Published on 01/24/2011

Mathemagics 2!

Cranial Translation
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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

Warning, more crazy math ahead!
Welcome to the last pre-Mirrodin Besieged issue of Cranial Insertion! The prerelease of Mirrodin Besieged is coming this weekend, so next week Eli will bring us a special issue that'll focus on that exciting set, but in the meantime we'll take one last look at the interactions we find in the multiverse up to Scars of Mirrodin. We'll encounter some usual suspects for generating wacky rules questions, namely Precursor Golem and Necrotic Ooze, and we'll dive into some crazy math even without the help of Precursor Golem.

As always, please send in your rules questions to . We'll always answer by email, and your question might appear in a future issue.

Q: So, my opponent controls a Nim Deathmantle and one of his creatures dies. In response to the Deathmantle's ability, I exile his graveyard with Nihil Spellbomb. That prevents the creature from being returned by the Deathmantle's ability, doesn't it?

A: It sure does! As rule 400.7 tells us, "an object that moves from one zone to another becomes a new object with no memory of, or relation to, its previous existence." By being exiled, the creature card that triggered the Deathmantle's ability becomes a new object that the ability doesn't recognize, so when the ability resolves, it simply shrugs its shoulders and does nothing.

Q: My opponent controls a Phantom Beast and I target it with a Lightning Bolt to trigger its sacrifice ability, but my opponent Cancels the Bolt. Does he still have to sacrifice the Beast?

A: Absolutely! You already cast the Bolt, so the Beast's ability already triggered, and it's already waiting on the stack by the time your opponent responds with Cancel. Countering the Bolt does not undo that ability, so the Beast is done for.

Q: My opponent just cast Rite of Replication on his Precursor Golem, so he now controls a bunch of Precursor Golems and vanilla Golem tokens. What happens if I cast Chandra's Outrage on one of his Golems now?

A: The result will be quite outrageous, but maybe not as much so as you'd hope. Each Precursor Golem will put an ability on the stack that'll copy Chandra's Outrage onto every Golem that's not the Outrage's original target. The first one to resolve creates a bunch of Outrage copies that have to resolve before the next Precursor ability resolves. This first wave will kill all Golems that aren't the original target, so the other Precursor Golems' abilities won't create any copies at all. Finally, the original Outrage resolves and deals 4 damage to the original target and 2 damage to your opponent — assuming that your opponent is still alive. Since he was dealt damage equal to twice the number of other Golems he controlled during the first wave of Outrage copies, there's a good chance that he's been burned to a crisp already!

Q: I was watching a Magic Online game where something odd happened. One player had a Rust Tick and used it to keep an artifact of his opponent's tapped down. Later on, he chose to untap his Rust Tick during his untap step, but his opponent's artifact didn't untap immediately. It stayed tapped until the next untap step, and then it untapped. What gives?

A: What you witnessed is exactly how it should work. Untapping Rust Tick doesn't cause the targeted artifact to untap immediately. Untapping Rust Tick ends the effect that would have prevented the artifact from untapping during its controller's untap step, but the artifact's controller still needs an untap step (or some other untap effect) to untap it.

Q: My opponent just cast a Chain Reaction, and I control a Viscera Seer. Can I lessen the amount of damage that Chain Reaction deals by sacrificing creatures to the Seer in response to Chain Reaction?

A: Yes, that works. Chain Reaction only counts how many creatures are on the battlefield when it resolves, so getting rid of creatures in response to Chain Reaction reduces that count.

Q: My friend and I are having a little dispute about lifelink. If I attack with enough creatures that the unblocked creatures would deal lethal damage damage to him, but he blocks an attacker with a lifelink creature that would give him enough life to survive, does he die or survive?

A: He survives. Until Magic 2010, lifelink was a triggered ability that would not have saved him, but as of Magic 2010 lifelink is a static ability that makes the life gain happen as an additional result of the damage. In other words, the life gain happens at the same time as the damage, so it comes just in time to save your opponent.

Precursor Golem is not the only one
that can make numbers go nuts!
Q: My opponent controls a Hamletback Goliath and I cast a kicked Rite of Replication on it. My opponent mumbles "heck no, I don't want to do that kind of math" and Unsummons his Goliath in response so that my Rite fizzles, but now I'm wondering, what would have happened if the Rite had resolved?

A: That would result in a lot of +1/+1 counters! The five Goliath tokens enter the battlefield at the same time and they see each other doing so, so you get 20 instances of their triggered ability to arrange on the stack as you see fit. Since each ability looks at the corresponding Goliath's power only when the ability resolves, the exact outcome depends on the order in which you arrange the abilities on the stack. There are about 2.4 trillion combinations to consider, so if you wanted to think through all possibilities, you'll definitely get a Slow Play warning! (If a computer could check one million possibilities per second, it would spend 77000 years going through all possibilities.)

If we call the five Goliaths A, B, C, D, and E, a straightforward ordering of the triggers would be to give A counters equal to the total power of B, C, D, and E; then give B counters equal to the total power of A, C, D, and E; and so on. This results in your Goliaths being 30/30, 54/54, 102/102, 198/198, and 390/390. That's not too shabby, but you could do better. The best ordering that I have found results in Goliaths that are 756/756, 1266/1266, 5046/5046, 5448/5448, and 8064/8064, for a total power of 20580. If you want to see how to achieve that, open this spoiler:


This is the order in which I resolve the triggers: D->E, E->C, C->D, D->C, C->E, E->B, B->C, C->B, B->D, D->B, B->E, E->A, A->B, B->A, A->C, C->A, A->D, D->A, A->E, E->D. In this notation, the first letter represents the Goliath whose power we look at and the second letter represents the Goliath to whom we give the counters.

By the way, your opponent's Goliath sees your Goliaths entering the battlefield, too, but it won't grow quite as massive. Since your opponent is probably the nonactive player, his Goliath's abilities go on the stack above your abilities and resolve first. At that time, your Goliaths are still "only" 6/6, so your opponent's Goliath will get a measly 30 +1/+1 counters to stand against your army of super-sized Goliaths.

Q: If I target my Ink-Treader Nephilim with Rite of Replication or Spitting Image, who gets the copies of my opponent's creatures?

A: You do! The tokens are put onto the battlefield by the controller of the spell that's creating them. It doesn't matter who controls the original creature. If you control Ink-Treader Nephilim, you control the spell copies its ability makes, so you'll control all the tokens that those spell copies make. Nifty!

Q: If I use Puppeteer Clique to steal a Wall of Omens from my opponent's graveyard, who gets to draw a card with its enter-the-battlefield ability?

A: That'll be you. You control the Wall of Omens, so you control its enter-the-battlefield ability, and you follow its instructions.

Q: How does Tatterkite's ability interact with infect damage? Does it prevent the damage? What happens if Everlasting Torment is on the battlefield?

A: Tatterkite's ability doesn't prevent damage, so the ability still does its thing when Everlasting Torment is on the battlefield. When infect damage is dealt to Tatterkite, the result of that damage is that a number of -1/-1 counters are put on Tatterkite, which is impossible, so the result doesn't happen. Even though the damage didn't cause a visible result, the damage was still dealt, so any effects that look for damage being dealt would still notice it. For example, if the source of the damage had lifelink, its controller would still gain life; if the source had deathtouch, Tatterkite would still be destroyed; and if any triggered abilities trigger on damage being dealt, they'd still trigger.

Q: What happens when Creakwood Liege is enchanted with Followed Footsteps? Will the new Liege token create a Worm token right away?

A: Nope. Creakwood Liege has an ability that triggers at the beginning of your upkeep, so it needs to be on the battlefield at that point in time in order to trigger. A Creakwood Liege token that enters the battlefield during your upkeep has missed that train, so its ability doesn't trigger right away; it'll trigger at the beginning of your next upkeep if it's still alive then.

Q: I control a Doubling Season and I just cast a Nantuko Cultivator. When its enter-the-battlefield ability resolves, I discard a single land card. How many counters does the Cultivator get and how many cards do I draw?

A: The Cultivator gets two counters and you draw one card. "That many" refers to how many land cards you discarded, and Doubling Season only modifies the part of the effect that puts counters on the Cultivator.

Q: If I control a Thorn of Amethyst and my opponent suspends a non-creature spell, does he have to pay one mana to cast the spell when it comes out of suspension?

A: Yes. "Cast [cardname] without paying its mana cost" does not mean "cast this without paying any mana whatsoever." The effect only replaces the mana cost of the card, which is the cost that's printed in the top-right corner of the card. Any additional costs or cost increases must still be paid, even if that results in a mana payment.

Q: I'm in a Commander game and my opponent is playing with Vendilion Clique as his commander. If he champions his commander with Mistbind Clique, can he put it into the command zone instead of into the exile zone?

A: Certainly! If a commander would go to the exile zone for any reason, its owner may put it into the command zone instead. Exiling it for champion is no different from Oblivion Ring or Path to Exile in this regard.

An unlimited supply of -1/1 counters?
Yes, please!
Q: Suppose I have a Grim Poppet and a Devoted Druid in my graveyard and I just resolved a Necrotic Ooze, so now I have a machine gun that can rapidly fire as many -1/-1 counters as I'd like. Can my opponent use a removal spell to prevent me from mowing down his entire army?

A: No, a removal spell won't prevent the carnage. After the Ooze resolves, you receive priority first, so you can activate the Druid-given ability to put a -1/-1 counter on the Ooze right away. The counter is put on the Ooze immediately because that's the cost to activate the ability. You then get priority back and can activate the Poppet-given ability to shoot a -1/-1 counter at a target creature. You can repeat this process as often as you'd like without ever having to pass priority to your opponent. Eventually you'll have to pass priority to your opponent to get the abilities to resolve, but the abilities on the stack are independent from their source, so destroying the Ooze won't prevent the abilities from resolving.

Note that while this is a pretty disgusting combo, it is not invincible. The Poppet-given ability has to target the creatures that you want to shoot, so your opponent could thwart your evil plan by giving his creatures shroud or protection.

Q: My friends claim that if I cause an ability to trigger in response to a split second spell, for example by turning a Willbender face up, that this creates a second stack that allows them to respond to the triggered abilities with spells. Is that true?

A: No, that's not true. The stack is a game zone and there's only ever one stack, so any claim that includes the phrase "second stack" is wishful thinking. You and your opponents may respond to the triggered ability, but the split second spell is still on the stack underneath the triggered ability, so casting spells and activating non-mana abilities is still prohibited.

Q: If my opponent controls Zur's Weirding, can I still dredge Life From the Loam instead of drawing for my turn?

A: Yup! Both dredge and Zur's Weirding create a replacement effect that want to modify your card draw. When multiple replacement effects want to modify how an event affects a player, the affected player chooses one effect to apply, applies it, and this process is repeated until no more replacement effects are applicable to the event. Since you're the affected player, you get to choose which replacement effect to apply first. If you choose the dredge replacement, you're no longer drawing a card, so Zur's Weirding's effect doesn't apply anymore. Dredge away!

Q: Can Quicksilver Dragon's ability redirect a colored spell onto Emrakul, the Aeons Torn?

A: Nope. Since Emmy has protection from colored spells, it is simply impossible for colored spells to target it. When Quicksilver Dragon's ability resolves, you're not allowed to choose an impossible option, so you can't choose Emmy as the new target for the spell.

Q: Let's say I cast Smallpox while I control no creatures, and I discard a Nightshade Assassin. If I madness-cast the Assassin, do I have to sacrifice it right away to Smallpox's sacrifice instruction?

A: Fortunately not. With madness, you don't cast the card right away. First, you discard the card into the exile zone, which triggers a triggered ability that will eventually allow you to cast the card from the exile zone. That ability only goes on the stack after Smallpox is completely done, and it resolves later still, so your Nightshade Assassin is sitting pretty in the exile zone while Smallpox asks you to sacrifice a creature.

Q: My opponent controls Pyromancer Ascension, has a Ponder in his graveyard and casts another Ponder. He resolves Ponder and then wants to put a counter on Pyromancer Ascension. Can he do that?

A: That depends. Pyromancer Ascension's ability went on the stack above Ponder, so your opponent should have resolved the ability before resolving Ponder. If your opponent was aware of the trigger but simply resolved it out of order for some reason — for example if he mistakenly believed the trigger was on the stack below Ponder — a judge could rule Out-of-Order Sequencing and allow the counter to be put on. If he forgot the trigger and then remembered it, Out-of-Order Sequencing is not applicable and the judge would rule that your opponent chose not to put a counter on the Ascension. The judge would have to investigate what happened and issue a ruling accordingly, so there is no single correct answer to this question.

And with that, I'm all out of time for now. Please join us next time for Eli's Mirrodin Besieged prerelease special. Until then, may all your Phyrexians be infectious.

- 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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