Published on 10/31/2011

Gourd Evening!

or, Happy Halloween!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

When your pumpkins look like this,
you should throw them away.
It's that time of the year: Front lawns, department stores, and office cubicles are decorated with all sorts of ghoulish displays. Children of all ages are dressing up as zombies, vampires, pirates, and princesses. Television shows from dramas to sitcoms and even cooking competition shows are airing spooky special episodes. That can only mean one thing: It's Halloween! To celebrate the occasion, I'm getting dressed up in a bathrobe and towel and I'm bringing you this special Halloween episode of Cranial Insertion, featuring frighteningly bad puns, terrifyingly obscure pop-culture references, and some of the scariest Magic rules questions that our readers have emailed to us at or tweeted in at @CranialTweet!

If you dare, muster all your courage and read on. Let's begin!

Q: What do I get if I make a Civilized Scholar token with Back from the Brink?

A: You get a Civilized Scholar token that can't transform. This means that you can dig pretty deep into your library as long as you can discard creature cards. If you discard a creature card, the ability does as much as it can and happily untaps the token while ignoring the impossible action of transforming it. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed!

Q: My opponent is at 2 life and controls a Falkenrath Noble. I control a Skirsdag Cultist. Can I kill my opponent with the Cultist's ability?

A: No, that won't work. When you activate the Cultist's ability, you put it on the stack and then you pay the cost of sacrificing a creature. This triggers the Noble's ability, which goes on the stack on top of your ability. Your opponent gains 1 life first and then he takes 2 damage, so he's still alive... still alive!

Q: If I use Garruk Relentless' ability to beat up a guy and drop below 3 loyalty, can I use the night-side's +1 ability right away?

A: Nope, sorry. After transforming, Garruk is still the same permanent, just with different looks and abilities. Since you already used one loyalty ability of this permanent this turn, you can't activate another one until your next turn.

Q: What if I manage to transform Garruk without using the beat-up-a-guy ability, can I then make a 1/1 deathtouch Wolf right away?

A: Yes you can, but transforming Garruk without that ability is not as easy as you might think. The damage redirection rule that allows players to redirect non-combat damage to a planeswalker only applies if the planeswalker and the source of the damage are controlled by opponents of each other. In other words, you can't just ping your own planeswalker. You could, however, steal a loyalty counter from Garruk with Hex Parasite or Power Conduit to trigger his transformation!

Q: I control two Undead Alchemists and my Grisly Bear connects for 2 damage. Assuming all milled cards are creatures, do I get 2, 4, or 8 tokens?

A: You get 4 tokens. The "mill instead of damage" replacement effect is redundant, since applying one replacement effect makes the other no longer apply, so your opponent mills two cards. The "make Zombies" ability on the other hand is a triggered ability, so each instance of the ability triggers and resolves independently, for a total of 4 Zombie tokens.

Q: What exactly happens when Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur reduces my maximum hand size to zero? Can I draw cards at all or am I totally screwed?

A: Oh, don't worry, you're screwed, but not totally. The maximum hand size isn't a hard limit on the number of cards you can have in your hand. It's only checked in the cleanup step at the end of your turn. In your cleanup step you have to discard all the cards in your hand, to get down to zero cards, but before then you can have as many cards in your hand as you can get. You're basically in topdeck mode while your opponent gets to sculpt a full grip of his seven most useful spells each turn, so you're mostly dead, but you're not all dead.

Q: I activate Heretic's Punishment and mill two Mountains and a Blightsteel Colossus that gets shuffled back into my library. Does Heretic's Punishment deal any damage?

A: Yup, it deals 12 damage! "Those cards" refers to the cards that came off of your library, regardless of whether they actually made it to the graveyard. As long as the cards end up in a public zone or were revealed at some point — and Blightsteel Colossus does get revealed before being shuffled back into the library — the game can determine their converted mana cost.

You hear him howling around your kitchen door,
You better not let him in!
Q: So, I exiled a bunch of Werewolves with Karn Liberated and I've restarted the game. Do the Werewolves transform right at the beginning of the first turn?

A: No, they do not. The restarted game doesn't know anything about what happened before the restart, so there is no previous turn. Since there is no previous turn, the game can't positively determine whether there were or weren't any spells cast, so the trigger condition is false. Of course, you can probably force a transformation by not casting any spells during the first turn. It's unlikely that your opponent is able to cast any spells during that turn to keep your Werewolves from transforming, and it's also unlikely that he'll be able to cast two spells on his first turn to transform them back!

Q: Can Ghoulcaller's Chant return two Nameless Inversions from the graveyard?

A: Yes, yes it can. The second mode targets two Zombie cards, and it doesn't matter whether those Zombie cards are creature cards. Nameless Inversion is a Mutant Ninja Turtle Zombie, among many other creature types, so it's a legal target for the Chant.

Q: If my opponent controls Doubling Season, does he get double poison counters from my infect creatures?

A: No, for three reasons. Doubling Season only affects counters that are placed by effects onto permanents its controller controls. Combat damage isn't an effect, your opponent is not a permanent, and oddly enough he can't control himself, so there's nothing to see for Doubling Season's replacement effect.

Q: I have a Clone in my graveyard and cast a Body Double as a copy of the Clone. Can it copy another creature on the battlefield or is it doomed to die as a 0/0?

A: It can copy another creature. After applying its own replacement effect, you check again for any other applicable replacement effects. Body Double acquired Clone's replacement effect when you applied its own replacement effect, so now it's entering the battlefield as a Clone and gets to copy something accordingly.

Q: Is there a point to countering Demigod of Revenge with a traditional counterspell such as Cancel or Mana Leak? The "when you cast" trigger will just bring it right back out of the graveyard, wouldn't it?

A: That depends on how you do it. After your opponent casts Demigod, there are now two objects on the stack. The Demigod is on the bottom and the triggered ability is on top. Objects on the stack resolve one by one, so you can let the trigger resolve first and then respond to Demigod with a counterspell. Just be sure to explain that that's what you're doing. If you just slam down the counterspell without saying anything, the ambiguity between responding to Demigod and responding to the trigger might not work out in your favor.

Q: If I have Gemstone Caverns and Chancellor of the Dross in my opening hand, can I reveal the Chancellor for its life drain effect and then exile it to put Gemstone Caverns onto the battlefield?

A: Yes, you can do that. As rule 103.5 tells us, you can take "opening hand" actions in any order, so you can do the Chancellor's thing before you do the Caverns' thing. The delayed triggered ability that's created by this action is independent from its source, so it'll still resolve even if the Chancellor is in exile at that time.

Quote from Rule 103.5:

Some cards allow a player to take actions with them from his or her opening hand. Once all players have kept their opening hands, the starting player may take any such actions in any order. Then each other player in turn order may do the same.

Q: So, complicated situation: Player A controls a Roil Elemental that took control of player B's Butcher of Malakir. If player B Doom Blades Roil Elemental, what happens? Does the Butcher's ability trigger at all, and who has to sacrifice a creature if it does?

A: Okay, let's chop this up into easy-to-digest pieces: During Doom Blade's resolution player A loses his Roil Elemental, so the control-changing effect ends immediately and the Butcher returns to player B. This means that the game state changed from "Player A controls Butcher and Roil Elemental" to "Player B controls Butcher and Roil Elemental is in the graveyard" from one moment to the next. Since the Butcher's ability is a special kind of leaves-the-battlefield ability, it looks back at the former game state to determine if it should trigger. Since the Butcher and the Roil Elemental were controlled by the same player in that game state, the ability triggers. The ability is controlled by whoever controlled the Butcher at that time, which is player A, so player B has to sacrifice a creature when the ability resolves.

Q: How does Edgewalker's cost reduction effect work? Can I cast a Cleric that costs for free?

A: Yes, you can. Any excess in the reduction effect just shrugs and wanders off, but the white mana gets taken off of the cost. Unlike Training Grounds' effect, Edgewalker has no problem with reducing a cost to nothing, so you get to cast that Cleric for free.

I used to want you dead,
but now I only want you gone
Q: What happens if Past in Flames gives flashback to Dead//Gone? What can I flash back for which cost?

A: You can flash back either half for its appropriate mana cost. The first step of casting a split card is to choose one half and put it on the stack, so only that half exists on the stack. When the game asks the card what is its mana cost in order to determine the total cost, only the chosen half answers with its mana cost, so that's the cost you have to pay.

Q: I control a Nomads en-Kor and a tapped Mirran Crusader, and my opponent is attacking me with a green 2/2. Can I block it with the Nomads and redirect the damage to the Crusader?

A: Yes, that works just fine. Mirran Crusader doesn't have protection from white, so you can target it with the Nomads' ability. When combat damage is dealt, the damage redirection effect points the damage at the Crusader, where it is promptly prevented by the Crusader's protection from green.

Q: I control a Necrotic Ooze, and I have Void Maw and Eater of the Dead in the graveyard, as well as something like Avatar of Woe that lets me tap the Ooze at will. Can I use the Eater ability to exile some random creature card from a graveyard and then use Void Maw's ability to return it to the graveyard?

A: No, that doesn't work. Void Maw has a pair of linked abilities, so the second ability only refers to cards that were exiled with the first ability. The card that was exiled with Eater of the Dead's ability is invisible to Void Maw's ability, so you can't use it to pay the cost for Void Maw's ability.

Q: If I enchant my opponent's creature with Soul Link, who gains life when it deals damage?

A: You do! The Aura is sitting on your opponent's creature, but you still control the Aura. Since the life gain ability is on the Aura, as opposed to the Aura granting an ability to the creature, the life gain goes to you, so your opponent probably won't be able to attack profitably with it.

Q: My opponent's commander is in his library and I use Life's Finale to put it into his graveyard. Does it stay in the graveyard or go to the command zone?

A: It's his choice. The replacement effect that allows the commander to be put into the command zone instead of into the graveyard or exile zone applies regardless of which zone the commander is coming from. I hope you meant to do your opponent a favor, because you just did!

Q: Here's a crazy situation from our commander playgroup. I control a Chancellor of the Spires and I point a kicked Rite of Replication at it. My opponent has the audacity to Spelljack the Rite. He wants to copy my Chancellor with the spelljacked Rite, have its enter-the-battlefield ability target my Rite again, make another Chancellor, and so on until he has a million Chancellors. Can he really do that?

A: I'm afraid so. After the Rite resolves it goes back to your graveyard, and then the Chancellor's ability goes on the stack and it can target the Rite that just resolved. Unless you can somehow stop this loop, your opponent can repeat this process as often as he wants.

There, you made it through, congratulations! Please come back next week when Eli brings us more scary stories from Innistrad. Until then, have a happy Halloween!

- 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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