Published on 04/11/2011

Perfection Made Text

or, The Father of Machines Is Coming

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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.

He's coming for you,
He's gonna get you now.
Phyrexia has come out victorious over those who would resist the Great Work. That means that in four weeks we'll have a big feature column with all sorts of awesome questions about New Phyrexia, but in the meantime, there are still lots of questions left behind in the wake of the war.

For those of you who haven't seen the two Phyrexian propaganda videos on YouTube, this week's title is a play on one of the lines: "We are perfection made flesh." We're not claiming that we're infallible, only pretty dang awesome! The second video also proclaims that Karn is coming...

Some of you might remember that we actually write articles a week in advance, so this is the first column to use questions from the new @CranialTweet twitter account – got questions, want a fast answer? Or want to get updates on rules issues? Follow us on Twitter! Want a more detailed answer? Email us at . (While the CI team normally handles English only, if you really have to ask a question in another language, send us an email and we'll see what we can do – for Twitter, English only please!)

Q: Last week you mentioned Living Lands and Intruder Alarm. Would the same thing work with, say, Gather Specimens so I can steal all of the lands after Realm Razer dies?

A: Unfortunately, this is a different situation and the result is very different. Before checking for triggers, such as Intruder Alarm's, you apply continuous effects; but before applying replacement effects, you don't, unless that continuous effect only applies to one specific object entering the battlefield. (This may sound wonky, but 99% of the time, it yields the most intuitive result). So as the lands enter the battlefield, they're still only lands, and Gather Specimens won't give them to you. After that, they become creatures, and then Intruder Alarm triggers.

Q: Can I cast Giant Growth in the first-strike combat damage step even if none of my attackers have first strike, so I can pump an unblocked creature without my opponent's Balduvian Warlord interfering?

A: There isn't really a "first-strike combat damage step" – what happens is that only first-strike damage is assigned in the turn's usual combat damage step, and then a second step is created for regular combat damage. If no attacking or blocking creatures have first strike, there's normally no way for you to cast Giant Growth without your opponent being able to Warlord the Growthed creature to be blocked.

Q: Will Momentary Blink on a face-down creature get me back the normal creature, or will it still be face down?

A: When the creature returns to the battlefield, it will have no memory at all of its previous existence. It'll enter the battlefield just like any other creature – and creatures enter the battlefield by default untapped, unflipped, phased in, and face up.

Q: Does Wilt-Leaf Liege work with Chain of Plasma?

A: Yes, our Liege here is not only a Knight of the forests, but also a theoretical physicist who studies the interaction of plasma and quarks! Aside from his PhD in sciences man was never meant to know, being discarded when Chain of Plasma offers the choice is still a discard caused by an opponent's spell, even though you don't have to discard the Liege. You'll get your Liege for free and then get 3 damage to point at someone. And yes, this even works off of their copy created by your own Chain!

The cutest little Phyrexian.
Q: If I equip Grafted Exoskeleton onto another creature from Perilous Myr, will the Myr deal infect damage?

A: When a Perilous Myr equipped with Grafted Exoskeleton dies, its damage results in counters since the last time that the Myr was on the battlefield before dying it had infect. But that's not what's happening here! First Grafted Exoskeleton becomes unattached, and now the Myr no longer has infect. Now its triggered abilities goes on the stack and demands the Myr as a sacrifice. The Myr still doesn't have infect. Then you sacrifice Perilous Myr, and since it still lacks infect, the damage will be dealt as normal.

Q: Does Hall of the Bandit Lord plus Heartbeat of Spring (et al) equal a double dose of steroids? Or as normal? What about Doubling Cube?

A: "Type" of mana only has one factor: What color is the mana, or is it colorless? Nothing else goes into a mana's type; not any bonuses, nor restrictions, nor riders. No matter whether you have Heartbeat or Doubling Cube, the extra you generate won't give a creature haste.

Q: If I put Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund into the graveyard with Scion of the Ur-Dragon, does it becoming the Tyrant count as entering the battlefield?

A: Something only enters the battlefield when it goes from a state of "not on the battlefield" to a state of "now I'm on the battlefield." Your Scion-now-Karrthus was on the battlefield all along, and just changed shape into something more facesmashy, rather than entering the battlefield anew, so you won't get the trigger to steal all Dragons.

Q: Can you clarify how Painter's Servant and Humility interact for those going to a Legacy tournament?

A: This all comes down to the glory of layers! Layers are delicious. In layer 5, Painter's Servant paints everything, let's say, blue. Then in layer 6, Humility performs some exceptionally precise brain surgery on Painter's Servant, causing it to forget all of its abilities. Even though Painter's Servant is now having an existential crisis profound enough to keep a team of therapists rolling in dough, its work from layer 5 has not been undone and everything is still blue.

Q: Can Selesnya Sanctuary have me pick up my City of Traitors before it explodes?

A: Picking up exploding cities sounds kind of painful, but you can do that. After the Sanctuary enters the battlefield, both it and the City will trigger, and you can order them as you wish. Just put the Sanctuary trigger on top of the stack and resolve it first, and now you can't sacrifice City of Traitors when that trigger resolves since it's no longer there to sacrifice.

Q: Is this okay: I tap five lands, cast Stoneforge Mystic, and hope my opponent sees my lands tapped out so he'll Mana Leak it. Then if he doesn't, I can cast Sword of Feast and Famine, and if he does, surprise, I can pay for it!

A: That's not okay. With M10 taking away mana burn, there was concern over players trying exactly the same trick you're looking at here, and WotC decided that this is not something acceptable at all. If you pass priority with mana in your mana pool, such as you do here asking for your spell to resolve, you must explicitly say so.

Q: I control Mortarpod with its Germ and sacrifice the Germ to shoot Phyrexian Crusader. Can I flicker Mortarpod with Glimmerpoint Stag and get it back in time to kill the Crusader?

A: Damage marked on a creature lasts until the cleanup step, which is part of the ending phase... but it's the last part of the ending phase! The first part is none other than the end step, which is when your Mortarpod will come back after being kicked into the stratoexilesphere by a Stag, and you won't move on until the cleanup step until both players decide not to do anything during the end step. But you don't want to do nothing, you want to sacrifice your new Germ to blow up his Crusader! Which you do, and then you can move on out of the turn.

Q: My opponent put an Ice Cage on my creature that had a Barbed Battlegear attached, can I activate the equip ability targeting that creature again?

A: You sure can! The equip ability can target any creature you control, it just won't have any effect if you target the creature that Equipment is already attached to... but you do still pay the cost and that creature does still become a target (which may trigger other fun abilities)!

Q: Will Blazing Torch help a Goblin deck take out Kor Firewalker?

A: Only if you've got a Memnite or something to wave that Torch at the Firewalker. The Torch is the source of the damage, yes, but the source of the ability is the equipped creature. If that equipped creature is a red Goblin, then it can't target Kor Firewalker. For contrast, that Goblin could target a Tel-Jilad Fallen, but then the damage would be prevented since the damage comes from an artifact source.

May be excessive notes.
Q: Can I confirm that it's now legal to refer to outside notes between games, so long as it's within the three minute sideboard duration?

A: Yup, those rules changed a while back. Between games, players may refer to any notes they bring in, so long as those notes are not "excessive" (and what constitutes "excessive" is up to the Head Judge). During a game, players may refer to any notes they took during that game. One thing is new, though: Any notes you refer to which are on an electronic device, such as your iPhone, must be made visible to all players so your opponent can see that you aren't, perhaps, reading a text message from your friend behind him.

A side note: You don't have three minutes to sideboard; you have three minutes maximum to sideboard, shuffle, and present. Also, this is the most time you're allowed; moving slowly here can still be Slow Play, and doing it deliberately to run down the clock is Stalling, which gets you kicked out.

Q: At my last PTQ, when I drew too many cards when mulliganing, I had to put back two. But when it happened to my opponent at FNM, he only lost one card. Which judge was wrong?

A: Neither! Welcome to the exciting world of Rules Enforcement Levels (RELs). At Competitive REL, which includes PTQs, GPTs, and the first day of a Grand Prix, Improper Drawing at Start of Game is penalized with a Warning, removing one card from your hand for each improperly drawn, and removing one card as a penalty, then shuffling those cards into your library. However, at Regular REL, which includes FNM, Prereleases, and random sanctioned events, there are no Warnings and no additional penalties; the judge will just fix the problem by taking the extra card out of your hand and having you shuffle it back in.

Q: Can judges play in FNM?

A: There are two questions here, both of which I've heard a few times.

"Can you play in events once you're certified?" – Yes. Being a judge doesn't mean that you're no longer a player. Your judge level never prohibits you from playing in any event; I know that Toby Elliot, the L5 in California, regularly plays in FNMs. More than a few certified judges of various levels have played in the Pro Tour.

"Can you play in an event that you're judging?" – Sometimes. While acting as a judge, if that person believes s/he will be perceived as impartial and can dedicate the resources to running the event, that judge may play in certain events: FNM, Prerelease, Launch Party, Game Day, and other non-named sanctioned Regular REL events. But at a GPT or NCQ, nope.

So at FNM, you can always play and judge, even if you're a certified judge, so long as you believe it won't be misinterpreted by the other players and won't interfere with you judging the event.

Q: I came in third at FNM, but didn't get a foil! What gives?

A: You weren't randomly chosen, then. While many stores just give out foils to the top four, that is actually against the rules. The rule for FNM is that first and second place get the shiny FNM foil, but the other two foils are required to be given out at random.

Q: How many rounds should a 25-player FNM run?

A: The recommended number of rounds for most events is (log2(number of players), rounded up). Ew, math. Okay, so that's three rounds for 8 players, four for 9-16, five for 17-32, six for 33-64, seven for 65-128, and then it stops being so nicely logarithmic. So, for 25 players, the DCI recommends five rounds.

However, for FNM, there isn't a required number other than "at least three." Which disturbingly enough means that if you <3 FNM, there's a problem. As long as the number of rounds is clearly announced at the start of the event, it can be as many rounds as the HJ and TO think are reasonable, or even a variable: "We'll play four or five rounds, until there is one undefeated" is also okay.

Note that for many other premier events, including GPTs, PTQs, and NCQs, there are firm requirements on how many rounds must be run.

Q: If I want to name a card, but can't remember the exact name, can I look it up on my iPhone?

A: No, but you shouldn't have to, either. Referring to notes, even something official like the Gatherer, during a game isn't okay; but luckily, you don't have to name the exact card. If you can uniquely identify the card, such as "that blue planeswalker with four abilities" or "the hundred-dollar version of Jace," that's acceptable. Also acceptable are "that Equipment that shoots dudes at me" (in a MSS draft, at least, and also in Standard as far as I can see) and "the pooping Goblin that hits me for its power." "That guy you killed me with last game" is probably not good enough, but your opponent may be sporting enough to provide you with a name.

Q: How many poison counters does it take to die in Two-Headed Giant?

A: This recently changed with a surprise update of the Comprehensive Rules! Now, it takes fifteen poison counters to kill a team, and poison counters go into a shared poison pool rather than going on a single player. A player has the same number of poison counters as the team has, and is poisoned if the team has any poison counters.

Q: How does proliferate work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Rather than choose any numbers of players and/or permanents, you choose any number of teams and/or permanents. You can only add one counter to your opposing team.

Q: In 2HG, I control No Mercy and the opposing team attacks with a creature. But then they don't declare who they're going to deal its damage to, they just subtract from our life total – what happens now?

A: For a long time, there has been no default for 2HG combat damage, and any player who knew it would matter had to make sure it was assigned appropriately. Now, there's a fix! If a team fails to properly assign combat damage to one specific head, it's assumed to all be assigned to the player on the defending team's right. So if they forgot about your No Mercy, hope that you're sitting on the right.

No, you can't change seats mid-game to make this happen.

That's all for this week. We'll be back next week with more awesome questions, and I'll see you again in four weeks to mark the release of the first set in a long, long time that looks at Phyrexian methodology.

Until next time, may all your oil be glistening!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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