Published on 09/17/2012

Falling into Autumn

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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 back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Continuing the trend of weather-related news, summer is coming to an end, so the temperatures here in Toledo are finally getting back into a bearable range. This weekend marks the beginning of fall, the equinox, which I will celebrate with my semiannual tradition of listening to the Jean Michel Jarre album of the same name. Yes, I'm old, and I enjoy listening to music that is only a bit younger than myself.

The arrival of fall also means that the next format rotation isn't far off. Soon, Return to Ravnica will enter the scene, and the Standard format will bid farewell to the Scars of Mirrodin block and to Magic 2012. Until then, we still have plenty of rules questions from our inbox to cover. Some of the questions we have been getting may have been inspired by upcoming cards, but rest assured that the questions and answers below are 100% spoiler-free. However, if you are interested in spoilers, you should check out last Friday's special episode for a look at our exclusive Return to Ravnica preview card.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, as always please email them to or tweet them to @CranialTweet for a timely direct answer and possible publication in a future issue.

Q: Can I use Havengul Lich to evoke Shriekmaw from my graveyard?

A: Yup! Havengul Lich's ability simply creates a continuous effect that allows you to cast the card from an unusual zone, but it doesn't tie that effect to an alternative cost the way Snapcaster Mage does. Similarly, the evoke cost is not tied to casting Shriekmaw from your hand. You still get to choose which cost to pay for it when you cast Shriekmaw from your graveyard, so evoking it is definitely an option.

Q: Can I name Food Chain with Pithing Needle?

A: You can, but you don't want to do that. Food Chain's ability is a mana ability because it's an activated ability that doesn't target anything, it's not a loyalty ability, and its resolution could put mana into a player's mana pool. Pithing Needle doesn't shut off mana abilities, so naming Food Chain with it accomplishes very little.

Q: My opponent is being mean to me and named Show and Tell with Nevermore. If I can get Show and Tell into my graveyard, could I get around Nevermore by grabbing Show and Tell with Spelltwine?

A: Your plan may be implausible, but it is definitely possible. Spelltwine tells you to copy the targeted cards, and then allows you to cast the copies. Nevermore only prohibits you from casting cards named Show and Tell, but the copy is not a card, so it slips past Nevermore without any problems.

Q: The other day I was playing Magic Online, casting Spelltwine on my Reverberate and my opponent's Shock. I targeted Spelltwine with the Reverberate, but then it didn't make a copy of Spelltwine. Was that a bug?

A: Nope, that was correct. You cast Reverberate, or rather a copy of Reverberate, during Spelltwine's resolution. Spelltwine was still on the stack at that moment, since that's where a spell is while it resolves, so Spelltwine was a legal target for Reverberate. Then, Spelltwine left the stack, which left Reverberate hanging with an illegal target, so Reverberate was countered on resolution and did nothing.

Q: Do I have to pay the extra mana for Lodestone Golem if I flashback Dread Return?

A: I'm afraid so. The fact that the flashback cost doesn't usually include a mana payment doesn't mean that the Golem's effect can't increase the cost by . The total cost simply ends up being ", sacrifice three creatures."

Don't wake the Dragon...
Q: Can I wake up my Slumbering Dragon with Increasing Savagery?

A: Sure, that works. Counters with the same name are indistinguishable from each other, so Slumbering Dragon can't tell the difference between +1/+1 counters it gets from its triggered ability and +1/+1 counters from other effects. You woke the dragon!

Q: Are the Return to Ravnica preview cards from Duel Decks: Izzet vs Golgari tournament legal?

A: They are officially distributed Magic cards, so they are authorized for tournament play, but only in eternal formats such as Legacy. The card pools for Standard and Modern are based on core sets and expansion sets, and the Duel Decks are neither, so being included in a Duel Deck won't automatically make a card Standard legal. For example, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is already legal in Legacy, but it won't be legal in Standard until Return to Ravnica is released.

Q: Can I sacrifice just a Bayou to return Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord from my graveyard to my hand?

A: Nope. The cost asks you to sacrifice a thing and a thing, so you have to sacrifice two things. A single thing that happens to fulfill the criteria for both things isn't enough.

Q: Let's say I have a Myr Retriever in the graveyard and one on the battlefield. If the one on the battlefield dies, can I return the other one from the graveyard to my hand?

A: Sure, that's no problem. "Another target artifact card" simply means that the newly deceased Myr Retriever can't retrieve itself. It doesn't mean that the card you retrieve has to have a different name.

Q: How do double strike and trample work together? My Runes of the Deus deck wants to know.

A: Double strike and trample work very well together, especially on a big beefy guy that can kill the blocker with his first hit.

Double strike means that the guy assigns and deals combat damage twice, once in the first combat damage step and again in the second combat damage step. Trample means that the guy can assign excess damage to the defending player. Together, it means that he assigns damage twice and can assign excess damage to the defending player.

Let's take a look at an example. Let's say the attacker is 4/4 with double strike and trample, and he gets blocked by a vanilla 1/1. In the first combat damage step the attacker only needs to assign 1 damage to the blocker, and the rest can go to the defending player. The blocker dies, so in the second combat damage step there is no blocker left to assign damage to and all the damage tramples through to the defending player, for a grand total of 7 damage to the defending player.

Q: If I tap my lands for mana in response to Sword of Feast and Famine's trigger, can I float that mana into my second main phase?

A: No, not without help. The trigger happens in the combat damage step in which the sword wielding creature deals its combat damage. Mana pools normally empty at the end of each step, so you'd have to use the mana in that combat damage step. To float the mana into your main phase, you'd need some effect like Upwelling.

Q: Combust says that it "can't be countered by spells or abilities" while Cavern of Souls only says "can't be countered." What's the difference?

A: The difference is that Combust is a targeted spell while Cavern of Souls talks about a creature spell that can never be a targeted spell. A targeted spell can be countered by the rules if all its targets have become illegal since it was cast, so Combust and other targeted spells have to include "by spells or abilities" to leave room for the rules to counter it. The rules won't try to counter an untargeted spell, so that phrase is unnecessary.

It's a trap!
Q: I want to use Collective Voyage to enable the alternative cost for Archive Trap. Does that work?

A: Yes, that works. Even if nobody taps any lands and X is 0, or if a player isn't interested in finding any lands, Collective Voyage still instructs each player to search their library and shuffle it. Archive Trap doesn't care if any cards were found. It only cares whether an opponent of yours searched their library, which they most certainly did.

Q: Can Aetherplasm swap with a creature that has a "can't block" clause or some other ability that makes it unable to block the attacker that Aetherplasm blocked?

A: Yes, it can. The other creature from your hand is simply put onto the battlefield blocking that attacker. Blocking requirements and restrictions are only checked when a blocker is declared. Since this new blocking creature is not actually being declared as a blocker, it just skates past the legality check.

Q: I cast Memory's Journey, targeting my opponent and three target cards in his graveyard. In response he gives himself protection from blue with Seht's Tiger because he's cool like that. What happens to Memory's Journey?

A: When Memory's Journey begins to resolve, it checks whether it still has at least one legal target. The three cards in your opponent's graveyard are still legal targets because your opponent wasn't cool enough to also sneak in a Ground Seal, so Memory's Journey resolves and does as much as possible. However, "as much as possible" turns out to be a big bowl of nothing since a spell can't make an illegal target perform any actions, so the spell's only instruction is skipped due to being impossible.

Q: How does the -6 ability of Liliana of the Veil work with Auras?

A: Auras are permanents that are separate from whatever they're enchanting, so you assign them into piles independently. If your opponent has an Invisible Stalker that's enchanted with Spectral Flight, you can put both into the same pile or into different piles. If you put them into different piles and your opponent chooses to sacrifice the Stalker, Spectral Flight will go to the graveyard shortly thereafter on account of not being attached to anything.

Q: I control a Warstorm Surge, a Brass Squire, and a Grafted Exoskeleton. If I play a creature, can I attach the Exoskeleton to it with Brass Squire in response to the Warstorm Surge trigger to increase the damage and make it infectious?

A: Absolutely. The Warstorm Surge trigger uses the stack, so you can respond to it with Brass Squire's ability. Brass Squire's ability goes on the stack on top of the trigger and resolves first. Then the Warstorm Surge trigger resolves and makes the creature deal damage, which is increased by 2 and infectious because the creature is wearing the Exoskeleton now.

Q: If I control Urza's Armor and my opponent controls Furnace of Rath, who decides which effect wins when my opponent pings me with Prodigal Pyromancer? Does it matter whose turn it is? Do timestamps matter?

A: It's all up to you, regardless of whose turn it is and what the timestamp order of Urza's Armor and Furnace of Rath is. The reason is that both the Armor and the Furnace create prevention/replacement effects that want to modify the same event, namely the damage that's coming your way. Competing replacement/prevention effects are arranged by the player that would be affected by the event that's being modified. Since the event in question is a 1-point packet of damage that's headed your way, you are the affected player. You can either choose to apply the Furnace effect first, doubling the damage to 2, and then applying the Armor's effect to reduce the damage back to 1; or you can apply the Armor's effect first which renders the Furnace effect inapplicable because the event doesn't include any damage anymore.

And that's all the time we have for today. Please come back next week when James concludes the countdown to Return to Ravnica!

- 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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