Published on 02/12/2018

My Zombie Valentine

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Give a little bit of heart and soul
Give a little bit of love to grow
Greetings and welcome to another issue of Cranial Insertion! It's Valentine's Day this week, and to mark the occasion, Moko decided to write a love poem for our readers. Here it is:

Fireballs are red
Merfolk are blue
I am a Zombie
I love brains

Pretty good, isn't it? I'm not sure he entirely got the point of what a love poem is, but he worked really hard on it and I couldn't muster the courage to criticize his work. He is a zombie, after all. Anyway, I hope that you will find, or have found, someone special who looks at you the way Moko looks at a fresh brain.

Speaking of love, we love to answer your Magic rules questions, so please send your questions to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will respond to you, and your question might appear in a future article to educate readers like yourself.

And now, let's get into this week's selection of questions. We'll start off with a correction of a question from last week.

Q: I could've sworn that last week's article said that Mystical Teachings can fetch Crashing Tide if I control a Merfolk, but now it says it can't. Which one is it?

A: The correct answer is that Mystical Teachings can't fetch Crashing Tide. The initially published version of last week's article incorrectly stated that Crashing Tide's ability works in the library, which it doesn't. Because of this, a Crashing Tide in the library doesn't have flash, so Mystical Teachings can't find it.

Q: I want to cast a large Release the Gremlins for X=4. I control six lands and four Treasure tokens as my only artifacts, and my opponent doesn't control any artifacts. Can I put Release the Gremlins on the stack targeting all four Treasure tokens, then tap my six lands and sacrifice three of the Treasure tokens for mana to pay for the spell, and still end up with four Gremlins when the spell resolves?

A: Yes, your elaborate plan works just as planned. To cast Release the Gremlins, you first choose X, then you choose targets, calculate the cost, activate mana abilities, and then you pay the cost. The "activate mana abilities" part is where you sacrifice your Treasure tokens for mana. When Release the Gremlins resolves, one of its targets is still legal, so it resolves and does as much as it can. It destroys your last Treasure, and then it makes four Gremlin tokens because that number is based on the X you chose, not based on the number of artifacts that were destroyed.

Q: I control Mayael's Aria, Mossbridge Troll, and some other creatures with total power of ten. Can I respond to Mayael's Aria's upkeep ability by activating the Troll's ability to make it 25/25 and win the game when Mayael's Aria's ability resolves?

A: Sure, that works. Mayael's Aria's ability uses the stack, so you can respond to it. It checks the conditions in its ability only when it resolves, and by then your Troll is 25/25, so you win the game.

Q: If my opponent enchants my Kalonian Tusker with Song of the Dryads, does it still contribute two to my devotion to green?

A: It certainly does. Song of the Dryads turns Kalonian Tusker into a colorless land, but it doesn't actually change Kalonian Tusker's mana cost. Kalonian Tusker's mana cost is still , so it still adds two to your devotion to green.

Q: If March of the Machines is on the battlefield and I cast Pentad Prism for . Does it enter the battlefield with two charge counters or with two +1/+1 counters?

A: It enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters. When Pentad Prism resolves, just as it's about to enter the battlefield, the game checks how its sunburst effect should be applied. To do this, it checks the characteristics Pentad Prism would have on the battlefield, taking into account the effect from March of the Machines. Therefore, the game applies sunburst as it applies to creatures, so it gives Pentad Prism two +1/+1 counters. The bad news is that this Pentad Prism won't give you any mana, but the good news is that you're getting a 4/4 creature for two mana.

Q: I control Rite of Passage and Warmonger. If my opponent pays to activate Warmonger three times, does Warmonger die or does it become a 6/6 with 3 damage on it?

A: That depends on exactly how your opponent is activating the Warmonger's ability in relation to Rite of Passage's triggered ability. When the first activation resolves, Rite of Passage's ability triggers and goes on the stack. Your opponent can either let it resolve or respond to it. If she lets the triggers resolve before activating Warmonger's ability again, Warmonger will end up as a 6/6 with 3 damage on it. If she responds to the triggers with new activations, Warmonger will be dealt 3 damage and die before any of the triggers resolve.

Q: If I exile my opponent's commander with Bishop of Binding's ability and my opponent puts their commander into the command zone instead, does the Bishop's attack trigger still give a bonus?

A: Nope. The Bishop's attack trigger looks at "the exiled card", which means the card in the exile zone that was put there with the first ability. If there is no such card, either because it left the exile zone or because it never went there in the first place, X is undefined so it's considered to be 0.

Kiss me beneath the milky twilight
Q: I control Curator of Mysteries and Library of Leng, and an effect makes me discard a card. Do I get to scry before I decide whether to put the card on top of my library?

A: No. Curator of Mysteries has a triggered ability that triggers when you discard or cycle a card. It goes on the stack, then players get to respond to it, and eventually it'll resolve if it doesn't get countered. Library of Leng on the other hand creates a replacement effect that lets you change on the fly where the discarded card ends up, and you have to choose how that replacement effect is applied as you're discarding the card. By the time you have to make that decision, Curator of Mysteries' ability hasn't even triggered, let alone resolved.

Q: If I control Sacred Ground and my opponent Ghost Quarters my Atzal, Cave of Eternity, which side do I get back?

A: You'll get a Journey to Eternity back. When an effect puts a double-sided card onto the battlefield without specifying a particular side, the card is put onto the battlefield front face up. Since Sacred Ground doesn't specify a side, that's what happens here.

Q: I control Krark's Other Thumb and Ol' Buzzbark is entering the battlefield. How do I resolve Ol' Buzzbark's enter-the-battlefield ability?

A: Well, let's see if we can help you out of this dicey situation. Ol' Buzzbark tells you to roll X six-sided dice. For each of those dice, Krark's Other Thumb tells you to roll two of them instead and ignore one of the results. This means that you roll X pairs of dice, and then you ignore one die from each pair. Since the physical location of the dice is relevant to Ol' Buzzbark, ignoring a die means to physically remove it, and for each pair you get to decide based on the results and physical location which one to ignore. Oh, and you have to be able to track which dice are paired up with each other, possibly by using X different colors of dice. Good luck!

Q: I use Luminate Primordial to exile my opponent's Drogskol Reaver. Does she get to draw a card from Drogskol Reaver's ability?

A: No. Luminate Primordial's ability first exiles Drogskol Reaver, and then your opponent gains life. Since Drogskol Reaver is no longer on the battlefield at the time your opponent gains life, its ability doesn't trigger.

Q: My opponent controls Zacama, Primal Calamity and I cast Clone to copy it. Do I get to untap my lands?

A: You sure do. Clone enters the battlefield looking like Zacama, including all of its abilities. Its enter-the-battlefield ability checks whether you cast the thing that is now Zacama, which you did. The fact that it didn't look like Zacama at the time you cast it doesn't matter.

Q: My opponent still controls Zacama, Primal Calamity and I want to take it with Control Magic. Can my opponent stop me by using Zacama's ability on my Control Magic?

A: No, they can't do that. While Control Magic is on the stack, it's an enchantment spell, not an enchantment, so they can't target it with Zacama's ability then. As soon as Control Magic resolves, it becomes an enchantment on the battlefield, so now they could target it with Zacama's ability, but now they no longer control Zacama, so they can't activate the ability.

Q: Let's say I control a Kiln Fiend and I cast Tainted Strike on it and then use Soul's Fire on it to deal damage to my opponent. How much damage does that do, and is it normal damage or infect damage?

A: Let's start by saying it'll be infect damage. Soul's Fire causes Kiln Fiend to deal damage rather than dealing the damage itself, and Kiln Fiend has infect by then, so the damage is from a source with infect. To see how much damage is dealt, we'll do some math. Kiln Fiend starts out as a 1/2 and it gets +6/+0 because you're triggering its ability twice. It also gets +1/+0 from Tainted Strike, for a grand total of 8/2, so you're giving your opponent 8 poison counters with this move.

When a bouquet of flowers isn't enough
Q: Can I stop my opponent's Stuffy Doll by giving it hexproof with Alpha Authority?

A: No, that doesn't work well at all. For one, Stuffy Doll's ability that makes it deal damage to itself doesn't target anything, let alone Stuffy Doll, so whether Stuffy Doll can be targeted has no bearing on whether that ability can be activated. Also, Stuffy Doll having hexproof means that it can't be targeted by spells or abilities that are controlled by its controller's opponent, i.e. you. Your opponent can still target it with any spells and abilities they want, but you've made it that much harder for yourself to get rid of the Doll somehow.

Q: If I cast Approach of the Second Sun with rebound thanks to Cast Through Time, do I win the game on the rebound?

A: Not at all, for two reasons. First off, Approach of the Second Sun won't get cast with rebound at all. Rebound only exiles the card if it would go to the graveyard as it resolves, but Approach of the Second Sun puts itself into your library, so rebound doesn't get to exile it. Secondly, even if it did get exiled and cast again on your next upkeep, the "you win" effect of Approach of the Second Sun only kicks in if you cast it from your hand.

Q: I control Panharmonicon and cast Iona, Shield of Emeria. Do I get to choose two colors for Iona's ability?

A: No. Panharmonicon's ability only applies to triggered abilities, which in general use the words "when," "whenever," or "at." Iona's ability is a replacement effect that changes how she enters the battlefield.

Q: Can I stop storm with Disallow?

A: Certainly. Storm is a triggered ability that uses the stack, so you can respond to it, and Disallow can counter it, which stops it from making copies of Grapeshot. The original Grapeshot will still resolve unless you counter that somehow, too, but being dealt just 1 damage is much better than being dealt lots of damage.

Q: Does protection from black help against Tetzimoc, Primal Death's ability?

A: That depends on which ability you mean. Once your creature has a prey counter on it, giving it protection from black won't help against Tetzimoc's enter-the-battlefield ability, since that ability doesn't target or deal damage or do anything else that protection cares about. The first ability, on the other hand, is a targeted ability from a black source, so having protection from black at the moment your opponent wants to put a prey counter on your creature will protect it from getting that prey counter in the first place.

Q: If I suspend Ancestral Vision and then cast Thief of Blood, will that remove the time counters from Ancestral Vision?

A: Nice try, but that doesn't work. Thief of Blood only removes counters from permanents. While your suspended Ancestral Vision might be sharing some table space with your permanents, it's not actually a permanent. It's sitting in the exile zone, and permanents are on the battlefield. Since it's not on the battlefield, it's safe from Thief of Blood's hunger.

And that's all the time we have for today. Before I go, I'd like to tell you about an upcoming tournament that's near and dear to me. As you might know, I organize an annual charity tournament to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This year's Cast a Spell on MS is coming up on March 24th, so if you're planning to be in Toledo, Ohio that weekend, it would be great if you could come by and play Magic for a good cause. You can find details on the tournament's website at

Thanks for reading, and please come back next week for more Magic rules questions and answers!

- 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.

Sacred Ground specificly says it returns the land so wouldnt it return it on its land side?
#1 • Date: 2018-02-13 • Time: 11:41:30 •
Quote (Jableski):
Sacred Ground specificly says it returns the land so wouldnt it return it on its land side?

You're looking at the printed text on the card, which is outdated. The card's Oracle text determines what it does: "Whenever a spell or ability an opponent controls causes a land to be put into your graveyard from the battlefield, return that card to the battlefield."
#2 • Date: 2018-02-13 • Time: 11:50:57 •

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