Published on 04/08/2019

The Ten Writers

Cranial Translation
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Historically, you give a gift of ivory
or elephants for a 14th anniversary.
Hiya everyone, and welcome back to Cranial Insertion! This week, we're doing things a little differently. Instead of our normal slate of Magic rules questions and answers, we decided that, in honor of our recent 14th anniversary, we'd celebrate a bit by celebrating our history. We reached out to as many former writers of Cranial Insertion as we could, and asked them to provide two things: a rules question and answer, and a quick update as to what they're up to these days (whether it's Magic related or not). While this week's article is a little lighter on the Magic rules content, I hope you'll enjoy catching up with the writers who have helped contribute to this weekly blog for the last 14+ years.

While this is a slightly different week for us, you can still send us your questions that we'll answer and possibly use in a future article. You can send us short questions via our Twitter account at @CranialTweet, and longer questions can be sent to .

Eli Shiffrin

Q: How does Warp World interact with the commander replacement effect? It's unclear whether you're counting the number of permanents you owned, or the number that actually get shuffled in.

A: The default in Magic's magical matching mayhem is to match "that many" and such to the number of things that were referenced directly in the ability in question. For example, in this case, Warp World directly references "all permanents [you] own," so that's the number you count. In contrast, we have to directly reference where the cards ended up if we want to care about that - you can find some examples of cards counting the number of things "put into a graveyard," and one example of "put into exile" to contrast something being "exiled" (but maybe it didn't go to exile).

What am I up to these days? You may have seen me still answering rules questions in the Release Notes and Update Bulletins for new sets. I'm currently the rules manager for Magic, as well as a handful of other responsibilities that are less relevant to this audience.

Thijs van Ommen

Q: I control a Quicksilver Elemental and a Chronatog. Can I copy Chronatog's ability twice, and then activate both its abilities to give my Elemental +6/+6 until end of turn?

A: Yes, that works. Quicksilver Elemental will have two instances of the ability, and each can be activated once that turn. Keep in mind that you'll also have to skip your next two turns, so you'd better win now!

There's another little trick that you can use here. Quicksilver Elemental copies all activated abilities it finds on the target creature. If you have the Elemental target itself instead of the Atog, you'll double the number of abilities each time! For example, your Elemental will get the ability four times, allowing it to grow to 15/16. Pay for an additional +12/+12, making it 27/28. Or, if you like formulas: X blue mana (let's write that as X) will make Quicksilver Elemental 3+3*2X-1/4+3*2X-1 for X >= 1.

I was always a rules enthusiast, but never a judge. In the years after being a regular writer for Cranial Insertion, I have gotten a wife and a job as machine learning researcher.

Yes, we love you too.

Tom Fowler

Q: How does Defense Grid affect a Force of Will cast via its alternate cost?

A: I answered this question waaaaay back in my in 2005. Wait . . . 2005!?

Back then, we had to haul the Comprehensive Rules around on stone tablets. You kids today can just download them with your fancy Apple tablets.

Anyway, this works the same way it did back then. You determine the casting cost of the spell by taking its printed or alternative cost, adding any cost increases, subtracting any reductions, and arriving at what you actually have to pay.

Assuming the Force of Will is cast during another player's turn, we have: (1 life and exile a blue card from your hand) + (3) - 0. So you'll need to pay (3) in addition to the alternative cost of Force of Will.

Playing a spell is covered by the 601.2 series in the Comprehensive Rules, and determining the casting cost of a spell by 601.2f. Stone tablets no longer required.

What I'm up to? Most relevant to CI, I'm not an active judge anymore.

Family has a way of eating into your hobby time. It's an inevitability of getting older. My wife and I have a daughter. She's in high school, she's a Special Olympics athlete (with multiple gold medals, he says in his proud dad voice), and she's terrific.

Professionally, I'm still in the same field, though I've moved on from system administration to risk and vulnerability management. I'm also a side-hustle fiction writer. If you like mysteries and thrillers, you can check out my Amazon page and see if anything strikes your fancy.

While I'm no longer an active (or even certified) judge, and my time for Magic has decreased, I still enjoy the game. I can't keep up with constructed formats, so I mainly do Limited events, cube drafts, and an occasional Commander game. (It needs to be occasional—I'm not a big multiplayer fan.)

Magic is a great game, and judging for almost a decade allowed me to meet many people I'm still in contact with today. Enjoy it and put as much as you can into it. You'll get a lot out of it.


(Moko didn't quite understand the assignment given to him. After staring at the piece of paper set in front of him, he crumpled it into a ball, ate it, and then started jumping around the room. Needless to say, Moko is still here at Cranial Insertion, and will likely be here well after everyone else has gone away.)

Aaron Stevenson

Q: I cast Nature's Way targeting my Krosan Cloudscraper and my opponent's Legion Warboss so I could push through extra damage with my attack. My opponent sacrificed the Warboss to his Skirk Prospector, claiming that my spell is now countered, and he can chump block with another goblin. Is that right?

A: In keeping with goblin tradition, the Warboss was sacrificed in vain. A spell fails to resolve if *all* of its targets are illegal. If only some of the targets are illegal, the spell still resolves, doing as much as it can with the targets that are still legal. Your Cloudscraper won't pound the Warboss into oblivion, but it'll trample merrily over the rest of your opponent's goblin army.

I've drifted away from Magic to focus on raising my three daughters, but I'm playing "new" games like Mass Effect and Skyrim in my spare time. I'm now working as a government compliance officer, where I'm still answering rules questions and dealing with zombified chimpanzees.

For when you need a lot of ivory.

Carsten Haese

Q: If my opponent controls a bunch of planeswalkers, can I kill them all with a properly divided Jaws of Stone if I control enough Mountains?

A: Yes, you can. The answer was different when I answered this question in my very first Cranial Insertion appearance way back in 2008. Back then, Jaws of Stone couldn't deal damage directly to planeswalkers, so you'd have to target your opponent and then redirect the damage to one of their planeswalkers on resolution. In the meantime, the rules got rid of this redirection effect and a bunch of cards received errata that allows them to deal damage to "any target", which is a shorthand for a target creature, player, or planeswalker. Jaws of Stone is one of those cards, so you can divide the damage among different planeswalkers if that's what you want to do.

Just like in the rules of Magic, in my life some things have changed while most things have stayed the same. I still have the same job I had back then, being a systems developer for a company in the financial industry. In case you're wondering, yes, that is exactly as exciting (or boring) as you'd think it would be. In terms of my judge career, back then I wasn't a certified judge yet, and nowadays I'm not a certified judge any more since personal circumstances prevented me from judging enough events to stay certified. However, I'm still quite involved in Magic, being one of the current writers for Cranial Insertion, being on the rules team that helps Eli write the release notes for new sets, and organizing an annual charity tournament for the National MS Society that's still going strong after ten years.

Laurie Cheers

Q: What happens if Amplifire finds no creature cards in your library? Does it become 0/0?

A: It does indeed become 0/0! I love weird situations like this - this value is undefined, but treating it as zero isn't the same as "nothing happens". You can construct a similar situation by making a Mizzium Transreliquat into a copy of Phyrexian Processor - for the Transreliquat's life payment ability a value was never chosen as it resolved and no amount of life was paid, so when you tap it the value for X is undefined. Do you get a 0/0 token, or no token at all? As with the Amplifire situation, we treat the undefined value as 0, and you get a 0/0 token.

I'm still on the Magic rules team. For my day job, although I worked on Magic Duels for a while, nowadays I program VR games.

Nathan Long

Q: I'm in a game of Commander, and I've got my commander (Eladamri, Lord of Leaves) in the command zone and an Aluren on the battlefield. Can I use Aluren to cast Eladamri as often as I want from the command zone, and evade the commander tax?

A: No you cannot. While Aluren lets you cast Eladamri without paying its mana cost, it only gets around the mana cost of the card. Aluren won't cover any additional costs, like the commander tax from casting your commander from the command zone. The first time you cast Eladamri, it will be free, but the second time will cost two mana, the third four mana, and so on.

I'm one of your current writers. While I don't do as much judging as I used to, you'll still find me on various places on the internet like reddit or the Ask A Magic Judge chat channel, doing what I do best - answering Magic rules questions. I also help contribute to the rules teams, helping with card wordings for future sets and Release Note construction.

Charlotte Sable

Q: If I have both Naban, Dean of Iteration and Panharmonicon on the field, and play a wizard with and ETB effect like Viashino Pyromancer, will the triggers for Naban and Panharmonicon just keep activating each other infinitely? I.e. Naban triggers because the wizard entering caused Panharmonicon to trigger, so Panharmonicon trigger Naban again etc.

A: Both Panharmonicon and Naban have static abilities, not triggered abilities, so there's no weird infinite loop here. Both cards will see that Viashino Pyromancer is going to trigger from entering the battlefield and apply their replacement effect to that event, causing Viashino Pyromancer to trigger two additional times for a total of three triggers. Neither card can apply again to the new trigger caused by the other because they've both already applied their effects to the original event and a replacement effect can only apply once to an event, even if another replacement effect would cause the original event to happen twice instead.

I'm still running my blog at I was just named to the Commander Advisory Group, so my passion for that format has been rekindled a bit. Also, I'll be judging Mythic Championship II in London at the end of the month! :D

Andrew Villarrubia

Q: I discarded an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn while my opponent controls a Leyline of the Void. Where does Emrakul end up?

A: Emrakul will be exiled.

Leyline of the Void has a replacement effect, while Emrakul has a triggered ability. Since Leyline replaces "goes to the graveyard" with "goes to exile," Emrakul never touches the graveyard, so she won't even have an opportunity to trigger.

I'm a software engineer. My interest in the rules was sparked a few years ago when I got into EDH and wanted to know more about how the jank decks at my store worked. I spend a lot of time in the rules IRC answering questions that range from "new players asking questions" to "what abomination did you just ask about."

Wait, who was that last guy? Andrew Villarrubia? I've never seen him write for Cranial Insertion before. I guess maybe you'll find out more next week...

About the Author:
Moko was born in Tanzania, and died in a tragic accident involving a catapult while being transported from Eli Shiffrin to Thijs van Ommen between the first two Cranial Insertion articles. Subsequently zombified, he helps sort their mail and occasionally answers questions. His pastimes include bananas and brains. Mmm brains.

The article says that Naban, Dean of Iteration and Panharmonicon have replacement effects but I didn't find any rule in the 614. section that corresponds to their wording "if … an additional time". Could they just have a continuous effect that changes the rules of the game?
#1 • Date: 2019-04-08 • Time: 13:44:14 •
Oops, yeah, that's a static ability, not a replacement effect. I updated the article.
#2 • Date: 2019-04-10 • Time: 00:19:53 •

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