Published on 11/09/2015

Wait For It....

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

No holiday music until December!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Halloween is behind us, and you know what that means? That's right, it's already December! Or at least that's what the mall wants me to believe—they've already added holiday music to their rotation, and their new decor is looking suspiciously red and green. But I'm on to them—I know the truth! And once you read today's article, so will you! Or at least the truth about the answers to today's Magic rules questions.

If you'd like to learn further truths, remember that you can always email them to us at , or if they're short tweet them to us @CranialTweet. You'll get a beautiful hand-crafted truth delivered right to your door, and may even see that truth spread to the world in a future article.

Q: If Goblin Grappler defines a blocking creature, could the defending player cast a flash creature to block the Grappler instead of the previously defined blocking creature?

A: The defending player can cast a flash creature before needing to declare blockers, but that won't stop them from needing to also block with whatever creature the Grappler provoked. The provoked creature must block the Grappler if it's able to do so, and having another creature also block the Grappler doesn't change that.

Q: Is it possible to bring Lotus Bloom out without suspend by playing it from top if library while Magus of the Future is on the battlefield?

A: Afraid not. You're not able to cast Lotus Bloom from the top of your library here for the same reason you couldn't cast it without suspend from your hand. When you're casting a spell, either from your hand normally or from the top of your library via Magus of the Future, you need to pay its mana cost. The Bloom doesn't have a mana cost, and a nonexistent mana cost can't be paid, so no matter whether it's in your hand or on top of your library, you're stuck being unable to cast it.

Q: I have a Butcher of the Horde out and Bloodsoaked Champion in the graveyard. I want to give Butcher of the Horde vigilance. Is it possible to declare attacks, respond to that by activating the Champion, and sacrifice the Champion to give the Butcher vigilance?

A: Giving Butcher of the Horde vigilance here is possible, but it won't do you any good, because by the time you can do so, the Butcher will already be tapped. You can only use Bloodsoaked Champion's raid ability if you've attacked with at least one creature this turn, so in order to bring it back, you need to have already attacked with the Butcher. But if you've already attacked with the Butcher, then the Butcher's already tapped, because tapping it is part of the process of attacking with it.

Q: If I use Flash and put out Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, can I tap all my mana for double and then choose not to pay the difference?

A: Surprisingly, yes, you can. Normally you're not able to activate abilities in the middle of something resolving, but there's an exception to that: if that thing is asking you to pay mana, you have a chance to use mana abilities—this is to make sure you have a chance to produce the necessary mana to pay.

So Flash starts resolving, and as instructed you put a creature card onto the battlefield: Vorinclex. Now Flash asks you to pay , and because it's asking you to pay mana, the game gives you a chance to use mana abilities first. When you go to use those abilities, the Vorinclex you just put onto the battlefield sees that, and triggers, giving you additional mana.

Once you're all done producing mana, Flash gives you a choice: pay , or don't. If you decide not to, Vorinclex is sacrificed, but you still have all that lovely mana it provided you during those few brief, glorious moments it was on the battlefield.

Not yet! We still have another month!
Q: My opponent attacks me with five 5/5s. If I use Martyrdom on my Spitemare, can I redirect all the damage to Spitemare, or would Spitemare die as soon as it's dealt 3, letting the rest come through?

A: You can redirect all the damage so your opponent will most likely be taking a pretty hefty blow to the face. Each activation of the ability Martyrdom provides may only redirect 1 damage, but redirecting damage this way doesn't change when it's dealt, and there's no upper limit to the amount of damage a creature can be dealt at once, so all 25 damage is still dealt at the exact same time, just to the Spitemare rather than you.

Q: What happens to a Soramaro, First to Dream if you cast Timetwister? Does its P/T ever go to zero?

A: It does, very briefly, but that doesn't matter. The game doesn't check for state-based actions (such as creatures dying for having 0 toughness) during the resolution of spells and abilities, so even though Soramaro briefly becomes a 0/0, by the time the game gets around to checking to see if anything should die, it's back up to a 7/7.

Q: I have a 10/10 Mindless Automaton that had been dealt 9 damage previously in the turn. Can I remove all ten +1/+1 counters by maintaining priority or will it die to state-based actions after I draw my first card?

A: It will die as soon as you activate its ability the first time, before you can activate it again, and definitely before you draw that first card.

A good rule of thumb is that while state-based actions (SBAs) aren't checked during the resolution of spells or abilities (as mentioned in the previous question), if you're not in the middle of a something resolving, SBAs will always happen before anyone has a chance to do anything. This is because any time the game is about to give anyone a chance to cast spells, activate abilities, or do basically anything else, it will first check for and perform any applicable SBAs.

Q: What happens when a manifested instant or sorcery dies while a player has a Dryad Militant out?

A: It goes to the graveyard, just like any other creature would. Replacement effects like Dryad Militant need to be applied before the event they're trying to replace, because you can't replace something that has already finished happening. But before the card went to the graveyard, it wasn't an instant or sorcery, so there wasn't anything going on that the Militant would want to apply to in the first place. Once the card arrives in the graveyard and the game sees it's an instant or sorcery, it's too late to apply the Militant, because it's already in the graveyard.

Q: How does Myth Realized work with a Starfield of Nyx with five or more enchantments in play?

A: If Starfield of Nyx is out and you control the necessary number of enchantments, a Myth Realized that hasn't been activated will be a 1/1. Once you activate it, its new ability will change its power and toughness to match the number of lore counters on it, however many that is; once the turn ends and the activation wears off, the Myth will go back to being a 1/1.

This happens because both Starfield of Nyx and the ability Myth Realized grants itself are doing the same thing: trying to set its power and toughness to a specific value. Therefore, they're part of the same layer, and since neither effect depends on the other, you apply them in timestamp order. The Starfield entered the battlefield before the Myth was activated, so you apply that one first, and then the newer Myth Realized effect over top of it.

Q: Let's say I have Omniscience out and cast Wargate from my hand. What is the X cost in Wargate?

A: If you chose to cast it without paying its mana cost, X is 0. Any time you're casting something with an in its mana cost, if you're not paying that mana cost for some reason, the only legal choice you can make for X is 0. So unless you want to use your Wargate as a glorified Rampant Growth, you're probably going to need to pay for it.

Q: I'm casting a spell for free via Epic Experiment and an opponent controls Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Do I need to pay taxes?

A: You do indeed still need to pay taxes. The mana cost of a card is always and only the mana listed in the top right-hand corner of the card*, so when you're casting something "without paying its mana cost", it means you're casting it without paying that. If there's any other costs, such as the Grand Arbiter's tax, you still have to pay for them, because nothing's telling you you don't.

*(Future Sight futureshifted cards notwithstanding)

Q: I snatch an opponent's creature with Yasova Dragonclaw and blink it with a Ghostly Flicker, so I get to keep it. Next turn my opponent attacks me and I proceed to cast Turn Against on the creature I stole to untap it. At the end of the turn do I still get to keep that creature, even though the latest effect only lasts "until end of turn"?

A: Yes, you do. Temporary control-change effects don't forcibly give things back to their owners once they end—they just wear off and disappear. Turn Against's effect may be wearing off, but thanks to Ghostly Flicker, you would still control the creature even without that effect. So you continue to control it.

Q: If I have Horobi, Death's Wail out, and enchant an opponent's creature with Unhallowed Pact, does the opponent's creature just die? Or does the creature return under my control?

A: Horobi, Death's Wail's ability triggers any time a creature becomes the target of a spell or ability, and will resolve before whatever spell or ability triggered it. That means that if you're targeting one of your opponent's creatures with Unhallowed Pact, the creature will be dead before your Pact tries to resolve.

Shortly thereafter, your Pact tries to resolve, but it finds that it no longer has a legal target, and so will be countered on resolution; it goes to the graveyard, and nothing else will happen.

It doesn't even have its winter coat yet.
Q: If I were to return my friend's Jace, Telepath Unbound to his hand via Disperse, does it transform back into a legendary creature or does it remain a planeswalker in his hand that he is unable to cast?

A: If a double-faced card isn't on the battlefield, the back face effectively doesn't exist. This means that as soon as you return Jace to his owner's hand, it'll go right back to being Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and he'll be able to cast it again on his turn.

Q: Say that my friend has Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on the battlefield and uses its ability to try to turn it into Jace, Telepath Unbound. Am I able to respond with Cryptic Cruiser's ability (or something similar) to prevent the transformation?

A: Clever idea, but sadly, it doesn't work. Jace exiles and returns himself all during the resolution of his ability, and players aren't able to cast spells or activate abilities while something else is in the middle of resolving. So while there is a brief moment when Jace is exiled, you don't have a chance to process him before he returns himself.

Q: If I cast Ulamog's Reclaimer and I don't have an instant or sorcery card in my graveyard, can I still choose to process my opponent's exiled card?

A: No, you can't. Ulamog's Reclaimer's ability is targeted, so when it triggers the game tries to get you to choose a legal target for it. Since you don't have an instant or sorcery card in your graveyard, you can't do that, and since you can't choose legal target for the ability, it's removed from the stack without doing anything. The ability never gets a chance to resolve, so you never get a chance to process anything.

Other processors with non-targeted abilities may work differently; for example, if you cast Mind Raker while your opponent has an empty hand, you can still process, because that ability isn't targeted and will go onto the stack regardless of the contents of your opponent's hand.

Q: If I have two Catacomb Sifter and sacrifice something, can I scry two deep or just one?

A: Not quite either; you get to scry one card, and then you get to scry one card again. If you left the card on top during the first scry, that will end up being the same card you just looked at, but if you put it on the bottom, it'll be something new and different.

Q: Monastery Siege choosing Dragons is under my control and my opponent plays Kolaghan's Command targeting me and my creature. Is the spell going to cost just more or more for each target?

A: It's only going to cost more. Monastery Siege only cares that the spell your opponent is casting is targeting you and/or your things, not how many times it's doing so. If the spell does, it costs more. If it doesn't, it doesn't.

If the Siege wanted to keep increasing the cost for each additional target, it would need to say so.

Q: Say I control Sedris, the Traitor King and cast Eternal Dominion. Can I still unearth creatures from my graveyard?

A: Absolutely. Unearth is an activated ability, and while you can't cast spells after resolving an Epic spell, you can activate abilities just fine.

The reminder text for unearth may say "Unearth only as a sorcery", but that's just reminder text shorthand that means that you can only do it during your main phase when the stack is empty—you don't need to actually be able to cast a sorcery spell right at that moment, and it doesn't mean that unearthing is itself somehow a sorcery.

Q: My opponent has Kalastria Healer on the battlefield already, and then proceeds to play Bloodbond Vampire. Can I play Titan's Presence and reveal a colorless creature with power 3 to exile Bloodbond Vampire, or has the ETB effect of the Healer already pumped Bloodbond Vampire to a 4/4?

A: Both Kalastria Healer and Bloodbond Vampire have triggered abilities, and like all normal triggered abilities, they don't happen immediately—instead they get put onto the stack and give everybody a chance to respond before they resolve. If you respond to either one of them with your Titan's Presence, the Vampire will be exiled before it can receive a counter.

Just be careful your opponent can't respond to your Presence with Stone Haven Medic's ability or something.

Q: Wellwisher says I gain 1 life for each elf "in play". What does this mean? Does it include all battlefields and - little absurd thinking - graveyards? Should I understand that "in play" means - the casted spells, or...?

A: "In play" is just old, outdated wording for "on the battlefield"—it includes both the things you control and the things your opponent(s) control, but it doesn't include cards in anyone's graveyard. If you check Wellwisher's official (Oracle) rules text in Gatherer, you'll see that it's been updated to use modern terminology.

Q: How do basic lands work in draft? I know you're given them, but once you choose your ratio are you stuck with it, or can you change it?

A: That depends on what kind of event it is. At Competitive or Professional drafts, such as the Top 8 of a Sealed PPTQ or Day 2 of a Grand Prix, once you submit your decklist, that's that, and your deck must match your decklist at the beginning of each match. You'll be able to sideboard in and out lands as you wish for the second and third games of the match, but for the first one you're stuck with what you submitted.

But for drafts that are run at Regular and don't use decklists, such as FNM drafts, you're in luck, because unless the Head Judge says otherwise (and they won't) those events use what's known as "continuous construction". Which basically means that you can sideboard however you want between games and matches, and never have to return it to any specific configuration, no matter what you started playing with.

And that's all we have time for today; be sure to come back next week when Nathan will have a fresh batch of truth ready just for you!

Until then, something tells me I need to start on my holiday shopping...

- 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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