Published on 12/28/2015

Endings Are Just Beginnings

or, Out with the Old...

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Please, let me light your fireworks.
Greetings, and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Today is the last Monday in 2015, which means it's time to say goodbye to 2015 and look forward to 2016. I won't bore you with a long retrospective of the year, but I do want to give special recognition to one pivotal event of the year. As most of you know, our column's founder Eli left the team this year after over ten years of dedication to providing Magic rules education to players and judges alike. He has moved on to work for Wizards of the Coast where he will eventually take on the role of Magic Rules Manager. I am extremely happy for him, and I am excited to see what he'll do in his new role in 2016 and beyond.

Meanwhile, we will do our best to continue Eli's mission here at Cranial Insertion. To do that, we need help from you, our readers. If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will answer your question directly, and your question might appear in a future article to educate other readers like yourself.

Now, without further ado, let's dive into this week's selection of questions!

Q: My opponent attacks with Anafenza, the Foremost, and I block with an Undergrowth Champion that has two +1/+1 counters on it. Does Undergrowth Champion deal 3 or 4 damage to Anafenza?

A: It deals 4 damage. Since neither the Champion nor Anafenza have first strike, they both assign and deal their combat damage at the same time. At the time combat damage is assigned, both creatures have power 4, so they both assign 4 damage to the other. As Anafenza's damage is dealt to your Champion, the damage is prevented and a +1/+1 counter gets removed from your Champion, but that doesn't change the amount of damage that your Champion is dealing at the same time.

Q: My opponent casts See the Unwritten and I respond with Hallowed Moonlight. What happens?

A: Your opponent will see a bunch of cards, but none of them will get to the battlefield. Hallowed Moonlight resolves first and creates a replacement effect that starts right away and lasts for the remainder of the turn, so that effect is in effect while See the Unwritten resolves. If your opponent chooses any creature cards to go onto the battlefield, they'll be exiled instead since the weren't cast. However, note that choosing creature cards to put onto the battlefield is optional, so your opponent will probably just put all eight cards into the graveyard.

Q: Does Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger's exile ability trigger off of See the Unwritten?

A: No. That ability only triggers when you cast Ulamog. Casting Ulamog is a process that involves putting Ulamog on the stack and, usually, paying mana for it. See the Unwritten puts Ulamog directly onto the battlefield, so it's not being cast.

Q: Does End Hostilities destroy an untapped Dragonlord Ojutai?

A: It sure does. End Hostilities doesn't target anything because it doesn't use the word "target" (or any keywords that have "target" in their definition), so the fact that Ojutai has hexproof is quite irrelevant.

Q: My opponent controls Leonin Arbiter and I crack my Windswept Heath to search for a land. When do I have to announce that I want to pay to turn off the Arbiter's effect?

A: Well, you could do it before you crack your fetch land, but at the very latest you'll have to do it immediately in response to your fetch land activation. If you pass priority to your opponent without paying the Arbiter tax, you run the risk of them passing priority back, and then Windswept Heath's ability starts to resolve and you missed the chance to turn off the Arbiter's ability. Some players believe that they can pay the Arbiter tax while the fetch ability is resolving, but that's not true. You can only pay the Arbiter tax when you have priority, and you don't have priority during the resolution of a spell or ability.

Q: Does Painter's Servant override devoid?

A: Yup. Devoid and Painter's Servant's effect are both applied in layer 5, but devoid is a characteristic-defining ability, so its effect always gets applied first. This means that the devoid card is the chosen color from Painter's Servant's effect even if Painter's Servant has the older timestamp.

Ooh! Aah!
Q: Layers still confuse me. Can you explain to me how Spreading Seas interacts with Blood Moon, with Mutavault's animation ability, and with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth?

A: I'll try. Spreading Seas creates a type changing effect, which is applied in layer 4, so we'll focus on what happens in layer 4. Blood Moon's effect also lives in layer 4. When you have two effects in the same layer, you apply them in timestamp order unless one of them depends on the other. Effect A depends on effect B if applying effect B first changes the existence of effect A, changes what effect A applies to, or changes what effect A does to the things it applies to.

Blood Moon's effect and Spreading Seas' effect don't depend on each other, since neither effect changes the existence of the other effect, or what the other effect applies to, or what the other effect does. This means that you simply apply the effects in timestamp order, so the more recent effect wins.

Mutavault's effect and Spreading Seas' effect don't depend on each other, either. While it's true that enchanting Mutavault with Spreading Seas removes its animation ability, this doesn't matter if the ability already resolved and created its effect. The effect lasts until the end of the turn regardless of whether Mutavault keeps or loses the ability. You apply both effects in timestamp order, and in the end you have a 2/2 land creature with all creature types and the land type Island.

Finally, let's talk about Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. If you enchant Urborg itself, you're creating a dependency because applying Spreading Seas' effect removes the static ability from Urborg that creates its effect, so it affects the existence of Urborg's effect. Since Urborg's effect is dependent on Spreading Seas' effect, Spreading Seas' effect is applied first, and then Urborg's effect doesn't apply because it no longer exists. If you enchant some other land with Spreading Seas, there is no dependency, so the two effects are applied in timestamp order, so the more recent effect wins.

Whew! That was a very compressed look at things, so don't feel bad if it's still not entirely clear. Layers are a very deep topic, and entire articles have been written about it. One of those articles is right here at Cranial Insertion, so if you're hungry for more information about layers, go check it out!

Q: Can I use the mana from Shaman of Forgotten Ways to pay the kicker for a creature spell?

A: Sure! The mana from the Shaman only demands that you spend the mana to cast a creature spell. To cast a creature spell with kicker, you calculate the total cost by adding the kicker cost to the mana cost, and then you pay that total cost. The Shaman doesn't know or care which part of which cost is being paid with its mana. You're spending the mana to cast a creature spell, and that's all that matters.

Q: I control Master Biomancer and Ezuri, Claw of Progress. If I cast a Runeclaw Bear, do I get an experience counter?

A: No. The Bear enters the battlefield with the two +1/+1 counters on it, so it enters the battlefield as a 4/4. It's never a 2/2, not even for a fraction of a second, so it doesn't trigger Ezuri's ability.

Q: When I cast Stain the Mind, do I have to announce the card I'm naming before my opponent decides whether to counter it?

A: No. Only targets, modes, and other choices that affect what you're targeting or how much you're paying for the spell have to be announced at the time you're casting the spell. All other choices are made when the spell resolves. This means that your opponent has to decide whether to counter your spell without knowing for sure what you're going to name.

Q: When I resolve Stain the Mind, can I ask my opponent how many copies of the named card she is playing in her deck?

A: You can ask, but she doesn't have to answer at all, and even if she chooses to answer, she doesn't have to tell the truth. The contents of a player's deck are private information, and players don't have to answer questions about private information truthfully.

Q: My opponent targets my only creature, a 4/4, with a destruction spell, and I respond with Force Away to rescue it. Do I get to loot?

A: Nope. You follow the instructions on Force Away in order, so you first return the creature to your hand and then you check the Ferocious condition. Suddenly, you no longer control a creature with power 4 or greater, so you don't get the looting effect.

Q: I control Jeskai Ascendancy and I cast Glittering Wish to get a card from my sideboard. Do I get to loot first, or do I have to choose a card from my sideboard first?

A: You get to loot first. Jeskai Ascendancy's trigger goes on the stack above Glittering Wish, so it resolves first. The card you get with Glittering Wish is not a target or anything else that has to be announced as you're casting Glittering Wish, so you choose it when Glittering Wish resolves.

Q: If I control Leyline of Anticipation, can I cast Day's Undoing after my myriad tokens deal damage but before they get exiled?

A: Yes, you can do that. After the tokens deal combat damage, you get two opportunities to cast Day's Undoing. One is in the combat damage step, before the "exile us" trigger even triggers, and the other is in the end of combat step, in response to the "exile us" trigger. Note that if you end the turn before the ability triggers, it will trigger at the next possible opportunity, so the tokens would still get exiled at the end of combat during the next turn. If you plan on keeping the tokens indefinitely, you should let the trigger go on the stack and cast Day's Undoing in response to the trigger.

Please drink responsibly!
Q: How does Blade of Selves work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Not well. You do have two opponents, but they're both defending players because the attacker is attacking both of them as a team. This means that "each opponent other than defending player" describes nothing more than an empty set, so the myriad ability makes no copies of the attacker.

Q: How does Zulaport Cutthroat's trigger work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: It works fairly well. Each time it triggers, both of your opponents lose 1 life, so their shared life total goes down by 2. However, only you gain life, not your teammate, so your shared life total only goes up by 1. Also, your Cutthroat only triggers when creatures that you control die. It doesn't trigger for your teammate's creatures.

Q: In Two-Headed Giant, if I enchant my teammate's creature with Ethereal Armor, does it count my enchantments, my teammate's enchantments, or both?

A: It counts only your enchantments. Each player controls their own permanents, and "you" in Ethereal Armor's rules text refers to its controller. You still control Ethereal Armor even though it's attached to your teammate's creature, so it counts your enchantments.

Q: In Commander there's this rule that a land can only produce mana in the color identity of my commander, and if there's another mana symbol printed on the land, that mana will be colorless. This makes me wonder about Mana Confluence. If my commander's color identity is blue, black, and red, can I add white or green mana to my mana pool with Mana Confluence?

A: I'm afraid you've misunderstood the rule a bit. If there are mana symbols printed on the card that are outside your commander's color identity, you can't even have that card in your deck. For example, if your commander's color identity is blue, black, and red, you're not even allowed to put lands like Stirring Wildwood or Selesnya Sanctuary in your deck.

Mana Confluence doesn't have any colored mana symbols on it, so you're allowed to have it in any Commander deck. However, when you activate it and choose a color that's outside your commander's color identity, you get colorless mana instead.

Q: So, now that 2016 is right around the corner, when exactly is the switch to the three-block Standard rotation happening?

A: That switch will happen with the release of Shadows over Innistrad in April of 2016, so it's still a few months off. When Oath of the Gatewatch is released, nothing rotates out, so Standard will consist of Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged, Dragons of Tarkir, Magic Origins, Battle for Zendikar, and Oath of the Gatewatch.

When Shadows over Innistrad is released, the Khans block gets split up and Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged rotate out, so Standard will then consist of Dragons of Tarkir, Magic Origins, Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, and Shadows over Innistrad.

For more background information on the transition from two-block Standard to three-block Standard, see this article from Mark Rosewater.

And that's all the time we have for now. If you participate in New Year's celebrations, I hope you have fun, but stay safe. May all your wishes for 2016 come true.

- 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.


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