Published on 09/07/2015

Work Hard

Play Harder

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

A proud member of the Metal Workers Union,
and the wizard who made it.
Welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Today is the first Monday in September, which means that it's Labor Day (or Labour Day) in North America, where we celebrate the labor movement by taking the day off, grilling meat, drinking beer, and answering rules questions. If you live in North America, I wish you a happy Labo(u)r Day. Otherwise, I wish you a happy Monday, and at least you still get to enjoy our answers to rules questions.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to , or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will reply with an answer, and your question might appear in a future article to educate other readers just like you. Since Battle for Zendikar previews are in progress, I'd like to point out that you are welcome to send in questions about officially previewed cards, and we'll reply with an answer if one is known already.

Now, let's dive into today's selection of rules questions, which is almost entirely devoid of Battle for Zendikar questions.

Q: My opponent controls Anafenza, the Foremost, and I control a face-down creature that's a manifested land. If my manifested land dies, does it go to the graveyard or does it get exiled?

A: It gets exiled. Anafenza's ability creates a replacement effect, and replacement effects have to be applied just before the event they're modifying happens. This means that the replacement effect has to look at your manifested land before it goes to the graveyard, so it sees a creature and sends it into exile instead of into the graveyard.

Q: If I enchant Dragonlord Atarka with Mirror Mockery and make an Atarka token with the attack trigger, does the token's enter-the-battlefield ability still happen if I throw it away for the legend rule?

A: Yup! The token entered the battlefield, so its ability triggered. Before that ability is put onto the stack, state-based actions are checked and you have to toss one of your Atarkas into the graveyard, but the token's ability is independent from its source, so it'll go on the stack and resolve even if it's no longer on the battlefield anymore.

Q: If I equip Willbreaker with Throwing Knife, can I steal one creature per attack, or just one creature?

A: You get to steal one creature per attack. Even though Throwing Knife's triggered ability only talks about targeting in the second sentence after talking about sacrificing the Knife in the first sentence, targets are always chosen first, when the ability is put on the stack. If you target a creature with the Knife's ability, Willbreaker's ability goes on the stack above the Knife's ability and resolves first. The choice whether to sacrifice the Knife is made when its ability resolves, but by then Willbreaker has already stolen the creature, so you can choose not to sacrifice the Knife, keep the creature, and do the same thing again on your next turn.

Q: My opponent controls a planeswalker and I want to hit it with Lightning Strike. At what point do I have to announce that I want to redirect Lightning Strike's damage to the planeswalker?

A: You can announce this as you cast Lightning Strike if you want to, but you don't have to. The choice whether to redirect the damage is a replacement effect that's applied at the time the damage is dealt, which is during Lightning Strike's resolution.

Q: Can Phyrexian Revoker stop Bloodsoaked Champion's raid ability?

A: Yes. Bloodsoaked Champion's raid ability is an activated ability, which is what Phyrexian Revoker stops. The fact that Bloodsoaked Champion's ability works from the graveyard doesn't matter to the Revoker, since it stops activated abilities of sources with the chosen name, not just permanents with the chosen name.

Q: If I attack with a manifested Kytheon, Hero of Akros and two other creatures, can Kytheon transform into Gideon, Battle-Forged if I turn it face-up after my opponent declared blockers?

A: Sure! Kytheon has a triggered ability that triggers at the end of combat and checks at that time whether Kytheon and at least two other creatures attacked. That condition is true because Kytheon did attack, even though it didn't look like Kytheon at the time it attacked.

Another member of the Metal Workers Union
Q: If an Arcbound Worker with one +1/+1 counter on it trades with a Blighted Agent in combat, does it still have a +1/+1 counter to give away?

A: Certainly. The process of canceling +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters against each other is a state-based action, and so is the action of putting creatures with toughness 0 into the graveyard. Both happen at the same time, so the Arcbound Worker goes straight from being on the battlefield with both counters on it to being in the graveyard with no counters on it. The modular trigger looks back at how many +1/+1 counters were on Arcbound Worker when it was last seen on the battlefield, so it sees one counter to give away.

Q: If my opponent uses Pyromancer's Goggles to cast and copy a Crater's Claws, what is X for the copy?

A: It's the same as what your opponent chose for the original. When a spell is copied, the game copies all choices that were made for the original spell, including the choice for X.

Q: If I use a Mountain and a Mana Confluence to cast Lightning Strike, do I have to pay 1 life for Mana Confluence?

A: Yes. Mana Confluence doesn't have an ability that lets you tap it for colorless mana without paying life. It only has an ability that can make mana of any color. Regardless of which color you choose, you can spend it on the in Lightning Strike's cost, but you have to pay 1 life to get that mana.

Q: Can I cast the cards that Prophetic Flamespeaker exiles for free?

A: No. Prophetic Flamespeaker's ability only allows you to play those cards from an unusual zone. It doesn't say anything about casting them for free. Since having to pay for spells is the normal state of affairs and Prophetic Flamespeaker doesn't say anything to change this, you have to pay the full cost for those spells.

Q: If I creature has double strike, can I cast an instant between its first hit and its second hit?

A: Absolutely. When a creature has double strike, the combat phase actually grows a second combat damage step, and the creature deals combat damage in both of those combat damage steps. Before the game moves from the first combat damage step to the second, both players have to pass priority in succession on an empty stack, and that gives both players the opportunity to squeeze effects in between.

Q: If I give Dragon Mage double strike and it deals damage to my opponent, do we both discard and draw seven cards twice?

A: Of course. As we've just seen, a creature with double strike deals combat damage in two separate combat damage steps, so Dragon Mage's ability will trigger and resolve in each of those combat damage steps. In the first combat damage step, you'll discard your hands and draw seven new cards, and in the second combat damage step you'll discard those seven cards — unless you managed to cast some of them — and draw seven more cards.

Q: If I control two Nantuko Husks and I sacrifice a creature, do both Nantuko Husks get +2/+2?

A: No, just one of them gets +2/+2. Each Nantuko Husk is like a vending machine, except that instead of giving it a dollar, you sacrifice a creature, and instead of giving you a caffeinated carbonated beverage, it gets +2/+2. When you sacrifice a creature to Nantuko Husk, you have to announce to which Husk you're sacrificing, and that Husk gets +2/+2. You can't sacrifice the same creature to both Husks any more than you could put the same dollar into two different vending machines.

Q: If I Dissolve a face down creature spell, do I get to see what it was before deciding what to do with the card I'm scrying?

A: Yup. You follow the instructions on Dissolve in order, and you finish each instruction before you move on to the next. Countering the spell moves it to the graveyard, which reveals the card, and then you go ahead and scry.

I put the "labor" in "laboratory"
Q: I control Laboratory Maniac, I'm at 2 life, there's one card in my library, and I target myself with Sign in Blood. Do I win and lose the game at the same time?

A: No, you just win the game! It's true that losing due to drawing from an empty library and losing due to having 0 life are both state-based actions that happen at the same time, but that doesn't matter here. Laboratory Maniac's ability doesn't replace the game loss with a game win, it replaces the act of drawing from an empty library with a game win. This means that you win the game while performing Sign in Blood's "draw two cards" instruction as modified by Laboratory Maniac, before you lose 2 life and well before the game would check state-based actions.

Q: If I cast Jace, Vryn's Prodigy with 5 cards in my graveyard already, does he transform right away?

A: No. The "If there are five or more cards" condition is not a separate triggered ability. It's a condition that's part of Jace's activated ability, and it only gets checked when that ability resolves. Since that ability has the tap symbol in its cost, it's subject to the summoning sickness rule, so you'd need some help to activate it on the same turn that Jace comes out.

Q: Does Sidisi, Brood Tyrant produce a token when Darksteel Colossus gets milled?

A: Nope. Darksteel Colossus creates a replacement effect that shuffles it back into the library instead of it going to the graveyard. Since it doesn't actually hit the graveyard, Sidisi's ability doesn't trigger.

Q: So it triggers when Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre gets milled?

A: It does! Ulamog has a triggered ability, not a replacement effect. The difference between "When ..." and "If ..., instead ..." is subtle, but it makes a big difference. Ulamog actually hits the graveyard, which triggers its own ability and Sidisi's ability at the same time, so it shuffles the graveyard (including itself, probably) back into the library, and Sidisi makes a token.

Q: What rotates out of Standard when Battle for Zendikar rotates in?

A: The switch to the new three-block Standard structure is not coming until 2016, so Standard will still consist of the two most recent blocks and their associated core sets. The Theros block and Magic 2015 are rotating out, and Standard will consist of Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, Dragons of Tarkir, Magic Origins, and Battle for Zendikar.

Q: Will Terra Stomper still be in Standard after M15 rotates out?

A: Yup. Although it's not available in Origins booster packs, Terra Stomper is part of Origins because it has been printed as part of Origins. Also, you can continue to use your M15 printings of Terra Stomper, since any printing of a Standard-legal card is Standard-legal, so you don't have to try to find Origins Terra Stompers.

Q: I was playing in a PPTQ and I got distracted while I was writing out my decklist, so I accidentally wrote "4 Temple of Malady" twice instead of "4 Temple of Malady" and "4 Temple of Malice." The head judge gave me a game loss. Was that right?

A: I am afraid so. The decklist you submitted is not a legal list, so you have committed a Tournament Error—Deck/Decklist Problem, and the penalty for that is a Game Loss. The head judge has the option not to issue the penalty if it's obvious which card you meant, but that's not the case here. It's obvious that you didn't mean Temple of Malady the second time, but for the penalty to be waived, it has to be obvious what you did mean.

Q: If I have four sleeved Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in my deck, can I store four differently-sleeved Jace, Telepath Unbound with my sideboard to use as transformed Jaces so that I don't have to unsleeve and resleeve my Jaces when they transform?

A: First off, congratulations on owning eight Jaces! Having said that, yes, that's legal, as long as they are indeed sleeved in different sleeves than your main deck and sideboard cards. If they were sleeved in the same sleeves, they'd have to be considered part of your sideboard, so you'd have an illegal sideboard.

And that's all the time we have for this week. Please come back next week when Callum continues our countdown to Battle for Zendikar!

- 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.

Nice article! I apprechiate the inclusion of more tournament- and policy-based questions, as that's something I find myself having more trouble with than rules questions these days... :)
#1 • Date: 2015-09-07 • Time: 03:49:17 •
I like the vending-machine analogy. Instead of feeding it money, feed it mana... or creatures... or your own blood.
#2 • Date: 2015-09-07 • Time: 17:14:58 •
I use a similar "use money to acquire tasty snacks" analogy, but the vending machine angle makes a little more sense. When I explain it as going to the store and giving the clerk a dollar, someone always tries to loophole my analogy. "Well, just take the dollar back." Joke's on them; you can't take a dollar back from a vending machine!
#3 • Date: 2015-09-09 • Time: 04:59:37 •

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