Published on 11/07/2016

See Your Tomorrow, Today!

or, Scrying for Fun and Profit

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

I see...
I see...
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! With Kaladesh on the streets for over a month at this point, it seems like the entire Magic world is getting into the spirit of things and trying to "Invent their tomorrow, today!", but not me! I'm more focused on trying to see my tomorrow. That's right, I've been delving into the real-world mystic arts, even going so far as to consult the spirits in the hopes of gaining insight into the future. All I've learned thus far is that being dead apparently gives the spirits a strong craving for grocery-store chunky chicken salad, but a breakthrough is just around the corner, I'm sure of it!

One thing I don't have to ask the spirits about, is whether or not you have rules questions—of course you do! You'll be sending them to us via email at or possibly via Twitter @CranialTweet when they're short enough, and we'll be providing you with answers. And afterwards, you may get to see those questions included in future articles.

I'm guessing you know what's on the horizon at this point, too, because it's time to dive into the mailbox and answer those questions!

Q: I'm attacking with a 4/1 Wandering Fumarole. If my opponent targets it with a Skywhaler's Shot, can I swap the P/T again in response to fizzle the spell, and then again afterwards so it still deals 4 damage?

A: Absolutely. Skywhaler's Shot only gets one chance to destroy your Fumarole: as it resolves. If your Fumarole's power is less than 3 at that time, the Shot's only target will be illegal, so it will be countered on resolution and none of its effects will occur. After that, you'll be able to switch back your Fumarole's power and toughness just fine before the game moves on to dealing combat damage.

Q: Can I cast Quarantine Field if my opponent controls Brisela, Voice of Nightmares?

A: Assuming you're choosing an X of 1 or more, sure.

If an effect forbids players from casting spells with a certain description, it's not always possible to know in advance whether or not a given spell will match that description. Can't cast creature spells? Well, Nimbus Naiad might be a creature spell...but it also might not. For that reason, when dealing with those kinds of effects you only check whether or not the spell matches the effect's description after all of the relevant decisions that are made while casting it have been made, and the value of X is one such choice.

So when you go to cast Quarantine Field, first you decide on a value for X; let's say you choose 1. After you decide that, Brisela's ability comes along—does your spell have a converted mana cost of 3 or less? Well, with an X of 1 its converted mana cost will be 4, so no. As such, Brisela lets the spell through, and you're good to go!

Q: I have out Sigarda's Aid and Tree of Perdition. If I activate the Tree and flash in Imprisoned in the Moon on it, will the Tree's ability give my opponent 0 life when it resolves?

A: Nope, I'm afraid not.

Any time two things are being exchanged, both halves of the exchange need to be possible in order for the exchange to be successful, but when the Tree of Perdition's ability resolves, it will find that the Tree doesn't have a toughness at all. As such, it's not possible to exchange that nonexistent toughness with anything, and nothing will happen.

I see you facing overwhelming
difficulties performing once-daily tasks...
Q: My opponent enchanted my Speedway Fanatic with Chant of the Skifsang. How does something with negative power work when you tap it for a crew ability?

A: It makes things a lot more difficult for you. If you're crewing a vehicle, the game calculates the total power of the creatures you're tapping and compares that to the number in the crew ability you're activating. Since these calculations take negative numbers into account, creatures with negative power will end up subtracting from the total power of the creatures you tap.

So as an example, if you want to crew Smuggler's Copter by tapping your enchanted Fanatic plus let's say a Canyon Minotaur, the total power of those creatures is (-11) + 3 = (-8)... which is nowhere near enough. If you really wanted that Copter to get haste, you'd have to tap the Fanatic plus four Minotaurs (or equivalent), to get a total power of (-11) + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 1. Seems like a whole lot more trouble than it's worth.

Q: ...So what happens if my opponent uses Grasp of Darkness on the creature I'm using to crew my vehicle in response? Is the ability countered because there's no longer enough power among the crew to get it running? Can I tap more creatures to fix that?

A: Luckily for you, all that matters when crewing is that your creatures had the appropriate total power at the time you activated the ability. Killing or reducing the power of your creatures later on will not render the crewing invalid, even if it's done before the crew ability actually resolves.

Q: If my Serpent of the Endless Sea is exiled by my opponent's Duplicant while I have six Islands and my opponent has one, how big is Duplicant?

A: It's a 6/6. Duplicant works by asking the game what the power and toughness of the creature card it imprinted is, and then setting its own values to match. Serpent of the Endless Sea wants to set its power and toughness to the number of Islands its controller controls, but since cards in exile don't have controllers, it'll look at the Islands controlled by its owner instead, and that's you.

Your opponent doesn't own the Serpent card in exile, so the number of Islands they control doesn't matter—it's your Serpent, so it counts your Islands, and Duplicant takes the resulting value for itself.

Q: In a multiplayer game with Hive Mind out, when someone casts an instant, who resolves that instant first?

A: Definitely not the person who cast the original spell—all the copies are put onto the stack on top of the original, so the original is always going to resolve last.

But who goes first...well, that depends on whose turn it is. All of the copies want to be put onto the stack at the same time, but the stack needs there to be an order so it can function. Since all the copies are going to be controlled by different players, the game will resort to what's known as APNAP order to put those copies onto the stack. APNAP is short for Active Player, Non-active Player, and basically means "in turn order, starting with the player whose turn it currently is".

So if the player whose turn it is isn't the person who cast the original spell, they put their copy onto the stack first. Then the next player in turn order (again, if they're not the person who cast the spell) puts their copy on the stack on top of that, then the next player, and so on and so forth until all the necessary copies have been placed on the stack. Then those copies will start resolving, from the top down.

The end result is that the person who is furthest from taking their next turn, other than the person who cast the original spell, will have their copy resolve first, since their copy ends up on top of the stack.

Q: Does using Soul of Shandalar's ability from my graveyard avoid my opponent's Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, because the source of damage is a card that was in a graveyard and therefore has no controller?

A: Nice try, but no such luck. You're right that cards in graveyards don't have controllers, but if something asks for the controller of something that doesn't have a controller, it gets the owner of that thing instead.

So since you own Soul of Shandalar, your opponent's Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker will indeed consider the Soul to be a "source an opponent controls", and will trigger accordingly.

Q: How much damage does Galvanic Bombardment do when Harness The Storm is out?

A: Galvanic Bombardment only counts the number of other Bombardments it sees in the graveyard, and therefore determine how much damage it should deal, at the time it resolves.

When you cast Galvanic Bombardment from your hand to trigger Harness the Storm, the trigger will allow you to cast a Bombardment from your graveyard. If you do so, that Bombardment goes onto the stack on top of your original Bombardment, and will resolve first, then go to the graveyard again just in time for the original Bombardment to include it in its count.

So assuming you only have one Galvanic Bombardment in your graveyard, you'd end up dealing a total of 5 damage—2 from the one you got by Harnessing the Storm, and 2 + 1 = 3 from the original. With a second Bombardment in the graveyard, you'd get a total of (2 + 1) + (2 + 2) = 7, and so on and so forth.

Q: If I swing with a Serra Ascendant at 29 life and she's blocked by a 2/2, what happens?

A: Assuming no first or double strike is messing things up, all combat damage is dealt at the same time, so your Ascendant will deal 1 damage (causing you to gain 1 life) and be dealt 2 damage simultaneously.

Then the game checks state-based actions to see if anything should die. Well, your life total is 30 now, so your Serra Ascendant is a 6/6 with 2 damage marked on it, and your opponent's creature is a 2/2 with 1 damage on it. Nothing has lethal damage, so nothing dies, and the game moves on.

Q: If I cast Unlicensed Disintegration on my own artifact creature, and it was the only artifact I controlled, would I take 3 damage?

A: You would not. When a spell or ability resolves, you follow its instructions in the order written, so whether or not you control an artifact is only checked after the Disintegration has destroyed the creature it targets. Since you just destroyed your only artifact, you don't, and therefore Unlicensed Disintegration doesn't deal any damage to you.

Q: If I have Thalia, Heretic Cathar out and my opponent casts Spireside Infiltrator, do I take damage?

A: Nope. Spireside Infiltrator triggers when it "becomes tapped", and in order for something to "become" tapped, it has to go from being untapped to being tapped. Since Thalia caused the Infiltrator to enter the battlefield tapped in the first place, there was never a time when it was untapped, so it never "became tapped".

I see you developing
quite the green thumb.
Q: My opponent has a Banishing Light on a random card. I play Song of the Dryads on her Banishing Light. What happens to the card under the Light?

A: Nothing much. Your card was exiled "until Banishing Light leaves the battlefield" and that hasn't happened yet. The Light may look a bit different right now thanks to the Song, but that doesn't change anything at all—your card will stay exiled, and will only come back when Banishing Light leaves the battlefield.

Q: ...What if it's a Spell Queller instead of a Banishing Light?

A: That's a little bit different. While Spell Queller is trying to perform a similar task to Banishing Light, it functions quite differently. Just as with the Light, putting Song of the Dryads on Spell Queller won't cause your spell to come back, but unlike the Light, if the Queller happens to leave the battlefield while the Song's still attached to it, you won't be getting your spell back at all.

Spell Queller works by using a triggered ability to get you to re-cast your spell after the Queller leaves the battlefield, but Song of the Dryads removes that ability, so if the Queller leaves the battlefield while still under the effects of the Song, the ability never triggers.

Q: I have a Chalice of the Void with one counter and a Cavern of Souls in play, naming Merfolk. I know I'm responsible for remembering my own triggers, especially detrimental ones, but if I cast Cursecatcher through the Cavern, do I really need to indicate the Chalice's trigger when it doesn't do anything?

A: Not at all. Triggered abilities need to be acknowledged the first time they actually matter in some way, whether that's because you need to make a choice or because it has an impact on the visible game state. But a Chalice of the Void triggering and trying to counter an uncounterable spell never matters because it can't accomplish anything, so there's no need to demonstrate awareness of it at all, no matter whether it's beneficial or not.

Q: Can you Serum Powder before the round timer of a tournament has started?

A: You can indeed. While you can't actually start your game before the current round begins, you can perform pregame procedures—shuffling your deck, deciding who goes first, drawing opening hands, and taking mulligans.

Since Serum Powder functions any time you could take a mulligan, that includes during these pregame procedures, before the round has officially started.

Q: If I forget a card is a sorcery and try to cast it mid-combat or something as if it were an instant, would the spell fizzle out or do I return it back to my hand since I can't play it?

A: In a tournament, you'll want to call a judge when something like this happens, and they'll resolve the matter as appropriate for the kind of tournament you're playing in.

In casual games, you'll generally just undo the casting of the spell and return it to your hand.

Q: When do "until end of turn" effects end? For example, if my opponent's 1/1 creature was buffed by Giant Growth, is there some time I can Lightning Bolt it after the effect is gone, but before the turn ends?

A: Not usually, no. "Until end of turn" effects end during the cleanup step of the turn, and players can't normally do anything during the cleanup step, so you won't have a chance to cast your Lightning Bolt until the upkeep step of the next turn.

The only exception is if, somehow, an ability triggers during the cleanup step or a state-based action needs to be performed—it doesn't happen often, but it's possible—and if that happens, players get a chance to cast instants and activate abilities (giving you a chance to cast your Lightning Bolt) before the game starts a second cleanup step and tries to get things done without fuss this time.

Q: My opponent attacks with multiple creatures and I'm having a difficult time calculating the total damage and the power of each individual attacking creature, so I know how to block. I ask him for help but he refuses and says that he has a right not to calculate this for me. Is he right?

A: At a Competitive REL event, like a PPTQ or a Grand Prix, they are indeed correct. The power and toughness (and other characteristics) of your opponent's creatures are what's known as derived information, and while your opponent can't lie to you about derived information, they're under no obligation to assist you in determining it either. If you need assistance in determining a card's Oracle text, you can call a judge to provide you with it, but doing the math is up to you.

At Regular-level events such as FNMs or Prereleases, on the other hand, all derived information is instead considered free information, and all players are entitled access to free information without error or omissions from their opponents, so your opponent needs to answer any questions you may have about free information fully and completely—or at least call a judge and explain the matter, if they're unable or unwilling to do so themselves.

Q: After mulligans, do I scry 1 or put my Leyline of Sanctity onto the battlefield first?

A: You look at the top card of your library first. Looking at the top card after you keep an opening hand of less than 7 is part of the mulligan process, and happens before the game actually starts; putting Leylines onto the battlefield is the first thing you do once the game has officially started.

Q: In a multiplayer game I ultimate my Ob Nixilis Reignited to give an opponent an emblem. If I die later, does the emblem disappear as well, or does it stay with the opponent?

A: It stays with your opponent. An emblem is owned by the player who received it, even a negative one like Ob Nixilis's; you leaving the game doesn't affect that emblem in any way, since you don't own it.

And that's all I have for you today, but I predict that next week you'll be back to hear from Nathan in another exciting edition of Cranial Insertion, and that in four weeks you won't be hearing from me, because I'll have perfected my fortunetelling skills by then and will have been perhaps the first person in history to ever put those skills to practical use by accurately predicting lottery numbers, winning enough money to never have to work again.

...What, you thought I was doing this because I wanted to be able to affect the course of history in a positive manner? Pfffft!

- 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.

In competitive REL, if my opponent refuses to help me calculate derived data in order to get me penalized for slow play, do I have any recourse other than to play faster?

What about if my opponent plays with foreign language cards in order to catch me with a slow play penalty?

#1 • Date: 2016-11-07 • Time: 13:05:07 •
Quote (MAHK):
In competitive REL, if my opponent refuses to help me calculate derived data in order to get me penalized for slow play, do I have any recourse other than to play faster?

Well, you shouldn't automatically get a Slow Play penalty just because you have to figure out derived information. Slow Play applies when you take more time than reasonable, and the judge should take the context into account when deciding what's reasonable.

Having said that, if a floor judge issues a Slow Play penalty that you disagree with, you can appeal to the Head Judge. If the ruling came from the Head Judge, or if the Head Judge upholds the ruling, your only recourse is to play faster or risk getting additional Slow Play penalties.


What about if my opponent plays with foreign language cards in order to catch me with a slow play penalty?

As above, you shouldn't automatically get a Slow Play penalty just because your opponent is playing with foreign language cards. If you do get a penalty, see above.
#2 • Date: 2016-11-07 • Time: 17:48:52 •

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