Published on 09/10/2018

Denying the Fall

Cranial Translation
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Leaves changing color?
Dimir spies painting the trees at night!
Hello and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion, where it can't possibly be the first preview week for Guilds of Ravnica because that would mean it's no longer summer, and that's just crazy talk! Any evidence to the contrary has obviously been planted by Dimir spies. Why?

No, seriously, I'm asking. Heck if I know why they're doing it—if I did I wouldn't have to ask. But obviously they are!

If you can shed any light on this mystery, please send us any and all information and/or crazy conspiracy theories you may have in addition to the normal rules questions we're always happy to receive. You can contact us via email at or on Twitter @CranialTweet. Hopefully together we can find the answer and prevent the Dimir from achieving their no-doubt nefarious ends!

Q: With Hostage Taker and Dire Fleet Daredevil, can I use Ancient Ziggurat to cast an opponent's creatures/artifacts and instants/sorceries, respectively?

A: Only their creatures. Ancient Ziggurat says that you can only spend the mana it produces to cast creature spells—which means spells that have the 'creature' card type. Hostage Taker and Direfleet Daredevil being creatures doesn't matter—if what you're actually casting doesn't have the creature card type, you can't spend Ancient Ziggurat's mana on it.

Q: I have Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice equipped with Helm of the Host. If I use him to copy the Helm's trigger, can I then keep pumping out Tawnoses for as much as I have available by continuing to copy the Helm triggers with the new ones?

A: Indeed you can. The copy of Helm of the Host's ability you create with Tawnos's ability will resolve first, creating a new, non-legendary Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice; you can then tap this new Tawnos immediately and pay to copy the original ability again, which will make another Tawnos, which you can use to copy the ability again, which makes yet another Tawnos, and so on and so forth until you run out of mana to pay for additional copying.

Q: If I have Repercussion on the battlefield and cast Chain Reaction to kill everyone at the same time, how is the winner determined?

A: You decide who wins and who loses, precisely because you don't kill everyone at the same time. Repercussion triggers separately for each individual creature that's being dealt damage, and since those abilities are being put onto the stack at the same time and you control Repercussion, you get to choose the order in which they're put there relative to each other, with the abilities you put onto the stack first (on the bottom) resolving after the ones you put onto the stack last (on the top).

This means that you can win the game by putting the triggers that will deal damage to you on the bottom of the stack and the triggers that will damage your opponent(s) on top. The abilities that deal damage to your opponent(s) will resolve first, so by the time you get to resolving the ones that deal damage to you, the game's already over and you've already won because all your opponents are dead.

Q: My opponent had a Thing in the Ice and cast a spell to remove the last counter from it. In response, I activated my Aether Vial and brought in a Merfolk Trickster, targeting the Thing with its trigger. What happens next?

A: Merfolk Trickster removing all of Thing in the Ice's abilities won't stop the ability that has already been activated, and that ability is what's going to remove the last counter and transform Thing in the Ice, so that's what happens. Thing in the Ice loses its last counter and transforms...

...and that's it. Nothing will return to its owners' hand, because thanks to Merfolk Trickster, Awoken Horror doesn't have any abilities. It may look different than it used to, but it's still the same object and therefore the Trickster's ability continues to apply to it.

Weather cooling?
Dimir spies hiding ice in the walls!
Q: If I successfully resolved Primevals' Glorious Rebirth and resurrected multiple planeswalkers would I be able to activate all of their abilities and keep priority before an opponent could respond?

A: I'm afraid not—only one of them. You can only activate a planeswalker's loyalty ability during your main phase when the stack is empty, but as soon as you activate one of your new planeswalkers' abilities, the stack is no longer empty, so you won't be able to activate the rest yet.

Only once the ability you chose to activate has finished resolving will the stack be empty again, and only then will you have the chance to activate a second planeswalker, so if your opponent responds to that first activation, they may potentially be able to stop you from activating more planeswalkers by removing them before you have a chance to use them.

Q: If I cast Shielded Passage on a Swans of Bryn Argoll, and someone Bolts the Swan, would they still draw cards?

A: That's up to whoever controls the Swans. Both Shielded Passage and the Swans' own ability are trying to prevent the damage that would be dealt to them, so that player gets to choose which one to apply. If they choose to have the Passage's effect prevent the damage, no cards will be drawn, but if they choose to have the Swans' effect do it, the Bolt's controller will draw cards.

Q: If player has an artifact creature under their opponent's Banisher Priest, but no other artifacts, and casts Unlicensed Disintegration on the Priest, does the opponent take damage?

A: They do indeed. When Banisher Priest leaves the battlefield, the very first thing that happens—even before you continue resolving Unlicensed Disintegration, is that you return the creature it removed to the battlefield under its owner's control. Only then do you continue following the rest of the Disintegration's instructions, so only then will you check for artifacts. Since the player who cast Disintegration now controls an artifact—the one that just got returned to the battlefield—the check succeeds, and the Priest's controller is dealt 3 damage.

Q: If a creature I control has infect and deals damage to a creature I don't control during combat, does my Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons trigger? Is it me putting the -1/-1 counter on the creature or is it the creature with infect doing that?

A: Only players can put counters on things, and since you're the one who controls the creature with infect, you're the one who places the -1/-1 counters on the creature that's being dealt damage. Therefore, Hapatra triggers, and you get a Snake token.

Q: With Anvil of Bogardan can I discard any card from my hand or does it have to be one of the two I drew from it?

A: Anvil of Bogardan tells you to draw two cards, then to discard a card. It doesn't say anything about limiting the choice of cards you can discard, so it does no such thing—you can discard any card at all from your hand, whether you drew it off of the Anvil's ability or not.

Q: Mirrorworks is on the battlefield and I cast Walking Ballista for , so it gets two counters. If I copy it, do I get another Walking Ballista with two counters or does the copy die as a 0/0?

A: If you use Mirrorworks to make a copy of the Ballista, you'll get a 0/0 that will die immediately, so I wouldn't recommend wasting the mana. When you create a token that's a copy of a permanent, you only copy the permanent itself, not any counters that happen to be on it, and you copy the permanent as it currently exists, not as it used to exist when it was a spell. When Walking Ballista is on the battlefield, the value of its X is 0, so that's the value of the token's X as well, and it won't enter with any counters.

Q: Can I activate Spellskite's ability if there's no spell or ability on the stack?

A: No, you cannot. In order to activate an ability, you need to be able to choose legal targets for it, so if there's no spell or ability on the stack for Spellskite's ability to target, you can't activate it.

You may be wondering at this point—"Wait, don't abilities go onto the stack as the first part of activating them? So couldn't I start to activate the ability, then choose that ability itself as the target?" Clever, but no—spells and abilities can't target themselves.

You could potentially activate Spellskite once, targeting something else, and then activate it again targeting that first activation, but in order for that to happen there would still have to be some other spell or ability on the stack for you to target the first time.

Q: If I cast Insult and my opponent casts Haze of Pollen in response, is damage still prevented this turn?

A: No, it is not. Insult says that damage cannot be prevented—at all—this turn, and Haze of Pollen tries to prevent damage. Thanks to Insult, that can't happen, so your opponent's Haze of Pollen does nothing. It doesn't matter whether the Haze or the Insult resolved first—what matters here is that Haze is trying to do something that Insult says cannot happen, so it doesn't happen.

Q: I have two Walking Ballistas on the field and someone targets one with Echoing Truth. If I remove all counters from the targeted Ballista would my second Ballista be removed as well?

A: No, it would not. Echoing Truth may normally affect multiple permanents, but it only targets one—in this case, your first Walking Ballista. When a spell tries to resolve, if all of its targets are illegal, it doesn't resolve and instead goes directly to the graveyard without doing anything, no matter what its instructions would otherwise have players do.

This means that when your opponent's Echoing Truth tries to resolve, it sees that its only target—your first Ballista—is now illegal, and so it gives up and goes to the graveyard, leaving your second Ballista alone.

Shorter days?
Dimir spies changing all the clocks!
Q: If my opponent casts a burn spell to kill my creature, but in response I turn my own creature into a Frog Lizard with Rapid Hybridization, does the burn spell get to target the Frog now, or does it forget where the target is and fizzle?

A: Your opponent's burn spell doesn't resolve, because your Frog Lizard token isn't the same creature as your old creature. While Rapid Hybridization might be flavored as "changing" its target into the token, as far as the rules are concerned the original creature was destroyed, and the token the Hybridization created is a different creature entirely.

You may want to take this information into account the next time a Simic biologist offers to "improve" you.

Q: If I have a creature in play in a multiplayer game and cast Fractured Identity on it, what would happen to the copies if I die?

A: Nothing much—they'd stay right where they are. When a player leaves the game, all cards and tokens that player owns leave the game with them, but you don't own the tokens from Fractured Identity at all.

The owner of a card is the player who started the game with that card in their deck (or who brought it into the game, if it didn't start the game in a deck), but a token is owned by the player who created it, regardless of why or how they did so. It may have been your Fractured Identity that instructed your opponents to create their tokens, but your opponents created the tokens, so they're the ones that own them, not you.

Q: Can someone play Force of Will on Leyline of Vitality being on the battlefield before the game starts?

A: No, they cannot. When Leyline of Vitality starts the game on the battlefield, it's not getting cast as a spell, it's just being put directly onto the battlefield by its own ability. Since there's no spells involved, there's nothing going on that Force of Will could counter.

Q: I use Helm of Obedience and my opponent mills Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Do I get it or does it get shuffled away?

A: You get your opponent's Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and then they shuffle the rest of their graveyard into their library.

Unlike cards like Progenitus and Darksteel Colossus that use replacement effects to avoid ever going to the graveyard in the first place, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre uses a triggered ability triggers once Ulamog has gone to the graveyard, and upon resolution shuffles the entire graveyard—usually including itself—into the library. Ulamog remains in the graveyard until then...unless something removes it before that can happen.

So here, Helm of Obedience puts Ulamog into the graveyard and triggers its ability...but before that trigger can even be placed on the stack, you need to finish resolving the ability, which means Ulamog will be put onto the battlefield under your control. After that, the ability's done resolving, and Ulamog's trigger can go onto the stack, but Ulamog itself is already on the battlefield.

Q: If Eon Hub is on the board and you have a card that triggers when it untaps, like Pain Seer, it'll go on the stack right after you draw in draw step, right?

A: Indeed it will. Abilities that trigger when a permanent becomes untapped in the untap step are normally put onto the stack—and therefore resolve—during your upkeep. That's not because of any special property of the upkeep, but simply because that's the first step in which those triggers can be put onto the stack.

With an Eon Hub on the battlefield, your upkeep will be skipped, so the first chance those triggers will have to be put onto the stack will be your draw step, after you draw your card for the turn.

Q: I use The Scarab God to make a token of a Pack Rat in my graveyard. If I activate that token, does it create another 4/4 Pack Rat or a */* Pack Rat?

A: It makes another 4/4 Pack Rat. The change to Pack Rat's power and toughness (and creature type) made by The Scarab God's ability as part of the copying process becomes part of the Rat's copiable values, which means that anything that copies that Rat will also copy those changes. Thus, 4/4s.

Q: If a player bounces an opponents creature with Reflector Mage's triggered ability and leaves the game before their next turn, can the creature that was targeted by Reflector Mage be cast?

A: Not right away—the Reflector Mage player leaving the game doesn't cause the effect from the Mage to end, but it does still expire eventually.

Once the game progresses to the point where the Reflector Mage player would have started their turn—had they still been in the game—the Mage's effect expires and the creature can then be cast again.

Q: Eon Hub means I don't have to pay for my Pact of Negations, even if someone manages to kill the Hub later, because the step where I needed to pay the cost has already been skipped, right?

A: Not quite—you won't have to pay as long as Eon Hub is around, because you never actually get an upkeep step, but once the Hub goes away, all of those past bills will suddenly become due when you finally do get an upkeep—hopefully you'll be able to pay for all of them, because you're in for a rough time if not.

When Pact of Negation and company say that you need to pay their costs at the beginning of your next upkeep, they mean the next upkeep you end up taking, not the upkeep that happens to be "scheduled" to occur next.

Q: There's a bunch of ways to die—damage, poison, conceding, decking... if a player with Lich's Mirror dies and another has a Cosi's Trickster, will the Trickster get a counter in all those cases?

A: Lich's Mirror will kick in and do its thing any time an in-game effect would cause its controller to lose the game, and since that involves a shuffle, any time it does so, Cosi's Trickster will trigger. Poison, damage, decking—any of those and more is an in-game effect that will cause the Mirror to kick in and trigger the Trickster.

Conceding, however, is not an in-game effect—when a player concedes, they leave the game and lose immediately, regardless of any in-game effects that would otherwise prevent it, such as Lich's Mirror or even Platinum Angel. Since Lich's Mirror never kicks in, Cosi's Trickster will never trigger.

That's all we have for you this week, but come back next time when hopefully we'll have the answer to this mystery. That or a dagger in our collective backs.

- 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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