Published on 11/05/2012


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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Your tour guide for today
Goblin Announcer: Welcome, travellers from across the Multiverse, to this magical experimentation facility! It is here that the brilliant Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius discovered most of the new magics you have recently started using. As readers of Cranial Insertion, our venerable guild leader has most graciously agreed to personally give you a guided tour. For your own safety, I must ask you not to touch anything you see here, as some experiments here may be somewhat volatile. Now without further ado, here is the great Niv-Mizzet!

Niv-Mizzet: Hello there, everyone! Let me introduce myself. I'm Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. I'm 15273 years old, my favorite colors are blue and red, and in my free time I like to think of new ways of setting things on fire. Actually, that's what I do for a living, too! Some of you may have seen me in this column before, when I gave an interview, almost seven years ago by your Earth calendars. I thought the interview was fun last time, so I decided to invite all of you over this time around! Those of you who weren't around back then probably know me as the intelligent-looking dragon from the packaging.

It will be my pleasure to show you all the new magic I invented, and answer all your questions about it in great detail. I remember that you are very attentive listeners, so I am particularly looking forward to that.

This tour will be structured as follows. First, I'll answer a bunch of questions. Then I'll let some emotion or other overwhelm me, and we'll briefly suspend the tour. After that, I'll answer another bunch of questions.

Let's begin our tour here, where a new experiment is currently being conducted. As with all experiments done here, there is no knowing what will come out of it... except that it will probably involve some explosions. But more than most other experiments, this one is Epic! Ah, I see several of you have raised their hands. Go ahead and ask your questions!

Q: If I control Goblin Electromancer and cast Epic Experiment with X=4 (so I pay ), do I get to cast spells from my library that would normally cost five mana?

A: No, I'm afraid not. Epic Experiment just cares about the converted mana costs of the cards from your library. The Electromancer makes you pay less for casting your instants and sorceries, but it doesn't change their actual mana cost.

Q: If I reveal Blustersquall with Epic Experiment, can I choose to pay the overload cost?

A: Hmmm, that won't work either. You can't overload those free spells: because you're not paying their mana costs, you can't choose to pay their overload costs either, as both are alternative costs. That was a great dilemma while I was setting up the Experiment, but in the end I went with the free spells instead. I assure you, this experiment is pretty epic that way!

Q: If I reveal Epic Experiment with Epic Experiment, what is the value of X on the second Experiment?

A: Okay, that's enough questions about this Epic Experiment, let's move along to all my other epic experiments!

Now we come to the greatest of my recent inventions: the overload-o-tron! Through the application of higher magiphysics, I found that by accelerating a spell's mana particles in a magimagnetic field, its targeting waveforms would collapse, and the spell would end up hitting everything in the neighborhood. I don't think I ever had so much fun in my life as I did when I was running those experiments. The neighbors aren't there anymore, but I'm sure they enjoyed it too.

Q: If I use Reverberate to copy an overloaded Mizzium Mortars, is the copy also overloaded?

A: Aren't those Mortars great? Believe me, it took a lot of experimentation before we could pack so much boom-power in so little space! And yes, all overload spells work great with Reverberate. When Reverberate creates a copy of a spell, it doesn't copy the text change from "target" to "each". However, it does copy the fact that you paid the overload cost rather than the mana cost for the original, so that the copy's own overload ability will change the targets to eaches again!

Q: What happens when I cast a spell with both overload and replicate (due to Djinn Illuminatus)?

A: That is an excellent idea, and it will lead to much explodonation. It's a bit complicated how all that works, but here's what happens: The Djinn looks for the mana cost of your spell. That's just the cost printed in the upper right corner, even though you might be paying something else when casting it. So the replicate ability given by the Djinn will have the cheaper cost. Then when you cast your spell, you can independently decide whether to use overload or not, and how many times to use replicate. For each time you use replicate, you'll get a copy of the spell. If you went for overload, then just like with Reverberate above, those copies will also be supercharged with overloadedness. Just thinking about it makes me draw a few cards!

Q: And what if that spell is Street Spasm for X=2?

A: So now we add an X to the equation. Though I would recommend X=3 for greater effect. Or, like, X=1337. Though you may not always have the copious mana available that we are capable of generating here in this facility, of course. But anyway, the result of adding X to the equation is that you have to choose the value of X while casting the original spell, whether you pay it with the mana cost or with the overload cost. That choice determines the values of all the s that are now appearing all over the place in mana, overload, and replicate costs.

I think of setting things on fire, so I exist
Besides your questions about the things you see around you here, I'm sure you also have questions about my methods of conducting research. Please feel free to ask those questions of me, too. Yes, you there in the back?

Q: I cast Firemind's Foresight, but after finding instants costing 3 and 2, I discovered that the Blustersquall I had been meaning to get was no longer in my library. If I'd known that, I'd have picked those other instants differently. Can I do that?

A: Here's what I would do. When the Foresight resolves, I pick up my library and make one of my famous intelligent faces. Like the one shown on the left. Then suddenly, as I am looking through my library, inspiration will strike. I find that I can help this inspiration a bit by pulling some cards out of my library and looking at them intently. But once inspiration strikes, I know exactly which of those cards I pulled out are the ones I was looking for. Then comes the fun bit. I take the card costing 3, say "THREE!", and reveal it. Repeat this process for "TWO!" and "ONE!". Then I shuffle my library and proceed to win the game. Though you obviously can't hope to match the profoundness of my inspiration, I know that by following this method, you will achieve the best results possible.

If you choose not to follow my advice and put cards into your hand before thoroughly reviewing your library and deciding your three cards, you will be committed to your choices.

Now we have come to the mechanical engineering hall. It turns out that artifacts can also have Izzet-like aptitudes for randomly exploding. This artifact creature here fits that descriptions particularly well. Sometimes during design, you have to make a tradeoff between detonatability and reliability. Now who would go for reliability given that choice?

Q: When Volatile Rig dies and the flip is lost, can I cast Safe Passage to prevent the damage to me and my creatures?

A: The answer to this question comes down to the timing rules. Players can respond to spells and abilities, but only before they start to resolve. For both of the Rig's abilities, the resolution starts with a coin flip, and then may or may not continue with pieces of metal flying around. But once the coin is flipped, it's too late too respond. So if you want to use your Safe Passage, you'll have to do so before you know how the coin flip goes.

Oh look, I found an old picture sitting on the mantelpiece over here. Ah, Utvara Hellkite... We used to go out hunting together and make little Dragon tokens. Those were the days! Until she left me for Hypersonic Dragon. I can't imagine what she saw in him. When I went after him, he left in a hypersonic hurry! If I ever lay eyes on him again, I know who'll be drawing lots of cards! But you are not here to hear me reminisce; you are here to get answers to your questions!

Q: If I attack with Utvara Hellkite and a Dragon token from the previous turn, do I get one or two new tokens?

A: The Hellkite's ability triggers once per attacking Dragon, and that may be any Dragon, including the tokens. Or me. Or Hypersonic Dracodoofus. RAWRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Goblin Announcer: The tour is now briefly suspended. Your guide will be back in a few minutes.

(a few minutes pass)

Sometimes an experiment takes
on a life of its own
Okay, here I am again. Sometimes I just need to go out and burn something. But don't worry, that's perfectly natural for my species. We'll now continue our tour. Our next destination is this cage of impenetrable mizzium, which contains the first specimen of the Nivmagus Elemental strain. I was trying to create a Weird, but I ended up with an Elemental instead. And not just any Elemental: one that ate all my spells! I let it play around for a while, but eventually it got a bit tiresome to have all my spells eaten, so I captured it. Now this original is locked away here. Nivmagus Elementals are now produced in a factory safely removed from any centers of high magical activity, in particular from the one we are in. I'm sure you have some questions about the care and feeding of these little guys!

Q: My opponent was playing Nivmagus Elemental and wanted to feed it some cheap instants. I wanted to keep him from growing it too large by countering an instant, but he told me that wouldn't work.

A: No, you can't keep this wee Elemental from growing into an epic Elemental by countering its food. We ran into that problem when the first specimen broke loose. If your opponent wants to feed his Elemental, he will cast a spell and immediately activate the Elemental's ability, without passing priority in between. Because exiling the spell is part of the ability's activation cost, the spell will be gone before you get to respond. By that time, only the ability will be sitting on the stack. You could counter that if you have something like Vizzumslime, I suppose. The same goes for sorceries, by the way. Apparently those taste a little meatier, but are equally nutritious.

Q: What if my opponent with the Nivmagus Elemental wants to wait and see if I counter his spell before deciding to use his Elemental's ability?

A: He can do that, but there's one thing he has to keep in mind: if he casts a spell and doesn't immediately feed it to his little guy but passes priority to you instead, then what happens next is up to you. If you decide to counter his spell, then he'll likely respond to that by eating the spell before it gets countered. But if you don't do anything, then both of you will have passed priority in succession and the spell will resolve then and there. The Elemental won't get dinner that night. So depending on where your opponent wanted his spell to end up, that may not have been a smart move for him.

Our next exhibit is Jace, Architect of Thought. Okay, I don't have the real Jace here right now. This is actually just a piece of cardboard with Jace's face on it. I still haven't figured out a good way to trap planeswalkers here and study them properly. Oh, maybe I shouldn't be telling you people that. Sooo... any questions?

Q: When I use Jace's +1 ability and then my opponent attacks me with Geist of Saint Traft, does Jace's ability shrink both the Geist and the Angel token?

A: It works against the Geist well enough: Jace's ability doesn't target, so hexproof doesn't do anything here. It doesn't work against the Angel, though. Jace has a triggered ability, and it triggers when a creature is declared as an attacker. The Angel token didn't become an attacking creature in the conventional way. It just sprang into being alive and attacking. But it was never declared as an attacking creature. So Jace's ability ignores it, and lets the Angel whack you for 4.

I heard there were still some questions on overload, so let's return to the overload-o-tron before we conclude our tour. I can't give you a demonstration of this artifact in action, I'm afraid. The energies it releases are by their nature hard to contain, and if they got out during your visit, they'd change all the instances of "target" into "each" in this article. That would make this article hard to read, so I promised the Cranial Insertion team not to let something like that happen. Anyway, what were those questions?

Q: What about Goblin Electromancer and overload? Do they work together?

A: They work together like lightning and tall spires! That is, the Electromancer reduces the cost for casting your spell, whatever cost that is. So if that happens to be an overload cost, it will get reduced just fine.

Q: My opponent attacks me with Oak Street Innkeeper while I'm still at 7 life, so I don't block. Then he plays two Giant Growths on it. Can I counter both with Counterflux?

A: Probably not. Unless your opponent specifically said otherwise, he probably meant that he played the second Giant Growth after the first one resolved. So they were never on the stack at the same time. The overload part of Counterflux is mostly effective against cards that make copies of spells. If a spell is copied, then the original spell and the copied spell will be on the stack at the same time, and Counterflux can blow them both away. So it works great against, say, Reverberate, Nivix Guildmage, or replicate. And against Epic Experiment, too. Yeah, the reason I designed Counterflux was obviously to keep those Guildmages and my other testing dummies in check. Occasionally one of them gets it into his head to claim one of my inventions as his own. Can't have that.

And that concludes our tour! It was great to have you here, and I trust you found your visit here inspiring. I hope you will continue to use my Izzet spells to bring fire, explosions, and other fun to the Multiverse! May you deal lots of damage, and draw lots of cards!

- Thijs van Ommen

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.

With regards to the Counterflux/Giant Growth question...Is it assumed that he plays one, waits to resolve, then plays it again? If I just tap two forests and slam the giant growths, won't it be assumed that they are both on the stack at the same time?
#1 • Date: 2012-11-05 • Time: 19:28:19 •
Hi Yeoman! Indeed, when someone announces two Giant Growths that way, it is interpreted as a shortcut for playing one, resolving it, then playing the next. If you interrupt that sequence by countering the first, then the second will still be in your opponent's hand and he can decide not to play it after all. Or you could counter the second Growth, but the first will have resolved by then.

Since this is a communication question, could one of the resident judges confirm in what cases a player would be interpreted to be responding to his own spell?
#2 • Date: 2012-11-06 • Time: 05:08:56 •
Since this is a communication question, could one of the resident judges confirm in what cases a player would be interpreted to be responding to his own spell?

Interpreted? Never. Unless a player explicitly states that he is retaining priority, it is always assumed that the player passes priority in between.
(Narrow corner-cases such as simultaneously slamming down a Lightning Bolt and a Fork notwithstanding, but that is a really slippery slope, because then we start discussing "the obvious play.")
#3 • Date: 2012-11-07 • Time: 12:37:56 •
Was this a change to the old inflatable creatures misplay, pumping up your Dungeon Shade 7 times and having your opponent respond with a Lightning Bolt to kill it? I remember some rules change to address that - is this the same rule?
#4 • Date: 2012-11-07 • Time: 14:52:28 •

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