Published on 08/13/2012

The Sun is a mass of incandescent gas

(or, if you prefer, a miasma of incandescent plasma)

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

For all your bursting needs.
Summer is in full swing, and though there's no sign our local star is about to burst, the record temperatures sure make it feel that way sometimes. So since it's just too hot to go outside, let's turn up the rules heat instead and answer some questions!

And remember: if you've got rules questions, you can get them turned into answers by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

And before we dive in, one clarification: we've gotten a lot of email and followup comments about a question from Eli's quiz article, involving Dominating Licid. At the moment, the rules don't quite handle some of Dominating Licid's corner cases cleanly, but a fix is on the way. In the meantime, if you desperately need a ruling for a real-world game involving Dominating Licid, rule that the card can do what it claims to do, and trust that the rules team will make it so.

Q: If my opponent has an Engineered Explosives with two charge counters on it, and I choose to copy it with my Phyrexian Metamorph, what kind of counters does it enter with? And how many?

A: It will enter with charge counters! After applying the Metamorph's replacement effect by copying Engineered Explosives, you've got another replacement effect to apply, this time from its newly-acquired sunburst ability. Sunburst doesn't care what the Metamorph was when you cast it, though, it only cares what type of thing — creature or non-creature — the now-explodey Metamorph will enter the battlefield as. Since it's entering as a non-creature, sunburst says to put charge counters on it.

As for how many, that depends on how many colors of mana you spent casting the Metamorph. And paying life for the Phyrexian symbol in the cost doesn't get you blue; you didn't pay "a blue Phyrexian mana" for that symbol, and if you paid life you didn't pay any mana for it at all. So if you paid, say, 2 life, one green, and two white mana, you'll get two charge counters.

Q: On my second turn of the game, I cast an Albino Troll using mana from a Forest and an Undiscovered Paradise. When Undiscovered Paradise's ability triggers to return it to my hand, will it be untapped yet so that I can respond by floating a mana to pay for the Troll/s echo?

A: Unfortunately, no, for multiple reasons. First of all, Undiscovered Paradise doesn't have a triggered ability; its return-to-hand doesn't use the stack at all and happens simultaneously with untapping, meaning that you can't respond to it and it wouldn't be both on the battlefield and untapped at the same time. Plus, your mana pool would empty at the end of the untap step, and no player gets priority (meaning no chance to activate abilities) in the untap step anyway.

Q: Can I use Bruna, Light of Alabaster's ability to steal my opponent's Auras?

A: You can attach any Aura on the battlefield to Bruna (so long as it's legal for that Aura to enchant her), but you won't gain control of those Auras. This can be relevant for some Auras which have abilities of their own, since only the controller of the Aura can use its abilities. Also, it should probably be pointed out that attaching your opponent's Mind Control to Bruna would be a bad idea!

Q: Can I really imprint Stand // Deliver on my Isochron Scepter and use it to bounce a creature over and over?

A: Sure! Whenever an effect asks a split card a question like "is your converted mana cost 2 or less", it considers the answer to be "yes" if either half of the card can answer "yes". So you can exile Stand // Deliver with your Scepter and then choose which half of it you want to cast each time you use the Scepter's ability.

Though pretty, it's more of a "sunpunch"
Q: If I control Sublime Archangel and Grave Titan, and attack with only the Titan, is there any way I can stack the triggers to get an extra +2/+2 from the two Zombies the Titan makes?

A: In order to exalt your mighty Titan, those two new Zombies would have to be on the battlefield already when he's declared as an attacker. Since they aren't, they never see him declared attacking alone, and will have to wait until your next turn to get a chance to sing his praises.

Q: If I control Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and want to give her some extra loyalty but don't want to tap anything else down, can I use her ability to tap herself?

A: Tamiyo's ability just requires you to target a permanent, and she most certainly is one. So she'll happily tap herself, and not untap during your next untap step, though being tapped doesn't really mean much for a planeswalker (you can still use her abilities when she's tapped, for example).

Q: If I unearth a Hellspark Elemental and it gets hit with a Lightning Bolt, can I imprint it on my Mimic Vat since that puts it into exile?

A: Mostly this comes down to the difference between triggered abilities and replacement effects. Unearth isn't a trigger that watches for the creature to die and then exiles it; it's a replacement effect that says "don't you try to go anywhere other than exile in the first place". Which means the unearthed Sparky won't be put into a graveyard at all. And since it isn't put into a graveyard, Mimic Vat won't trigger for it and won't get a chance to imprint it.

Q: If I cast Veil of Secrecy targeting my 2/2 creature, and splice on Glacial Ray targeting the same creature, what happens?

A: Your creature will be veiled in secrecy... and then glacially smacked for 2 damage. A spell or ability checks that its targets are legal when it's cast, and again as it starts to resolve. The legality of the targets isn't checked again after that, so even though the creature gains shroud in the middle of resolution, it won't stop the 2 damage.

Q: Where does a miracle get cast from? Is there any way I can respond with a Thought Scour to get rid of it?

A: Spells with miracle get cast from the same place most spells do: the hand. Miracle involves revealing the card as it's drawn, which puts a trigger onto the stack that says "cast me for my miracle cost". By the time any player can respond, the card's in the hand, so Thought Scour won't do much that's useful here.

Q: What if my opponent reveals a card with miracle for Delver of Secrets? Can I get rid of it then?

A: You can! Delver's ability triggers in the upkeep step, and leaves the revealed card right where it is — on top of the library. And you can cast your Thought Scour before the upkeep step ends, meaning the card with miracle will be long gone by the time your opponent draws a card in his draw step.

Q: If I have a Roaring Primadox and no other creatures, what happens in my upkeep?

A: You'll bounce it back to your hand! Primadox doesn't say to return "another" creature, it just says to return "a" creature you control, so it's perfectly capable of returning itself and in fact that's what it must do if you don't have any other creatures.

Q: If I have one Flagstones of Trokair and play a second one, do I get to search for two Plains, or only one?

A: You'll get two! Both Flagstones were, however briefly, on the battlefield, which means each one was put into the graveyard from the battlefield and each one will trigger.

Q: If I have a Wolfir Silverheart paired with another creature, and cast Disciple of Bolas, will I get a chance to pair the Disciple with the Silverheart by sacrificing the creature it's paired with?

A: The Silverheart's soulbond ability only triggers when another creature enters and the Silverheart isn't paired. Since the Silverheart was paired when Disciple entered the battlefield, soulbond won't trigger, meaning you'll just end up with a lonely unpaired wolf.

...ALL the suns?
Q: If my Abomination gets blocked by a White Knight, does the White Knight get destroyed?

A: Most abominably so. Abomination's ability, unlike deathtouch, doesn't require damage to be dealt (which is a good thing, since the White Knight's protection prevents damage). It just requires that Abomination was blocked. And since it doesn't do anything else that protection from black would prevent (like targeting), the White Knight's going to bite the dust.

Q: If my opponent flashes in Aven Mindcensor in response to my Index, what happens? Do I only look at my top four cards?

A: You still get to look at the full five cards. Aven Mindcensor only affects searching, which means things that actually use the word "search". Effects that merely tell you to look at some cards and do things with them aren't searching, so Mindcensor doesn't see any reason to get involved.

Q: Does Ground Seal keep anyone from casting spells with flashback? What about undying?

A: Ground Seal only does what it says: it keeps cards in graveyards from being targeted by spells or abilities. Flashback doesn't use the word "target", so a card with flashback can still be cast (although a Snapcaster Mage won't be able to target a card to give it flashback). And undying also doesn't use the word "target", so a creature with undying will be able to undie just fine.

Q: If Humility is in play and I activate Gideon Jura's third ability, what's his power/toughness? Can he be dealt damage?

A: Here you have two effects each trying to set power/toughness to specific values, and the latest one "wins" because it applies last. So Gideon will be 6/6. And his damage-prevention shield isn't an ability of Gideon the creature that can be removed; it's part of the effect that made Gideon be a creature, so damage dealt to him will still get prevented.

Q: If my opponent has a Sphinx of Jwar Isle and I Mindslaver him, can I look at the top card of his library?

A: When you're controlling another player, you can see any cards they can legally see (including their sideboard!). Since he can legally see his top card, that means you can too.

Q: I have Rhox Faithmender and I'm at 2 life, what happens if I cast an Elderscale Wurm?

A: Assuming the Wurm resolves and enters the battlefield, you'll end up at 12 life! Setting your life total to a specific number actually means "gain or lose an amount of life that'd put you at that total". In this case that's 5 life, which Rhox Faithmender doubles to 10, putting you at 12.

Q: If I control Talrand, Sky Summoner and cast Spelltwine, how many Drake tokens can I get?

A: Up to three. You'll get one from casting Spelltwine; then, when it resolves it has you actually cast copies of the cards it exiled, meaning you can get two more Drake tokens.

I think my brain's starting to overheat, so I'm going to call that a wrap for this week. But once we've had a chance to cool down, we'll be back with another episode of Cranial Insertion!

- James Bennett

About the Author:
James Bennett is a Level 3 judge based out of Lawrence, Kansas. He pops up at events around Kansas City and all over the midwest, and has a car he can talk to.

wait!! if you mindslaver someone, you can see their sideboard?
#1 • Date: 2012-08-12 • Time: 23:46:48 •
Yes, it is true. During a game, you can look at your sideboard or the sideboard of a player you're currently controlling. So if you Mindslaver an opponent, you'll be able to look at their sideboard while controlling their turn. From the Magic Tournament Rules section 3.15:

During a game, players may look at their own sideboard and the sideboard of any players they currently control. The sideboard must remain clearly distinguishable from other cards.
#2 • Date: 2012-08-13 • Time: 00:19:12 •
Wait, regarding the Sublime Angel and Grave Titan question, how about Hero of Bladehold? How much damage could you deal if you attack with it alone while having Sublime on your side of the field?
#3 • Date: 2012-08-14 • Time: 18:22:53 •
The Hero has the same problem that the Titan has. The token's exalted ability will not trigger since they enter the battlefield after the Hero is declared as an attacker. However, even though you have more attacking creatures, only one of them attacked, so the Hero will still get the exalted bonus from itself and the Angel. In this case, you can deal at most 9 damage (Hero gets +2/+2 and becomes a 5/6, the tokens become 2/1s because of battle cry).
#4 • Date: 2012-08-14 • Time: 22:08:08 •

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