Published on 09/04/2017

Back to School, 3rd Edition

Revised and updated for the new year!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

For the last time, it's I before E, except after C!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Now that we're into the first full week of September, it's only a few days before the overwhelming majority of North American students will be back at school for the year, and the fact that we here at Cranial Insertion educate people by stuffing their heads with fuzzy bunnies doesn't make us an exception.

...What, did you think our homepage was joking? If we haven't done it to you yet, that's not uncommon—we have to handle such a delicate procedure in person and have a lot of readers to go through so our schedule's pretty packed, but don't worry! We'll get to you soon enough.

Though come to think of it, we may be "back to school" now, but I don't think we ever left to start with—we've kept publishing on our normal schedule straight through summer break. I think that means I'm due for some vacation pay, or at least a week or two someplace sunny with a nice beach. I think I have some questions I need to ask Carsten.

If you, too, have questions for Carsten, or for any of us here at Cranial Insertion, just send us a line via email at , or if it's something short and sweet you can send it to us on Twitter @CranialTweet. Your Magic rules questions will be answered, and they may appear in a future article.

Q: How do the en-Kor creatures (like Nomads en-Kor) work with Lashknife Barrier? Does redirecting the damage mean it all gets prevented, because it's coming one point at a time?

A: Only if you redirect each point to a different creature.

Redirecting the damage doesn't change when the damage is dealt—it doesn't break up one "batch" of damage into multiple smaller ones, it just changes what the original "batch" of damage is being dealt to. Even if the redirection is performed piecemeal by multiple effects that each only affect small parts of the damage, it's still all one "instance" of damage being dealt.

As such, if you redirect multiple points of damage to the same creature, the Barrier sees that that one creature is being dealt all that damage at the same time by the same source, and responds accordingly, preventing 1, and only 1, point of that damage. If, on the other hand, you redirect the damage to multiple creatures, the Barrier sees that this creature's being dealt damage, that creature's being dealt damage, this other creature's being dealt damage—and so on and so forth. The Barrier works on a per-creature basis, so it prevents 1 damage to each of those creatures.

Q: The only option left on my Demonic Pact is to lose the game. If I Fractured Identity it, do my opponents get a fresh copy of Demonic Pact, or can they only lose the game?

A: When you create a copy of a permanent, with very few exceptions (none of which apply here) the only thing you get is what's written on the card itself plus other copy effects. The history of the choices you've made for the ability is not copied, so your opponents are going to have a few turns to figure out what to do about their new acquisitions before being forced to lose the game.

Q: What happens if I give Teferi's Protection rebound?

A: Not much of anything. Rebound changes where the spell it's on goes after it resolves, having it put itself into exile instead of the graveyard. But Teferi's Protection never tries to put itself into the graveyard in the first place, because by that point its own effect has already exiled it. Since the Protection never tries to go to the graveyard, there's nothing for rebound to replace, and rebound does nothing.

Q: What happens in a two-player game if I use Disrupt Decorum to goad my opponent's creatures?

A: Get ready, because you've probably got some very angry creatures coming your way. Goading a creature imposes two requirements on it with regards to combat. First that it attack, and second that it attack a player other than you. When a creature is affected by a requirement with regards to attacking (or blocking), it must fulfil as many of those requirements as possible.

Since this is a two-player game, there's no way for the creature to abide by that second requirement—the only player other than you in the game is your opponent, and a creature can't attack its own controller. But that first requirement? Well, it's perfectly possible for your opponent's creatures to fulfil that requirement: just attack! The creatures can attack, so they must, and you (or your planeswalkers) are the only things they can attack, so they're going to be headed your way. Possibly wielding a sharpened candelabra.

Q: How does Fist of Suns work with Ramos, Dragon Engine?

A: Basically, it doesn't. (Well, except for meaning that whenever you use Ramos's mana production ability you're definitely going to be able to cast two spells, even if that mana wouldn't normally be enough for both of them.)

Ramos, Dragon Engine cares about the color of the spell, not what mana you spent to cast it, and while Fist of Suns allows you to pay an alternative cost for your spells, what the game asks you to pay in order to cast a spell doesn't affect the color of the spell in any way—it's still whatever colors it was before and nothing else.

Norin runs away! ...from his crimes.
Q: Can I tap Norin the Wary when casting Burn at the Stake, or does he run away too quickly?

A: Norin's ability triggers when you cast a spell, but that hasn't happened yet until you've finished the entire casting process, including paying all the relevant costs. As such, Norin won't be running away until after you've had a chance to use him to help cast Burn at the Stake, because his ability only triggers after the cost's been paid fully.

Q: ...So will Norin count towards the damage even though he's run away?

A: He will indeed. Burn at the Stake doesn't care whether or not the creatures you used to cast it are still around or not. Whether they ran away or become a farmer or turned into a frog, it remembers how many creatures you tapped and deals the appropriate amount of damage no matter what's happened to any of them.

Q: If I control Dragonlord Kolaghan and my opponent has Karador, Ghost Chieftain, will they take 10 any time they cast a creature from their graveyard?

A: No, they won't, at least not unless they have a second copy of that particular creature card in there as well. The first step of casting a spell is taking it from wherever it started and putting it onto the stack, and since it's no longer in the graveyard, Dragonlord Kolaghan won't see a card with that name hanging around to trigger.

Q: How does Blazing Archon work versus Portal Mage?

A: It doesn't do much of anything against it. Blazing Archon creates a restriction on declaring attackers during combat, saying that creatures cannot be declared as attacking you.

Portal Mage, however, circumvents that—since reselecting the player or planeswalker a creature is attacking isn't part of the formal declaration that's done as the Declare Attackers step begins, any extra restrictions cards have laid on that process don't apply to Portal Mage's effect.

Q: Does Summoner's Bane's token have the same sacrifice ability as any other Illusion?

A: No, because there is no such ability. There are some illusions, like Phantasmal Bear, that have abilities that force you to sacrifice them if they're targeted, but this is by no means a universal characteristic of Illusions in general. Illusory Demon and Phobian Phantasm also have abilities that force you to sacrifice them, but they function completely differently. Many other Illusions, like Glaze Fiend, Nivix Barrier, or Fleeting Image, have no sacrifice-related abilities at all.

In general, creature types don't carry any kind of inherent rules baggage—simply being a particular creature type doesn't bestow any special abilities upon that creature. As such, since Summoner's Bane doesn't say it grants any abilities to the tokens it creates, they don't have any.

Q: How does Alms Collector work with other replacement effects that affect draws, like dredge?

A: The short answer is that Alms Collector applies first, before any replacements that try to affect individual draws, like dredge. The longer answer...well, is a bit more involved.

Each individual replacement ability defines for itself the nature and scope of the event it wants to replace. The same action might be seen by one ability as one big event to be replaced wholesale, while a different ability might only care about a small part of that overall event.

In cases where one replacement wants to be applied to a "large" event, while another wants to be applied at the same time to a "small" event that's a part of that overall "larger" event, you apply the replacement that applies to the "large" event first, and only after that do you consider the "small" replacement.

Alms Collector's replacement is looking at the broader picture—instructions that span multiple card draws. As such, you always apply it before other replacements of smaller scope that are looking at individual card draws within that broader picture.

Q: What happens in a multiplayer game if two different people control Gideon Jura and both use his +2 ability on the same opponent? Which Gideon gets attacked?

A: Whichever one that opponent thinks looked at him funnier.

Each Gideon Jura creates requirements saying that that opponent's creatures must attack him. But those requirements are mutually exclusive—there's no way for a single creature to fulfil both requirements and attack both Gideons at once. As such, the creature's controller chooses which one of those requirements to follow—each creature attacks whichever of the two Gideons its controller would prefer it to attack. This choice is made separately for each creature, so the opponent could end up attacking only one Gideon with everything, or perhaps attacking both Gideons with different creatures.

Q: Can Vein Drinker use its ability on a creature with protection from black, since it's a red ability?

A: Definitely not, because it's not a red ability at all. Activated and triggered abilities on the stack don't have colors in the same way cards do—they don't have any characteristics at all beyond their text. Anything that you might think cares about the color of an ability (like protection) actually cares instead about the color of the source of that ability.

Since Vein Drinker is the source of its own ability, and Vein Drinker is black, the ability therefore can't target a creature with protection from black.

Q: I have Solemnity and a Glacial Chasm with no age counters on it. If I decide I want to attack, can I choose to sacrifice the Chasm even though the upkeep cost is nothing?

A: Absolutely. You aren't forced to automatically pay an optional cost (like cumulative upkeep) just because they don't happen to require any resources to pay. You can still refuse to pay the cost if you so desire, even if the cost is (or in this case, 0 life).

Q: If I have Padeem, Consul of Innovation and a Spellskite, can I still use Spellskite's ability to change the target of my opponents' spells? If so, what happens?

A: The answer to "can I use Spellskite" is basically always yes...but the better question to ask is whether or not you should, whether or not using Spellskite will work, and the answer to that question here is definitely and absolutely not.

While you can activate Spellskite targeting any spell or ability, doing so can only change the target of a spell if Spellskite's a legal target for that spell in the first place—if it's not a legal target, changing the target fails, and Spellskite's ability has no effect.

Since Padeem, Consul of Innovation gives Spellskite hexproof along with all the rest of your artifacts, Spellskite isn't a legal target for your opponent's spells. As such, any attempt to change the targets of your opponents' spells to Spellskite will fail.

Q: I cast Mind Control on my opponent's Bramble Elemental. Who gets the 1/1s?

A: You do. After Mind Control enters the battlefield, the game checks for relevant triggered abilities that want to trigger off of that event. Lo and behold, it finds one: Bramble Elemental's ability. So the ability triggers, and the controller of a triggered ability is the player who controlled its source at the time the ability triggered. You currently control Bramble Elemental, so that's you.

Q: I Rise from the Grave my opponent's Teneb, the Harvester. My opponent plays Dragonlord Silumgar and steals Teneb back. I play Reins of Power and steal everything. After the turn ends, who controls Teneb?

A: You do. The controller of a permanent is, by default, the player who put it onto the battlefield, and in this case, that's you. Other cards, like Reins of Power and Dragonlord Silumgar, can apply effects that change the controller of a permanent, but in the absence of any such effects, it's the player who put it onto the battlefield who controls it.

The effect from Dragonlord Silumgar saying your opponent controls Teneb ended when Reins of Power resolved and they lost control of Silumgar, so at that time the only effect that wanted to affect the controller of Teneb, the Harvester was Reins of Power, which wanted to give control of it to you. Once that ended, there was no longer any effects trying to give control of Teneb to anyone in particular, so it went "back" to its default controller...which happened to be you.

Q: If Mairsil, the Pretender cages Mirror-Mad Phantasm and you activate the ability, what card do you reveal until you see?

A: When a card uses its own name to refer to itself, it really means "this object", so when you use the Phantasm's ability on Mairsil, the Pretender, it's Mairsil you shuffle into your library.

However, the part where Mirror-Mad Phantasm defines what card you're looking for isn't referring to itself in particular. Instead, it's referring to any card with a specific name. (That name just happens to be "Mirror-Mad Phantasm") Mairsil goes looking for the same hopefully there's another Mirror-Mad Phantasm in there somewhere, or else you're going to completely deck yourself looking for one.

Q: Mairsil, the Pretender exiles Atarka Pummeler. Does he get the formidable ability? If so, does it still require formidable to be active to use?

A: Mairsil does gain the Atarka Pummeler's formidable ability—the Pummeler always has that ability, even if it's not always usable. But it will still require formidable to be active in order to use, because Mairsil gains the entire ability, including the activation instructions that are a part of it.

Q: I attacked with a 1/1, and my opponent blocked with their Eidolon of Rhetoric. After combat, I cast Yahenni's Expertise to kill it. Since the Eidolon dies first, I can use the Expertise to cast another spell for free, right?

A: Not so fast—you're getting a bit ahead of yourself. Sure, Eidolon of Rhetoric now has lethal damage marked on it and is assuredly about to die, but it's not dead yet! State-based actions, which are the part of the rules that destroy creatures with lethal damage marked on them, are not checked in the middle of resolving spells and abilities—they wait until after the resolution is complete, and only perform their checks then.

This means that Eidolon of Rhetoric is still on the battlefield when Yahenni's Expertise tells you to cast another spell from your hand, so the Eidolon's ability still applies and stops you from being able to cast anything.

Q: What happens if you enchant a Magus of the Moon with Imprisoned in the Moon?

A: Apart from the game collapsing from irony overload?

This comes down to a matter of layers and dependency. Both Magus of the Moon and Imprisoned in the Moon have abilities that modify the types of objects, so those parts of the abilities are applied in the same layer, but since applying Imprisoned in the Moon's effect would alter the set of objects Magus of the Moon would apply to (by making the Magus itself a land), you apply that one first. So the Magus becomes a Mountain, and as part of doing so loses all abilities printed on it.

We then proceed through the remaining layers, applying the remainder of Imprisoned in the Moon's effects as we go. Magus becomes colorless, and then gains the ability to tap for colorless mana and loses all other abilities...including the ability to tap for red mana that being a Mountain normally grants it.

The end result? Magus of the Moon is now a Magus in the Moon—a colorless Mountain land that can tap for colorless but not red, with no other abilities. All other nonbasic lands are Mountains.

Q: I control Privileged Position and my opponent has Magus of the Abyss. Am I protected from that, or do my creatures still die because it's making me choose?

A: You're protected. Magus of the Abyss may ask you to choose the targets for its ability, but your opponent is still the one who controls the Magus when it triggers, so they're still the one who controls the ability. As such, your creatures aren't legal targets for the ability.

That's it from me this week, but class will be back in session again next week, with Charlotte at the helm. There may or may not be a pop quiz—I make no promises.

Until next time, study hard, and if anyone knows a decent supplier of large numbers of fuzzy bunnies, drop us a line—we've been running through them faster than we anticipated. The cuter, the better.

- 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.

There's no card named Phantom Demon. I presume you meant Illusory Demon? That's a rather different name and it took me some time to find it.
#1 • Date: 2017-09-04 • Time: 06:56:18 •
I did indeed. Whoops.
#2 • Date: 2017-09-05 • Time: 01:08:33 •
I'm confused as to why, in the Magus of the Moon, Imprisoned in the Moon, question all non-basics are Mountains after all is said and done. Once Magus of the Moon no longer has any abilities, I would expect non-basics to revert to their original state.
#3 • Date: 2017-09-08 • Time: 08:30:46 •
Because we apply things by going through the layers, and once it's applied, it will continue to apply, even if something in a later layer would remove that ability. In this case, in Layer 4, we apply the Magus' ability, since it changes the subtype of the cards. Then, later on, in layer 6, we remove abilities, but removing the Magus' ability won't do anything to the Magus' ability, since it's already been applied.

613.5. If an effect should be applied in different layers and/or sublayers, the parts of the effect each apply in their appropriate ones. If an effect starts to apply in one layer and/or sublayer, it will continue to be applied to the same set of objects in each other applicable layer and/or sublayer, even if the ability generating the effect is removed during this process.
#4 • Date: 2017-09-08 • Time: 12:49:13 •

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