Published on 12/07/2015

Make a Myth-Take

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Tell me lies,
Tell me sweet little lies...
Hello and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! At long last, it's finally December—the holiday season has begun in earnest, and people have been telling me a lot about some weird thing called "snowing" it's been doing recently in lots of places. Apparently it involves some sort of cold white powder falling from the sky. Sounds like a myth to me—it certainly never does that around here!

If you have any Magic rules myths you want us to clear up, or just some straightforward questions, be sure to send them along to us at , or via Twitter @CranialTweet. Your questions will get an answer, and you might even find them appearing in one of our future articles.

Q: Does an ability like Putrid Leech's target the Leech, allowing me to activate Spellskite to give it the boost instead?

A: Definitely not. The fact that the Leech will be affected by its ability doesn't mean that it's being targeted by that ability. The word "target" in Magic means something very specific; a spell or ability is only targeted if it's an Aura or actually uses the word "target" somewhere—either in the card text itself or in the rules defining and supporting a keyword. (Check the reminder text for that keyword to make sure.)

So Putrid Leech's ability, which doesn't use the word "target" anywhere, doesn't have any targets and thus Spellskite is useless against it.

Q: My opponent used a Jace, Telepath Unbound's -3 to target and cast a Dig Through Time. He exiled 6 cards from his yard to cast the Dig, however one of the cards he exiled was the Dig he was trying to cast. How can you exile the card you're trying to cast?

A: You can't, your opponent messed up. The first step of casting a spell is moving it from wherever it is onto the stack, which in this case means that the Dig Through Time is no longer in the graveyard. Actually paying the cost of the spell you're casting comes much later in the process, long after the Dig has left, so you definitely can't exile the Dig to help pay its own cost.

Q: I control a Chasm Skulker with a number of counters on it. If I then play a Bloodspore Thrinax devouring the Chasm Skulker, do the tokens enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters on them?

A: Absolutely. Triggered abilities like Chasm Skulker's don't quite happen immediately once their trigger event occurs—they trigger, but don't do anything right that second. They must politely wait their turn to get put onto the stack, and then wait even longer to give players a chance to respond before they resolve.

Here, Chasm Skulker's ability triggers upon being devoured by Bloodspore Thrinax. We finish resolving the Thrinax (which means it's now on the battlefield), and then put the Skulker's ability onto the stack and wait for responses. If no player has responses, we'll resolve the Skulker's trigger, and hey, look! There's a Bloodspore Thrinax on the battlefield ready and waiting to give those tokens some handy +1/+1 counters. Awesome!

No more broken hearts;
We're better off apart.
Let's give it a try...

Q: My opponent plays Dragonlord Silumgar, targeting my Thunderbreak Regent with the ETB effect. Can I play a Crackling Doom in response to the ETB and kill Silumgar before he steals my Dragon?

A: Crackling Doom is an instant, so yes, you can absolutely do that. (Assuming your opponent doesn't control any other creatures with higher power, of course.) If you do, then when Silumgar's ability resolves, it tries to give your opponent control of the Regent "for as long as (he) controls Silumgar"...but he already doesn't control Silumgar anymore. Since the duration specified by the effect has already expired, the ability doesn't change control of your Regent at all, and you get to keep it.

Q: ...So if I do that, that means the opponent does NOT take 3 damage for targeting the Regent as Silumgar dies before the ETB resolves, right?

A: Nope! Your opponent still takes the 3 damage. Your Regent became the target of an ability controlled by your opponent, which is all the Regent requires in order to trigger. The fact that the ability's source died and the fact that the ability didn't actually accomplish anything are both completely and utterly irrelevant. They targeted it, so they take 3.

In fact, since Thunderbreak Regent's ability triggers off of your opponent's ability, it actually goes onto the stack on top of Silumgar's trigger, and will resolve first. Since players have chances to respond in between the resolution of each spell or ability on the stack, this means that you can wait until your opponent has already been dealt the Regent's 3 damage before you cast your Crackling Doom at all.

Q: I have a creature in play and the other player casts a Stasis Snare to enchant it as exiled. Can I play a "return target creature to it's owner's hand" spell to return the enchanted creature to my own hand?

A: If you have an Unsummon or a similar Instant in hand and can cast it in response to Stasis Snare's trigger when it's first cast, then yes, you can return your creature to your hand rather than let it get exiled. But if you don't have it in hand and/or can't use it right that second? You're out of luck. Once your creature has been exiled, it's no longer on the battlefield, and spells like Unsummon can only be used on creatures on the battlefield.

When something in Magic says that it's looking for a "creature", with no other qualifiers like "spell" or "card in a graveyard", it specifically means a creature on the battlefield. Things will only affects cards that aren't on the battlefield when they specifically say that they do, either because they outright tell you where to look for the card or because the kind of thing they're looking for doesn't exist on the battlefield.

When you think about it, it should be fairly clear why this is the case—using Murder on a creature card in your opponent's library, or even weirder their graveyard, doesn't make much sense.

Q: If I Dash out a Zurgo Bellstriker and attach Stormrider Rig to it, it becomes a 3/3. If Zurgo takes 2 points of damage during combat, what happens to him during my end step when the Stormrider Rig comes off as he's going back to my hand? Does he die as it leaves the battlefield?

A: No, he just goes back to your hand. Stormrider Rig doesn't remove itself before Zurgo leaves the battlefield, so Zurgo goes directly from being a 3/3 with 2 damage marked on him sitting on the battlefield to being a card in your hand, where damage doesn't matter even if he had any. There's no in-between point where Zurgo's somehow still on the battlefield with damage yet the Rig isn't there to protect him.

Q: I cast Gather the Pack without spell mastery, revealing two or more creatures. I put one into my hand, and the remaining cards go to my graveyard. Does this trigger my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, giving me a 2/2 Zombie token?

A: It does indeed. While you may physically pick up cards and separate them from the rest of your deck when something instructs you to look at or reveal cards from the top of your library, that's purely a physical convenience thing—it's awfully hard for us normal, non-X-Ray-vision-having human beings to look at a card when it's face down on top of a large pile of other cards.

As far as the game's concerned, those cards you're looking at are still in your library in the exact same positions they were before you physically picked them up, so if they're put into the graveyard, that means they went from your library to your graveyard, and will therefore trigger Sidisi.

Q: If a Lone Missionary got exiled with Flickerwisp, then the Wisp is killed before the next end step, is the Lone Missionary permanently exiled?

A: No, it's not. No matter what happens to Flickerwisp, that Missionary's going to return to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step. This is because Flickerwisp, like many other cards, sets up what's known as a "delayed trigger" that will return the Missionary at the appropriate time, no matter what happens to the Wisp.

Most of the time, when a spell or ability resolves you follow all of its instructions right then and there. But sometimes spells and abilities don't want you to do everything right then and there. Gruesome Encore, for example, needs to exile the creature it returns because it doesn't want you to be able to keep it forever...but exiling it right away would render the whole spell pretty much pointless, because you wouldn't have any time to actually use the creature you returned.

This is what delayed triggers are for—when a spell or ability wants to get something done at some later point in time, it can set up a delayed trigger that will do whatever is necessary at the appropriate time. Once the delayed trigger is set up, it will be ready and waiting do its thing no matter what happens in the game in the meantime.

Q: If I cast an Aura spell with Confusion in the Ranks in play, what happens? Do I get to choose which creature the aura will enchant or does my opponent choose, since he's the controller of the aura?

A: You chose a target for your Aura spell at the time you cast it, and that Aura will resolve and enter the battlefield attached to whatever you chose as its target. Confusion in the Ranks only triggers upon the Aura entering the battlefield, so by the time it triggers, your Aura is already attached to something, and simply changing control of an Aura doesn't mean its new controller gets to move it around—it's stuck enchanting the same thing no matter who controls it.

The only way your opponent is going to be able to move that Aura to a new creature is with something like Crown of the Ages or Simic Guildmage. But you have something waiting in hand ready to steal them away so he can't do that, right? Right?

Q: Llawan, Cephalid Empress makes it so my opponent cannot play blue creature spells. Does this mean I could use Glamerdye with it as a counterspell?

A: I'm afraid not. Llawan prevents your opponents from casting spells of whatever color she currently says, but she can't do anything at all about spells that your opponent has already cast. By the time you know what your opponent is casting and have the opportunity to use Glamerdye, it's already too late—your opponent has already finished casting their spell.

Q: If one player controls a Blazing Archon in a free-for-all game and another player is attacked with Banshee of the Dread Choir, may a token attack the Archon player?

A: Much like the previous question, while Blazing Archon may stop creatures from being declared as attackers against its controller, it doesn't do anything to stop creatures that are already attacking them, either because the Archon somehow arrived on the battlefield mid-combat, after attackers had already been declared, or as in this case, because they were put onto the battlefield already attacking.

Since the token was put onto the battlefield already attacking the Archon's controller, the Archon won't stop it. Unless it blocks. A 5/6 is definitely big enough to stop a measly little 4/4 dead in its tracks.

Q: Suppose one player controls Air Elemental and Hill Giant and the other has Orchard Spirit and Grizzly Bears.

If the second player casts Joraga Invocation and attacks with both creatures can the opponent choose to block the Grizzly Bears with Air Elemental and leave Orchard Spirit unblocked, since the Giant can't block it?

A: Nope. When determining whether or not blocks are legal, you don't declare them one at a time, setting each in stone before moving on to the next. Instead, you lay out how all the blockers are declared, and only then do you check for legality, checking the entire set of blockers at once.

There are two requirements here; the first is "Grizzly Bears must be blocked" and the second is "Orchard Spirit must be blocked". The proposed set of blockers doesn't violate the Spirit's restriction, this is true, but it also fulfills only one of those two requirements. Since there is a different legal set of blockers that fulfills more requirements and still doesn't violate any restrictions (Elemental blocking the Spirit, Giant blocking the Bears), the first player is forced to choose that instead.

I'll settle for one day,
To believe in you.
Q: How does Ezuri, Claw of Progress's first ability work with cards like Spike Breeder? Does Ezuri see the Spike come into play as a 0/0 or a 3/3?

A: Ezuri, and everything else, will see the Spike enter the battlefield as a 3/3. As Spike Breeder says, it enters the battlefield with those three +1/+1 counters already on it. That means there's never a time when it's on the battlefield without them. It goes from not existing to being a 3/3 on the battlefield, so that means a 3/3 creature has entered the battlefield.

Compare this with something like Bond Beetle, which has a triggered ability that puts counters on something once it has already entered the battlefield. The Beetle enters the battlefield as a 0/1, and only after that happens will its ability may put a counter on itself to boost it up to a 1/2. Or maybe on on something else instead.

Q: My friend attacked with Noble Quarry and his opponent said something like "after you declare attackers" he plays Raise the Alarm, and claims those tokens are unaffected by the ability on Quarry because they weren't on the field when attackers were declared. Is that true?

A: It's hogwash. Noble Quarry's ability doesn't have anything at all to do with the declaration of attackers and everything to do with the declaration of blockers. Every creature your friend's opponent had on the battlefield at the time blockers are declared is required to block Noble Quarry, no matter when they entered the battlefield.

Now, if your friend's opponent had cast that Raise the Alarm after blockers were declared, that'd be fine—they wouldn't have to block the Quarry, because declaring blockers has already been done for that combat—but they also wouldn't be able to block anything else, for exactly the same reason.

Q: My opponent casts Foul-Tongue Invocation, revealing a dragon to it. If I counter it, would she still gain life, since Invocation says you gain the life if you revealed a dragon when you cast it?

A: No, she wouldn't. While Foul-Tongue Invocation wants to check what was done as it was cast in order to determine whether or not to grant its controller any life, but that check, and the lifegain it grants, only occurs as a part of the spell's resolution. Since you countered the Invocation, it never gets a chance to resolve, so the check, and therefore the lifegain, never happens.

Q: I equip Sword of War and Peace to my Archangel of Thune and hit the enemy. Sword says " gain 1 life for each card in your hand" and I have 5 cards in hand. Do I get 5 life once or do I get 1 life five times? Because, in first case, Archangel triggers once. In second case, she triggers five times.

A: You only get one Archangel trigger from the Sword's ability. (In addition to the one you got from the Archangel's normal lifelink.)

Sword of War and Peace causes one instance of you gaining life equal to the number of cards in your hand; you can tell because that part of the ability only uses one verb, so you're only performing the action it calls for once. If it wanted to have you gain 1 life multiple times, it would have to explicitly instruct you to do so, but that would end up sounding really weird and awkward—something like "You gain 1 life if you have at least one card in hand, then repeat this process for each other card in your hand." Which is just all kinds of weird.

Q: Would Dragon Fangs come back from the graveyard if I play Mistcutter Hydra with an X of 5+?

A: Sadly for you, no. While Mistcutter Hydra may have a converted mana cost of 6 or more on the stack thanks to your choice of X, X isn't defined while the Hydra's not on the stack, which means its converted mana cost will be 1.

Your Hydra will go directly from being a spell on the stack with converted mana cost 6+ to being a creature on the battlefield with a converted mana cost of 1, and since the creature that just entered the battlefield has converted mana cost 1, Dragon Fangs won't trigger.

Q: If I have Sigarda, Host of Herons and my opponent has ultimated Sorin, Solemn Visitor, do I still have to sacrifice since it's the emblem doing it?

A: No, you won't. The thing that's trying to force you to sacrifice a creature is a triggered ability from your opponent's emblem—since your opponent is the one who has the emblem, they control its trigger. And Sigarda says that abilities your opponents control can't cause you to sacrifice creatures.

Q: If a creature with myriad attacks in a game with four players and there's a Silent Arbiter out, which of the three players being attacked gets to block?

A: All of them! Each defending player will be able to block with one (and only one) creature.

Thankfully for the opponents in this game, when the game goes to determine blocker legality in a multiplayer game, each player's set of blockers are evaluated individually, ignoring both creatures that are attacking other players and any blocking creatures other players control. So as long as each defending player abides by the Arbiter's restriction, everything's fine.

Q: In 2HG, how does Mirror Match work? When do our opponents choose who they're attacking? Does it copy all attacking creatures (except the ones attacking a planeswalker my teammate controls)?

A: Luckily for you, your opponents don't choose who they're attacking at all. Your opponents get to decide which member of your team they want their unblocked creatures to deal damage to, but that doesn't happen until damage is actually being assigned, and it has nothing to do with who's being attacked.

In fact, when creatures attack in a Two-Headed Giant game, they're attacking the opposing team as a whole, not just one of the two players on it. That means that Mirror Match will create a copy for every single creature attacking its controller's team, or its controller's planeswalkers. It doesn't get the ones attacking a teammate's planeswalkers, but hey, you can't always get everything you want.

And that's all I have for you this week; hopefully I can get to the bottom of this myth before my next article. I may have to call in Adam and Jamie on this one, if they haven't finished filming already.

Be sure to drop by again next week, when Nathan will have a fresh-baked batch of rules questions coming out of the oven just for you!

- 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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