Published on 06/08/2015

Bigger Than Ever

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

"I want a Grand Prix THIS big!"

Last week saw the largest weekend of tournament Magic in history, with three Grand Prix events making up the Modern Masters 2015 GP weekend, and reportedly around 16,000 players total. These events set multiple records for Magic event attendance!

But now there are multiple new GP champions, a ton of Modern Masters 2015 booster wrappers to clean up, and a well-deserved rest for everyone who played in or helped run one of those events, as we take a breather before Magic Origins spices things up in about a month.

Of course, a 16,000-player weekend of Magic means a bumper crop of rules questions, which happen to be our specialty, so if you saw something interesting you'd like an answer about, feel free to ask us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: What is the converted mana cost of a split card, like Wear // Tear?

A: The answer depends on where the split card is, and what kind of comparison/question is being asked.

If the split card is in any zone other than the stack, then it will give two answers to questions about its characteristics, one answer for each half of the card. Anything which wants to do a comparison — like, say, Counterbalance asking "is your converted mana cost equal to that spell's converted mana cost" — will get an answer of "yes" if either of the two answers would be "yes" (so, for example, Wear // Tear revealed to Counterbalance will counter a spell of CMC 1 or a spell of CMC 2, but not a spell of CMC 3). Anything which just wants a number without a comparison will get the sum; for example, Dark Confidant revealing Wear // Tear would make you lose 3 life.

If the split card is on the stack, then its converted mana cost depends on how it was cast. If only one half of the card was cast, only that half gives an answer (so just casting Wear would give the answer "my converted mana cost is 2"). If the split card has fuse, and was cast using fuse, then it gives an answer that's the sum of the two halves (so fusing Wear // Tear will cause it to have, on the stack, a converted mana cost of 2 + 1 = 3).

Q: If I have a Containment Priest, does that mean my opponent can't activate Inkmoth Nexus to make a creature, since Inkmoth Nexus' ability doesn't cast the creature?

A: First of all, your opponent can always activate Inkmoth Nexus' ability (so long as they have the mana to pay), regardless of whether it will actually accomplish anything.

But more importantly, Inkmoth Nexus' ability (and other abilities which cause noncreature permanents to become creatures) doesn't cause anything new to enter the battlefield. Changing something's characteristics is like dying your hair: it doesn't create a second person with different hair, it just causes you — the same person as always — to look a bit different. In much the same way, Inkmoth Nexus doesn't create a new creature, it just suddenly looks different (and very creature-ish). So Containment Priest doesn't see anything to interfere with, and the newly-animated Nexus can fly over and start infecting you.

Q: Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker says that "he doesn't lose loyalty while he's not a planeswalker". Does that mean if I use Vampire Hexmage on an animated Sarkhan, he won't lose all his counters and die?

A: The "doesn't lose loyalty" bit occurs in italics, which marks it as reminder text; reminder text is there to provide a brief reminder for common situations, not to be an exhaustive rules explanation. And the reminder here is that when Sarkhan's not a planeswalker, damage won't cause him to lose loyalty, because that's something planeswalkers do (and he's not one when he's a creature). Effects that directly remove counters will still work, but won't kill Sarkhan until he becomes a planeswalker again (since, again, dying due to zero loyalty is something only planeswalkers do, and when Sarkhan is a creature he isn't a planeswalker).

Q: I have a Dark Depths, and now it has no ice counters on it, so its ability triggered. But in response to that my opponent activated Wasteland to destroy Dark Depths, and now she says I don't get a 20/20 Marit Lage token. I thought abilities of lands just happen without using the stack. Who's right?

A: Your opponent is. Most activated and triggered mana-producing abilities don't use the stack (and this is true whether they're abilities of lands, or of other types of cards), but any other activated or triggered ability uses the stack and can be responded to. In this case, Dark Depths will no longer be on the battlefield when its triggered ability resolves, so you won't be able to sacrifice it for its ability and the "if you do..." part won't give you a big flying Marit Lage token.

Q: I want to play a Blackcleave Cliffs, and I control exactly two lands already. Will the Cliffs enter tapped?

A: Nope! Blackcleave Cliffs counts how many other lands you control as it enters the battlefield. If you already control zero, one or two other lands, it enters untapped. If you already control three or more, it enters tapped. Since in this case you have only two, it enters untapped quite happily.

GP Vegas cast this kicked, and got a second GP!

Q: My opponent has an Arcbound Ravager with two +1/+1 counters on it. I know if I Electrolyze it, she can sacrifice it in response to counter my Electrolyze completely (due to illegal target). So would it be legal for me to cast Electrolyze targeting the Ravager and her, choosing 2 damage to the Ravager and 0 damage to her, so I can still draw a card?

A: Whenever a spell or ability instructs you to divide something among targets, you must assign at least one of that thing (in this case damage) to each target. So with two targets, the only legal damage split for Electrolyze would be 1 damage per target; choosing a split of 2 and 0 is not legal.

Q: I control a Kitchen Finks with a -1/-1 counter on it. I cast Dromoka's Command choosing to put a +1/+1 counter on the Finks and have it fight my opponent's 2/2 creature. Does the Kitchen Finks survive? And if not, does it persist?

A: No, and no. While it's true that -1/-1 and +1/+1 counters effectively cancel each other out (by being removed in pairs until the creature doesn't have both types of counters on it anymore), that only happens when state-based actions are checked, which doesn't occur until after you're done resolving Dromoka's Command. So first you put a +1/+1 counter on the Finks; it temporarily has both a +1/+1 and a -1/-1 counter, and so is 3/2. Then it fights the 2/2. Then Dromoka's Command is done resolving and you apply all relevant state-based actions. There are two actions here: the Finks get destroyed (due to being a 3/2 with 2 damage marked on it) and both counters get removed. These actions get applied simultaneously, so you go straight from "Finks on the battlefield with both types of counters" to "Finks in the graveyard with neither type of counter". And since, when it was last on the battlefield, the Finks had a -1/-1 counter, persist will not trigger.

Q: My opponent controls an Arcbound Ravager with 5 +1/+1 counters on it, and I use Violent Outburst to cascade into Living End. Will my opponent be able to put the counters from the Ravager onto one of the creatures Living End brings back?

A: Yup! During the resolution of Living End, your opponent sacrifices Arcbound Ravager (along with all her other creatures). This triggers modular, but it can't be put on the stack or have a target chosen for it until the current spell or ability completely finishes resolving. So any creatures that were in her graveyard to begin with will get returned, then she'll put the modular trigger on the stack and choose a target for it.

Q: If I use Desolate Lighthouse to draw a card on my opponent's turn, and the card I draw is Terminus, can I cast it even though it's a sorcery and it's not my main phase?

A: So long as you don't discard it to the Lighthouse's ability, and keep it revealed the entire time, you can. Whenever an instruction on a card tells you to cast something, you cast it right then and there, ignoring the normal restrictions for timing based on card type.

Q: Council's Judgment tells each player to vote for "a nonland permanent you don't control". Does that mean in a three-player game my opponents could each vote for one of my permanents and end up exiling it?

A: Council's Judgment actually says "each player votes for a nonland permanent you don't control". And whenever a spell or ability uses the word "you", it's referring to its own controller, which is... you. So you vote for a permanent you don't control, and each of your opponents votes for a permanent you don't control, which means it's not possible for any of your permanents to get votes.

Q: Would Torpor Orb or Hushwing Gryff stop Spike Feeder from getting its counters?

A: No, because they only stop triggered abilities — those are abilities that use "When", "Whenever", or "At". Spike Feeder's ability doesn't use one of those words, so it's not a triggered ability (it's a replacement effect that modifies how it enters the battlefield), and it will still enter with two +1/+1 counters.

Q: My opponent has a Young Pyromancer, and casts a Lightning Bolt targeting one of my creatures. I Dispel the Lightning Bolt, but she Remands the Bolt in response. Is that legal? Does she still get an Elemental token from the Bolt?

A: Yes, and yes! It's perfectly legal to counter your own spell (and with Remand, can sometimes be a good play — here, it put the Bolt back in her hand to save it from your Dispel). And Young Pyromancer cares only that its controller cast a spell, not that the spell resolved, so your opponent will actually get two Elemental tokens here (one for casting Lightning Bolt, and one for casting Remand).

Q: If I make a copy of an Arcane spell that I've spliced onto (say, a Lava Spike with Desperate Ritual spliced on), will the copy be spliced, too?

A: It will. When you make a copy of a spell, you copy choices made while casting the original, including what was spliced onto it (or whether it was kicked or entwined or overloaded, etc.). So if you splice Desperate Ritual onto Lava Spike and then copy Lava Spike, you'll get a copy of Lava Spike with Desperate Ritual spliced on. And once the copy and the original have resolved, you'll have dealt 6 damage and added to your mana pool.

Q: Does this mean it's possible to "go infinite" with Lava Spike? Say, if I cast Lava Spike, splice on Desperate Ritual, then in response pay to activate Izzet Guildmage copying the Lava Spike? Then I could just use the mana from the copy to activate Izzet Guildmage to make another copy, get more mana, activate Guildmage again, and kill my opponent?

A: Yup. Splicing on additional spells does not change a card's converted mana cost, so the Guildmage still sees Lava Spike as having CMC 1. So long as you have to get it started ( for Lava Spike, to splice on Ritual, and to pay for the first Guildmage activation), you can just keep re-activating Guildmage to make a new copy each time the previous copy has resolved (since each time you get , which is enough to pay for Guildmage again). Repeat until your opponent is suitably crispy.

How does the judge staff feel after a huge event?
Q: There are four card types in graveyards, but there's a Yixlid Jailer on the battlefield. Does that mean Tarmogoyf could be returned with Reveillark's ability?

A: That's exactly what it means. Tarmogoyf's power and toughness are set by an ability that normally functions in all zones of the game, but Yixlid Jailer makes that ability disappear, so Tarmogoyf's power will be 0 in the graveyard and the 'Lark will be able to bring it back.

Q: If Living Lore exiles Hour of Need, when Living Lore's ability goes off can I target as many creatures as I want with Hour of Need for free?

A: Living Lore tells you to cast the card without paying its mana cost, which only gets you out of paying for the symbols in the upper right corner. Any additional costs — such as strive, in this case — still need to be paid normally, so Hour of Need will still cost you for each target beyond the first.

Q: If I cast Firestorm, discarding 5 cards, can I choose to deal 5 damage to my opponent 5 times for an instant kill?

A: Nope. A single player or game object can only be chosen as a target once per instance of the word "target" in a spell or ability's text. Since Firestorm uses the word "target" once, you'll only be able to choose your opponent as a target one time, meaning with X=5 you'll deal 5 damage to your opponent, and 5 damage to each of four other targets (and you must be able to choose those other targets — if there aren't enough targets, you'll need to choose a lower value for X).

Q: If I attack with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death and choose to return a Clever Impersonator, what happens if I have the Impersonator copy something that isn't a creature? Is that even legal?

A: It's perfectly legal — Alesha only cares that the card is a creature with power 2 or less in the graveyard, not whether it will be a creature or how large it will be on the battlefield. And if you choose to copy a noncreature permanent, then the Impersonator simply won't be attacking when it's returned (since only creatures can attack).

Q: I was watching a tournament that was in the final match, and one player said to the other "I just want the trophy, would you be OK with me getting first place and you getting second and all the other prizes?" I thought offering prize splits in return for a result was illegal, but the judges allowed this. What's going on?

A: Offering a prize split in return for a match result is illegal because it involves reporting fake results for matches. But in the single elimination ("top 8") portion of a tournament, it's possible to set the final standings without falsifying any match results: since it's single-elimination at that point, one or more players can simply drop without playing their matches. This opens up a broader range of possible prize splits, and in the final match essentially any arrangement is legal, so long as one player drops to leave the other as the winner.

That's all for this week, but be sure to check in again next week when we'll be back with another 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.

On the Lava Spike - Desperate Ritual - Izzet Guildmage question, you very specifically stated that are required to start the combo. Actually, will be sufficient - you can cast Desperate Ritual in Response to the Lava Spike with the spliced Ritual to generate one additional mana.
#1 • Date: 2015-06-08 • Time: 13:11:14 •
Perhaps worth noting for Alesha that the noncreature still comes into play tapped, even though it\'s not attacking. At least I believe that\'s true.

Last edited on 2015-06-13 02:06:15 by AluminumAngel
#2 • Date: 2015-06-09 • Time: 22:05:45 •

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