Waters. With both out, your lands wouldn't untap during your untap step at all, but you could untap your Tropical Island afterwards with Rising Waters, because Rising Waters has a separate effect that untaps things. Winter Orb does not.

Q: If I have Opalescence and Coat of Arms on the battlefield plus three other enchantments, do my enchantments get buffed by the Coat?

A: No, they don't. Coat of Arms only boosts creatures if they share a creature type with some other creature, and "Enchantment" isn't a creature type—it's a card type, like "Creature" itself.

Opalescence doesn't give your enchantments creature types as part of animating them, so unless there's something else hanging around to do the job they don't have any creature types at all, and therefore won't get boosted by the Coat.

Q: If I use Alesha, Who Smiles at Death's triggered ability to bring back Qarsi Sadist, and use Sadist's exploit ability on itself, is it still considered tapped and attacking? Does it deal combat damage?

A: Nope. The Sadist dies during the declare attackers step of combat, well before blockers are even declared. It's no longer on the battlefield, and something that's not on the battlefield definitely can't be tapped, nor can it be attacking. And it certainly can't deal any combat damage.

Q: Can I have four Gemhide Slivers and four Manaweft Slivers in the same deck, or can I not do that because the cards are basically the same?

A: "Basically the same" isn't "actually the same". It's the (English) name of a card that defines what card it is, and even though their text boxes look really similar, Gemhide Sliver and Manaweft Sliver have different names, so they're different cards.

If you want to play four Grizzly Bears, four Runeclaw Bears, four Bear Cubs, and four Forest Bears in the same deck, you can do that, and they're even more similar than those Slivers.

Q: How does Exploit differ from older cards like Kuldotha Flamefiend or Blind Zealot? Isn't it just the same thing?

A: Not quite. Exploit is a similar idea, but it functions subtly differently, because it's split into two separate triggers instead of a single unified one like those cards.

When a triggered ability has targets, you need to choose those targets as the ability is put onto the stack. But most of the rest of the decisions you need to make for the ability—including whether or not to pay the cost to get the effect—are only made as the ability resolves. So when your opponent's Kuldotha Flamefiend enters the battlefield, they choose targets for its ability and decide how to divide damage among them regardless of whether or not they actually intend to sacrifice an artifact.

Then you get a chance to respond. But while you know what they're targeting, they haven't committed to sacrificing or not yet. If you act now, perhaps by sacrificing your creatures for some beneficial effect, then your opponent can just decline to pay the cost, and they effectively got you to get rid of your own creature, at no cost to themselves.

If you instead try to wait and see whether your opponent intends to sacrifice or not, it'll be too late for you to do anything about it, because the ability is already resolving—by the time you have another chance to do things, the damage has been dealt and your creatures are dead.

Exploit, however, works differently. The second ability is completely separate and doesn't even go on the stack if your opponent declines to sacrifice, which means they don't have to choose targets for an ability they never wanted to use. In addition, you don't have to guess your opponent's intent in advance—if they decide to sacrifice, you have a chance to respond appropriately before the effect actually happens.

Q: I'm just getting back into Magic, and played against someone who used three cards to exploit a loophole that would allow him to get zillions of life points.

I remember that around the time of 3rd edition loopholes were limited to the "only once" rule, because it wouldn't make sense to abuse a loophole—MTG is so large, it's impossible not to find a loophole between cards, and there are tons of them.

So the big question, does that "only once" rule for loopholes still stand?

A: It does not stand. In fact, it never stood in the first place—there has never been any such rule. What you're thinking of sounds very much like a house rule the players you used to play with (or whoever they learned from) made up on their own.

The rules do talk about how to handle infinite loops, but they don't try to restrict their use—they just explain how to shortcut through them so you don't have to go through the motions ridiculous numbers of times to get to the end result.

Q: My opponent has a 3/4 Tarmogoyf out, but he miscounted graveyards and thinks that it's a 2/3. He attacks, and I flash in Restoration Angel and block. My opponent moves Tarmogoyf to the graveyard. Am I forced to correct him?

A: Yes, absolutely. If something happens in your game that's against the rules, you need to point it out. You're not allowed to deliberately let your opponent break the rules any more than you're allowed to deliberately break them yourself—doing so is cheating.

And that's all the rules questions we have time for this week—if you'd like to squeeze more out of us, you'll have to wait until next week, when James will be back with another exciting edition of Cranial Insertion.

Until then, I wish you good luck in all of your exploits...or at least the ones of the noun variety.

- Callum Milne

About the Author:
Callum Milne is a Level 2 judge from British Columbia, Canada. His home range is Vancouver Island, but he can be found in the wild throughout BC and also at GPs all along the west coast of North America.


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