Published on 04/10/2017

A Belated Birthday Bash

or, The Dirty Dozen

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

The traditional gift for
a 12th anniversary is silk.
Greetings, and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Today, we're celebrating an event that actually happened two weeks ago, but we were too preoccupied to notice it at the time. I think Moko was trying to remind me, but because I don't speak Chimpanzee, I mistook his wild pointing at the calendar for excitement about the upcoming release of Amonkhet.

The event I'm referring to is the twelfth birthday of Cranial Insertion! Yes, that's right, Cranial Insertion has been around for twelve years now, making puns and pop culture references, quoting song lyrics, and answering Magic rules questions.

To help us keep going for another twelve years, the only gift we ask for is that you keep sending us your rules questions by email to or by tweeting short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will respond directly with an answer, and your question might appear in a future issue to educate future readers.

Speaking of Amonkhet, preview season is in full swing and you may already have questions about the cards that are being previewed. You are welcome to send in such questions, and we'll respond to questions about officially previewed cards as long as the answer is known without having to speculate about future rules changes. However, as always, Cranial Insertion is spoiler-free, so we won't publish any questions or answers about Amonkhet until the prerelease issue in two weeks.

With that out of the way, let's grab some birthday cake and dive into this week's selection of rules questions.

Q: I control four Islands and no other sources of mana. My opponent casts a creature spell, for example Roc of Kher Ridges. I try to counter it with Rewind, which my opponent counters with Cancel. Do my lands get untapped in time so I could counter my opponent's Cancel with Negate?

A: No. Rewind tells you to untap up to four lands as part of its effect, which only happens when it resolves. It hasn't resolved yet because your opponent responded to it, and it looks like your Rewind will never resolve because your opponent's Cancel will counter it.

Q: I control Marchesa, the Black Rose and a Stingmoggie with one +1/+1 counter on it. If I activate Stingmoggie's ability that removes a counter, will Marchesa return it to the battlefield?

A: Nope. After you remove the +1/+1 counter from Stingmoggie, it sits on the battlefield as a 0/0 for a very brief moment. Then, state-based actions kick in, notice that there's a creature with toughness 0 on the battlefield, and the creature gets moved to the graveyard. At the moment Stingmoggie died, it didn't have any +1/+1 counters on it, so Marchesa's ability doesn't trigger.

Q: How does Exquisite Archangel interact with poison or commander damage?

A: Not well. If you would lose the game due to having collected too many poison counters or too much commander damage, Exquisite Archangel replaces that game loss by exiling itself and setting your life total to your starting life total. After that, state-based actions are checked again, and the reason for why you should lose the game wasn't affected by the Archangel's effect, so state-based actions make you lose the game again. This time around you don't control Exquisite Archangel anymore, so this time around you actually lose the game.

Q: Let's say I have an Implement of Ferocity that's animated with Tezzeret's Touch. What happens if I sacrifice the Implement?

A: Sacrificing the Implement triggers both the Implement's own triggered ability and Tezzeret's Touch's triggered ability. You'll put both abilities on the stack in an order of your choice, but that order doesn't really matter. The Implement's ability makes you draw a card and Tezzeret's Touch's ability returns the Implement from your graveyard to your hand, so you get both effects.

Q: I control a Winding Constrictor and a Narnam Renegade with two +1/+1 counters on it. If my opponent casts Black Sun's Zenith for X=1, does Narnam Renegade lose both +1/+1 counters?

A: In the end, yes. The fact that there are +1/+1 counters on the Renegade doesn't replace putting a -1/-1 counter on it with removing a +1/+1 counter from it. Black Sun's Zenith still puts a -1/-1 counter on it, which Winding Constrictor's ability sees as an event it wants to modify, so Winding Constrictor's ability increases the number of -1/-1 counters by one. This means that two -1/-1 counters are placed on Narnam Renegade, and then state-based actions makes those counters and the two +1/+1 counters annihilate each other.

Q: I control Electrostatic Pummeler and my opponent targets it with Liliana, the Last Hope's +1 ability. In response, I activate the Pummeler's pump ability. Does the Pummeler die at the end of this turn?

A: I'm afraid so. Liliana's effect lasts until your opponent's next turn, which means that the effect ends as soon as your opponent begins his or her turn. Before the game gets that far, your turn has to go through a cleanup step, and that's when Electrostatic Pummeler's effect ends. At that point, it becomes a -1/0 creature and it's put into the graveyard before you can do anything to save it.

Q: If I use Essence Flux to blink my Narnam Renegade, do I get the revolt effect?

A: Yup. Narnam Renegade checks whether a permanent you controlled left the battlefield this turn, which it did. The fact that it was another Narnam Renegade that was represented by the same piece of cardboard doesn't matter even a little bit.

The modern gift for a
12th anniversary is pearls.
Q: If I use Ghostly Flicker to blink Restoration Angel and Wing Splicer, can I use Restoration Angel's ability to blink Wing Splicer again?

A: Yes, that works. Ghostly Flicker returns both Restoration Angel and Wing Splicer to the battlefield at the same time, and then you put their abilities on the stack. You have to choose a target for Restoration Angel's ability when you put it on the stack, and Wing Splicer is on the battlefield at that time, so it's a legal target.

Q: Similarly, can I use Brago, King Eternal to blink Clever Impersonator and Sol Ring, and have Clever Impersonator enter as a copy of Sol Ring?

A: No, that doesn't work. Clever Impersonator doesn't have a triggered enter-the-battlefield ability. It has a static ability that replaces how it enters the battlefield. Clever Impersonator can only copy something that's already on the battlefield at the time it enters the battlefield, and Sol Ring isn't back on the battlefield yet because it's entering at the same time as Clever Impersonator.

Q: I attack with Godo, Bandit Warlord that's equipped with Elbrus, the Binding Blade, and it deals combat damage to my opponent. Can I attack with Withengar Unbound in the additional combat phase?

A: Sure! The summoning sickness rule checks whether you've controlled Withengar since you started the turn, which you did. When Elbrus transformed, it didn't leave the battlefield and come back as a Demon; it transformed in place, so it's still the same permanent it was at the start of the turn even if it looks very different now.

Q: I control Panharmonicon and cast Aviary Mechanic. I want to return only one permanent to my hand, not two. Can I do that?

A: Yes, you can. Aviary Mechanic's ability triggers twice, thanks to Panharmonicon, and each copy of the ability resolves separately and independently. Since the ability is optional, you can choose not to return anything for one of them and return something for the other.

Q: If my opponent puts Golgari Grave-Troll into her graveyard in her draw step with some discard outlet, can I exile the Troll with Deathrite Shaman before she gets to dredge it back out of her graveyard?

A: First off, if your opponent tries to discard the Troll in her draw step, it's already too late to dredge it, since drawing for the turn is the very first thing that happens in the draw step. This means that your opponent actually has to discard her Troll no later than in her upkeep step if she wants to replace her draw with dredge, and you can use Deathrite Shaman to thwart her plan. After your opponent discards the Troll in her upkeep step, you'll get priority before the game can move on to the draw step, and that gives you the opportunity to exile the Troll.

Q: If my opponent controls Dragonlord Dromoka, can I use Soul Snare's ability to exile a creature that's attacking me?

A: Sure, that's no problem. Your opponent's Dromoka stops you from casting spells on their turn, but you're not casting a spell. You're activating an activated ability, which is something completely different.

Q: I control a 4/4 Angel token and my opponent enchants it with a Quag Sickness that'll give it -4/-4. Can I save the Angel with Disenchant?

A: No. Disenchant can't target Quag Sickness on the stack, so you'll have to let Quag Sickness resolve first. However, once it resolves, state-based actions are checked before any player gets the chance to do anything. The game sees a 0/0 Angel and puts it into the graveyard. Then, it sees a token in the graveyard, so the token ceases to exist, and there's a Quag Sickness that's not attached to anything, so it goes to the graveyard. That takes care of state-based actions, so now your opponent gets priority because it's their turn. By the time you get priority, your Angel is long gone and there's nothing for you to Disenchant.

But I'm sure Moko would
prefer a brain in a jar.
Q: Can Fleetwheel Cruiser attack on the first turn that I play it without me having to crew it?

A: Absolutely. It has haste, and its enter-the-battlefield ability makes it into an artifact creature until end of turn, which is exactly what crewing it would do, except that you don't have to pay a crew cost to get this effect.

Q: My opponent uses Prey Upon to make his Gnarlwood Dryad fight my Tireless Tracker. Does my Tireless Tracker die?

A: Yup. Gnarlwood Dryad has deathtouch, so the damage it deals to Tireless Tracker is lethal even if it is less than Tireless Tracker's toughness.

Q: If I enchant my opponent's Gnarlwood Dryad with Caught in the Brights, does that stop my opponent from using it with Prey Upon to kill one of my creatures?

A: No. Prey Upon causes two creatures to fight, which does sound violent, but it's not an attack. Attacking and blocking happens in the combat phase, and fighting is a keyword action that simply makes two creatures deal damage to each other.

Q: If my opponent uses Prey Upon on a creature with double strike, does that creature deal twice its power to the other creature.

A: No. Double strike changes the rules for the combat phase by giving it a second combat damage step in which that creature gets to deal a second dose of combat damage. As we've just seen, fighting is not the same as combat. Abilities that care about damage being dealt, such as deathtouch and infect, work in a fight, but abilities that change the rules of combat, such as double strike and trample, don't work in a fight.

Q: If I enchant a Walking Ballista that has four +1/+1 counters on it with Mechanized Production, do the token copies also get four +1/+1 counters?

A: Sadly, they do not. A copy effect only copies the copiable characteristics of the original, which are the values printed on the card as modified by other copy effects. It doesn't take into account any modifications from other effects such as power/toughness-changing effects in general or counters in particular. This means that Mechanized Production produces a bunch of 0/0 Walking Ballistas, which probably won't be of much use to you.

Q: At Friday Night Magic, my opponent resolved a scry 1 effect and put the card into his hand. Then he put a card from his hand on the bottom of his library, but I have no idea if that was the card that he just put into his hand. What should I do?

A: You should call for a judge and let the judge handle it. The judge will investigate to determine whether the player was cheating (i.e. intentionally and knowingly breaking the rules in order to gain an advantage) or whether it was an honest mistake. If the judge determines that your opponent cheated, your opponent gets disqualified from the tournament, even at FNM. Otherwise, the judge will use his or her judgment to get the game back on track. For example, the judge could rewind the illegal play by first returning the card from the bottom of your opponent's library to your opponent's hand, and then returning a random card from your opponent's hand to the top of his library. Your opponent can then proceed to resolve scry 1 correctly.

And that's all the time we have for now. Please come back next week when James concludes the countdown to Amonkhet.

- 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.

What's the color identity of Elbrus, the Binding Blade?
#1 • Date: 2017-04-16 • Time: 19:12:44 •
Quote (MAHK):
What's the color identity of Elbrus, the Binding Blade?

It's black. Color identity takes both faces into account, and the back face has a black color indicator.
#2 • Date: 2017-04-17 • Time: 07:10:44 •

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