Published on 11/23/2020

Legendary Leftovers

Cranial Translation
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I command you to tell me more
about Commander Legends!
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Commander Legends is out now, and last week's episode just scratched the surface of the many rules interactions that this set has to offer. Commander Legends is like a Thanksgiving turkey that's too much for a single meal, so today we give you a delicious sandwich made from the leftovers combined with whatever else we found in the fridge, I mean in our mailbox.

Speaking of our mailbox, if you have questions for us, please email them to , or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will respond to you, and your question might even appear in a future article.

And now, without further ado, let's dig in!

Q: Can Ghost of Ramirez DePietro's second ability bring back a card with madness if it was cast for its madness cost?

A: No, the Ghost of Ramirez DePietro doesn't work well with madness. Regardless of whether you cast the card or not, the Ghost won't be able to retrieve it for you. If you cast the spell for its madness cost, it goes to the graveyard from the stack. If you chose not to cast it, it went to the graveyard from the exile zone. Either way, the card didn't go to the graveyard from your hand or from your library, so the Ghost's ability can't see it.

Q: If I play a creature that has partner, can I search my library for another card that has partner?

A: Nice try, but no. The "partner with [other card's name]" ability has a built-in ability that lets you search your library for a card with that name, but the generic "partner" ability has no such built-in perk.

Q: Can Rowan Kenrith and Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar partner up to be my two commanders?

A: No, that would be weird, and it's against the rules. The "partner with" ability only allows the card to partner with that specific card.

Q: When my opponent's Tymna the Weaver's ability goes off, is there a way I can flash in Hullbreacher to turn their card draws into Treasure tokens for me?

A: Not really. Your opponent only decides whether to pay X life once Tymna's ability starts to resolve, and then the ability finishes resolving without any player getting the chance to do anything else until the ability is done. You could respond to Tymna's ability while it's the top object on the stack, but then your opponent has no reason to pay X life once the ability resolves, unless they actually want to help you by giving you lots of treasure.

Q: How do I resolve the quadruple cascade on Apex Devastator?

A: Very carefully. The four cascade abilities go on the stack above Apex Devastator, and they resolve one by one. When the first resolves, you exile cards from the top of your library until you reach a nonland card with converted mana cost less than ten — so presumably just the next nonland card unless for some reason you have even bigger cards in your deck. You cast that card without paying its mana cost, if you want, and put the exiled cards on the bottom of your library in a random order. Then you do the same thing three more times, which may be easier said than done if any of the cards you cascade into have cascade themselves.

It might be helpful to write out "Cascade 10" on four card-sized pieces of paper and use them to physically represent the stack. As each one resolves, remove it from the stack, so you can keep track of how many cascade triggers you have left to resolve.

Q: Can I still cascade if someone controls Grafdigger's Cage?

A: Sure. The cards you cast with cascade aren't cast from the library. They're exiled from the library and then cast from exile, so Grafdigger's Cage doesn't interfere with that process.

Q: If I'm casting Maelstrom Wanderer for the second time from the command zone, do I cascade based on a converted mana cost of 8 or 10?

A: Only 8. The converted mana cost of a spell has very little to do with how much you have paid, will pay, or might pay, to cast it. It's based solely on the string of mana symbols in the card's mana cost that's printed in the top right corner, and it's not influenced by additional costs, cost increases, or cost reductions. Maelstrom Wanderer's converted mana cost is 8 regardless of how much mana you actually spent to cast it, so its cascade abilities compare the converted mana costs of the cards in your library to 8.

Who's got no thumbs and loves to gamble?
This guy!
Q: I control Krark, the Thumbless and cast a spell with storm. If I lose the coin flip, do the storm copies still happen? And if yes, do I have to flip a coin for each of them?

A: Yes and no, in that order. Storm gets triggered by casting the spell, and returning the spell to your hand doesn't "untrigger" that ability. If you return the original spell to your hand before you resolve the storm ability, the storm ability uses the spell's last-known information to make its copies. The storm copies aren't cast, so they don't trigger Krark's ability.

Q: How does Krark, the Thumbless interact with Temporal Extortion? If I resolve Temporal Extortion's trigger first and my opponent pays life to counter it, can Krark's ability return Temporal Extortion to my hand from the graveyard?

A: No. If you lose the coin flip, Krark's ability returns "that spell" to your hand, where "that spell" is the thing on the stack whose casting triggered Krark's ability in the first place. That spell no longer exists, and the card in the graveyard is a different object that has no immediate relation to the spell it was on stack, so nothing gets returned to your hand.

Q: Araumi of the Dead Tide's ability says "Activate only as a sorcery." Is that referring to Araumi's ability itself, or to the encore ability it's giving to the targeted card?

A: It's referring to the encore ability. The sentence is part of the reminder text that's written in italics, and it's explaining what encore means. If it were an activation restriction on Araumi's ability itself, it would be printed in the normal font as part of the ability.

Q: My opponent plays Necromantic Selection and destroys, among other things, my commander. If I choose to put my commander into the command zone, can my opponent still steal it with Necromantic Selection?

A: Yes, although the way you're asking the question misrepresents the order in which things happen. Once upon a time, putting your commander into the command zone when it was being destroyed was a replacement effect that replaced the trip to the graveyard with a trip to the command zone. However, under current rules, this is done by a state-based action that's checked after a spell or ability has completely finished resolving. This means that your commander gets destroyed by Necromantic Selection and goes to the graveyard, and then your opponent chooses which of the just-destroyed cards to take. Your commander is one of those cards, and if your opponent chooses to take it, it's not even in the graveyard when state-based actions are checked.

Q: My commander is Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, so it has infect. If it deals damage to my opponent, is the extra damage from Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar's ability infect damage, too?

A: Yes. The extra damage isn't dealt by Kediss; it's dealt by the same commander that dealt the original damage, so the extra damage is dealt by Skithiryx itself and it's infect damage.

Q: I use Hellkite Courser to put Obeka, Brute Chronologist onto the battlefield, and then I use Obeka's ability to end the turn. Do I get to keep Obeka indefinitely, or do I have to return her to the command zone at the end of the next turn?

A: That depends on when exactly you activate Obeka's ability. If you just do the things above in your main phase, then I'm afraid Obeka will go back to the command zone at the end of the next turn. That's because you ended the turn before the delayed triggered ability from Hellkite Courser had a chance to trigger, so it patiently waits for the next opportunity to trigger and to send Obeka back to the command zone.

Things happen differently if you proceed to the end step between putting Obeka onto the battlefield and activating its ability. In that case, Hellkite Courser's ability has triggered and is on the stack, waiting to resolve. Ending the turn at that point will remove the ability from the stack so it won't resolve, and because the ability already triggered, it won't get the chance to trigger again.

Q: If I control Nyxbloom Ancient, does Yurlok of Scorch Thrash give my opponents three times as much mana?

A: Yup. Yurlok's ability is a mana ability, and its activation cost includes the tap symbol, so you're tapping a permanent for mana. Nyxbloom Ancient's effect kicks in and makes the ability produce three times as much mana as it normally would. The fact that most of that mana goes into your opponents' mana pools is exactly as irrelevant to Nyxbloom Ancient as it is hilarious to you.

Q: How do I know that Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh is a red card? The card frame looks red, but the mana symbol is colorless, so what's going on here?

A: What's going on is that Rograkh has a color indicator. It's that little red dot in the type line, and in the Gatherer card database it says "Color Indicator: Red". This color indicator overrides the default color (or colorlessness) that the card would have by virtue of its mana cost. Once upon a time, cards without a mana cost that were supposed to have a color had an ability to define its color (see Evermind for an example), but with color indicators this is no longer necessary, and such cards have received errata to use color indicators instead.

Q: My opponent is the monarch, controls Jared Carthalion, True Heir, and casts Star of Extinction. Can Tale's End counter Jared's ability that gives it 20 +1/+1 counters?

A: No. The only abilities that Tale's End can counter are activated abilities, which are written as "[cost]:[effect]", and triggered abilities, which begin with "when," "whenever," or "at." Jared's ability is a static ability that creates a replacement effect, so Tale's End is quite powerless to stop it.

Q: I control Tormod, the Desecrator and I help Underworld Charger escape from the graveyard. How many Zombie tokens does Tormod make?

A: Tormod makes two tokens in this case. When you cast a card, you first move it to the stack from whereever it is, then some other things happen that we don't have to cover in detail, and then eventually you pay the cost for the spell. When you cast Underworld Charger for its escape cost, you first move it from the graveyard to the stack, which triggers Tormod's ability. Later, paying the cost triggers Tormod's ability a second time because it sees another instance of one or more cards leaving your graveyard. (The cards leave at the same time, so you only get one trigger from paying the cost regardless of how many cards are involved in that.)

Q: Does Energy Field keep me from getting poison counters from Blightsteel Colossus?

A: Certainly. The poison counters from a creature with infect are the result of the damage that the creature deals to you. If the damage is prevented with Energy Field, the damage is not dealt, so you don't get any poison counters.

Q: If Pako, Arcane Retriever exiles a modal double-faced card with a creature side and a land side, such as Skyclave Cleric, can I play it as a land with Haldan, Avid Arcanist?

A: Yup. If something allows you to play or cast a card, you can look at both sides of a modal double-faced card and play or cast any side that matches the criteria. Haldan allows you to play a non-creature card, and since the back face is a land, you can play that face, provided that you have a land play left for the turn.

Q: I control Norn's Annex and Angel of Jubilation or Yasharn, Implacable Earth. Can my opponents pay life to attack me?

A: I'm afraid so. The restriction from Angel of Jubilation or Yasharn only applies to casting spells and activating abilities. Paying for Norn's Annex may feel a lot like activating an ability, but paying a cost to attack is an entirely different mechanism, so your opponents can still make that life payment if they're brave enough.

And that's all for today. Thanks for reading, and please come back next week for more Magic rules Q&A.

- 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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