Published on 06/26/2017

Back to Normality

or, What Is Normal Anyway?

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

We're back from the brink
of insanity
Welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! It's good to be back to answering normal rules questions after our back-to-back looks at Commander and Archenemy products. Of course, when you're talking about rules questions for a game with tens of thousands of interchangeable pieces spanning across almost 25 years of the game's history, the word "normal" takes on a meaning you won't find in a dictionary.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please send an email to or tweet short questions at @CranialTweet. One of our writers will send a reply to you, and your question might appear in a future article.

Since Hour of Devastation previews are in full swing, this is a good time to remind you that we're happy to answer questions about officially previewed cards as long as the answer can be derived from currently known rules. We'll answer such questions by email or Twitter, but we solemnly swear that the articles will be spoiler-free until the Hour of Devastation special after the prerelease.

And now, let's see what this week's perfectly normal selection of rules questions has in store for us.

Q: If I use Champion of Rhonas's exert ability to bring out Angel of Sanctions, does that trigger the Angel's exile ability?

A: Sure! The Angel's ability triggers when it enters the battlefield, which only means that it goes from "not on the battlefield" to "on the battlefield." It doesn't matter why it's moving to the battlefield or where it's coming from. Casting a creature is a popular way to get it onto the battlefield — eventually, from the stack — but it's by far not the only way.

Q: In an Amonkhet draft the other day, I stole my friend's exerted Glorybringer with Limits of Solidarity. Then I attacked with it and exerted it. We couldn't figure out if it would untap on his turn or not. Help?

A: You exerting the Glorybringer doesn't make it forget that your opponent had exerted it, too. Exerting a permanent creates an effect that changes the rules for its controller's next untap step, and there's no reason why this effect couldn't be created multiple times for multiple players' untap steps. Once your opponent's untap step comes around, the effect that keeps Glorybringer from untapping in that untap step is still in effect, so it doesn't untap.

Q: If there's a Hive Mind on the battlefield, what happens if I cast Glorious End?

A: It will be glorious for you and the end for your opponent unless your opponent has some way to wiggle out of that situation. Let's break down exactly what happens. We start with you casting Glorious End, which goes on the bottom of the stack. Hive Mind's ability goes on the stack above that, so the ability resolves first and forces your opponent to make a copy of Glorious End. The copy goes on the stack above your original. The copy resolves and ends the turn, which means that your original Glorious End gets exiled and never resolves, so it never creates a "you lose the game" trigger for you. It does create one for your opponent, though. Unless your opponent can somehow stop that trigger, they will lose the game at the end of their turn.

Q: I control a Hada Freeblade and hit two more with Collected Company. How many +1/+1 counters does each Freeblade get?

A: All three of them, i.e the one that's already there and the two new ones, get two counters each. Collected Company puts both new Freeblades onto the battlefield at the same time, and permanents that enter the battlefield at the same time see each other entering. The one that's already there sees two new Allies entering the battlefield, and the new ones see themselves and each other, so each Freeblade's ability triggers twice.

Q: If I get Walking Ballista and Eternal Witness with Collected Company, can I target Walking Ballista with Eternal Witness's ability?

A: Surprisingly enough, that works. Collected Company puts Eternal Witness and Walking Ballista onto the battlefield, which triggers Eternal Witness's ability. Before abilities can go on the stack, the game has to check state-based actions. State-based actions see a Walking Ballista that's 0/0 because it never had the chance to get any counters, so it gets put into the graveyard. Now you put Eternal Witness's ability on the stack and choose a target for it, so the Walking Ballista that just got put into the graveyard a moment ago is in the correct zone to be a legal target for this ability.

Q: If I animate my Blinkmoth Nexus, can I give it a +1/+1 counter with Ruins of Oran-Rief?

A: That depends on when you played Blinkmoth Nexus. Ruins of Oran-Rief's ability cares about whether Blinkmoth Nexus entered the battlefield during the current turn, not whether it became a creature during the current turn. If you played Blinkmoth Nexus and animated it right away, Ruins of Oran-Rief can give it a counter. If you played Blinkmoth Nexus on a previous turn, it can't.

Q: I control Culling Scales and my opponent controls Slippery Bogle. What happens in my upkeep if those are the only two nonland permanents on the battlefield?

A: You put Culling Scales's ability on the stack, and then you have to choose a target for the ability. The only available target with the lowest converted mana cost is Slippery Bogle, which has hexproof, so its an illegal target. This means that you can't choose a legal target for the ability, and the ability is removed from the stack immediately, so it doesn't resolve and nothing is destroyed.

Oozing for a bruising
Q: If I cast Experiment Kraj from a graveyard with Havengul Lich, does the Lich get all activated abilities from creatures that have +1/+1 counters on them?

A: Nope. Casting Kraj with the Lich's ability triggers an ability, and when that ability resolves, the Lich looks at the spell that was cast and acquires the activated abilities that the spell has. Experiment Kraj's first ability, which gives it the activated abilities from creatures that have +1/+1 counters on them, only works on the battlefield, so the only activated ability it has to give to the Lich is the ability to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature.

Q: I control Throne of the God-Pharaoh, so I want to end my turn with as many tapped creatures as possible. Can I cast a spell with convoke and tap more creatures than needed for the spell?

A: Nice try, but that doesn't work. Convoke basically allows you to tap creatures in lieu of paying mana, and you can't pay more than the total cost of the spell. Once you've paid the cost, you have no legitimate reason to tap more creatures.

Q: Can I Eldritch Evolution into Pharika, God of Affliction if I control only lands besides the creature I'm sacrificing?

A: Yes, you can do that. Pharika's ability that makes it not be a creature if your devotion is too low only works on the battlefield. In the library it's always a creature regardless of your devotion, so you can find it with Eldritch Evolution.

Q: I control a 1/1 Soldier token that's equipped with Demonmail Hauberk. If I sacrifice that token to move the Hauberk to another creature, does my Mycoid Shepherd's ability trigger?

A: It sure does. The Soldier went straight from being on the battlefield with the Hauberk on it to being in the graveyard without the Hauberk on it, without any intermediate steps in between. Mycoid Shepherd is a dies ability, which means that it looks back in time to the game state before the event to determine if it should trigger. In that game state, the Soldier's power was 5, so its death meets Mycoid Shepherd's trigger condition.

Q: My opponent controls Gideon of the Trials and has his emblem, so he can't lose the game and I can't win the game. I control Laboratory Maniac and I'm about to draw from an empty library. What happens?

A: Very little happens. In fact, so little happens that one might resort to using the word "nothing." Laboratory Maniac replaces the card draw with the instruction that you win the game. However, you winning the game is an impossible action, which you ignore, so you do nothing. The game will continue like that in tedious inevitability until your opponent beats you to death with his Gideon, probably.

Q: Let's say I control Forcefield and my opponent destroys it before declaring attackers. Can I respond by activating Forcefield's ability and setting up its effect in advance for each of his creatures?

A: Good idea, but that doesn't work. When Forcefield's ability resolves, it asks you to choose an unblocked creature to set up its effect, and unblocked creatures only exist after blockers have been declared. Before blockers are declared, your opponent's creatures are neither blocked nor unblocked. Since there are no unblocked creatures around, you can't make a legal choice for Forcefield's ability, so you just wasted a bunch of mana for nothing.

Q: Can Clever Impersonator copy an Aura? If so, how and when do I choose what it enchants?

A: Yes, Clever Impersonator can copy an Aura. Right after you choose the Aura to copy, you'll choose something that the Clever Aura can enchant, and then it'll enter the battlefield attached to that something. This process doesn't target, so you could choose something that has hexproof. If for some reason you can't choose anything that the copy can enchant, the copy would go to the graveyard instead of entering the battlefield. However, considering that the original Aura must be attached to something, this requires an unusual (but not impossible) set of circumstances. I'll leave finding such a set of circumstances as an exercise for sufficiently curious readers.

Q: If my opponent casts Force of Will for its alternative cost, what is its converted mana cost? In other words, how many counters need to be on my Chalice of the Void to counter it?

A: The converted mana cost of a card comes only from its mana cost, which is the string of mana symbols that's usually (but not always) printed in the upper right corner of the card. The converted mana cost has no direct connection to how much mana a player has spent, will spend, or might spend to cast it. Force of Will's mana cost is always , even when it's being cast for its alternative cost, so its converted mana cost is always 5.

Alas, poor Yorick!
Q: Can my opponent respond to a dredge trigger by eating the card with Deathrite Shaman?

A: No, for various reasons. Let's start with the fact that dredge is not a triggered ability at all. It's a static ability that creates a replacement effect. It doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to. Once you start your draw step and you draw for turn, you simply announce that you're using the dredge ability of a card in your graveyard, and that's that. If your opponent wants to stop you from dredging a card, she'll have to exile it from your graveyard some time before your draw step, before she knows whether you'll dredge and which card you'll dredge.

Q: Let's say I control Goblin Electromancer and I want to cast an X spell like Fireball. Does the Electromancer reduce the X cost?

A: It does! This interaction confuses a lot of players because they assume that how much you pay determines the size of the effect, and if the cost gets reduced that just makes the effect smaller, which isn't exactly awesome. In reality, you start by choosing the size of the effect, in other words, you choose a value for X, and then you calculate the cost accordingly, including any applicable cost increases or reductions. If you want to cast that Fireball for X=5, you start out with the base cost of , and then the Electromancer reduces that to , so you get your 5-point Fireball for one mana cheaper.

Q: I control Keeper of Progenitus and tap Bayou for black mana. Can I also add green mana to my mana pool?

A: No, that doesn't work. Keeper of Progenitus doesn't look at what the land could produce. It only looks at what it did produce. Since the land produced black mana, the ability of Keeper of Progenitus gives you a second black mana.

Q: If I control Leyline of Sanctity, can I still get poison counters from creatures with infect?

A: Sadly, yes. Hexproof only means that your opponent can't target you with spells or abilities. Nothing about attacking you with a creature and dealing infectious combat damage to you targets, so the Leyline is of no help to you.

Q: Suppose I'm in a Commander game, my commander is in my hand, and I cast Brainstorm. Instead of putting two cards back on top of my library, can I put one card on top of my library and my commander into the command zone?

A: Yes, you can do that. When you resolve Brainstorm, you choose two cards in your hand to put on top of your library. If one of those cards is your commander, the command zone replacement effect kicks in and lets you change your commander's destination to the command zone. This changes where the chosen cards end up, but it doesn't change the fact that you resolved Brainstorm correctly and legally.

And that's all the time we have for this week. Please join us again next week when Nathan presents the last issue before our Hour of Devastation special.

- 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.

> I'll leave finding such a set of circumstances as an exercise for sufficiently curious readers.

Easy answer: attempt to copy Animate Dead, while graveyards are empty.

Fancy answer: Opponent controls Celestial Dawn, and a White Knight, enchanted with Unholy Strength, which you attempt to copy. Their aura is fine since it's been turned white, but your copy will still be black.
#1 • Date: 2017-06-26 • Time: 00:03:40 •
Easier answer: Tattoo Ward.
#2 • Date: 2017-06-26 • Time: 02:13:21 •
Glorybringer + Limits of Solidarity: I find it much more important to note that Glorybringer will untap as normal if you steal him in his un-exerted form and then exert him, as exert only skips untapping him during YOUR untap step. (This is also not quite clear in the Answer)
#3 • Date: 2017-06-28 • Time: 14:08:44 •

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