Published on 09/26/2011

The Monster Mash

or, A Graveyard Smash!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Welcome to the plane of Innistrad, where old horror movies come to life and rip your guts out! It's a happy fun land for summer vacations to escape the heat and the pangs of living. And what are we doing here? Why, answering rules questions, of course!

Innistrad is a huge bunch of rules questions piled up in an unmarked grave. With lots of copy effects, double-faced cards, and that wacky tree, there's no end to the confusion brought about shortly before the creatures of the night devour your puny human shell.

So, send in your questions to or tweet us at @CranialTweet before it's too late! We can't save you from the undead, but we can note your last words for posterity.

Keep an eye out for Moko. Ever since his zombification, he's been looking for a place just like Innistrad where he can fit in and claw his way to the top of the metaphorical and not-so-metaphorical food chain...

Don't forget to also read the Innistrad FAQ and Toby Elliott's Double-Faced Cards Tournament Rules FAQ - this article has a small amount of overlap, but it deliberately avoids some of the biggest questions they bring up.

Q: How do these double-faced cards even work in draft?!

A: First... you open the pack. [cue ominous thunder] If the Head Judge or Tournament Organizer says so, each player lays out his or her double-faced cards for a quick review period to stop players from trying to look at the player next to them and accidentally seeing too much - this is optional, though. Then, you pick a card like normal, and put it on top of your other picks (or start your pile of picks) like normal.

You can't hide your picks; all players get the same information from each other regarding double-faced cards. This does make signaling weird; it's a new element to consider while drafting this block that R&D and the DCI approve of for one block's drafting.

Q: I only have one Mayor of Avabruck. Can I print out Howlpack Alpha and put it on top when it transforms?

A: No, no, no. Printing cards, no matter how obviously fake, is hugely frowned upon by the WotC legal department. Do not go there. You have three options for how to handle transformations, and only three:

1) You can use the handy-dandy checklist cards found in 3/4 Innistrad booster packs, though. Just mark the single card it's standing in for, shuffle it in as normal, and whenever anyone can see the face, switch it out for the real DFC in a totally clear sleeve so you can turn it around either way, or in any sort of sleeve if you can show the back in some other way.

2) You can use the DFC itself, if you have seriously opaque sleeves. Mostly-opaque is not good enough - if you can tell by looking at the back of the sleeve that there's a card face there, it's no good. When you transform it, take it out of the sleeve to turn it around then put it back in.

3) You can use a DFC in a different color sleeve with either of the above methods. Have the back face showing, and put it on top of the DFC with the front face showing. If you have three checklist cards for Reckless Waif, you must have at least three Reckless Waifs with you - but you may have more!

Q: If two of my opponents, or one opponent and I, each cast a spell on one turn, will that make Werewolves transform?

A: Nope. Two spells must be cast by a single player, not by any combination of players.

Q: Can Clones or token copies of my double-faced cards transform?

A: Being a DFC is a property of the physical card. It can't be copied, it can't be taken away, and it can't be gained. Your Clone and tokens don't have a second face, so they are unable to transform. The "transform" instruction will fail to do anything, but any other instructions will be followed if able.

Innistrad's Vampires versus Ravnica's Rakdos:
Which throws better parties?
Q: Do counters and Auras and Equipment on my double-faced creature stay on when it transforms?

A: They sure do! A creature that transforms is still the same object it was before, wearing the same clothes and petting the same puppy. Except now it's bursting out of those clothes and eating that puppy. Poor puppy.

Q: Is there any way for me to sneak in a double-faced card with the back face up? Maybe something like Mask of the Mimic?

A: The Mask won't work. In your deck, a DFC has only the name of the front face. In fact, there is no way to get a DFC in with its back face up, since it will always enter with the front face up unless otherwise specified - and nothing specifies otherwise. A DFC can never be face down, so there's no sort of morph shenanigans you can pull, either.

Q: If I make Bitterheart Witch fight a Skaab Goliath, will both die? Same with lifelink creatures, will they gain me life?

A: That all works. When a creature fights, that creature itself is dealing the damage, and deathtouch, lifelink, infect, and wither all work without caring about whether it's combat damage (which fighting damage is not - slightly awkward).

Q: If I cast a spell with flashback, then cast it again, does that count as "cast two spells" for Werewolves?

A: It does! It was one physical card, but that card became two different spells at different points of the turn. The object shambling between zones becomes a new object each time it moves.

Q: Can I respond to a flashback spell with something like Nihil Spellbomb or Purify the Grave to stop my opponent from casting that spell?

A: The very first thing you do when you cast a spell is drag it from where it is and put it onto the stack. You can't interrupt your opponent doing that - Magic is not a game of speed where the first player to scream out what he's doing wins. If you want to stop your opponent from flashing something back, you'll have to exile it at a time he can't cast it.

Q: Do tokens die?

A: And we have a winner for our shortest actual question ever!

Yes, tokens do die. They go to the graveyard for one brief moment before ceasing to exist forever, which enables your morbid abilities and triggers any other sort of "when something dies" triggers. Many players think that they don't go to the graveyard since they vanish so quickly - this does mean that physically putting your token into the yard makes no sense, so don't bother doing that. Just keep in mind that the token does go there, even if you don't put your token card, die, dime, or whatever you use in there.

Q: Can I sneak out a Human Werewolf after I untap using Quicksilver Amulet so that it'll trigger and transform right away?

A: Nope - players can't do anything between the untap step and the time that "beginning of upkeep" triggers fire. If the trigger can't trigger then, they won't trigger at all since the beginning of the upkeep has already passed. You'd have to Amulet it out at the end of your opponent's turn, but at least it's not a spell when you do that.

Q: Does Mentor of the Meek let me draw a card if I cast a living weapon like Batterskull that would give the Germ too much power?

A: You'll get to draw a card, strangely enough. The token enters the battlefield as a 0/0, and before you continue resolving the living weapon ability, you look for triggers. A 0/0 Germ entered the battlefield, so it'll trigger. Immediately after that, before state-based actions are checked, you'll attach the weapon to the Germ so it'll survive. Then the trigger goes on the stack and you can pay for a card.

Q: Can I combo Geist of Saint Traft and Sundial of the Infinite to keep my Angel tokens forever?

A: There is a way to do that, but you have to be careful. You'll need to respond to the end-of-combat trigger so it's exiled and doesn't exile your Angel. If you use the Sundial any earlier, perhaps to try to save Saint Traft after it gets blocked, then the trigger will just go off during the next turn's combat.

The zombies just want to party. Forever.
Q: I have 1 life and no cards left in my library and control Laboratory Maniac and Bloodgift Demon. Do I win or lose on my upkeep?

A: A winner is you! The action of drawing a card is what's replaced with winning - it's not replacing losing the game, just the action of drawing. As soon as that happens, you win. The game will never get to the point of checking SBAs to see if you should die.

Q: Can Runic Repetition fetch a card in my sideboard with flashback?

A: Your sideboard is way over there outside of the game, not in your exile zone. If it's wandered into your exile zone, something is very, very wrong.

Q: I block a 4/4 with my 1/1, and I want my 1/1 to die so I'll get a Gutter Grime trigger. But can I Rebuke the attacking creature after my creature dies somehow?

A: Sure! An attacking creature remains an attacking creature until the end of combat step is over, and the end of combat step is after combat damage has been dealt and is done with. Just Rebuke the creature during the end of combat, and boom, you've got an Ooze and one fewer fatty to worry about!

Q: Can I sac Full Moon's Rise in some way that I get the +1/+0 and trample but also get to regenerate my Werewolves?

A: Nope, sorry. If you sacrifice it before combat damage, then the power and trample won't be there. If you wait till after damage is dealt, your puppies are already dead and aren't there to regenerate anymore. You'll need to get first strike involved if you want to get both benefits out of Full Moon's Rise on one turn.

Q: Will Sever the Bloodline take out the Wolf tokens made by Garruk Relentless and Garruk, the Veil-Cursed even though they're different? They're both Wolf, but they're different cards and two cards can't have the same name.

A: Different color, different abilities, different power and toughness, different token cards... but they're both created as Wolf tokens, so their name is "Wolf." You can sever all their bloodlines with one fell swoop. And by "bloodline" you mean "artery," right?

Q: What does Heartless Summoning do for a creature that costs ?

A: I'll only reduce the cost by . You can't reduce colored mana costs by trying to reduce a generic mana cost. However...

Q: Does Heartless Summoning reduce kicker costs? What about commander tax?

A: If there are any additional costs, like kicker or commander costs, they Heartless Summoning will help out. Remember, to determine the total cost take the mana cost or alternate cost, add any additional costs, and then apply any cost reductions. plus minus = .

Q: When Grimoire of the Dead brings back Essence of the Wild and everything else, do I get an army of 6/6 beatsticks?

A: Sadly, they won't be that awesome. For a replacement effect to apply, it has to exist before the event it wants to replace. Before all those creatures enter the battlefield, Essence isn't there yet, so its effect can't apply.

Q: How does Essence of the Wild on top of my yard interact with everyone's favorite mimic, Volrath's Shapeshifter?

A: Oh, this is hilarious! VSS has the "everyone's a copy of me" ability, but since it has text-gaining effect and not a copy effect (being a weird, weird old card with layer issues), the text it gains is not copiable. Each of your other creatures will enter as a copy of VSS, which will be Essence of the Wild... until you discard something else and go crazy when your army turns into that.

An army of Volrath's Shapeshifters.

This set is truly a judge's nightmare.

We'll leave you alone in the dark for now, but fear not! Paskoff will be back next week to guide you further along this mad, mad world.

Until next time, make sure you've got your silver handy.

- 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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