Published on 03/19/2018

A Brief History of Magic, Vol. 1

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Really, I'm just excited about his token.

Hiya everyone, and welcome back to Cranial Insertion! In case you didn't hear, this year is the 25th anniversary of Magic. And if you stopped by your local game store this weekend, you might have seen a new set on store shelves: Masters 25! It's a new set fearing Magic cards from every single expansion from all of Magic's history, from the original Alpha and Beta days all the way to the current day with Rivals of Ixalan. This week, we're going to be answering questions featuring cards from Masters 25 (and thus, all of Magic history).

Did we not answer your favorite Masters 25 question? Or maybe you have another question from Magic's history. Send it to us, and we'll reply with an answer! You can send us short question that via Twitter via our Twitter account @CranialTweet. Or if you have a slightly longer question, you can e-mail us at .

Q: I've heard that Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter make a pretty good combo. How does it work?

A: Yep, those two, when combined, will prevent your opponents from untapping during their untap step. Step one is getting Brine Elemental into play face up (either by casting it face up, or casting it via morph and then turning it face up). Step two is to cast Vesuvan Shapeshifter face down. Then, once you have the face down Shapeshifter in play, turn it face up by paying its morph cost and copying Brine Elemental. Since the Shapeshifter is a copy of the Elemental as it's turned face up, the Elemental's ability will trigger and will prevent your opponent from untapping during their next untap step. Finally, during your upkeep, turn the Shapeshifter Elemental face down with the Shapeshifter's triggered ability and repeat. By simply paying every turn, you'll be able to prevent your opponent from untapping and effectively have a one-sided Stasis.

Q: What about Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity? Can I kill my opponent by putting Curiosity on my Niv-Mizzet?

A: Yep, those cards can be used to kill your opponent (provided you have more cards in your library than they have life). Curiosity triggers off of any damage the creature deals, not just combat damage. If you put Curiosity on Niv-Mizzet, then tap it to draw a card, since you drew a card, Niv-Mizzet's triggered ability will trigger and you can deal one damage to the opponent. Since the enchanted creature dealt damage to the opponent, Curiosity will trigger and you'll draw a card. Since you drew a card, Niv-Mizzet's trigger... and I think you get the idea. Provided you have enough cards in your library, you'll be able to kill your opponent with Niv-Mizzet triggers by constantly drawing from Curiosity's trigger and dealing damage with Niv-Mizzet's trigger.

Q: The graveyards are empty, and I cast Accumulated Knowledge. Do I draw one card or two cards?

A: Just one card. Accumulated Knowledge won't go to the graveyard until the final step of resolution. While it's resolving, it's still on the stack, so it won't count for its own effect. Since there are no other Accumulated Knowledges in anyone's graveyard, you're only going to draw one card.

Q: I cast Vendilion Clique and target my opponent with the trigger. When I'm looking at their hand, I decided that I'd rather let them keep all of those cards. Can I choose not to put a card in their hand on the bottom of their library?

A: Yep, that's fine. If, while you're looking at the targeted player's hand, you're fine with what they have and you don't want to replace one of those cards with a card on top of their library, you don't have to choose a card, since the trigger uses the word 'may'. If you choose not to use the ability, they'll keep all of the cards in their hand and won't draw any cards since nothing was put on the bottom of their library.

Q: My opponent taps their only two lands to cast Fencing Ace. Can I tap one of their land with Rishadan Port to stop them from casting the Ace?

A: If you let them get to their main phase, no. Tapping the lands for mana doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to. They've already tapped their lands for mana and paid the cost to cast the Ace, so trying to tap their already tapped land won't do anything to the spell that they've already cast.

What you could do (if you suspect they have a spell that costs two mana) is tap their land with the Port during their upkeep or draw step. They're free to tap the targeted land for mana in response, but if they don't use that mana by the end of the upkeep, they'll lose that mana (and since the Ace doesn't have flash, they won't be able to use that floating mana to cast the Ace during the upkeep or draw step).

It may look a little different, but it blocks
attacking the same way as the original.

Q: My opponent is attacking me with a Krosan Tusker, and I block with a Loyal Sentry. Before the Sentry's trigger resolves, I cast Boros Charm, giving all of my permanents indestructible. What happens when the Sentry's trigger resolves?

A: Good things for you, less good things for your opponent. When the Sentry's trigger resolves, it destroys your opponent's Tusker and your Sentry. Their Tusker is destroyed and goes to the graveyard, but since your Sentry is indestructible, it will not be destroyed by its trigger and will live to see another combat phase.

Q: I cast Rancor, targeting my Krosan Colossus. In response, my opponent Murders the Colossus. What happens to Rancor?

A: Rancor goes to the graveyard and stays in the graveyard. When Rancor goes to resolve, it checks to see if its target (the Colossus) is still legal. Unfortunately, the Colossus is dead and is no longer a legal target, so Rancor is countered. The ability that returns Rancor to your hand only works if it goes from the battlefield to the graveyard, and in this case, it's going to the graveyard from the stack. Rancor's ability will not trigger and Rancor will not return to your hand

Q: Can I activate Hell's Caretaker's ability, sacrificing a Protean Hulk and returning the same Hulk with the Caretaker's ability?

A: Nope, you can't. You have to choose targets for the Caretaker's ability before you pay the costs to activate it. Protean Hulk, while it may be dead shortly, it's not in the graveyard when you're choosing the target for the ability. You will not be able to both sacrifice and return the same creature with the Caretaker's ability.

Q: I tap my 1/2 Spikeshot Goblin to deal one damage to my opponent. They respond by Murdering my poor Goblin. Do they still take damage?

A: Yep, they'll still take one damage from the Goblin's ability. If Spikeshot Goblin is not on the battlefield when the ability goes to resolve, we use the last-known information about its power to determine how much damage was dealt. Before the Goblin was unjustly Murdered, its power was one, so the Goblin's ability will still deal one damage to the opponent.

Q: What if they used Disfigure instead? Do they still take damage?

A: Nope, they won't take any damage thanks to Disfigure. Once again, since the Goblin is not on the battlefield when the ability goes to resolve, we go back and look at its power when it was last on the battlefield. But when the Goblin was last on the battlefield, it wasn't a 1/2: it was a -1/0. Since the Goblin's power was negative (and since we can't deal negative damage in Magic), the Goblin's ability will deal 0 damage to your opponent.

Q: I control a Luminarch Ascension, and my opponent attacks me with two 4/4 creatures. I block one of them with Brion Stoutarm. Will my Ascension get a counter at the end of turn?

A: Nope, it won't get a counter this turn. You lost life that turn, due to the unblocked 4/4 dealing combat damage to you. You also gained four life from Brion at the same time, so your life total effectively stayed the same, but for the purposes of the Ascension, you did lose life that turn. The Ascension's ability will not trigger and it will not get a quest counter.

Q: I cast Mesmeric Fiend. After it enters the battlefield, but before its enter the battlefield trigger resolves, I sacrifice the Fiend to Fallen Angel. What happens?

A: Fans of the classic "Oblivion Ring" trick will know what's going to happen here. Mesmeric Fiend has two triggered abilities: one ability that triggers when it enters the battlefield that lets you exile a nonland card from an opponent's hand, and a second triggered ability that triggers when the Fiend leaves the battlefield that returns the exiled card to its owner's hand.

In this question, the Fiend left the battlefield before its enter the battlefield trigger resolves. That means that the leave the battlefield trigger goes on the stack above the enter the battlefield trigger, and the leaves the battlefield trigger will resolve first. But when that trigger resolves, it doesn't do anything, since nothing has been exiled from their hand yet. Then the Fiend's enter the battlefield trigger resolves, and you look at their hand and you will permanently exile a nonland card from their hand.

They don't really print cards worded like this anymore - the wording on Kitesail Freebooter is commonplace now. The Freebooter has a single triggered ability, not two triggers, so if the Freebooter dies with its trigger on the stack, the trigger doesn't do much besides let you look at your opponent's hand - the chosen card isn't exiled from their hand at all.

Q: I tap my Pendelhaven to give my Perilous Myr +1/+2. Then I cast Giant Growth on the Myr. Does it keep the +1/+2 bonus?

A: As long as you let Pendelhaven's ability resolves before casting the Growth, yes. Pendelhaven cares about the Myr's power and toughness at two times: when you activate it, and again when the ability goes to resolve. Once the ability resolves, the Myr will keep the bonus, no matter what happens to its power and toughness afterwards. Once Giant Growth has resolved, you're going to end up with a 5/6 Myr, a Myr to be feared!

Q: I have a Court Hussar in play that I've paid white mana to cast. Then I Cloudshift the Hussar. Do I have to sacrifice the Hussar?

A: You will have to sacrifice it. Cloudshift exiles and returns it to the battlefield. The Hussar that's on the battlefield no has no link to its previous life on the battlefield, and no memory of what was paid when it was originally cast. When it returns, it's being put onto the battlefield (without being cast), so the "sacrifice if you don't pay " ability will trigger and you'll have to sacrifice the Hussar. But at least you'll benefit from its other enter the battlefield trigger again.

But what if I need 100,001 arrows?

Q: If I put a Pacifism on my opponent's Erg Raiders, are they going to take two damage every turn?

A: Yep, they will. At the beginning of their end step, unless they gained control of the Raiders that turn or attacked with the Raiders that turn, they will take two damage. The Raiders don't care why they didn't attack - whether it's because they decided not to attack with it or because some effect like Pacifism prevented it from attacking. If they didn't attack with the Raiders on their turn, they'll take two damage.

Q: Can I cast Mystic Snake even if there are no spells on the stack?

A: Yep, you can do that. Mystic Snake (the spell) has no targets. It has a triggered ability that targets, but there doesn't have to be a spell on the stack in order for you to be able to cast the Snake. If you think the Snake makes a better surprise blocker than as a counter spell, you're free to just cast it without other spells on the stack.

Just note that the Snake's triggered ability is not optional - if there is a spell on the stack, you must target it with the Snake's trigger, even if it's your own spell.

Q: I activate Humble Defector's ability, but in response, I sacrifice the Defector to activate Brion Stroutarm's ability. What happens?

A: The first ability to resolve is Brion's ability, which deals two damage to the targeted player. Then the Defector's ability resolves, and you draw two cards. Since the Defector is no longer on the battlefield (since it was sacrificed to activate Brion's ability), your opponent will not gain control of the Defector. In short, you've drawn two cards without giving your opponent the option to use the Defector as well.

Q: What happens if I cast Whitemane Lion without any other creatures in play?

A: The Lion will make a brief appearance on the battlefield, then it will go back to your hand. Whitemane Lion's triggered ability is not optional - when the trigger resolves, you choose a creature you control and return it to its owner's hand. More than likely, when the Lion's ability resolves, you do control a creature - the Lion itself, and you'll have to return the Lion to your hand.

Q: Can I cast Conflux even if I have no red cards in my library?

A: Sure, you can do that. Conflux doesn't target anything, so there's no requirement that there be a card of each color in your library. You can just fail to find a red card, but still find cards of the other four colors.

And even if there is a red card in your library, you don't have to find it. When you're searching your library for a card with a certain characteristic (in this case, a red card), you don't have to find it, even if one exists. If you'd rather leave that red card in your library instead of putting it into your hand, you can do that.

Q: There's a lot of nifty cards in Masters 25. Are they all legal in standard?

A: Not by being printed in Masters 25, they're not. While Masters 25 does contain some cards that are currently legal in Standard, like Ravenous Chupacabra and Renewed Faith, being printed in Masters 25 doesn't affect what format the cards are legal in, it just made more cards available. Since Masters 25 has cards from every single Magic set, I would suggest checking a site like Gatherer to see if they're legal in that format that you're interested in playing.

Well, that's enough nostalgia for this week. We'll see you all next week!


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