Published on 12/03/2012

Blow, thou winter wind

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

As this article is wrapping up, Grand Prix San Antonio has just finished, and in a locale that was quite a bit warmer than most of the rest of the US, where winter is starting to settle in. So to get all warm and cozy again, let's cuddle up with some rules questions!

And remember that if you've got rules questions, you can send them to us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet, all of which will get you answers and possibly even get your question featured in a future article!

Q: A few articles back, you explained how Detention Sphere works on, say, a bunch of Wolf tokens created by different cards. Does the same thing happen with multiple face-down creatures that were cast using morph?

A: To start off with a recap: unless the effect that makes a token gives it a name, or says it's a copy of something else (in which case it has the name of the thing it copies), a token's default name is its creature types. So a Wolf token is named "Wolf", a Human Soldier token is named "Human Soldier", and so on.

Face-down creatures (such as you'd get from morph), though, are different. They're defined by the rules as being 2/2... and that's basically it. They don't have colors, subtypes, mana costs, or even names. And something with no name can't have the same name as something else, so a Detention Sphere on a face-down morph will just hit the one it targeted, and leave any others alone.

Q: So if my face-down morph gets exiled by Detention Sphere and then I blow up the Sphere, what happens? Does it come back still face-down? Do I have to show my opponent what it is?

A: Unless an effect specifically says otherwise, a permanent always enters the battlefield face-up. And Detention Sphere doesn't say anything about bringing the card back face-down, so face-up is how your morph will return. But your opponent will already know what it is: cards in exile are also face-up by default unless something specifically says to keep them face-down, and any face-down card that's leaving the battlefield has to be revealed to everyone as it leaves.

Q: I've got a bunch of Wolf tokens, and my opponent has Nightshade Peddler paired with Izzet Staticaster. If he activates Staticaster targeting one of my tokens, and I have a Searing Spear in hand, does it matter whether I kill the Peddler or the Staticaster in response? Or can that ever save my stuff?

A: It does matter quite a bit, and you can save all your cute little puppies. No matter which one you kill, all your Wolf tokens will get hit with one point of damage. But if you kill the Staticaster, they'll also all die; when its ability deals damage, it checks the last known information of the Staticaster — basically, what it looked like the last time it was on the battlefield — to see whether it had any relevant abilities. And it had a very relevant ability: deathtouch! On the other hand, if you kill the Peddler, then the pairing created by soulbond will immediately end when it dies, and the Staticaster will lose deathtouch before it deals its damage, meaning your tokens all live, and can go on to bury your opponent under a big furry dog pile.

Q: I've got a 3/3 Centaur token, and my opponent casts Traitorous Instinct to steal it. In response I cast Rootborn Defenses to get another Centaur for blocking; will the one I keep be indestructible? What about the one my opponent takes with Traitorous Instinct?

A: Your Centaur will be quite indestructible, while the one your opponent gets will be quite... well, not. First of all, you always carry out the instructions in a spell's text in order. So with Rootborn Defenses, first you populate, then your stuff gets to become indestructible. And being indestructible is kinda weird: while most effects that do something like pump your creatures' power/toughness or give them abilities will "lock in" what they apply to at resolution, an effect that makes things indestructible doesn't. What it actually does is temporarily modify the rules of the game, which means the set of things it affects can and does constantly update as necessary. So as soon as it's no longer a creature you control, that Centaur is also no longer indestructible.

Don't ask.
Q: I have Kaervek the Merciless out (he's my commander!), and another player Mindslavers me. Will Kaervek hit him every time he casts one of my spells that turn?

A: Even Kaervek isn't that merciless; he only looks at spells your opponents actually cast. And under a Mindslaver, you're still the one doing stuff — you're just being forced into it by the player who's controlling you, which means you're the one doing all the casting, and Kaervek won't trigger.

Q: If I control Rest in Peace and destroy my opponent's Rancor (or kill the thing it's enchanting), will Rancor go back to his hand?

A: It'll just rest, peacefully, in exile. Rancor has a triggered ability that triggers when it's put into a graveyard from the battlefield. But Rest in Peace has a replacement effect (you can tell from the word "instead" in the text), which says that the whole going-to-the-graveyard thing doesn't happen in the first place; it gets replaced with going-to-exile. So Rancor goes straight into exile and its ability never triggers.

Q: In a multiplayer game, I've got a spell I want to cast at the end of the turn of the player on my right. But partway through his turn, he dies. Do I get a chance to cast my spell before my turn begins, or does his turn just end immediately when he loses?

A: You will get a chance for your spell. When a player leaves the game in the middle of his own turn, the turn still continues normally, just without that player. So you can still get spells in just as if he were still around; he's the only one who can't do much, what with being dead and all.

Q: My opponent activates Jace, Architect of Thought's +1 ability. Then on my turn I attack with Geist of Saint Traft and get an Angel token; does Jace shrink the token?

A: Nope, your Angel will get to swing in for the full four points. Even though she's attacking, she was never declared as an attacker and so, from the point of view of triggered abilities like the one created by Jace, she never "attacked".

Q: I have a Mother of Runes from Urza's Legacy, which says it's a Cleric. But my friend has one from Commander that says it's a Human Cleric. Which one is right?

A: The official text of any Magic card — the text you should be going by any time you're playing — is maintained in a database called Oracle (which is why you'll sometimes hear people ask for the "Oracle text" of a card). You can always look up the current Oracle text of a card by going over to and typing in the card's name; Mother of Runes will show up there as a Human Cleric, so that's what she is (this specific change happened a few years back, when there was a huge effort to simplify and unify the way creature types work, resulting in a lot of creatures getting their types updated).

Q: I have two Raging Rivers. No, really. What happens when I attack?

A: Both Rivers will trigger. When the first trigger resolves, your opponent will split up his non-flyers into "left" and "right" piles, and then you'll split up your attackers into "left" and "right" piles, and a set of blocking restrictions will be created based on those piles. Then when the second trigger resolves, you'll do it all over again and a second, independent set of blocking restrictions will get created based on the new piles. The result is that a non-flying creature will only be able to block an attacker that was in the same pile as itself both times (so if the blocker was in "left" and then "right", it could only block something that was also in "left" and then in "right", for example).

Q: I have two Wild Beastmasters, one with a Rancor on it. If I attack with both, what happens?

A: Well, if you set it up right, you'll get some pretty big Beastmasters. Both of them will trigger, and you put the triggers on the stack in an order of your choice. If you have the Rancor'd one's trigger go on the stack last, it'll resolve first and give all your other creatures — including the other Beastmaster — +3/+3. Then when the non-Rancor'd one's trigger resolves, it'll look at itself, see its power is 4, and give all your other creatures — including the Rancor'd Beastmaster — +4/+4. So the end result is that the Beastmaster with the Rancor gets +4/+4, the one without gets +3/+3 and all your other stuff gets a whopping +7/+7.

Q: My opponent has Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. If I cascade into a Firespout, can I kill Thalia (and any other small non-flyers) by paying a red mana for her additional cost?

A: That'll be a fiery spout of doom for poor Thalia; normally, you can't even attempt to pay mana for something that's being cast "without paying its mana cost" (which is what cascade has you do). But if something imposes an additional cost involving a mana payment, you can (and in Thalia's case, must) pay that cost to cast the spell, and so Firespout will see that you spent red to cast it.

Q: What if instead of Thalia, my opponent uses Daze on my Firespout? Can I pay a red for that and get damage?

A: Nope. Firespout looks only at mana that was spent to cast it — which means the process of getting it onto the stack. Daze doesn't affect how you cast Firespout, it just steps in later and says you need to pay if you don't want it to be countered, so whether you pay for Daze and what color you pay with won't change Firespout's effect.

Better bundle up, it's chilly out there.
Q: I have a bunch of artifacts, and on my turn I cast Dispatch targeting my opponent's untapped Oak Street Innkeeper. What happens? Will the Innkeeper get exiled, or will its hexproof kick in as soon as it's tapped and stop that?

A: Dispatch will always tap the creature it targets, and as soon as it becomes tapped the Innkeeper will get hexproof. But that won't save it; the rules only require a spell to check that its targets are legal at two specific times. One is when the spell is cast, and the other is as it starts to resolve. Since Dispatch has already started resolving, it doesn't check whether its target is legal again, and just goes right on with the dispatching.

Q: My opponent just cast a Craterhoof Behemoth, and he has two other creatures. If I Unsummon the Behemoth in response to its ability, will his creatures get +2/+2 or +3/+3?

A: Just +2/+2; Craterhoof Behemoth checks the number of creatures when its ability resolves; at that point it's left the battlefield, so it only sees two creature and gives them both +2/+2 (and trample, though that's a lot less scarier than the Behemoth coming at you!).

Q: If my opponent activates Liliana of the Veil to make us both discard, and I choose a Loxodon Smiter in my hand, do I get to put it into play?

A: Yup! Even though you chose which card to discard, the ability that caused you to discard was controlled by your opponent, which means he's going to be on the wrong end of some serious smitey elephant.

Q: So last week you went over what happens if Dark Impostor exiles a Pack Rat — it'll gain the ability to make Dark Impostor tokens. But what abilities will those tokens have?

A: Not much, to start out with. Dark Impostor has what's called a pair of linked abilities; the second ability (which gives it the abilities of the exiled cards) refers only to cards exiled by the first ability of that specific Dark Impostor, not to cards exiled by any other Dark Impostors (or by any other abilities that would let a Dark Impostor exile things). So your Dark Impostor tokens will be able to exile creatures, and gain the activated abilities of the creatures they exile, but they won't share any kind of common pool of exiled cards or abilities.

Q: In a Two-Headed Giant game, my teammate has Garruk, Primal Hunter and makes a Beast token. If I then cast Zealous Conscripts and take control of Garruk, can I also get a Beast since I haven't used any of his abilities yet this turn?

A: That would be a really neat trick, but unfortunately the rules for planeswalkers are a bit stricter than that: they don't just check whether you've activated one of the abilities this turn, they check whether anybody has. And since your teammate has activated one of Garruk's abilities, that means he's tuckered out and can't do anything for you during that same turn.

Q: I'm attacking with two Drogskol Reavers. Assuming they both get through unblocked, just how many cards will I be drawing?

A: How does eight cards sound? Each Reaver will cause a separate life-gain event each time it deals damage. And each one will deal damage twice. And each one will trigger for each life-gain event. So you'll get two triggers per Reaver per combat damage step — with double strike, there are two — for a total of eight triggers and eight cards (although you're gaining 6 life per combat damage step, Reaver doesn't look at how much life you gained, just whether you did gain life).

Q: I heard something about Serra Ascendant getting new wording for Two-Headed Giant that makes it only get big when your team has 40 life. But I don't see any updates to its text in Gatherer, and a ruling there says it'll get +5/+5 and flying if your team is at 30; did this change happen at all, then?

A: The Magic card Serra Ascendant hasn't received any updated wording. But in the Duels of the Planeswalkers video game, Serra Ascendant does have that slightly different wording (basically, requiring you to have 10 more than your starting life total, which means you need 40 in 2HG). Things that happen in Duels of the Planeswalkers don't affect or change the rules of Magic or any printed Magic cards, though, so your real-world Serra Ascendants still do what was printed on them.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty snug and warm now, so I'll call that a warp for this week. But be sure to tune in next week when Eli returns with yet more questions and yet more 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.

Can someone clarify the Drogskol Reaver answer for me? The Reaver twins trigger on life gain, but since lifelink doesn't use the stack you're not gaining 3 life, and then 3 life, just 6(per combat). Right? I know the answer says each one causes a separate life-gain event, I guess I just don't understand why. I think what I'm asking is, if the damage is all dealt at once, why isn't the life gained at once?
#1 • Date: 2012-12-03 • Time: 16:34:56 •
Since the Reaver has double strike, it will deal damage twice during the combat phase.

When a creature with first strike or double strike is in combat, an entire new step is stuck into the phase called the "First Strike Combat Step". All creatures with First/Double strike deal damage in that step.

Then, all creatures who havent dealt damage, or creatures will double strike deal damage in the combat damage step. So each of the Reavers will deal damage twice, gaining 3 life twice (per Reaver)
#2 • Date: 2012-12-03 • Time: 21:05:32 •
I agree with kingofthebush. Even though there are two Reavers dealing damage, combat damage is dealt as a single event and therefore you're gaining life only once per combat step. You're supposed to draw only 4 cards.
#3 • Date: 2012-12-04 • Time: 08:16:22 •
Rule 118.9 is the relevant one here; it tells us to treat Drogskol Reaver's ability as looking at each time a source causes life gain. Since there are two Reavers dealing damage in each combat damage step, that's two sources of life gain (just as they're two sources of damage), and so we end up with each Reaver triggering itself and the other, rather than a single life-gain trigger that encompasses all the damage dealt in the combat damage step.

Which means that eight cards is indeed the correct answer :)
#4 • Date: 2012-12-04 • Time: 11:56:18 •
Thanks uber, that's exactly what I was looking for. The rule essentially rewords the Reavers' triggered ability to say 'Whenever a source causes you to gain life, draw a card'.

I wonder why triggered abilities that fit this rule aren't just written as such. The way it's worded now seems less intuitive, especially if there's a rule written specifically to re-word them.

Anyway, thanks.
#5 • Date: 2012-12-04 • Time: 18:33:06 •

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