Published on 04/22/2019

Command & Conquer

Cranial Translation
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The not-so-secret headquarters of the
Commander Rules Committee
As some of our readers will hopefully know, I was appointed to the Commander Advisory Group earlier this year. As a part of that group, I get to represent the segment of the player base that I interact with and represent their concerns and ideas to the Commander Rules Committee and the other CAG members.

Last week, the CAG members were invited to their first quarterly meeting with the Rules Committee and so in celebration of that personal milestone, I'm dedicating this week's article to the best format in all of Magic: Commander.

Before we get to your questions, it's time for me to remind you that if you'd like the CI team to answer your question, please send it to us via email at or tweet it to us @CranialTweet. We'll make sure to send you a reply and your question might also appear in a future CI column.

Q: I've cast each of my commanders (Vial Smasher the Fierce and Tymna the Weaver) once so far this game and then I go to cast Vial Smasher for a second time using mana filtered through Opal Palace. How many counters will Vial Smasher get when she enters the battlefield?

A: Two.
While this is the third time you've cast a commander from the command zone this game, Opal Palace only cares about the specific commander you're casting with its mana and not the other partner. Since it's the second time you're casting Vial Smasher from your command zone, Opal Palace will cause her to enter the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters.

Q: If I have Sneak Attack and Experimental Frenzy in play, can I pay to place creature cards from the top of my library into play?

A: No, this won't work.
Sneak Attack only allows you to put creature cards from your hand onto the battlefield, not creature cards from other zones. Even though Experimental Frenzy is letting you treat the top of your library like it's part of your hand, it's still not part of your hand and thus those cards can't be Sneaked in to attack.

Q: How does Animar, Soul of Elements's cost reduction effect work with creatures with costs, e.g. Walking Ballista? How do I figure out how big I can make these creatures?

A: The trick here is to just do the math. Let's say you have five mana available as well as seven +1/+1 counters on Animar. That means that we can cast Walking Ballista as though we had 5+7=12 mana available, meaning that X=6.
If you want to understand the technical process for what's happening, here's the step by step process: First, choose a value for X. This value gets plugged into both X's in Walking Ballista's mana cost. After you've done that, you take that cost and apply any cost increases or reductions, such as Animar's, to determine your total cost for the spell. Of course, it's a lot easier to do it the other way rather than choosing X before you do the math about what that will make the total.

Q: We allow Unstable cards in our Commander playgroup. Someone revealed a hidden Entirely Normal Armchair and asked if it triggers "enters the battlefield" triggers. So does is it or doesn't it?

A: The only way that Entirely Normal Armchair can trigger anything when it enters the battlefield is if an opponent of its controller catches it in the act of being hidden, i.e. entering the battlefield, or if its controller points it out at the time. If it's discovered at any later time, then it has already previously entered the battlefield and thus the chance for such triggers has passed and those triggers missed.

As one of the original five Commanders,
Bolas weilds more power than most realize.
Q: I activate Estrid, the Masked's -7 ability with Enchanted Evening also on the battlefield. Among the cards put into my graveyard by the ability is Opalescence. Can I tap my lands for mana before Opalescence enters the battlefield and state-based actions kill all lands for being 0/0?

A: No. You're out of luck here.
Players can never cast spells or activate non-mana abilities while a spell or ability is resolving unless instructed to do so by that spell. A player can only activate mana abilities while a spell or ability is resolving if the resolution of that spell or ability asks for a mana payment from that player. Estrid's ultimate does neither of these things, so all of its effects will happen from start to finish without anyone being able to respond once the Opalescence is milled over by the first part of its resolution.

Q: If I control both Phyrexian Unlife and Solemnity while at 0 life, what happens when an opponent's commander deals combat damage to me? Does it still count as damage even though my life total doesn't change and I don't get any poison counters?

A: Yes, you still take damage from the commander and that damage can accumulate and allow you to lose the game from taking 21 or more damage from that same commander over the course of the game.
For those not familiar with this interaction, a player who's at 0 life or less and controls both of these enchantments is almost totally immune from damage since damage would be dealt to them as though its source had infect, i.e. as poison counters, but then they can't get those poison counters because of Solemnity's effect. This makes the damage event have no visible effect on the defending player. However, the damage is still dealt, which is relevant for things like lifelink or for commander damage as in the question above.

Q: If I control Arena Rector and an opponent control Leyline of the Void, can I search for a planeswalker when the Rector dies?

A: No, this doesn't work because Arena Rector won't die in this scenario.
To die means to go from the battlefield to the graveyard, but Leyline of the Void never lets your cards get to the graveyard, so Arena Rector will be exiled instead of dying and won't trigger at all.

Q: How does Locket of Yesterdays interact with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept? Would I be able to reduce the cost of a spell cast with Silas's combat trigger?

A: No, you won't be able to do that.
When you cast a spell from any zone, the first step is to move it onto the stack from where it is. This happens long before you go to determine costs, and so Locket of Yesterdays won't see that card in the graveyard anymore because it's not there.

Q: If I suspend multiple spells using Jhoira of the Ghitu on the same turn, and one of them has split second, what happens when their last counters are removed and I put the split second card on stack before any of the others? Do I just not get to cast any of my other spells because of it?

A: You're misunderstanding how things resolve in this situation.
Let's say you have Sudden Shock and two other spells suspended with Jhoira and they're all about to have their last time counter removed during your upkeep. When your upkeep begins, you get to choose the order of those suspend triggers and then they resolve one at a time. If you resolve Sudden Shock's trigger first, then the trigger to cast it will go on the stack. That trigger will then resolve and you'll cast it if able. Sudden Shock will then resolve while the other two spells still have their last time counters on them. Then the next trigger will resolve, remove the last time counter from its spell, cast that spell, and resolve it before the same process happens with the last spell.

Q: OK, but let's say that one of those suspended cards loses its time counters and can't be cast because of Silence or something. Can I add more counters to that card to get it ticking down again using Timecrafting?

A: No, you can't because that card isn't suspended anymore.
If a suspended card loses all of its time counters but can't be cast, then it's no longer suspended (because of no time counters) and is just stuck in exile indefinitely like any other non-suspended exiled card.

Q: How does Trinisphere interact with the Assist mechanic on spells?

A: Unspectacularly. Not even Trinisphere can break the bonds of friendship.
Trinisphere doesn't care who's paying the mana to cast a spell, just that at least 3 mana is paid for it. When another player Assists in casting a spell, that mana is still being paid to cast the spell and so Trinisphere will be satisfied just as if the spell's controller paid all the mana alone.

Q: In a commander game, an opponent casts Regna's Sanction and declares me a foe as it resolves, but all of my creatures have hexproof from Asceticism. What happens? Does it still work on me?

A: Yes, it still works on you.
Regna's Sanction doesn't target you or the creatures you control, so it's able to affect you normally. Hexproof only stops spells and abilities your opponents control from targeting your creatures, but an effect that simply has a player choose a creature (without using the word target) can get around shroud.
Remember, a spell or ability only targets something if it specifically uses the word "target" in its text.

Q: If I control Hall of Gemstone and my opponent controls Contamination, which one takes precedence? What color will lands produce?

A: Neither effect will take precedence and it's up to each player which effect will win for each land that they tap for colored mana. Technically both replacement effects will apply to each land that's tapped for mana, so you'll always end up with exactly one black mana or one mana of the chosen color regardless of what color or how much mana the land originally produced.
Also, it's important to note that Hall of Gemstone's effect doesn't apply to colorless mana, so Contamination will always apply to colorless mana production first and then Hall of Gemstone will replace the black mana with mana of the chosen color.

As my very first commander, Uril will
always have a special place in my heart.
Q: If I kill one of my opponents by attacking them with Wasitora, will I get a Cat Dragon token?

A: Yes, Wasitora will still trigger when she deals deadly combat damage to your opponent. When her trigger resolves, that player is no longer in the game and can't take any game actions, such as sacrificing anything. Since that's the case, Wasitora gives you an adorable Cat Dragon token! Huzzah!

Q: I control The Locust God enchanted with Darksteel Mutation. I equip Skullclamp to it to free it with the sweet release of death. Does the Locust God's death trigger trigger or not, though?

A: No, this doesn't work out the way you want it to.
For a death trigger to trigger, it has to be in place before the permanent it's on leaves the battlefield as it triggers from the battlefield and not from the graveyard.
Since the Locust God didn't have any of its printed abilities while it was on the battlefield, its death trigger doesn't exist and thus can't trigger, leaving it stranded in the graveyard.

Q: I attack the player to my left. They cast Eye for an Eye and then the player to their left casts Darkness before Eye for an Eye resolves. After both spells resolve, who (if anyone) is dealt damage in the combat damage step?

A: You'll take some damage from Eye for an Eye, maybe. It depends on how vindictive the player you're attacking is feeling. Both Darkness and Eye for an Eye want to modify/prevent the damage being dealt, so the player that would be dealt damage gets to choose which effect to apply to the combat damage from your creature first. If your opponent chooses to apply Darkness's effect first, then your creature won't deal any combat damage this turn and Eye for an Eye's effect will no longer apply to that damage.
If your opponent applies Eye for an Eye's effect first, then the combat damage to your opponent will be replaced with that same amount of combat damage and that amount of damage to you from Eye for an Eye. Darkness's effect is then applied and prevents the damage to your opponent, but you'll still be dealt the damage from Eye for an Eye.

Q: What would happen if I kicked Comet Storm twice and also conspired it thanks to Wort, the Raidmother?

A: Kicking Comet Storm twice gives it three total targets. You choose those targets before you pay any costs, including conspire. Once the spell is cast and the conspire trigger resolves, you'll copy Comet Storm exactly as it exists, with the same value for X and the same three targets. You can then leave any or all of the targets of the copy the same, or change them as you like. The spell must keep three total targets, though.

Q: Why can't cards like Spawnsire of Ulamog get me any cards from outside the game in Commander?

A: Because rule 13 in the format rules that says so. The scope of what a card like Spawnsire or Mastermind's Acquisition should be able to access from outside of the game is something that few people will naturally agree on, so the safest rule is to just stop these cards from working without a prior agreement. However, Commander is a casual format and so players can change the rules of the format however they see fit as long as all of them agree to these house rules beforehand. (Note that in any formal Commander event, like at MagicFests or other large tournaments or conventions, the Tournament Organizer can set unchangeable rules, and usually does.)

Well, that's about enough multiplayer madness to subject you to today. If you're looking to improve your own understanding of rules and mechanics, I can't recommend playing more Commander enough, as it's the only place in Magic where you have a fair chance of seeing and two random cards bang against each other.

What's that? There's a pre-release this weekend? Oh, right, well good luck to all of you who are attending! Carsten will be with you next week to give you your first dose of War of the Spark Q&A that we all know you've been desperately craving.

- Charlotte


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