Published on 10/02/2017

The Fix Is In

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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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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've clocked the T.Rex at 35 miles an hour.
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Ixalan was officially released this weekend, and the internet has been in a frenzy ever since. Though really, that's fairly normal for the internet. But it does mean that since people have started getting their hands on more cards, they're starting to ask more questions, so it's time for us here at the Cranial Insertion offices to kick things into high gear.

As always, if you have a question of your own, send it to us via email at or via Twitter @CranialTweet to get an answer and maybe find your question in a future article.

So let's get right on to digging into that bulging mailbox, but first, we need to get the obvious out of the way...



Q: ...But what happens to all the old creatures that looked like Dinosaurs even if they weren't actually Dinosaurs? It's sad the dinos in my Dinosaur theme deck aren't actually Dinosaurs now that 'Dinosaur' is finally a thing.

A: Never fear, an Oracle Update is here! Now that Dinosaur is a legit creature type, Wizards has decided that all those old Lizards and Beasts that were secretly dinos all along should be actual Dinosaurs, and have issued a bunch of errata accordingly.

All told, thirteen creatures from across Magic history have been retroactively declared Dinosaurs, and we've been told that more may be coming with the Rivals of Ixalan in the new year. For the full list, check the update itself—it's the very first change listed.

Q: I block two attackers with my Spike-Tailed Ceratops. Do I have to tell my opponent which one of them I want to kill before damage is dealt?

A: You do indeed. You may already know that when an attacking creature is blocked by multiple creatures, the attacking player needs to declare a 'Combat Damage Assignment Order' for those creatures—basically telling the defending player which blockers they most want to kill, and which ones will only die if there's enough damage left over after killing the more important ones.

Well, the same thing goes in the other direction if a single blocker blocks multiple attackers. As soon as blockers are declared, you need to choose a damage assignment order for your Ceratops. When the time comes to assign and deal combat damage, you need to assign lethal damage to the first creature in that order before you're able to assign any of the remaining damage to the second.

Q: If I control Admiral Beckett Brass and attack with enough creatures that my opponent has to let three creatures through, but they block so that the ones that get through aren't Pirates. If I drop an Arcane Adaptation after combat, does the Admiral get to steal something?

A: No, she does not. While your opponent has been dealt damage by three creatures this turn, and those creatures are currently Pirates, what matters is what creature type those creatures had at the time they dealt damage, and at that time, your creatures weren't Pirates. Therefore, your opponent has not been dealt damage by any Pirates this turn, and Admiral Beckett Brass will not be able to steal anything.

You will always remember this as the day
almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!
Q: I stole my opponent's creature with Entrancing Melody, then she used Hostage Taker to exile it. If Hostage Taker dies, who gets the creature back?

A: The player who started the game with that creature in their deck (most likely your opponent) is the one who gets it back, since they're the card's owner.

When something is exiled from the battlefield temporarily with an effect like Hostage Taker that exiles it 'until' some other event, when it's returned to the battlefield it does so under its owner's control.

Q: If I exile an artifact with Hostage Taker and cast it, it's no longer in exile. That means if the Hostage Taker dies, my opponent won't get it back, right?

A: That's correct. An object that changes zones becomes a new object with no memory of its previous existence, so once you cast the artifact out from under Hostage Taker, the effect that exiled it loses track of where it went, because the object it put into exile doesn't seem to exist any more.

Q: If I have a Hostage Taker that's exiling an artifact creature, and my opponent doesn't have any other artifacts, what happens if she casts Unlicensed Disintegration on the Hostage Taker? Do I take damage?

A: You do indeed. Your opponent's creature is returned to the battlefield immediately after Hostage Taker leaves the battlefield, before continuing to resolve Unlicensed Disintegration, and indeed before anything else can happen at all. This means that a few moments later when the Disintegration checks whether your opponent controls an artifact, it will see the newly-returned artifact creature and smack you in the face accordingly.

Q: I attack with Captain Lannery Storm, and after blockers I sacrifice a bunch of treasure for mana to boost her power. Can I spend that mana to cast a sorcery?

A: No, you cannot. Your mana pool empties at the end of every individual step of the turn, so the mana you got from those treasure tokens won't be around for long, and definitely not long enough for the game to get around to your main phase where you can cast a sorcery.

If you want to use the mana from those treasure tokens, you're going to need to use it in the declare blockers step where you generated it.

Q: I control Desperate Castaways and my opponent controls a Ghostly Prison. My only artifact is a Treasure token, but I'd have to sacrifice it to produce enough mana to pay for the Prison. Can I attack with the Castaways?

A: Indeed you can. During the process of declaring attackers, the game determines the legality of your chosen set of attackers before moving on to the rest of the process. This means that the game checks whether or not the Castaways can attack first, and since you control a Treasure token, which is an artifact, they can.

Only after performing that check does the game attempt to figure out the cost you need to pay in order to attack the way you want to. It sees you need to pay , so it gives you the chance to use mana abilities, and here's where you sacrifice your Treasure Token. You no longer control any artifacts, but that doesn't matter because the game's already finished checking for your attack's legality, and won't check again.

Q: Does Ashes of the Abhorrent stop my opponent from using cards with dredge, like Golgari Thug?

A: No, it does not. Ashes of the Abhorrent stops players from casting or activating abilities of cards in their graveyards, but it doesn't affect anything else.

Since dredge is a replacement ability, not an activated ability, and doesn't involve casting the card it's on, it remains completely unhindered by Ashes of the Abhorrent, so it's probably better to stick with Rest in Peace if you want to stop a dredge player.

Q: I Rile my Dire Fleet Ravager, then attack with both it and Goring Ceratops. My opponent Bright Reprisals the Ceratops and blocks the Ravager with two 2/2s, using two Sheltering Lights to save his creatures...but how much damage does he take?

A: Your opponent will end up taking a maximum of 4 damage from your double-striking, trampling, deathtouching Dire Fleet Ravager.

Any time combat damage from an attacker with trample is assigned, you need to assign lethal damage to each of your opponent's blocking creatures before the rest can be assigned to your opponent. Since the Ravager has deathtouch, a single point of damage is considered lethal—even if the blocking creature is indestructible—so in the first strike combat damage step you can assign 1 damage to each of them and the remaining 2 to your opponent. Then, in the second combat damage step, you do the same thing again, assigning 1 damage to each blocker and the remaining 2 to your opponent.

But wait, I hear you ask—why do you need to assign more damage to the blockers if they were already assigned lethal in the first combat damage step? Because the amount of damage that was considered lethal at that time was only considered so because it was being assigned by a creature with deathtouch. Once the second combat damage step rolls around, all the game sees is that each of those blockers has 1 damage marked on them, not how that damage got there or why it was dealt—the fact that it was from a deathtoucher no longer matters. Since 1 damage isn't lethal for a 2/2, so you once again need to assign lethal damage to the creatures before moving on to deal more to the opponent.

Q: What happens if I don't have all of the creature types Grim Captain's Call wants to return? Can I not cast it?

A: Don't worry, you can cast Grim Captain's Call no matter what's in your graveyard, and it when it resolves, it will do as much as possible. If you don't have any creature cards of one of the types it asks you to return, just skip over that type and move on to the next one.

Q: I control Arguel's Blood Fast, but have 7 life at the end of my opponent's turn. Can I still transform the Fast by using it to pay 2 life before the upkeep trigger?

A: I'm afraid not. Your upkeep step is the first step of the turn in which you're able to cast spells and activate abilities, so it's not possible to activate abilities before your upkeep begins, and Arguel's Blood Fast will only trigger in the first place if you already have 5 or less life at the beginning of your upkeep.

If you have more than 5 life, the Fast won't trigger in the first place, and bringing your life total down to won't cause it to trigger, because your upkeep has already begun, so the time when it wants to trigger has already passed.

They're moving in herds.
They do move in herds.
Q: If Belligerent Brontodon Pounces on my opponent's creature, does it deal 4 or 6?

A: Only 4. Belligerent Brontodon's ability changes how creatures assign damage during combat, but 'combat' is only the normal process of declaring attackers, declaring blockers, and so on that happens every turn. Spells that cause creatures to fight aren't causing them to deal combat damage, and aren't affected by the Brontodon's ability.

Q: My opponent Incites my Bonded Horncrest, but it can't attack alone. What happens?

A: If you don't control any other creatures that can attack, nothing much—since you can't possibly attack with the Horncrest, you don't need to do anything. However, if you do control at least one other creature that can attack, your Horncrest is going to drag something onto the battlefield kicking and screaming whether you like it or not.

An effect that forces a creature to attack if able means that if there's a legal set of attackers that can be declared that includes that creature, you're forced to choose that one over not attacking with the creature. (If there's more than one such effect, you're forced to satisfy as many as possible.) Since attacking with both the Horncrest and your other creature is a legal option, you're required to choose that option over not attacking at all.

Q: I've already taken 18 damage from my opponent's commander, Gishath, Sun's Avatar. One of my other opponents Clones Gishath and hits me with it. Am I dead to commander damage?

A: No, you aren't. 'Commander-ness' is not a copiable characteristic—it's an inherent quality of that particular piece of cardboard. The only creature that can contribute to the amount of damage a given commander has dealt to you is that commander itself..

Q: Does Autumn's Veil prevent Temporal Extortion from countering itself if my opponent pays life?

A: It does not. Temporal Extortion works by having a triggered ability go off when you cast it. It's that ability that gives your opponents the option to pay life, and it's that ability that counters the spell if they choose to do so. Unfortunately for you, while Autumn's Veil prevents black spells from countering your spells, it does nothing to stop abilities from countering them, regardless of whether or not those abilities are from a black source.

Q: I control Metallic Mimic and an Arcane Adaptation, both naming 'Merfolk'. My creatures all enter with +1/+1 counters, right?

A: They do indeed! Before Ixalan this wouldn't have been the case due to the technical details of how replacement effects that apply to entering the battlefield work, but those have been tweaked a bit so this interaction works the way people would expect it to. Your creatures will all be Merfolk on the battlefield, so the Mimic's ability applies and gives them each a +1/+1 counter.

Q: I control Juggernaut, and attack. After combat, I cast Relentless Assault My Juggernaut untaps along with my other attackers, but my opponent will definitely kill it if I attack with it again and I don't want to lose it. Can I not attack with it? It has already attacked this turn, so it should be satisfied, right?

A: No, it's not—due to errata issued to it as of the release of Ixalan, your Juggernaut's thirst for the blood of your opponent is unquenchable. Now instead of requiring that you attack with it "each turn" if able, now it requires that you attack with it "each combat" if able, so it has to attack during every single combat, even if it's already attacked this turn.

Other creatures with this sort of "must attack" requirements have also been issued similar errata—be sure to check Gatherer for the up-to-date Oracle wordings of cards if you ever have a question about them.

Q: I heard my local players talking about a rules change for Path to Exile. What's up with that?

A: There's been an alteration to the player communication rules that are used during official tournament play. Prior to this, a player interesting in edging could cast Path to Exile against an opponent who wasn't familiar with what it did and not mention the search, hoping that the opponent would move on, not knowing that the spell asks them to make a decision. Those players would then take their opponents' lack of action as an implied decision not to search.

This was always shady, and definitely wasn't very friendly for players, so the rules were changed. Now, if one of your cards offers your opponent the ability to perform some sort of optional action where nothing happens if they decline, the way that cards like Path to Exile and Ghost Quarter do, you need to make sure that they understand that they need to make that choice—you can't simply assume that they're choosing not to take the action because they haven't done anything.

In practice, this is very simple—most players are already in the habit of doing it, mentioning the search either by explicitly telling their opponents to search or in passing while resolving the spell. If you're resolving a Path to Exile and your opponent doesn't search, nor indicates in some way that they're declining to search, just ask if they're going to search. It's that simple!

Note that this rule doesn't apply to situations where your opponent's actions make it clear that a particular option has been chosen—if your opponent puts their spell into the graveyard after you play Mana Leak, for example, that's a pretty clear indication that they're not paying.

Q: Speaking about rules've mentioned a few already here. Have there been any others to watch for this set?

A: Indeed there have been! In fact, as a result, a number of answers in recent Cranial Insertions and a few well-known interactions for Competitive play have been changed, such as...

Q: Anointed Procession with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

A: Back in May we covered this interaction in significant detail. Now, that answer no longer applies, and if you control both an Anointed Procession and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, you're always going to get two Zombies any time an opponent's creature is killed, no matter why or what's killing them.

This is thanks to a new rule that says that if a replacement ability is looking for an 'effect' doing something, it also applies to actions that have been modified by a replacement effect, even if the underlying action isn't being performed by an effect itself.

In addition to the Procession interaction, this also clears up a long-standing weirdness where Doubling Season wouldn't double counters on cards like Tendo Ice Bridge or Gemstone Mine when you played them normally from your hand, but would if you put them onto the battlefield with an effect like Primeval Titan or Walking Atlas. Now, Doubling Season means you always get double counters on those lands!

Q: Overwhelming Splendor or Humility.

A: In July we covered how Overwhelming Splendor (and, by extension, the similar Humility) interacts with effects that cause creatures to enter the battlefield as copies of some other creature, or to enter with counters on them. The change mentioned earlier that allows Metallic Mimic to play nicely with Arcane Adaptation also affects how this interaction works.

Now, when a creature is entering the battlefield, you take effects like the Spendor and Humility into account when determining which abilities to apply as they're entering the battlefield. Since Clone's copying ability, for example, will be wiped out by the Humility/Splendor, you won't be able to copy anything as it enters the battlefield. Similarly, creatures like Walking Ballista won't enter the battlefield with any counters, since the Humility/Splendor means they won't have those abilities on the battlefield.

Q: Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon.

A: This one we haven't covered in a bit longer, but it's a fairly well-known interaction for competitive players in Modern, where Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon see a decent amount of play as sideboard cards.

As with the Splendor and Humility interaction, before this change, abilities that affected how a land entered the battlefield were unaffected by either Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon, so players would still have to pay life for Temple Garden if they didn't want it to enter the battlefield tapped, for example, even though it would just be a Mountain on the battlefield. That's no longer the case.

Now, if you're playing a nonbasic while one of these cards is on the battlefield, any abilities those cards might normally have that affect how they enter the battlefield don't apply, so Temple Garden's going to be untapped without paying any life at all, Tendo Ice Bridge won't have any counters, and Cavern of Souls won't have you choose a creature type, among many other similar interactions.

And with that, it's time to draw this article to a close. We'll be back next week with more pirates, dinosaurs, vampires, and more! And maybe we'll even get in a few things that aren't any of the above—monkey-goblins, maybe? Wait, no, those are pirates, too. We'll think of something, I'm sure.

See you then!

- 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.

With new rule, do March of the Machines let sunburst cards like Pentad Prism enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters instead of charge counters?
#1 • Date: 2017-10-01 • Time: 23:20:41 •
Yes. Due to the rules change, March of the Machines' continuous effect is taken into account to determine how the Prism enters the battlefield. The Prism is entering the battlefield as a creature, and so it will enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters.
#2 • Date: 2017-10-02 • Time: 08:46:09 •
No. The prism does enter into the battlefield as a 2/2 creature, but Sunburst still gives it charge counters, not +1/+1 counters like the Skyreach Manta. It's the other flavor of Sunburst.
#3 • Date: 2017-10-04 • Time: 13:27:50 •
Nevermind the below, it was a misunderstanding on my side. First passthrough is situation as if no replacement effects have been applied, and you go from there.

<irrelevant chatter below>
On Clone + Humility: If copying a animated non-creature, Humility would never apply, similar to a Clever Impersonator copying an artifact. 614.12 does say to take 616.1 into account but does not give an order of application. In the case of copying effects, Humility\'s effect depends on the copy choice, so that would seem to me to be the order to be used. So a Clone should still be able to choose a creature to become a copy of.

And a small side-note: in play, the copy-replacement ability is removed by the copy ability itself, so it is not there to be removed by Humility. And if you read Humility as removing the copy-replacement-effect, then the copy-replacement-effect itself would also remove it and Clone could never copy anything.

Last edited on 2017-10-05 07:13:33 by StefFocus
#4 • Date: 2017-10-05 • Time: 05:15:23 •
Quote (micahcf):
It's the other flavor of Sunburst.

There's only one Sunburst mechanic. Part of the full rules text for Sunburst says:
Quote (CR 702.43a):
If this object is entering the battlefield from the stack as a creature, it enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it. If this object is entering the battlefield from the stack and isn't entering the battlefield as a creature, it enters the battlefield with a charge counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it.

Pentad Prism's reminder text doesn't force charge counters to be placed, it's just there to remind us that under normal circumstances we'll be adding charge counters. March of the Machines isn't exactly normal.
#5 • Date: 2017-10-05 • Time: 11:37:24 •

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