Published on 10/30/2017

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

He's in a better place now.
"Better" as in "more convenient for us", but still.
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion, where you can see we've been busy decorating for Halloween! Don't worry about the moaning or the banging on the floorboards—we've trapped Moko down there until November since there were a few...uh, incidents last year with some of the trick-or-treaters. It's possibly a bit cruel, but it's not like the confined space really hurts him and the sounds really help sell the whole spooky atmosphere in a way a prerecorded sound effect track just couldn't manage.

Moko did manage to get into the candy before we trapped him, though, so we're going to have to give out something else or the health inspector will start issuing fines again. With food out of the picture, it looks like we'll be giving out answers to rules questions this year. Not that we don't normally do that anyway, but if you'd like a spook-tacular Halloween treat of your own, send us your Magic rules questions via , or on Twitter @CranialTweet. You'll get an answer and possibly see your question appear in a future article.

Here's a few fresh from the bowl—just don't spoil your dinner!

Q: How does Defensive Formation work?

A: Normally, when you're being attacked, the attacking player decides how to assign each of her creatures' combat damage among the creatures blocking it, assigning lethal damage (or more) to each blocker in the damage assignment order in turn. Defensive Formation throws that all out the window. Instead, you get to decide how each creature attacking you assigns its combat damage among its blockers, and you can assign that damage any way you like, regardless of blocker order.

Let's give an example to demonstrate how it works and say your opponent is attacking you with Carnage Tyrant (because deploying the giant, implacable death lizard is usually the correct maneuver) and you block with Ranging Raptors, Ravenous Daggertooth, and Looming Altisaur.

Your opponent chooses a damage assignment order and decides which of your creatures she most wants to kill, and she has all the options—if she doesn't want to trigger your creatures' enrage abilities, she can assign all the damage to the Altisaur to avoid that. Or perhaps she'd like to trade her Tyrant for maximum value, killing both your enrage creatures and letting only the Altisaur survive—that's an option too.

But if you control Defensive Formation, you're the one who gets to decide where the damage goes, and you don't need to worry about damage assignment order. What's that, you say? You'd like to have her Tyrant deal 1 damage to each of your enrage creatures and the rest to the Altisaur so all of your creatures survive and you get both enrage triggers, so her Tyrant dies for less than nothing? Why certainly!

Q: What counts as a creature type? Is "Goblin Rogue" a completely different type than "Goblin Pirate", are they related types, or what?

A: A creature type is a single-word descriptor (generally) found on the type line of a creature card that describe what kind of creature that card depicts. A card can have any number of creature types, but types are always only one word*—while "Goblin Rogue" and "Goblin Pirate" aren't creature types, "Goblin", "Rogue", and "Pirate" all are. So Rummaging Goblin and Rigging Runner don't have the exact same set of creature types, but they do both share the Goblin creature type.

*Admittedly, sometimes it's only technically one word because Wizards added a hyphen in there. See Self-Assembler for an example.

Q: If I cast Insult and attack with multiple creatures, do all of them deal double damage or just one since the card says "a" source?

A: All of them. Insult sets up an effect that lingers until the cleanup step that says that any time a source (any source) you control would deal damage, it deals double that damage instead. Your first creature is a source you control, and it's dealing damage, so it deals double. Your second creature is also a source you control dealing damage, so it also deals double, as does your third creature, and so on and so forth—Insult applies to and doubles the damage from all of them.

Q: If I have a Dimir Keyrune caged with Mairsil, the Pretender, what happens if I use his copy of the Keyrune's animation ability?

A: Your Mairsil becomes a 2/2 and can't be blocked this turn. It's no longer red—just blue and black—but it gains the artifact card type and the Horror creature type and keeps all of its existing types and abilities. Overall, it looks like:
Mairsil, the Pretender -
Legendary Artifact Creature — Human Wizard Horror
(Blue and Black)
When Mairsil, the Pretender enters the battlefield, you may exile an artifact or creature card from your hand or graveyard and put a cage counter on it.
Mairsil, the Pretender has all activated abilities of all cards you own in exile with cage counters on them. You may activate each of those abilities only once each turn.
{Insert all the activated abilities the previous ability grants it here.}

It gets a little repetitive sometimes, but
Moko's pretty good at keeping things fresh.
Q: My opponent casts Reason. After it resolves, can I use Crook of Condemnation to exile it before they can cast it again as Believe?

A: No, you cannot—at least not if they do so right away. Since it's your opponent's turn, they have the first opportunity to cast spells and activate abilities after any given spell or ability resolves. That means that you can't use Crook of Condemnation right away after Reason finishes resolving—you have to wait until after your opponent has decided what they want to do next.

So if what your opponent wants to do next is "Cast Believe", then by the time you have a chance to respond they've already finished casting it and it's on the stack, out of their graveyard and safe from the Crook.

If, on the other hand, they don't cast Believe right away, and decide to cast some other spell, activate some other ability, or do nothing instead, then you'll have a chance to activate your Crook and exile Reason // Believe from their graveyard.

Q: ...How is that different from using Torrential Gearhulk on something? Can't I use Crook to stop that?

A: You can use Crook to stop your opponent from casting a spell off of Gearhulk, but that's because your opponent can't cast that card right away—they need to wait until Gearhulk's trigger resolves and allows them to cast it. If you respond to the Gearhulk's ability by exiling its target, then when the ability goes to resolve the card won't be around any more for them to cast.

Q: If I cast Blessed Reincarnation and the next creature in my opponents deck is a creature, do they still shuffle?

A: They do indeed. If a player's instructed to shuffle a set of cards (such as "the rest") into their library, they still shuffle their library even if that set doesn't happen to have any cards in it.

Q: In what order do the triggers resolve when I block a creature with enrage with another creature with enrage?

A: Assuming no first or double strike is involved, both creatures will deal their combat damage to each other simultaneously, and both enrage abilities will trigger at the same time. Since different players control those triggers, the active player's trigger (meaning your opponent's—the active player is the one whose turn it is, and they're attacking you so it must be their turn) will be put on the stack first, and the nonactive player's trigger (yours) will be put onto the stack on top of it. This means your trigger will resolve first.

Q: Does Training Grounds make Reassembling Skeleton's ability cost less?

A: It does not. Training Grounds makes the activated abilities of "creatures you control" cost less, but a Reassembling Skeleton card in your graveyard is not a "creature you control". It's merely a creature card in your graveyard.

Q: I have a Renegade Krasis with two +1/+1 counters on it. If I cast a 2/2, can I use Diminish to make my Krasis a 1/1 and get the evolve trigger?

A: No, you can't, because even after using Diminish, your Renegade Krasis will be a 3/3. Diminish changes your Krasis's base power and toughness, but other effects—such as +1/+1 counters or things like Giant Growth—are applied over top of that. 1/1 + (2x +1/+1) = 3/3, so your Krasis has higher power and toughness than the 2/2 you just cast, so no evolve trigger for you.

Q: I really need to get rid of one of my opponent's creatures, so I play Cannibalize to exile it and a choose a 1/1 to get the counters. I'd rather not give the counters, of course, so what would happen if I ping the 1/1 for 1 damage in response? Would Cannibalize still resolve?

A: It would indeed, and you'd exile the other creature. A spell is only countered on resolution if all of its targets are illegal, and Cannibalize still has one legal target, so it still resolves and does as much as possible.

That means when it resolves, you exile whichever of the targeted creatures you choose...but there's not really a lot of choice about which one to exile because there's only one left. So that one creature gets exiled and there's nothing for you to put counters on, so that part doesn't happen.

Q: My opponent casts Skulduggery targeting my Siren Stormtamer for the -1/-1, and I sacrifice it in response to at least stop the +1/+1. Does that work, or is it not targeting a creature I control anymore?

A: Unless your opponent's trying to give your creature +1/+1 for some bizarre reason—in which case you probably wouldn't want to stop it—Skulduggery won't be countered.

If something's checking to see what a spell (or ability) targets, and one of that spell's targets has left the zone it's expected to be in, you ignore that target when determining what the spell targets. Since Siren Stormtamer is gone, that means Skulduggery no longer targets a creature you control, and is therefore not a legal target for the Stormtamer's ability. Thus, the ability will be have no legal targets and will be countered on resolution itself, failing to counter Skulduggery.

Q: How do Primitive Etchings and Rowen work if I have both on the battlefield?

A: Exactly the same as if the other weren't around—you don't have to choose between the two enchantments in any way. You reveal the first card you draw each turn, and if it happens to be a creature or a basic land card, the appropriate enchantment will trigger and you'll draw an additional card.

Don't worry, we made sure he didn't
have the leverage to pull this off.
Q: If I use all three modes of Collective Brutality and my opponent has a Leovold, Emissary of Trest out, will they draw three cards or one?

A: Neither! They will in fact draw two cards, because two different things—they and their creature—are becoming the target of Collective Brutality.

The fact that Collective Brutality has them as two different targets doesn't matter—they still only "become the target" once, because it's all one spell.

Q: Why doesn't Kopala, Warden of Waves tax your opponent's spells for each Merfolk they target? Why only once?

A: Kopala, Warden of Waves asks your opponent spells a single question whenever they cast a spell: "Does this spell target a Merfolk (my controller) controls?" If so, it forces your opponent to pay the tax. If not, it doesn't. Kopala doesn't say anything about the tax increasing with an increased number of Merfolk targets, so it doesn't. It's really that simple.

Q: Drover of the Mighty is a 1/1 if I don't control a Dinosaur, and a 3/3 if I do. When does this kick in? If I cast Raging Swordtooth, will my Drover die?

A: It will survive. Drover of the Mighty's ability is a static ability that's always in effect as long as its condition is met—there's never a time when you control a Dinosaur but the Drover isn't yet getting its boost, so it's a 3/3—and therefore big enough to survive the 1 damage—as soon as Raging Swordtooth is on the battlefield, even before the trigger has resolved and dealt damage to things.

Q: If you cast Vraska's Contempt on Rampaging Ferocidon does the life gain happen?

A: It does indeed. When a spell or ability resolves, you follow its instructions in the order they're written on the card. This means that exiling the Ferocidon happens before the spell causes you to gain life. And since the Ferocidon is already gone, there's no longer anything stopping you from gaining life.

Q: If I have a Ripjaw Raptor with a Pariah attached to it and I activate Pyrohemia once, do I draw one card or two?

A: Just one. Pyrohemia deals all of its damage at the exact same time regardless of where it's going, so Ripjaw's enrage ability sees the 2 damage all as one instance of damage being dealt, and will therefore trigger only once.

Compare Pyrohemia to something like Lash Out or Draconic Roar, where the damage to creature and player are dealt at separate times—if these cards were used instead, the Raptor would trigger twice. (And die, since 6 damage is greater than its toughness, but details! details!)

Q: If Collected Company resolves and my opponent gets a Magus of the Moon from it, can I tap my lands in response, or does the Magus immediately enter the battlefield and my nonbasics are now mountains?

A: It's the second one. There's no opportunity for players to do things in between the chosen creature cards being revealed and them entering the battlefield. Once Collected Company begins resolving, nobody has a chance to do anything further—including tapping lands—until it's completely finished resolving, and by that time, there's a Magus on the board and your lands are Mountains.

If you suspect your opponent might get a Magus off of their Company, you could always tap your lands for mana in response to the Company, before it resolves...but then there's no guarantee that your opponent will put one out, and you won't get a refund if they don't.

Q: Consulting notes mid-match. Is that allowed? I've seen tournament players do it while sideboarding in major tournaments so I assume that's allowed but I've never seen it done mid-match.

A: And there's a reason for that: it's not allowed. Players are permitted to consult a (brief!) set of outside notes in between games of a match, but the only notes they're allowed to look at during the games themselves are ones that they made during that particular match.

Q: Is there a penalty for submitting a decklist on nonstandard paper? Say...colored, or an unusual size? Construction paper? Napkins?

A: There's no hard and fast requirements for what paper decklists should look like or be written on—it's not even required that they be on paper. However, deliberately testing a judge's patience by submitting a weird decklist is not recommended, since if they believe you're being disruptive they can always issue you an penalty for Unsporting Conduct—Minor and force you to rewrite it properly if you want to participate in the tournament.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Judge.

Q: If my opponent casts Thoughtseize and sees my hand, am I obliged to answer questions honestly later about the cards that he saw during the resolution of Thoughtseize?

A: You are under no such obligation. Your opponent may consider you a jerk if you don't, but as far as the game's concerned, the contents of your hand are hidden information, and they're only entitled to information about those cards while they're revealed during Thoughtseize's resolution. Afterwards, they're not entitled to further access to that information—or indeed any information about the contents of your hand at all except how many cards are in it—so feel free to lie like a rug.

And that's it for the month of October! Come see us next week when Charlotte will be back to treat you all to more Magic rules questions!

Until then, I hope this year at least some of the kids we get play Magic...

- 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.

While outright lying about the cards in your hand is a mild jerk move, answering any question about your hand with a prolonged "maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe" is just fine.
#1 • Date: 2017-10-29 • Time: 22:19:44 •
My favourite is saying they are cards that I cant possibly be playing. Hidden information is the best
#2 • Date: 2017-10-30 • Time: 04:56:57 •

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