Published on 07/16/2018

Lucky Thirte'en

Cranial Translation
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Fun for the whole family!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! It's the Monday after Friday the 13th (probably better known as Thirte'en) and as always it's time for everyone to take off our protective gear, cancel the holiday lockdown, open the vault doors, and step out of our bomb shelters into the light.

...What are you talking about? Locking yourself and your family into a bomb shelter and playing board games with felt-covered pieces is the traditional way to spend Friday the 13th—we did it all the time growing up! Just because your family's weird and doesn't celebrate it doesn't mean you have to ruin things for everyone else. Here, I'll pull up the Wikipedia page to prove it.


Okay, apparently my parents have a lot of things they need to explain, and I think it's best if I talk to them in person, so I've got to go, but don't worry, I'll leave you with these Magic rules questions to keep you occupied while I'm gone. As always, if you have questions of your own, feel free to send them to us via email at or via Twitter @CranialTweet if they're short enough. You'll get an answer and maybe see your question in an upcoming article.

Q: Will Embalmer's Tools reduce the cost of the abilities Necrotic Ooze copies from the graveyard?

A: Embalmer's Tools works by changing the rules of the game so that any time you're activating an ability of a creature card that's in your graveyard, you get a discount.

This means Embalmer's Tools isn't actually modifying the abilities of the cards in your graveyard in any way, so when Necrotic Ooze comes around to borrow abilities it gets the normal, full-cost version. No discounts for you, I'm afraid.

Q: If I use War's Toll with Ghostly Prison, can my opponent not attack unless she can pay for all her creatures?

A: No, that's not how War's Toll functions—it's a requirement, not a restriction. War's Toll wants to force your opponent's other creatures to attack if at least one is attacking, but it can't make the impossible happen, so it can't force something to attack if it, well, can't attack.

This basically means that War's Toll ignores any creature that can't attack for any reason. Summoning sick? You're excused. Tapped out? We've all been there. Stuck inside a Ghostly Prison and your controller doesn't want to pay to get you out? Maybe some other time.

All this to say that Ghostly Prison effectively negates War's Toll's attack-forcing ability, because only things your opponent decides to pay the Prison tax for will be able to attack and nothing's forcing them to pay for creatures they don't want to attack. The Toll's other ability may make things difficult for your opponent, since they'll likely have to decide between being able to attack and being able to cast spells, but that's a whole other thing.

Q: If I attack with Vaevictis Asmadi, The Dire and one of my opponents does not have a legal target - all his permanents have hexproof. What happens?

A: Nothing at all. Your opponent doesn't have anything that you can legally target, so you can't choose all of the required legal targets for Vaevictis Asmadi, The Dire's ability. And when you can't legally choose all of the targets a triggered ability requires, that ability is removed from the stack without doing anything.

Your opponent has effectively ruined everything. Know what would probably serve them right? Being hit in the face by a 6/6 flying Elder Dragon. They deserve it.

Q: How does Ghastbark Twins work with multiple rounds of combat in the same turn? If there's two combats, can it block three creatures during the second?

A: No, just two—Ghastbark Twins' ability doesn't count the number of combat phases there have been so far and let them block that many more creatures. It's just saying that in any given combat phase, the Twins are able to block one more creature than they would otherwise be able to. (Assuming they can block at all.)

Why wouldn't you lock yourself
in a bunker on Thirte'en?
Q: Can I make a creature with hexproof attack or block with Master Warcraft?

A: Indeed you can. Hexproof means that your opponent's creature can't be the target of spells and abilities you control, but Master Warcraft doesn't try to target any creatures—or indeed anything at all.

Instead, Master Warcraft is temporarily changing the rules of the game for the turn so that you get to make some of the decisions that the other player(s) would normally get to make. No targeting required.

Q: If you Path to Exile a Leonin Arbiter when your opponent is tapped out, do they get to search for a basic?

A: Yes they do. Path to Exile exiles the creature it's targeting before giving that creature's controller the option of searching their library, so by the time your opponent decides whether or not they want to search, the Arbiter isn't around any longer to stop them, and they can search without needing to pay anything at all.

Q: If I cast Quicken, can I activate abilities that say I can use them "only any time you could cast a sorcery"?

A: No, you can't. Abilities that have this restriction, like the one on Proteus Staff, aren't talking about whether or not you are actually capable of casting a sorcery at any particular moment in time—after all, if you don't have a sorcery card in your hand you're definitely not able to cast a sorcery, but that won't stop you from activating Proteus Staff.

Instead, these restrictions are referring to the normal timing rules for casting sorceries, using it as a sort of shorthand—"only any time you could cast a sorcery" is a lot shorter than "only during your main phase when the stack is empty and you have priority", and it's probably a lot easier for most players to understand.

Q: If I use Mirage Mirror to copy my opponent's Reliquary Tower, do I discard down to seven at the end of my turn?

A: No, you don't. Discarding down to your maximum hand size is the first thing that happens in the cleanup step of your turn, and only after that happens do effects that last until the end of the turn—like the Mirror's—expire. As such, when the time comes to discard, your Mirror is still a Reliquary Tower and you have no maximum hand size at all, so you don't have to discard.

Q: I control Hardened Scales and a Protean Hydra with four counters on it. How many counters do I get back if my opponent Lightning Bolts it?

A: Whenever any number of +1/+1 counters are removed from Protean Hydra, its ability triggers that many times, and each of those triggers sets up a delayed trigger that will add two more counters at the beginning of the next end step.

The important thing here is that unlike effects where one ability adds all the counters at once, like on Hungering Hydra, all of these delayed triggers are completely separate from each other—they trigger independently, and resolve one by one. And since each one creates a separate instance of adding counters, Hardened Scales applies individually to each, making each and every one put three +1/+1 counters on Protean Hydra instead of two.

When all the dust settles, you'll be the proud controller of a 10/10 Protean Hydra. Much better than a mere 7/7!

Q: If I sacrifice a saproling token, can I use Scavenging Ooze to exile it from my graveyard to gain life?

A: Definitely not, for a couple different reasons. First, tokens that aren't on the battlefield cease to exist almost immediately, as soon as state-based actions are checked, which means that by the time you have the chance to activate the Ooze's ability, the token is already gone. And it definitely wouldn't have lasted long enough for the ability to resolve.

Second, even if the token did stick around for longer, Scavenging Ooze says it targets a "card", and tokens are not cards, so it wouldn't be a legal target for the ability anyway.

Q: Does Ugin's Nexus stop cards like Relentless Assault that add extra parts of turns?

A: No, it doesn't. Ugin's Nexus causes players to skip any extra turns they may have otherwise taken, but it doesn't do anything to stop players from getting extra steps or phases within their turns.

In general, cards tend to do exactly and only what they say they do—no more, and no less. Since extra turns are the only thing the Nexus says it stops, that's the only thing it does stop.

Q: If my opponent has Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and I cast Whir of Invention can I tap an artifact to pay for the Thalia tax?

A: Absolutely! Improvise allows you to tap artifacts to help you pay for Whir of Invention, and nothing says that that's limited to just the normal mana cost. Additional costs involving mana, such as the one imposed by Thalia, can also be paid for by tapping artifacts.

Note that this only applies to costs that are part of casting the spell in the first place. Spells like Clash of Wills that counter the spell unless you pay some additional cost are not part of casting the spell, and thus you can't pay those costs by tapping artifacts.

Q: Can I activate the mana ability of Krark-Clan Ironworks fast enough to sacrifice two Myr Retrievers and get them in my graveyard faster than their abilities trigger, so they can target each other?

A: Not normally, no. You can't activate the ability multiple times simultaneously, so there's always going to be time in between one activation and the next, and normally the Retriever's triggered ability will be put onto the stack before you get the opportunity to activate the Ironworks again. There is a way to get around this, however, that will allow the Retrievers to target each other.

The trick is that triggered abilities never get put onto the stack during the process of casting or resolving spells or abilities—any abilities that trigger while a spell (or ability) is being cast or resolved will wait until that process is completely finished, and only then will it be put onto the stack. This means that if you can find a way to sacrifice both Retrievers during the process of casting or resolving a spell—even if it's not at the exact same time—the Retrievers will be able to target each other, because they'll both be in the graveyard by then.

Hey, don't players get a chance to activate mana abilities while casting any spell that costs some nonzero amount of mana? And isn't Krark-Clan Ironworks a mana ability? That sure seems convenient...

So there you go. If you're in the process of casting a spell that costs mana, you can sacrifice both Retrievers to the Ironworks to produce mana (even if you don't spend that mana on the spell you're casting), and their abilities will be able to target each other since they won't be put onto the stack until you're finished casting the spell.

I mean, what's your alternative?
It's dangerous out there!
Q: I'm told there's a difference between the abilities of Crusader of Odric and Sutured Ghoul. Don't they have the same kind of ability? Why would they work differently?

A: While Crusader of Odric and Sutured Ghoul have the same sort of ability, there's an important differences in how they function.

Crusader of Odric and Sutured Ghoul each have what is known as a characteristic-defining ability (CDA)—it's an ability that unconditionally defines some characteristic of the card. In this case, that's their power and toughness. Characteristic-defining abilities function in all zones, so no matter where they are—in your library, your graveyard, your hand, on the battlefield, anywhere—Crusader of Odric will always have power and toughness each equal to the number of creatures you control.

However, while Sutured Ghoul does have a CDA, and that ability does technically function in all zones, if the Ghoul isn't on the battlefield, there aren't any exiled cards for it to reference, so the Ghoul's power and toughness both default to 0. Only once the Ghoul enters the battlefield and exiles some cards can its CDA potentially have some cards to reference. If it later leaves the battlefield, it will become a new object and lose its connection to those cards, so its power and toughness will revert to 0 again.

Q: If I control Panharmonicon and cast Prototype Portal I get to imprint two cards, right? So what happens when I use it?

A: You do indeed get to exile two cards. Assuming you do so, the in the activation cost of the Portal's second ability will be the combined converted mana costs of both cards, and when the ability resolves it will create two tokens, one for each of the two exiled cards.

Q: If I manifest a creature with megamorph, do I use its mana cost or its morph cost to turn it face up?

A: You can use whichever you like! A manifested permanent that's a creature card can always be turned up for its mana cost, even if it there's some other method by which you could turn it face up. Similarly, megamorph (and its older brother regular morph) allows you to turn the creature it's on face-up for its morph cost any time it's face down, even if it's for some other reason than having cast it as a morph creature.

Be aware, however, that a creature with megamorph will only get the +1/+1 counter as it turns face-up if you use megamorph to do so—if you use the mana cost to turn it face up instead, there won't be any counter.

Q: Do double-faced cards like Huntmaster of the Fells interact with Secret Plans?

A: Only if they're put onto the battlefield already face-down (say, by being manifested). A double-faced card that was put onto the battlefield normally can't be turned face-down, so there's no way for it to interact with Secret Plans because it's always face-up, no matter whether it's currently showing the front face or the back face.

Q: Can I Stifle the ability of a permanent that has hexproof?

A: Absolutely. Hexproof only stops you from targeting that particular permanent your opponent controls—anything else, including any abilities that permanent is the source of, do not share that protection.Stifle targets the ability it's trying to counter, not the source of the ability, so the source having hexproof isn't going to stop it.

Q: In which order do players choose cards with Thieves' Auction?

A: Well, as the card says, you get the first pick, because it starts with you. From there, picks proceed in turn order. So start with you, then the player whose turn comes after yours gets to pick, then the player whose turn comes after that, then the one after that, and so on and so forth until all the permanents have been chosen.

Q: If Liliana, Defiant Necromancer would be bringing one of my creatures back on an opponent's end step, but they concede before that part of their turn, what happens?

A: The creature comes back exactly when it normally would, at the beginning of that player's end step. If a player leaves the game during their own turn, either because they've conceded or because they managed to lose some other way, the rest of that turn proceeds as normal until its natural conclusion, just the way it would if they were still there.

After that turn ends, the player won't take any more turns, since they're no longer in the game, but it's just easier all around to finish the current turn normally rather than deal with the mess that would be likely to happen if it were cut short.

Q: In Two-Headed Giant, if I have Phyrexian Unlife on the battlefield, does my ally lose the game when our shared life total is less than 0?

A: No, they won't. Players win and lose the game as a team in Two-Headed Giant, not individually. Since you don't lose the game for having 0 or less life, neither will your teammate.

Q: I know outside notes can be consulted between games in a tournament. If my opponent uses Karn Liberated to restart the game, can I refer to my outside notes before starting the new game?

A: It's a nice thought, but no, that doesn't work. While the game rules may accomplish restarting the game by ending the current game and starting a new one, as far as the tournament is concerned, you're still playing the same game, restart or no. There's no time in between the original game ending and the restarted one beginning for you to consult your outside notes in.

That's all from me this week, but come back next week for another piping-hot batch of rules questions from Charlotte.

Until then, may you never realize just how weird and abnormal your childhood actually was.

- 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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