Published on 05/15/2017

Just Deserts

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Hot enough for you?
Greetings, and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Now that Spring is slowly giving way to Summer, the temperatures are getting warmer and it's getting really nice outside. Let's just hope this trend stops before my yard looks like the deserts of Amonkhet.

Anyway, we're back to answer your most burning Magic rules questions from our inbox and elsewhere. If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will reply to you, and your question might be used in a future article, possibly alongside a pun or two.

Q: My Soulstinger has four -1/-1 counters on it. I put three more counters on it with my Exemplar of Strength. How many -1/-1 counters can I put on my opponent's creature?

A: Seven counters. When the Soulstinger was last on the battlefield, it had seven -1/-1 counters on it. Since it had seven -1/-1 counters on it, you'll be able to put seven -1/-1 counters on whatever creature you targeted (and that's probably going to kill whatever it is you targeted).

Q: Can a single Trueheart Duelist block an attacking Cursed Minotaur?

A: Nope, you still need a second creature to block with it. While the Duelist can block an additional creature each combat, it's still only one creature. A creature with menace has to be blocked by at least two creatures, so a single Duelist cannot block the Minotaur by itself.

Q: I have a Trial of Strength in my graveyard, and I cast and resolve Cartouche of Strength. Will the Trial return to my hand?

A: The Trial's ability, like most abilities, only works as long as it's on the battlefield. It doesn't work if the Trial is in the graveyard or any other zone. Since the Trial is not on the battlefield when the Cartouche enters the battlefield, the Trial's ability won't even trigger and it will not return from your graveyard to your hand.

Q: I cast Manticore of the Gauntlet, choosing to target itself with the -1/-1 counter and my opponent for the three damage. In response, my opponent kills the Manticore with Electrify. Do I still get to deal three damage to my opponent?

A: Yes you do! The Manticore's trigger has two targets: a target creature you control to get the -1/-1 counter and a target opponent to be dealt the damage. The ability is only countered if all of the targets are illegal when it goes to resolve. While the Manticore may no longer be in play, your opponent is still a legal target, so the ability will resolve as best as it can and your opponent will still be dealt three damage

Q: I cast the Insult half of Insult // Injury, and attack with my Honored Hydra. My opponent blocks with a 4/4. How much damage can I deal to my opponent?

A: At most, your opponent will take four damage. With trample, you need to assign what would be lethal damage to all creatures blocking it before you can start assigning damage to the defending player. You don't take effects that would increase or decrease the damage into account. Even though the damage the Hydra will deal this turn is doubled, when assigning damage, you can't take the doubling effect into account. The 6/6 Hydra still needs to assign 4 damage to the 4/4, and can assign the remaining 2 damage to the defending player. That damage is then doubled, so the 4/4 takes eight damage and your opponent ends up taking four damage.

Q: I cast Fling, intending to sacrifice my Hazoret the Fervent. My opponent claims they can interrupt and cast Final Reward to exile my Hazoret before I can sacrifice it. Are they right?

A: They are wrong. You sacrifice the creature as part of casting Fling, and paying costs does not use the stack and cannot be responded to. By the time your opponent gets priority after you cast Fling, your Fling is on the stack and Hazoret is in the graveyard, so they can't try to use Final Reward on your Hazoret since it's not even on the battlefield anymore.

Q: My opponent has a Scribe of the Mindful and a Kefnet the Mindful in play. I cast Trial of Ambition and target them with the trigger. Can they sacrifice the Scribe to activate its ability and to fulfill the trigger from the Trial?

A: Nope, they can't do They can either sacrifice the Scribe to activate its ability (but it's not in play when the Trial's trigger resolves, so they can't choose to sacrifice it to the Trial's trigger), or they can let the Trial's trigger resolve and sacrifice the Scribe to the Trial's trigger (but since it's no longer in play, they can't activate its ability). They cannot sacrifice it to the Trial's trigger and to activate the Scribe's ability at the same time.

I'm afraid that's something
I can not allow to happen.
Q: Can I Disallow my opponent's decision to exert their creature?

A: Choosing whether or not to exert a creature is not a triggered or activated ability: it's a choice that's made as part of declaring attackers. Since it's not a spell or ability, it cannot be Disallowed. However, anything that triggers when you exert a creature is a triggered ability that can be countered, so, for instance, if your opponent attacks with their Glory-Bound Initiate and exerts it, you can't stop them from exerting it, but you can counter the trigger so their Initiate doesn't get +1/+3 and lifelink. Plus, as a bonus, the Initiate still won't untap during their next untap step.

Q: My opponent casts Sphinx of the Final Word. In response, I cast the Commit side of Commit // Memory, targeting the Sphinx. What happens when Commit resolves?

A: While it may seem like Commit is countering the spell, it's not. It's removing the spell from the stack and putting the card second from the top. Since it's not countering the spell, the Sphinx's ability that says it can't be countered does nothing, so Commit will move the Sphinx from the stack to your opponent's library.

Q: I cast Approach of the Second Sun earlier in the game, and now I'm casting it a second time. But my opponent countered it with Cancel. Do I still win the game?

A: Nope, you won't win. While Approach of the Second Sun doesn't have to resolve the first time you cast it (it just needs to be cast for it to count), the second Approach does have to resolve in order for you to win the game. If your opponent counters the Approach when you cast it the second time, none of its effects will happen, and you won't win the game.

Q: I enchanted my opponent with Cruel Reality, but they have a high life total and would rather lose five life. Can they choose not to sacrifice a creature and lose five life instead?

A: Nope, that's not an option. When the Reality's trigger resolves, they have to sacrifice a creature or planeswalker. If they can't, then they'll lose five life. Their option is which creature or planeswalker to sacrifice: losing life is not an option they get to pick. If they have a creature or a planeswalker in play, they have to choose to sacrifice it: they can't choose to lose five life instead.

Q: I have an Oath of Ajani in play, and I want to cast Nissa, Steward of Elements. Do I effectively get a free loyalty counter?

A: Well, I guess you can think of it like that. When you cast Nissa, you choose a value for X in the cost, and then the Oath will reduce the cost by one. For instance, you can choose to cast Nissa with X=4. The Oath will reduce the cost by 1, and you'll end up paying to cast Nissa that enters with four loyalty counters

Q: My opponent has five creatures in play, and I control a Blaze Commando. I cast Blazing Volley. Do I get two tokens or ten tokens?

A: You only get two tokens. While Blazing Volley is dealing damage to multiple creatures, it's only dealing damage once. The Commando is looking for an instant or sorcery spell you control to deal damage, it doesn't care how much damage or how many different things are being dealt damage at the same time, so the Commando is only going to trigger once, not five times.

Today's weather forecast:
Very windy and deadly. Better stay inside.
Q: I have a Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons in play. I give my opponent's creatures persist with Cauldron of Souls, then I wipe my opponent's board with Plague Wind. Will I get a token for each creature my opponent returns with persist?

A: Nope, you don't get any tokens in this case. Hapatra will only trigger if you put a -1/-1 counter on a creature. While you gave your opponent's creatures persist with your card, your opponent is the one returning the creature with the -1/-1 counter, not you. Since you're not putting the -1/-1 counter on the creature, Hapatra will not trigger and you won't get any tokens.

Q: I cast Inquisition of Kozilek, and my opponent has a Boom // Bust in their hand. Can I make them discard it?

A: Nope, this doesn't work anymore. With the release of Amonkhet, split cards will only have one converted mana cost, no matter what zone they are in. That means that Boom // Bust anywhere but the stack has a converted mana cost of 8, not 2 and 6. Since its converted mana cost is 8, you can't choose it with the Inquisition anymore.

Q: So does that mean I can't target Boom // Bust with my Goblin Dark-Dwellers trigger anymore either?

A: Ayep. It's not targetable for the same reason why you can't pick it with the Inquisition in the previous question - in the graveyard, its converted mana cost is 8. That's not three or less, so you can't target Boom // Bust with your Dark-Dweller trigger anymore.

Q: Ok, so if I reveal Wear // Tear to my Counterbalance trigger, what can I counter?

A: Wear // Tear has a converted mana cost of three when it's not on the stack, not one or two anymore. Revealing Wear // Tear to the Counterbalance trigger will only counter a spell that has a converted mana cost of three: it won't counter a spell with a converted mana cost of one or two anymore.

Q: Does that mean I can't cast Breaking // Entering fused via Kari Zev's Expertise anymore?

A: Yep, you're getting the hang of this. Breaking // Entering's converted mana cost is 8 when you're not cast it, and that's not a low enough converted mana cost to let you cast it via the Expertise. Not only can you no longer cast it fused, you can't cast either half when you're resolving the Expertise.

Q: So just one more question: that also means I can't put a Fire // Ice on my Isochron Scepter, right?

A: Right. Fire // Ice's converted mana cost is 4 when you're not casting it, so it no longer fulfills the requirement for an instant with a converted mana cost of two or less, and you can't put Fire // Ice on your Scepter anymore.

Q: Can I shuffle my library whenever I want? I've been stuck on three lands the last five turns, and I just want to shuffle so I can hopefully draw a land.

A: Nope, you can't do that. You can only shuffle your library before the game starts (as part of the pregame procedure) or if some spell or ability lets you shuffle your library. You can't just shuffle your library in the middle of the game just because you want to, just because you haven't been drawing what you needed.

That's all we have for this week, so we'll have to desert you for now. See you all next week!


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