Published on 01/02/2017

And a Happy New Y!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
Somebody else, that is.
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! It's a brand new year, and we've resolved to make a few changes for the better around the CI offices, starting with getting a professional cleaning crew in here to get rid of the obnoxious smell and purge the many zombie-flesh stains from the carpet. We've already had someone in to give us an estimate earlier today, but it wasn't very encouraging—they were muttering something under their breath about hazmat suits midway through the tour, and I'm positive I heard the phrase "cleanse it with fire" as they were leaving. This may end up being a bit more expensive than we've budgeted for.

If you'd like to help us out in our efforts, be sure to send us your rules questions—we plan on locking Moko away while the cleaners are here to avoid any unfortunate biting incidents, and some mail to answer might help keep him occupied and not focused on breaching the containment seal. Our email address is , and if you have just a short question, @CranialTweet is our Twitter handle.

But for now, on to the rules questions!

Q: My opponent cast Kolaghan's Command, targeting my Spellskite with the artifact destruction mode and my Glistener Elf with the shock mode. Can I redirect the damage to my Spellskite?

A: You can indeed. The rules say that a spell can only target a single object once for each instance of the word "target", they use, and Kolaghan's Command uses the word twice, so it's possible for each of those instances to be pointing at Spellskite at the same time.

Compare the Command to a spell like Electrolyze, which despite targeting multiple things still only uses the word "target" once, and so therefore can only have one of those targets be the same Spellskite.

Q: If I control Leovold, Emissary of Trest and Spellskite and redirect a spell or ability with Spellskite, do I draw a card off of Leovold?

A: Absolutely. Changing the target of a spell (that isn't already targeting Spellskite) to Spellskite means that your Spellskite has become the target of that spell, and this will absolutely trigger Leovold.

Q: Do I ever have a chance to activate a Volrath's Stronghold to put a dead creature land, say Shambling Vent, on top of my library? Is it still considered a creature until end of turn, even if it goes to graveyard?

A: Afraid not. When something changes zones, it loses all memory of whatever it used to be in the zone it used to be in. Your Shambling Vent may have left the battlefield as a creature, but it arrived in the graveyard as a plain old land—there's never a time when it's in the graveyard but still a creature, so there's no way you can use Volrath's Stronghold on it.

Q: If Clone is a copy of Glen Elendra Archmage and dies does it still come back? If so is it still the Archmage or can it re-enter as Clone and choose to copy something else? Does it keep its -1/-1 counter?

A: Clone leaves the battlefield as the Archmage, which triggers the persist ability, and this will indeed cause it to return to the battlefield (with a -1/-1 counter to boot).

However, it won't come back as the Archmage—as described in the previous question, once it leaves the battlefield it loses all memory of being an Archmage in the first place, so it's not a copy any more. It'll come back as a fresh Clone, and you'll get to choose something new to copy...which might very well be the original Archmage, if it still happens to be around.

Steel...huh. Hey, guys, what do you think
about redecorating in stainless steel?
Q: If I cast Deflection Palm against an infect creature does the Palm deal infect damage or regular damage?

A: It deals plain old regular damage. Deflecting Palm works by preventing the damage that the original source would deal, and then dealing a new bunch of damage of its own. Deflecting Palm doesn't have infect, so that means the damage it will deal will be dealt as normal damage.

Q: With the card Seasons Past, would I be able to return a basic land from the graveyard to my hand? Is a basic land technically a card with the converted mana cost of 0?

A: There's no "technically" about it—a basic land (or any other land) absolutely does have a converted mana cost of 0, and can be returned with Seasons Past.

The converted mana cost of a card is the total amount of mana contained in that card's mana cost, which is what appears in the top right-hand corner of the card. (Future Sight future shifted cards notwithstanding.) Since lands don't have a mana cost in the first place, they definitely don't have any mana in it, so their converted mana cost is 0.

Q: My opponent controls Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I have an Engineered Explosives in hand I want to cast for 0, but the only land I have is an Island. Will the Explosives enter with a counter if I use to pay the Thalia cost?

A: It will indeed. Sunburst looks at all the colors of mana you spent to cast the spell it's on, and doesn't care whether that mana was spent on the spell's normal mana cost or some additional cost like Thalia's. As far as Sunburst is concerned, you spent blue mana on your Explosives, so you get a counter.

Q: My opponent Clones my Skyreach Manta. Does the Clone enter with +1/+1 counters, and if so, how many?

A: It does indeed enter with +1/+1 counters. Sunburst works by looking back as the spell it's on resolves to see what kind of mana was spent to cast that spell. It doesn't care that when your opponent cast Clone it didn't have sunburst, it just wants to know how many colors of mana they spent to cast it, and that's probably going to mean your opponent gets at least one counter, since Clone's mana cost requires blue mana.

Q: I blocked a vigilance creature with Wall of Frost. Because the creature did not tap to attack, is that ability nullified? Or does it get tapped?

A: The ability doesn't get "nullified"—it will still prevent your opponent's vigilance creature from untapping during their next untap just happens that that's not a particularly useful thing if the creature was already untapped, because it doesn't need to be untapped anyways.

But if you can find some other way of tapping your opponent's creature before their next untap step, then you're in business.

Q: Can I target a spell with a Disrupting Shoal with an X that doesn't match the target? I understand it won't counter the spell, but can I legally cast it?

A: Absolutely. A spell or ability that targets will tell you what it can legally target by describing it as a "target (something)", where (something) is a phrase that describes an object or player. So for something like [c]Spell Blast[/x], the phrase is "spell with converted mana cost X"—a Spell Blast can only target something that has the appropriate mana cost.

But on Disrupting Shoal, that phrase is "spell", and without anything in there about that spell needing to have a specific mana cost, there's no such restriction, and the Shoal can target any spell. So you can cast the Shoal with X=0 targeting any spell you like.

When Disrupting Shoal resolves, it'll have you follow its instructions: counter (that spell) if its converted mana cost is X. Well, its converted mana cost isn't X, so that doesn't happen—anything else? No? Well, I guess we're done here then! Nothing happens, Disrupting Shoal goes to the graveyard, and life goes on.

Q: Would Languish affect creatures in graveyards? Say I had a Reveillark already out on the field—would I be able to bring something that normally has a toughness 5 or 6 onto the field?

A: No, you wouldn't. As you probably feared, Languish doesn't affect cards that aren't on the battlefield. If ever a card uses the phrase "creature" (or "artifact" or "Goblin", or similar), it means a permanent of that type on the battlefield.

If something wants to affect something that isn't on the battlefield, it'll do so explicitly in such a way that it can't possibly be referring to a permanent, such as by saying "creature spell" (spells don't exist on the battlefield) or "creature card from a graveyard" (if it's in a graveyard, it's definitely not on the battlefield), and so on.

Since Languish doesn't say it doesn't affect things in graveyards, it doesn't. No luck on getting Reveillark to return unusual things—you'll have to be happy with the normal selection.

Q: Say my opponent cracks a fetchland, am I able to respond to him cracking it so that I can do something before he gets the land he wanted to search for?

A: Definitely—in fact, this is a fairly common tactic in Legacy, where fetchlands are abundant and tend to be cracked as late as possible.

The activated ability of a fetchland is not a mana ability because it doesn't produce mana directly, so it can be responded to, and if you respond to your opponent's fetchland activation, they won't yet have whatever land they're planning on fetching and thus will have less mana available to deal with whatever your response is.

Her only resolution is to see you dead.
Q: If I had a Saskia the Unyielding and a creature of mine successfully dealt combat damage to my opponent, am I right that the second damage source would still be be from my creature, or would it be from Saskia?

A: You're right. She may have a bit of tunnel vision, but Saskia's a generous woman at heart—she really spreads the bloodshed opportunities around. Her ability says that whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, "it" deals that much damage to the chosen player, and there's only one object in that sentence that the pronoun "it" can be referring to there—the creature that dealt damage in the first place.

Q: Saskia the Unyielding has me choose a player, but doesn't use the words "target player". That means I can choose a player even if they have hexproof, right?

A: Indeed. A spell or ability only targets something if it uses the word "target" to describe that thing. Saskia the Unyielding never uses that word, so her ability doesn't target anybody, and hexproof can only stop things that target.

Q: If I respond to one of Saskia the Unyielding's triggers by Cloudshifting Saskia and choosing a different opponent, will the trigger deal damage to the newly chosen player, or still the old one?

A: The trigger will deal damage to whoever was the chosen player at the time the ability triggered. Saskia's abilities are linked, meaning that the player referred to by the triggered ability can only ever be the player chosen by the first ability of that same instance of Saskia.

Cloudshifting Saskia causes an entirely new Saskia to enter the battlefield, with a new linked pair of abilities, but that doesn't have any effect upon the existing triggers on the stack—they're forever linked to the choice made by the original Saskia.

Q: My opponent has a Forcefield and I had a Sun Titan with a Reclamation Sage in the graveyard. If I attack and recur Sage to blow up Forcefield, can Forcefield choose Sun Titan as an "unblocked creature" before the declare blockers step?

A: No, it cannot. An "unblocked creature" can only exist once the Declare Blockers step of combat has begun and blockers have been chosen. Before then, attacking creatures are neither blocked nor unblocked—they're just...attacking, and their block-status is as-yet-undetermined.

So since your Reclamation Sage will be destroying Forcefield before the declare blockers step begins, there will never be a chance for your opponent to use it on your Titan.

Q: Let's say I only have one creature that has died this turn when my Caller of the Claw, but thanks to an infinite loop it's died a lot—let's say a thousand times. Am I correct that I only get one bear? Or do I get a thousand?

A: You're wrong, but in the good way that means you get a thousand times the number of Bears you thought you were going to. Caller of the Claw (and cards like it) doesn't keep track of the number of separate pieces of cardboard that have moved from the battlefield to the graveyard at least once this turn—instead, it tracks the number of creature permanents that have died, and each time your creature re-entered the battlefield after leaving, it became a completely new permanent, unrelated to its previous incarnations.

This means that each individual instance of your creature dying contributes to your death count, and you get much better deal out of your Caller than you were expecting.

Q: I heard that if my Commander gets hit with Grasp of Fate, I could have it go to the command zone instead of exile, and still have it come back if the Grasp leaves the battlefield. Is that true, and if so, why with Grasp and not Oblivion Ring?

A: It is indeed true, and the difference boils down to the fact that Grasp of Fate (and cards like it) uses one ability to both exile your commander and set up its return, while Oblivion Ring (and cards like it) uses two separate abilities.

Since moving your commander to the command zone is a replacement effect, it changes what Grasp of Fate's ability does by modifying where it's trying to put your Commander. The Grasp doesn't particularly care where your Commander ends up, and sets up the delayed-return-effect for later regardless. Effectively, the ability ends up going from this:
When Grasp of Fate enters the battlefield...exile (the commander) until Grasp of Fate leaves the battlefield. this:
When Grasp of Fate enters the battlefield...exileput (the commander) into the command zone until Grasp of Fate leaves the battlefield.
And that should make it pretty clear why the Grasp can return the Commander from the Command zone.

Oblivion Ring, however uses two separate abilities to do its dirty work, and changing what the first one does doesn't change what the second one tries to do. So you end up with this:
When Oblivion Ring enters the battlefield, exileput (the commander) into the command zone.
When Oblivion Ring leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner's control.
Here, you have the first ability moving the Commander to the Command zone just fine, but then the second ability tries to return "the exiled card" to the battlefield...but what exiled card? The first ability didn't end up exiling any cards, so there's nothing for the second ability to return.

Q: I have a Stuffy Doll and play Vesuvan Doppelganger copying it, choosing an opponent. If I later have the Doppelganger choose a new creature to copy and later still go back to the Doll, will the original choice still be remembered?

A: It will not, even if you cut out the middleman and had your Doppelganger go directly from being a Doll to being a Doll a second time, without making it something else first.

Stuffy Doll's abilities are linked, meaning its triggered ability will only ever refer to the player you chose for its first ability. When you copy Stuffy Doll, the pair of abilities your Doppelganger gains in the process are linked exclusively to each other—they're not linked to any other abilities, not even other instances of the same ability your Doppelganger may have had in the past. This means that if you want to keep damaging your opponent with a Doll-pelganger, you're going to have to avoid changing it away from being a Doll in the first place.

Q: We're playing Two-Headed Giant, and one player has Tymna the Weaver on the field. His partner attacks with Geist of Saint Traft, and neither it nor the Angel are blocked, and no combat tricks occurred. How many opponents took combat damage?

A: That depends—which players did they choose to have the Geist and Angel deal their combat damage to?

In Two-Headed Giant, when an attacking creature assigns combat damage, its controller decides which "head" that creature deals its combat damage to. The decision is made separately for each creature, so it's legal to make the Geist hit one player and the Angel the other, netting two opponents dealt damage, and thus net potentially two cards out of Tymna.

Q: ...But wait, so what happens if the players didn't say who the Geist and Angel dealt their damage to? Because they didn't.

A: Well, lucky for you, there happens to be a default. (Because otherwise this would be messy.) If the attacking creature's controller doesn't specify who the creature is actually being dealt the damage, the game assumes they're dealing the damage to the player sitting furthest to the right of their teammate (from that team's perspective). So if nothing was specified, both creatures would have dealt damage to the same player.

Q: My friend seems to think that in a game consisting of three players or more you can draw a card as the starting player. Is that right?

A: Close—in a Two-Headed Giant game, the team who takes the first turn skips their draw step. But in all other multiplayer games, your friend is correct—the first player draws a card like everyone else. (Going first is generally much less of an advantage in a multiplayer game.)

Well, that about wraps things up for this week, but be sure to check back again next week when Nathan will be back for another exciting edition of Cranial Insertion!

- 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.

A few editing errors in this article: Deflecting Palm, not "Deflection"; in the answer about Disrupting Shoal, Spell Blast isn't marked up correctly; the question about Caller of the Claw is missing the phrase "enters the battlefield".
#1 • Date: 2017-01-04 • Time: 05:54:57 •

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