Published on 10/23/2017

Don't Forget the Merfolk!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

The original green Merfolk.

Hi everyone, and welcome back to Cranial Insertion! I know that with the release of Ixalan, Dinosaurs and Pirates have been receiving a lot of attention from the Magic community. And rightfully so - they're interesting, and not something we've seen a lot of in Magic. But this week, I feel like we need to step back and look at some of the other tribes in Ixalan. For instance, there's Merfolk in Ixalan. And not just blue Merfolk like we remember, but *green* Merfolk! That's super-weird! So let's all take a step back and remember some of our green Merfolk from years past.

And remember: if you have a rules question, you can ask us here at Cranial Insertion. You might even see your question used in a future article. If you have a short question, you can send us a tweet at @CranialTweet. And if you have a longer question, feel free to e-mail us at . And now, onto the questions!

Q: My opponent is attacking me with a Raptor Hatchling. I block with my 0/3 Ixalli's Diviner. Does my opponent get a dinosaur token?

A: No they do not. Dealing 0 damage is the same as not dealing any damage at all. Since the Diviner's power is 0, it's not going to deal any damage to your opponent's Hatchling, so the Hatchling's ability will not trigger and your opponent will not get a dinosaur token.

Q: I cast Kitesail Freebooter. In response to its enter the battlefield trigger, my opponent kills the Freebooter with Shock. What happens when the ability resolves?

A: When the ability resolves, your opponent will reveal their hand, and you'll choose a noncreature nonland card from their hand. And then....nothing else happens. Since the Freebooter is no longer on the battlefield (thanks to Shock), the card is not exiled from their hand for any amount of time. The card you choose stays in their hand, and then the ability finishes resolving. You effectively just got to look at their hand and not much else.

Q: I have a Winding Constrictor in play, along with a Deeproot Warrior. I cast River Heralds' Boon, choosing Deeproot Warrior as both targets. Does it end up with three counters or four counters?

A: Only three counters. While it may seem like it's getting counters at two different times since it's being targeted twice, the Boon only uses the word "put" once, meaning that both counters are added at the same time, even if they're both being put on the same creature. Since they're both being added to the Warrior at the same time, the Constrictor's ability will only apply once and will only add one more counter to it, for a total of three +1/+1 counters put on the Warrior, not four.

Q: I cast Hostage Taker, stealing my opponent's Ancient Brontodon. Could I flash the Brontodon in as a surprise blocker on my opponent's turn?

A: No you can't. Hostage Taker just lets you cast the exiled creature or artifact from exile. It doesn't change when you cast the spell. Unless you can find a way to give the Brontodon flash, you can only cast it during one of your main phases when the stack is empty, not during your opponent's turn.

Q: I cast the last card in my hand - Tishana, Voice of Thunder. Will I draw cards in time to have Tishana survive?

A: No you won't. After Tishana resolves and enters the battlefield, before Tishana's enter the battlefield trigger can even go on the stack, the game sees Tishana is a 0/0 creature and Tishana dies before you draw the cards. Even worse for you, since Tishana is not on the battlefield when the trigger resolves, she won't count for her own ability. So if you have no other cards in hand and no creatures in play... maybe you shouldn't cast Tishana.

Q: If I attack my opponent with two Fleet Swallowers will I mill their entire library?

A: No you won't. Each trigger resolves one at a time, not both at the same time. The number of cards in their library is counted only when the ability goes to resolve. For instance, if they started out with forty cards in their library, the first trigger would put the top twenty cards of their library into their graveyard, leaving twenty cards in their library. When the second trigger resolves, since they now only have twenty cards in their library, they'll put the top ten cards of their library into their graveyard, leaving them with ten cards in their library, not zero.

Q: Are the cards exiled by Boneyard Parley exiled face up or face down?

A: They're exiled face up. Cards are exiled face up by default, unless the effect that's exiling them says to exile them face down. That means you'll know exactly which creatures are in which pile after your opponent has separated them, and if you're looking for one creature in particular, you'll know which pile it ended up in.

An old Merfolk that can be cast for GGG.

Q: My opponent targeted my Hallowed Fountain with their Field of Ruin. I know my opponent is running Archive Trap, so I'd rather not search my library. Can I choose not to search so my opponent can't cast Archive Trap at a discount?

A: Nope, you have to search. Some search effects (like searching with Path to Exile) use the word "may", meaning you don't have to search if you don't want to. But Field of Ruin does not use the word "may": you're going to be searching your library no matter what, even if you don't want to find a basic land. That means that you're forced to search your library, even if it's not in your best interests, and that means your opponent is going to be able to cast the Trap at a discount.

Q: Does Choke prevent my Snow-Covered Islands from untapping? What about something like Steam Vents?

A: Yes and yes. Choke will prevent any land with the "Island" subtype from untapping. It doesn't care what the name of the card is. Both Snow-Covered Island and Steam Vents have the subtype "Island", so Choke will prevent them from untapping during their controller's untap step.

Q: I have no cards in my library, but I have a Sages of the Anima in play. What happens during my draw step?

A: Instead of drawing, you'll reveal the top three cards of your library, and put any creatures into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library. Since you don't have any cards in your library, you won't reveal anything, and nothing will go to your hand (and nothing will go on the bottom of your library). But even though you didn't reveal anything, the Sage's ability still replaced the draw, so you won't lose the game due to trying to draw from an empty library.

Q: Can I cast Vampiric Tutor if I have a Platinum Emperion in play?

A: Yes you can! With the Emperion in play, you can't pay a cost that involves paying life. But with Vampiric Tutor, you're losing two life as part of the spell resolving, not as an additional cost of casting the Tutor. Because of the Emperion, your life total won't change, but you'll still be able to search for a card and put it on top of your library.

Q: I'm attacking my opponent with a Vampire Cutthroat. Can my opponent block it with a White Knight?

A: Nope, they can't block with the Knight. While protection does a variety of things, it doesn't let the creature block a creature it can't normally block (hence why you don't see a White Knight jumping into the air to block an attacking Blighted Bat).

Because of skulk, the Cutthroat can only be blocked by a creature with a power of 1 or less. Since the White Knight is a 2/2, its power is not low enough, and can't block the Cutthroat. Protection doesn't negate skulk's effect and allow the Knight to block something it can't normally block.

Q: I'm at 1 life, and I have a Resolute Archangel in my graveyard. Can I cast Reanimate targeting it and survive, or will I die before I can gain the life?

A: You are dead. The Archangel has a triggered ability that will set your life total to your starting life total when the trigger resolves. However, we can't put that trigger on the stack until we're completely done resolving Reanimate, and part of Reanimate resolving is you losing seven life. After Reanimate is done resolving, before we can even put the Archangel's trigger on the stack, state-based actions are checked, and the game sees you're at -6 life, and you lose the game.

Q: I have a Heartstone in play. Does that reduce the cost to cycle a creature card like Greater Sandwurm to ?

A: Nope, that doesn't work. While cycling is an activated ability, Heartstone only affects creatures on the battlefield. If it affects creature cards in other zones, then it would say something along the lines of "Activated abilities of creatures on the battlefield and creature cards not on the battlefield...". Since it just uses the word "creature", that defaults to "a creature on the battlefield", so it won't reduce the cost to activate the cycling ability of a creature card in your hand.

Q: Does Nightsky Mimic have changeling?

A: No it does not. You might have seen a few cards from Lorwyn block and saw that all of the cards with changeling have "Shapeshifter" on their typeline. But that doesn't mean that every Shapeshifter has changeling. There are currently no creature types that have any abilities associated with them, and I don't expect that to change. Unless the card actually says that it has changeling, being a Shapeshifter does not also give it changeling.

Ok, maybe green Merfolk aren't uncommon.
Just easily forgotten.

Q: I have four Relentless Rats and an Ogre Slumlord in play. My opponent casts Wrath of God. Do I end up with any Rat tokens?

A: You end up with four tokens. The Slumlord's ability triggers when another nontoken creature dies. The Slumlord will see the four Relentess Rats dying at the same time as the Slumlord itself dying, and it will trigger for them. Since the Slumlord sees them dying, you'll end up with four Rats tokens after all of the triggers are done resolving.

Q: My opponent has a Tsabo's Web on the battlefield. During my untap step, I go to untap my Desert of the Indomitable, but my opponent says that I can't untap it because of the Web. Are they right?

A: Yep, your opponent is correct. While you might think that the Desert only has one activated ability, it actually has two: cycling is an activated ability. While cycling only works if the card with cycling is in your hand, it still has that ability in other zones, like the battlefield. Since the Desert has an activated ability that is not a mana ability, the Web will prevent the Desert from untapping during your untap step, even though it's not possible to activate that ability while it's on the battlefield.

Q: At the start of the game, I revealed two Chancellor of the Annex from my hand. On my opponent's first turn, they played a Plains and then cast Savannah Lions. They can't pay for the first trigger, so their Lions are countered, so does that mean the second trigger will apply to their second spell?

A: Nope, it won't. Both Chancellors will trigger when your opponent casts their first spell of the game. Even if they fail to pay for the first trigger, that won't do anything to the second trigger. It just resolves, and won't really do anything if they don't pay since the spell has already been countered. And since it only triggers off of the first spell they cast, it won't trigger again for their second (or third, or fourth, etc) spell.

Q: Last week, you answered a question involving Cavern of Souls with no creature type chosen that results in the mana not being used for anything. But couldn't I use that mana to cast a creature spell with no creature type, like Nameless Race?

A: Nope, you can't even use that mana to cast Nameless Race. While Nameless Race has no creature type, the Soul's mana can only be used to cast a creature spell of the chosen type, and that chosen type is undefined. "Undefined" is not the same as "no creature type", so you can't use the mana from the typeless Cavern to cast any spell or activate any ability, even if that creature spell has no creature type like Nameless Race.

Q: How many poison counters does it take to lose the game in commander?

A: Still just ten. Just because a game of Commander has a higher starting life total doesn't mean you get more room for poison counters. Since there no rule that says otherwise, it still just takes ten poison counters to lose the game in commander. The only format where that number is different is Two-Headed Giant, where the team needs to have fifteen poison counters to lose the game.

That's all I have for this week. We'll see you all next week!


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