Published on 09/05/2011

Deep Analysis

or, This Pun Seems to Be Broken

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

This is your brain on puns.
With Eli and Paskoff busy at Pro Tour—Philly and Carsten having just written an article, it falls to me once again to fill in for that bunch of slackers and give you yet another reason to praise my fantastic simian name.

For I am Moko, he who sorts your mail into good and bad, eats some brains for nourishment, and occasionally writes an article. If you send me significant bananas, I may spare your brain. Or I might mix the two. You will never know, for I am a capricious lord.

Behold, for I bring you a quiz! There are thirteen questions. All are multiple choice... more or less. When you think you know the answer, click the spoiler button below the question to see the right answer.

If you have more questions, send them in to or tweet the guys at CranialTweet. For now, start writing.

Q: What happens when both Silent Arbiter and War's Toll are on the battlefield at the same time?

A: The silent answer is...
A: You can't attack at all.
B: You have to attack with all your creatures.
C: You can attack with one creature.
D: The answer depends on which entered the battlefield last.
E: Nothing at all, until you try to attack. Then your brain explodes.

The answer is
E, nothing! C is also true.

War's Toll creates a requirement – "they all go in if able" – while Silent Arbiter creates a restriction – "only one." You must meet every restriction while maximizing the number of requirements, and that number is zero. No other creatures are able to attack, so they don't. You meet the same number of requirements whether you attack with one guy or none, so either is okay. Attacking with all breaks the restriction, so no.

Q: Is it legal for me to re-arrange my graveyard?

A: The answer is...
A: Only in Limited.
B: Only in Limited/Standard.
C: Only in formats without graveyard-order-matters cards.
D: Only if you've got a solid alibi and a backhoe.
E: Never.

The grave answer is
C, if it doesn't matter, do whatever!

Judges got sick of having to police graveyard order being changed while digging for relevant cards when there were no cards that cared about the order. So now you're allowed to shuffle around your graveyard to put cards with flashback on top, literally shuffle it to choose a random card, and so on. But Legacy and Vintage tournaments can't do that because we're hardcore like that and don't need to rearrange our graveyards to figure out what we have.

Q: Which of the following can you do in response to a spell with split second cast on your turn?

A: Quick, the answer is...
A: Suspend Ancestral Vision.
B: Sacrifice Lion's Eye Diamond for mana.
C: Resolve Kaervek the Merciless's trigger.
D: Play Dryad Arbor via Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir as your first land?
E: Assemble a Contraption.

The zoom zoom answer is
B, C, and D! Maybe E, but who knows!

"Any time you could cast an instant" doesn't mean that you could literally cast an instant right then; otherwise, you'd have to show that you have an instant in hand to cast, and then it's just getting stupid. LED has a mana ability, so it'll work here. Dryad Arbor has flash, and the rules you can't break about lands without explicit permission are "one per turn" and "only your turn." You can break the normal timing rules if something gives you an additional permission, which Teferi does. Triggers are entirely unaffected by split second, so that's all well and good. But you can only suspend a card when you could literally cast it, unlike the "could cast an instant" timing thing, so you can't suspend Ancestral Visions in response to anything.

Look at those appendages. Now just you
make a joke about the article title.
Q: I copy a Woodfall Primus with a -1/-1 counter on it with Phyrexian Metamorph, and then both die due to Plague Wind. Does my Metamorph persist? What does it come back as?

A: The wooden answer is...
A: No, because it isn't a Woodfall Primus in your graveyard.
B: No, because it had a -1/-1 counter on it.
C: Yes, and it'll still be a Woodfall Primus.
D: Yes, and you'll have to copy something new.
E: No, it will come back wrong. Just let the dead lie. Oh god why didn't you listen to

The metal answer is
D, copy something new!

Leaves-the-battlefield triggers look back in time, and at that time, the Metamorph had persist so it can trigger. Copy effects do not copy counters on an object, so the Metamorph can still persist. Once it does, though, it will have no memory of what it once was, and won't be a Primus anymore; you'll have to copy something new and get your -1/-1 counter on it.

You should know that I am very pro-zombie, so shame on you if you answered E.

Q: Can I make an evil token deck abusing Humility and True Conviction?

A: The evil, evil answer is...
A: It's already quite evil enough without trying to figure out your question, you monster.

Qb: Will my creatures all kill his first and gain me lots of life?

A: Oh fine. Which, if any, of these are true, readers?
B: Your blocked attacking creatures will kill his blockers first, and then hit him.
C: Your blocked attacking creatures will kill his blockers and survive.
D: Your blocked attacking creatures will each gain you 2 life.
E: Your unblocked attacking creatures will each gain you 2 life.

The answer is
C and E, stuff!

But only if you cast True Conviction second, otherwise they're all false! TRAP!

Assuming you did cast True Conviction second here. B can't be true because your guys don't have trample. They won't hit him after they're blocked. C is true because of timestamps – they'll gain double strike after losing all abilities. Because of this, E is also true, as they have lifelink. But D isn't, since they'll kill the blockers with first-strike damage, gaining you only one.

Q: My opponent casts Fireball with X = 2, and targets Phantasmal Bear, Skywinder Drake, and me. In response, I use Stave Off to give my Drake protection from red. What happens?

A: The answer is...
A: You're dealt 0 damage.
B: You're dealt 1 damage.
C: You're dealt 2 damage.
D: You're dealt 3 damage wait what
E: Depends on how he divided the damage as he announced Fireball.

The divisive answer is
C, 2 to the face!

Fireball has its damage divided evenly, so your opponent won't be doing any division as it's announced. The damage is divided upon resolution among legal targets. Since you're the only legal target, you're going to take 2 damage.

Q: What do I get if Riku of Two Reflections copies a face-down Vesuvan Shapeshifter?

A: The reflective answer is...
A: A face-up Vesuvan Shapeshifter that can't copy anything.
B: A face-up Vesuvan Shapeshifter that copies something.
C: A face-down Vesuvan Shapeshifter.
D: A 2/2 blank creature.
E: A muffin.

The reflective answer is
D, a blob!

You know how they keep saying that only copy effects get copied? This is one of the two very rare exceptions. Being face down creates a set of copiable values, so that's what gets copied, and you get a face-up 2/2 blob of nothing creature.

The one final exception is stuff like Primal Clay, in case it gets Mirrorweaved instead of Cloned. Those enter-the-battlefield replacements that define characteristics are also copiable.

Mean Vedalken get no love. No one
knows his first name's Harry.
Q: I target my opponent's Maze of Ith and my Scalding Tarn with my Vedalken Plotter's ability, and crack the fetchland in response. What happens?

A: The answer is...
A: You get the Maze for nothing.
B: You don't get the Maze.
C: You get the Maze for the land you find.
D: You get the Maze and he gets the Tarn from your graveyard.
E: You can't do that since the Tarn is locked in as his.
F: You get the Maze for your Plotter.
G: The Maze remains on the battlefield with no controller.
H: The Maze gets rather upset for having been referred to so many times and bites you on the nose.

The amazing answer is
B, no Maze for you!

Unfair exchanges are indeed possible, as the Plotter's flavor text tells you, but one-sided exchanges aren't. If you're ever trying to exchange X for Y (and the actual word "exchange" has to be used here), but this is impossible for any reason, including X or y not being around anymore, then the deal's off.

Q: What order does stuff happen in the cleanup step?

A: The cleanest answer is...
A: The active player gets priority.
B: Damage wears off.
C: Beginning-of-end-step triggers go on the stack.
D: Until-end-of-turn effects wear off.
E: Discard down to seven cards.

The answer is
E, then B and D at once,then maybe A!

C is right out, since the end step is its own step before the cleanup step. First, the active player discards down to seven. After that, B and D happen simultaneously for reasons lost to the mists of time. Then if there are any state-based actions or triggers begging for attention like sticky toddlers, the active player gets priority to deal with them.

Q: My Standard GPT opponent sat down to round one with the Fire & Lightning Premium deck. Since cards like Chain Lightning and Fireblast are only legal in my dreams, how is he supposed to fix this?

A: The premium answer is...
A: Replace them only with basic lands.
B: Replace them with different cards.
C: Disqualification without prize.
D: Just play with those cards.
E: Just keep playing until you wake up.

The answer is

This one's pretty standard: illegal cards in deck become basic lands. Yes, this makes his deck entirely unplayable. Yes, that is very unfortunate, and the organizer should probably refund him when he inevitably drops. But he's not disqualified, no matter how poor his deck ends up, and he can't just remake his deck at a Competitive event.

Q: Which of these can I sanction?

A: The answer is...
A: Free Booster Draft (store keeps cards)
B: Mercadian Masques-Homelands-Prophecy Booster Draft.
C: 37-player Grand Melee.
D: Extended FNM.
E: Modern.
F: Pro Tour—My Backyard.

The answer is
A, B, and D

Drafts where you don't keep the cards are fine, as long as that's announced in advance. It even produces some better play sometimes, since people don't care about card value! Drafts are also legal with any mix of product, no matter how silly, as long as everyone gets the same product and it's all sealed. Extended and Block became valid FNM formats a couple months ago, yay! Modern won't be sanctionable for stores until late 2011 or early 2012, so you can't do that yet. (But who says you need to sanction an event to have a good time?) Grand Melee remains unsanctionable since it is a silly, crazy format. (And very often not a good time.) And you cannot sanction your own Pro Tour. Can't imagine why not.

Q: We were playing casually at a store, and a random customer walked up behind my opponent and said "dude, just Bolt him to the face and swing with everything to win." What would happen to my opponent if this were a Competitive tournament like a GPT?

A: The answer is...
A: Warning for Cheating.
B: Disqualification for Outside Assistance.
C: Match Loss Outside Assistance.
D: Warning for Player Communication Violation.
E: Warning for Game Rule Violation.
F: No penalty, carry on.
G: Wipe his memory with DCI Sonic Screwdrivers and continue playing.

The answer is
F, your opponent's fine!

The guy who jumped in and started babbling is the one who provided outside assistance, so he's the one who'll get a Match Loss for the infraction. But your opponent? What did he do? He didn't ask for help. If this was a big conspiracy set up before the event, then he did and there's a bigger issue, but the judge will figure that out later and we'll assume that's not the case here.

"Player Communication Violation" means something very specific, not "anything about communication." You have to unknowingly incorrectly state or fail to state something that you are required to be truthful about for it to be a PCV.

This is also not a Game Rule Violation, since there's no game rule your opponent broke.

The real answer is actually G, but if everyone knew about the DCI's sonic program, we might have to kill you.

Q: In what order do things happen if I want to Swat Adamaro, First to Desire and I have two other cards in my hand and control Dreamspoiler Witches?

A: The order is...
J: Cry in despair at having to order things.
A: Choose Adamaro as your target.
B: Dreamspoiler Witches's trigger goes on the stack.
C: Dreamspoiler Witches's trigger resolves.
D: Put Swat on the stack.
E: Pay
F: This can't actually happen, but we'll pretend you have only one other card in hand so it can.
I: Notice some letters are missing and/or out of order.
N: Announce that you're casting Swat
µ: Adamaro gets smaller.
H: Complain that µ is not even a real letter.
3: Now this is just silly.

The convoluted answer is
N, D, µ, A, E, B, C

And that's leaving out things like J, H, and 3 that don't really make sense in the context of the question. Those may appear anywhere in the process depending on how observant you are.

Remember that all crazy teenagers have tried magic pills. Adamaro's stats change as soon as the card leaves your hand, and the Witches doesn't trigger until you've finished paying for Swat, so it won't resolve till later. Other than that, the article I linked explains the steps of casting a spell just fine, despite being kind of old.

If you got thirteen questions right, I already know and am probably on my way to your place now for dinner. Eleven or twelve, and you're pretty good at this. Nine or ten isn't that bad. Less than that, and you should send us more questions!

Paskoff's got an article for you next week, then Carsten again, and then Eli will be back for the big Innistrad article. Which will kill Magic, yadda yadda, yawn.

I'll see you all the next time they need me to write! Or when I get hungry.

- Moko

About the Author:
Moko was born in Tanzania, and died in a tragic accident involving a catapult while being transported from Eli Shiffrin to Thijs van Ommen between the first two Cranial Insertion articles. Subsequently zombified, he helps sort their mail and occasionally answers questions. His pastimes include bananas and brains. Mmm brains.


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