Published on 08/31/2020

Back to School, 5th Edition

Now with a Slightly Updated Foreword

Cranial Translation
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Once you get to know them,
your Calculus professor is actually very nice.
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. As August draws to a close, schools and universities are starting their Fall semesters, and my son has started his freshman year of college. This 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.

Unlike at my son's college, 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: I play a Chrome Mox and imprint a colorless card onto it, maybe a Catacomb Sifter. Can Chrome Mox make colorless mana?

A: No, you basically just wasted two cards for no reason. Chrome Mox's ability can only make colored mana, and it's asking you to choose one of the colors of the imprinted card. "Colorless" is not a color, so you can't choose a color and Chrome Mox's ability can't make any mana.

Q: If Driver of the Dead gets hit with Path to Exile, does its ability trigger?

A: Nope. Its ability triggers when it dies, which means when it goes from the battlefield to the graveyard. Path to Exile sends it to the exile zone, which is like sending it on a really long vacation instead of killing it. It's dead to you in the sense that you no longer have this 3/2 creature fighting for you, but it didn't actually die.

Q: If Bonecrusher Giant is in the graveyard, does Tarmogoyf count both creature and instant?

A: No. An adventurer card like Bonecrusher Giant only has it creature characteristics in every zone that's not the stack, including the graveyard. The "Stomp" adventure page is completely invisible to Tarmogoyf.

Q: Does Atla Palani, Nest Tender's ability trigger when I sacrifice Sungrass Egg?

A: One could be forgiven for thinking it would, but it doesn't. Having "Egg" in the name is not enough to be an "Egg you control". To be an Egg, a permanent must have the Egg creature type, which Sungrass Egg can't have because it's not a creature.

Q: My opponent controls Narset, Parter of Veils and I cycle Shark Typhoon after I already drew a card for my turn. Do I still get a Shark token?

A: Absolutely. Narset will stop the card draw once the cycling ability resolves, but it doesn't stop you from activating it, and it doesn't stop any triggered abilities that trigger off of activating the cycling ability. When you announce that you're cycling Shark Typhoon, you put its card draw ability on the stack first, and its triggered ability goes on the stack above that ability. The triggered ability resolves first and creates a Shark, and then the draw ability resolves and you don't draw a card because Narset forbids it.

Q: Does Etherium Sculptor reduce the multikicker cost of Everflowing Chalice?

A: Kind of, but not quite. Etherium Sculptor doesn't reduce the multikicker cost directly; it gives you a cost reduction of off of the total cost of the spell, which is the multikicker cost multiplied times however often you want to pay it. To kick the Chalice once, you pay a total of , to kick it twice you pay a total of , and so on.

Q: If I use Mythos of Illuna to copy my opponent's Jace, the Mind Sculptor, how many loyalty counters does my Jace token get?

A: It gets three loyalty counters regardless of how many counters are on the original. Copy effects don't copy counters that are on the original, but the copy has all the abilities of the original, including the built-in ability of entering with a number of loyalty counters that's printed in the bottom-right corner of the card.

Do you want ants?
Because that's how you get ants!
Q: I cast Release the Ants, and for the clash I reveal an Ornithopter while my opponent reveals a land. What happens?

A: You fail to win the clash, so you don't return Release the Ants to your hand. Clash compares the converted mana costs of the revealed cards, and both revealed cards have a converted mana cost of 0. While lands do not explicitly have a mana cost, in cases such as this the rules tell us to use 0. Since your card doesn't have a higher converted mana cost than your opponent's card, you don't win the clash.

Q: I use Pyromancer's Goggles to make , and then I use that mana to charge up a Jeweled Amulet. If I later add mana with Jeweled Amulet, does it have the same spell-copying effect that the mana from Pyromancer's Goggles had?

A: No. Jeweled Amulet tells you to add mana of the noted type, and type only refers to color or lack of color. Jeweled Amulet isn't actually storing any mana. You used up the mana from Pyromancer's Goggles to activate Jeweled Amulet's first ability, and when you add mana with Jeweled Amulet's second ability, it makes new mana that has no connection to the mana from Pyromancer's Goggles, so it just makes plain and boring red mana.

Q: I cast Command the Dreadhorde and one of the targeted cards is The Wanderer. Does The Wanderer protect me from the damage that Command the Dreadhorde deals to me?

A: Nope. The Wanderer is powerful, but it can't travel through time. You follow the instructions of Command the Dreadhorde in the order they're printed, so the damage happens first and then you put the targeted cards onto the battlefield, so The Wanderer is not there in time to prevent the damage.

Q: If my opponent uses Golos, Tireless Pilgrim's ability to put a creature onto the battlefield, does my Dragonlair Spider's ability trigger?

A: Yup. Your opponent doesn't actually put a creature onto the battlefield; they're playing a card from exile without paying its mana cost. If that card is a creature card, to play it means to cast it as a spell. Your opponent cast a spell from an unusual zone for an unusual cost, but that doesn't change the fact that they cast a spell, so Dragonlair Spider's ability triggers.

Q: If my opponent casts a spell for its madness cost, can I counter it with a normal counterspell or do I need something like Stifle to counter the ability?

A: You could use either one. They discard the card into the exile zone, which triggers a triggered ability, so you could counter that ability with anything that can counter a triggered ability. If you do that, the card actually stays in the exile zone and your opponent doesn't even get the chance to pay the madness cost. If you let the triggered ability resolve, your opponent gets to cast the card from the exile zone for its madness cost. If they do, the card becomes a spell that can be countered by anything that can counter spells.

Q: Let's say I control The Ozolith with a bunch of ability counters on it, like lifelink, trample, and double strike. If I turn it into a creature with Workshop Elders's ability, does it get all the abilities from those counters?

A: Absolutely. In fact, The Ozolith already had those abilities before Workshop Elders animated it, but those abilities generally don't do anything on a noncreature permanent. Now that it's a creature, you'll be able to take full advantage of those abilities, for example by attacking your opponent with it.

Q: My opponent controls Master of Waves, a bunch of 1/0 Elemental tokens, and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling. If she uses Thassa's ability to blink Master of Waves, why don't her tokens die?

A: It's true that the tokens will lose the +1/+1 bonus from Master of Waves ever so briefly and will go down to 1/0 temporarily. However, the death of creatures with toughness 0 or less is a state-based action, and state-based actions only happen after a spell or ability has completely finished resolving. Thassa's ability exiles Master of Waves and then returns it to the battlefield right away, so the tokens are back to being 2/1 when state-based actions are checked.

Why is it blue?
It's always blue!
Q: I play a Vesuvan Doppelganger and choose nothing to copy, and it survives because I also control Glorious Anthem. When my upkeep comes around, can the Doppelganger become a copy of some creature?

A: I'm afraid not. Vesuvan Doppelganger doesn't normally have the triggered ability that triggers at the beginning of the upkeep. It only gains that ability as part of its copy effect, and since you chose not to apply the copy effect as it entered the battlefield, it never gained that ability.

Q: I cast Finality on one of my creatures and my opponent responds by destroying that creature. Does the -4/-4 effect still happen to all creatures?

A: Yup. First off, your opponent can't actually respond to your choice of which creature gets the +1/+1 counters. The creature is not a target, so this choice is only made when Finality resolves. You may announce ahead of time which creature you intend to choose, but if your opponent responds to the spell, you may choose a different creature once Finality resolves. When it resolves, you decide whether to put two +1/+1 counters on a creature you control, and regardless of whether you do so, all creatures then get -4/-4 until end of turn.

Q: Let's say I control a Hydra with base power and toughness 0/0, and it has three +1/+1 counters on it. If I mutate it with Gemrazer, what happens if I put Gemrazer on top, and what happens if I put it on the bottom?

A: The merged creature has all the characteristics of the card on top, plus all the abilities of the cards below it, and it's still the same permanent as before, so it retains its counters. If you leave the Hydra on top, it continues to be a 0/0 with three +1/+1 counters, so it's a 3/3. If you put the Gemrazer on top, the creature is a 4/4 with three +1/+1 counters on it, so it's a 7/7.

Q: Cool. What happens if my opponent Rescinds the mutated Hydra/Gemrazer thing?

A: Your mutated Hydra/Gemrazer thing is a single creature that's represented by two cards. Any zone change that happens to that creature happens to both cards. In the case of Rescind, both cards are returned to your hand.

Q: If my commander is Nethroi, Apex of Death, can I use its mutate ability from the command zone, and do I have to pay the commander tax to do so?

A: Yes and yes. Mutate is an alternative cost to cast the spell, so as you cast your commander from the command zone, you can choose to pay the mutate cost instead of the normal cost. However, additional costs apply as normal, so you have to pay the additional for each time you cast your commander from the command zone before, and this counts every time you cast the commander from the command zone regardless of whether you cast it for its mutate cost or for its normal cost.

Q: If I allowed my commander to be exiled by a spell, can I use Pull from Eternity to move it into the command zone?

A: Sure. Pull from Eternity resolves and puts your commander into the graveyard. Then, state-base actions notice that your commander has gone to the graveyard since the last time state-based actions were checked, so you may move it to the command zone.

And that's it for today's lesson. Thanks for reading, and please come back next week for more Magic rules questions and answers.

- 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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