Published on 08/31/2015

PAX Magica

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

PAX talks are always fun
This past weekend at PAX we got our first look at Battle for Zendikar, and it sure does look awesome. Or, I'm sure it will look awesome, but as I'm writing this article the preview panel at PAX hasn't happened yet, so I don't actually know what kinds of cool (or eldritch, given that it's Eldrazi-infested Zendikar we're talking about) new cards have been spoiled. And even if they were, I wouldn't be able to get into questions about them — Battle for Zendikar questions will have to wait until we've got the release notes for the set, which won't happen for a while yet.

Fortunately I've still got a good crop of rules questions for this week's issue, though, and if you've got a rules question burning a hole in your brain, feel free to ask us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: I'm at 3 life and my opponent is attacking me with an Archangel of Tithes. My only flying creature, and also my only untapped mana source, is a Birds of Paradise. Is there any way I can block with the Birds to survive?

A: There is a way: you can block with the Birds, and tap it to pay for the Archangel. When you declare blockers, first you check that each creature you want to declare blocking is untapped, and then, if there are any costs to pay for the block, you get a chance to activate mana abilities and pay the cost. Since the game is already past the point of checking that your blocker is untapped, you can tap the Birds for mana at that point without making the block illegal.

Q: I have two copies of Tormenting Voice in my hand, and I control a Pyromancer Ascension. If I cast one Tormenting Voice by discarding the other, will the Ascension get a quest counter?

A: It will! Any abilities which trigger based on casting a spell will trigger after you've finished the process of casting the spell, which is after the costs have been paid. So at the time when Pyromancer Ascension is checking your graveyard, you've got a Tormenting Voice in there (the one you discarded to pay the cost of casting the other), and the ability will trigger, putting a quest counter on it.

Q: Will Dig Through Time trigger Sphinx's Tutelage twice?

A: Sphinx's Tutelage only triggers when you draw cards, and you only draw cards when something uses the actual word "draw". Since Dig Through Time doesn't do that, you aren't drawing any cards and the Tutelage won't trigger. You'll just have to be content with getting the two best cards out of your top seven, which isn't so bad.

Q: If my opponent controls Orbs of Warding, what happens if I cast Lord of Tresserhorn?

A: Lord of Tresserhorn will enter the battlefield, and — unless you've got another opponent who doesn't have hexproof — that's that. Its triggered ability requires you to target an opponent, and if you can't then the ability just pops right off the stack and none of its effects occur. So you won't lose 2 life, you won't sacrifice 2 creatures, and your opponent won't draw 2 cards.

Q: I have a Bridge from Below in my graveyard, and attack my opponent with an Ichorid. My opponent blocks with a Young Pyromancer. Will I get a Zombie token from the Ichorid dying?

A: It depends. The Young Pyromancer and the Ichorid will both die, which will trigger both of Bridge from Below's abilities simultaneously. Since you control both triggers, you get to choose the order in which they're placed on the stack, and that determines whether you get a token or not. If you have the token-making trigger resolve first, then you get a token. If you have the Bridge's "exile me" trigger resolve first, you won't get a token (since Bridge from Below won't be in your graveyard anymore, and the token-making ability explicitly checks for that — this is what's known as an "intervening if").

Q: If I have a Golgari Grave-Troll in my graveyard, and my opponent controls Tormod's Crypt, can my opponent use the Crypt to exile my graveyard in response to me dredging in my draw step?

A: Nope. First of all, the draw in your draw step doesn't use the stack, so no player can respond to it. Second, the choice of whether to apply dredge's replacement effect to a card draw also doesn't use the stack; it's a choice you make when the event of you drawing a card would happen. So the latest your opponent can wait to pop the Crypt and stop you from dredging is your upkeep step, and at that point they won't know yet whether you even intended to dredge.

Unfortunately, keeping PAX once it's
over is not allowed
Q: My opponent and I are fighting a counterspell war, and I'm all out of counterspells but I still have a Misdirection in my hand along with a blue card to pay its alternative cost. Can I use Misdirection to make my opponent's last counterspell target itself?

A: A spell is never a legal target for itself, so that won't work. What you can do, though, is change the target of the counterspell... to Misdirection. At the time you're making the choice, Misdirection is a spell on the stack, which means it's a legal target for the counterspell. But as soon as Misdirection finishes resolving, it leaves the stack and is put in your graveyard, so when the counterspell tries to resolve its target (the Misdirection) won't be there anymore and the counterspell will be countered by the game rules.

Q: If I cast a Gurmag Angler by exiling 6 cards from my graveyard and paying , does my opponent need to flip a card with converted mana cost 1 or 7 to counter it with Counterbalance?

A: They'll need something with a CMC of 7. A spell's converted mana cost is always the sum of the mana symbols in its upper right corner, and how you cast the spell doesn't change those symbols, so Gurmag Angler's converted mana cost is 7 no matter how you cast it.

Q: If my opponent controls a Jace, Telepath Unbound, can I activate the second ability of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon with X=0 to exile the Jace?

A: You can. The five Magic Origins planeswalkers all have a converted mana cost of 0 on their planeswalker faces, so choosing X=0 for Ugin's ability will exile any of them.

Q: My opponent controls a Hangarback Walker with one +1/+1 counter on it. If I kill it with Virulent Wound, will my opponent get a Thopter token?

A: Yup! There are two state-based actions which apply here, and they apply simultaneously: the Hangarback Walker dies (due to having zero toughness), and the +1/+1 and -1/-1 counter annihilate each other. But the Walker checks how many +1/+1 counters it had when it died, and that number was 1 since the counter hadn't yet been removed, so it will make a Thopter.

Q: If I control a Managorger Hydra and cast Doubling Season, will the Hydra get one counter, or two?

A: Just one. The Hydra's ability triggers when a spell is cast, which means the Hydra's ability will always resolve before the spell does. So the Hydra will get its counter before Doubling Season is on the battlefield, and Doubling Season won't double it.

Q: If I have a Containment Priest in my hand and my opponent has an Ichorid in their graveyard, is there a way to time the Priest so they exile a black creature from their graveyard but don't get the Ichorid?

A: The choice of whether to exile a black creature card from the graveyard and return Ichorid to the battlefield is made while Ichorid's ability is resolving, and that's a time when no player can cast spells of any kind. So the latest you can flash the Priest is before the Ichorid's ability begins resolving, and then your opponent can simply choose not to exile a black creature card and leave the Ichorid in the graveyard.

Q: What happens if I have two Bottled Cloisters in play at the same time?

A: At the beginning of your opponent's upkeep, you'll exile all cards in your hand face down. Then you'll do that again, though it won't involve much since your hand is probably empty at that point anyway. Then at the beginning of your upkeep, you'll return the exiled cards to your hand and draw two cards (and you'll draw another card when your draw step rolls around).

Q: Can I use Mystical Tutor to search for a Sol Ring? Or is that not a "mana source" and I can only get an instant, sorcery or land?

A: Although the original printing of Mystical Tutor said you could search for an "instant, interrupt, mana source, or sorcery", two of those card types no longer exist. Interrupts and mana sources were card types when Mirage was printed, but were eliminated from the game with the Sixth Edition rules overhaul; all cards which formerly had those types received errata to become instants, and Mystical Tutor itself received errata to allow it to search only for an instant or sorcery.

Though from what I've heard, people
don't get much sleep at PAX
Q: If I Clone my Liliana, Heretical Healer and choose to keep the Clone when applying the legend rule, what happens to the Clone? Does it turn into Liliana, Defiant Necromancer?

A: The Clone-Liliana's ability will trigger, it will exile itself... and it will return to the battlefield as a Clone, which can then copy a creature that's on the battlefield. It won't be a Liliana, Defiant Necromancer, though, because Clone isn't a double-faced card and can't be transformed.

Q: If I control three Lightning Berserkers and attack with all of them, can I pay to give them all +1/+0?

A: Whenever a card refers to itself by name, it just means "this card", not all cards with the same name. So if you want all three Berserkers to get +1/+0, you'll need to activate each of them, which will cost .

Q: I cast Exquisite Firecraft, but I only had one instant or sorcery in my graveyard as I cast it. My opponent responded with Dissolve, and I responded to that with a Wild Slash. Will that make Exquisite Firecraft uncounterable?

A: It will. When Dissolve resolves and tries to counter Exquisite Firecraft, you'll have two instant or sorcery cards in your graveyard (since the Wild Slash resolved before Dissolve and is in your graveyard), and Exquisite Firecraft's spell mastery ability will prevent Dissolve from countering it.

Q: If I control Starfield of Nyx with four other enchantments and cast Flameshadow Conjuring, will Flameshadow Conjuring trigger itself?

A: Since there's never a moment when Flameshadow Conjuring is on the battlefield but isn't a creature, it will see itself enter, will see that it's a creature, and its ability will trigger. Then you'll be able to pay and get a token copy of Flameshadow Conjuring.

Q: If I use Kiora, the Crashing Wave's +1 ability on my opponent's Inkmoth Nexus, and the Nexus attacks me during my opponent's turn, will I get a poison counter?

A: Nope. Getting a poison counter is the result of being dealt damage from a source with infect. But Kiora's ability prevents the damage the Nexus would deal; without damage, there can't be a poison counter.

Q: If I name Kytheon, Hero of Akros with Phyrexian Revoker, and it transforms into Gideon, Battle-Forged, will the Revoker still stop its abilities from being activated?

A: When something asks you to "name a card", you can name either face of a double-faced card, but only the face you actually name will be affected. So naming Kytheon won't prevent Gideon's abilities from being activated (and vice-versa).

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.


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