Published on 07/20/2015

Food on the Brain

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Guess I pulled the high card.
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Due to a scheduling issue we've had to switch up the normal schedule, so I'm taking over for Eli this week, but don't worry, he'll be back soon enough. At least I hope so. When he left he forgot to leave us the key to the pantry where we keep Moko's brain supply, and the poor guy's starting to look hungry. Or at least I think he is—it's surprisingly hard to read his expressions when his face's half rotted off.

But enough about the deranged zombie primate who keeps staring longingly at my skull when he thinks I'm not looking. It's time to take a dive into the mailbox and answer some of your rules questions. Remember, if you'd like us to answer your questions, just send us an email at , or for the shorter ones you can tweet us @CranialTweet. You'll get your answer, and possibly see your question in a future article.


Q: Somebody told me the rules now say I have to play with my lands behind my creatures, and that there's some other things about where I have to place things on my board. What are these new rules?

A: Unless you're headed to the Pro Tour or doing really well at a Grand Prix, they're nothing you need to worry about. Yes, there are some new rules for card layout being introduced as of Pro Tour Magic Origins, but those rules will apply only to Grand Prix and professional-level events like the Pro Tour, and even then only to video feature matches.

So if you're not at a GP or professional-level event, or you're not on camera, you're allowed to arrange your board however you like, just as you always have.

If you are on camera at one of those events...well, then you can read about the requirements here; it's the third headline. But keep in mind that you're not going to receive penalties for failing to lay out your board this way—you'll just get the coverage folks asking you to please move your stuff around so it's easier for the nice folks at home to follow the match.

Q: If Liliana, Defiant Necromancer's emblem is out, what happens when a token dies? Does it return?

A: While the emblem's ability will trigger when a token creature dies, it doesn't actually accomplish anything, since a token that has left the battlefield can never return to the battlefield, and in any case ceases to exist shortly thereafter as a state-based action. By the time the emblem's ability tries to return it, the token has long since ceased to exist.

Q: If I attack with Mistcutter Hydra and my opponent casts Comeuppance, is it possible to save my Hydra with a pump spell like Giant Growth?

A: No. In order for that to happen, there'd need to be time for you to cast and resolve your pump spell in between the Hydra's damage being prevented and the Comeuppance dealing new damage, and there definitely isn't.

When something like Comeuppance prevents damage and then has some additional effect based on the damage it prevents, those additional effects happen immediately after the damage is prevented, before anything else happens, and long before anyone has a chance to do anything.

Q: My opponent casts Tempt with Discovery in a multiplayer game, and I use Savage Summoning to bring out Ob Nixilis, Unshackled in response. If I choose to search, how much life will my opponent lose? And what if some other opponents also search?

A: Your opponent's going to be very unhappy, because if anyone else decides to fetch up a land as well, they're going to be stuck losing a whopping 20 life, since the first search, the one they perform on their own, is separate from the search they perform based on what their opponents decided to do. And neither one's optional for them—they have to search the first time, and if someone else searches they're forced to perform the second one as well.


Much as Erebos would probably
like to cut out the competition...
Q: I had a Dictate of Erebos in play and sacrificed three creatures to Viscera Seer. My opponent chose to sacrifice his Xenagos, God of Revels, then his Purphoros, God of the Forge, and then Nylea, God of the Hunt. But losing Xenagos, God of Revels meant he had insufficient devotion to make the other two creatures, so he argued that they no longer needed to be sacrificed. Hasn't he already declared sacrifice targets, meaning it's not relevant if they were creatures?

A: None of the above; both of you are getting things incorrect here, because your opponent can't decide to sacrifice his Purphoros or Nylea like that in the first place.

Dictate of Erebos triggers three separate times here—once for each creature you sacrificed—each of those triggers resolves separately, and most importantly, your opponent only chooses what to sacrifice for each trigger when that specific trigger resolves.

The first trigger resolves and your opponent sacrifices Xenagos, causing his other Gods to stop being creatures. Then the second trigger resolves, and he has to choose a creature to sacrifice, but he can't choose Purphoros or Nylea, because they aren't creatures any more. So if your opponent has other creatures, they'll have to sacrifice some of those instead. And if they don't, nothing happens.

Q: What happens when Pulse of the Fields is cast and has rebound thanks to Narset Transcendent, assuming that the life totals are such that Pulse should be returned to my hand rather than put into the graveyard?

A: Just that: it goes back to your hand. Pulse of the Fields returning itself to your hand is part of the spell's resolution, while rebound works by replacing where the card goes after resolution. By the time rebound would normally try to kick in, the Pulse is already safe in your hand.

Q: How does Starfield of Nyx work with enchantment creature cards such as Nyx-Fleece Ram?

A: Well, since your enchantment creatures are indeed non-Aura enchantments, the Starfield's ability applies to them. The animating part doesn't mean very much, since they're already creatures, but the power- and toughness-setting part does.

The Starfield's effect will apply over top of the creature's normal power and toughness, so Nyx-Fleece Ram would end up a 2/2, while an Eidolon of Blossoms would become a hefty 4/4.

Q: If I have Somberwald Alpha out and one of my attacking creatures is double blocked, will my attacker get +2/+2 because it's double blocked?

A: No, just +1/+1. No matter how many blockers your opponent declared, your attacker only went from not being a blocked creature to being a blocked creature once, and that's what the Alpha's ability cares about, so it will only trigger once.

This is different from cards like Acolyte of the Inferno that say "becomes blocked by a creature", because those ones care about what your creature became blocked by. If your opponent blocked an Acolyte with a Wolf and an Elephant, then the Acolyte both became blocked by the Wolf and became blocked by the Elephant, and would therefore trigger twice, once for each.

Q: At our Two-Headed Giant prerelease my partner had Kothophed, Soul Hoarder down and I had enchanted it with my Infectious Bloodlust. Our opponents used Disperse on him. Does that make his ability trigger on seeing the Bloodlust go to the graveyard? I know if they had killed him he would see it, but does bouncing make a difference?

A: Actually, his ability wouldn't trigger for the Bloodlust regardless—not if he gets bounced, and not if he gets killed either.

When a permanent leaves the battlefield, the Auras attached to that permanent don't die at the exact same time—there's a slight delay during which the Aura is sitting on the battlefield unattached before the game's state-based actions come around, realize there's an unattended Aura hanging around, and toss it into the graveyard.

That delay isn't long enough for anyone to actually do anything, but it's still there, and in order for Kothophed to trigger off of a permanent going to the graveyard, Kothophed has to either be on the battlefield at the time it happens or be leaving the battlefield at the exact same time. Neither of those is the case—the whole reason the Aura is going to the graveyard is because Kothophed has already left—so no trigger for you.

Q: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy's flip condition follows the text of his activated ability, but does that mean it's like Nissa, Vastwood Seer? So when Jace enters the battlefield does he just flip if there are five or more cards in your graveyard or do you have to activate his ability first? Same question for Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh.

A: Jace is definitely not like Nissa. (And neither is Chandra.) Nissa has a separate ability that checks any time a land enters the battlefield to see if you have enough lands. If you do, great! Her spark ignites and she becomes a planeswalker.

But Jace and Chandra's ignition conditions are built into their activated abilities, and the only time those checks are performed are when those activated abilities are resolving, so if you want to ignite Jace or Chandra, you're going to have to use their abilities first.

Q: How does Sphinx's Tutelage work when I draw multiple cards, like off of Divination? If I get lucky, can I mill a total of eight cards? (Two and an additional two, then two and another two again?)

A: Even better than that. As you hoped, the Tutelage triggers multiple times if you draw multiple cards—casting Divination would trigger it twice. But the part about "repeat this process"? That means repeat the entire process, including the check to see if you should repeat the process again. Every single trigger is going to keep milling your opponent again and again and again until either your opponent mills one or more lands, or they mill two cards that don't share any colors.

Now, most decks contain enough lands and/or differently-colored cards that this won't get too insane, but there's always that ever-so-slight possibility that your opponent gets unlucky and your very first Tutelage trigger mills them for ten or twenty, and then you still have a few more triggers to resolve...

Good luck!

Q: Let's say I have Unnatural Selection and Standard Bearer out, and an opponent has a random creature. She Lightning Bolts the Standard Bearer. Can I respond by turning my Standard Bearer into a Knight her random creature into a Flagbearer, thus forcing her Bolt onto her creature?

A: Well, you can respond if you like, but it won't do you any good. Standard Bearer's ability only matters at the time your opponent is choosing targets for her spell. After that, it doesn't matter whether or not your opponent's spell is targeting a Flagbearer or not, so changing those creature types doesn't change anything.

If you want to use Unnatural Selection with Flagbearers, you're going to need to be proactive and change those creature types before your opponent even attempts to cast something. ...Which is going to be difficult to manage against instants like Lightning Bolt.

If he don't see the crime,
you won't do the time.
Q: When do I need to cast Hixus, Prison Warden if I want to exile things? Can I do it at the end of my opponent's turn so he can't kill it with a sorcery?

A: Definitely not. Hixus, Prison Warden has to be on the battlefield at the time combat damage is dealt if you want his ability to trigger, which means that the very last chance you have to cast him and have him trigger is during the declare blockers step of combat.

Casting Hixus after that means that by the time he arrives on the battlefield, the damage has already been dealt, and his ability won't trigger.

Q: If I use Turn to Frog on Hixus, Prison Warden, does he give the exiled creatures back?

A: Nope. Hixus may be a lowly frog, but he's still carrying around that prison keyring and keeping your creatures locked up. Your creatures were exiled until Hixus left the battlefield, and that hasn't happened yet, so your creatures stay exiled.

In general, removing an ability that has already triggered (or been activated) from something doesn't stop that ability from resolving and doing its thing. Doubly so here, when the ability has already finished resolving and done what it was supposed to do.

Q: My opponent attacks with a 5/5 and a 3/3. I cast Hixus, Prison Warden and block the 5/5. I think the 3/3 deals damage to me at the same time takes damage and dies, so Hixus's ability goes on the stack and the 3/3 will be exiled forever because there's no chance Hixus leaves play after the exile, because Hixus isn't on the battlefield anymore. Is that right?

A: No, it's not. You're probably thinking of how older cards like Fiend Hunter work, but those cards do that because they have two separate triggered abilities that operate independently of each other, and if they happen in the wrong order whatever got exiled can't return.

But Hixus and cards like him don't work like that. Hixus has one single triggered ability that exiles cards for a prespecified duration, and if that duration has already expired by the time the ability resolves, the creature doesn't get exiled in the first place. In the situation you laid out, your opponent's 3/3 would never get exiled at all, because Hixus had already left the battlefield.

Q: The rulings on Platinum Emperion say that because it makes gaining life impossible, things that replace gaining life won't be applied because the thing they're trying to replace is impossible.

But if that's how the rules work, then how is it possible for a card like Laboratory Maniac to work at all? If your library's empty, it's impossible to draw a card, so Laboratory Maniac has nothing to replace...

A: Nice catch. However, there's an exception built into the rules to cover this situation, which says that if the library's empty, drawing a card isn't considered impossible, even though there aren't any cards to draw.

That exception's actually what makes losing to decking possible at all, because the game makes you lose if you try to draw a card from an empty library, and if drawing from an empty library was considered impossible, you could never do it in the first place.

Q: I had a Liliana, Heretical Healer and an animated Athreos, God of Passage. My opponent used Languish wiping my board, and chose to return Liliana to my hand so she wouldn't flip. Can she do that?

A: Well, she can decide to let Liliana return to your hand...but she doesn't have to, because Liliana won't return to the battlefield transformed no matter what she does.

In order for Liliana to transform into a planeswalker, she has to be on the battlefield when her ability resolves so she can be exiled. If Liliana has left the battlefield before that happens, the ability won't be able to exile her, so it won't do anything.

Q: I cast Dismember targeting my opponent's Dark Confidant, and he casts Misdirection on it, obviously intending to use it to kill one of my creatures. The question is, does my opponent have to change the target of the spell when Misdirection resolves, or can he choose not to?

If he has to, does that mean I could respond by using Volcanic Fallout to wipe the board so the only creature left is my opponent's Tarmogoyf, forcing him to send Dismember at it and kill it?

A: Changing the target isn't optional, so yes, your opponent must change the target of your Dismember to another (legal) target if possible. So if you manage to arrange things such that your opponent's Tarmogoyf is the only legal target remaining when Misdirection resolves, your opponent will be forced to make your Dismember target it.

Q: My opponent had two Whisperwood Elementals out and at the end of his turn manifested twice. He pointed out to a spectator one of the manifests as if it was a really good card, so I joked that I was going to Lightning Strike that one during my turn. He kinda panicked and shuffled his manifests so I wouldn't know which was which. Is that legal?

A: No, definitely not. Your opponent must always ensure that his morphs can be differentiated from each one—he's not allowed to mix them up to prevent you from knowing which is which.

Q: A lot of old cards have been rewritten to accommodate the new Menace keyword. For example, Goblin War Drums went from "Each creature you control can't be blocked except by two or more creatures" to "Creatures you control have menace." Isn't this a functional change?

A: To quote Jumba Jookiba: "Eh, just a little one."

As with fear, reach, shroud, hexproof, and indestructible before it, the retrofitting of menace onto older cards printed before its introduction does create a few functional changes, mostly when combined with effects that remove abilities, but nothing serious. In the vast, vast majority of cases, whether or not menace is itself a keyword ability or not doesn't matter.

Q: If I have Eternal Dragon in hand, Courser of Kruphix on board, and infinite mana, could I shuffle my library as many times as I like during my upkeep to leave the card I want to draw on top?

A: Not in tournament play, no. If you want to use an infinite loop repeatedly to get a specific outcome, you need to be able to specify how many times you're going to need to perform it to get what you want, or at least demonstrate that there's a finite limit to that number.

Since the top card of your library will be random each time you shuffle, there's no finite number of iterations you can pick that will guarantee you get the card you want on top—no matter what number you choose, it's possible that the card you want won't show up by then. And just repeatedly shuffling your library without doing anything to actually advance the game state is classified as a type of Slow Play in sanctioned tournament.

In casual play, of course, the tournament shortcut rules don't apply, so whatever you and your opponents agree to is fine.

That's all I have for today, so if you'll excuse me, I need to go find something heavy to use as a bludgeon in case Moko gets ideas. Be sure to come back next week for another exciting edition of Cranial Insertion!

Now where did I leave that hardcover copy of the Comprehensive Rules...?

- 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.

On the Mistcutter question, would it work if the pump spell were something like Shape the Sands, which increases toughness but not power? Assuming it was cast early enough (such as in response to Comeuppance). It would still take the damage, but it would survive it, yes?

Re Tempt with Discovery, is it only two searches total, not one plus one per opponent who searches? Rulings seem to imply otherwise ("Then, the effect happens again for you a number of times equal to the number of opponents who accepted") but I might be misreading that.
#1 • Date: 2015-07-20 • Time: 03:26:53 •
If the pump spell just increased toughness, the Hydra will survive, because the damage marked on it will be less than its toughness.

For Tempt with Discovery, the player can end up searching more than twice, depending on the number of opponents that choose to search. The wording \"for each opponent who searches a library this way, search your library\" means that you\'ll be performing a separate search for each opponent who does, even though you\'ll probably just be performing one physical searching action and finding multiple cards. If it was just a total of two searches, it would be worded akin to \"Then, if at least one opponent searched a library this way, search your library for X land cards and put them onto the battlefield, where X is equal to the number of opponents who searched a library this way.\" That may not be how it would actually be templated, but in order for it to be a single search, it would have to be worded so that you find multiple cards with one search.
#2 • Date: 2015-07-20 • Time: 08:15:45 •
@cythare I\'m not convinced that is correct. Callum\'s answer is a little hard to interpret but the question did ask what happens if more then one opponent searches their library and he did not mention anything about losing more then 20 life. Imo you lose life for the original search and once more again if one or more opponents search. Hopefully they will respond and clear this up.
#3 • Date: 2015-07-20 • Time: 08:46:50 •
Gatherer Rulings on Tempt with Discovery say: \"After each opponent has decided, the effect happens simultaneously for each one who accepted the offer. Then, the effect happens again for you a number of times equal to the number of opponents who accepted.\"

I\'d interpret that as: If you play with 3 other people, and they all decide to search for a land card, you search a total of 4 times, losing 40 life. Searching the library seems to be a part of \"the effect\", and searching for all of them at once (or, once for the original effect, then once for all opponents) would be a shortcut rather than what\'s actually happening.
#4 • Date: 2015-07-20 • Time: 09:03:16 •
Regarding the Savage Summoning situation, I have to admit it. I\'m confused. I think it is a little bit more complicated than explained.

Yes, the NAP can cast Savage Summoning in response. And that spell goes onto the stack. But until it actually resolves, creatures in the NAP\'s hand don\'t actually have Flash yet...correct? The spells on the stack, first cast to first resolved, can\'t actually be: Tempt with Discovery, Savage Summoning, Ob Nixlis. Or am I making this harder than it should be?
#5 • Date: 2015-07-20 • Time: 10:57:12 •
wcstormcrow: You're right that the stack can't be Tempt, Savage, Ob Nix, but it doesn't have to be. You can cast Savage in response to Tempt (stack: TwD, SS), let Savage resolve (stack: TwD), and then cast Ob Nix (stack: TwD, ON). The important thing is just that Ob Nixilis comes out before Tempt resolves.
#6 • Date: 2015-07-20 • Time: 12:24:11 •
Relsqui - Thank you very much for the clarification.

Last edited on 2015-07-20 13:14:17 by wcstormcrow
#7 • Date: 2015-07-20 • Time: 12:43:53 •
Muraganda Petroglyphs just keeps getting nerfed by bored developers who'd rather name things than do something productive lol Menace being a keyword means those war drums immediately come out of the petroglyph decks
#8 • Date: 2015-07-21 • Time: 00:34:49 •

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