Published on 03/13/2006

Nonnegative Thinking

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Moko has been working overtime at sorting through the questions sent to . Receiving emails makes zombie chimpanzees extraordinarily happy. Someone should research that effect on the zombie brain some time. But that's not why I'm here; my job is to answer all those questions!

Best served equipped with
big chunks of metal
Q: If I want to sacrifice my 3/3 Gristleback, which received -4/-0 from Schismotivate, do I lose 1 life?

A: Gristleback stew will only gain you life, no matter how weak the flavor. In general, if some effect wants to know a value (like a life total or a creature's power) and that value is negative, the effect uses 0 instead. The actual negative value only matters for effects that want to modify the value, so giving the Gristleback +4/+0 with another Schismotivate would bring it from -1/3 back to 3/3.

Q: My opponent has Argothian Enchantress in play and she plays Rancor on it from her hand. Is she able to get the Rancor back from her graveyard, netting a card in the process? Or is this considered as a illegal play?

A: Yes, that's an illegal play. As Rancor is played, it requires a legal target creature for it to enchant. Due to the Enchantress' untargetability, it doesn't fit the bill. If your opponent tries to play Rancor on it anyway, she has to return Rancor to her hand and untap the forest she used to pay for it, to get the game back in a legal state. The action of playing Rancor never happened, and your opponent won't draw a card from the Enchantress.

Supposing that she also had a Grizzly Bear in play, and it was Shocked in response to the Rancor, she would draw a card since she played Rancor legally. The Rancor is still gone, though: it has to come into play for its return-to-your-hand ability to work. Rancor will be countered upon resolution because its target isn't legal when it tries to resolve. This means that it never reaches the in-play zone, but goes from the stack directly to the graveyard.

Not even the most skilled
Izzet chronarchs can outrun
the Grim Legend Reaper
Q: My opponent has a Kokusho on the table, then he plays another one. Can I use Quicken to cast a Final Judgment and remove them both, or can I not respond to the "legend rule" until it's too late?

A: Nope, you can't do that. The legend rule is one of the state-based effects, which happen just before a player receives priority. Before you could possibly play Final Judgment, SBEs drag both Dragon Spirits to the graveyard. This in turn triggers their abilities which will cause mayhem with life totals.

What you could do is play your Quickened Final Judgment while the second Kokusho is still on the stack. The first one will be removed from the game, and the second one will then come into play. You'll be left in basically the same situation you were before, but that's better than losing 10 life.

Q: I have two Crash Landings in my hand and five Forests in play. Can I kill my opponent's Sky Swallower?

A: When Green gets direct damage, it's usually limited in one way or another. Crash Landing requires its target to be a "creature with flying." The targeted creature must fit this requirement both when you play Crash Landing and when the spell resolves. The former is not a problem, because you can play the two Landings in response to each other. But once the first Landing resolves, the creature loses flying, and then the second Landing will refuse to do anything. Now if you happened to have access to a little blue mana....

I have recently started running an Enchantress Deck with Auratouched Mage and Flickerform as the kill. There have been two issues to date:

Q: I was questioned on the basic mechanics of the combo. I play my Auratouched Mage and dig for a Flickerform. I use the activated ability on Flickerform during my opponent's turn. Now, the basic question is: when it returns to play, does its CIP ability trigger? And what about CIP abilities of the Auras like Fists of Ironwood that come back with it?

A: Anything that goes from being not in play to being in play is considered to have come into play (*throws shoe at phasing*). CIP abilities of the Flickerform'ed creature and of any other Auras on it will trigger.

Q: This one is a little trickier. Assuming that the previous answer was affirmative, I Flicker my Mage and dig for a Faith's Fetters. Now, the Fetters is enchanting the Mage, who has no activated ability, but one of my opponents argued that the Fetters now stops the Flickerform’s ability as well. I argued that this was not the case, because the Flickerform aura and the Mage are two different permanents. Since Flickerform does not have the statement "Enchanted creature has . . .", I believe that I am right, but I am verifying.

A: Yes, you're again correct. Fetters stops any abilities on the permanent it enchants, but the Flickerform's ability can be used without problems. It's an activated ability of that enchantment, not an activated ability of the Mage.

Q: I have a Tallowisp in play and I play Carven Caryatid. Can I first draw the card from Carven Caryatid and then search for the enchant creature card? This is important in the case that I played a Congregation at Dawn before this action.

A: Tallowisp triggers when you play the spell, while the Caryatid doesn't trigger until it comes into play (which happens when a creature spell resolves). The Tallowisp trigger goes on the stack on top of the creature spell, so you'll end up getting the option to search before you draw a card, even if you'd rather draw a card first and then search.

Q: Where can I find these timing rules?

A: Both abilities in question are triggered abilities. You can find everything you need to know about them in the Comprehensive Rules, under 404 (what triggered abilities look like) and 410 (how they work). What we're interested in, is the exact moment when a triggered ability goes on the stack. This bit from rule 410.2 deals with this:
From the CompRules:
The ability doesn’t do anything when it triggers but automatically puts the ability on the stack as soon as a player would receive priority.

Combine this with some info about how spells are played -- 409.1a spell goes on the stack, 409.1i Tallowisp triggers and player receives priority -- and you've got your answer.

Q: If I have a Burning-Tree Shaman and a Blinking Spirit in play, can I stack the Spirit’s ability say, 200 times and deal 200 damage to myself, or does the Shaman wait for resolution of the ability before he is triggered? While I realize that this probably isn’t something I want to be doing . . . I still want to know if it works. :p

A: You can damage yourself all you want with Burning-Tree Shaman. Each time you play Blinking Spirit's ability (by paying ), the Shaman will trigger, and its ability will go on the stack on top of the Spirit's ability. Since you retain priority after playing an ability, you could respond to both abilities by activating Blinky again, and do that 199 more times. You'll end up with a stack full of Spirit ability, Shaman ability, Spirit ability, Shaman ability, . . . .

With this card, Ravnica
just might end up in Kansas
Q: I am confused about Warp World putting stuff into play. I've heard that all the artifacts, creatures and lands come into play simultaneously. I was under the impression that nothing can happen simultaneously.

For example, if I am playing a Red/Green deck and I reveal Ulasht, the Hate Seed, do I get to count the other creatures I revealed?

A: Things can and do happen simultaneously in Magic.

With Ulasht, the answer is no, he doesn't count the other creatures coming into play simultaneously with him. Ulasht's ability modifies how he comes into play, and as this replacement effect is applied, the revealed cards aren't in play yet -- they're still waiting until the replacement effect has determined how they all should come into play.

Q: On the same note, if I reveal a Sparkmage Apprentice, do I get to kill the Birds of Paradise my opponent revealed?

A: The Sparkmage works differently: he has a triggered ability (which you can tell because it uses one of the words "When"/"Whenever"/"At"). The Sparkmage's ability triggers as it comes into play, but triggered abilities don't go on the stack until someone would receive priority, which only happens when Warp World's effect is done. Only when the triggered ability actually goes on the stack are the targets chosen, and the Birds is a legal target by then.

Many fingers make heavy
of coin flipping.
Q: I have Chance Encounter and Krark's Thumb in play. Something like Stitch in Time tells me to flip a coin, so I flip two coins instead due to the Thumb. If I win both flips, does the Encounter get two luck counters?

A: To the game, "flipping a coin" is about determining the result of the flip, not about physically throwing a coin into the air. You got to throw two coins, but only used one result and ignored the other, so as far as the game is concerned, you only performed one coin flip. You won that flip, so the Encounter triggers, but only once.

Q: What is the fastest creature on land?

A: That's obviously the Cheetah. It can reach speeds of over 100 km/h.

Q: If my opponent targets my Snapping Drake with Last Gasp, can I sacrifice my Goblin Flectomancer to change the target of the Last Gasp to the Flectomancer itself?

A: That's one trick the Flectomaniac can't do. Targets are usually chosen as part of playing a spell or ability, but that only applies to choosing that spell or ability's own targets. Choosing a new target for the Last Gasp happens when the Goblin's ability resolve, and by then, the Flectomancer is long dead.

The Top took "doing as much
as possible" to new extremes
Q: If I have Sensei’s Divining Top in play and untapped and use its second ability to draw a card, but instead of drawing a card I dredge for say, a Nightmare Void, do I still put the Top on top of my library?

A: The Top's ability still resolves completely even if some part of its effect is replaced: it does as much as possible. Instead of drawing, you dredge, but the Top still gets put on top of your library.

Q: Since it first came out in 1997, I have always wanted to use Forbidden Ritual in a deck. However, I have always failed miserably to make it useful. Now I have a new idea, and a question to go with it: I want to use cards like Annex and Control Magic to steal cards from my opponent's side, then sacrifice them to a Forbidden Ritual. How exactly does this card work? Can I sacrifice a stolen creature and the Control Magic that stole it separately during the same Ritual, without losing one to SBEs between repetitions?

A: Your question about Forbidden Ritual is quite interesting, and your opponents might have a hard time believing you. State-based effects are not checked between repetitions, because all repetitions are part of the resolution of the Ritual, and SBEs aren't checked midway through resolution. Auras with nothing to enchant will hang around to be sacrificed on a later repetition, because no state-based effects come along in the meantime to tell them they're not supposed to hang around in play like that.

Note that it doesn't work in the opposite direction: if you sacrifice Control Magic, you'll lose control of the creature right away. Control Magic creates a continuous effect, and such effects are applied, well, continuously. If at any moment the Control Magic disappears, then its continuous effect ends and your opponent gets his creature back, making it impossible for you to sacrifice. It doesn't wait for a state-based effect to tell it so.

Keep up the good questions everyone!

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands

About the Author:
Even though I'm not a judge, my interest in the rules of the game is the main reason for me to play. You'll usually find me answering questions in the rulings forum. I'm mostly a casual player: the only tournaments I visit are prereleases.


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