Published on 06/28/2010

Grand Prix Trial and Error

Cranial Translation
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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

Trial and Error!
Welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! It has been a tumultuous few weeks in the world of Magic, with Extended shedding a couple of blocks, the Infraction Procedure Guide shedding an entire rules enforcement level, a new ban list promising to reshape the Legacy metagame, and an army of fluffy bunnies invading the headquarters of Wizards of the Coast. Okay, I may have made one of those up, but these are certainly interesting times.

In addition to all that, I recently had the pleasure to judge a couple of Grand Prix Trials for GP—Columbus, and I have returned from those events with a bag full of Legacy questions for this article. Of course, I also have a couple of questions from our inbox at , and you are as always invited to send your questions in for an answer and possible publication in a future issue.

Q: I cast Bloodbraid Elf and cascade into Devastating Summons. Can I tap my lands to float mana before I sacrifice them to Devastating Summons' additional cost?

A: Only if you're clairvoyant or otherwise able to predict that you'll cascade into Devastating Summons. Once the cascade ability resolves and you start to peel cards off the top of your library, you won't get priority again until the entire cascade process is done, including casting the card you cascaded into.

Q: Wait! Don't I get the chance to activate mana abilities even without priority while casting Devastating Summons off of cascade before I pay the total cost?

A: No. Rule 601.2f only allows you to activate mana abilities if the total cost includes a mana payment. Since you're casting Devastating Summons without paying its mana cost, the total cost doesn't include a mana payment, so you don't get the chance to activate mana abilities at that time.

Q: Does Cairn Wanderer get any abilities from a leveler in a graveyard? For example, if Knight of Cliffhaven is in my graveyard, does Cairn Wanderer have flying?

A: Nope! While they're in the graveyard, levelers have none of the abilities that Cairn Wanderer looks for. Knight of Cliffhaven doesn't have the ability "flying." The "LEVEL 1-3" symbol represents a static ability that means "As long as this creature has at least 1 but no more than 3 level counters on it, it's 2/3 and has flying." This ability doesn't function in the graveyard, and a Knight of Cliffhaven in the graveyard doesn't have any level counters on it anyway, so it doesn't give Cairn Wanderer flying.

Q: I control a Pawn of Ulamog and two Bloodghasts when my opponent casts a board-clearing spell, say, Day of Judgment. How many Eldrazi Spawn tokens do I get?

A: You'll get three mana babies. The Pawn and the Bloodghasts leave the battlefield simultaneously, and permanents that leave the battlefield simultaneously see each other doing so and trigger the appropriate leave-the-battlefield abilities.

Q: If I control a Coat of Arms, can I cast Devastating Summons with X=0 to get two 1/1 Elementals?

A: Yes, that works! The tokens are affected by Coat of Arms' effect immediately upon coming into existance, so the game never gets the chance to see them as 0/0. By the time state-based actions are checked, they are 1/1 and survive.

Q: Suppose I control an Abyssal Gatekeeper and a Pawn of Ulamog, and the Gatekeeper is destroyed for some reason. Can I stack the abilities so I get an Eldrazi Spawn from the Pawn first and then sacrifice that token to the Gatekeeper's ability?

A: Absolutely! When Gatekeeper bites the dust, both the Pawn's and the Gatekeeper's ability want to go on the stack at the same time. You control both, so you get to choose their order. The choice of what to sacrifice to the Gatekeeper's ability isn't made until that ability resolves, so you'll have a mana baby to throw in if you let the Pawn's ability resolve first.

Q: My opponent casts Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and he chooses to destroy my planeswalker with its ability. Can I respond with Hindering Light?

A: Unfortunately, no. Your planeswalker is being targeted by an ability, not by a spell, and Hindering Light can't counter abilities. You could use Not of this World though, since Not of this World can counter abilities.

Ivy Revenge!
Q: I have a Vengevine in the graveyard, hard-cast one creature spell and then I evoke another creature. Will that trigger the Vengevine's ability?

A: Sure! Evoke represents an alternative cost for casting a spell. You did in fact cast two creature spells, so Vengevine will pop out of the graveyard and proceed to smash face.

Q: I control Humility and Mishra's Factory. If I animate the Factory, will it be 1/1 or 2/2?

A: The latter. Humility's effect wants to set it to 1/1, and its own animation effect wants to set it to 2/2. Both effects are applied in layer 7b, and since they don't depend on each other, they're applied in timestamp order. The Factory's animation effect has the more recent timestamp, so it wins and the Factory is 2/2.

Q: My opponent controls a Chalice of the Void with two counters and I cast a kicked Breath of Darigaaz. Will the Chalice counter my spell?

A: Sadly, yes. A card's converted mana cost depends entirely on the mana cost that's printed in the top right corner of the card. Regardless of whether you pay the kicker, the converted mana cost of Breath of Darigaaz is 2, so you unfortunately wasted a card and on this play.

Q: If I control Trinisphere, can my opponent still suspend Rift Bolt for ?

A: Yup! Trinisphere only cares about the total cost to cast spells. Suspending a card is not the same as casting it, so Trinisphere does not change Rift Bolt's suspend cost. Of course, if Trinisphere is still around when Rift Bolt comes out of suspend, he'll have to pay for it, since suspend's cast-it-now ability tells him to cast it without paying its mana cost, and Trinisphere says that that's not enough.

Q: I just cast Life from the Loam, targeting three cards in my graveyard, and my opponent casts Imp's Mischief on it. Is that legal?

A: Not so much, no. While it's true that the word "target" only appears once in Life of the Loam, if you chose three targets for it, it's a spell with three targets, so Imp's Mischief can't target it.

Q: I attacked my opponent with two dudes, and he blocks one of them with his Knight of the Reliquary. Now he wants to tap his Knight and sacrifice a Plains to fetch a Maze of Ith and then tap Maze of Ith to render the unblocked attacker harmless. Can he really do that?

A: Absolutely! He gets priority in the declare blockers step to activate the Knight's ability, and after that resolves, he gets priority again to activate the Maze's ability. The Knight will be tapped, but it's still blocking the one attacker and will still deal combat damage to it, and the other attacker is getting lost in Ith's Maze instead of connecting with your opponent.

Q: I have a Bridge from Below in my graveyard and sacrifice a creature to flashback a Cabal Therapy. In response, my opponent cracks his Relic of Progenitus to exile my graveyard. Do I still get a Zombie token from the Bridge?

A: Sorry, no. The Bridge's ability went on the stack above Cabal Therapy when you paid its total cost, and the Relic's ability goes on top of the stack above the Bridge's ability. The Relic's ability resolves first, exiling your graveyard, and then the intervening-if clause on Bridge's ability checks whether the Bridge is in your graveyard, which it isn't anymore, so the ability does nothing.

Everyone's favorite Lhurgoyf
Q: My opponent controls a Tarmogoyf that is currently 2/3 due to our graveyards containing nothing but sorceries and creatures. I Lightning Bolt it, but my opponent says that the Goyf survives. What gives?

A: Your opponent is right. Lightning Bolt resolves and marks three damage on the Goyf, but before the game checks the Goyf for lethal damage, the Bolt has to go into the graveyard, where it will immediately turn the Goyf into a 3/4 creature. By the time state-based actions take a look, they see a 3/4 with 3 damage on it, so the Goyf survives.

Q: So, if I had Swords to Plowsharesed it instead, would my opponent have gained 3 life or 2?

A: Only 2. Unlike state-based actions, which compare the damage on the Goyf to its toughness after the Bolt has resolved, Swords to Plowshares checks the Goyf's power during its resolution. At that time, Swords to Plowshares is still on the stack, so it won't count towards the Goyf's power.

Q: Can I pitch Fire // Ice to cast Force of Will for its alternative cost?

A: Certainly! The alternative cost demands that you exile a blue card, and a split card has all characteristics of both halves. The game tells the card as a whole, "If you're blue, say 'Aye'", and Ice replies with "Aye," which is good enough for the game to consider Fire // Ice a blue card.

Q: What can I do if a judge makes a ruling that I think is incorrect?

A: That depends. If the judge is not the head judge, you always have the option to appeal to the head judge. This is your right, so don't be afraid to exercise that right. The judge won't be offended or get mad or anything, trust me.

If the judge is the head judge, your options are more limited, since there is no appeal beyond the head judge. Asking the judge "Are you sure?" is unlikely to help, because the judge will probably just say "Yes, I'm sure," and arguing with a judge is a bad idea because it can be considered unsporting conduct.

However, if you think that the head judge has overlooked a crucial detail in the board position that could change the answer, you could ask the judge whether he or she considered that particular detail. Asking a specific follow-up question to a ruling is perfectly acceptable, and if the judge did in fact overlook that detail, he or she will most likely correct the ruling.

Q: What happens if I change my deck at the last minute and forget to update the decklist to match the deck?

A: Starting with the new Infraction Procedure Guide on July 1st, the consequences of this oversight could be quite unpleasant. The decklist is the ultimate authority on what should be in your deck, so as long as the decklist represents a legal deck, you'll be forced to change your deck to match the list. If you can't (or don't want to) use the cards that are necessary to match the list, you can only replace those cards with basic lands, so you'll probably end up playing with a subpar deck.

Previously, the head judge had the option of allowing you to change the list to match the deck if the error was obviously clerical, but this option has been removed because it's too vague to be enforced consistently. Always forcing the deck to match the decklist is consistent, but this change means that it is now more important than ever to double-check that your decklist matches the deck you want to play.

By the way, another thing where you need to be more cautious than before is when you draw cards, or otherwise put cards into your hand at a Competitive tournament. For a while, accidentally drawing a card when you weren't supposed to was only a Warning for a Game Rule Violation, whereas the Game Loss for Drawing Extra Cards only applied when you resolved a card drawing spell or ability and drew more cards than instructed. Effective July 1st, any extraneous card draw that doesn't follow a prior Game Rule Violation or Player Communication Violation is classified as Drawing Extra Cards, so this infraction is back to being fairly easy to commit accidentally.

Q: If I already won a set of byes at a Grand Prix Trial, can I still play in another Trial that feeds the same Grand Prix?

A: Sure! You won't receive any additional byes if you place in a slot that awards byes, but there might be some other nifty prizes and ratings points to be won. Also, the byes won't pass down to the next rank, so by placing in a bye-winning slot again you'd prevent somebody else from getting their byes, which is almost as good as getting another set of byes for yourself.

And while we're on the topic of byes, it is time to say goodbye for now. Until we meet again, may all your Humilities be humbling and may all your Mishra's Factories be animated!

- 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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