Published on 08/24/2015

A Magic Origins Story

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

Hi everyone, and welcome back! For those who don't know me, my name is Nathan Long, and I'm taking over Eli's spot writing articles for Cranial Insertion. You may not know me as "Nathan Long", but you might know who "Natedogg" or "Natedogg2" is: I answer rules questions all over the internet, especially in the #mtgrules IRC chat channel or on reddit. And now, I've brought my knowledge of the rules to a new home: Cranial Insertion!

So, seeing as this is my first article here, and since Magic Origins just helped us explore the origin story of some our favorite planeswalkers, I figured I'd tell you all my Magic origins story. We'll take a look at some of significant points in my Magic history, and we'll also answer some rules questions with cards from those time periods along the way.

And remember, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us at or tweet short questions at us at @CranialTweet. Not only will myself or one of our other writers reply, but we might use your question in a future article. But now, back to the past!

Let's turn the dial back to 1997. Over the summer, one of my friends learned how to play this game call Magic: The Gathering. I was a teenager looking for something to pass the time, and Magic filled that void. After being introduced to the game one afternoon after school, I was hooked instantly. The most recent set that had come out was Tempest, and I bought a lot of Tempest.

Q: I'm in a game of Commander, and I've got my commander (Eladamri, Lord of Leaves) in the command zone and an Aluren on the battlefield. Can I use Aluren to cast Eladamri as often as I want from the command zone, and evade the commander tax?

A: Sadly, that does not work. Aluren gets around the mana cost of the creature spell, but it doesn't do anything about any additional costs for the spell. The commander tax is an additional cost, and must still be payed when you're casting it from the command zone, even if you're casting your commander without paying its mana cost

Q: I cast Kindle, with no other copies of Kindle in graveyards. How much damage does my Kindle deal?

A: Just two damage. The final step of an instant or sorcery spell resolving is going to the graveyard. While it's resolving, it's still on the stack. Just like how a card with Spell Mastery won't count itself while it's resolving as being in your graveyard, the resolving Kindle won't count itself, so Kindle will just deal two damage.

Q: Last turn, I cast Tradewind Rider. This turn, I cast two Manta Riders. Can I tap them those Riders to activate Tradewind Rider's ability?

A: Yes you can! "Summoning sickness" only prevents the creature from attacking or using its own abilities with the tap or untap symbol. They can be tapped for other reasons, like to activate Tradewind Rider's ability. The Rider itself needs to start your turn under your control in order to activate the ability, but the other two creature that you tap can be creatures that are affected by "summoning sickness".

Q: My opponent casts Elvish Fury with buyback on their Trained Armodon. I respond with a Dark Banishing on the Armodon. What happens when the Fury resolves.

A: For buyback to work, the spell has to resolve. In this case, the Fury will be countered since its only target is now illegal. Since it won't resolve, it doesn't mattter if the buyback cost was paid: the spell will go to their graveyard, and will not return to their hand.

Gotta go back in time...

Now let's head to August of 2002. In the last few years, I had discovered message boards, including rules message boards. At first, like many people, I started just reading the forums. Then, I found that I actually knew the answer to a lot of the questions being asked, so I started answering questions. I became known as a knowledgeable person on the message forums. I managed to catch the attention of Chris Richter, a local-ish judge, who encouraged me to test for Level 1. And in August of 2002, I took and passed my Level 1 judge exam. And that was just in time for me to start learning about all of the fun interactions in Onslaught.

Q: When can I cycle a card?

A: Any time you have priority. Cycling is a normal activated ability. Since it doesn't say otherwise, you can cycle a card any time you have priority, whether it's your turn or your opponent's turn.

Q: I have a Wooded Foothills on the battlefield. Can I search for a Karplusan Forest with its ability?

A: Nope. In order to count as a Mountain or Forest, it has to have the land subtype "Mountain" or "Forest". Simply tapping for red mana doesn't make a land a Mountain. Since the Karplusan Forest doesn't have the Moutain or Forest subtype, it can't be searched for with Wooded Foothills.

Q: I attack with my 3/3 creature. My opponent blocks with their 2/2 morph, then turns it face up, and it's a Battering Craghorn! Will I get a chance to cast Inspirit on my 3/3 before we deal combat damage?

A: Yes you will. In order to move on to the next step or phase, all players have to pass priority on an empty stack without doing anything. While turning a face down creature face up is a special action and doesn't use the stack, it does count as doing something. After your opponent has turned the Craghorn face up, you will get priority again before moving on to the first strike combat damage step, so you'll be able to cast Inspirit to save your creature.

Q: It's my end step, and my opponent has an Astral Slide on the battlefield. They cycle a card, and exile my Elven Riders. When do my Riders return to the battlefield?

A: The Slide sets up a delayed trigger to return the creature at the beginning of the next end step. However, since we're already in the end step, that trigger won't go on the stack this turn: it will wait for the end step on the following turn. So your Riders will remain exiled until beginning of your opponent's end step.

Some more time passed, and I judge a few events here and there, and continuing answering rules questions on forums. But in the spring of 2005, I'm once again approached by Chris Richter. There was a Grand Prix coming up in Minneapolis that summer, and he wanted me to get an opportunity to work on the floor of a Grand Prix. However, to do that, I had to become a Level 2 judge. So in March of 2005, I took and passed my Level 2 judge test, and leveled up. And just in time to start handling questions from Betrayers of Kamigawa.

Q: I have a Heartless Hidetsugu on the battlefield, and activate its ability. In response, my opponent casts Overblaze on it! What happens?

A: Well, that depends: what are the life totals? The Hidetsugu tries to deal damage to each player equal to half of their life total, rounded down. And the effect of Overblaze will double that damage. If you were at an even life total (for instance, 10 life), half of 10 is 5, and 5 doubled is 10, so you'd take 10 damage. But if you were at an odd life total (like 11 life), half of 11, rounded down, is 5, which is then doubled to 10, so you'd take 10 damage.

In short, if you're life total is even, you'll take damage equal to your life total and go to 0 life, but if your life total is odd, then you'll go down to 1 life. Which, in either case, is going to result in a very short game.

Q: I have a Tallowisp on the battlefield, and cast an arcane spell. Can I search for a Threads of Disloyalty with the trigger?

A: Nope! Tallowisp wants you to find an aura with "enchant creature". Threads of Disloyalty does not fit that description: it's an aura with "enchant creature with converted mana cost 2 or less". That's not quite the same thing as "enchant creature", so you can't search for the Threads with Tallowisp's trigger.

Q: My opponent is attacking me with a Loam Dweller. Before declaring blockers, I cast Horobi's Whisper targeting the Dweller. Can they save their Dweller by ninjisuing Ninja of the Deep Hours and bouncing the Dweller back to their hand?

A: Nope. While the Dweller is an attacking creature, it's not considered an unblocked attacking creature yet: that won't happen until the declare blockers step and nothing is declared as blocking it. Since the Dweller isn't an unblocked attacking creature, you can't use ninjitsu yet, so your Dweller is doomed to die.

Q: I have a Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker on the battlefield, along with a Scourge of Numai. My opponent casts a Sickening Shoal with X=4 on the Scourge. What happens?

A: The Scourge becomes a 0/0 due to the Shoal and dies. When it left the battlefield, it had a power of 1 or less, so Shirei will trigger and the Scourge will return at the end of the turn. It doesn't matter that the Scourge is a 4/4 once it's in the graveyard, what matters is that it had a power of 1 or less when it died, so it will still return at the end of the turn.

Just one more quick stop before we arrive at the present. It's the spring of 2007. The former NetRep (a NetRep is a person who makes official rulings in cases where the rules are unclear and/or an answer is requested) of the Wizard's forums was stepping down. I was approached and offered his position, and I accepted, and I became official Rules NetRep of the Wizard's forums (and places beyond). And I would need all of that knowledge to help figure out some of the weird cards in Future Sight.

Q: Will tokens dying count towards the gravestorm trigger on Bitter Ordeal?

A: Yes they will. Tokens are permanents, and a token that dies will go to the graveyard for a brief time before they cease to exist. Since the tokens went to the graveyard for a short time, they will count for the gravestorm trigger of Bitter Ordeal.

Q: I'm looking at Bound in Silence, and it has the "Rebel" creature type. I thought only creatures could be rebels?

A: Normally, you'd be correct: Rebel is a creature type, so a noncreature can't be a Rebel. But Bound in Silence also has the Tribal type. What tribal does is it allows a noncreature permanent to have creature types, because creature and tribal share a type list. Tribal isn't really used anymore, but it still exists, and is still supported on older cards.

Q: I have a creature enchanted with a Petrified Plating and a Daybreak Coronet. My opponent uses Disenchant on the Plating. What happens to my Coronet?

A: It goes to the graveyard. The Coronet can only be attached to a creature that has another aura attached to it. When the Plating was destroyed, that condition for the Coronet was no longer true. The Coronet will unattach and will go to the graveyard.

Q: I transmute a Tolaria West. Can I search for a Pact of Negation?

A: Yes you can. Lands have a converted mana cost of 0, so when you transmute Tolaria West, you'll search for a card with a converted mana cost of 0. Pact of Negation also has a converted mana cost of 0, so you'll be able to search for the Pact by transmuting the West.

Don't worry, guys. I'll be right back.

And now we arrive at the present. I've continued doing what I do best: answering rules questions online, and I attracted the attention of the CI writers. After Eli stepped down, they approached me with an offer to fill the void, which I quickly accepted. And now that we're at the present, let's look at some of the present Magic Origins questions that have been making their rounds.

Q: There's only one creature on the battlefield: an opponent's Springleaf Drum enchanted with an Ensoul Artifact. I cast Dromoka's Command, choosing the "target player sacrifices an enchantment" and "put a +1/+1 counter on target creature" modes, targeting my opponent and the Drum. What happens when the Command resolves?

A: This is a tricky one that happened at Pro Tour Magic Origins. When a spell or ability goes to resolve, the first thing we do is check to make sure that the targets are still legal. In this case, the two targets for the Command are still legal: your opponent is still a legal target, and the Drum is still a creature. Once we start resolving the spell, we don't check targets again. When the Command resolves, the target player first sacrifices an enchantment (Ensoul Artifact). This causes the Drum to stop being a creature, since Ensoul Artifact is no longer attached to it. THen we put a +1/+1 counter on the Drum. We don't check targets again while the Command is resolving, so it doesn't matter that the Drum isn't a creature anymore. And there's nothing preventing a noncreature permanent from having +1/+1 counters on it (Raging Ravine says hi). They just don't do very much unless it's a creature.

In short: the Drum is no longer a creature, but it has a +1/+1 counter on it. Crazy stuff.

Q: My opponent cast Ensoul Artifact on Darksteel Citadel. I respond by casting Hallowed Moonlight. What happens when Ensoul Artifact resolves?

A: Well, not much. Ensoul Artifact isn't a creature, and turing Darksteel Citadel into a creature isn't causing the Citadel to enter the battlefield: it'st just becoming a creature. Since the Citadel isn't entering the battlefield, the Moonlight won't really do anything to stop it and your opponent's Citadel is still going to become a 5/5 creature.

Q: My opponent has three creatures on the battlefield: a Boggart Brute, and two Cobblebrutes. I have three 2/2 blockers. He casts Joraga Invocation, and attacks with all three of his creatures. What are my legal blocking assignments?

A: There's two possible outcomes. When checking the legality of blockers, we need to fulfill as many requirements as we can without violating any restrictions. Here, we have three requirements (the Brute and the two Cobblebrutes must be blocked), and one restriction (the Brute must be blocked by two or more creatures).

Since the defending player has three creatures, they can fulfill at most two requirements: they can have two of their 2/2s block the Brute, and the other 2/2 block one of the two Cobblebrutes; or, they can have two of the 2/2s each block one of the two Cobblebrutes, and they can do whatever they want with the remaining 2/2 (either have it block one of the Cobblebrutes, or not have it block at all).

They can't choose to block with one or zero creatures, since that won't maximize the number of requirements, and they can't choose to block all three attacking creatures with their three blockers, since that will violate the restriction (the Brute must be blocked by at least two creatures).

Q: I plan on picking up the Zendikar vs. Eldrazi Duel Deck this Friday. Since Oblivion Sower is a preview card that will be in Battle for Zendikar, can I play it in my standard deck this Friday?

A: Nope. In order to be legal in standard, it has to be printed in a set that's currently legal in Standard. Oblivion Sower will be legal...when Battle for Zendikar is released in October. But it's not legal yet. So you can't use the Sower in a Standard tournament until Battle for Zendikar is released.

Note that the rules are a little different for eternal formats like for Vintage and Legacy - the cards become legal on the day the set is released. So, if you wanted to, you could play Oblivion Sower in your Legacy deck starting this Friday.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed reading my Magic origins story. Maybe it's not as dramatic as some of the Magic Origins planeswalkers, but it's been adventure to me to get here. I look forward to answering rules questions from all of you in the future. Until next time!

—Nathan Long

Two typos leading to broken card links: 1) The link on Horobi's Whisper is to "Horobi's Whipser". 2) It's Raging Ravine, not Raving Ravine.

Also, another noncreature card that often (in fact, always) has a +1/+1 counter on it is Llanowar Reborn.
#1 • Date: 2015-08-25 • Time: 14:44:17 •

Follow us @CranialTweet!

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

Follow our RSS feed!