Published on 08/26/2019

Commander Christmas

Cranial Translation
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Marisi broke the coil in mere moments, but few
remember the days he spent afterwards with
a pot of glue piecing it back together under
his grandmother's stern glower.
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Despite the recent onslaught of new magic sets and products in the last few months, the release of a new Commander set is always a great time for the Magic community to come together and celebrate its more casual side. This year's set looks amazing, with a full set of awesome new commanders as well as some neat supporting cards. If you had the chance to get out and play with the new decks or cards this weekend, I hope you had a great time. If you didn't, it's never too late to enjoy the less competitive side of Magic, so head out to your local game store and play some commander! (If you want to!)

Before you head out the door, I'd like 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.

If I somehow haven't convinced you to run out the door right now and go play some commander, maybe I can whet your appetite by answering some questions about the fantastic new cards in the set? I guess there's only one way to find out!

Q: What exactly happens if I retrace Waves of Aggression as my first spell from the graveyard this turn while I control Sevinne, the Chronoclasm on the battlefield?

A: Probably not what you want to happen, sadly.
When you cast Waves of Aggression as your first graveyard spell of the turn, Sevinne will trigger and create a copy of it. That copy will resolve first, though since there are no targets involved, this doesn't really matter. Both copies will resolve and have their full effect, assuming that it's a main phase, but the untap effect is immediate and so nothing is going to untap your attackers after your second combat phase, so you'll have to find some other way to do that if you want to attack with them again in your third combat phase.

Q: If I control both Elsha of the Infinite and Experimental Frenzy, when can I cast a creature card that's on top of my library?

A: Any time you have priority and the resources to pay for it!
While this may seem unintuitive, it's important to look at the wording of Elsha's last ability carefully. This is really two abilities stapled together: one which lets you cast the top card of your library if it's a noncreature, nonland card; and one that lets you cast the top card of your library as though it had flash, but only if you're otherwise allowed to cast it. The second of these two effects in combination with the general permission to cast the top card of your library granted to you by Experimental Frenzy lets you cast any card from your library as though it had flash. Neat!

Q: Pramikon, Sky Rampart enters the battlefield and I choose left. I then copy Pramikon with Spark Double and choose right. Can anyone attack anything? How does this work?

A: With two Pramikons on the battlefield naming different directions (or a Pramikon and a Mystic Barrier, etc.) then players can't attack players or planeswalkers unless they're (controlled by) the opponent who is both immediately to the left and immediately to the right of that player. In a multiplayer game, this player can't be the same unless there is only one opponent remaining in the game. Once there is one opponent remaining, then left equals right and the Sky Rampart's domination of the battlefield is broken allowing creatures to attack once again.

Q: I copy Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero with Mirage Mirror, keeping the original Gerrard when the legend rule is applied. What happens when Mirage Mirror goes to the graveyard? Does it trigger Gerrard's trigger, and if so do I need to exile it or can it somehow return itself to the battlefield?

A: The good news is that your Mirage Mirror will trigger with Gerrard's trigger when it dies, since it had that ability when it left the battlefield. The bad news is that it will be exiled from your graveyard when the trigger resolves, just like Gerrard would be. The game knows that Mirage Mirror is the source of the trigger and so it will be exiled as the trigger resolves. The fact that it no longer has the ability in the graveyard doesn't matter.

Q: I control Anje Falkenrath and Falkenrath Gorger. If I discard a Vampire Nighthawk to activate Anje's ability, will Anje's untap trigger trigger or does the discarded card have to actually be printed with Madness?

A: Anje will trigger here and untap herself.
Falkenrath Gorger grants madness to Vampire Nighthawk in all non-battlefield zones, including your hand and exile, so its madness ability will cause it to be exiled as you discard it and the discard will trigger Anje's untap trigger. The game doesn't differentiate between a card printed with madness and a card that has been granted madness by Falkenrath Gorger.

Q: Can Anje Falkenrath's untap trigger ever trigger if I control her and Library of Leng? Do I reveal the card I discard before it put it on top of my library?

A: Anje will trigger just fine if you have Library of Leng because Library of Leng doesn't affect the cards you discard to activate her ability. They will be discarded as normal and go to the graveyard, or to exile if they have madness and cause her to trigger.
Library of Leng's ability only allows you to put cards you discard as part of an effect back on top of your library, and an effect is anything that happens as the result of a spell or ability resolving. Note that that doesn't include things that happen to pay costs, such as discarding a card to activate Anje's ability. Since that discard is a cost, Library of Leng can never affect that discard.

Q: If I control Chainer, Nightmare Adept and cast my commander from the command zone, will Chainer's last ability give it haste?

A: Yes, your commander will gain haste until your next turn since it wasn't cast from your hand. This is also the case if Chainer is your commander and was cast from the command zone.

Q: My opponent is attacking with Greven, Predator Captain. Do I have an opportunity to use Pit Fight on my creature and Greven after I know what creature is being sacrificed to Greven's ability but before he gets more power from the life loss?

A: No, this isn't possible.
Greven's +X/+0 ability is a static ability and not a trigger. Greven just automatically gets more powerful as its controller loses life over the course of a turn without any chance for an opponent to respond to the change. If you want to fight Greven before he gets too strong, you need to do so before his attack trigger resolves and anything is sacrificed to it (or not).

Q: If I have K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth on the battlefield, does that mean I can pay two life for hybrid black costs? If yes, can I pay life for the extort trigger from my Crypt Ghast when I cast a spell? Also, in general, what counts as a cost? Can I use K'rrik for anything that asks me to pay ?

A: Yes, you can.
When you go to pay a hybrid cost, you choose which of its two halves you'll pay. If you choose the half of a hybrid symbol, then K'rrik's ability will let you pay life instead of mana for it. This means that you can extort spells by paying 2 life if you control K'rrik and a permanent with extort, such as Crypt Ghast.
Any time you're asked to pay mana, that's paying a cost and K'rrik's ability will allow you to pay life instead of any in that cost.

Grismold has won the Best Garden award for ten
years in a row. No one on the jury is willing
to say how much of his success is talent and
how much of it is intimidation.
Q: Can I cheat on the cost of multiple morphs each turn by blinking Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer with something like Deadeye Navigator?

A: No, this doesn't work. Kadena can only ever reduce the cost of the first face-down creature spell you cast each turn, even if that spell was cast before she entered the battlefield or you controlled her. Kadena will know if you've cast previous face-down spells in the turn even if she just showed up and so you can't cheat the system by blinking her.

Q: Does Volrath, the Shapestealer's copying ability set his base power and toughness to 7/5, or does the ability just ignore any power and toughness changing effects?

A: When Volrath copies a creature, he becomes a copy of that creature as though it were printed with 7/5 as its power and toughness. He won't copy any abilities that define the creature's power and/or toughness, such as that of Tarmogoyf, but will copy any abilities that provide other static buffs to the creature. He won't copy any external effects that have applied to the creature either. For example, copying a creature that's been buffed by Giant Growth this turn won't give Volrath +3/+3.

Q: If Rayami, First of the Fallen would die, does it exile itself with a blood counter or does it just go to my graveyard?

A: Rayami is nothing if not devoted to his cause, so he won't make any distinction for himself if he would die and will end up exiling himself with a blood counter. This happens because replacement effects that modify where an object goes from the battlefield are checked while the object is still on the battlefield and so Rayami's effect will apply to his own death just like any other creature's. Of course, if Rayami is your commander, you're welcome to send him to the command zone instead.

Q: Does Rayami, First of the Fallen have the ability of cards he's exiled when he's in other zones? For example, if Rayami exiled a creature with deathtouch and then got put on the bottom of my library with Hallowed Burial, can I find him with Mwonvuli Beast Tracker?

A: No, this doesn't work.
Rayami's abilities, like most abilities, only function when he's on the battlefield. An ability only functions in other zones if it specifically says that it does or if it references moving itself from that zone, such as on Reassembling Skeleton.
Even though Rayami would have deathtouch if he were on the battlefield, he doesn't have it in your library and can't be found by the Beast Tracker.

Q: I attack with Ghired, Conclave Exile and a token copy of Smuggler's Copter, which is my only creature token. What happens when I populate? Is the new Copter attacking as a creature or is it just an empty vehicle?

A: While Ghired's powers are mighty, even he can't make a vehicle pilot itself. Your new token Smuggler's Copter won't be a creature, so it can't enter the battlefield attacking. Instead it will just enter tapped and inert. And no, there's no opportunity to crew it in time for it to be attacking.

Q: As far as Atla Palani, Nest Tender is concerned, what exactly is an Egg? Does she just care about the tokens she creates or does she care about all creatures with the type Egg, such as Dragon Egg?

A: Egg is a creature type just like Human or Druid or Myr. Atla's trigger will trigger any time a creature with the type Egg dies, not just one of the tokens she creates. Yes, this means that she does ridiculous things with Mirror Entity.

Q: If Tahngarth, First Mate is my commander and I give him to all of my opponents when they attack me, can I kill myself with commander damage?

A: Yes, this is something that can happen. In a game of Commander, any player that's been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander loses the game as a state-based action. No distinction is made between your own commander and other players' commanders for this rule and so Tanhgarth join the ranks of Xantcha, Sleeper Agent and Karona, False God as commanders who are able to easily kill their owners. Welcome to the club, buddy!

Q: If my opponent turns their Gift of Doom face up and wants to attach it to a creature they control, do I have any opportunity to use removal on that creature before it's attached?

A: No, turning a face down creature face up is a special action and doesn't use the stack. Additionally, Gift of Doom's last ability is a replacement effect that modifies how it's turned face up, so it's all part of the special action. No one can cast spells or activate abilities between Gift of Doom being turned face up for its morph cost and it being attached to a creature. You'll need to find removal for the aura before you can deal with that creature, now.

Q: Can the player chosen by Wildfire Devils' trigger take any actions before exiling an instant or sorcery card for it?

A: No. The random player is chosen as the first step in resolving Wildfire Devils' trigger and so no actions can be taken in the middle of resolving the ability. The player can neither put more cards into their graveyard nor remove cards from it once a player has been chosen. If a player wants to provide more or less options for the Devils, they need to do so before the trigger resolves and chooses a player.

Q: I control Sigarda, Host of Herons and attack with Sun Titan. My opponent discards Archfiend of Spite and casts it for its madness cost and then blocks my Sun Titan. When Archfiend's trigger resolves, can I choose to sacrifice permanents or am I forced to lose six life?

A: While Sigarda's "no sacrifice" ability is usually a great positive, it can also be a negative at times, such as in this situation. You're literally unable to choose to sacrifice permanents here and so you have to lose life equal to the damage dealt to Archdemon of Spite, which could be a problem if your life total is low. Let's hope it's not.

Q: I just want to check if I'm understanding Apex Altisaur correctly. It enters the battlefield and fights something, then that thing damages it. That means it can fight again, and that other thing damages it, so it can fight again, etc. Am I missing something here or is this card just that good?

A: It's just that good!
Yes, Apex Altisaur lets you string together a lot of fights if it picks on lots of little things and it allows you to stop whenever you like too. The only limiting factor is its toughness. To be fair, though, it does cost nine mana, so that's a reasonable effect, somewhat comparable to Plague Wind, maybe.

Q: The reminder text on Mandate of Peace says that it exiles itself when it ends the combat phase. Why is this the case?

A: When a spell or ability ends a turn or part of a turn, part of the process of ending that phase or turn is exiling all objects that are currently on the stack. This happens because you can't just leave spells and abilities on the stack and you can't just counter them, since some spells and abilities can't be countered. You can't put them all in the graveyard since abilities can only exist on the stack, so the cleanest answer is to just exile everything that's there. That's the way that ending the turn (and now part of a turn) has worked ever since it was introduced on Time Stop in 2004.

We'll be back again last week
with more Cranial Insertion!
Q: What happens if I discard a card that's multiple types while I control Bone Miser, such as a creature land or an artifact creature? Does Bone Miser trigger once or twice?

A: Discarding Dryad Arbor will cause both the first and second abilities of Bone Miser to trigger, but it's the only card that can cause Bone Miser to trigger multiple times. Every other card fits into only one of the three categories and will only cause one ability to trigger.
Discarding an artifact creature will cause Bone Miser's first ability to trigger since it's a creature card. The fact that it's also an artifact doesn't matter because that doesn't make it not a creature.

Wow, what an awesome set. I hope that you'll enjoy it as much as I do! If you're still craving more awesome Q&A, then come back next time for another great edition of Cranial Insertion!

- Charlotte

About Apex Altisaur, can you choose to have it stop fighting? I dont see a may in the enrage trigger. I would have thought it will either fight until there is nothing left to fight, or it dies
#1 • Date: 2019-08-26 • Time: 05:38:07 •
The enrage ability has you choose "up to one target creature". You're allowed to choose zero targets.
#2 • Date: 2019-08-26 • Time: 07:17:01 •
Oops. Yup. Completely overread the up to one
#3 • Date: 2019-08-26 • Time: 15:44:17 •
Also, if you choose to fight something with 0 power, Apex Altisaur takes no damage and the chain ends.
#4 • Date: 2019-09-02 • Time: 00:18:44 •

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