Published on 08/10/2015

Happy Birthday, Magic!

Cranial Translation
Deutsch Español Français Italiano Pусский

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Light the candles...
Greetings and welcome to a new edition of Cranial Insertion! Last week, Magic turned 22 years old, which is mind-boggling for at least two reasons. First off, it just seems like yesterday that Magic turned 20, and I'm probably showing my age by saying this. Secondly, there is a significant number of Magic players who are younger than this game, and that number will only grow as Magic stubbornly refuses to be killed by the continuing changes that Wizards of the Coast makes to improve the game.

While we're on the topic of milestones, as you've read recently, Eli has left the team and he's leaving his baby in my hands, and I hope that I am worthy of this task. It is my distinct pleasure to announce that the open writer slot that Eli is leaving behind will be filled by none other than Nathan Long, whom you might know as the rules NetRep on the Wizards of the Coast community forum. Nathan's inaugural issue will be up in a couple of weeks, which gives us time to show him the ropes, and I mean literal ropes here. We need the ropes to restrain Moko while we teach him that Nathan is not food.

Speaking of our loyal mail-sorting friend, you can distract him from his hunger for brains by sending us your delicious rules questions. Please email your questions to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. You'll always get an answer from one of our writers, and your question might even appear in a future article.

Q: I have this crazy plan to use Pyromancer's Goggles to make two copies of a spell: Tap the Goggles for , play another Goggles, throw away the tapped Goggles, tap the new Goggles for , and use the mana from both Goggles to cast a Fireball, for example. Would that work?

A: Yup, that works. Pyromancer's Goggles' mana ability creates a delayed triggered ability that triggers when you use the mana to cast a red instant or sorcery, and that trigger doesn't care whether the Goggles are still on the battlefield at that time. Each delayed trigger will give you a copy of that red spell, so you'll get two copies to fry your opponent extra crispy.

Q: If I control Battlefield Thaumaturge, can I cast Return to the Ranks for just for any number of targets?

A: No, that doesn't work. When an ability refers to a card type (such as "creature") without an additional qualifier, it means a permanent of that type on the battlefield. Battlefield Thaumaturge's cost reduction effect only applies to targets that are creatures on the battlefield, while Return to the Ranks targets creature cards in your graveyard.

Q: Back in May, you said that casting Shifting Loyalties on two creatures with the same controller does nothing, but now Willbreaker exists. If I control Willbreaker and cast Shifting Loyalties on two of my opponent's creatures, what happens?

A: Well, Shifting Loyalties still does nothing, but Willbreaker does a lot! Willbreaker's ability triggers twice, once for each of the two creatures, and when the abilities resolve, you'll gain control of those creatures. Shifting Loyalties then resolves and sees that the two creatures have the same controller — i.e. you! — and does nothing, but that's no problem because you already gained control of both creatures.

Q: After the permanents have been chosen for Grenzo's Rebuttal, can I sacrifice my creature to Altar of Dementia for milling, or Ashnod's Altar for mana?

A: That's a no to both. Altar of Dementia is right out, because all of Grenzo's Rebuttal has to finish resolving before players get priority to do anything. Mana abilities such as Ashnod's Altar can sometimes be activated in the middle of a resolving spell or ability, but only when the resolving spell or ability is asking for a mana payment. That's not the case for Grenzo's Rebuttal, so you can't even activate Ashnod's Altar.

Q: If I target a tapped permanent with Merrow Reejerey's ability, can I choose to tap it so that nothing happens?

A: Not quite. Tapping a tapped permanent is by definition an impossible action, which means you can't voluntarily decide to do it. If a cost involves tapping a tapped permanent, you can't pay the cost. If a resolving spell or ability instructs you to tap a tapped permanent, you ignore this impossible instruction. If a resolving spell or ability offers you the choice between tapping a tapped permanent and a legal option, you have to choose the legal option. Fortunately for you, Merrow Reejerey's ability gives you the choice between three options: tap the target, untap the target, or do nothing, so if you want nothing to happen, you can simply choose to do nothing.

Q: If Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh blocks a 1/1 and then uses her ability after combat damage, does she transform?

A: Yup! The ability looks at the total damage that Chandra has dealt during the current turn, regardless of why the damage was dealt or what the recipient of the damage was. Chandra has dealt 3 damage, which fulfills the condition to transform her.

Blow out the candles...
Q: If I cast Goblin Heelcutter for its dash cost, do I take damage from Eidolon of the Great Revel?

A: Nope, you're safe. The Eidolon looks at the converted mana cost of your spell, and the converted mana cost is purely derived from the mana cost that's printed in the top right corner of the card. It has nothing to do with how much mana you have paid, will pay, or might pay to cast the spell. Goblin Heelcutter's converted mana cost is 4, so the Eidolon's ability doesn't trigger.

Q: Great! Now, what happens if I cast Hangarback Walker for ? I think I heard somewhere that X counts as 0. Is that true?

A: X counts as 0 in most zones when calculating the converted mana cost of a card, but for a spell on the stack, X counts as however much was chosen for it. To cast Hangarback Walker for , you chose X=2, so the converted mana cost is 2+2, or 4, so once again you're safe from the Eidolon's trigger.

Q: If I attach Aqueous Form to my opponent's creature and she attacks with it, do I get to scry or does she?

A: You do! Even though the Aura is attached to your opponent's creature, you still control the Aura. Also, the scry ability isn't something that gets granted to the creature. It's a triggered ability of the Aura itself, so as the Aura's controller, you get to benefit from it.

Q: If I control Dwynen's Elite and cast another one, do I get two Elf Warrior tokens?

A: Nope. When a card mentions its own name without saying "a card named such-and-such," it simply refers to itself, and not any other object that happens to have the same name, so each Dwynen's Elite only triggers for itself.

Q: If my Vampire Nighthawk blocks a creature, do I gain 2 life?

A: Certainly! Lifelink means that you gain life equal to the damage dealt any time the creature deals damage to anything for any reason. It deals 2 combat damage to whatever it's blocking, so you'll gain 2 life.

Q: Does Underworld Cerberus stop players from using delve?

A: One might think so, but it doesn't. The Hound stops players from targeting cards in graveyards, but delve doesn't target anything, which you can tell because delve's reminder text doesn't use the word "target" anywhere.

Q: Can I Negate Nylea, God of the Hunt if my opponent doesn't have enough devotion to make her a creature?

A: Negative. You'll notice that Nylea and the other Gods have the type creature printed on them, so they're always creatures unless something makes it otherwise. The ability that makes the Gods stop being creatures only functions on the battlefield, so on the stack or anywhere outside the battlefields, the Gods are always creatures regardless of their controller's or owner's devotion.

Q: If I dash out a creature, does it still counts as a nonland permanent even though it'll return to my hand in the end step?

A: Of course. Even though the word "permanent" implies a certain, well, permanence, it doesn't mean that a permanent has to stay on the battlefield forever or even for the foreseeable future. The word "permanent" refers to anything that's currently on the battlefield, which your dashed creature certainly is until it bounces itself.

Cut the birthday cake!
Q: If Grimgrin, Corpse-Born is already untapped, can I still sac a creature to give it a +1/+1 counter?

A: Yes, that's perfectly legal. As with tapping a tapped creature, untapping an untapped creature is an impossible action, but here you're not voluntarily deciding to take an impossible action. You're voluntarily deciding to activate an ability whose cost is "sacrifice a creature," but what may or may not happen when that ability resolves is so far in the future that the game doesn't even worry about it. When the ability resolves, it does as much as it can. Untapping Grimgrin is impossible, but putting a counter on it is possible, so that still happens.

Q: Do the Elemental tokens that Dokai, Weaver of Life makes grow when I play more lands?

A: No. Dokai's ability has an X in it that has to be determined at the time it resolves in order to make the token, so the token's base power and toughness will be fixed at however many lands you controlled at the time the token was made. In order to grow and shrink along with how many lands you control, the token would need an ability that continuously defines its power and toughness, as seen for example on Gutter Grime.

Q: Does Emerald Medallion reduce the cost for X spells such as Chord of Calling?

A: It sure does! Many players believe that to cast an X spell, you pick a cost and you work backwards from there to figure out what X is, which makes cost reduction effects impossible or baffling. In reality, it's the other way around: You choose the X you want, and you calculate the corresponding cost. For example, to cast Chord of Calling for X=3, you start out with the mana cost of , plug in the chosen value of X to get , and then you apply the Medallion for a final total cost of .

Q: Does suspending Rift Bolt trigger Monastery Swiftspear's prowess ability?

A: Not right away. Prowess triggers when you cast a spell, and suspending a card is something completely different that isn't even remotely similar to casting a spell as far as the game is concerned. However, when the last time counter is removed, you do cast Rift Bolt from exile, and that will trigger prowess.

Q: I'm playing commander and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is my commander. If he dies, can I choose to let him go to the graveyard to get the shuffle effect and then send it to the command zone?

A: Yes, that works, indirectly. When Kozilek wants to go to the graveyard, you let it, which triggers its triggered ability. When that resolves, a separate event for shuffling your graveyard into your library happens, and the "new" tuck rule allows you to replace Kozilek's trip into the library with a trip to the command zone.

Q: Can I cast my commander during the upkeep step of my turn?

A: Only if it has flash or if there's some other reason that would allow you to do this. The rule that allows you to cast your commander from the command zone lets you cast it from an unusual zone, and possibly for an extra cost, but it doesn't allow you to cast the commander at an unusual time. You're still limited to casting it at a time you could normally cast it, which means during a main phase on your turn, when the stack is empty.

And that's all for today. Callum will be back next week, and the week after that will be Nathan's turn. You won't want to miss it!

- Carsten Haese

About the Author:
Carsten Haese is a former Level 2 judge based in Toledo, OH. He is retired from active judging, but he still writes for Cranial Insertion and helps organize an annual charity Magic tournament that benefits the National MS Society.

Today is my birthday! Can I get some trivia about rats, mazes and interrupts? Wait, wrong site.
#1 • Date: 2015-08-10 • Time: 03:07:47 •
Does someone have a rule citation for the Merrow Reejerey question? Not that I don't want to believe you, but I was under the impression that the only restriction is to target a permanent, and as long as that's true, the ability has a legal target... I've never heard about the ability offering you to choose on resolution makes a difference.
#2 • Date: 2015-08-10 • Time: 04:57:01 •
@BlueScope The question isn\'t about what you are allowed to target. You are indeed allowed to target any permanent with Merrow Reejerey. The question was what are you allowed to do to that targeted permanent when the ability resolves: you choices then are (a) nothing (because that ability is a \"may\" trigger), (b) tap it, or (c) untap it. (One of b or c will usually be any illegal choice because a permanent is always either tapped or untapped.)
#3 • Date: 2015-08-10 • Time: 05:42:24 •
astarael7 is correct. Here is the rules quote BlueScope asked for:

608.2d If an effect of a spell or ability offers any choices other than choices already made as part of casting the spell, activating the ability, or otherwise putting the spell or ability on the stack, the player announces these while applying the effect. The player can't choose an option that's illegal or impossible, (...)

701.17a To tap a permanent, turn it sideways from an upright position. Only untapped permanents can be tapped.
#4 • Date: 2015-08-10 • Time: 05:56:33 •
Very interesting... Thanks!
#5 • Date: 2015-08-10 • Time: 07:00:35 •

Follow us @CranialTweet!

Send quick questions to us in English for a short answer.

Follow our RSS feed!