Published on 12/03/2018


Cranial Translation
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I'm pretty sure his display uses more electricity
than the continent of Australia.
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! December has begun, and with it an endless onslaught of holiday-related...well, everything. I'm trying to minimize my exposure by not watching TV and keeping earplugs in while shopping, but my neighbor has a Christmas light display that can be seen from space, so there's only so much I can do. Hopefully I manage to avoid getting utterly sick of everything holiday-related before the end of the month.

Well, at least I'm safe here in the CI offices for now—I have yet to see a holiday-related rules question, so I should be safe answering those. Remember, if you have Magic rules questions of your own, you can always send them to us for an answer and to potentially see your question in an upcoming article. Simply send them to us via email at or, for the shorter ones, tweet them to us @CranialTweet.

Q: My opponent cast Act of Treason on my creature equipped with Sigiled Sword of Valeron. If he attacks with it, what happens?

A: You're going to have a blocker ready, is what will happen. Act of Treason may have allowed your opponent to take your creature, but it didn't give them control of any Auras or Equipment attached to it, meaning you're still the one who controls Sigiled Sword of Valeron. As such, when your opponent attacks and the Sword's ability triggers, you control the ability so you're the one who creates a 2/2 white Knight with vigilance. It won't be attacking, since it's not currently your turn, but since it's untapped you will be able to block with it.

Q: Does Courser of Kruphix's ability allow me to play multiple land cards in one turn?

A: Afraid not. Courser of Kruphix allows you to play land cards from a place you normally couldn't, but it doesn't change anything else about the process, such as when you can play them or how many you can play in a given turn, so all of that stays the same. Unless you can find something that specifically allows you to play additional lands, such as Azusa, Lost but Seeking, you're still stuck with just the one.

Q: If I attack with four lifelink creatures, how many counters will Karlov of the Ghost Council get?

A: Eight. Assuming everything proceeds normally, at least—all your lifelinkers survive to deal combat damage, none of them have double strike, and so on. The reason this happens is a bit weird—after all, barring first or double strike, all creatures deal combat damage at the same time so therefore all the life you gain from your lifelinkers is gained simultaneously, so shouldn't this all be considered one large instance of you gaining life? And normally, it would be...except that the phrase "whenever (a player) gain(s) life" actually has a bit of a special meaning in Magic.

While most abilities work exactly as they read, this one specific phrase is defined in the rules (in rule 118.9 for those keeping track at home) to actually mean "whenever a source causes (a player) to gain life", which is a subtly different thing. While all the life is being gained simultaneously, so you're only gaining life once, four different sources are each causing part of that increase to happen independently of each other, meaning that Karlov of the Ghost Council will trigger four separate times and receive a grand total of eight +1/+1 counters.

Q: If Solemnity is in play, would a Saga's effects trigger?

A: No, it would not. A Saga's chapter ability will trigger when one or more lore counters are placed on the Saga and that causes the number of lore counters to meet or exceed that chapter's number. However, thanks to Solemnity no lore counters can be placed on the Saga at all, so there's no way that its chapter abilities can trigger.

Even with my ears plugged, I can feel
the carols in my bones.
Q: Can I use Solidarity of Heroes on the same target more than once?

A: No, you cannot. While it allows you to choose any number of different creatures as targets, Solidarity of Heroes only allows you to choose any one creature as a target once, because it only uses the word "target" once, and you can't choose the same object as a target multiple times for the same instance of the word "target".

This is the difference between a spell like Gird for Battle, which allows you to give up to two different creatures each a +1/+1 counter, and Common Bond, which allows you to do that...but which also allows you to put two +1/+1 counters on the same creature if you'd prefer that instead. Gird for Battle uses the word "target" only once, so you can therefore only choose a single creature as a target once, while Common Bond uses it twice, and you can choose the same creature for each of those two separate instances of targeting.

Q: If I equip Spy Kit onto a Festering Newt, will the Newt give -4/-4 or -1/-1 when it dies?

A: Only -1/-1. Festering Newt's ability doesn't care about what creatures you may or may not have controlled in the past or might control in future—all that it cares about is whether or not you control a creature named Bogbrew Witch right this second, as the ability is resolving. While Festering Newt did have the appropriate name at the time that it died, that doesn't matter because it's no longer around.

Q: If Duplicant exiles Malignus, will its size change as players' life totals change? Or does it just stay the same size as Malignus was before it got exiled?

A: Malignus's power-and-toughness ability is what's known as a characteristic-defining ability, because it uses that ability to define the card's power and toughness instead of using plain old numbers in the power and toughness box like a normal creature card does. Unlike most abilities, characteristic-defining abilities (CDAs) apply in all zones and even outside of the game itself, so Malignus will still be growing and shrinking appropriately as your opponents' respective life totals change.

This means that Duplicant's size will indeed also change, because its ability is continually updating its power and toughness to match that of the card it exiled, and Malignus's size will still be changing while it's in exile.

Q: Can Sorcerous Spyglass prevent flashback?

A: Sorcerous Spyglass will prevent you from using any activated abilities of cards in your graveyard with the chosen name...but it won't stop flashback, because flashback is not an activated ability. Flashback actually works by using a static ability that gives you permission to cast the card it's on from your graveyard instead of just from your hand as normal, and the Spyglass cannot interfere with this permission because that's not what it's trying to prevent.

Q: I've been told that lands exiled by Thief of Sanity aren't playable. Why is that?

A: Because there's a difference between playing lands and casting spells, and Thief of Sanity only permits the latter. To "play" a card is to either play that card as a land (if it's a land) or to cast that card as a spell (if it's not), but to "cast" a card is only to cast that card as a spell. Since Thief of Sanity only says that you may "cast" that card, not "play" it, it only gives you permission to cast the card as a spell, and you can't do that with a land.

Compare Thief of Sanity with a card like Act on Impulse, which does allow you to play lands that it exiles, because it says that you can "play" thosee cards rather than just "cast" them.

Q: If I use Hostage Taker to take and cast my opponent's creature, and they then use Teferi, Hero of Dominaria's second ability on it, whose library does it go to?

A: Your opponent's. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria says to put the creature into its owner's library, and as far as the game is concerned, a card's owner is always and forever the player who started the game with it in their deck. (Or who brought it into the game, for cards from something like Burning Wish.) It doesn't matter who controls it or who put it onto the battlefield, only who owns it.

In general, it's not possible to put other players' things into your private zones like your hand, library, or graveyard—anything that sends something to any of those zones specifically sends them to their owner's.

Q: Does combining Equilibrium with an evoke creature like Shriekmaw allow me to bypass evoke's sacrifice clause?

A: Afraid not. Evoke triggers when the creature enters the battlefield if its evoke cost was paid, but Equilibrium triggers earlier, when you cast a creature spell. This means that Equilibrium's trigger gets put onto the stack on top of the creature spell it triggers off of, and you must choose a target for it at that time. And since it's on top of the stack, it's also going to resolve before the spell that triggered it, meaning all of its effects will occur before your evoke creature has even entered the battlefield at all.

And you aren't going to be able to loop two different evoke creatures using this trick either, because once your evoke creature has entered the battlefield and triggered the sacrifice ability, you're not able to cast a creature spell because the stack isn't empty.

Q: I crew Aradara Express with my boosted Gearsmith Guardian and attack with it. My opponent kills off my only blue creature, making my Guardian a 3/5 again. Does the attack by the Express still go through? Or will that stop the attack?

A: Your runaway Express is still headed straight for your opponent's face. While you do have to tap creatures with total power 4 or greater in order to crew the Express in the first place, once you've done so, the effect lasts until the end of the turn no matter what happens to any of the creatures you tapped that way. No matter what your opponent does to your Gearsmith Guardian—or any of your other creatures—Aradara Express will remain a creature, and that creature's attacking. They better hope they have enough blockers.

Q: My opponent has Boon Reflection and a creature enchanted with Celestial Mantle. If the creature deals damage, what happens?

A: Their life total triples. Good luck killing them off—you're probably going to need it.

When you double a player's life total (and their life total is positive to begin with) the way the game does that is to have the player gain as much life as they already have. So if for example they had 10 life, they'd gain another 10 life and end up with 20 life total, twice their original life total. Boon Reflection, of course, changes this, because when the game tries to get them to gain 10 life, the Reflection steps in and doubles "gain 10 life" to "gain 20 life", which means the player would end up with a total of 30 life.

At least there's one aspect of the holidays
there's no chance I'll ever get sick of.
...Unless the food literally makes me sick.
Q: My opponent attacks with Ruin Raider, and I block and kill it. Does its trigger still trigger at end step?

A: Nope, because it's not around to do so. While Ruin Raider's ability does check whether or not you attacked with a creature during the current turn, attacking with a creature isn't what actually triggers it in the first place. Instead, it triggers at the beginning of the end step, looking back in time to see if you did in fact attack with a creature. If the Raider isn't around at the beginning of your end step, it can't trigger.

While this means that the Raider isn't much use to you if it dies in combat, not having to be around when you actually made the attack does have its upside—if you attack with a creature first, and cast Ruin Raider only after combat, you're going to get its raid trigger even though the Raider wasn't around to see the actual attack occur.

Q: My opponent uses Spell Queller on my flashbacked Lingering Souls. What happens when the Queller dies and I recast the Souls?

A: Lucky you, you get another chance at casting Lingering Souls, because it's going to go to your graveyard once it's done resolving. Flashback causes the spell it's on to get exiled instead of going anywhere else if it was cast using Flashback, but Spell Queller was already sending it to exile, so flashback had no reason to step in back then, and it doesn't have any reason to step in now, because when you cast it off of Spell Queller's ability it's an entirely different spell than it was before, and you're not using flashback to cast it. As such, when it's done resolving it's going to go to your graveyard like any normal spell.

Q: Mirror-Mad Phantasm's rulings say that if it was a token, the library will be completely milled. Why is that? Doesn't the token exist in the library until the ability completely resolves?

A: That's true, the token does technically get put into your library, and it doesn't cease to exist until state-based actions are checked, which will be after Mirror-Mad Phantasm's ability finishes resolving. However, the important bit here is that the ability tells you to "reveal cards...until a card named Mirror-Mad Phantasm is revealed" and while it might be in your library, a token isn't a card. So even though there's a token in your library, you're not going to be revealing it (because it's not a card), and even if you did reveal it you wouldn't stop the process because while it is named "Mirror-Mad Phantasm", it's not a card.

So therefore, if you use a token Mirror-Mad Phantasm's ability and you don't have any actual Mirror-Mad Phantasms in your library, you're going to end up very, very sad when your entire library gets dumped into your graveyard, just as the ruling you mentioned says it will.

Q: Would I gain 4 life if I use Perimeter Captain to block two creatures thanks to Brave the Sands?

A: No. Perimeter Captain's ability is only going to trigger once, and you'll only gain 2 life, because Perimeter Captain is still only one creature, and it's only performing the action of blocking once, even though it's doing it to multiple creatures at the same time.

Q: What does Exotic Orchard mean when it says what my opponent's lands "could produce"? What do I take into account?

A: A whole lot, as a matter of fact. When you're trying to figure out what colors of mana a land "could produce", the way to do that is to take all of the abilities the land currently has and figure out any and all colors of mana that could possibly be produced if those abilities were to resolve right this very moment. This includes any possible choices that could be made when resolving the ability, both ones the ability specifically calls for and ones called for by the game, such as any replacement effects that would need to be applied.

It's actually easier to list what doesn't matter than what does, and what doesn't matter is basically just two things. First, it doesn't matter whether or not your opponent could possibly activate any of the land's abilities at the current moment. So Exotic Orchard will see that your opponent's Forest "could produce" green mana, even if right now it happens to be tapped and therefore your opponent wouldn't be able to activate that ability. And it will see that a Vivid Grove "could produce" any color of mana, even if it doesn't have any charge counters on it right now.

Second, it doesn't matter what mana other sources would produce if the land was tapped for mana, only what the land's ability itself would directly produce on its own. So something like Wild Growth that produces mana of its own when the land is tapped for mana doesn't mean the land "could produce" green mana—it's Wild Growth making that mana, not the land, and the Orchard doesn't care.

But something like Sea's Claim or Chromatic Lantern that causes a land to lose some abilities and/or gain others? Yup, that's taken into account, because they modify what abilities are present for the Orchard to check. Replacement effects that could modify the mana that's produced like Pulse of Llanowar or Contamination? Also taken into account. Whether mana would be produced at all, such as them controlling Gaea's Cradle but no creatures? Yup, that's taken into account too.

Q: I play an Island, triggering Oran-Rief Hydra's landfall ability. If I use Grixis Illusionist to make it a Forest in response, will the Hydra get two counters?

A: It does, yes. Oran-Rief Hydra's ability has a self-replacement clause that checks the land's type as the ability resolves, and that clause checks the characteristics of the land as it currently exists (or most recently existed, if it's somehow disappeared in the meantime) to see whether or not it's a Forest. Thanks to the Illusionist, it is, so the replacement kicks in and you get an extra counter.

Q: I have a whole bunch of copies of Rat Colony on the board, and my opponent casts Sudden Spoiling, which makes them lose all abilities. But Rat Colony's ability is that I can have as many copies of them as I want in my deck—does removing that ability make my deck illegal and force me to forfeit?

A: No, definitely not. Not much of anything happens, other than your Rats suddenly being much, much less threatening than before. Rat Colony's ability applies to the deckbuilding process, well before the game ever begins, and using an effect like Sudden Spoiling to remove the ability doesn't retroactively make your deck illegal, for the same reason that using Clone to copy a creature you have four copies of in your deck doesn't make your deck illegal for having five cards with that name, even though copying the creature does include copying its name. When determining deck legality, in-game effects are basically ignored.

Q: If both players only have Nexus of Fate and no win conditions in the deck, what happens?

A: Nothing much to start with—if nobody wishes to concede and the players won't agree to a draw, they just keep on playing. But eventually they're most likely going to reach a point where both players are stuck doing a whole lot of nothing but discarding Nexus of Fate every single turn, and once you've reached that point, the game is effectively stuck in a loop that spans multiple turns. Since that's the case, if neither player wishes to concede or find a way to exit the loop in some other way (such as by discarding non-Nexus cards so they deck out), the game will end in a draw.

That's all from me this week, but I'll be back at the end of the month to close out this year's worth of Cranial Insertion, and our other writers will be writing their own articles before then.

Until then, may you get just the right amount of holiday cheer.

- 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.

For Festering Newt with a Spy Kit: I know that leaves-the-battlefield triggers (including "dies") use information from the last moment the object was on the battlefield to determine some of the details about how they trigger and resolve. What about this situation makes it such that we don't factor in the Newt being named "Bog Witch" right before it died?
#1 • Date: 2018-12-03 • Time: 16:35:25 •
The Duplicant and Malignus question seems to assume that you own the Malignus (so it grows/shrinks according to your opponent\'s life total). But is not it more natural for Duplicant to exile a creature the opponent controls (and owns)?

Last edited on 2018-12-04 02:31:14 by bbbbbbbbba
#2 • Date: 2018-12-04 • Time: 02:14:10 •
@Rhadamanthus: Because you don't control it anymore! Yes, the Festering Newt that died also had the name "Bog Witch", and it was controlled by you if something cared about that (e.g. Midnight Reaper), but that creature doesn't exist now! It's the same reason Magma Phoenix doesn't deal 3 damage to itself.
#3 • Date: 2018-12-04 • Time: 02:28:33 •

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