Published on 10/25/2015

Take your base

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Nobody can steal a base with
this around.
Fall is in the air, and so are balls — baseballs, that is, for at least one more week. The Major League playoffs are in full swing here, and by the time you read this article we'll know which two teams have advanced to the World Series. Unfortunately, all we know as I write this is that my beloved Chicago Cubs probably won't break their current streak of 107 years without a championship, as they're currently down by three games in their playoff. But hope springs eternal, and if there won't be a World Series title at least there's a grab bag of rules questions to answer in this week's issue of Cranial Insertion.

And if you've got a rules question burning a hole in your brain, or know how to un-curse a baseball team, feel free to let us know by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: If I manifest a Hangarback Walker with Mastery of the Unseen, can I pay to turn it face up with X +1/+1 counters?

A: Well, first of all you can only pay to turn the Walker face up. But even if you could choose a value for X you still wouldn't get any counters; getting X +1/+1 counters is something that happens as Hangarback Walker enters the battlefield, and it's not doing that — a permanent that's turned face up stays on the battlefield the whole time it's doing so. Which means your Hangarback Walker will flip up into a 0/0 and die immediately.

Q: What if I have Trail of Mystery? Would that save my Hangarback by making it a 2/2 (and then I could just use its second ability to put a counter on and keep it alive past the end of the turn)?

A: State-based actions (which are what kill creatures that have zero toughness) don't use the stack (for that matter, neither does the special action of paying to turn a face-down permanent face up), and happen before anything can be put on the stack. So when the Hangarback turns face up, Trail of Mystery's triggered ability won't get onto the stack until after the Hangarback is already dead and buried in your graveyard.

Q: My opponent just cast Munda, Ambush Leader, and revealed two Allies from her top four cards. Do I get to know which order she put them back in?

A: No, whenever multiple cards are being put on the top or bottom of a library at the same time, the player whose library it is chooses the order and doesn't have to reveal it to anyone. So you just get to know what the cards were, not what order they'll come in as your opponent draws them. Which makes a lot of sense, really; what good would an ambush be without some element of surprise?

Q: What if my opponent attacks with a bunch of creatures and I cast Ætherspouts? Do I get to know anything about where the cards go?

A: You'll get to know which cards went to the top and which went to the bottom, but again you won't know the specific order they wound up in once they got there.

Q: Can I Silkwrap my opponent's awakened land?

A: It probably takes a lot of silk, but sure: converted mana cost is the sum of the symbols in a card's mana cost. Which for a land is zero, and that's 3 or less. So that land will be wrapped up like a very large, misshapen Christmas gift (and of course if Silkwrap gets removed, the land will return as just a land, without its +1/+1 counters).

Q: If I control Herald of Kozilek and want to cast a face-down Den Protector, do I pay or ?

A: You'll get to pay just . The first step of casting a card face-down is to turn it face-down, which changes its characteristics to those of a face-down creature, and a face-down creature is colorless. So when you get a few steps further into the casting process and determine the cost to pay, the Herald sees your Den Protector as one of its colorless friends and gives you a discount on casting it.

Nothing like a good home run to bring
your team together.
Q: I cast Talent of the Telepath, with spell mastery, and the only two instant or sorcery cards revealed are a Cancel and a Disdainful Stroke. Can I cast them both targeting Talent of the Telepath, in order to just get the two triggers from Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper?

A: You can! A spell can never target itself (so there's no way, for example, to cast the Cancel targeting itself), but while it's resolving, Talent of the Telepath is still on the stack and is a perfectly cromulent target for both Cancel and Disdainful Stroke. Of course, once you've finished casting the Cancel and the Stroke, Talent of the Telepath will be done resolving and will be put into your graveyard, leaving both of those spells to be countered by the game rules for lack of legal target, but Noyan Dar is still happy because all he cares about is that they got cast, not whether they ended up resolving.

Q: If I control Zada, Hedron Grinder and four 1/1 Goblin tokens, and cast Echoing Courage targeting Zada, what happens?

A: Some pretty big Goblins is what happens. Zada will just get +2/+2, but there will be four copies of Echoing Courage — one for each Goblin — and since all the Goblin tokens have the same name ("Goblin", since in the absence of any effect giving them a name creature tokens have the same name as their creature types), each of them will get +2/+2 from each copy of Echoing Courage, for a total of +8/+8 each. So the end result will be a 5/5 Zada and four 9/9 Goblin tokens.

Q: I cast Rally the Ancestors with X=3, returning Shaman of the Pack and five other Elves; can I have the Shaman come in last so it sees the other Elves?

A: All the creatures will enter the battlefield simultaneously, but the order doesn't actually matter here: Shaman of the Pack's ability counts the number of Elves you control as the ability resolves, not when it's put onto the stack. So as long as they're all still alive when the Shaman's trigger resolves, it will see and count all of them and pack quite a punch for your opponent.

Q: If my Jace, Telepath Unbound dies while my opponent controls Anafenza, the Foremost, will Jace go to my graveyard or to exile?

A: Jace will end up in your graveyard. Anafenza looks at what the card's characteristics are in the zone it's coming from. Which in this case is the battlefield, and on the battlefield Jace was a planeswalker, not a creature.

Q: In a Commander game, if I use Sapphire Charm to phase out my opponent's commander, can he choose to send it to the command zone?

A: No. The command-zone replacement effect is only available when a commander would be put into a graveyard, library or into exile. And a phased-out permanent doesn't go to any of those places; in fact, it doesn't actually go anywhere. It's still on the battlefield, but with a status of "phased out", which means it's there but treated as though it doesn't exist until it phases in again.

Q: I heard there's a trick involving phasing out the Germ token to get rid of living weapon cards like Batterskull. Does that work?

A: It does! When a permanent phases out, any Auras or Equipment attached to it will phase out with it, and only phase in when the permanent they're attached to phases in. But a token ceases to exist after phasing out, so the Germ token will never phase in again. Which means the Batterskull (and any other Auras or Equipment that were attached to the token) will never phase in, and just get stuck, phased-out, for the rest of the game.

Q: I cast Blessed Reincarnation on one of my opponent's creatures, and the first card she revealed from the top of her library was a creature. If I also control Cosi's Trickster will it still get a counter even though my opponent didn't shuffle any cards into her library?

A: It will. When an effect instructs a player to shuffle some set of things into a library, the shuffle still happens even if there are no things to shuffle in. So any abilities which trigger from shuffling — like Cosi's Trickster — will still happen, too.

Q: If I control Leyline of Anticipation, can I flash in a Standstill after my opponent taps mana for a spell, in order to make Standstill trigger?

A: The process of casting a spell is not something you can interrupt or respond in the middle of, so there's no opportunity, once you know your opponent is casting a spell, to jump in and cast the Standstill before the casting process is complete (and getting Standstill onto the battlefield after the casting process is complete will not trigger Standstill).

Magic's version of the hit-and-run
play is a bit more brutal.
Q: I control Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker and my opponent is at 4 life and has a Mantis Rider. Can I +1 Sarkhan to make him a Dragon, then cast another Sarkhan from my hand, -3 it to kill the Mantis Rider, and attack for lethal damage?

A: You can. When Sarkhan becomes a Dragon, he loses all types and subtypes other than those set by his own ability, so his types are just "Legendary Creature — Dragon". Which means that when you cast the second Sarkhan, the planeswalker uniqueness rule won't kick in: even though you control two Sarkhans, only one of them is a planeswalker. Of course, if your opponent somehow survives until the end of the turn, the first Sarkhan will become a planeswalker again and you'll have to choose one Sarkhan to keep and one to put in your graveyard, but from the sound of it your opponent won't be around after speaking with your Dragon.

Q: So I could do the same trick with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, by turning the first Gideon into a creature with its +1 ability, then casting a second and immediately use the -4 to make an emblem?

A: Not quite. Although they look like they do similar things, Gideon's ability is worded slightly differently: his +1 ability says "Gideon, Ally of Zendikar becomes a 5/5 Human Soldier Ally creature with indestructible that's still a planeswalker". Since Gideon specifies that he retains his prior type, he'll end up as a "Creature Planeswalker — Human Soldier Ally Gideon". And when you cast the second Gideon, the planeswalker uniqueness rule will force you to get rid of one of the Gideons before you can activate the -4 ability.

Q: My opponent's only creature is an untapped Dragonlord Ojutai. Can I use Crackling Doom to kill it?

A: You can. Hexproof only stops targeting, and Crackling Doom doesn't target anything at all — if it did, it would use the word "target". So your opponent's Dragonlord is quite doomed.

Q: I control an Emeria Shepherd and I just played a Plains, but I actually want the card in my graveyard (a Den Protector) to return to my hand instead of the battlefield. Can I do that?

A: You can. Emeria Shepherd's ability says you may return the card to your hand instead, not that you must. So when a Plains enters the battlefield under your control, you'll get to choose whether to return the targeted card to the battlefield, to your hand, or just to leave it in the graveyard if you want.

Q: Does Halimar Tidecaller give flying to Mistform Ultimus?

A: Mistform Ultimus is all creature types, but "Land" is a card type, not a creature type, so Mistform Ultimus doesn't have that type and won't gain flying.

Q: My opponent cast a Demonic Pact last turn, and forgot about the trigger during his upkeep. Does it still use up one of the modes?

A: It depends. Assuming your opponent accidentally forgot the trigger (and with a brand-new Pact, that seems likely, as they'd probably want to use one of the good modes), the remedy for this in tournament play would to ask you — the opponent — if you want to put the Demonic Pact trigger on the stack right now. If you say yes, they choose a mode and get the effect of that mode. If you say no, the ability doesn't get put on the stack, so no mode is chosen and your opponent will have a choice of any of the four modes during his next upkeep (if he remembers it).

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.

As for Emeria Shepherd, when discussing this on another board, we reached the conclusion that the 'may' part of the effect means that it's an optional thing to do, but the type of land (whether it's a Plains or not) still determines whether you can return it to your hand or to the battlefield - you would never get the choice to return it to your hand if a Plains triggered the ability, and vice versa, because it's a replacement effect.

I was looking forward to a Gatherer ruling back then, but there still isn't one, so I'm just dropping this in here and hopefully I'm not confusing anyone...
#1 • Date: 2015-10-26 • Time: 03:11:58 •
That was my understanding as well for all five of the "landfall land type matters" cards. It's a self-replacement effect, like Overload or the card Dark Temper.
#2 • Date: 2015-10-26 • Time: 04:50:50 •
No, the card uses the word "may" twice. So first, you "may" choose to return a card to your hand. And, if it's a plains, you "may" choose to return it to the battlefield instead.
#3 • Date: 2015-10-26 • Time: 19:35:53 •
@Sachora: While I agree that that's a valid interpretation of the card, I can't think of a good way to phrase my interpretation without using "may" again...
#4 • Date: 2015-10-27 • Time: 02:48:56 •
Re Standstill, this answer isn't quite correct, but might as well be. It's very pedantic to say so, but whether you can intervene after your opponent activates the mana abilities depends on exactly when those mana abilities are being activated - and to know that, you'd have to ask them. The answer here describes the case of activating them during the process of casting the spell, which is what any savvy player would do, because, indeed, it can't be interrupted. Another possibility is that the player activates abilities when he or she still has priority, in which case you can intervene... but only if you get priority before they do, which for a two-player game means it's your turn. And then they could choose not to cast the spell. And if it's an instant or has flash, they can cast it in response to your spell and theirs will resolve first anyway, so no trigger will happen.

In short: the proper answer is "maybe, but only if it's your turn, it's sorcery speed and your opponent's an idiot".
#5 • Date: 2015-11-03 • Time: 16:22:37 •
A 'little' out of date maybe, but why is it that Gideon retains his planeswalker type Gideon when he animates himself? The ability mentions only that he's still a planeswalker, but doesn't specify anything about him retaining any of his types.
#6 • Date: 2016-01-21 • Time: 10:38:13 •

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