Published on 05/01/2017

A Bad Wrap

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! You've come at just the right time—I've taken some inspiration from Amonkhet, and have decided to wrap Moko up into a proper mummy so he'll stop dropping bits of flesh all over the carpet. Give me a hand with these bandages, would you? Moko's been having none of it and has torn the bandages to shreds about four times so far. We really should have done this prior to the zombification process, but it's way too late for that at this point.

What? You have rules questions for us? Well I'll try to answer them as we work, but you really should send them to or tweet the shorter ones to @CranialTweet. We'll answer them and maybe include them in a future article, but more importantly if we print them out, the sheets can be folded into surprisingly good bandages.

Now, you grab Moko and I'll do the wrapping. Ready? On three. One, two....three!

Q: If I have a Battlefield Scavenger and attack with and exert multiple creatures at once, do I do all the discards and then all the draws? Or do I discard, then draw, then discard, then draw, and so on?

A: If you exert multiple creatures simultaneously, Battlefield Scavenger's ability triggers once for each of them. Those abilities are put on the stack and resolve independently, one after the other. So you discard and draw once, then repeat that process for each other creature you exerted.

Q: ...Also, do I have to decide if I'm going to discard and draw for each creature up front, or can I wait?

A: The Scavenger's ability is put onto the stack whenever it triggers, whether you plan on making use of it or not. You only decide whether to discard for that trigger as the ability is resolving—you don't commit in advance. So you decide whether to discard for the second ability after seeing the results of the first, decide for the third after seeing the results of the second, and so on and so forth.

Q: Does Doubling Season double the brick counters you put on Oracle's Vault when you activate it?

A: It does indeed. Each time you use Oracle's Vault's first ability, Doubling Season will double the brick counter you get as the ability resolves. Other Amonkhet cards that use brick counters function similarly.

Q: ...So what's the difference between that and the loyalty counters you put on planewalkers when you activate them? Because I've been told those don't get doubled.

A: You've been told correctly; the difference comes down to why you're putting the counter there. Doubling Season says it works "If an effect would [put counters on something]...", and that's what's happening with Oracle's Vault and the other brick counter cards. As the Vault's ability resolves, it has a number of different effects, one of which is adding brick counters to the Vault. Doubling Season sees that happening, and steps in accordingly.

But planeswalkers don't work the same way. When you add loyalty counters to a planeswalker in order to use one of its abilities, it's not an effect of the ability that's causing you to do that—it's part of you paying the cost of activating the ability in the first place. So since the counter is being placed by you paying that cost and not by an effect placing it there, Doubling Season's condition isn't satisfied and won't step in.

Note that while those counters won't be doubled, the ones the planeswalker receives as it enters the battlefield will be, as those are added as part of the effect of resolving the planeswalker spell in the first place. In addition, there are also planeswalkers with abilities that add loyalty counters to themselves or other planeswalkers as an effect—those cards will tell you to add those counters in the text of the ability rather than in the loyalty symbol on the left-hand side. Gideon, Champion of Justice is an example—if you activate his +1 ability with a Season out, the one loyalty counter you add in order to activate the ability won't be doubled, but the ones you get as the ability resolves will be.

Q: If I cast Consuming Fervor on Gideon of the Trials while he's a creature, what happens?

A: Well, Gideon of the Trials gets +3/+3, for a start, and becomes a 7/7, but you probably meant what happens later. During the cleanup step of the turn, Gideon will stop being a creature, which means he's no longer a legal object for Consuming Fervor to enchant, since it can only enchant a creature.

This causes Consuming Fervor to fall off of Gideon and go to your graveyard, and the turn will end shortly thereafter. Since the Fervor's no longer on the battlefield enchanting Gideon, it won't be around to place -1/-1 counters on it later on during your upkeep.

Effectively, Consuming Fervor on Gideon functions a lot like Giant Growth, only much harder to surprise your opponent with since you'd have to use it before you attack.

Q: If I use Gideon of the Trials on my opponent's creature, and they create a copy of that creature, can the copy deal damage, or is its damage prevented too, since it's a copy?

A: The copy can deal damage unhindered, because it's not the same object as the creature it's a copy of. When you create a copy of a creature, only the creature itself is copied—other effects that might be altering what the creature looks like or how it interacts with other objects will not be copied.

Q: If you have an emblem from Gideon of the Trials that says you can't lose the game, what happens at the end of your next turn after you cast Glorious End?

A: Well, Glorious End's delayed trigger will trigger and attempt to make you lose the game, but it's not going to have a whole lot of success, since Gideon's emblem says that can't happen. So you'll survive your own Glorious End, and continue the game unhindered. Glorious End's ability will not retrigger later on, even if Gideon goes away and the emblem stops working, because it was only ever supposed to trigger once. (Normally, that's all it would have needed.)

Q: My Cast Out exiled my opponent's Gideon of the Trials a while ago, and my opponent now has a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar out. I play Felidar Guardian and target Cast Out with its trigger.

I know that my opponent will briefly control two Gideons and will therefore have to get rid of one of them, and I know I'll be able to target a Gideon for re-exile. But what order do those two things happen? Does my opponent choose what to get rid of before I choose targets, so I can exile whichever one they keep, or do I have to choose a target before they choose which to keep, allowing them to get rid of the one that's doomed anyway and keep the other?

A: You're in luck, because it's that first one.

After a spell or ability finishes resolving, state-based actions are checked (and thus one of your opponent's Gideons will go away) before triggered abilities are put onto the stack. So by the time you're putting your trigger onto the stack, your opponent's spare planeswalker is gone, and they're left with just the one lonely Gideon, just begging to be Cast Out.

Q: If I have Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons out and play Wickerbough Elder, do I get a snake token?

A: You do indeed. If something says it enters the battlefield with some number of counters on it, those counters are put there by its controller as it enters, which will trigger abilities like Hapatra's.

Q: I have Anointed Procession out and cast Ezuri's Predation. Would the duplicate tokens each fight the same creature the originals do?

A: No, the duplicates won't fight anything. Ezuri's Predation tries to have the tokens it creates each fight a different one of the creatures your opponents control. If, thanks to the Procession, it creates more tokens than your opponents have creatures, that's impossible, so it only does as much as possible—each of your opponent's' creatures will fight exactly one Beast token, and the remaining tokens will be left out of the fray.

Q: My opponent casts Cartouche of Ambition on her creature. If she targets my Glyph Keeper with the -1/-1 effect, does the Aura get countered and go to the graveyard, or does it stay on the creature?

A: The ability that's trying to put -1/-1 counter on your creature gets countered, but the ability isn't the same thing as the Aura itself. Your opponent's Cartouche will stay where it is, because nothing's telling it to go anywhere.

Q: What does "blocked" mean on Vizier of Deferment? Blocked is past tense, right? So that means you can only use the Vizier after combat is done?

A: Blocked is indeed past tense, but it doesn't mean "used to be a blocking creature"—it means "was formally declared as blocking a creature (generally at the start of the turn's Declare Blockers step)." The same goes for "attacked"—it means "was formally declared as attacking at the start of the turn's Declare Attackers step".

That means that Vizier of Deferment can exile any creature that was formally declared as an attacker or blocker during the current turn, even if combat is still underway.

Q: If my opponent makes me discard a bunch of cards, including a Loxodon Smiter that I put onto the battlefield, will I have to return the Smiter to my hand if I cast Shadow of the Grave at the end of my turn?

A: You will not. You did indeed discard Loxodon Smiter this turn, but it's currently on the battlefield, and Shadow of the Grave only tells you to return to your hand the cards in your graveyard that you discarded this turn. The Smiter isn't in your graveyard, so it doesn't come back.

Also note that once the Smiter is put onto the battlefield, you still won't return it even if the Smiter dies somehow before you cast your Shadow of the Grave—once the Smiter changes zones, the game considers it a new object, and the new Smiter in the graveyard got there by dying, not by being discarded, so it won't be returned by Shadow of the Grave.

Q: Does there have to be a -1/-1 counter on one of your creatures for Decimator Beetle to put one on one of your opponent's creatures?

A: There does not. Decimator Beetle's targeting requirement (for the counter-removal) is "creature you control", not "creature you control with a -1/-1 counter on it". You can target any of your creatures, not just ones with -1/-1 counters on it, so as long as you and your opponent each control any targetable creature at all (and you probably do, since you're attacking with one), you can choose the necessary targets to put the ability onto the stack.

Q: If I play Plague Belcher, can I put both -1/-1 counters on a 1/1 creature, even though it would only take one to kill it?

A: You can indeed. As with Decimator Beetle, the targeting requirement for Plague Belcher's ability is "creature you control". The ability doesn't say anything about needing that creature to have at least 2 toughness, so it doesn't.

Congratulations, you've found a way to (partially) avoid the effects of the plague!

Q: I heard that Heart-Piercer Manticore uses a new kind of ability. Huh?

A: New things can be sneaky that way. Heart-Piercer Manticore actually has two linked triggered abilities, one buried inside the other. The first ability triggers when the Manticore enters the battlefield and gives you the option of sacrificing a creature, while the second triggers only if you take the first ability's offer and sacrifice that creature. This second ability triggers during the resolution of the first ability, and is put onto the stack immediately after that ability has finished resolving.

What this means for you is that you don't choose a target for Heart-Piercer Manticore to deal damage to unless you actually choose to sacrifice something, and you don't do so until after the sacrifice happens. It also means both you and your opponent get a chance to respond in between you sacrificing your creature and the damage being dealt, since they can respond to the second triggered ability.

Oh, and it means you have the option of sacrificing a creature even if there's nothing your Heart-Piercer could legally deal damage to, if for some reason you wanted that. (You probably don't.)

Q: ...But haven't cards done that before? Don't cards like Throwing Knife do that too?

A: Not quite. Previous cards have done something similar, but those cards all do their thing within the bounds of a single trigger, which means they work a bit differently.

Throwing Knife's ability triggers every time the equipped creature attacks, and must be put onto the stack. Since you have to choose a target in order to do that, that means you always have to choose a target for Throwing Knife's ability every time you attack with the equipped creature, no matter what, regardless of whether or not you want to use it—you don't even choose whether or not to use the ability until it's in the process of resolving. And if you do choose to sacrifice the Knife, the ability finishes resolving and deals that damage before any player has a chance to respond to the choice.

These kinds of abilities have always been a bit weird and counterintuitive to many players—perhaps Heart-Piercer Manticore will be an improvement for those players.

Q: If you ultimate Nissa, Steward of Elements and animate a Lumbering Falls, what happens if you then activate its animation ability what happens? Does the order matter here?

A: The order matters for determining the power and toughness of the animated Falls—you apply the effects in order, so the most recent one "wins". It doesn't matter for anything else, though, since the abilities are additive and Nissa doesn't try to set the land's color.

Either way you go about this, the land will be a green and blue Elemental land creature with flying, hexproof, and haste. If Nissa's ability resolved first, it'll be a 3/3, since the Falls' own animation ability resolved last. If it's the other way around, it'll be a 5/5.

Q: How does Magma Spray interact with Supernatural Stamina?

A: Turns out even if you're really, really, tough, a splash of magma in the face is going to put a real dent in your plans for the future. Because you won't have a future any more.

The ability granted by Supernatural Stamina says when the creature dies, return it to the battlefield. However, Magma Spray says that if the creature would die, it gets exiled instead. If the creature gets exiled instead of dying, it never actually dies, so the Stamina-granted ability never triggers and it doesn't return.

Q: If my opponent has Cruel Reality and I Lay Claim to it, does the target of Cruel Reality change?

A: It does not. Cruel Reality is an Aura attached to a player (presumably you), and gaining control of an Aura doesn't inherently allow you to move it to something (or someone) else. You'll still be the one enchanted, so you'll still be the one sacrificing things and/or losing life. But at least it'll be your own card doing it now—that makes it better, right?

Q: Can you cast a commander from the command zone with As Foretold?

A: Yes, you can. As Foretold doesn't care where the spell you're casting comes from, just what its converted mana cost is. If the cost is low enough and you haven't used As Foretold already this turn, you get the option to pay instead of that spell's mana cost.

Note that this only covers the spell's normal mana cost—additional costs, such as the commander tax, still apply, so if this isn't your first time casting your commander this game, you're probably going to have to pay at least some mana.

Q: If I use something like Approach of the Second Sun that puts a known card in a specific position in the library, do I need to keep track of its position? If my opponents asks how many cards down it is and I don't know, or worse remember incorrectly, what happens?

A: Nothing happens, because you're absolutely not required to keep track of it in any way—your library is a hidden zone, and as far as the game's concerned every face-down card in your library is equally unknown and untrackable, no matter where they came from or if they used to be known somewhere else, so while it might be useful to you to remember where your card is so you can plan ahead, it's not something the game requires you to do.

In addition, because the library is a hidden zone, in a tournament setting the position of your Approach is classified as private information, so even if you do actually know where it is, if your opponent asks, you're allowed to lie outright about it. Tell them it's on top, tell them it's on the bottom, it's all fine by the rules—the only limit is whether you're okay with the lie. (And just how silly you want to be with it—I recommend saying it's exactly twenty-seven-and-a-half cards down, in between the two halves of a split card.)

And we're done! Whew, that was a workout. Sorry about the bite, there—you'll definitely want someone to take a look at that before it goes septic, so you might want to head to the emergency room immediately. But don't forget to come back next week for another exciting edition of Cranial Insertion!

...Oh quit your moaning, Moko—it's better this way. The savings on carpet cleaning alone!

- 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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