Published on 12/21/2009

Have a Zombie Monkey Christmas

or, Up on the Rooftop with Brains and Guts

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Welcome back to Cranial Insertion! As you probably realize, a very important holiday is coming up this week, one filled with gift-giving, love, and cake. That's right – Eli's birthday! At least this holiday is important if you've started worshipping Moko, our beloved mail-sorting, Vintage-loving zombie monkey overlord.

But first, my gift to you, given to me by you: another article! We couldn't do what we do without all your support, and we're very grateful. Keep sending your questions to , and we'll keep answering them for you and posting them for everyone else.

So read on, learn more, and enjoy!

Q: I attach Sigil of Distinction with ten counters to my Etherium Sculptor, making it a 10/11 metallic monster. Then I activate Tezzeret the Seeker's ultimate ability, turning all my artifacts into 5/5 creatures. How big is my lowly Sculptor now?

A: It's 5/5. The Sigil, suddenly gaining self-awareness, throws off the yoke of the callous oppressor and breaks free to live a life of its own unattached to any creatures, since any object that's a creature can't be attached to any other object. It ceases to inflate the Sculptor, and won't pump itself, either.

Q: Quest for the Gravelord has two counters. If I sac Vampire Hexmage targeting it, will the Quest be left with a counter or not?

A: Probably not, but that's because your opponent will probably have a Zombie. The first step of activating the Hexmage's ability is to put the ability on the stack, and then the Quest trigger goes on the stack on top of that and will resolve first, putting it at three counters and ready to fire.
If the Quest instead only has one counter, that trigger will resolve, the Quest will go to two counters, and then the activated ability will resolve and put it back down to zero.

Q: I have been out of Magic for a few years and recently started playing again. I seem remember being able sacrifice a blocking creature and still not taking damage, but people tell me I am mistaken. Have rule changes stopped this, or am I misremembering this?

A: A little of both. The rules have changed so that if you block and sacrifice the blocker, the blocker won't be able to deal any combat damage. However, unless the blocked creature has trample, it won't be dealing any damage to you either. It remains blocked, and won't deal any combat damage to the vanished blocker.

Q: So if I play Channel, pay ten life, do something stupidly amazing with my ten mana, can I then sac Children of Korlis to gain back that life?

A: Sure. Anything that reduces your life total, including paying life, is loss of life, and the kiddies will fill you back up.

Q: What happens when we get back to the main game after I've Death Wished a creature out of the main game while in a subgame? What if I wished for Shahrazad itself?

A: Well, anything that triggered on that creature leaving the battlefield will be put on the stack. The creature left the main game entirely to go join you in the subgame; it doesn't just make a little trip in card form leaving something behind, it's gone.

If you yoink out Shahrazad, the spell will continue to resolve normally; once a spell starts to resolve, it resolves to completion even if the spell leaves the stack somehow.

Q: Boon Reflection is a replacement effect as I understand, so if I have two on the battlefield and attack with a Baneslayer Angel I only gain 10 life? Or do the replacement effects replace each other resulting in me gaining 20 life?

A: Replacement effects do replace the result of another replacement effect. The original event is [gain 5 life], and once you replace it with one Boon Reflection, it becomes [gain 10 life] and another Boon Reflection wants to apply. Applying that changes the event go [gain 20 life] and then you perform the event.

Q: If a Mindlock Orb is in play, can I announce Nissa Revane's search ability just to put a counter on her?

A: Sure! The cost of the ability is to add a counter; whether or not you can actually perform the effects of the resolving ability is irrelevant to activating it.

Q: Can I respond to a Birds of Paradise activated ability and play a Silence or is that an illegal play?

A: That is, in fact, an illegal play. Mana abilities (activated abilities that produce mana, and triggered abilities that produce mana and trigger off another mana ability) don't use the stack at all; they can't be responded to in any way. You'll have to Silence your opponent earlier in the turn.

Q: So Shapeshifter dies and Cemetery Puca copies it. No one ever picked a number for the Puca, so what is it's power and toughness?

A: When an effect asks "hey, what's that chosen value?" and the answer is "buggered if I know, no one made a choice for that" the game uses 0 instead. You'll have a 0/7 Shapeshifter-Puca until your next upkeep.

Q: One of my players recently asked me if he could play a Zoetic Cavern morphed from his graveyard if Crucible of Worlds was on the battlefield. I believe that this is not allowed, but can you clarify this?

A: The first step of casting a creature via morph is to turn it face down and look at it as a 2/2 colorless, featureless creature card. From that point, you evaluate whether or not it's legal to cast it. Since Crucible of Worlds says nothing about casting creatures from your graveyard, you can't cast the face-down Caverns, so you rewind the illegal play and, perhaps, play it normally.

Q: Can Hindering Light stop a kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir?

A: Creature spells don't actually target. Ever. (Well, maybe back in the dim, dim ages of the beginning of the game...) Gatekeeper has a triggered ability that happens to target, but the Gatekeeper as a spell does not, so Hindering Light can't target it.

Q: My opponent attacks with a Plated Geopede equipped with Adventuring Gear and I Into the Roil the Gear and block with a 4/4. Does the Geopede die?

A: Nope, it'll survive. Even though the Equipment is gone, the triggered ability that pumps the creature has already resolved and done its work. Regardless of which creature the Gear equips, or if it even remains on the battlefield, the creature that was equipped as the trigger resolved still gets the +2/+2. 5/5 creatures tend to devour and consume 4/4 creatures, so your opponent will have a quite stuffed Geopede.

Q: What happens when Goblin Guide attacks a planeswalker?

A: When a planeswalker is attacked, the game still needs a "defending player" to resolve many effects. In this case, the player who controls the planeswalker is the defending player, and it is he – not the planeswalker! – that will reveal the top card.

Q: Will tokens trigger Bloodchief Ascension?

A: Nah, tokens ain't cards. They do go to the graveyard, and if that were the Ascension's trigger condition, they'd trigger it – but the Ascension triggers on cards going to the graveyard from anywhere, not creatures going there from the battlefield.

Q: If I Blightning my opponent, do I get to see what he discards before deciding whether to redirect the damage to his planeswalker?

A: You do not. The instructions on cards are carried out sequentially, and the first instruction of Blightning is to deal damage.

Q: Can I activate Spawning Pool in my graveyard so it counts for Crypt of Agadeem?

A: Activated abilities can only be activated while the object they're on are on the battlefield, unless otherwise specified. For example, cycling has a cost of discarding, so it can only be activated from your hand. The Pool, however, has no such zone specifications, so there's no way to activate it in your yard.

Q: My opponent clearly has no idea what he's doing with his deck. Can I give him advice throughout the match, or is that outside assistance?

A: That's not outside assistance, that's inside assistance – and extremely sporting above and beyond what the DCI expects. You're perfectly welcome to educate your opponent on good plays, how to mulligan, what's going to wreck him – even if you're not telling him the best plays that will beat you, it's still a fantastic way to keep new, inexperienced players interested.

If you want to educate the player without sacrificing your game, just talk to them after the match.

Q: If I shuffle my opponent's library, can he still cut it? If not, what's the penalty if he does?

A: He's no longer allowed to cut it – this changed with M10, but doesn't seem to have spread well enough. However, there is no penalty for jumping to cut it. It doesn't fall into any infraction in the Infraction Procedure Guide, and judges do not simply "issue a warning" – they issue an infraction, which includes a penalty and a remedy.

Q: Why did my opponent only get a Warning for failure to desideboard?

A: The most likely reason is that he called a judge on his own mistake before he decided to keep his opening hand. In an effort to lower the lure of on-the-spot cheating, the DCI allows the Head Judge of an event to downgrade a penalty if the offending player calls a judge on his or her own mistake before he or she has a reasonable chance to profit from it.

In the case of "oops, I didn't desideboard," it must be caught before deciding to keep a hand, at which point it moves past the possibility of a downgrade. The deck should be correctly desideboarded, and the player must mulligan.

Q: When you mulligan to six and draw seven, isn't the penalty a forced mulligan down to five?

A: Not anymore. It used to be for a while, but the new policy cuts down on the time it takes to fix the error. Now, you just shuffle a random card from your hand into library. At Competitive (PTQ) and Professional (PT) events, you also shuffle back an additional random card as a penalty.

Q: Can I play white-blue hybrid cards in my blue-black EDH deck?

A: Nope. Only mana symbols of your general's colors may appear on cards in your deck, and a :symwu: is both a white and a blue mana symbol – white mana symbols are verboten with your blue-black general.

Q: I heard Painter's Servant is banned in EDH now, but I can't find where that's said. How do I find out these things?

A: Check out the EDH homepage – it keeps up to date with the banned and restricted list, and it has lots of forums to discuss decks and get ideas.

And that's Eli, signing off for the year. Aaron will be up next week with a bit of news, then Paskoff will welcome you to 2010. Thanks again to all of our loyal fans, and until next time, have a merry Christmas (alternatively, a delightful Chinese-food-and-movie day) and a happy new year!

- 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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