Published on 11/30/2009

Gobble Gobble

or, Hungry Eli Is Hungry

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Om nom nom.
With our annual celebration of the slaughter of turkeys, subjugation of Indians, and idolatry of handegg over and done, it's time to burst into December! And you all know what's in December, right? Lots of Magic events, assorted holidays (where you receive Magic cards as gifts), and lots of parties as we all gear up for Worldwake in the new year.

Oh, and final exams, outrageous credit card bills, subzero cold (or solar highs for those down south), and madmen in red suits breaking into your house to leave a certain deposit.

And monkeys. It's always the season for monkeys.

So let's roll on to this week's bouquet of questions, straight from the mailbox! Got your own questions? Send 'em in and we'll get you an answer, and maybe even publish your question.

Q: From last week's article[/url], if [card]Troll Ascetic is blocking a creature with double strike, won't it need to regenerate twice to survive rather than once?

A: Only once. After first-strike damage is dealt, the Troll runs off crying like a Troll Baby (the ones with the freaky hair, remember those?) and leaves combat as a result of regenerating. Normal combat damage won't be dealt at all unless the attacking creature also has trample.

Q: If I have a Tatterkite on the battlefield and cast Everlasting Torment, does that make the Tatterkite immune to damage?

A: It sure does! Wither means that rather than making damage on creatures, damage results in -1/-1 counters. Tatterkite can't have counters on it, so the damage results in... nothing. Even though it is dealt as normal, being dealt has no result.

Q: Can I Twincast my opponent's Feast of Blood if I control no Vampires?

A: You, too, can learn the joy of feasting upon innocents! Feast of Blood has a restriction on whether you can cast it, but you're not casting it: you're making a copy right on the stack via Twincast. As you start down your road to rampant vampirism, just remember not to sparkle.

Q: How do I tell what is part of the cost of an activated ability and what is part of the effect?

A: Become a proctologist and check out that colon. For those not grammar-savvy, the colon is this :. It's the vital component of smiley faces everywhere! :) And sad faces. :( And even "meh" faces. :/

It's also a vital component – and defining feature – of activated abilities. Everything before the colon is a cost, and everything after the colon is part of the effect.

Om nom nom.
Q: My opponent attempted to cast a Windborne Charge, targeting two of his dudes. I responded with Inferno Trap, killing one of the intended targets. My understanding was that, having lost a target, the Charge would be countered by game rules. However, the judge ruled that the Charge would resolve "to the best of its ability," and thus still pump the second target. Can you explain this?

A: The judge is correct. CR 608.2b teaches us that a spell is only countered upon resolution if all of its targets are illegal, not just some. Since at least one target is still legal, the spell will resolve, affecting only the legal target.

Q: I'm at 16 life, my opponent is at 20. He casts Maga, Traitor to Mortals, spending 20 mana, so X=17. Maga resolves and its trigger goes on the stack. In response to its trigger, I sacrifice Vampire Hexmage to remove all counters from it. As a state-based action, it's put into the graveyard. Since the counters were removed, when the ability resolves, does it use last known information and do 0 damage to me, or the full 17?

A: Since Maga is no longer on the battlefield and the game wants to know how many counters were on it, you'll use LKI. Abilities that count something and do something based on that count always do that counting upon resolution unless very clearly specified otherwise. And immediately before Maga fell over dead, he had zero +1/+1 counters (I want to see a coroner put that on the "cause of death" line) so no damage is dealt.

Q: Is it somehow possible for me to cast the last card from the hand, a sorcery, using Tarnished Citadel for mana while the opponent controls Pain Magnification?

A: Sure, that's easy. Most players tap lands for mana and then cast a spell, but you can also announce the spell, then choose modes, options, and targets, and only then activate mana abilities to pay for that spell. So just do that here, and you won't have anything left to discard.

Q: Let's say Protean Hydra has four counters on it and is taking four damage as a result of blocking, but I control Vigor. Is there any way to make both effects apply?

A: Nope. Both effects want to replace all of the damage with something else. Once one applies, there is no more damage to replace, so the other effect won't be applicable anymore. You do get to choose which one applies, though, so you'll get an 8/8 Hydra rather than a dead/dead Hydra.

Q: I have a Noble Hierarch with the feather counter from Aven Mimeomancer and Humility comes down. How big is it now?

A: Both the Mimeomancer's trigger's effect and Humility want to set the Heirarch's power and toughness, so timestamps win out. It's 1/1 for now, but will be 3/1 again once Humility's gone.

Q: If I cast Soulblast and have Wort, the Raidmother and some tokens on the battlefield (let's assume their combined power is 10) and then I conspire that Blast of Souls - will I do 10 damage or 20?

A: Each Soulblast would deal 10 damage, for a total of 20. CR 706.9 reminds us that if a copy of a spell wants to know information about objects used (not mana used, mind you) to pay the costs, the copy will use that same information.

Note that this is only true if you don't sacrifice Wort. If you do, as the spell becomes cast, Wort is gone and the spell no longer has conspire, thus there is no conspire ability left to trigger and you won't get a copy at all. And saccing everyone is mandatory. Oops.

(Long-time readers may remember Niv-Mizzet performing a similar experiment with a Djinn Illuminatus for the luls.)

Q: If I Lightning Bolt my opponent's Birds of Paradise while he has Eldrazi Monument, then Shatter the monument later on in the same turn, does the Bird die?

A: Damage accumulates on a creature, even if that creature can't be destroyed, and doesn't wear off until the cleanup step. So the Birds is going to be an indestructible 1/2 with 3 damage on it, and as soon as the Birds become destructible, they're going to turn into some delicious popcorn chicken.

Q: How about if I use Royal Assassin's ability on a tapped creature of his with Eldrazi Monument in play, then Shatter the monument?

A: Unlike the previous question, a one-shot destruction does not hang around, it just happens. Royal Assassin's ability fails to do anything, and the creature later being destructible is irrelevant.

Q: What happens when I have Eldrazi Monument on the battlefield and my opponent casts Planar Cleansing? Does the Monument just get destroyed or does everything go poof because it would all be destroyed at the same time?

A: As a one-shot effect, everything but lands are destroyed. The Monument is destroyed, enchantments are destroyed, his creatures are destroyed, your creatures... are not destroyed because they cannot be. This all happens at once, so your creatures will survive while your monument explodes.

Om nom nom. (And it's a kitty!)
Q: My teammate controls an Illusionary Servant and I cast Tajuru Archer. Can't I just choose not to use the ability so my teammate's Servant survives?

A: Abilities that say that you "may" do something still go on the stack and still require a target. If your teammate's creature was some random flier, you could choose not to deal damage, but you can't choose not to choose a target, and his Servant is going to explode before you can choose not to deal damage to it.

Q: Can I cast Day of Judgment, wait to see if my opponent counters it, and then sacrifice my creatures for stuff if he doesn't?

A: Nope. If you let him do stuff, you've passed priority; if he passes priority, too, then Day of Judgment resolves; you don't get priority back until after that. If he does respond, you'll get priority again before Day of Judgment resolves, but if you want to be sure to sacrifice your creatures before they explode, you'll have to do so before you know whether or not he'll let the Day resolve.

Q: If I put a Goblin Ruinblaster onto the battlefield via Warren Instigator, can I kick it?

A: Kicker is an additional cost to cast a spell. Warren Instigator merely puts the Goblin onto the battlefield. Since you didn't cast it, you can't kick it.

Q: When does M10 rotate out of Standard?

A: It's still a long way off, but a lot of "M10 only lasts so much longer" complaints have come up, so it's time to remind everyone. M10 does not rotate when M11 comes in. It will rotate when "Lights" block removes Alara block from Standard in the fall of 2010.

Q: What happens to the booster pack a player has in a draft if that player gets DQed like at Worlds? Does he just take the pack he's holding with him?

A: The seven players keep on drafting, and a tournament official (usually a judge) makes random picks for the DQed player, sitting in his seat and passing the packs as normal. Starting with the next pack, only seven packs will be opened and only seven players draft; the judge doesn't open another pack to continue this.

Q: Yay, I passed my Rules Advisor test! What does that mean for what I can do?

A: Not a lot, really, but it's an excellent milestone and definitive sign of rules knowledge. Being an RA gets you access to the MTGRules mailing list. It does not give you any special right in a tournament to try to shout down a judge or browbeat your opponent into doing what you say is correct without calling a judge. It does not give you the power to judge tournaments, as anyone can do that, RA or not; it does, however, show a judge that you want to mentor with or a tournament organizer that you do know what you're talking about regarding rules and they're more likely to accept you as a judge. It's also not a requirement for becoming a judge, but it's a very important step – if you can't pass the RA test, the judge test will break you.

Want to become a Rules Advisor? Go to, log in, then click Exams, Create, and make a RA test. It's open book, but DO NOT share the content with anyone else, anywhere.

Q: If my opponent asks me for information about a card he thinks is in my deck, what can I and can't I tell him?

A: You can tell him that the card is or isn't in there, and you can tell him the card's Oracle text... pretty much anything that is true, you can tell him.

You can lie about whether the card is in your deck – its contents are private information, and there is no onus to be honest about that.

You cannot lie about the card's information, though. Your only options are to not answer, answer honestly, or tell him to call a judge to get him that info.

Q: I can't win the game, but I can make an unbounded number of chump blockers to keep myself alive. Is it stalling if I just sit there blocking until one of us decks?

A: As long as you play at a reasonable pace for as much as you can play, it's not stalling. The game state is advancing, so just keep it advancing quickly. Don't draw a card then sit there thinking for a minute about what to do; if you can't do anything new, just keep making your blockers and moving the game along.

Q: I heard some players at Worlds got disqualified for seeing their opponents' cards while they were drafting. Can you be disqualified for knowing (from seeing a previous game / hearing talk between rounds) that your opponent is siding in another color in a limited event and yourself siding in something to play against that color?

A: The DQs were for peeking at draft picks. Knowing what is in your opponent's deck or sideboard is fine, but knowing what other players are drafting is not. Even asking around about another player's deck between rounds is legal, just don't try to peek or start asking once you sit down for the match.

And we'll stop there for this week, as my December Parties are starting a little early. I'll be back in the brief interim between Chanukah and Christmas to toss around a little more blasphemy and sugar cookies, and then that's it for me for the year. Scary thought.

Until next time, may your temperatures be mild!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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