Published on 08/19/2019

Back to School, 4th Edition

Now with a Brand-New Foreword

Cranial Translation
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Here's hoping there are no
piranhas in your school.
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Today is my son's first day of school of his high school senior year, which makes me realize once again how insanely fast time flies, and will probably make you realize that I am old. It's true, I am older than most Magic players, but on the bright side, I am still younger than most houses. Next year, my son will go to college, and I am not looking forward to paying large amounts of money on tuition and overpriced textbooks.

Fortunately, here at the school of Cranial Insertion, your education is still free, you don't have to buy expensive textbooks, and all our tests are open-book. 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 and answer, and your question might appear in a future article to educate other readers like yourself.

Let's begin today's lesson!

Q: If I attack my opponent with Cavalier of Night and they block it with a 1/1, how much life do I gain?

A: You'll gain 4 life. It's a common misconception that an attacker with lifelink sucks the life out of the blocker, and therefore the life gain has to be limited by the blocker's toughness, but that is not true. You gain as much life as the Cavalier deals damage, and it deals 4 damage because creatures don't pull their punches; they always assign damage equal to their power even if that's more than enough to kill the blocker. If your opponent wonders where this life gain is coming from if not from the blocker's toughness, the answer to that is simple: It's Magic!

Q: If my opponent casts Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, can I destroy the resulting creature with Noxious Grasp?

A: Not unless the land was Dryad Arbor or has some other reason to be green. Lands are usually colorless, and nothing about Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi gives the land a color, so the resulting land creature is colorless.

Q: I just resolved Amplifire's ability and didn't find a creature card, so Amplifire dies and I have to put my library back in a random order. Does this trigger my opponent's Cosi's Trickster's ability?

A: No. While the physical action you have to perform to put all cards from your library on the bottom in a random order looks the same as shuffling your library, the in-game action you're performing is different, and Cosi's Trickster pays attention to whether you're following an instruction to shuffle your library. There are several examples where one action can look like another, such as putting the top card of your library into your hand versus drawing a card, or putting a land from your hand onto the battlefield versus playing a land. The game looks at what instruction you're carrying out, not what the action physically looks like.

Q: I control Yarok, the Desecrated, and my opponent controls a 2/2 Bear. If I play Massacre Girl, what happens?

A: Thanks to Yarok, Massacre Girl's enter-the-battlefield ability triggers twice. The first resolution gives all other creatures -1/-1 and creates a delayed triggered ability that triggers whenever a creature dies. The second resolution gives all other creatures -1/-1 again and creates another delayed triggered ability. The Bear is now 0/0 and dies, which triggers both delayed triggers that give all other creatures a total of -2/-2. In the end, the Bear is dead and Yarok got -4/-4, which is just enough for it to survive the massacre.

Q: I attack with Dreadhorde Arcanist and I want to cast Stifle from my graveyard, targetting Dreadhorde Arcanist's ability. Can I do that?

A: Yes, you can do that. You cast Stifle while Dreadhorde Arcanist's ability is resolving, so the ability is still on the stack at that time, so the ability is a legal target for Stifle. Then the ability finished resolving and leaves the stack. When Stifle goes to resolve, its target is gone, so it fails to resolve and tries to go to the graveyard, so it ends up getting exiled instead. In the end, all you've accomplished is that you got Stifle exiled, but maybe casting Stifle triggered some other ability you didn't mention.

Q: Can I still use Finale of Promise to cast an instant and a sorcery from my graveyard if there's a Yixlid Jailer on the battlefield?

A: Sure. The Jailer removes the abilities from the cards you want to cast while they're in the graveyard, but it doesn't remove their card types or otherwise affect the legality of targeting them with Finale of Promise. Once you cast those cards, they're no longer in the graveyard, so they'll regain their abilities and they'll resolve perfectly normally.

It's time to hit the books...
Q: Can I get a card with changeling with a search effect that looks for a particular creature type such as Dragonstorm?

A: Absolutely. Changeling is a characteristic-defining ability that works at all times in all zones, so that Changeling is a Mutant Ninja Turtle Dragon (among many other creature types) in your library and can be found with Dragonstorm.

Q: I cast some instant spell, let's say Shock, and my opponent Negates it. If I use Narset's Reversal on the Negate, does my copy of Negate have to counter my Shock?

A: Not if you don't want it to. Narset's Reversal creates a copy of Negate targeting Shock, but then you get the option to choose new targets for the copy. The copy can target any noncreature spell except itself. The original Negate has been returned to your opponent's hand, so it's no longer on the stack, but Narset's Reversal is still on the stack, so your Negate copy can target that, which leads to an outcome similar to the Arcanist/Stifle situation above. Your Negate copy fails to resolve, and then your Shock resolves as you wanted.

Note that it might be even better to target your Shock with Narset's Reversal. If you do that, you get a Shock copy to deal damage, you get Shock returned to your hand to cast again later (instead of giving your opponent their Negate back), and your opponent's Negate fails to resolve and goes to the graveyard.

Q: I have gained control of two creatures with Roil Elemental, and now I've been enchanted with Overwhelming Splendor. If Roil Elemental gets destroyed, do I keep control of the two creatures I took, or do they go back to their previous controller?

A: They'll go back to their previous controller. When Roil Elemental's landfall ability resolved, it created a continuous effect with a duration of "for as long as you control Roil Elemental". That duration tracks the permanent that is Roil Elemental, and as soon as you no longer control that permanent, the effect will end, regardless of what that permanent looks like at that time.

Q: I control Feather, the Redeemed and Silver Wyvern. If I target Silver Wyvern with Lightning Bolt, can I change the target to an opponent's creature and still get the Bolt returned to my hand with Feather's ability?

A: Yup, that works. Targeting Silver Wyvern with the Bolt triggers Feather's ability, which sets up the replacement effect to exile the card as it resolves and return it to your hand at the end of the turn. This replacement effect doesn't care if the spell still targets a creature you control as it resolves. As long as the spell resolves, it'll get exiled and returned to your hand.

Q: I control Sinister Concoction and I have no cards in my library, but a Progenitus in my hand. Assuming that I have enough life and mana, and my opponent controls a creature that I can target with the ability, can I activate Sinister Concoction?

A: Yes, you can legally activate the ability in this entirely plausible scenario that I'm sure was not at all made up to illustrate a point. While it's true that rule 118.3 states that a player can't pay a cost without having the necessary resources to pay it fully, this rule does not apply to Sinister Concoction's entire activation cost. The activation cost consists of five individual costs that can be paid in any order, and the rule applies to those individual costs. You can start by discarding Progenitus, which gets shuffled into your library, and then you can pay the cost of putting the top card of your library into your graveyard.

Q: My opponent controls Nylea, God of the Hunt and has enough devotion to make Nylea a creature. I enchant Nylea with Pacifism, and later my opponent sacrifices a creature to make his devotion drop below five. What happens to Pacifism?

A: As soon as your opponent's devotion drops to below five, Nylea stops being a creature. State-based actions notice that Pacifism is attached to something that it can't enchant, so Pacifism is put into your graveyard.

Q: Do token creatures go to the graveyard when they die?

A: Yes, tokens that leave the battlefield do go to whichever zone they're supposed to go to, possibly triggering abilities as they move, and then they cease to exist as a state-based action.

Q: Cool, so my opponent will lose a lot of life to Bloodchief Ascension when I wipe out their token army?

A: Not quite. Their tokens do go to the graveyard, but Bloodchief Ascension's ability only triggers when a card is put into your opponent's graveyard. Tokens aren't cards, so they won't trigger this ability.

...but be careful when you're
burning the midnight oil.
Q: I'm resolving Fiery Gambit and I've won three coin flips. Can I keep flipping coins?

A: If you want to, yes. Fiery Gambit tells you to keep flipping coins until you lose a flip or until you choose to stop, and there's nothing telling you that you have to choose to stop after winning three coin flips. However, unless you control a Chance Encounter or some other reason for wanting to win additional coin flips, it's not a good idea to continue flipping. Fiery Gambit's effect only happens after you've finished flipping, so by going on you'll only risk forfeiting the big effect you built up by winning three flips, and you might be committing Slow Play by wasting time on coin flips for no good reason.

Q: If I control Cradle of Vitality and deal damage with ten 1/1 lifelink creatures, do I get ten +1/+1 counters for , or would I have to pay ten times over to get ten counters?

A: I'm afraid it's the latter. While all creatures deal their damage simultaneously, the life gain from each creature is a separate event, so you will have ten separate Cradle triggers that all resolve independently. The good news is that each trigger has its own target, so you can distribute the counters across multiple creatures, but the bad news is that you have to pay for each counter you want to get.

Q: My friends and I want to play a game of Two-Headed Giant Commander, but we're not sure what life totals to start at. Should we start at 40 because of Commander or 30 because of Two-Headed Giant?

A: That's a good question, and the answer is definitely yes! As you've pointed out, both 30 and 40 are good options that are supported by the rules, and the rules don't tell you which answer is right because the rules aren't meant to cover this scenario. My suggestion is that you and your friends try a few games with either starting life total and decide which variant is more fun. There's also a case to be made for a starting life total of 60, being 1.5 times the "normal" starting life total. That seems like it would make games take forever, which is not my idea of fun, but it's not my business to tell you what's fun for you.

Q: If I use Sorin Markov to control my opponent's turn, what can I do that's beneficial to me?

A: That's a pretty open-ended question I wouldn't be able to answer during a tournament, but fortunately we're not in a tournament here. First off, you can't make your opponent concede the game, since that would be too easy. Also, you can't make your opponent do anything that's illegal, such as discard their hand for no reason, draw their entire library for no reason, or pay all their life for no reason.

Basically, the challenge in using Sorin Markov's ability for fun and profit is to find ways to use your opponent's resources against them in ways that are legal, and that depends on what resources they have on the battlefield and in their hand. You do get to see their hand, since you have access to all in-game information they have access to.

If they have a Lightning Bolt, make them smack themselves with it. If they have a Viscera Seer on the battlefield, make them sacrifice all their creatures (including Viscera Seer itself) and scry good cards to the bottom. If they have Cancel in their hand, make them cast some spell and then Cancel their own spell. At the end of their turn, make them tap all their lands and not use the mana for anything so they can't do anything on your turn. Those are just a few suggestions, and the possibilities are literally endless. Just take a look at their hand to see what you have to work with, and go nuts!

And that's all the time we have for now. Thanks for reading, and please come back next week when Charlotte presents our Commander 2019 special!

- 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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