Published on 07/30/2018

The Big Twenty-Five

Cranial Translation
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The perfect weapon, I mean tool,
for cutting a twenty-fifth birthday cake
Greetings, and welcome back to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Limited Edition Alpha was released just about twenty-five years ago, on August 5th 1993, so Magic is celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday this weekend! Yes, the game we all love is turning a quarter-century old this weekend, and I'm sure I'll drink to that until I forget how old that makes me feel. If you are lucky enough to be at Gen Con this weekend, I'm sure you'll have lots of fun participating in the awesome activities that are in store for you, as well as enjoy some birthday cake. Here at Cranial Insertion, we'll celebrate by doing what we usually do, which is answer your Magic rules questions about all sorts of cards from its twenty-five year long history.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will respond to you, and your question might appear in a future article.

And now, let's take a look at this week's selection of questions!

Q: I have a question about improvise, for example on Metallic Rebuke. If I control three Thopter tokens and Prophetic Prism, can I tap the Thopters for colorless mana and turn one colorless mana into blue mana with Prophetic Prism so I can cast Metallic Rebuke?

A: I'm afraid not. Improvise doesn't give your artifacts the ability to tap for colorless mana. It allows you to tap artifacts instead of paying mana to satisfy the generic mana component of the spell's cost. You can tap two of your Thopters to satisfy the part of Metallic Rebuke's cost, but you need actual blue mana for the rest of the cost, and to make that with Prophetic Prism, you need actual mana.

Q: Let's say I use Five-Finger Discount to an artifact my opponent owns into my hand, and they then use Kitesail Freebooter to exile that card from my hand. Where does that card go when Kitesail Freebooter leaves the battlefield?

A: Five-Finger Discount is a wacky silver-bordered card that can do weird things like put a card into the hand of a player who isn't its owner, but Kitesail Freebooter is just a boring black-bordered card. The effect it creates mandates that the card goes back into its owner's hand, so that's where the card goes.

Q: I enchant my library with Animate Library and equip it with Helm of the Host. What happens when Helm of the Host's ability resolves?

A: Congratulations, you broke Magic. I hope you're happy.

Seriously, though, the Helm's ability tells you to make a copy of the equipped creature, and copy effects look at the copiable values of the thing you're copying, which is only what's printed on it as modified by other copy effects. The copy effect does not consider the effect from Animate Library. Because your library is not actually an object without Animate Library's effect, it has no copiable characteristics. It has no name, no card types, no power or toughness, nor any abilities, except that the Helm's ability gives it haste. In the end, you have a typeless token with haste that can't do anything except sit on the battlefield. It can't attack or block because it's not a creature and if it were, it would die because it has no toughness.

Q: I use Skilled Animator to turn my Treasure Map into a 5/5 creature, and later I transform Treasure Map into Treasure Cove. Is it still a 5/5 creature?

A: It sure is. Skilled Animator creates a continuous effect that affects the permanent that is your Treasure Map. Treasure Map transforms in place, so it's still the same permanent, except that it's now showing its back face to the world. Since it's still the same permanent, it's still affected by Skilled Animator's animation effect.

Q: My opponent used Reflector Mage on my commander, and I chose to put it into the command zone instead of returning it to my hand. Can I cast it from the command zone before my opponent's next turn?

A: Sadly, no. The command-zone replacement effect changed where your commander went when Reflector Mage's ability resolved, but it didn't change the second part of its ability. This means that the "can't cast" effect was still created, and it stops you from casting spells with the same name as your commander from any zone.

Q: In a multiplayer commander game, a player animated Gideon of the Trials with its second ability and then equipped it with Helm of the Host while also controlling Anointed Procession. The Helm's ability creates two tokens, and we have a bunch of questions about the tokens. What exactly do the tokens look like? Do any of the tokens disappear in the cleanup step? If the tokens stick around, do they help maintain the "can't lose" effect from Gideon's emblem?

A: Okay, let's start with what the tokens look like. As mentioned before, Helm of the Host's ability looks at Gideon as printed, so the copies are Gideon planeswalkers as printed, except that they're not legendary. They enter the battlefield with three loyalty counters and they have loyalty abilities. They aren't animated, and the damage prevention effect that applies to the original doesn't apply to them.

In the cleanup step, the original Gideon stops being a creature, but this doesn't affect the tokens in any way. There's nothing telling the tokens to go away, so they stick around.

Despite not being legendary, the tokens are in fact Gideon planeswalkers, so even if the original Gideon goes away, they will fulfill the "as long as you control a Gideon planeswalker" condition for an existing Gideon emblem.

Q: If I control Spellskite and my opponent activates Goblin Welder targeting an artifact they control and an artifact card in their graveyard, can I redirect the first target to my Spellskite to fizzle the ability?

A: No, that doesn't work. When Spellskite's ability resolves, you can only change it to be a target if it would be a legal target. Since Spellskite would be an illegal target for Goblin Welder's ability, nothing happens and the target isn't changed.

The cake is not a lie.
Q: I control a Bull Aurochs that was returned by Isareth the Awakener, can I take it on an Otherworldly Journey to get it back with a +1/+1 counter and without a corpse counter?

A: Yes, that works. The replacement effect that was set up by Isareth's ability only applies if Bull Aurochs would leave the battlefield from anywhere other than the exile zone. Since Otherworldly Journey exiles Bull Aurochs, Isareth's replacement effect has no objection and doesn't replace anything, so Otherworldly Journey just does its thing. At the beginning of the next end step, you get a Bull Aurochs back as a new creature with a +1/+1 counter on it, and it is no longer subject to Isareth's replacement effect.

Q: My opponent casts Ajani's Influence on a creature and I kill it in response with Lightning Strike. Does my opponent still get to look at the top five cards of their library?

A: No. Ajani's Influence only has one target, which you've rendered illegal by killing it in response. Since all of its targets are now illegal, Ajani's Influence is removed from the stack without resolving, so none of its effects happen.

Q: If I control Ashes of the Abhorrent and I exert Devoted Crop-Mate, can I still use its ability to return a creature from the graveyard to the battlefield?

A: Absolutely. Ashes of the Abhorrent stops players from casting spells from their graveyards or activate abilities of cards in graveyards, but that's not what's happening here. Devoted Crop-Mate's ability is a triggered ability of a creature on the battlefield, and it targets a card in your graveyard. When the ability resolves, you return the targeted card directly to the battlefield from the graveyard, which isn't the same as casting a spell from the graveyard.

Q: If I use Havengul Lich to cast Necrotic Ooze from a graveyard, would the Lich gain all activated abilities of creature cards in graveyards?

A: Nope. Havengul Lich's ability triggers and resolves while Necrotic Ooze is on the stack. Necrotic Ooze's ability only functions on the battlefield, so the Lich doesn't see any activated abilities to gain from Necrotic Ooze.

Q: Can I use Reveillark's ability to return Ulvenwald Hydra from my graveyard to the battlefield?

A: Only if you control two or fewer lands. Ulvenwald Hydra has a characterstic-defining ability that defines its power an toughness. That ability works at all times in all zones, so it works even in the graveyard.

Q: How does Blood Moon on the battlefield and a Riftstone Portal in my graveyard interact with each other?

A: That's a question for the layers. Blood Moon's effect lives in layer 4, while Riftstone Portal's effect lives in layer 6. This means that you always apply Blood Moon's effect first, and then you apply Riftstone Portal's effect. Blood Moon gives your nonbasic lands the land type Mountain, and along with that it removes all abilities that are printed on your nonbasic lands and gives them the ability to make red mana. In layer 6, Riftstone Portal's effect kicks in and gives your lands the ability to make green or white mana. In the end, your nonbasic lands can make red, green, or white mana.

Q: I control Mobile Garrison and cast Guardian Automaton. Can I crew the Garrison with the Automaton, attack with the Garrison, untap the Automaton, crew another vehicle with it, and attack with the other vehicle?

A: You can do some of that, but not all of that. First off, yes, you can crew the Garrison with the Automaton even though it just entered the battlefield. Crewing is not subject to the summoning sickness rule, so that's no problem. Attacking with the Garrison triggers its ability that allows you to untap the Automaton, so then you could tap it to crew another vehicle. However, you have to declare all attackers at once, and you already declared Mobile Garrison as your only attacker, so the second vehicle won't be able to attack.

Do you want ants?
Because that's how you get ants.
Q: I cast Release the Ants, and for the clash I reveal an Ornithopter while my opponent reveals a land. Do I win the clash?

A: Nope. Clash compares the converted mana costs of the two revealed cards, and having a mana cost of isn't any better than not having a mana cost at all. Both are converted into a converted mana cost of 0, so you don't win this clash because you didn't reveal a card with a higher converted mana cost.

Q: My opponent used Skilled Animator to animate an artifact. If I use Metamorphic Alteration to turn the Animator into a copy of something else, does that stop its animation effect?

A: Not even a little bit. The duration of Skilled Animator's effect is "for as long as Skilled Animator remains on the battlefield," and this tracks the permanent itself regardless of what it looks like. Making Skilled Animator into a copy of something else doesn't change the fact that it's still the same permanent, so its animation effect sticks around.

Q: Does Alpine Moon stop the transmute ability of Tolaria West?

A: No. Alpine Moon only applies to lands your opponents control, which refers to lands on the battlefield. It doesn't apply to land cards in your opponent's hand, and that is where the transmute ability functions.

Q: Does Crucible of Worlds allow me to play more than one land per turn?

A: No. Crucible of Worlds gives you permission to play land cards from your graveyard, but the rules forbid you from playing more lands than the number of land plays you have available, and "can't" beats "can." Effects that allow you to play additional lands say so very clearly, for example Wayward Swordtooth.

Q: Does turning a face-down creature face up trigger Harsh Mentor's ability?

A: No. Turning a face-down creature face up looks kind of like an activated ability, but it's not. It's actually a special action that's provided by the rules of the game, so it doesn't trigger Harsh Mentor's ability.

Q: At Competetive Rules Enforcement Level, can I ask questions about cards I haven't seen yet in the match? For example, it looks like my opponent is playing an Elves deck and I suspect she has Shaman of the Pack in her deck, can I ask a judge questions about that card?

A: Certainly. You can ask for the Oracle text of any card, and you're allowed to ask rules questions even if they're not about cards presently on the table. As long as you're not trying to waste time, which would be pointless anyway because the judge would just issue a time extension, you're welcome to ask any rules questions you need to ask.

And that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for reading, please celebrate responsibly, and I hope you'll be back next week for more Magic rules Q&A.

- Carsten Haese

About the Author:
Carsten Haese is a former Level 2 judge based in Toledo, OH. He is retired from active judging, but he still writes for Cranial Insertion and helps organize an annual charity Magic tournament that benefits the National MS Society.


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