Published on 07/11/2011

Magic and the Mayan Apocalypse

or, Does Anyone Still Believe in That?

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

And then I reset the universe.
Long story.
If you very liberally interpret the Mayan calendar, Magic 2012 is the last core set before the total destruction of the universe kills Magic. Are you ready? Our zombie secretary Moko has been working hard to ensure that he can become the simian ruler of whatever remains after the universe collapses, so I'm sure it'll be a fun apocalypse!

Like most core sets, there isn't a great deal of complexity, but unlike most core sets, WotC's upped the ante with things like Sorin Markov and Turn to Frog, not to mention all of the random questions about bloodthirst that we got back with Guildpact was around. I'm sure Innistrad this September will do a lot for raising questions, but that's still over three months off!

So for now, sit back and relax for a trip through M12. Some of these are from the inbox, some from our prereleases, and while none of these questions come from our awesome @CranialTweet twitter account, you can fire your questions off to either the email or twitter if you want an answer!

Q: So M11 isn't legal for FNM anymore, right?

A: If you're running Block Constructed FNMs, then no; otherwise, it is! Core sets only rotate with the preceding block, so M11 is legal until Zendikar rotates in October with the release of Innistrad. Yes, readers, many of you already know this, but it's news to many people: for a few months, there will be two legal core sets in Standard at once.

Q: Can I Doom Blade my opponent's new creature so it can't hit me with Warstorm Surge?

A: You can Doom it, but that won't counter the trigger. When the trigger resolves, he nudges the creature and says "hey, hit that guy over there." The creature is missing, so the trigger sighs, looks at the security cameras to get that creature's last-known information, and sends out a few Russian mafia thugs named Dmitri and Tim dressed up as that creature to hit that guy over there on its behalf. That's the power of last-known information.

Q: My opponent controls Warstorm Surge and casts Bloodrage Vampire – if I Wring Flesh it, does it still hit me for 3?

A: Nope! The creature will be dead, so the trigger goes to the security camera. When the creature was last on the battlefield, it was a 0/0 creature, so the trigger goes "okaaaay" and the thugs smack that guy over there with a pillow rather than a lead pipe, not dealing any damage at all.

Q: I control Warstorm Surge and cast any random creature with bloodthirst. Will that creature deal damage before I check to see if it gets bloodthirst counters?

A: Bloodthirst is a replacement effect, and Warstorm Surge has a triggered ability. The easy way to simplify entering the battlefield is to say that first you apply replacement effects, then continuous effects, and then check for triggers – note that you only check for triggers there. You don't determine how much damage to deal until the trigger resolves! By the time the trigger's resolved, your creature has long since had counters on it, so it'll deal more damage.

Vampires wear bowties now.
Bowties are cool.
Q: Will Smallpox power up my bloodthirst creatures?

A: Bloodthirst only cares about damage, not loss of life. Damage usually results in loss of life, much like the heat death of the universe would melt a scoop of ice cream, but the opposite is not true – life loss does not cause damage anymore than melting ice cream causes the heat death of the universe. Oddly enough, damage from a source with infect doesn't cause loss of life, but will still power up bloodthirst despite no blood being shed! Smallpox doesn't cause any damage, so it will not.

Q: Can I kick a creature I put out with Quicksilver Amulet?

A: Only literally. Paying kicker costs is an additional cost to cast the spell, and you're not casting any spells here – you're plopping a creature onto the table. So you won't be able to kick the creature and get more use out of it, though you can still kick it in frustration when it doesn't help you win. (Just wait till after the tournament.)

Q: Can a Vengeful Pharaoh kill a Mirran Crusader that hit me before it deals normal damage?

A: It can't. Even in the graveyard, it's still a black card, and the triggered ability comes from a black source, so Mirran Crusader has protection from our mummy friend here. If it were a double-strike creature without protection from black, then you could pull this off. Players do receive priority in between first-strike and normal combat damage, during the first combat damage step, and that's when the Pharaoh will trigger and let you wipe out, say, Spiraling Duelist before it gets to hit for normal damage.

Q: If we're flipping a coin for Scrambleverse, can I double my chances of stealing everything with Krark's Thumb?

A: Krark was a very focused gambling Goblin, and he'll only help you win on coin flips that the game asks for. If you're flipping a coin for any reason other than an effect specifically saying "flip a coin," Krark won't care. Flipping a coin or rolling a die are perfectly valid ways to choose players at random, but as far as the game's concerned, these flips are never happening and can't be modified.

Q: Does Gideon's Avenger get a counter when a Rusted Sentinel enters the battlefield tapped?

A: Triggers that fire on things "becoming" something only trigger when an object go from one state to another. The Sentinel entered the battlefield tapped, so it was never untapped and didn't become tapped, similar to how Moko never became a chimpanzee, he always was a chimp. Him becoming a zombie, though, is a different story.

Q: How do Skinshifter or Turn to Frog interact with Equipment?

A: The easy way to remember this is that any plus or minus to power and/or toughness always happen after anything that sets power and/or toughness. So your Shaman holding a Greatsword is still holding a Greatsword even if he turns into a Frog or a Rhino, despite those species not having opposable thumbs and being comically inappropriately-sized to wield a Greatsword. You'll get a 4/1 Frog or 7/4 Rhino/ 5/2 Bird/ 3/8 Plant.

Q: Can I give Skinshifter flying on my opponent's turn, then make it 4/4 on my turn to swing for 4 in the air?

A: Nope. Skinshifter's skin shifting wears off during the cleanup step – you can tell because it says "until end of turn." You're confusing this with "at the beginning of the end step" triggers, which are very, very different and can be finagled to not trigger until the following turn, but there is no way at all in black-bordered Magic to get an "until end of turn" effect to last to the next turn.

Q: Will Personal Sanctuary protect me from paying Phyrexian mana?

A: Personal Sanctuary only stops damage – to refer back to an example earlier on, this is the heat death of the universe melting your ice cream, but paying life (for Phyrexian mana or anything else) is merely a drop of lava falling from the sky into your sundae, melting it with the awesome power of convection that Hollywood doesn't believe exists. It's still not the heat death of the universe, and paying life is still not damage; it's just another way to lower your life total.

Q: Can I Redirect my opponent's Incinerate to his creature with hexproof?

A: Sure! Redirect only targets the spell, not that spell's new target, and your opponent still controls the Incinerate so he can target his own hexproof creatures.

Are you my mummy?
Q: If two 4/4 creatures attack me, and I block one with Vengeful Pharaoh, can I kill the other with the Pharaoh's trigger?

A: In order for the Pharaoh to trigger, it has to be in the graveyard at the moment that damage is dealt. But as the 4 damage was dealt to you and the Pharaoh, since combat damage is all dealt simultaneously without first strike being involved, the Pharaoh was obviously on the battlefield, and so it can't trigger.

Q: Will Vengeful Pharaoh trigger multiple times if two creatures hit me at once?

A: It won't. Remember, combat damage is dealt simultaneously, so the "you were dealt damage" condition is met only once.

You can get the Pharaoh to trigger twice, however, by being dealt damage at the same time that a planeswalker you control is dealt damage. This will do broadly nothing due to the Pharaoh's intervening "if" clause. That's the template of "When X, if Y, do Z." Y has to be true both as X happens and as the trigger resolves, or the ability does nada. After one trigger puts the Pharaoh on top of your library, it is no longer in your graveyard, so the second trigger won't do anything as it resolves.

Q: I attack with Flameblast Dragon and my opponent controls a Phantasmal Dragon. Do I have to pay to kill it, or just ?

A: Surprise, you can't pay any mana even if you want to! Even though it looks like "pay mana, then choose a target," you always, always choose targets first, and you pay on resolution for triggered abilities like Flameblast Dragon's. So your Dragon attacks, you pick his Dragon as the target, and then his Dragon triggers. Nothing else happens on your end yet. His trigger resolves, and he sacrifices his Dragon, and then your trigger goes to resolve but its target is illegal! Oh no! Your trigger is countered, what a sadness... except your trigger got rid of his Dragon for free, and now he's down a blocker, and your Dragon noms his face.

Q: My opponent uses Grim Lavamancer to hit Gideon's Avenger. Will my Avenger live?

A: Activating an ability follows the same steps as casting a spell, so the first thing that your opponent does is put the Lavamancer's ability on the stack. Later on in the process, the costs are paid, including tapping the Lavamancer, and then the Avenger triggers; after the ability is done being activated, the Avenger trigger goes on the stack on top of the Lavamancer ability. The stack resolves last-in-first-out, and the Avenger gets a counter while laughing at the silly Lavamancer trying to burn it.

Q: I have nineteen cards in my graveyard and cast Visions of Beyond. Will I draw three cards?

A: Putting a spell into your graveyard is the very last thing that you do while resolving a spell, not the first – you follow all of the spell's instructions, and only then does it go away. You'll still only have nineteen cards in your yard while resolving Visions of Beyond, so you only draw one sad, lonely card.

Q: What if I have fourteen cards in my graveyard, and with my first draw for Visions of Beyond I dredge a Golgari Grave-Troll – will I "draw" two more after that?

A: Nope. The number of cards that you'll draw is determined as soon as Visions of Beyond starts to resolve. If you don't have twenty or more cards right then, you draw one; if you do, the "draw one" is replaced with "draw three."

Q: Can I activate Alabaster Mage multiple times to gain more and more life?

A: Only if you have more and more creatures. Multiple instances of lifelink are redundant; giving a creature lifelink five times is funny, but pointless.

Q: I cast Fireball with X = 5 and pay to target my opponent and his Phantasmal Dragon. Does my opponent take 5 damage?

A: He does! Unlike spells like Forked Bolt that ask you to divide the damage, Fireball's damage is divided by the spell's effect. Because of that, the damage isn't divided until resolution, and then it's only divided among legal targets. With the Dragon dead, your opponent is the only legal target, so he takes all the damage.

Q: Can I use Turn to Frog to stop something like bloodthirst or Master Thief from triggering?

A: Nope. Bloodthirst isn't even a trigger – "enters the battlefield with counters" is a replacement effect. Master Thief has a trigger, but by the time you can turn it into a Frog, it's already entered the battlefield and has already triggered.

That's all for this week, but join us next week when we start smooshing core sets together into a fun new Standard with a whole bunch of interactions we hadn't considered yet!

Until next time, may you feel fine when the world ends.

- 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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