Published on 09/28/2015

Back to Zendikar

or, Snacks on a Plane

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

How odd...
Greetings, welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion, and welcome back to Zendikar where the Eldrazi are snacking on anything that they can get their tentacles on. The Battle for Zendikar prerelease is in the books and the set gets released this weekend, which means that it's time for our Battle for Zendikar special where we look at all sorts of fun interactions that this new set has in store for us. This set has plenty of confusing things going on, such as colored spells that are actually colorless, lands that come to life, and cards moving effortlessly into and out of the exile zone, so I suspect we're just barely scratching the surface in this issue.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, whether they are about Battle for Zendikar or about other cards, please send them in to or tweet short questions at @CranialTweet. One of our writers will give you a direct answer, and your question might appear in a future issue to educate other readers just like you!

Q: Can I cast Sheer Drop to awaken a land if there are no tapped creatures on the battlefield?

A: No. If a spell requires a target, you have to choose a legal target in order to cast the spell in the first place, and Sheer Drop has to target a tapped creature.

Q: If I search up a spell with awaken for Bring to Light, can I use its awaken ability?

A: Nope. Awaken is an alternative cost, and Bring to Light's "cast that card without paying its mana cost" is also an alternative cost. You can't combine two alternative costs, and the only cost that actually allows you to cast the card is Bring to Light's for-free cost.

Q: If I target Zada, Hedron Grinder with Earthen Arms for its awaken cost, does the awaken effect get copied along with the spell's main effect?

A: Sadly, nothing is getting copied in this situation. When you cast Earthen Arms for its awaken cost, it has two targets: Zada, and the land you're awakening. Since this spell targets more than just Zada, it doesn't trigger Zada's ability at all.

Q: If I control Hardened Scales and I awaken a land, does the land get an extra +1/+1 counter?

A: It does not. The awaken effect puts the counters on first, and then it turns the land into a creature. At the time the counters are put onto the land, it's not a creature yet, so Hardened Scales's replacement effect doesn't apply to the event of putting counters on the land.

Q: Let's say I use Stasis Snare to exile one of my opponent's creatures and then I use Ruin Processor to send the exiled card to the graveyard. If Stasis Snare gets destroyed, does the card return from the graveyard to the battlefield?

A: Nope. When the card moved from the exile zone to the graveyard, it became a new object that has nothing to do with the card that was in the exile zone. Stasis Snare lost track of it and won't be able to move it to the battlefield.

Q: If I control Xenograft set to Ally, can I use Ally Encampment to cast any creature spell?

A: No. Ally Encampment looks at the creature types of the spell on the stack, but Xenograft only affects the creature type of creatures on the battlefield. In order to get Ally Encampment to help you, you'll have to use something that changes the creature type of spells on the stack, such as Conspiracy.

Q: Can I use white mana from Ally Encampment to cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar?

A: Nice try, but no. The spending restriction for the colored mana from Ally Encampment looks at the creature type in the type line of the spell you're trying to cast, and as a planeswalker spell, Gideon doesn't have any creature types at all.

Q: Can I bounce an animated Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with Ally Encampment's third ability?

A: Sure, that works. When Gideon becomes a creature, he gains the creature types Human, Soldier, and Ally, so he is now an Ally you control and as such he is a legal target for Ally Encampment's bounce ability.

Q: If I attack with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and my opponent has fewer than twenty cards in her library, does she lose the game right away?

A: Not right away, but pretty soon. Ulamog's ability tells her to exile the top twenty cards of her library and she'll do as much of that as possible, so she'll exile her entire library. Now she has an empty library, but that in itself is not a reason to lose the game. She won't lose until she has to draw from an empty library, which will happen once you pass your turn and her draw step comes around.

Q: Let's say I cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger while my opponent only controls one permanent. What happens?

A: Well, first off, that scenario is pretty unlikely, since lands are permanents, too, so if you manage to cast Ulamog while your opponent controls less than two lands, one of you is probably doing something wrong. Anyway, if this situation were to arise, you'll have to exile one of your permanents since the ability is not optional and it doesn't limit itself to your opponent's permanents.

Q: Can I use Evolving Wilds to fetch a Canopy Vista?

A: No. Evolving Wilds only lets you search for basic lands, which are lands that have the basic supertype. Canopy Vista has two basic land types, but it's not a basic land because it's lacking the basic supertype.

Q: If my opponent counters Desolation Twin, do I still get my 10/10 token?

A: Sure! The "make a token" ability is triggered by casting Desolation Twin, not by Desolation Twin entering the battlefield. By the time your opponent can counter Desolation Twin, the ability has already triggered and is on the stack, and countering the spell won't "untrigger" the ability.

Q: How many counters does Bloodbond Vampire get if I gain 5 life with Ruin Processor?

A: Just one. Bloodbond Vampire's ability triggers once per life gain event, and it doesn't care how much life you're gaining in that life gain event.

Q: Can I have both Omnath, Locus of Mana and Omnath, Locus of Rage on the battlefield at the same time?

A: Absolutely. The legend rule checks the whole name of the card, and the two versions of Omnath have different card names, so as far as the game rules are concerned, controlling both Omnath versions is no problem at all.

Q: I attack my opponent with a Valakut Predator and my opponent blocks it with Murk Strider. If I use Turn Against on Murk Strider, what happens?

A: When a creature changes controllers, it gets removed from combat, so Murk Strider stops being a blocking creature. However, your Predator was blocked, so it remains blocked even though the creature that was blocking it is no longer blocking it. Neither the Murk Strider nor the Valakut Predator will deal or be dealt combat damage, so they'll both live to fight another day.

Release the Krakens!
Q: Does Kiora, Master of the Depths's -8 ability make infinite Octopus tokens?

A: No, it only makes three tokens. Kiora's ability does two things. First, it creates an emblem that has a triggered ability that makes creatures fight. Second, it makes three Octopus tokens. Those tokens will trigger the emblem's ability, but the emblem doesn't make any additional Octopus tokens, so there's no infinite loop happening here.

Q: If a creature with ingest deals combat damage a planeswalker, what happens?

A: Nothing out of the ordinary happens. The planeswalker just loses some loyalty counters. The ingest ability only triggers when the creature deals combat damage to a player, and planeswalkers aren't players, so the ingest ability doesn't trigger.

Q: If there's a Painter's Servant on the battlefield, are cards with devoid colorless or the chosen color?

A: They are the chosen color in all zones. Devoid is a characteristic-defining ability, which means that it's applied first in layer 5. Painter's Servant's effect is applied later in layer 5 and overwrites that card's colorlessness.

Q: Can I use Pillar of the Paruns to cast Brutal Expulsion?

A: I'm afraid not. Brutal Expulsion is a colorless card because its devoid ability makes it so even though there are red and blue mana symbols in its mana cost. Pillar of the Paruns doesn't care about the spell's mana cost. It cares about the spell's colors, and Brutal Expulsion has none.

Q: Can I use a card with devoid in a Commander deck with a colorless commander?

A: No. The Commander deck construction rules look at the color identity of the cards in your deck, not just the color of the cards. Color identity includes all mana symbols printed on the card, so Brutal Expulsion's color identity is red and blue.

Q: At the prerelease, my opponent was taking a mulligan down to 6, and kept his hand of 6 cards, and then he did a scry 1, saying something about a new mulligan rule. Was that legal?

A: Yup! On September 26th, so just in time for the prerelease, a new mulligan rule went into effect. This new rule allows players who keep an opening hand of fewer than seven cards to perform a scry 1 action after keeping their opening hand.

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

A: For the time being, Standard is still on the two-block rotation we're used to, so the sets that rotate out are the block from two years ago and its associated core set, namely the Theros block and Magic 2015.

And that's it for now. Please come back next week for another helping of Magic rules questions and answers!

- 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.

On the Ulamog question (and I suppose old-school Ulamog as well), what, hypothetically, happens if you cast Ulamog with less permanents in play than he can exile/destroy, through some horrible Upheaval-and-float-tons-of-mana shenanigans? It can't counter the Ulamog because of a lack of targets, so is the on-cast trigger just not put onto the stack?
#1 • Date: 2015-09-28 • Time: 05:12:16 •
Quote (Blees):
On the Ulamog question (and I suppose old-school Ulamog as well), what, hypothetically, happens if you cast Ulamog with less permanents in play than he can exile/destroy, through some horrible Upheaval-and-float-tons-of-mana shenanigans? It can't counter the Ulamog because of a lack of targets, so is the on-cast trigger just not put onto the stack?

You can think of it that way, but the truth is just a bit weirder than that. For symmetry with the process of casting a spell, an ability is put on the stack before you choose targets. In the case of a triggered ability with insufficient targets, you put it on the stack and then immediately remove it from the stack.

As you noted correctly, this does not affect the casting of Ulamog itself in any way.
#2 • Date: 2015-09-28 • Time: 05:43:05 •
Well, that's a bit odd. I can't think of a good reason for the game to care that the trigger was on the stack for no time at all, but that's good to know.
#3 • Date: 2015-09-28 • Time: 18:43:44 •

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