Published on 09/18/2017

Pumpkin-Spiced Rules Questions

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Perfect weather for a refreshing
walk in the park
Greetings, and welcome back to another episode of Cranial Insertion! The leaves are starting to turn pretty colors here in Ohio, night falls a bit sooner every day, and pumpkin spice is basically everywhere. This can only mean that Fall is coming, and soon Ixalan will be released! While we wait for that excitement, let's dispel the autumnal gloom with a warm beverage — pumpkin spice optional — and take a look at the rules questions that have come in this week.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please feel free to send us an email to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will answer directly, and your question might appear in a future article to educate readers like yourself.

Note that we had some technical difficulties with our email address earlier this month. If you tried to send in a question and didn't get a response, feel free to send it again if you still need an answer.

And now, let's get to the questions!

Q: If I play Ribbons out of my graveyard and it gets countered, does it go back to the graveyard or does it get exiled?

A: I'm afraid it gets exiled. Aftermath creates a replacement effect that sends the card to the exile zone if it tries to leave the stack for any zone that's not the exile zone. It doesn't matter whether the spell resolves or is countered. It wants to go to the graveyard, which is not the exile zone, so the aftermath effect sends it to the exile zone.

Q: If my opponent uses Magma Spray on my 2/2, can I save it with Without Weakness?

A: Certainly! Magma Spray's "exile it instead" effect only kicks in if your creature would die this turn, which it won't because it has indestructible. Your creature is now a 2/2 with 2 damage marked on it, and the game wants to destroy it but can't, so the creature just shrugs and stays on the battlefield.

Q: I control an Arcbound Ravager with one +1/+1 counter on it. Can I sacrifice it to itself to give it another counter and move two counters onto another artifact creature?

A: Yes and no. You can sacrifice it to itself, but the sacrifice happens first because it's the cost to activate the ability, so the second counter will never be put onto the Ravager. The Modular triggered ability only sees the one counter that was on it, so you only put one counter onto the other artifact creature.

Q: I control Grafdigger's Cage and Matter Reshaper. My opponent kills the Matter Reshaper and the top of my library shows a Fulminator Mage. What happens?

A: Matter Reshaper's ability wants to give you the option to put Fulminator Mage onto the battlefield, but that's impossible because Grafdigger's Cage forbids the card from entering the battlefield, so your only choice is to decline. That makes the "otherwise" clause kick in, so you put Fulminator Mage into your hand.

Q: Let's say Rick, Morty, and Summer are in a Commander game, and Rick and Morty each control a Notion Thief. If Rick plays Windfall, how does that resolve?

A: Let's take this one player at a time. First, Rick discards his hand, and then draws a bunch of cards. Morty's Notion Thief wants to steal those draws, but then Rick's Notion Thief steals them back and that's where the cards end up because each Notion Thief can only apply once to a card draw, so Rick ends up drawing his cards as if the Notion Thieves weren't there. The same thing happens to Morty's draws, except the other way around.

Summer's draws are a bit more interesting. For each of her draws, she gets to decide in which order the Notion Thief effects apply to her draws, so she can choose how many draws go to Rick and how many go to Morty. Unfortunately for her, she doesn't get any of those draws herself and ends up with an empty hand.

Q: If I enchant my opponent with Curse of Predation and then attack his planeswalker, does my creature get a +1/+1 counter?

A: Nope. You attack either the player or his planeswalker, and the game can tell the difference. Paradoxically enough, your opponent is the defending player and your opponent gets to declare blockers, but that doesn't matter to the Curse. You didn't attack your opponent, so its ability doesn't trigger.

Chances are, you're playing with fire
I thought by now you'd learn
You're gonna get your fingers burned
Q: If I exile the top card of my library with something like Chandra, Torch of Defiance but my library is empty, do I lose the game?

A: No, at least not right away. The only time an empty library is a problem is when you're asked to draw from it. Any other manipulation of the top card of the library, including being asked to put it into your hand, is simply an impossible action that you ignore. However, chances are you'll be asked to draw from your library pretty soon, so you'd better do something about your situation quickly.

Q: I have a question about phasing—

A: (waves hand) You don't have a question about phasing.

Q: Sorry, Jedi mind tricks don't work on me, and I still have a question about phasing. I've heard that stuff phases in during the untap step, before stuff gets untapped. How does that work when something like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite phases in and lowers creatures' toughnesses to 0 or less. When do those creatures die, and when would something like Blood Artist triggers get handled?

A: Creatures dying due to their toughness being 0 or less is one of the state-based actions, which get checked just before a player would get priority. Nobody gets priority in the untap step, so no state-based actions are performed in the untap step. The first time a player would get priority is in the upkeep step, so that's when the creatures with toughness 0 or less actually die. Any triggered abilities such as Blood Artist's ability get put on the stack at that time, along with any abilities such as "at the beginning of your upkeep."

Q: If I use Clutch of Currents to awaken a Faerie Conclave and then I animate the Faerie Conclave, what is its power and toughness?

A: The awaken effect from Clutch of Currents turns Faerie Conclave into a 0/0 Elemental creature and puts three +1/+1 counters on it. The Conclave's own effect then turns it into a 2/1 Elemental Faerie creature, but it still has those three +1/+1 counters on it, so it's a 5/4.

Q: Can I trigger the heroic ability of Mindreaver by targeting it with Trait Doctoring even though there are no color words or basic land types in its text?

A: Sure, that's no problem. Trait Doctoring simply targets a permanent without any specific criteria on whether the text-changing effects can do anything useful to it. Trait Doctoring won't create a noticeable effect, but Mindreaver became the target of it, so its heroic ability triggers.

Q: Can a permanent with an enter-the-battlefield ability, for example Venser, Shaper Savant, target itself?

A: Generally yes, unless the target clause has a restriction such as "another" in it. The permanent has to arrive on the battlefield in order for its ability to trigger, so by the time you put the ability on the stack and choose a target for it, the permanent is on the battlefield and it is available as a possible target.

Q: Does Iroas, God of Victory make Outland Colossus unblockable?

A: Yup. Both Iroas and the Colossus itself create blocking restrictions. One demands that Colossus can't be blocked by more than one creature, and one demands that Colossus can't be blocked except by two or more creatures. A declaration of blockers has to fulfill both restrictions in order to be legal, which is impossible to do, so the only legal declaration of blockers is not to block the Colossus.

Q: If I attack with Lorthos, the Tidemaker, do I still get to choose eight targets for its triggered ability even if I can't (or don't want to) pay ? My Horobi, Death's Wail really wants the answer to be yes.

A: In as much as a card can feel emotions, Horobi, Death's Wail will be happy to hear that the answer is yes. Choosing targets for a triggered ability happens when that ability is on the stack, whereas choices such as whether to pay mana for Lorthos's ability happen much later, when the ability resolves. The game asks you to choose up to eight permanents to put the ability on the stack, and it doesn't know or care whether you'll pay the mana during resolution.

Its favorite meal is a Protean Shake
Q: When Protean Hulk dies, at what point do I have to exile it from the graveyard to stop its ability?

A: There is no point at which you can do this. As soon as Protean Hulk hits the graveyard, its ability triggers and gets put on the stack. Once the ability is on the stack, it doesn't matter what happens to its source, and the ability will eventually resolve. The only thing that can stop the ability from resolving is to remove it from the stack, for example by countering it or ending the turn.

Q: My opponent plays Distortion Strike to make his creature unblockable. If I cast Snakeform on it, can I block it?

A: Nope. Distortion Strike didn't give your opponent an ability that can be removed. It created a continuous effect that sets up a blocking restriction, and that effect sticks around for the rest of the turn. Since it's not an ability of the creature, Snakeform can't do anything about it. At least the creature is only a 2/1 now, so it won't hurt as much when it deals combat damage to you.

Q: If I use Sen Triplets to cast Phage the Untouchable from my opponent's hand, do I lose the game?

A: I'm afraid so. You cast Phage, so you control the spell, which means that Phage enters the battlefield under your control and you also control its enter-the-battlefield ability. The ability is very specific in demanding that you cast Phage from your hand, which you didn't do, so you lose the game.

Q: Can I kill a Managorger Hydra that has one +1/+1 counter on it with Sudden Shock?

A: Nope. Even though Sudden Shock has split second, it still triggers Managorger Hydra's ability, which can still go on the stack above Sudden Shock because split second doesn't stop triggered abilities from going on the stack. The ability resolves first and gives the Hydra another counter so it survives the damage from Sudden Shock.

Q: If I cast Conspiracy and name artifact as the creature type, can I then use Tinker to pull creatures out of my deck?

A: That's some innovative outside-the-box thinking, but unfortunately it's also outside-the-rules thinking. Conspiracy asks you to choose a creature type, and the rules have a set list of acceptable creature types. Artifact is a card type, not a creature type, so you can't choose it for Conspiracy.

Q: If I'm playing in a multiplayer Commander game and I defeat the monarch, do I become monarch?

A: Maybe, depending on how exactly you defeated that player. If you dealt lethal combat damage to them, you become monarch because dealing combat damage to the monarch automatically makes you the monarch. If you used anything other than combat damage to defeat the monarch, the answer becomes "only if you did it on your turn", since if the monarch leaves the game, the active player becomes the new monarch.

Q: Do I need to have a legal deck size after removing ante cards like Jeweled Bird from my deck?

A: Well, in sanctioned tournaments ante cards are banned, so you couldn't have those cards in your deck in the first place and the question becomes moot. In a casual game it's up to your play group to decide on house rules, but if you're asking my opinion, the deck size should be legal after removing those cards. Otherwise you can very easily circumvent the minimum deck size rule which can lead to degenerate and unfun games.

And that's all the time we have for now. Thanks for reading, and please come back next week when Nathan takes us on a tour of Ixalan!

- 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.

In the Chandra question, is Chandra able to deal 2 damage to the opponent, if there's no card to be exiled?
#1 • Date: 2017-09-18 • Time: 06:34:04 •
Quote (Burned):
In the Chandra question, is Chandra able to deal 2 damage to the opponent, if there's no card to be exiled?

Yup! You can't cast the card because there is no card, so the "if you don't" part kicks in.
#2 • Date: 2017-09-18 • Time: 11:42:43 •
About the monarch question: would dealing lethal combat damage actually make sure you become the monarch?

The relevant trigger is "Whenever a creature deals combat damage to the monarch, its controller becomes the monarch.", but that trigger is controlled by the former monarch, and will cease to exist.

Of course, usually it would be your turn anyway, but crazy damage redirection thing happens.
#3 • Date: 2017-09-22 • Time: 10:47:11 •

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