Published on 09/03/2012

Realms... Charted?

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Late summer has come, a new "From the Vault" product (Realms, featuring 15 lands from Magic's history) is on the shelves, and spoiler season is gearing up for an imminent return to Ravnica in October. And, best of all, we've got rules questions galore!

Unfortunately, the electrician can't get there
until Tuesday

And as always, if you've got questions, please send them to us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet. Just please keep in mind that we can't cover spoiled Return to Ravnica cards in articles here until prerelease time, and in replies to emails or tweets we may not be able to give authoritative answers on spoiled cards (since the rules for them aren't publicly available yet).

Q: I've heard there's a trick you can do with Maze of Ith and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, where she can put her damage on the stack and then be targeted by Maze. But I thought damage doesn't use the stack anymore?

A: There is a trick here, but it doesn't have anything to do with damage on the stack — it's just a normal part of how first strike works. Whenever a creature with first or double strike is involved, the combat phase gets two separate combat damage steps. In the first one, only the creatures with first strike or double strike get to deal damage. After that damage is dealt, players get a chance to cast spells and activate abilities before the second combat damage step happens. So you can let Thalia deal her damage in the first combat damage step, then Maze her before the second one, which often means she gets to hit a blocker but the blocker won't get to hit her back.

Q: I have a Birthing Pod deck that runs both Vorapede and Flayer of the Hatebound. Is there any way I can sacrifice Vorapede to Pod out Flayer, and stack the triggers so I'll get to hit my opponent for 6 when Vorapede comes back?

A: Your opponent will remain decidedly unflayed. When you sacrifice Vorapede during the process of activating Pod's ability, undying will trigger but can't go on the stack until the next time a player would get priority, which means it will always end up on stack above the Birthing Pod ability, and Vorapede will always come back before you search out the Flayer.

Q: If I have two copies of Taunting Elf and attack with both, what happens? Do they create some sort of infinite-blocking singularity my opponent can't escape from?

A: Well, there'll be a whole lot of blocking going on, that's for sure. Each Elf creates a requirement for each creature the defending player controls, saying "block me if you're able", and that seems like it'd lead to some problems. But the rules are set up to deal with conflicting requirements like this (since only something like a Palace Guard could block both at the same time); what actually happens is that your opponent has to declare blockers in a way that obeys as many requirements as possible (while not disobeying any restrictions, which are effects that make something unable to block). So for each of his creatures that can block, he'll pick one Elf for it to block; the other Elf's requirement will be disobeyed, but since he's obeying as many requirements as possible, the declaration will be legal (and a Palace Guard would have to block both, since it's able to obey both requirements at once).

Q: On Gatherer, the rulings for Serra Sphinx say it's the "timeshifted version" of Serra Angel. What does being "timeshifted" mean? Am I allowed to have both cards in my deck?

A: The Planar Chaos set, and the larger Time Spiral block it was part of, played around with the idea of messing with time. In Planar Chaos this was done by taking some older/classic cards and either creating very similar cards but moved into other colors, or by printing "alternate timeline" versions of some storyline characters from older sets. But being "timeshifted" only has flavor meaning, not rules meaning; it's cool to know what older cards these were based on, but has no effect on how you build your deck or play the game. So if you like (and if they're both legal for the format you're playing), you can have both the Sphinx and the Angel in the same deck.

Due to an advertising arms race, Realm Razers have
ever-increasing numbers of blades
Q: If I cast something that makes multiple tokens, like Lingering Souls, how does that work with Cathar's Crusade?

A: It works pretty well, assuming that what you want is for your creatures to get bigger! Lingering Souls puts two tokens onto the battlefield, which triggers Cathar's Crusade twice. Then Lingering Souls finishes resolving and the two Crusade triggers go on the stack; when they resolve, all your creatures — including the tokens you just made — will each get a total of two +1/+1 counters.

Q: I have a creature enchanted with my Unhallowed Pact, and then my opponent puts his own Unhallowed Pact on it. When the creature dies, does he get it because his Pact is more recent? Or do I get it since I own the creature and can stack the triggers how I want?

A: Actually, who gets the creature will depend on whose turn it is. Whenever multiple triggered abilities trigger at the same time, the active player — the player whose turn it is — puts all their triggers on the stack first, followed by the non-active player (the player whose turn it isn't; in a multiplayer game, go through all the non-active players in turn order). This means the non-active player's trigger always resolves first, so if the creature dies on your turn your opponent will get it, and if it dies on his turn you'll get it.

Q: If my opponent casts Cryptic Command, choosing to bounce my Wolfir Silverheart and draw a card, what happens if I use Apostle's Blessing in response to give the Silverheart protection from blue? Does he still get to draw a card?

A: He won't get to bounce your big wolfy dude, and he won't get a card. With this set of modes chosen for it, Cryptic Command has only one target, and that target has become illegal. So Cryptic Command is countered by the rules of the game, and none of the effects — of either of the chosen modes — will happen.

Q: I cast Vapor Snag targeting my opponent's Phyrexian Metamorph, which is a copy of a 2/2 Wolf token. Does the Metamorph get permanently removed from the game due to being a token?

A: Not quite. While it's true that a token vanishes out of existence if it finds itself anywhere other than the battlefield, "token-ness" isn't something that's copiable. So the Metamorph, though it's copying the characteristics of a token, isn't actually a token; it's still a card, and can sit quite happily in a hand or any other zone without feeling a need to poof into nothingness. Plus, it stops being a copy of whatever it's copying the moment it leaves the battlefield, so even if it somehow inherited "tokenness", it wouldn't keep that when moving to another zone.

Q: I play a Legacy deck that runs Trinisphere, and my friend has a deck with a bunch of cheap burn spells, including Rift Bolt. I say he should have to pay three mana to suspend it, while he says he shouldn't; who's right?

A: He is for now, but that sphere is going to catch up to him just a bit later on. Trinisphere only affects casting a spell, and suspending isn't casting. It's a special action that doesn't even use the stack. But when the last counter comes off it, Rift Bolt's suspend ability will instruct him to cast it, and only gets him out of the mana cost of the Rift Bolt, not any other costs that come from elsewhere. So Trinisphere sees him trying to cast a spell for less than three mana, jumps in and makes him pay up — if he can't or won't pay three mana, the Rift Bolt will just stay permanently exiled.

Q: When I tap a Nettle Sentinel to help convoke a Chord of Calling, will it untap?

A: Yup! A spell isn't "cast" until the entire process of casting it, including paying its costs, is complete. And convoke, if you choose to use it, is a cost, so the Sentinel gets tapped during the process of casting, then its ability triggers when the process is done, and ends up on the stack above the Chord of Calling (which may be important if for some reason the creature you're fetching cares about you having untapped stuff).

Q: My opponent's at 2 life, and my only source of red mana is a Grove of the Burnwillows. Can I tap it for red, put the life gain on the stack, and Punishing Fire in response to kill him?

A: You won't quite be able to punish him enough. The life gain is part of Grove of the Burnwillows' ability, not a separate trigger, if you've got the mana he's got the life. And this is a mana ability — even though it has another effect — which means it doesn't even use the stack, and can't be responded to. So no matter what order you do things in, your opponent will always gain a life before Punishing Fire can deal its damage to him.

Q: I was at a Legacy tournament recently, and a judge ruled that a player could only use Lion's Eye Diamond when he could cast an instant, and that it couldn't be used to cast a spell. But I don't see anything about that on the card; what's up with that?

A: Ah, good old LED. The first thing to keep in mind with this or any other card is that you always go by the version of the text that shows up in the Oracle card reference (which you can see by looking up a card on Gatherer, for example), and that a card's "Oracle text" can change without any new version of the card being printed. Lion's Eye Diamond does indeed have a clause in its Oracle text that doesn't appear on the original card: "Activate this ability only any time you could cast an instant."

What this means is that it's typically not possible to use mana from LED to cast a spell from your hand. There is an opportunity, during the process of casting, to activate mana abilities, but the updated wording on Lion's Eye Diamond means you aren't allowed to use its ability at that point (you don't get priority during that process, which means the "any time you could cast an instant" restriction isn't met). And that's generally a good thing, since otherwise LED would be a whole lot closer to Black Lotus!

Q: So I saw in one of your articles that I can get an exalted trigger for attacking with Hero of Bladehold. But can I let its token-making ability resolve and then activate Windbrisk Heights?

A: Not unless you also attacked with some other creatures, and for much the same reason as with exalted. Windbrisk Heights only looks at the declaration of attackers, not at any creatures that became or were put onto the battlefield attacking later on. So if you just attack with the Hero, Windbrisk Heights will only count the Hero and not the tokens it produces later.

Teferi had some weird ideas about feng shui
Q: I've got Melira, Sylvok Outcast and my opponent activates his Inkmoth Nexus and attacks me. If I don't block, what happens? Do I lose life? Do I get a poison counter?

A: This is a fun little interaction. First, you have two effects each trying to add or remove an ability (in this case, infect). The most recent one will "win", and that's the Inkmoth Nexus' effect, so it will have infect. But Melira's "you can't get poison counters" ability is still doing its thing, so the Nexus can't give you a poison counter. And this is where it gets weird.

The rules process damage into specific results, which can be affected by abilities like infect or wither or lifelink, and by what the damage is being dealt to (a creature, a player or a planeswalker). The result of a creature with infect dealing damage to a player is poison counters... but you can't get poison counters, so that result simply doesn't happen. The damage doesn't try to fall back to some other result like losing life, it just doesn't have a result at all. But it is still considered to be dealt, which may be important for lifelink or for triggered abilities that care about damage being dealt.

Q: So, my opponent has a Wurmcoil Engine that I'd like to get rid of. I have Gideon Jura and Ulvenwald Tracker. Can I turn Gideon into a creature, use Tracker's ability to make Gideon fight the Wurmcoil, and have Gideon come out alive? And will my opponent gain life?

A: Your opponent will have one very dead Wurmcoil and will not gain any life (though he will get a couple Wurm tokens as a consolation prize), while you will still have a very healthy and alive Gideon! The part of Gideon's ability that prevents damage doesn't keep him from taking part in a fight, it just keeps him from being dealt any damage by the creature he fights with. And since it didn't deal any damage, the Wurmcoil's lifelink and deathtouch won't gain your opponent life or destroy Gideon.

Q: If my opponent draws an Entreat the Angels and reveals it, is there any way I can stop him from casting it by using Stifle?

A: Yup! Part of miracle is a triggered ability, which triggers when the card is revealed. And that ability is what lets you cast the card for its miracle cost; if you counter the ability with Stifle, there won't be anything giving him permission to cast Entreat the Angels for its miracle cost (and nothing letting him cast it at all if it's a time when he can't normally cast a sorcery).

Q: If I use the dredge ability of Golgari Grave-Troll and that puts a Nether Shadow and three other creatures from my library into my graveyard, can I arrange them to have the Nether Shadow on the bottom so I'll get it back in my next upkeep?

A: All of the cards from a single dredge are put into the graveyard simultaneously, but they need to end up there in some sort of defined order. Since it's your graveyard, you get to choose what that is, and can have the Nether Shadow be below the others.

Q: If I sacrifice Mycosynth Wellspring to activate Trading Post's fourth ability, do I draw first or search first?

A: Search first. The Wellspring's ability triggers during the activation of the Trading Post, so ends up on the stack above the Post's ability and resolves first.

Q: When I use Phantasmal Image to copy Silvergill Adept, do I have to reveal a Merfolk from my hand or pay any extra mana?

A: Nope! At the time you cast it, the Image is just an Image, and you pay for it based on its own printed mana cost. It doesn't become a Silvergill Adept until it's resolving and entering the battlefield, which is well past the point at which the Adept's additional cost would apply.

Q: I've got a Nevermore, and my opponent just cast a massive Volcanic Geyser that'll kill me... if I can find a way to give Nevermore flash and cast it in response, can I name Volcanic Geyser to counter it?

A: While there may be balm in Gilead, it won't help you out here, and unless you have a real counterspell you'll just croak — Nevermore doesn't counter spells, it just prevents a specific card from being cast. But by the time you can respond to the Geyser, it's already been cast (it won't have its effect until it resolves, but it's "cast" as soon as all its costs are paid), and it's too late for Nevermore to do anything to it.

I think we've charted about as much of the rules as we can for this article, but be sure to tune in next week when Eli will be back with another full serving 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.

Niiiiice article today! The modal spell question got me, indeed, should have thinked more!! Luckily I got the rest correct so it's not anymore frustrating reading Cranial Insertion :P

#1 • Date: 2012-09-03 • Time: 11:01:53 •
so... if i understand it correctly, Melira and Tainted-Strike-on-a-stick keeps one creature per turn from doing much to me? - awesome^^ (note that it nullifies damage, not just combat damage)
#2 • Date: 2012-09-03 • Time: 16:19:55 •

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