Published on 09/14/2015

Back to School

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

For the last time, it's SOH CAH TOA!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Now that we're into the second full week of September, the overwhelming majority of North American students have headed back to school for the year, and the fact that we here at Cranial Insertion educate people by stuffing their heads with fuzzy bunnies doesn't make us an exception.

...What, did you think our homepage was joking? If we haven't done it to you yet, that's not uncommon—we have to handle such a delicate procedure in person and we have a lot of readers to go through so our schedule's pretty packed, but don't worry! We'll get to you soon enough.

Though come to think of it, we may be "back to school" now, but I don't think we ever left to start with—we've kept publishing on our normal schedule straight through summer break. I think that means I'm due for some vacation pay, or at least a week or two someplace sunny with a nice beach. I think I have some questions I need to ask Carsten.

If you, too, have questions for Carsten, or for any of us here in the Cranial Insertion offices, just send us a line via email at or if it's something short and sweet you can send it to us on Twitter @CranialTweet. Your questions will be answered—at least if they're about Magic rules—and they may appear in a future article.

Q: If I have a card with Heroic, such as Favored Hoplite, in my graveyard and I use Breath of Life to bring it back to the battlefield, does the Heroic effect trigger since it was targeted by a spell?

A: No, it does not. While you did indeed cast a spell that targeted the Hoplite, that doesn't matter because the Hoplite wasn't on the battlefield at the time, and Heroic abilities, like most others, only function while the card they're on is on the battlefield.

In general, the only time that abilities of permanent cards function while the card isn't on the battlefield is when the ability either explicitly says so, or when it only makes sense working somewhere else.

Q: I have been playing with a new group of players and they insist (for the purposes of Shroud/Hexproof/Protection) that the word "All" targets, while the word "Each" does not. Is this true?

A: No; it's completely wrong. The words "each" and "all" are pretty much entirely interchangeable as far as Magic is concerned, and neither one of them indicates targeting. Cards will use whichever one makes what they're doing clearer and easier to understand.

The only word that means "target" in Magic is the word "target". (With the usual caveats that sometimes that word is buried in the rules for Auras or a keyword ability—check the reminder text to be sure.)

Q: I was looking through some cards on Gatherer and came across Piracy. I realize that, while it is on the stack, my opponents can tap out to deny me access to their mana. However, once it is resolved and the effect is in place, if some effect put land(s) into play under their control (like The Great Aurora for example), do I get to tap their lands before they do?

A: Basically, yes, as long as it's your turn. Whoever gets priority first after the land enters the battlefield will be able to tap the land and deny the other player the use of it. And if it's your turn, that will usually be you, since the player whose turn it is gets priority first at the start of each new step of the turn and after each spell or ability finishes resolving.

Q: Is Smokebraider able to use its ability to pay the echo costs for Elemental creatures, like Flamecore Elemental?

A: Unfortunately not. Smokebraider only allows its mana to be spent on casting Elemental spells and activating abilities of Elementals, and making an Echo payment is neither casting a spell, nor activating an ability, even if it's for an Elemental.

"This won't hurt a bit."
Q: If a card requires you to sacrifice something, can you resurrect it from the graveyard afterward, or is it gone for the rest of the game?

A: Absolutely. There's nothing special at all about sacrificing something beyond the fact that it gets things into your graveyard—it doesn't put any restrictions on what you can do with them once they're there, or anything like that.

As far as the game's concerned, once a card's in your graveyard it's just another card in your graveyard, no matter how it got there. Feel free to reanimate it or eat it or throw it at someone's face to your heart's content.

Q: If I control a face down Den Protector and my opponent hits it for 1 damage, then later the same turn I turn it face up, will the Protector die before the +1/+1 counter is applied? Why or why not?

A: It won't die, because there's no time when it's face-up and doesn't yet have the counter. You put the +1/+1 counter on it at the same time you turn it face-up, so it goes directly from being a 2/2 facedown creature with 1 damage on it to being a face-up 3/2 Den Protector with 1 damage on it, and neither of those situations is going to kill it.

Q: If my opponent steals a creature with an equipment on it and then the creature dies, do I get the equipment back?

A: Even better: you never lost it in the first place. Your opponent gaining control of your creature doesn't affect your equipment at all. It may be still attached to the creature your opponent stole, but you're still the one who controls that equipment.

As such, on your turn you can equip that equipment to some creature you still control so that your opponent won't be getting the benefit of it, just the same as you could if the creature that currently had it was still yours. And you can do this even if the stolen creature is still alive.

Q: In a recent game, my opponent exchanged control of a spell of mine and his Perplexing Chimera. He then regained control of the Chimera using Rubinia Soulsinger's ability, and went into his turn and chose to untap Rubinia, but said that he gets to keep the Chimera because, from what he said he found out online, whenever you regain control of a creature you OWN but is under the CONTROL of another player, you permanently gain control of that creature as though it were a normal creature that you just played. Is that true?

A: No, it's complete hogwash. Rubinia's effect has ended, so control of the Chimera should revert to you, the player who would control it if Rubinia had never taken it.

Control-changing effects work the same no matter whether you own the thing being stolen or not. The only times when being the owner of something will matter is when either A) it's being put into a hand, library, or graveyard (it will only go to its owner's); B) someone's leaving a multiplayer game (they will take everything they own with them); or C) a card specifically says so.

Your opponent may have been thinking of cards like Brand and Brooding Saurian that give control of things back to their owners, but Rubinia definitely isn't one of them.

Q: If I play a Mind Sculpt and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is the third card, which happens first—the rest of the mill, or does the mill pause, they shuffle the graveyard, then you mill the last four?

A: All seven cards are put into the graveyard at the exact same time, and only after that happens and Mind Sculpt has finished resolving will Emrakul's triggered ability be put onto the stack, and it'll be even longer before it manages to resolve and shuffle everything back.

The same basic answer also applies to cards like Progenitus or Darksteel Colossus that use replacement effects to avoid going to the graveyard entirely—you don't pause mid-mill to perform the shuffle, because all the cards are being put into the graveyard at the same time. The other six cards go to the graveyard and the Colossus gets shuffled in all at the same time.

Q: Silhana Ledgewalker can only be blocked by creatures with flying, and not with reach. If I somehow give Silhana Ledgewalker flying, can it be blocked by creatures with reach?

A: Nope! Blocking restrictions are cumulative—in order for something to block your Ledgewalker, it can't violate any of the restrictions that apply to that block—it can't just sidestep Flying's restriction and then ignore the Ledgewalker's natural restriction.

A creature with reach but not flying may pass the restriction created by the flying ability, but it won't pass muster with the Ledgewalker's ability, so no blocking allowed!

Q: When my opponent has Splinter Twin set up on Deceiver Exarch and go to tap and make copies, if I respond with Lose Hope and give the Exarch -1/-1 until end of turn, will that cause the copies to come out as 0/3's?

A: Sadly for you, no, it won't—you'll be losing the game horribly as soon as your opponent decides just how many millions of damage he wants to overkill you by.

When an effect copies something, the only things it copies are the actual underlying card (or token) it's copying, plus other copy effects.* Any additional modifications to the thing you're copying, no matter where they come from, aren't copied. Counters, auras, equipment, power- and toughness-modifying effects, none of it matters. All you get is the base, underlying card, and in this case, that means your opponent's token Exarchs will be 1/4.

*Plus one or two things we're going to gloss over because they only apply to a very few specific cards and thus aren't relevant here.

Q: How exactly would you stack and perform if you had a Sphinx's Tutelage in play and cast Fascination? I draw one, he draws one and then mills once; repeat until we've drawn everything?

A: No; Sphinx's Tutelage has a triggered ability, and you never stop in the middle of resolving something to resolve triggered abilities.

If a triggered ability (you can recognize them because they use "when", "whenever", or "at" to describe what triggers them) triggers in the middle of resolving some other spell or ability, they politely wait their turn until after the current spell/ability has finished resolving, and only after it's done will they get put onto the stack. Then they'll get to wait even longer to give both players a chance to respond with additional spells and abilities, and only after all of that is done will they themselves resolve.

So the proper sequence of events here will be that both you and your opponent will draw as many cards as Fascination tells you to, and only after that's all over and done with will you start milling cards for the Tutelage triggers.

Q: If I have ten untapped red creatures can I conspire my Lightning Bolt five times with Wort, the Raidmother in play?

A: As awesome as that would be, no, you can't do that, for pretty much the same reason you can't pay five times to get five Lightning Bolts from the same card.

Conspire works by allowing you to tap two creatures (once) to get a copy of your spell (once)—it doesn't say it allows you to do that multiple times, so it doesn't.

Double, double,
Toil and trouble...
Q: Let's say I have Flameshadow Conjuring out and cast Elvish Visionary. The trigger to pay from Flameshadow and the Visionary's card draw ability trigger at the same time. Can I order them in a way that lets me draw a card before deciding if I want to pay and clone it?

A: Absolutely; just have the Visionary's trigger resolve first. Flameshadow Conjuring's ability doesn't ask you to make any decisions or any payments until it starts resolving, so as long as the Visionary's trigger resolves first, you'll have your first card before you need to decide whether or not to shell out some extra mana for another card. (Oh, and a hasty 1/1 elf, but who cares about that?)

Q: My opponent announces the end of his turn, which triggers the Lingering Death I cast on his creature. Am I able to activate Crown of the Ages in response to move it to another creature before the effect resolves? If so, would the original creature still be sacrificed?

A: Yes and yes. Lingering Death's trigger is a plain old-fashioned triggered ability and can absolutely be responded to, just like any other normal triggered ability, and the identity of the creature that will be sacrificed is locked in at the time the ability triggers, so moving Lingering Death to something else won't cause any problems there. The original creature dies, and your Lingering Death will keep on lingering over whatever other creature you moved it to.

Q: If I am resolving Primal Surge and I put Courser of Kruphix into play do I continue resolving Primal Surge with the top card of the library revealed?

A: Yes, you do. Each permanent you put onto the battlefield with Primal Surge enters individually before you continue and move on to the next card, and Courser of Kruphix's top-card-revealing ability is a static ability that applies all the time as long as the Courser's in the correct zone.

So for each permanent card you exile after you put the Courser out, you'll get to see what's on top of the library before you need to decide whether or not to put that permanent onto the battlefield. But remember that putting out each permanent will force you to exile the next card—you can't choose to put out that permanent and also decline to exile the next card.

Q: I have six lands out and one in hand and cast Nissa, Vastwood Seer. I decide to not search my library. Can I keep priority in order to play a land and trigger the "flip ability", or can my opponent remove Nissa, Vastwood Seer before my land drop?

A: No, you can't do that. Nissa's ability triggers and goes onto the stack when she enters the battlefield, whether you plan on using it or not. Once Nissa has entered the battlefield, you get priority first, but you can't play the land in your hand because Nissa's ability is sitting on the stack waiting to resolve. To get rid of it, you're going to need to pass priority to your opponent, who can then remove Nissa in response to the ability, before you could ever play your land.

Not that being able to play your land would help you, because even if you did get to play the land, your opponent could just respond to Nissa's spark-ignition triggered ability and end up killing her before she can become a planeswalker anyway.

Q: Do "Enchant Creature" cards like Ancestral Mask count as Auras?

A: Absolutely. Wizards of the Coast keeps a database of current, up-to-date wordings (called Oracle text) for every one of the over 15,000(!) Magic cards in existence, and that Oracle text is considered to be the official text of the card, no matter what the printed card itself may say.

When the Aura type was first introduced, all the old cards that were originally printed as "Enchant Creature"s or "Enchant Lands", or similar, including Ancestral Mask, received new Oracle text that turned them into Auras.

Q: Can I flash in a Fleetfoot Panther, declare it as a blocker, and then resolve the Panther's return to hand effect?

A: Definitely not. You can't just declare blockers whenever you like—the only time you get to do it is at the very start of the declare blockers step of the combat phase, and the game can't proceed to the next step of the turn if the stack isn't empty.

So if you flash in your Fleetfoot Panther during the declare attackers step (the one immediately prior to declaring blockers), the Panther's trigger goes onto the stack right away, and now you can't move on to declare blockers because there's an ability on the stack you need to resolve first. But if you resolve it and return the Panther, it will be back in your hand and therefore unable to block when the game moves to declare blockers.

If you try to wait until declare blockers, by the time you get the opportunity to cast the Panther it's already too late—blockers have already been declared and you won't get another chance at it.

Q: I was playing at Competitive REL, and I had a trigger for my Liliana, Heretical Healer when my other non-token creature died.
I "flipped" Liliana, but I forgot to make a token. Is this two triggers, one of which I missed, or is it one trigger that was executed improperly? What would be the correct ruling?

A: It's just one trigger that you resolved incorrectly—you can tell because the word "whenever" only appears once in the ability. The "If you do, make a zombie" part of the ability may be conditional on successfully exiling and returning Liliana, but it's not a separate trigger.

So when you call a judge, you'll most likely receive a Warning penalty for committing a Game Rules Violation infraction—nothing serious, but you'll want to pay a bit more attention in future to avoid getting additional Warnings.

Q: When Big Game Hunter enters the battlefield, if there's one or more power-4 creatures on battlefield, can I choose not to destroy a creature if I don't want to, or must I?

A: Sadly for you, Big Game Hunter's ability is not optional—there's no "you may", so as long as there's at least one legal target at the time the ability is put onto the stack, you're going to be forced to choose to target something, even if it's not something you really want to destroy.

Q: Does mana burn still exist? I've been told that mana now carries through each phase regardless of when it was acquired?

A: What you've been told is half-correct, but only half. Mana burn, the rules that caused you to lose life for each point of mana that emptied from your mana pool—haven't been a part of the game for over five years now. However, your mana pool does still empty between each phase. In fact, it now empties even more frequently—between each individual step of each phase as well as between different phases. So you can't, for example, float mana between your upkeep and your draw step before using it any more.

That's it from me this week, but class will be back in session again next week, with Nathan at the helm. There may or may not be a pop quiz—I make no promises.

Until next time, study hard, and if anyone knows a good supplier of really fuzzy bunnies, drop us a line—we've been running through them faster than we anticipated. The cuter, the better.

- 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.


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