Published on 05/16/2016

Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Nothing can go wrong!
Hello, and welcome to a truly celebratory edition of Cranial Insertion! My time portal experiments have finally borne fruit, resulting in a stable temporal flux field, and I've successfully jumped forward in time!

As you probably saw in the article I wrote four days ago, which I guess will have been a full week ago for you now, the Eldritch Moon prerelease was so amazing I couldn't wait for the set to release, so I had no choice but to build a time portal and jump through it to after the set's release. Sure, it took days, and by the time I finished building it it was Thursday evening with twelve hours to go before my local game store opened on release day, but you understand, don't you? You've seen the set—twelve hours is practically forever when you're waiting for that!

And now that the set's finally out, I can't wait to break open the CI inbox and answer all of your burning Eldritch Moon-related questions. As always, you can send your questions to us at or via Twitter @CranialTweet—you'll get an answer and may see your question in an upcoming article. Let's get down to business!

Q: My opponent controls a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and at the moment he's a 5/5 planeswalker creature due to his first ability. Since he's a creature, my Quicksilver Elemental can activate its first ability targeting Gideon. Does that cause the elemental to gain Gideon's loyalty abilities? How does that work?

A: Yes, the Elemental will gain Gideon's loyalty abilities, since they're activated abilities. However, it's presumably your opponent's turn right now, so gaining those abilities won't do you much good. Your Elemental does have Gideon's abilities, but you can only activate a permanent's loyalty abilities on your own turn, during your main phase with the stack empty.

If you somehow managed to animate Gideon and gain its abilities on your own turn, then yes, you'd be able to use them, just the same way you would on a planeswalker—you only get one activation, and only during your main phase with the stack empty.

If you activate the +1 ability, the Elemental will turn into a 5/5 Human Soldier Ally creature with indestructible until end of turn, and you'd prevent all damage that would be dealt to it for the rest of the turn. (The "it's still a planeswalker" is just another way of saying "in addition to its existing types"—your Elemental won't itself become a planeswalker.) If you activate the 0 ability, you'd get a 2/2 white Knight Ally creature token. Or, if you somehow happened to already have four loyalty counters on your Elemental, you could instead activate the -4 ability and gain an Emblem.

Q: If there's only one creature on the battlefield, plus a Porphyry Nodes, and I cast Beast Within on the last creature, is there a brief moment when Nodes notices the creature is gone, but the 3/3 beast doesn't exist yet? Or does Nodes stick around since that all happened during a resolution of a spell?

A: Indeed there is. Unlike state-based actions, which don't care what happens during the resolution of spells or abilities, triggered abilities are always watching the game state, even in the middle of resolving things, and will trigger accordingly.

You follow Beast Within's instructions in the order written, so the last creature is destroyed before you put a token onto the battlefield, resulting in an ever-so-brief moment when no creatures are on the battlefield. This triggers Porphyry Nodes, and it will be sacrificed.

Q: I control Deceiver of Form and a few other creatures. If I were to tutor an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to the top of my library, what would happen if I chose to use Deceiver of Form's trigger?

A: Well, all but one of your non-Deceiver creatures would die—your choice which one lives. Depending on your board state, this may or may not be worth it to get in a swing with an Emrakul, presumably plus a Deceiver of Form.

However, you wouldn't shuffle your graveyard into your library—not even once. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn's ability is unusual; because it triggers when Emrakul goes to the graveyard from anywhere (rather than just from the battlefield like normal death triggers), it works by triggering from the graveyard. Once all those copies of Emrakul you created went to the graveyard, the game considered them new objects. That means they're no longer copies and don't have the shuffle ability, so nothing triggers.

Q: If I'm not playing first and have Gemstone Caverns in my opening hand, when the game begins could I just exile a card from hand then put the caverns into play, without waiting for my opponent to do anything?

A: Well, you have to wait for your opponent to finish mulliganing, including the scry if they ended up keeping fewer than six cards. However, you don't have to wait for them to play a land or anything else like that—you choose whether or not to put your Cavern onto the battlefield before they even begin the first turn of the game.

The only thing other than mulligans you would need to wait for is your opponent putting a Leyline onto the battlefield—since they're the one who will be going first, they get first shot at beginning-of-game things like Leylines and Caverns. But that likely won't often come up at the same time as you having a Cavern to put out.

The bird, the myth, the legend.
But not actually legendary.
Q: I Cytoshape my Storm Crow into Topan Freeblade, then attack, and it becomes renowned. A few turns down the line I attempt to Enshrouding Mist the Storm Crow—will it untap? And if I Cytoshape it into a renown creature at a later point will it be eligible for a counter when it hits a player again?

A: Yes, the Storm Crow will untap, and no, it won't be eligible for another +1/+1 counter the second time—so great is the legend of the Storm Crow that it surpasses mere physical appearance. Once a creature becomes renowned, it will stay renowned for as long as it remains on the battlefield, no matter what it looks like.

The only way to un-renown the Storm Crow would be to remove it from the battlefield somehow, which would cause it to become a new object. Since it'd no longer be the same creature, this new object wouldn't be renowned.

Q: I cast Thalia's Lieutenant and then, in response to her ETB trigger, blink her with Essence Flux, will the original ETB trigger pump herself, seeing her as an "other" human?

A: Absolutely. The Lieutenant's enters-the-battlefield trigger puts a +1/+1 counter on each Human creature you control other than the specific Lieutenant the ability came from, and removing Thalia's Lieutenant from the battlefield, however briefly, causes her to become a new object, with no relation to the Lieutenant that used to be there before, no matter how suspiciously similar she may look. Since she's no longer the same Lieutenant the original trigger came from, that original trigger will indeed put a +1/+1 counter on her.

Q: I have a Sire of Stagnation on the battlefield underneath an Oblivion Ring. If I cast The Great Aurora, what happens? And what if it was a Banishing Light that my Sire was stuck under instead?

A: Well, with Oblivion Ring, not a whole lot happens. Everything gets shuffled into its owner's library, players draw new hands and put a bunch of lands onto the battlefield, and only once that whole process is complete does the leaves-the-battlefield trigger of Oblivion Ring get put onto the stack. If nobody responds, a few moments later it will resolve and bring back the Sire, but too late to see any of the lands that the Aurora put onto the battlefield. You have a Sire, but not much else. Sad times all around.

Banishing Light, however, is much more exciting for you, since it works differently from Oblivion Ring. With the Light, your Sire will return to the battlefield immediately after the Light gets shuffled back into its owner's library—during the resolution of the Aurora, which means your opponent has a difficult choice to make. Since it's already back on the battlefield when you get to the part of the Aurora where lands are put onto the battlefield, it will see and trigger off of each and every land your opponent puts out. How many cards will your opponent end up letting you draw? Probably a lot!

Q: I use Undercity Informer's ability sacrificing Veteran Explorer. Can I have my opponent search their library for two basic lands before they put the cards from their library into their graveyard?

A: Not only can you, you have to. You put Undercity Informer's ability onto the stack as the first step in activating it, and Veteran Explorer's ability triggers shortly afterwards. That means it will always be put onto the stack on top of the Informer's, and will resolve first.

It's important to note, however, that the Explorer's ability is optional, so your opponent may very well decline to use it if they're worried about how many cards you're going to send to their graveyard.

Q: How does Mercadia's Downfall work when attacking multiple players in a multiplayer game?

A: Each one of your attacking creatures has its own opinion on which player is the "defending player". Mercadia's Downfall will look at each individual attacking creature, count the number of nonbasics controlled by the player that specific creature is attacking, (or, if they're attacking a planeswalker, controlled by the player who controls that planeswalker), and give that particular creature the appropriate bonus.

Q: What happens if I have Future Sight on the battlefield and cast Fact or Fiction? Is the sixth card of my library revealed before my opponent chooses how to divide up the others?

A: No, the next card won't be revealed until you choose a pile. That pile goes to your hand, the other one goes to your graveyard, and the new top card of your library is revealed all at once. The reason this happens is because revealing cards from the top of your library and splitting them into piles doesn't actually remove them from your library, at least not as far as the game rules are concerned.

Sure, you're probably performing the reveal by physically picking up the top five cards of your deck and moving them around separate from the rest of your library, because how else could you do what the card's telling you to do? But the game rules don't care about trivial things like the mere physical laws of the universe that make that kind of thing necessary. The rules say the top five cards of your library are still right where they've always been, and that they will remain so until you choose a pile. And therefore it is so. All hail the rules of Magic!

Q: My opponent cast two spells last turn, causing my Krallenhorde Howler to transform. Will that trigger the Deathmist Raptor that's in my graveyard?

A: Nope. Transforming isn't the same as being turned face-up, no matter which face you're transforming. A permanent that has its "back face" showing is not face-down, so it can't be "turned face up"—it already had (one of) its face(s) up!

Q: I'm at 30 life and have Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and another creature on the battlefield. My only untapped lands are two Plains and a Caves of Koilos. Can I use Ayli's last ability?

A: Yes, you can. (Assuming, of course, this is a normal game of Magic with a 20-life starting total.) The game determines whether or not it's legal for you to activate Ayli's ability before allowing you to start the activation process, and since you (currently) have 10 life more than your starting life total, you are indeed allowed to do so. You'll fall below that some time during the process of activating the ability, but the game doesn't care about that—it's already done its check, and it's not going to bother checking a second time.

Q: If I have a 4/4 Lambholt Pacifist and my opponent has a Watchdog, can my Pacifist attack? Would it be any different if the effect said, "tapped creatures get -1/-0"?

A: Yes, your Pacifist can attack, and that alternative wording wouldn't make any difference. Things that stop you or your creatures from attacking work by stopping you from declaring those creatures as attackers during the Declare Attackers step of combat, but the entire process of declaring attackers—including, importantly, checking to make sure the creatures you want to attack with are actually allowed to attack—happens before the chosen creatures actually become "attacking creatures" (or tap, for that matter).

This means that by the time your Pacifist gets its power reduced, it's already an attacking creature, and it's too late for mere pacifistic intentions to stop it from attacking.

How to Play Magic in Just 87,241 Easy Steps!
(Fourth Edition, Abridged)

Q: I cast Tormenting Voice discarding Fiery Temper as a cost and madnessing it. What exactly happens here? I know what the end result is, but how exactly do I get there?

A: Well, you asked for exact details, so we'll walk through the process step by step. Be warned, it's long and involved.

Step one: You start casting Tormenting Voice. It's placed onto the stack and you determine the cost of casting it. You then have a chance to activate mana abilities to generate the mana required to pay for it.

Step two: You pay the cost required to cast Tormenting Voice. You pay and discard Fiery Temper, which goes to exile instead of your graveyard thanks to madness. This triggers the next part of madness, a triggered ability that triggers upon the discard—the trigger does nothing for now but wait, since you're in the process of casting a spell.

Step three: You finish casting Tormenting Voice. The madness trigger is waiting to be put onto the stack, so you place it on top of the stack, above Tormenting Voice.

Step four: Players have a chance to respond. Let's assume nobody wants to do that, so everybody passes and the top spell or ability on the stack starts resolving: Fiery Temper's madness trigger.

Step five: Fiery Temper's madness trigger gives you the option of casting Fiery Temper for its madness cost. You do so (choosing its target and paying in the process), and it's placed on top of the stack. The madness trigger finishes resolving and disappears.

Step six: Players have a chance to respond. Again, we'll assume nobody wants to do that, so everybody passes and the top spell or ability on the stack starts resolving: Fiery Temper.

Step seven: Fiery Temper resolves. It deals 3 damage to the creature or player you targeted, then goes to your graveyard.

Step eight : Players have (yet another) chance to respond. Once more, we assume nobody wants to do that; everybody passes and the top spell or ability on the stack starts resolving: Tormenting Voice.

Step nine: Tormenting Voice resolves. You draw two cards, then Tormenting Voice goes to your graveyard. You're finished, right back where you started when you cast Tormenting Voice in the first place. Congratulations on making it all the way through!

Q: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death has a trigger on attacking. When do you pay the mana though? Do you target and pay the mana upfront? Pick targets when the trigger goes on the stack and pay the mana as part of the resolution? Something else?

A: Targets for any spell or ability are always chosen as part of casting/activating it (for spells and activated abilities) or putting it on the stack (for triggered abilities), and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is no exception. You choose the target for the ability as you put it onto the stack, immediately after Alesha attacks.

The mana, however, isn't paid up front. Deciding whether or not to use the ability and paying the mana necessary to do so is actually part of the ability's resolution, which means you don't do either of those things until the ability is in the process of resolving.

Among other things, this means your opponent doesn't get to know whether or not you intend to use the ability before deciding whether or not to respond in some way. All they get to know is what target you've chosen.

Q: How does Library of Leng work with Stormbind?

A: It doesn't-the two cards don't interact in any way. You can activate Stormbind just fine with the Library on the battlefield, but you won't be able to put that card on top of your library with the Library.

This happens because discarding to Stormbind is part of the cost of activating the ability, not one of the effects the ability has when it resolves. Library of Leng specifies that it only applies when an effect is causing you to discard the card, so it won't apply to the Stormbind's discard cost.

Q: I attack with five 4/4 creatures, two of which have trample. My opponent has five 2/2 creatures and a Watcher in the Web. He blocks each 4/4 with a 2/2, and the Spider also blocks all the 4/4s. How does trample work in this situation?

A: Trample means that as long as each creature blocking your trampler has been assigned lethal damage, any additional damage can be assigned to the player or planeswalker your trampler is attacking. The important part for scenarios where one creature is blocking multiple creatures, however, is that trample doesn't care whether or not the lethal damage assigned to the blockers comes from the creature with trample.

So, if you have your nontramplers each assign 2 damage to the 2/2 they're blocking and their remaining 2 damage to the Watcher, that's a total of 6 damage assigned to the Watcher, enough to be considered lethal. That means that you can have each of your tramplers assign 2 damage to their respective 2/2, and since all creatures blocking them have been assigned lethal damage, assign the remainder to the defending player.

End result: each 2/2 takes 2 damage, Watcher in the Web takes 6 damage, your opponent takes 4.

Q: I was told that if you've won a PPTQ for a "City" that you could not play in another PPTQ for that same "City". Is that true?

A: Preliminary PTQs are divided into seasons, and winning a Preliminary qualifies you to participate in the Regional PTQ that happens at the end of the current season. Players who are already qualified to participate in that Regional, say by having already won a Preliminary during the current season, aren't allowed to participate in more Preliminaries—they've already qualified.

Q: On that same line, if you won a GPT for a "City", are you ineligible to play other GPTs for that same "City"? What if you have enough Planeswalker Points to be granted two byes already—can you participate in a GPT?

A: Unlike PPTQs, Grand Prix Trials don't care whether or not you have byes already. You can participate in them regardless of your current Planeswalker Point total, and even if you've already won byes for that Grand Prix in some other GPT.

Q: Who is responsible for remembering the lifegain from Grove of the Burnwillows?

A: The Grove's controller holds primary responsibility, since they are the one who knows if they intend to tap the Grove for colored mana, and therefore when life should be gained, or when they are just tapping it for colorless. If they use the Grove's second ability, they have to give life to their opponent. They cannot get the colored mana and sit there without saying anything, hoping their opponent forgets about the lifegain. That way leads to cheating, disqualifications, and just generally sad times all around.

...Wait, something's wrong. None of those questions had anything to do with Eldritch Moon. Sure, that might happen eventually, but there's no way that should be happening so soon after a set release. Exactly how far did I...oh no! No, it can't be! This is a joke, right?! Ha ha, let's play a joke on Callum and make him think he's gone to the past instead of the future by setting all the clocks back and messing with the inbox...and un-crossing days off the wall calendar...and un-smashing the chair Moko broke after the Eternal Masters release...


- 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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