Published on 10/01/2012

City Lights

or, Flaming Goblins in the Sky

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

"Pants! Where are my pants?!
Welcome back to Ravnica! It's been seven years since Ravnica: City of Guilds shook up tournaments, and now Return to Ravnica is set to do the same. With five guilds running around waving brand-new keywords at you, five new guild leaders to break apart in Commander, and very suspicious sausages onna bun being sold in the streets, I'm sure there won't be a dull moment for a while.

If you've been around all this time, congratulations! You might remember that we did a guild article for each guild - we'll be doing that again. In the spirit of revisiting Ravnica and tweaking things to be new yet familiar, though, we'll have some curveballs for you, though, so make sure to check back for the next five weeks to see what we have in store.

Send in your questions, as always, to or by tweet to @CranialTweet - let's see which guild causes the most questions! Don't forget to read the official RTR FAQ as well!

Q: Can I sacrifice one Overgrown Tomb for Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord's last ability?

A: Jarad demands that you sacrifice two lands, one of which is a Swamp and one of which is a Forest. One land that's both won't cut it, and the Lich Lord will be offended that you try to cheat him out of his appropriate offering and will take you off of his Christmas card list.

Q: What happens if I Cremate a land from my opponent's graveyard in response to Deathrite Shaman's first ability?

A: Then the ability is countered entirely, since its only target is gone, and none of its effects happen.

"But Eli," you ask telepathically through time, "isn't that a mana ability?" Nope! One of the rules of mana abilities is that a mana ability can never, ever target. Doing so automatically removes it from the exclusive Mana Ability Club, and it has to use the stack just like other activated abilities.

Q: When I discard a card with scavenge to Lotleth Troll, can I scavenge it before my opponent gets priority to exile it?

A: You get priority first to do things, but you can only scavenge as a sorcery. With the Loltroll's ability on the stack, that means you can't scavenge right now.

Q: Will my creatures with scavenge benefit from things like Collective Blessing?

A: Creature cards in your graveyard aren't creatures - they're a pile of rotting remnants and scattered skeletal bits that are "creature cards." A "creature," without any sort of modifier, only exists on the battlefield.

Weakness: Laser pointers.
Q: How many cards do I get from Isperia, Supreme Judge if Geist of Saint Traft attacks me?

A: Only one. "When a creature attacks" triggers look at the declaration of attackers only. The Angel enters the battlefield attacking, and thus never attacked. Make sure to also look out for Jace, Architect of Thought's first ability not making the Angel a 3/4! That one feels even weirder than Isperia.

Q: What happens in a multiplayer game if I detain my opponent's creatures, and then I lose before his turn?

A: The relatively new rule 800.4i fits this situation like it was made for it! It says that if a continuous effect is set to last until that player's turn, and that player loses, it expires at the time that turn would start. Your opponent's creatures will still be detained until the game says "hey, you want a turn? oh, nevermind, you're busy being dead."

Q: Does detain stop mana abilities?

A: That it does. While a great many effects that stop activated ability don't affect mana abilities, some do - and detain is one of them. This is why all of the cards that detain things specify either "nonland" or specifically "creature."

Q: Can I bounce a blocker with Skymark Roc before my opponent can block?

A: That's how you'll have to do it, in fact. Skymark Roc's triggered ability fires as soon as it attacks, and it resolves during the declare attackers step, well before the declare blockers step which is where your opponent... well, declares blockers. Among other things.

Wile E. Niv-Mizzet, Draaacogenius.
Q: Can I have Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius and Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind out at once?

A: Sure! The legend rule only looks at an object's name, and not just its "proper name." They're both Niv-Mizzet, but the cards have different names due to the Dragon's titles, so they can happily coexist and have horrific discussions far, far over our heads.

Q: If there are no legal targets, can I still overload a spell?

A: In step two of casting a spell, you choose to overload it. In step three, when you go to choose targets, you take the fact that you're overloading it into account. This means that the word "target" is replaced with "each" (and we won't even get into how poorly that translated on foreign cards...), so there is no target to choose, so not being able to choose a legal target is irrelevant.

Q: Can I flash back a spell with overload by using Snapcaster Mage?

A: Nope. Flashback and overload are both alternate costs, and you can't apply two of those at once. Flashback is the only alternate cost that also lets you cast it from the graveyard, so that's the only way you'll be able to cast your spell.

Q: I control a Nivmagus Elemental and cast Mizzium Skin. Can I wait to see if my opponent has a counterspell before choosing whether to exile it or not?

A: You can't. In order for your opponent to counter your spell, you have to pass priority. If he chooses not to do anything, both players have just passed priority in succession, which means that Mizzium Skin resolves now. You'll need to either exile your spell without seeing if your opponent will counter it, or respond to him actually trying to counter it (or doing something else in response to your spell) by exiling that spell.

It's all fun and games until
someone loses an eye. Then
it's party time!
Q: If Rakdos, Lord of Riots costs me more mana to cast since he's my commander, does his own ability reduce the cost to cast him?

A: Rakdos's ability only applies once it's already on the battlefield. It can't ever apply to casting Rakdos. Cost-reduction effects can only apply to the spell they're on if they specifically say that they do.

Q: If I scavenge a +1/+1 counter onto a creature with unleash, can it still not block?

A: Unleash looks like one ability, but it's actually two! Oh, those sneaky carnies. One ability is a replacement effect that lets you add a counter as the creature enters the battlefield; the other is a static ability that stops it from blocking as long as it has a counter. Counters of the same kind are 100% interchangeable, so it doesn't matter why your creature has a counter: unleash's second half stops it from blocking.

Q: What does Havoc Festival do in Two-Headed Giant?

A: For starters, it's not an auto-win - a lot of people seem to think that two triggers resolve simultaneously, but that is impossible in Magic. It does trigger once for each player, since it says "each player's upkeep" and not "each upkeep." When the first trigger resolves, that player loses half of his or her life total, which is equal to the team's life total (bringing the team from 30 to 15), and when the second resolves, the same happens for the other teammate based on this new life total (bringing the team from 15 to 7).

So the team doesn't immediately die... but it sure puts one heck of a dent in their life and speeds the game way up!

Q: My opponent hits me with Rakdos's Return for 3, and I prevent 1 of that damage with Security Blockade. Do I discard two or three cards now?

A: You'll still discard 3 cards. The amount you discard isn't at all based on how much damage you're dealt, only on the value chosen for X.

Privacy is overrated.
Q: Can I cast Sundering Growth without a token to populate?

A: You sure can - populate doesn't target (which is relevant to a great many interactions other than this one...) and nothing in the ability says you have to be able to populate to cast the spell. When you get to the populate part, you just won't do anything.

Q: If I use a spell to kill Dryad Militant, what happens to that card?

A: That depends, what did you kill it with? Ultima, avada kedavra, pyrofuego, Power Word: Kill?

Or something less interesting like Shock or Tragic Slip? In that case, remember that lethal damage or having 0 toughness doesn't immediately get rid of the creature. We need to wait for state-based actions, the game's little janitors, to come around and sweep the creature into the graveyard. That happens very shortly after the spell's done resolving, but the final step of a spell resolving is to put it into its owner's graveyard. At that point, state-based actions haven't been checked yet, the Dryad is still there, and the spell's exiled.

But maybe you killed it with Murder or Condemn. In that case, the spell's own effect moves the Dryad somewhere else (graveyard, library, etc), and then that final step comes up: the spell goes to the graveyard, and the Dryad's already gone, so nothing stops the card from ending up in the yard.

Q: My opponent makes me discard Loxodon Smiter while I control Rest in Peace. Do I get my Elephant? Would it matter if he controlled Rest in Peace instead?

A: It won't matter who controls what: one effect says to put your discarded card onto the battlefield instead of into your graveyard, and another effect says to put your discarded card into the exile zone. As the owner of the affected object, you're the one who chooses which replacement effect applies first, so you can get your Elephant onto the battlefield.

Or toss it into exile if, you know, you're feeling mean towards it.

Q: Can I target the same creature twice with Common Bond?

A: Yup! It's a throwback to Seeds of Strength, which took advantage of a then-new rule: an object can only be the target of a spell or ability once... for each instance of the word "target" in its text. Since each of Common Bond's abilities uses "target," unlike "put a +1/+1 counter on up to two target creatures" or "put a +1/+1 counter on target creature and another of those counters on another target creature" (what an ugly wording there), both targets can be the same creature.

Q: I don't have a coin handy to flip for Volatile Rig...

A: *pulls a quarter out from behind your ear*

Wait, this isn't a quarter, it's a chunk of cerebellum. Flip it, and if it lands ataxia-side up, it's heads.

Yes, dear readers, flipping slices of grey matter is a valid alternative. So is the rolling a die, which will result in less screaming and panic. Or use any random-number generator on your phone. Any method with a solid, random 50/50 outcome is an acceptable alternative to flipping a coin. In fact, rolling a die is often the preferred method, since coin flips can go hilariously astray.

Q: What does Civic Saber do on an artifact creature?

A: It looks pretty. In defiance of all common sense, though, it doesn't make the creature any more powerful. In fact, why does a sword even work better for a multicolor creature? I am so confused.

But artifact creatures, having zero colors, get +0/+0 from Civic Saber. "Colorless" is not a color, nor is "brown," "grey," or "silver" depending on which artifact frame you're looking at.

That's all for this week in the city-plane that never sleeps. Come back next time for the start of our five-week guild festival, which may or may not involve havoc.

Until next time, enjoy your guildy pleasures!

- Eli Shiffrin

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.

In regards to the detain stopping mana abilities, many of the detain cards reference nonland, but there are cards with mana abilities that are not lands (keyrunes being the biggest offenders from the prerelease weekend).

Going to the comp rules:
701.26a Certain spells and abilities can detain a permanent. Until the next turn of the controller of that spell or ability, that permanent can't attack or block and its activated abilities can't be activated.

* Activated abilities include a colon and are written in the form "[cost]: [effect]." No one can activate any activated abilities, including mana abilities, of a detained permanent.

So Detain is able to stop mana abilities
#1 • Date: 2012-09-30 • Time: 21:14:25 •
Yes, jskura, that is what the article says. Please read more carefully.

Also, it has been brought to our attention that we only actually did guild-themed articles for Guildpact way back when, not every guild! Well, we're rectifying that this time around. :D
#2 • Date: 2012-10-01 • Time: 00:57:03 •
Many apologies. Should probably sleep a bit before reading. 3 prereleases and 8 hours sleep all weekend =)
#3 • Date: 2012-10-01 • Time: 05:26:30 •
I'm pretty sure Transguild Courier is an artifact creature that gets a bonus from Civic Saber. "Gold" is a color, right? :P
#4 • Date: 2012-10-01 • Time: 09:13:23 •
Gold is not a color of course, but White Blue Black Red and Green are! For bonus points, if you\'re playing with Unhinged cards, the Courier is also pink thanks to Water Gun Balloon Game making pink a color.

As a side note: Being an artifact doesn\'t automean it\'s +0/+0 of course. The Phyrexifacts and Esperfacts also provide examples of other colored artifacts and the Eldrazi are colorless creatures. (Fairly obvious, but the completionist in me felt like pointing it out)

Although I think it\'s fairly obvious that colored artifacts still get buffed, it is possible to misread your answer to mean that, say, Slash Panther gets +0/+0, but maybe only if you\'re trying too hard to be contrary.
#5 • Date: 2012-10-01 • Time: 09:33:34 •

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