Published on 05/02/2011


Or, You may write a column as though you were another columnist with the same pay grade. (Pay grade includes benefits.)

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Playing writers as though they were other writers.
There is nothing wrong with your web browser. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are in control of the intertubes. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your web browser. (Unless you're using Internet Explorer, obviously.)

Yes - this is not your scheduled Mokothon from Eli Shiffrin. My name is Laurie Cheers. You may remember me from such links as That Melvin Article, and a few other Magic-related URLs.

Long story short - Eli, Brian and Carsten asked me to fill in this week. Apparently compleation is a highly time consuming process. I'm sure you'll see their oil-stained porcelain faces next week; in the mean time, let's go!

Remember to send in your questions to or to @CranialTweet for glistening answers.

Q: How do Richard Garfield, Ph.D. and morph work together?

A: There are no definitive answers for Unhinged cards other than "what would be funnier?" So with that in mind, my favourite answer...

When you play a card with morph face-down, you're paying to cast a face-down card. As far as the game's concerned, the card is indistinguishable from a colorless 2/2 creature card with no name and no mana cost. (For example, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir will let you cast Zoetic Cavern face-down as though it had flash.)

So, since you're playing a card with no mana cost, you can play it as any other card with no mana cost. For example: Evermind, Restore Balance, Hypergenesis, Lotus Bloom, etc.

It would still count as a face-down card, though - face-downness, like being a token, is not something that can be overridden by a mere effect. So if you cast a Willbender face-down as a Lotus Bloom, you should be able to target it with Break Open, or just pay to turn it into a face-up Willbender again.

That doesn't end the Lotus Bloom effect, of course. (If you play Mana Leak as a Willbender, then Backslide it to turn it face down, will it revert to being a Mana Leak when you turn it face up again? Clearly not.) So if you Backslide the Willbender, it'll look like a Lotus Bloom again.

(PS - although a land's mana cost is also undefined, you can't cast a face-down card as a land this way. Land cards can never be 'cast'. However, if you had an Evermind card, Richard would let you play that as your land for the turn.)

Q: Unearth is an alternate casting cost and brings back Vengevine, right?

A: Actually: no, and no. Unearth is a lot less like flashback than you'd expect. It's actually an activated ability, like Necrosavant's - you activate it, and when it resolves, the card from the graveyard gets put onto the battlefield. It's not a spell, so it doesn't increase your storm count, and doesn't trigger Vengevine.

Q: I have Dissipation Field on the battlefield. Goblin Arsonist dies. If I choose myself as the target, does the Arsonist return to my hand?

A: Sorry, nope. As far as the rules are concerned, the card named Goblin Arsonist in your graveyard is quite separate from the permanent named Goblin Arsonist on the battlefield! After the Arsonist dies, the permanent no longer exists, but it is the source of its 1 damage and last known information gets involved. Dissipation Field does trigger, but when it tries to return the Arsonist, it looks on the battlefield and can't find anything.

Q: I block Necropede with Myr Sire. Can my opponent kill my Myr token with the Necropede's triggered ability?

A: Your Myr token is safe. When the Necropede and the Sire kill each other, both of their triggered abilities go onto the stack. Because Necropede's ability has a target, your opponent must choose that target immediately - before the Myr token has been created.

Melvin shenanigans ahoy!
Q: A few of my friends and I have been trying to figure out how to activate Pyromancer Ascension in Commander. I hope this isn't too far off the beaten path for a rules article, but, can you think of any mechanics that may be exploited and allow this feat of magic to be possible?

A: Hmm... tricky one. Are you willing to gamble that your opponent is playing a certain set of cards? You could load your deck with the most popular instants and sorceries such as Wrath of God, Path to Exile, Counterspell, etc, and use Grinning Totem to scavenge through your opponent's deck for one that you've got a copy of. Cast Entomb to put your own copy into your graveyard, cast your opponent's copy, and voilà! Quest counters are go.

That aside (and assuming that Un-cards such as Giant Fan aren't allowed), I can only see one way to do it:

Spellweaver Volute.

It copies a card in your graveyard, then lets you cast the copy! So Pyromancer's Ascension will see that you're casting a spell (it doesn't matter that it's just a copy)... and oh, look, there's a card in your graveyard with the same name!

Elegant solutions are always the most satisfying, don't you think?

[Editor's note: There are other ways - there's one in blue/black plus white - but let's see what you readers can figure out!]

Q: If I control a Conspiracy and a Spawnsire of Ulamog with conspiracy set to 'Eldrazi' can I use the Spawnsire's ability to cast literally every creature card I own?

A: Now that's what I call greedy! Nice try, but sorry, but that doesn't work. Cards outside the game are, um, outside the game. Effects can't change their characteristics. So Conspiracy and its little group of super-friends (Celestial Dawn, Painter's Servant, Mycosynth Lattice, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Aquaman) will have to settle for affecting every card you own within the game.

Q: I am playing a game of Commander with some friends and have Elspeth, Knight-Errant at 8 loyalty. If one of my opponents casts Earthquake for 8, can I cast Seht's Tiger and call protection from red, thus saving Elspeth when he redirects the damage?

A: Yep, that works. When you're being dealt damage, you get to decide what order to apply replacement effects in. So you can apply your protection first and prevent all the damage. The planeswalker redirection effect never gets a look in. (Bear in mind that this works against Earthquake, but not against combat damage. When a creature attacks a planeswalker, its combat damage gets assigned directly to the 'walker.)

Q: If I have a Solitary Confinement in play, can I pay life? And if I can, do I actually lose any life?

A: Yes you can, and yes you do. Damage often causes you to lose life, but damage and life loss are not at all the same thing. Damage prevention effects cannot save you from losing life (from a spell such as Sign in Blood, for example), and they don't interfere with paying life.

Perhaps you're thinking about Platinum Emperion? That guy does indeed stop you from losing or paying life... but on the other hand, he has no effect on damage that doesn't make you lose life, such as infect damage.

Q: How does Eight-and-a-Half-Tails' protection from white work on planeswalkers? Could a player attack the planeswalker with a white creature and would the planeswalker lose loyalty counters when dealt damage by a white source?

A: Having protection from white does exactly four things. Remember them as DEBT - white things can't Damage, Enchant/Equip, Block, or Target the object with protection. So yes, a white creature can attack the planeswalker, but the planeswalker will not lose loyalty counters: the damage will be prevented. (Unless the damage is unpreventable, of course. E.g. Excruciator.)

Having protection also causes white enchantments (e.g. Faith's Fetters) to fall off, and prevents white spells and abilities (e.g. Oblivion Ring) from targeting the planeswalker.

Q: I've got a Vein Drinker and a Mephidross Vampire, and my opponent has a pesky 4/4 that needs to die. Would the Mephidross save my Vein Drinker if I use it to kill the 4/4?

A: Sorry, it's much too slow. Here's the rule of thumb: a triggered ability (which always starts with "When", "Whenever", or "At") can never resolve "fast" enough to save a creature that's been dealt lethal damage.

Here's the sequence of events: 1) Vein Drinker's ability starts resolving. 2) Vein Drinker's ability deals the damage. The Mephidross Vampire ability triggers. 3) Vein Drinker's ability finishes resolving, and leaves the stack. 4) Check state-based actions: Vein Drinker and the targeted creature both die. Vein Drinker's last ability triggers. 5) Both triggered abilities get put onto the stack, in the order of your choice. They'll resolve later, but it hardly matters - both are already gone.

Q: Do I have time after Inferno Titan enters the battlefield to equip a Basilisk Collar on it before its damage ability resolves?

A: Probably not. The equip ability can only be played as a sorcery: in other words, only during your main phase, and not in response to something. (Inferno Titan's ability counts as "something"). So you can only do this trick if you have a way to equip Basilisk Collar at instant speed. I'd use something like Brass Squire. Quest for the Holy Relic would also do the trick.

Q: My opponent has four 1/1 creatures and Sword of Feast and Famine, I have Fulgent Distraction, and am at 3 life. Can I survive his combat, or can he reattach the Sword after I tap his guys?

A: As we just saw, the equip ability can only be activated as a sorcery. It can't be used during combat, so all you have to do is wait for the Beginning of Combat step. Then you'll be able to cast Fulgent Distraction with no opportunity for your opponent to respond with the equip ability.

Q: I Bribery your guy in multiplayer, then another player uses Act of Treason to get it and kill me. Who gets your guy after the turn ends?

A: When a player leaves the game, everything he owns leaves the game, and all effects that give him control of stuff end. This usually takes care of most objects, but Bribery is a special case. Unlike Act of Treason, Bribery doesn't give you control using an effect; you simply control the creature by default, because you're the one who put it onto the battlefield. Once Act of Treason wears off, you, the default controller, should get it back, but another rule says that can't happen (since you are no longer in the game), so it doesn't change control at all.

Q: My opponent has Maralen of the Mornsong, I cast Decree of Pain, do I get to draw? Why/why not?

A: Yep, you do. The Decree destroys all creatures (including Maralen), and then makes you draw a card - and with Maralen gone, you can draw just fine.

Q: What happens if I give a Little Girl a Corrupted Conscience? Half poison? -1/2/-1/2 counters? Will Septic Rats see my opponent as poisoned?

A: The Unhinged FAQ(TIWDAWCC) said: "There's no such thing as a fractional counter. Half a normal-sized counter is merely a smaller counter". Under that ruling, it's pretty clear - your infected Little Girl just gives things small, but otherwise perfectly ordinary, -1/-1 and poison counters. However, later Mark Rosewater (the Un-rules manager) ruled that Pollenbright Wings can make half a token. So... as usual in Un-land, the correct answer is "what is funniest?"

Personally, I think the answer ought to be that half a -1/-1 counter is a -half/-half counter. But then for symmetry, half a poison counter really ought to exist, too. So let's call it a poi counter. In Un-land, you lose the game if your number of poison counters, added to twice your number of poi counters, equals ten or more. And you're poisoned if you have a poison counter, or a poi counter.

Q: Is there any difference between using Vengeful Archon's ability once, with X = 2, or twice, with X = 1 and X = 1?

A: Yes, in fact there is. When Vengeful Archon's ability prevents damage, it deals that much damage just after the original damage would have been dealt. So if you use the ability twice with X = 1, first all unprevented damage will be dealt to you; then Vengeful Archon will deal 1 damage; and then Vengeful Archon will deal another 1 damage. These are separate events, and a spell such as Awe Strike, which applies "the next time" damage would be dealt, can only affect one, while effects like Urza's Armor would affect each.

Repeatable type changing: The key to
hilarious layer interactions.
Q: My lifelong dream is to use Mirrorweave to kill every creature by turning them into copies of an Aura. How can I do that?

A: Why, that's simplicity itself! Just play your Aura, turn it into an artifact (these days the cool kids use Liquimetal Coating, I hear), then cast March of the Machines!

...what's that? Now the Aura is a creature? And creatures can't legally enchant anything? So state-based actions kill your Aura before you get time to cast Mirrorweave? Well, shucks.

All right, a slightly-more-complex plan: Turn the Aura into an artifact as before, but then cast Eureka. As Eureka resolves, put down March of the Machines ( state-based actions yet - Eureka's still resolving) and then put down... Ixidron! This leaves you with a face-down Aura, not attached to anything, which counts as a 2/2 colorless creature. All ready for Mirrorweaving!

...what's that? It's face-down? And that means Mirrorweave will just turn everything into 2/2 colorless creatures? Well, that's no good.

No need to panic. Just get out an Opal Avenger. If your life total is 10 or less, it'll turn itself into a 3/5 Soldier creature. Now you can cast Cytoshape, turning your face-down Aura creature into a copy of Opal Avenger.

Actually, that doesn't do anything visible while it's face-down. But turn it face up (thanks, Ixidor!), and you'll find that you've made your Aura into a perfect copy of Opal Avenger. It's just an enchantment, but since your life is still below 10, it'll wake up too, becoming another 3/5 Soldier creature.

A critical point: Opal Avenger's effect removes all other types. It becomes just a creature, not an enchantment any more. (This is very different from March of the Machines, which says "artifact creature"... as Carsten explained a couple of weeks ago.)

Now, we can just wait for next turn. Cytoshape wears off, but the Opal Avenger ability doesn't: your Aura is back to its old self, except that it's a 3/5 Soldier creature, and critically, not an Aura. It survives.

However, the Avenger's effect isn't copiable - so just Mirrorweave that Soldier, and all other creatures will turn into copies of the original Aura. So long, suckers!

...And if you followed all that, you're obviously as crazy as me. We should totally hang out.

Anyway, Eli will be with you next week. Until then, keep following logical systems to their hilarious conclusions!

- Laurie Cheeers
Vancouver, Canada


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