Published on 08/13/2018

Commanding Success

Cranial Translation
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What a beautiful vacation spot!
Hello and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! Commander 2018 hit the streets this past Friday, and by all the accounts I've heard here at the CI offices it's been a stunning success—so far we've only had a single incident with players melting their brains trying to figure out the new cards on their own, which is a major coup in my books. Even better, we've successfully tracked the offending card to its hiding place somewhere on a remote Greek isle. Funnily enough, the island didn't show up on any maps, but our crack rules quarantine team is on site anyway working to contain it so it can't leave the island and cause any more problems.

Remember, if you'd like to report a brain-melting incident of your own, please report the offending question to us via email at , or on Twitter @CranialTweet. You'll get an answer and potentially see your question in a future article.

Q: If I have multiple auras with Totem armor on a creature, what happens when something destroys my creature?

A: If a creature has multiple totem armors attached to it, when something tries to destroy that creature, both totem armors will want to apply in order to stop it from happening.

Since your creature is the one that would be destroyed, you get to choose which of those two conflicting replacement effects to apply. And after applying the chosen effect, your creature is no longer about to be destroyed, so the other totem armor effect has nothing to replace and doesn't apply.

What this all boils down to is that your creature will survive, and only one of the totem armors will be destroyed—you get to choose which.

Q: If I play Mulldrifter with evoke, can I put the card draws on the stack and sacrifice it to Grim Backwoods?

A: Indeed you can. When you cast a creature using its evoke cost, that creature enters the battlefield just like any other, and the evoke ability will trigger. (As well as, in Mulldrifter's case, the card-drawing ability.) When the evoke trigger resolves, it will then force you to sacrifice the creature, since you used the evoke cost to cast it.

Since the evoke trigger is a perfectly normal triggered ability, it can be responded to like any other normal triggered ability, and there's nothing stopping that response from being something that happens to get rid of the creature. When the evoke trigger resolves, it'll look around, see that the creature isn't around to be sacrificed, shrug, and do nothing.

Q: If my opponent sacrifices their last enchantment to my Enchanter's Bane, what happens on my next end step?

A: Well, your opponent might not have any enchantments left, but you certainly do: Enchanter's Bane itself. If there's no other enchantments around for you to target, you'll have to have Enchanter's Bane target itself, and will be forced to either sacrifice it or be dealt 2 damage.

Hopefully you were prepared for that eventuality. After all, the card's flavor text already warned you about it.

Q: Can I cast a sorcery with miracle if I draw it using a spell during my opponent's turn?

A: As long as it's the first card you're drawing on that turn and you reveal it as required, sure! Being a sorcery doesn't matter, because the miracle ability is specifically instructing you to cast the card during its resolution, and you wouldn't normally have permission to cast any card at all during the resolution of some other spell or ability.

Consider for a moment how turns normally progress—the first few steps of a turn are untap, upkeep, and draw, where you draw a card. Only after the draw step is complete do you get to the main phase of your turn where you can cast sorceries and other non-instant spells. If you had to follow normal timing rules for miracles, you'd basically never be able to use them at all, because you'll draw at least one card in your draw step, you can't normally cast non-instants in your draw step, and any you draw in your main phase wouldn't be the first you draw that turn.

When a spell or ability is instructing or allowing you to cast a spell right that moment, you always get to ignore the normal timing restrictions for spells of that type.

Q: ...But when Primordial Mist says you can play cards, the reminder text says that 'timing rules still apply'. But it doesn't for Miracles? What's the difference?

A: The difference is that despite the superficially similar wording, they're actually doing subtly different things.

Primordial Mist (and similar cards) works by changing the rules of the game for a specific duration by saying that you have permission to cast those particular cards even though they're in a place you can't normally cast things from. And that's all its doing—the only thing it changes is where you're allowed to cast the card from, not the timing.

On the other hand, the Miracle ability is giving you a direct instruction: "That card you revealed? You may cast it. (Right now.)" There's no duration specified, so it's now or never, with the game giving you special exception from the default timing rules to cast it immediately.

Q: I cast Brainstorm on my opponent's turn, and the first card I draw is a miracle. What happens?

A: Well, assuming you reveal the card as you draw it, the miracle ability triggers, but because you're in the middle of resolving Brainstorm it can't get put onto the stack right now, so it sits in the background and waits for the moment while you continue resolving Brainstorm.

With the miracle still revealed, you proceed with the remainder of Brainstorm's instructions, drawing the remaining cards and then putting two cards from your hand on top of your library.

After you're done resolving Brainstorm and it goes to the graveyard, the miracle trigger will be put onto the stack, and when it resolves you'll be given the option to cast your miracle...assuming it's still revealed in your hand. If you put it back with Brainstorm or it otherwise left your hand, it of course won't be around for you to cast it.

Interesting fact: this card is misprinted.
Its actual name is Xantcha, Innocent Bystander.
Q: I give Xantcha, Sleeper Agent to my opponent, and Xantcha's ability eventually kills him. What happens to Xantcha?

A: When the player who gained control of Xantcha leaves the game, the effect that gives them control of Xantcha will end, and assuming there's no other effect that says otherwise, you, as the person who was putting it onto the battlefield originally, will gain control of it.

...You might want to find some way of getting rid of Xantcha if you don't want to meet the same fate as your unfortunate opponent.

Q: I control a manifested creature that's a land on its other side and a Turntimber Sower. Will the Sower trigger for that creature dying?

A: Indeed it will. Turntimber Sower is watching and waiting for a card to be put into your graveyard that happens to be a land card. Where that card may have come from or what it may have been there doesn't matter at all, only what it is in the graveyard. Your manifest dying fits the bill, so the Sower will trigger.

Q: Nylea's Colossus says to double a creature's power and toughness. What does that mean?

A: In order to double a creature's power or toughness, you look at the current value of that characteristic — taking absolutely everything that's modifying that value into account — and then increase it by that same amount. Nylea's Colossus does this for both power and toughness simultaneously.

So, for example, if you target a Reclamation Sage, its P/T is currently 2/1, so it will get +2/+1, and end up a 4/2. If you get another enchantment out and target the Sage again, this time it'll get +4/+2 (since it's currently a 4/2), and it'll end up 8/4.

Q: Can I play Simic Growth Chamber as my first land so I don't have to bring another one back to my hand?

A: Well, you can play it as your first land if you really want, but I wouldn't recommend it. If you do, its ability will force you to return a land you control to its owner's hand...and you just so happen to have one: the Simic Growth Chamber you just played. Back it goes to your hand, and you're left with an empty board and a sad expression.

Q: How does Vedalken Humiliator work when my opponent's creatures have counters or Auras on them?

A: Less effectively than normal. Effects that set a creature's base power and toughness, like Vedalken Humiliator, are applied before other effects that modify those base values rather than setting them to anything specific. The modifying effects then apply "over top" of that base, so bonuses from Auras and counters will still apply as appropriate.

This means, for example, that if your opponent has a Loyal Guardian with three +1/+1 counters on it, after your Humiliator does its thing that Guardian's still going to be a 4/4 (1/1 + +3/+3).

Q: The "attacking creatures" Ancient Stone Idol is talking about—do they have to be attacking you, or can they be attacking someone else?

A: Since Ancient Stone Idol doesn't specify anything further than just 'attacking creatures', there's no requirement whatsoever that the creatures need to be attacking you—the Idol gets the discount no matter who's being attacked. They could be attacking you, they could be attacking another opponent—heck, it could even be your creatures attacking someone else. Anything goes.

Q: If we're playing a team game with shared turns, who gets Coveted Jewel if multiple people attack me and aren't blocked at the same time?

A: Well, they'll both get it for at least a moment, and both will draw cards, but you get to choose who gets to keep it. (For now—it's too shiny to stay in one place for long.)

When you declare blockers and leave attackers from multiple opponents unblocked, the Jewel's ability will trigger once for each of them. Since you control the Jewel, which is the source of those triggers, you get to choose in what order you put those abilities on the stack, and therefore the order in which they resolve.

When each instance of the ability resolves, that opponent will draw three cards and gain control of the Jewel, and it will untap. Players will have a chance to respond, and once that's all done the next ability will resolve and the next opponent will draw their three cards and gain control of the Jewel, untapping it, and so on and so forth until all the abilities have resolved.

A fun science experiment you can do at home:
put Unquestioned Authority on Question Elemental?
and watch them annihilate each other on contact.
Q: How does trample work if the blocking creature has Unquestioned Authority?

A: Luckily for the attacker, it works exactly the same as it would if the blocking creature didn't have Unquestioned Authority.

When assigning a trampler's combat damage, you need to assign at least 'lethal damage' to all blockers before you can assign the rest to the player you're attacking, but 'lethal damage' here simply means 'an amount equal to its toughness minus the damage already on it'. The game doesn't take into account effects (like protection) that might prevent damage from being dealt as assigned, so it doesn't matter that the blocker won't actually end up being killed by your trampler's combat damage.

Q: I cast Sower of Discord and choose myself and someone else. They swing for lethal damage and I'm unable to stop it. What happens? Do we both die?

A: Nope, just you. When you're dealt lethal damage, you lose the game, and all your stuff leaves with you, including Sower of Discord. While the Sower's ability triggered off of you taking damage, it's your ability so it will never be put onto the stack, because you've left the game. Your opponent survives, because the Sower's ability never gets a chance to kill them.

Q: Would repeatedly copying Paradox Haze with Estrid's Invocation every upkeep get you infinite upkeeps?

A: Afraid not. Paradox Haze specifically only triggers at the beginning of the enchanted player's "first upkeep each turn", and while flickering Estrid's Invocation may mean that each successive upkeep is the first one being experienced by that particular incarnation of the Invocation, they're definitely not the first one you've had during the turn, so you won't get additional Haze triggers.

The best you can get out of Estrid's Invocation copying Paradox Haze is the same you could get out of simply having that many copies of Paradox Haze to begin with: one additional upkeep per Haze.

Q: Can I use Silent Sentinel to put an Aura on Sphinx of Jwar Isle?

A: Absolutely! When you put an Aura directly onto the battlefield without casting it as a spell, as you're doing here, the Aura doesn't target anything because only spells and abilities on the stack can target things. Instead, you simply choose something for that Aura to enchant as it enters the battlefield, and that's what it enters the battlefield attached to.

Since shroud only prevents the Sphinx from being the target of spells and abilities, it does nothing to stop you from enchanting the Sphinx in this manner.

Q: How does Fury Storm work with X spells like Lavalanche?

A: Very well indeed. When you copy a spell, you also copy all the decisions that were made as part of the casting process, including things like the value chosen for X. This means that each copy of Lavalanche you create will have the same value for X as the original, multiplying your damage for each additional copy that's created.

Q: If you Sundial of the Infinite before the end of combat, you keep the tokens from Gyrus, Waker of Corpses, right?

A: It's not quite that simple; while what you want is possible, use your Sundial at the wrong time and you'll find that your tokens will still disappear, just at the end of the next combat phase rather than at the end of yours.

Creating a token with Gyrus's ability also creates what's known as a delayed triggered ability, that hangs around invisibly so it can trigger a later point in time—in this case, the next end of combat step. The important thing here is that unless specified otherwise (and Gyrus doesn't), once a delayed triggered ability has triggered once, it considers its job done and disappears forever.

So you want Gyrus's delayed trigger to go off, because then it won't be hanging around any more waiting to trigger, but you also don't want the ability to resolve, because then your token will be gone. So you wait until the end of combat step and let the delayed trigger get put onto the stack, and only then do you use your Sundial to end the turn, removing the ability from the stack and leaving you with a lovely token parting gift to keep permanently.

Q: Does the first player draw on their first turn in a game of 3 or more players?

A: Yup! The player who takes the first turn only skips their draw step in two-player games or Two-Headed Giant games, where there's exactly two opposing sides. In multiplayer free-for-all environment, everyone gets to draw a card on their first turn.

Q: Worst Fears allows me to make the decisions for that player's commander when it's changing zones, right?

A: Yes. When a commander leaves the battlefield to go anywhere, its owner gets to choose whether or not to put it into the command zone instead, and when you control a player, you get to decide which choices they make.

So if you, say, Soul Snare their commander while you control them, you can force them to let it get exiled forever instead of putting it into the command zone.

Q: What does Blood Moon do to Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle?

A: While Blood Moon will affect Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle like any other nonbasic land once it's on the battlefield with counters (including removing the ability that removes counters, so no waking it up any time soon for you!), the Moon will not stop Arixmethes from entering the battlefield tapped with counters in the first place, so no, you don't get a super-cheap 12/12.

This happens because of a combination of two factors. First, Arixmethes is naturally a creature rather than a land, and it only becomes a land if it has counters on it. Second, once you've already applied a replacement effect to change an event, it doesn't get un-applied, no matter what.

Let's break down what's happening here. We start with Arixmethes entering the battlefield as a plain old creature. Since we haven't applied its replacement ability yet, it's not entering tapped, and it's not entering with counters on it—it's just entering as a normal creature. At this point, there's no reason for Blood Moon to matter here, since there's no reason Arixmethes would be a land on the battlefield and therefore no way the Moon could apply to it.

So we look around for abilities that might affect how Arixmethes enters the battlefield, and we find one: its own ETB replacement. (Again, since we haven't yet applied this ability, there's nothing saying Arixmethes will be a land on the battlefield, so there's no reason for Blood Moon to wipe out the ability.) So we apply it. Now Arixmethes is entering the battlefield tapped and with counters.

Now Blood Moon sits up and takes notice. All of a sudden, Arixmethes is going to be a land when it enters the battlefield, so Blood Moon wipes out all of its abilities. But that doesn't matter any more, because we've already applied the only ability that matters—Arixmethes is already entering the battlefield tapped and with slumber counters on it, no matter whether the ability that caused that to happen is still there or not.

That's all this week, but be sure to swing by next Monday for another exciting edition of Cranial Insertion!

- 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.

The Echo Storm Lavalanche question is missing something; it probably didn\'t mean Echo Storm, which copies artifacts, not spells?

Also, with the Blood Moon question, if Humility was also on the battlefield, would time stamps be important?

Last edited on 2018-08-13 10:34:44 by micahcf
#1 • Date: 2018-08-13 • Time: 10:25:36 •

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