Published on 05/27/2019

Cranial Insertion's Memorial Day Sale

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A feast for your minds
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. It's Memorial Day here in the United States, which means it's the unofficial start of the summer season and cookouts, and it means that retailers are offering their goods at reduced prices to drum up business. Not to be outdone ourselves, all the answers in this article are on sale for 50% off! Of course, we provide answers for free because we love educating our readers, so the absolute savings are not quite so spectacular, but please don't tell anybody...

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will send you an answer, and your question might appear in a future article. Also, with Modern Horizons preview season in full swing, feel free to send us questions about cards that are being previewed. Those questions might appear here as early as two weeks from now in our Modern Horizons prerelease article.

And now, let's dive into this week's questions. We'll start with a correction of a question from last week, where the initially published answer was not quite accurate.

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: My opponent controls Thalia, Heretic Cathar and I cast Gideon Blackblade. Does Gideon enter the battlefield tapped?

A: Yes, he enters the battlefield tapped because the game looks far enough into the future to determine that he's entering the battlefield as a creature. The relevant rule here is rule 614.12, which is a little bit too long to quote in its entirety, but here's the relevant bit: "To determine which replacement effects apply and how they apply, check the characteristics of the permanent as it would exist on the battlefield, taking into account [...] continuous effects from the permanent's own static abilities that would apply to it once it's on the battlefield."

Q: Does casting Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi on Inkmoth Nexus and then activating the Nexus do what I'm hoping for?

A: If you're hoping for a 10/10 infectious flyer, then yes! Thanks to the layers, the effect that sets Inkmoth Nexus's base power/toughness to 1/1 gets applied before the nine +1/+1 counters get applied, so until the end of the turn you'll have a 10/10 legendary Elemental Blinkmoth artifact land creature named Vitu-Ghazi with haste, infect, and flying.

Q: If I activate Inkmoth Nexus (this time without Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi) and enchant it with an Aura such as Shielding Plax, does it keep the Aura when it stops being a creature?

A: Nope. Auras continually check whether they can legally be attached to the thing they're enchanting. When Inkmoth Nexus stops being a creature, state-based actions kick in and throw Shielding Plax into the graveyard because it's attached to something it can't enchant.

Q: That's a bummer. What about +1/+1 counters? Do those stay when Inkmoth Nexus stops being a creature?

A: Yup! Unlike Auras, +1/+1 counters don't have a state-based action that monitors what they're on, so the counters will happily continue to sit on Inkmoth Nexus. They won't create a noticeable effect while Inkmoth Nexus is not a creature, but their effect will kick in as soon as it becomes a creature again.

Q: Does Karn, the Great Creator's first ability shut down mana abilities? For example, if I play Mycosynth Lattice, does that prevent my opponents from tapping their lands for mana?

A: Yes. Karn's ability doesn't say that it excludes mana abilities, so it doesn't exclude mana abilities. With both Karn and Mycosynth Lattice on the battlefield, your opponents will be extremely limited in what they can do.

Q: If I control a planeswalker with three loyalty counters that's been turned into a Dragon with Sarkhan the Masterless and it gets hit by a Lightning Bolt, does it die?

A: No. Sarkhan's ability turns all your planeswalkers (including himself) into creatures that aren't planeswalkers, since the effect doesn't state that they are creatures in addition to their other types or that they are still planeswalkers. Since your planeswalker is no longer a planeswalker, it doesn't lose loyalty counters when it's dealt damage. It's a 4/4 Dragon that has 3 damage marked on it, so 1 more damage would kill it, but for now it lives.

Please shop responsibly this Memorial Day...
Q: I've animated my Mobilized District and I'm casting Dauntless Bodyguard, choosing the animated Mobilized District. On a later turn, can I sacrifice Dauntless Bodyguard to give Mobilized District indestructible even if it's not a creature at the time?

A: Yes, you can do that. "The chosen creature" just means "the chosen object which may or may not be a creature at the moment", except that the latter is too unwieldy to print on the card. The identity of the object was established when it was chosen, so the Bodyguard's activated ability can find the chosen object even if it's not a creature at the time.

Q: I cast Animate Dead on a Shriekmaw, but my opponent Stifles Animate Dead's enter-the-battlefield ability, so now Animate Dead is enchanting my Shriekmaw in the graveyard. Does it reduce Shriekmaw's power so that I can return it to the battlefield with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death's ability?

A: No, that doesn't work. Unlike in the previous question where "the chosen creature" was referring to an object with a previously established identity, the phrase "enchanted creature" on Animate Dead just tells the game to look for the creature that Animate Dead is attached to. However, Animate Dead is not attached to a creature; it is attached to a creature card in a graveyard, so the -1/-0 effect doesn't apply to anything.

Q: I control Shanna, Sisay's Legacy and a Doomed Traveler. If my opponent casts Liliana's Influence, does Shanna die of loneliness or does the Spirit token from Doomed Traveler rescue her?

A: I'm afraid Shanna will die of loneliness. Liliana's Influence resolves and puts -1/-1 counters on Doomed Traveler and on Shanna. Doomed Traveler is now a 0/0 weakling, so state-based actions move it to the graveyard. This triggers Doomed Traveler's ability, but before that ability can go on the stack, state-based actions have to finish their thing. State-based actions check again and see that Shanna is now also a 0/0, so she goes to the graveyard, too. Now Doomed Traveler's ability will go on the stack and eventually it'll resolve, but the Spirit is too late to save Shanna.

Q: Does Narset, Parter of Veils shut down dredge decks?

A: Not exactly. When your opponent uses dredge, they're replacing the draw with an entirely different action, so they're not drawing cards. As long as your opponent replaces all their draws with dredge, they never reach the "only one draw per turn" limit, so they can dredge as many cards as they want. However, if they actually draw a card without replacing the draw, they have reached the limit and further draws will be impossible. In that case, they won't be allowed to dredge anymore that turn because a replacement effect can't modify an action that's impossible.

Q: I'm controlling my opponent's Jace, the Living Guildpact with Volition Reins, and Jace is at three loyalty counters. Can I activate Jace's -3 ability to kill Jace and get Volition Reins back into my hand?

A: You can kill Jace, but you won't get Volition Reins back. After you put Jace's ability on the stack, state-based actions have to be checked before the ability can resolve. First, the game sees a Jace without loyalty counters and moves him to the graveyard. Then, the game sees a Volition Reins that's not attached to anything and moves it to the graveyard. Now Jace's ability can resolve, but its target has suddenly disappeared, so the ability does nothing. It only looks for Volition Reins on the battlefield, so it won't return the card from the graveyard to your hand.

Q: I control a Dreadhorde Arcanist with two -1/-1 counters on it. Can I use its ability to cast Ancestral Vision from my graveyard?

A: No. With two -1/-1 counters on it, Dreadhorde Arcanist's power is -1, and its ability only allows you to cast cards whose converted mana cost is less than or equal to its power. Ancestral Vision's converted mana cost is 0, which is not less than or equal to -1.

Q: If I control Edgewalker and Fist of Suns, can I cast Cleric spells for ?

A: Sure. To calculate a spell's total cost, you start with its mana cost or alternative cost, add additional cost and cost increases, and subtract cost reductions. Fist of Suns gives your Cleric spell an alternative cost of , which Edgewalker reduces by , leaving a total cost of .

...and don't buy anything from that guy.
Q: My opponent just cast a spell that I want to counter, but the only possible response I have is a Spark Double in my hand and a Frilled Mystic on the battlefield. Can I copy the Frilled Mystic with Spark Double to counter my opponent's spell?

A: Nice try, but that doesn't work. You don't choose what to copy with Spark Double until it resolves and enters the battlefield, which is long after you cast it. At the time you cast it Spark Double doesn't have flash yet, so you don't have permission to cast it in the first place.

Q: I just declared my attackers, and before declaring blockers my opponent crews a Smuggler's Copter. Can I use an instant removal spell to kill the vehicle before he assigns it as a blocker and loots a card?

A: Absolutely. After the crew ability resolves, the game is still in the declare attackers step, and the step won't end until both you and your opponent pass priority in succession without taking any actions. When you get priority, you can cast that kill spell to foil your opponent's plans.

Q: If my opponent casts Torment of Hailfire and I cast Teferi's Protection, can I choose to lose life rather than sacrifice or discard something even though my life total can't change?

A: You can get the outcome you want, because you're not actually choosing to lose life. If the choice were "lose life or do something else", you couldn't choose to lose life because you can't choose to do something that's impossible. Fortunately for you, Torment of Hailfire uses the "A happens unless you do B" pattern, which means the same as "You may do B. If you don't, A happens." In other words, Torment of Hailfire asks you if you'd like to sacrifice a permanent or discard a card, which you politely decline. As a consequence of declining this, Torment of Hailfire instructs you to lose 3 life, which is impossible, so you ignore the instruction.

Q: Can I use proliferate to tick up my opponent's Saga?

A: Absolutely. Your opponent's Saga is a permanent, and the lore counters on it are in fact counters, so you can use proliferate to add a lore counter to the Saga. This will cause the corresponding chapter ability to trigger, hopefully at a time that's not good for your opponent, and if the Saga is finished now, your opponent will have to sacrifice it.

Q: Can I use proliferate to give my opponent another Chandra, Roaring Flame emblem?

A: That would be awesome, but that's not possible. Players can get emblems and players can get counters, but emblems aren't counters, so proliferate doesn't do anything with emblems.

Q: I'm in a Regular REL tournament, and I control a Chalice of the Void with one counter on it. I cast Goryo's Vengeance targeting a legendary creature card in my graveyard, and my opponent pays 2 life to cast Surgical Extraction targeting that card. While we're in the middle of resolving Surgical Extraction, I realize that my Chalice should have countered the spell. What happens now? Did my opponent cheat?

A: Well, there's a lot to unpack here. First off, if something like this happens to you in a tournament, you should call a judge, and then the judge will decide what needs to be done. The document that guides the judge's ruling in this case is Judging at Regular REL, and this situation falls under "A player forgets a triggered ability." Since you didn't acknowledge the trigger at the time it had a visible in-game effect, you missed it. If the trigger were optional, the judge would simply assume you chose not to perform it, but Chalice's trigger is mandatory. The only possible fix is to put the trigger on the stack now unless doing so would be too disruptive to the game, but it doesn't really matter here since Surgical Extraction is already resolving. The Chalice trigger would resolve after Surgical Extraction has finished, so putting the trigger on the stack now is pointless. Backing up the game to before Surgical Extraction started to resolve is not an option, so Surgical Extraction will finish resolving no matter what the judge decides.

This leaves the question whether your opponent was cheating, and the answer to that is no. While what your opponent did was not very sporting, it wasn't illegal, so it can't be cheating. Your opponent is not responsible for your triggered abilities, and they are under no obligation to point out your missed triggers. I understand it feels bad that your opponent was able to sneak a spell past your Chalice, but if it's any consolation, players who rely on their opponent's mistakes to win tend not to make it very far in tournaments.

And that's all for this week's questions. Please come back next week for more regular-priced questions and answers!

- 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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