Published on 03/26/2018

Brawl in Good Fun

Cranial Translation
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Swing in and join the Brawl!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! It's been downright bedlam here at the CI offices since Wizards announced the new format known as Brawl last week—we've been fighting ever since about who has the best deck for the format. Moko has been switching back and forth between The Scarab God and Liliana, Death's Majesty every few hours, but personally I'm excited for Etali, Primal Storm, because smashing face with a giant dinosaur that lets you cast everyone's spells for free is totally my jam.

In honor of our new favourite pastime, this edition of CI is devoted to helping you pick out a deck of your own by answering all of those pesky rules questions about your potential commanders holding you back. Of course, we can't possibly answer all of them in one article, so send the rest to us to get any further answers you need, either by email at or via Twitter @CranialTweet. Questions sent to us may even appear in a future article.

Enough talk, it's time to Brawl!

Q: Three of my creatures dealt combat damage to my opponent this turn. If I drop Arcane Adaptation to make them all Pirates, will Admiral Beckett Brass get to steal something?

A: Unfortunately not. While your opponent was dealt damage by three creatures this turn and those creatures are now Pirates, at the time those creatures dealt damage they were not Pirates, so your opponent doesn't meet Admiral Beckett Brass's strict recruiting standards.

Admiral Beckett Brass never cares about what things happen to look like right now—all that matters is what happened earlier in the turn, at the time the damage was dealt. The creatures weren't Pirates at that time, so your opponent has not been dealt combat damage by any Pirates at all this turn. (Well, they were already Pirates, but if that was the case we wouldn't be having this conversation.)

Q: I ultimate Angrath, Minotaur Pirate—if my opponent's creatures had -1/-1 counters on them, do they still take full damage?

A: No, your opponent only takes damage based on the power their creatures had on the battlefield. If any -1/-1 counters were reducing those creatures' power, your opponent will be taking less damage accordingly.

While this means Angrath's ultimate doesn't play nicely with giving your opponent's creatures -1/-1 counters, it does work out in your favor against an opponent who's putting +1/+1 counters on their own creatures, so there is that.

Q: My opponent used Dive Down to save their Baral, Chief of Compliance from my Lightning Strike, and they're saying that that counters it, so Baral lets them loot—is that true?

A: Only partially. While a spell with no legal targets remaining (like your Lightning Strike) does get countered when it tries to resolve, it's the game rules that are doing that, not a spell or ability your opponent controls. As such, Baral will not trigger.

Sometimes wasting resources
has its upside.
Q: My opponent has Captain Lannery Storm and wants to sacrifice more Treasures than they can use to cast things. Can they do that? I thought you couldn't overpay for things...

A: Your opponent can't overpay for things, but they can still sacrifice as many Treasures as they want, because generating a resource and spending that resource are two different things.

Sacrificing Treasures, like tapping lands, generates a resource (mana) that your opponent can then potentially spend to pay for things, but there's nothing that requires them to do so—if they really want to, they can sacrifice all of their Treasures (and tap all of their lands) and then simply not use the resulting mana, in the same way that they could cast a Goblin Trailblazer on turn two and do nothing with it for the rest of the game. (Though of course, unlike a Goblin Trailblazer, mana will shortly disappear on its own if it's not spent before the end of the current step of the turn.)

Q: I use Chandra, Torch of Defiance's first ability and exile a land. Can I play it?

A: No, you cannot. Chandra gives you permission to cast the card she exiles, but "casting" something is something you only do with nonland card—the only thing you can cast are spells, and lands are never spells. Playing a land isn't casting a spell.

As such, you can't play the land Chandra has exiled for you, and your opponent(s) will be taking 2 damage.

Q: If I use Dovin Baan's +1, can't my opponent activate their creature's ability in response?

A: Unless that specific creature (or something else) says otherwise, they can indeed. There's no way you can use Dovin Baan alone to completely lock someone out of using a creature's ability forever unless something else prevents them from using that ability in response or some time during your turn before you can activate Dovin Baan at all.

Maybe their creature can only be used on their turn, or targets something that doesn't exist during your main phase, maybe you have some other cards stopping them from using it—we'll leave how you might accomplish a full lockdown as an exercise for you.

Q: I activate Dovin Baan's +1, targeting my opponent's Speedway Fanatic. Can they still use it to crew a vehicle?

A: Yes, they can. Dovin Baan's effect stops them from activating any of Speedway Fanatic's activated abilities...but it doesn't have any in the first place. When your opponent uses the Fanatic to crew a vehicle, that's them activating an ability of the vehicle, not the Fanatic, and that's perfectly fine.

Though since the Fanatic was given -3/-0, it's currently a -1/1 and won't be able to crew much of anything by itself—it'll actively hinder the crewing effort, since that negative power reduces the total power of the group of creatures doing the crewing. The vehicle will still get haste as a result, so maybe that's still worth it—up to you, really.

Q: What happens if I put Elenda, the Dusk Rose into the command zone when she dies?

A: Nothing very exciting, that's what. "Dies" is Magic shorthand for "is put into a graveyard from the battlefield", and that didn't happen, because Elenda was never put into a graveyard—she went to the command zone instead. As such, Elenda's ability doesn't trigger and you don't get any Vampires, no matter what her power was at the time she left.

Same goes for Elenda's first ability—your opponent putting their commander into the command zone instead of the graveyard will mean Elenda won't receive a +1/+1 counter for that creature. Some legendary creatures just aren't suited for the burden of command—Elenda would much prefer you treat her like a normal, everyday centuries-old vampire conquerer/savior and let her catch a nap in the graveyard.

Q: When Etali, Primal Storm attacks, what order do the spells it finds happen?

A: Etali says you can cast any number of the nonland cards it exiles, but it's only possible to cast one spell at a time, so you can choose to cast them in whichever order you wish—once you're done casting, all the spells you cast will be on the stack on top of one another, with the first one you cast at the bottom, and they'll resolve in order, starting at the top of the stack and working down to the bottom.

Note that you have to choose targets for these spells at the time you're casting them, and at the time of casting none of the spells will have resolved yet, so you can't do things like cast a creature and also a spell that targets that creature this way, because the creature won't be on the battlefield at the time of casting no matter what order you decided to cast the two in.

Q: I control Deadeye Plunderers and five Treasures—if I want to sacrifice Treasures to cast Ghalta, Primal Hunger, how much will it cost me? When do I look at the power of my creatures?

A: Lucky for you, if you play things right it's only going to cost you a measly to cast your Ghalta, no matter how many Treasures you sacrifice. During the process of casting a creature spell, you determine how much it's going to cost first, before the game asks you to make the necessary payment. At that time, you haven't sacrificed anything yet, so your Plunderers are 8/8 and Ghalta therefore costs . This cost is then 'locked in', and won't change afterwards, no matter what happens during the rest of the casting process.

Then, the game sees that the cost you're going to need to pay includes paying some mana, so it gives you the opportunity to generate that mana—say, by sacrificing Treasures. You do so, and thanks to the lock-in, the cost of Ghalta remains the same even though sacrificing Treasures makes your Plunderers smaller. Finally, you finish paying for Ghalta, and you've managed to net yourself a massive stompy primal Dino at a giveaway price!

If you instead did things the wrong way around and sacrificed your Treasures before starting to cast Ghalta and therefore before the lock-in...well, let's just say that wouldn't be all that productive an idea.

Q: What happens if Gonti, Lord of Luxury dies before I can cast the exiled spell—can I still cast it?

A: Absolutely—Gonti being gone doesn't prevent you from casting the spell it exiled, because the duration Gonti sets up for when you're allowed to cast the spell is "for as long as that card remains exiled", and Gonti dying doesn't remove the card from exile. It's still there, so the duration of Gonti's effect hasn't expired yet.

Q: What happens to the extra damage if I use Huatli, Warrior Poet's -X ability and my opponent sacrifices some of the creatures it will kill in response?

A: Nothing much—you decided how you were dividing Huatli's damage among the targets at the time you activated the ability, and some of those targets disappearing doesn't mean you get to change your decision. When the ability resolves, damage is dealt to the remaining legal targets as you divided it originally, and any damage that was allotted to targets that are no longer legal simply isn't dealt at all.

Q: If I attack with Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle and get a token, can I give the token haste and attack with that too?

A: Afraid not. You only get one chance to declare attackers each combat, and since the token wasn't on the battlefield already when you did that, you couldn't possibly attack with it.

Though if you somehow manage to get an additional combat phase later on in the turn, your hasty token will be able to attack during that one.

Q: What does Neheb, the Eternal's ability count?

A: Any time your opponent's life total changes from one number to a lower number, that's them losing life. This can happen for any reason—maybe they paid life as a cost for something, maybe they were dealt damage, maybe they decided to use Oketra's Last Mercy at a very, very bad time. Neheb doesn't care—no matter how it happened, they lost life, so you get mana.

Q: ...What if they gained the life back?

A: Doesn't matter. The fact that your opponent's life total went down in the first place is enough to satisfy Neheb, no matter what happened afterwards—it's completely uninterested in life gain, only life loss.

The amount of mana Neheb gives you is based on the total amount of life your opponent has lost during the course of the current turn, regardless of much they managed to gain (whether before or after) or what their life total is now.

Q: Do the X/X tokens created by the Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter update their power and toughness as I get more creatures?

A: No. The value of X, and therefore the power and toughness of the creature Oviya has kindly made for you, is determined only once, as the ability resolves. The game will count the number of creatures you control at that moment (not including the token you're about to receive), and that's how big the token will be forever.

...Well, unless you find a way to beef it up afterwards, of course, but that goes for every creature.

That bites.
Q: If I play Rishkar, Peema Renegade while I control a vehicle but no other creatures, can I put a counter on the vehicle by crewing it with Rishkar in response?

A: Afraid not. You need to choose targets for a triggered ability as it's put onto the stack, which is before you're given the chance to do things in response to the ability. As such, you need to choose targets for Rishkar's ability before you get a chance to crew any vehicles with Rishkar—the only legal target will most likely be Rishkar itself.

Q: If my Liliana, Death's Majesty brings back a Vizier of Many Faces, and the Vizier copies something, is it still a black Zombie?

A: Yes, it will be black and a Zombie in addition to its other colors and types, because the effect from Liliana's ability that gives it those characteristics will apply "over top" of the Vizier's own natural copy effect.

Q: Wait...haven't you said the exact opposite thing happens if The Scarab God brings back a copy creature as a black (4/4) Zombie? What's the difference?

A: The difference is that Liliana, Death's Majesty is bringing back the original card as-is and then applying some other effects over top of that card to change what it looks like, while The Scarab God creates an entirely new object with the modifications it wants already in place.

Using the Vizier's ability doesn't erase outside effects (like Liliana's) that alter what the card looks like, so those abilities still apply 'over top of' the copy effect it creates. But The Scarab God doesn't use an outside effect like that—it bakes the characteristics it wants to see into the token it's making right from the start, as part of the token's copiable characteristics. As such, applying a new copy effect to the token will overwrite them.

Q: Does Padeem, Consul of Innovation still draw me a card if I only have a Servo token or some other 0-cost artifact?

A: As long as nobody else controls an artifact with a converted mana cost higher than 0, sure! While a converted mana cost of 0 is about as low as you can possibly go, it will still be enough to impress Padeem if there's no other artifacts around that have a higher cost than that.

Q: Can I flash Torrential Gearhulk in response to Padeem, Consul of Innovation's trigger to draw a card?

A: Only if you already controlled an artifact with the highest converted mana cost at the start of your upkeep, in which case you wouldn't have needed to flash in the Gearhulk in the first place.

Padeem, Consul of Innovation's ability uses what's known as an 'intervening if clause', which is a condition that appears in between the description of the event that triggers the ability ("At the beginning of your upkeep,...") and the rest of the ability's instructions ("...draw a card"). Intervening if clauses are basically treated both as part of the trigger condition and part of the ability's instructions—if the condition isn't true at the time the ability would trigger, it doesn't trigger at all, and if it isn't true at the time the ability would resolve, it does nothing upon resolution.

As such, if you didn't already control an artifact with the highest converted mana cost among artifacts on the battlefield at the beginning of your upkeep, Padeem wouldn't trigger in the first place, so flashing in the Gearhulk wouldn't net you that card.

That's all we have time for this week, but be sure to come back next week when Charlotte will be back to brawl with even more of your rules questions.

- 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.

On the Huatli damage division question: I would just like to say that I despise the rules quirk where damage division only sometimes changes between cast and resolution (re: the same question but replace huatli with fireball). It creates unintuitive inconsistencies between incredibly similar events.
#1 • Date: 2018-03-26 • Time: 14:33:05 •
@robinhoody430: Do you realize that Fireball is a card from Alpha? They don't do any new cards like that, but Fireball is so symbolic that they reprinted it from time to time.
#2 • Date: 2018-03-27 • Time: 16:46:07 •
Does Neheb generate mana if, say, you dealt combat damage to an opponent but that opponent gained the same amount of life due to lifelink in the same combat damage step? It's not the case that their "life total changes from one number to a lower number" in this situation.
#3 • Date: 2018-04-02 • Time: 08:55:21 •

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