Published on 05/20/2019

Zombie Hunting for Fun and Profit

Cranial Translation
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This is fine, right? It's probably fine.
Nothing bad happening here.
There are still so, so many zombies outside. When will this nightmare end? How many long nights of the undead trying to claw their way into my house must I endure? Shouldn't someone be doing something?
...Oh. They are? Liliana is turning the tide? She doesn't want to be a benevolent overlord after all's said and done? Are you sure?

Well. To bemoan the zombie apocalypse and celebrate the zombie salvation (what?), this week is all about zombies. Cards that are zombies! Cards that make zombies! Cards that do cool things with or to or because of zombies!

If you have a hunger for some more rules questions, feel free to tweet shorter questions to @CranialTweet, or email longer questions to . If you have a hunger for brains and/or mortal flesh, please go away.

Let's begin!

Q: I control a Dreadhorde Arcanist and a Feather, the Redeemed. If I cast a spell that targets one of my creatures with the Arcanist's attack trigger, what happens to that spell?

A: You can choose whether or not you get the card back to your hand.

There are two competing replacement effects here. Dreadhorde Arcanist wants to just exile the card as it resolves. Feather, on the other hand, wants you to exile the card, then return it to your hand at the beginning of the next end step. Since you're the controller of the affected object (which is the card, here), you choose which replacement effect to apply. You'll probably always want to choose Feather's replacement effect. She's nicer.

Q: I control an Undercity Necrolisk and a Teferi, Time Raveler. Can I activate the Necrolisk's ability at "instant speed"?

A: No, you can't.

When a card says "Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery," it means "during your main phase, while the stack is empty." While Teferi lets you cast sorcery spells any time you have priority, it doesn't apply here — Necrolisk's ability is, well, an ability, not a spell, so they don't play well together.

Q: I control a Dreadhorde Butcher with 3 counters on it. If my opponent destroys it, how much damage can I deal?

A: The Butcher's trigger will deal 4 damage.

When a creature dies, the game looks back in time to the last moment the creature was on the battlefield to see if it had any abilities that should trigger. The last time the Butcher was on the battlefield, he was a 4/4. He had 4 power, so you'll be able to deal 4 damage to any target.

Q: I control an Underrealm Lich, but my library is empty! When I try to draw for my turn, do I lose?

A: No, you don't!

Underrealm Lich replaces any card you would draw with its effect — you'll look at the top three cards, put one into your hand, and put the rest into your graveyard. Even though you can't actually do this because there are no cards to look at, it does still replace your draw, which means the draw never happened! You only lose from trying to draw from an empty library, not doing anything else to it. You're safe. For now.

This card isn't banned in Commander.
The world is full of mysteries.

Q: If I use Flash to put a Rot Hulk into play, can I decline to pay the Hulk's mana cost reduced by , then target the Hulk with its own enters-the-battlefield ability?

A: You can, and I applaud you for doing silly things in Commander.

Triggers don't go on the stack until after a spell or ability is done resolving. So, even though Rot Hulk entered the battlefield because of Flash, its trigger won't go on the stack until after Flash is completely finished — which means you already had to sacrifice Rot Hulk. Since he's a Zombie card in your graveyard now, he's a legal target for his own trigger.

Q: I have an Advanced Stitchwing in my graveyard, and I control a Secrets of the Dead. Will activating the Stitchwing's ability trigger Secrets of the Dead?

A: No, it won't.

Secrets of the Dead only triggers when you cast a spell from your graveyard. Here, you aren't casting the Stitchwing. You're activating an ability to return it to the battlefield.

Q: If I cast a Necrotic Ooze from my graveyard because of Havengul Lich's activated ability, does the Lich have all activated abilities of all creature cards in all graveyards?

A: The Lich won't get any abilities.

The Lich's ability triggers while the Necrotic Ooze is on the stack. Since the Ooze only gains abilities while it's on the battlefield, the Lich won't have anything to gain from its trigger. He might be sad about this, but we aren't sure if zombies have feelings.

Q: If I make a token of Pack Rat with The Scarab God, what is the Rat's power and toughness?

A: The Rat will be a 4/4, all the time.

The copy effect from The Scarab God wants to affect the same thing as Pack Rat's characteristic-defining ability. In these situations, the copy effect wins, and erases the characteristic-defining ability. The Pack Rat will be a 4/4, and any copies of it will also be a 4/4.

Q: I control a Varina, Lich Queen and an Alhammarret's Archive Let's say I attack with three Zombies. How do I resolve Varina's trigger?

A: You'll draw 6 cards, discard 3 cards, and gain 6 life.

The "discard that many" in Varina's trigger refers only to the number of Zombies you attacked with; it doesn't care about the number of cards you actually drew. Similarly, Alhammarret's Archive doubles the number of cards you draw and the amount of life you gain, but it doesn't have any effect on the number of cards you discard.

"Excuse me? You insolent soon-to-be corpse,
did you just refuse me a trigger?"

Q: I cast a Custodi Lich, and in response to its enters-the-battlefield trigger, an opponent destroys it. Do I still become the monarch? Can I still make someone sacrifice a creature?

A: The good news: you are the monarch! The bad news: since the Lich was destroyed before its ETB trigger resolved, it won't be on the battlefield to see you become the monarch, so you can't make target player sacrifice a creature.

Q: I cast Smallpox, discarding a Bridge from Below and sacrificing a Grizzly Bears. Do I get a Zombie token?

A: Yes, you do.

You perform the parts of Smallpox in order. By the time you sacrifice a creature, you've already discarded your Bridge, so you'll be the proud parent of a brand new Zombie token.

Q: My opponent attacks me with an Undead Alchemist and two other Zombies. I control Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. How many Zombie tokens will I get?

A: You will only get, at most, one Zombie token.

Since all combat damage would be dealt simultaneously, that also means that the Alchemist's replacement effect for the Zombies' damage happens all at once. You'll put that many cards into your graveyard as a single event, and if one of those cards was a creature card, you'll make a Zombie token. If zombies can feel, this one will feel lonely.

Q: I control a Grave Betrayal. My opponent's Clone dies. What does the Clone look like when I return it to the battlefield?

A: The Clone will have a +1/+1 counter, whether it copies something or not. It'll also be a black Zombie (in addition to its other colors and types) — for example, if it copies a Grizzly Bears, it'll be a black and green Creature - Zombie Bear.

Q: I control a Noosegraf Mob with 4 counters on it, and my opponent casts Slaughter the Strong. What happens next?

A: First, your Noosegraf Mob triggers. You'll remove a counter from it and make a 2/2 Zombie token. Then, as Slaughter the Strong resolves, you can choose to save either your Mob or your token.

Q: I'm playing Skullbriar, the Walking Grave as my commander. My opponent casts Scar targeting Skullbriar. Do -1/-1 counters remain too?

A: They do. Skullbriar doesn't specify which counters remain on it as it moves to public zones, which means you have to take the bad with the good.

Q: I control a Divine Visitation and a Daxos the Returned. When I activate Daxos' ability, what does the resulting token look like?

A: It'll be a 4/4 white Angel token with flying and vigilance, and nothing else.

The power-and-toughness setting characteristic-defining ability the Spirit token would normally have is part of its base copiable values, not gained by the token after it's created, so the entire Spirit token and all of its characteristics are replaced by Divine Visitation.

Can you paint with all the
scullers of the wind?

Q: I cast a Tidehollow Sculler, and with its enters-the-battlefield trigger on the stack, I cast Cloudshift on the Sculler. How does this play out?

A: Okay, hold on. This gets a little complicated.

Tidehollow Sculler has what's called "linked abilities." This means that, basically, "the exiled card" in its leaves-the-battlefield trigger can only refer to the card exiled by its enters-the-battlefield ability.
We have to couple that knowledge with the fact that if an object changes zones, it becomes a new object. This means that the Sculler that leaves because of Cloudshift is a different Sculler from the one that re-enters.
Following so far?

So. We have Sculler 1's ETB on the stack. We Cloudshift Sculler 1. Sculler 1 leaves and Sculler 2 enters, and then their respective triggers go on the stack. Sculler 1's LTB has no card to return. Sculler 2's ETB exiles a card from your opponent's hand. Then, finally, Sculler 1's ETB resolves and exiled a card from your opponent's hand.

Wait. But we already resolved Sculler 1's LTB, and Sculler 1 doesn't even exist anymore! That's right. The card we exile with Sculler 1's ETB trigger is exiled forever. Later, when Sculler 2 leaves the battlefield, the card exiled by Sculler 2's ETB will return to your opponent's hand.

Q: If my Vindictive Lich triggers twice because of Teysa Karlov, can I choose different modes and targets for each trigger?

A: Yes, you can.

Each trigger goes on the stack independently, so you can make different decisions for each of them.

Q: Do the creatures returned with Balthor the Defiled's exiled ability have to be only red or only black?

A: As long as the card's mana cost has red or black in it, and the card isn't Devoid (like Bearer of Silence), Balthor can return it. For example, Footlight Fiend (red and black), Cruel Celebrant (white and black), and Blistercoil Weird (red and blue) can all be returned by Balthor.

Q: If I cast Awaken the Erstwhile, do I own all the Zombie tokens that are created as a result?

A: No. The player that created the Zombie tokens owns them. You can't do any tricky things with Trostani Discordant here.

I think that's about all the time I have this week for digging up curious zombie questions. Hopefully you've learned something. Don't learn too much, though — you don't want your brain to be extra big and delicious. Next week, Carsten's got some tasty knowledge nuggets for you! As for me, I need to go bury my head in some pillows and try to get some sleep. These zombies have been keeping me awake for like forever.

- Andrew

About the Author:
Andrew is a Level 2 judge from Dallas, TX who spends too much time on his computer.


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