Published on 02/26/2018

March Madness

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

What's going on here? Why is the street
covered in confetti and lime jello?
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! I'm trying a new writing process this week and going to be dictating the article on my phone—this way I don't have to wait until I actually arrive at the offices and sit down to start writing, I can just start talking on my drive to work and use all that otherwise dead time to good effect. I figure if it works for Mark Rosewater, why not give it a try myself?

As I walk up to our block, I'll remind you all that if you have questions of your own you can always send them in to us at , or tweet them to us @CranialTweet, where you'll get an answer and possibly see your question appear in an upcoming...what's all that noise ? At this rate I'll have to pause the recording and...sirens? What's going on here? There's police everywhere and I can't see...yes officer, I work here, what's going on?


Hey, folks, I'm editing the recording at this point to insert this week's rules questions while the officer's explaining what's going on. I'll cut back to the original recording once the questions are finished.

Q: I was looking at Thirst for Knowledge in Gatherer, and its rulings say you can discard two artifacts "if you really want to". Why is that?

A: This comes down to how the rules parse Thirst for Knowledge's instructions to "discard two cards unless you discard an artifact card". When a card tells you to "(do Thing A) unless (you do Thing B)", what that actually means is "you may (do Thing B). If you don't, (do Thing A)".

As such, Thirst for Knowledge effectively reads "You may discard an artifact card. If you don't, discard two cards", and this should make it clear why you can choose to discard two artifacts if you really want to—simply refuse the option of discarding one artifact card when Thirst offers it, and Thirst then forces you to discard two cards, which can be anything at all.

Q: Does Lone Wolf of the Natterknolls add anything to your devotion?

A: It does not. While a double-faced card is considered to have the same converted mana cost of as the front face when asked, the same is not true of the actual mana cost itself. Since the back face of a double-faced card doesn't have a mana cost, it therefore doesn't have any mana symbols in that mana cost that could contribute to devotion.

Q: If you proliferate to add a verse counter to Yisan, the Wandering Bard, would you be able to search for a creature?

A: No, you cannot. Yisan's ability is not a triggered ability that triggers whenever a verse counter is added—it's an activated ability that you have to pay the costs of (and all of those costs) for the specific purpose of activating that ability.

Adding a counter to Yisan because another card told you to will never cause its ability to activate of its own accord, because the reason you're adding the counter is because that other card is telling you to, not because you're activating Yisan's ability.

Q: When I fight one of my opponent's creatures with Form of the Dinosaur, can my opponent redirect the damage to one of my planeswalkers?

A: Indeed they can. Any time a source an opponent controls is dealing noncombat damage to you, that opponent can choose to have that damage dealt to a planeswalker you control instead. Form of the Dinosaur is something you control, but it's not the Form itself that's dealing the damage—instead, the Form causes your opponent's creature to deal damage to you. Therefore, your opponent can redirect that damage.

He did what with a pigeon?!
Q: I attack with Nylea, God of the Hunt and some other creatures, and my opponent blocks Nylea with Phyrexian Hydra. I use Nylea's ability to boost herself so she survives and kills it, but enough of my other creatures die so she stops being a creature. What happens at end of turn when the boost wears off?

A: Not a whole lot; you have a noncreature Nylea sitting on the battlefield with a bunch of -1/-1 counters on it, and that's just fine.

Nylea may have a power and toughness printed on it, but if it's not currently a creature, those values don't mean anything, since power and toughness are characteristics that only creatures have. -1/-1 counters on something that's not a creature are effectively meaningless, since it doesn't have any power or toughness to modify.

If you ever gain enough devotion to green for Nylea to become a creature again, then you're going to run into trouble, because it'll suddenly be a creature again, and all those counters will mean it'll die in short order.

Q: If I exile a creature with Roon of the Hidden Realm during my turn, can I target the same creature again with Conjurer's Closet?

A: No, you cannot. Both the delayed trigger from Roon that will return your creature and the trigger from Conjurer's Closet are put onto the stack at the same time, at the beginning of your upkeep. Since you need to choose targets for a triggered ability at the time it's put onto the stack, this is also when you need to choose which creature you want to blink with the Closet. But the creature Roon had exiled is not yet back on the battlefield—it will only return when Roon's trigger resolves.

As such, the creature is not on the battefield—and therefore not a legal choice—when you're choosing what to target with the Closet.

Q: If I play a morph with a Flameshadow Conjuring out, can I morph it in response to the enchantment's trigger? What happens?

A: You can indeed turn your face-down morph creature face-up in response to the Conjuring's trigger, and if you do, the copy you create will be of the face-up creature, not the nameless, colorless 2/2 you started with.

When a resolving spell or ability needs information about a particular object—the way Flameshadow Conjuring needs information about your creature in order to create a copy of it—it only goes looking for that information at the time it actually needs to use it. As such, no matter what your creature may have looked like when it entered the battlefield, the Conjuring will only see what that creature looks like at the time the trigger resolves.

Q: How does Heartless Summoning work with the cards exiled by Gonti, Lord of Luxury? Gonti allows mana to be spent as though it were of any color, so how does that affect things?

A: In short, it doesn't. The Summoning's reduction will only ever apply to the generic portion of the creature spell you're casting, not the parts of the cost that specify that you need to spend a specific kind of mana. Gonti doesn't change that, because Gonti only affects how you can spend mana, and applying an effect that reduces the total cost of the spell you're casting isn't the same thing as spending mana.

Q: I block with Night Market Lookout and cast Supernatural Stamina on it, so when it dies it comes back tapped. Does that trigger his ability?

A: It does not. In order for Night Market Lookout's ability to trigger, it needs to go from being untapped to being tapped. Entering the battlefield already tapped is not the same thing as "becom(ing) tapped".

Q: Can I cast Repeal with an X of 0 on Phantasmal Image just to force it to sac?

A: No, you can't, at least not unless it's a copy of Ornithopter or the like. In order to cast Repeal, like any other targeted spell, you need to choose legal targets for it, and since Repeal's target is a 'nonland permanent with converted mana cost X', a Repeal with X = 0 can only legally target something with a converted mana cost of 0.

Q: If I control a Varolz, the Scar-Striped, how does that work with a Dryad Arbor in the graveyard?

A: Not particularly well. Varolz, the Scar-Striped says that the scavenge cost of the creature cards in your graveyard are equal to their mana costs, but Dryad Arbor doesn't have a mana cost.

As such, the Dryad Arbor in your graveyard also doesn't have a scavenge cost, so you'll never be able to scavenge it because you can't pay a cost that doesn't exist.

Q: I'm playing Commander and have two commanders with partner. I cast the first and it dies. Does my second commander now cost extra, or just the first?

A: Just the first. When you have two separate commanders with partner, the commander tax for each one is tracked individually and independently from the tax imposed on the other.

You've cast your first commander once already this game, so it's going to cost an additional , but you haven't cast your second at all, so there won't be any additional cost imposed on that one.

Q: My opponent casts Regal Force. When it enters the battlefield, can I cast Mind Bend in response to its trigger to make it look for blue creatures instead and stop him from drawing cards?

A: You can cast Mind Bend in response to the Force's ability if you wish, but it won't help you much. By the time you can respond and use Mind Bend on Regal Force, its ability has already been placed on the stack.

The text of an activated or triggered ability on the stack is defined as that ability is placed onto the stack, and doesn't change afterwards, no matter what may happen to the source of the ability after that point. Even editing the text that the ability was originally copied from won't affect it, for the same reason that changing a creature on the battlefield wouldn't affect a Clone that's a copy of that creature.

How could he fit so many mimes into a sedan?
Where did he even get the mimes?
Q: I attack with Zur the Enchanter and fetch Nimbus Naiad. Can I bestow it on Zur?

A: You cannot. Bestow is a special alternative cost you can choose to pay as you cast the spell it's on, which then causes it to be a noncreature Aura instead of its natural creature form. When you're putting that card onto the battlefield directly, without casting it, you're not given the opportunity to make that choice, so there's no way to invoke bestow and turn the creature into an Aura. You're going to have to make do with a boring old noncreature Naiad.

Q: I cast Infinite Reflection on my Mayor of Avabruck, and control several other double-faced creatures, like Duskwatch Recruiter. If nobody casts spells on the following turn, what happens when everything transforms?

A: Well, your original Mayor of Avabruck will become a mighty Howlpack Alpha, since it's the only creature not affected by the Reflection, but the town of Avabruck is still going to remain stuck in its endless mayoral race for the forseeable future, because while the rest of your double-faced creatures do transform and you'll therefore turn them to their other face, the copy effect from Infinite Reflection will still overwrite whatever that other face says, so they'll all still be Mayor of Avabrucks.

Q: How does scry work with Lantern of Insight? Do I get to see which card goes where?

A: You don't see anything, or at least not anything you weren't already going to see. While looking at the top cards of the library will generally involve physically picking them up to look at them, as far as the game rules are concerned, until those cards are put onto the top or bottom after you're done looking, they remain right where they always were.

This means that while the Lantern is indeed operational mid-scry, it's still revealing the same card it was before the scry started, because the top card hasn't yet changed. And once it's finished, the new top card will be the only one you see.

Q: If I imprint Seedtime on Isochron Scepter, can I use it any time?

A: No, you cannot. While Isochron Scepter allows you to ignore the normal timing rules for instants and cast the copy it creates during the resolution of its ability, Seedtime has an additional restriction printed on it that the Scepter won't affect.

As such, while you can use the Scepter on any player's turn if you really want to, you're only going to be able to cast the copy of Seedtime it creates if it's your turn.

Q: If you have a cost reduction effect on board, can you ignore it and pay the full cost instead? Thinking of sunburst...

A: No, you can't. In general in Magic, you're not allowed to do things unless something permits or instructs you to do them. In the case of mana costs, the process of casting a spell allows you to pay the amount of mana required to pay the spell's cost. But nothing is allowing you to pay more mana than the spell's cost requires, so you can't do that.

See Chorus of the Conclave for an example of an effect that does allow you to pump additional mana into casting a spell.

Q: I tap out my lands to cast Bloodbraid Elf while my opponent controls Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and cascade into Kolaghan's Command. Can I use my Deathrite Shaman to pay the ?

A: Not unless you used it before you started cascading, which, if you already know what you cascaded into, you definitely didn't.

The process of casting a spell allows you to activate mana abilities mid-cast, but even though it produces mana, Deathrite Shaman's ability is not a mana ability because it requires a target. As such, it uses the stack and you cannot activate it in the middle of casting or resolving another spell or ability.

If you want to use Deathrite Shaman's ability to produce mana, you need to do so before you let the cascade trigger start to resolve, which means you won't know for sure yet whether or not you're going to need that mana to cast the spell you cascade into—after all, you might cascade into a creature spell that Thalia won't tax.

Q: If I am asked to choose an amount of damage I wish to deal, and it doesn't say what I can choose, can I choose "Infinity" as an amount?

A: No, because as far as Magic's rules are concerned, "infinity" isn't a number at all—it's the concept of there not being an end to the numbers. If you're asked to choose a number, you have to choose a specific, finite positive integer, something that—in theory at least—you could count up to, given enough time.

That number could still be large enough that it'd take long past the heat death of the universe for someone to actually count that high, but that doesn't matter, as long as it's a finite value.

Q: If I attack with an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite equipped with Blade of Selves in a 4 player free-for-all, do my opponents' creatures get -6/-6 long enough for them to die?

A: They do indeed; it's only a brief moment, but it's long enough.

The moment after the Myriad triggered ability finishes resolving, there will be three Elesh Norns on the battlefield, so all of your opponents' creatures will be getting -6/-6. The game will then check state-based actions and see that there's a few things it needs to clean up—not only a few duplicate Elesh Norns to get rid of, but also (presumably) a bunch of creatures with 0 or less toughness that need to die. So all of those things happen at once, and those opposing creatures die at the same time your duplicate Elesh Norns do.

Q: If I have Recycle out and then suspend Ancestral Vision, does recycle trigger and net me a card?

A: No, it doesn't, because Recycle triggers off of casting a spell, and you haven't cast Ancestral Vision—you've suspended it, which is a special action that doesn't involve casting it.

When you finish removing the final time counter and Ancestral Vision comes out of suspension, that's when you finally cast it. Only then will Recycle trigger and make you draw another card.


...A zombie monkey gone berserk? Why, what has he...ginger ale, twenty people and a pet poodle? Strawberry jam? What else ownership of the monkey? No, can't say I know anything about that. Did I say I worked here? I meant the next block over, yeah.

- 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.


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