Published on 10/05/2015

Rotarian's Dinner


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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

I'd like to solve Teferi's Puzzle Box.
Battle for Zendikar is here, Theros block and Magic 2015 are gone, and now it's time for Standard to wheel around to a new alignment, one based — for the first time in the game's history — on every block consisting of two sets. It's fitting that the set which kicks off the new rotation system is one involving strange otherworldly beings; perhaps, to them, three-set blocks and core sets are the weird thing!

But regardless of how the Standard format turns, we're still here, week after week, answering a rotation of rules questions. So if you've got one turning your brain into chalky Eldrazi residue, feel free to ask us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: My opponent just cast Desolation Twin. Can I let the trigger resolve to make the token, then cast Cryptic Command to bounce the token and counter the Desolation Twin?

A: Yup. Spells and abilities resolve one at a time, with all players getting a chance to act after each one resolves. And any abilities triggered by casting always resolve before the spell that triggered them. So you can let the token-making trigger resolve, then cast the Cryptic Command; Desolation Twin (which is still a spell on the stack) will be countered, and the token it produced will be returned to your opponent's hand (at which point it goes poof and ceases to exist).

Q: If my opponent controls a Rest in Peace, can I still use the ability of Ulamog's Nullifier to counter a spell?

A: You can! Ulamog's Nullifier (and the other Processors) care that there were cards in exile, and that you made the choice to put them into their owners' graveyards. It doesn't care about replacement effects interfering and causing those cards to actually end up in some other zone instead of the graveyard. So as long as your opponent had two cards in exile, and you made the choice to try to put them in the graveyard (even though Rest in Peace causes them to end up in exile), you'll get to counter a spell with Ulamog's Nullifier.

Q: How does Void Winnower work against spells with an in their mana cost, like Rolling Thunder?

A: It depends on the value chosen for X. The Magic Origins rules update clarified when we check legality during the casting process: first you make all the choices called for during casting (including modes, targets, and a value for X, if applicable), then you check whether it's legal to cast the spell with those choices. So if you choose an even-numbered value for X with Rolling Thunder, it will have an even converted mana cost (since its mana cost is X + 2) and Void Winnower will forbid casting it; you'll have to choose an odd value for X in order to give Rolling Thunder an odd converted mana cost (since 2 plus any odd number will be odd).

Q: What about Endless One? If I cast it with X=3 (or any other odd number), would it be able to block while my opponent has a Void Winnower?

A: An X in a card's mana cost has a value of zero in every game zone other than the stack, and zero is an even number (not just in Magic — it's even by multiple mathematical definitions, too). So an Endless One on the battlefield will never be able to block while your opponent has a Void Winnower, no matter how odd the Endless One's power might be.

Q: I'm attacking with Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Kalastria Nightwatch. Assuming my opponent doesn't block, how much damage do I deal?

A: It'll be 7 damage. During the first combat damage step, Drana (who has first strike) deals 2. Her ability triggers and puts a +1/+1 counter on herself and the Nightwatch. Then in the second combat damage step, the Nightwatch (now with its counter) deals 5.

Q: If I cast Rising Miasma and awaken a land, then immediately attack with that land, will it deal 3 damage or 1?

A: It'll deal 3 damage. When resolving a spell, you carry out the instructions on it in order. So first all creatures get -2/-2. Then you put 3 +1/+1 counters on the targeted land, and then that land becomes a creature. Since the land wasn't a creature when the -2/-2 effect happened, it didn't get -2/-2 and is its normal happy 3/3 self.

Q: If there's a Vryn Wingmare on the battlefield, is it possible to cast Radiant Flames for 4 damage?

A: It is! During the process of casting a spell, first you calculate the cost you'll need to pay; with the Wingmare imposing its cost increase, Radiant Flames costs to cast. Then you produce the mana and pay that cost, so as long as you have the ability to produce four different colors of mana (one of which is red, to pay for the in Radiant Flames' mana cost), you'll be able to spend all of that and Radiant Flames will deal 4 damage to each creature.

What goes around, comes around.
Q: Can Grip of Desolation exile a creature and an awakened land? Or does the land have to be non-awakened?

A: Grip of Desolation doesn't pay attention to what other types the targets have, just that one of them has the type "creature" and the other has the type "land". Since an awakened land is still a land, it's a perfectly valid target for the "target land" part of Grip of Desolation, and your opponent will be left feeling desolated afterward.

Q: Does that mean I could also use the first ability of Kiora, Master of the Depths to untap two lands, as long as one of them was awakened?

A: Yup! Kiora similarly just specifies that you can untap a creature and a land, and doesn't pay attention to what other types those permanents might have.

Q: If I attack with Silent Skimmer in a Two-Headed Giant game, does the defending team lose 4 life, or just 2?

A: Just 2; whenever a one-shot effect like Silent Skimmer needs to do something to "defending player" in a 2HG game, you choose one of the players on the defending team, and the effect happens to that player.

Q: The only colorless creature in my hand is an Endless One. Can I still cast Titan's Presence even though it won't exile the target, in order to trigger my Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper?

A: You can! While you can't ever cast a spell by choosing illegal targets (or by failing to choose all required targets), Titan's Presence only requires that you target a creature; whether that creature's power is less than the power of the card you revealed isn't checked until resolution (and if it isn't, then Titan's Presence just doesn't do anything to the target).

Q: If I awaken an already-animated Mutavault with Clutch of Currents, what will the Mutavault become at the end of the turn?

A: Well, until the end of the turn it's a 3/3 land creature with all creature types. At the end of the turn, it becomes... a 3/3 Elemental (although Mutavault's own ability has worn off, the type-changing effect of awaken is still there to make it a creature and an Elemental). If you activate Mutavault's second ability in a later turn, it'll be a 5/5 (base power and toughness of 2/2 from Mutavault's own ability, plus the 3 counters) with all creature types during that turn, then once again go back to 3/3 Elemental.

Q: If the only creatures I control at the beginning of my end step are two Dust Stalkers, do I have to bounce both of them?

A: Nope! Each one is looking for some colorless creature other than itself, not some colorless creature that isn't a Dust Stalker. So each one sees the other, tips its cap (or whatever eldritch headgear a dapper Eldrazi would sport), and decides to stick around.

Q: I attack with an Undergrowth Champion with 2 +1/+1 counters on it, and my opponent blocks with Kozilek's Channeler. If I cast Lithomancer's Focus on the Champion, will it lose any counters?

A: That's up to you. Whenever multiple damage-prevention effects try to prevent the same damage, the affected player (for damage being dealt to a player) or the controller of the affected permanent (for damage being dealt to a permanent) chooses one to apply. So you can choose to apply the damage-prevention effect of Lithomancer's Focus, which prevents all 4 of the damage. At that point Undergrowth Champion's ability no longer sees any damage to prevent, so its ability won't do anything.

Chandra likes to listen to Flamecast
during workouts.
Q: My opponent cast Rolling Thunder with X=2, choosing to deal 1 damage to my Spellskite and 1 damage to my Pestermite. Can I use Spellskite's ability to have it take all the damage?

A: No. Spellskite can only be chosen as a target once for each instance of the word "target" in a spell or ability's text. Since Rolling Thunder only uses the word "target" once, Spellskite can only be a target of it once, and once it is a target it can't change other targets to itself (this is also why Spellskite can take both "halves" of a Kolaghan's Command dealing 2 damage and destroying an artifact, but not take all the damage from a two-target Electrolyze).

Q: My opponent controls a Frost Walker but doesn't have any exiled cards. Can I still kill the Walker with Wasteland Strangler's ability?

A: You can! The choice of whether to put an exiled card into its owner's graveyard happens during resolution of Wasteland Strangler's ability, but the choice of target happens when the ability is put on the stack (and you have to choose a target even if you don't intend to, or can't, put an exiled card into its owner's graveyard). So you can target the Frost Walker, which will cause its "sacrifice me" ability to trigger.

Q: If I Chord of Calling for a Greenwarden of Murasa, can I use the Greenwarden's ability to return the Chord to my hand?

A: Yep. First you completely resolve Chord of Calling and put it into your graveyard, then you put any resulting triggered abilities onto the stack and choose their targets. Since the Chord is in your graveyard at that point, the Greenwarden's ability can target and return it.

Q: My opponent just activated the ability of Windbrisk Heights. If I respond by activating Cryptic Cruiser and putting the card Windbrisk Heights exiled into my opponent's graveyard, will they still get to cast it?

A: Nope. Any time an ability refers to "the exiled card(s)" or "cards exiled with" one of its other abilities, it specifically requires the card(s) to still be in the exile zone. So if you can briskly yank the hidden-away card to the graveyard, Windbrisk Heights won't be able to cast it.

Q: Now that Battle for Zendikar is tournament-legal, I can play with my Return to Ravnica Steam Vents, right?

A: So long as you're playing Modern, Legacy, Vintage or Return to Ravnica or Ravnica Block Constructed, sure! Just don't try that in Standard: although you can pull a Steam Vents from a Battle for Zendikar booster pack, it's not part of the set (as you can tell from the fact that it has a different expansion symbol and a collector number based on the numbering of the Zendikar Expeditions set) and so it (and the other "shock" lands, along with the enemy-colored fetchlands) did not become Standard-legal. Though of course you can play an Expeditions Steam Vents in Battle for Zendikar Sealed Deck or Booster Draft if you're lucky enough to get one in your card pool.

Q: If I'm playing in a tournament and mulligan to 6, then forget to scry before the first turn of the game is underway, what happens?

A: As part of a new tournament-policy update to accommodate the updated mulligan rule, we treat this the same as if you'd performed the scry but chose to leave the card on top. This also applies in any other situation (not just mulligans) where a rule or card instructs you to scry and later it's discovered that you didn't.

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.

In the animated Mutavault + Clutch of Currents example, why does Mutavault retain all creature types after Clutch resolves? I thought that once it was set to Elemental, it would lose all other creature subtypes per 205.1a.
#1 • Date: 2015-10-08 • Time: 22:34:29 •
If the animated Mutavalt was targeted by Clutch of Currents, shouldn't it be a 5/5 creature until end of turn (2/2 "base" P/T and three +1/+1 counters)? I also share the same doubt that MunderDifflin has.
#2 • Date: 2015-11-06 • Time: 07:55:29 •

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