Published on 12/10/2012

Where the Bunnies Roam

or, Getting Inside Your Head

Cranial Translation
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The adult human brain weighs roughly
3 pounds, and a booster display box of
Magic cards weighs about 2.5 pounds.
Welcome back to another action-packed edition of Cranial Insertion! Except rather than action, it's packed with bunnies. As usual. Because we don't tend to have very much action here. While knowing the rules of the game is a useful thing, it will never lead to retrieving religious relics from forgotten depths or foiling plots to steal the world's water supply.

I'll discuss with Matt Tabak, the Magic Rules Manager, whether this can be fixed in the Gatecrash edition of the Comprehensive Rules.

For now, we'll have to settle with continuing the education theme of my last article, moving away from the delightful world of cats to the more arcane field of brainology! Or neurology, if you prefer to use actual words for some reason.

So put on your thinking cap and get ready for some questions. If you still have any afterwards, send them over to or tweet us at @CranialTweet - or even use our Facebook page that is kinda redundant but it's there!

Q: If I exile a spell with Nivmagus Elemental, will Guttersnipe still trigger?

A: If we look strictly at verb tenses, no - but that's because Guttersnipe will have already triggered! As soon as you finish the process of casting a spell, our Snipey little friend's ability triggers and then goes on the stack before you can do anything at all. Exiling the spell won't cause it to never have been cast, so the trigger resolves and happily shoots something for 2 damage.

Q: Does Guttersnipe trigger off Launch Party saccing it?

A: Guttersnipe only triggers as you complete the process of casting a spell. Unfortunately, the last step of that process is to pay all of the costs, including sacrificing some poor fool to be the cannon fodder. If you shove Guttersnipe into the cannon, it won't be around to see the process complete, and so can't trigger.

Q: Does Goblin Electromancer reduce Launch Party's cost when saccing it?

A: It does! Like his buddy Guttersnipe in the last question, he'll be sacrificed as the last step of casting Launch Party. However, two steps before that is where you figure out what the cost is, and at that point your Electromancer is still around with his one-mana-off coupon. The fact that he gets shoved into a cannon shortly after validating your discount doesn't cause the game to go back and re-evaulate the cost; it's locked in as soon as you determine it.

Q: After my opponent taps down all of my creatures with Blustersquall before blocks, can I still animate a Selesnya Keyrune to block?

A: You sure can. Regardless of when exactly he Blustersqualls, both players get priority in the declare attacker step to do things such as animate new blockers. You won't move on to the declare blockers step until both players pass priority without doing anything, and you're not going to just pass priority - you're going to get a blocker!

While the brain cannot feel pain, blood
vessels and nerves inside of the brain
certainly can. And when they do, I'm sure
the difference is purely academic.
Q: How do I tell various types of abilities apart?

A: We'll start with the easiest one: if there's a colon (that is :, the vital component of every smiley face on the internet), then the ability is an activated ability. For some keywords like equip, this will be in the reminder text. (See Falkenrath Aristocrat, Azorius Keyrune, and Slitherhead for examples of activated abilities)

If the ability uses the word "when," "whenever," or "at," it's a triggered ability. You'll also see these words in the reminder text of abilities that are triggered. (Among triggers are Blood Artist, Grapeshot, and Martial Law)

Some static abilities generate replacement effects, which are slightly more nebulous and not always so simple to recognize. "If... would... instead..." is one common replacement effect construction; the other common one is "... enters the battlefield with/as/tapped." (See Clone, Rest in Peace's second ability, and then Aquamorph Entity for a stranger replacement effect.)

Other abilities are spell abilities (the text of spells that you do as they resolve, like "Destroy target creature" on Murder) or simple static abilities (like "Creatures you control get +3/+3" on Collective Blessing) and are much less interesting.

Q: Angel of Serenity enters the battlefield and I target two of my opponent's creatures and one creature card in my graveyard. In response, I kill my Angel. Can I exile just his two creatures?

A: No, the "may" is for all or none. You've already chosen the "up to three" targets; upon resolution, you only choose whether or not you exile all of the chosen targets.

Q: Falkenrath Aristocrat can eat itself to get around Sever the Bloodline, can't it?

A: It sure can! Autophagia is all well and good in Magic. If the cost of "Sacrifice a creature" meant you couldn't sacrifice that creature itself, it would explicitly say "Sacrifice another creature" like Gobbling Ooze. Of course, Falkenrath Aristocrat's ability won't do anything to it since it's dead and gone before the ability resolves, but you've saved it from exile.

Q: When Sever the Bloodline hits an animated Rakdos Keyrune, does it exile the unanimated one, too?

A: It won't. Sever only exiles objects that are actually creatures as it resolves rather than every object with the same name.

Q: My opponent says that you can't respond to a soulbond trigger, and that he's heard a lot of judges saying that. Is that true?

A: This is a somewhat-common confusion: you can't respond to the choice of what to soulbond things to and whether or not to soulbond, but soulbond itself is a triggered ability that can be responded to. You just won't know what choices your opponent intends to make as that trigger resolves, and none are made as it goes onto the stack.

Q: If I Reverberate an overloaded spell, is the text-change copied?

A: The text-change isn't copied, but the decision to overload the spell is. And since the overload ability is also copied, that will see the choice and gleefully pull out its red pen to make some editorial corrections on your copy.

Q: I control Wilt-Leaf Liege and my opponent had a Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite first. What will happen when I cast Qasali Pridemage?

A: You'll have a kitty! The order won't matter: even though Elesh Norn's effect is applied first since it existed first, you won't check state-based actions until you're done applying all of the continuous effects lying around, including bringing the Pridemage back up to 2/2.

Q: Does Dream Halls make a combo with Past in Flames to recast everything for free?

A: Nope. Flashback and "without paying its mana cost" are both alternative casting methods. You can only pick one, and only one of those lets you cast it from your graveyard. To make matters even sadder, if you do cast a spell from your hand after resolving Past in Flames by discarding a card, the card you discard (and the spell you cast) won't get flashback - only the cards already in your graveyard when Past in Flames resolve get flashbacking goodness.

Q: Do counters stay on my planeswalker when it gets Oblivion Ringed... Rang? Rung?

A: Nope, exiled cards lose all the counters on them. Too many players treat Oblivion Ring like an Aura and just put it on top of (or under!) permanents, but stop and read the card carefully: the permanent is actually exiled, gone, ciao ciao. It can come back later, but when it does, it'll be a brand new object with no relation to the one that left.

You may find it disappointing to learn
that medical facilities, such as Harvard,
don't keep brains in jars. They keep them
in sterile plastic containers at -80°C.
Q: One of my friends said something about how tapping a blocking Prodigal Pyromancer to ping a creature would mean that the Pyromancer doesn't deal combat damage, too. I've never heard of that, is it right?

A: It's not right. Prior to Sixth Edition, tapped blockers wouldn't deal combat damage, but that was a long, long time ago. Tapped blockers deal their combat damage just fine these days.

I've also heard some confusion comparing it to Mogg Fanatic - in that case, the Mogg is gone from being sacrificed and thus can't deal damage. Completely different from Mister Pyromancer and his relatively inexpensive tap ability.

Q: My opponent has Konda, Lord of Eiganjo, and I have a 3/3 Elephant token and Drop of Honey. Does my Elephant have to eat the Honey?

A: Your Elephant must eat the delicious, sweet Honey. Unlike The Abyss or Murder, which simply target a creature, Drop of Honey doesn't target; you just destroy a creature of your choice. Since destroying an indestructible creature is flat-out impossible, you can't choose to destroy Konda, and the only legal choice is your Elephant.

Q: Can a Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord Commander deck run Growing Ranks?

A: It can't. is cool-looking hybrid mana symbol, but hybrid mana symbols are both of their colors, so it's a green mana symbol (which Jarad likes) and a white mana symbol (which Jarad hates). Much like a pizza with bacon and motor oil, having one delicious thing and one horrifying thing doesn't make it overall awesome, it makes it even sadder, and Jarad will reject this abominable pizza from the Stygian depths of despair.

Q: I control a Drogskol Reaver and my Two-Headed Giant teammate casts Thragtusk. Since the team life total goes up, do I get to draw a card?

A: Your team life total went up, but you didn't gain life. Remember the analogy of the gold gnomes: your team life total is a pile of gold in a room with two doors. One's labeled with your name, and the other with your teammate's name (and if you both have the same name, add your last initials or favorite animal or something to keep them distinct). When your teammate gains life, the gnomes bring in the gold through his door and toss it in the pile, but your Drogskol Reaver is only watching your door.

Q: My opponent casts Slaughter Games naming Restoration Angel - can I cast one in response?

A: That depends on what exactly happens. Your opponent doesn't name a card until Slaughter Games resolves, so if you asked him what he was naming or otherwise indicated "sure, it's resolving," then it's too late to flash in your Angel - no player can take actions during the resolution of a spell except for what that spell asks for.

However, if he jumps the gun and announces that he's naming Restoration Angel at the same time that he casts Slaughter Games, then you can take advantage of this extra information he's providing and cast an Angel in response.

Q: Since the card for Slaughter games isn't named until it resolves, can my opponent say "Slaughter Games your Restoration Angels," and then choose something else after he sees whether or not I cast one?

A: This is the catch to the shortcut I mentioned above: You can say "Slaughter Games naming X," but if you do, you're bound to that decision unless your opponent responds to your spell. If he doesn't, you must complete your shortcut and name the card you specified. But if he does respond, then he's breaking the shortcut and you can choose a different card.

Q: Where can I go to take practice tests to see if I'm ready to become a judge?

A: The site for that is - log in with your DCI number and your password, then go to Exams. You'll want to take some Easy Practice exams first, maybe a Hard Practice or two if you're feeling crazy (they can be really hard and much more than you need for L1), and then take the Rules Advisor exam when you think you're ready. If you pass the RA exam, or if you have passed it already, you can then take the Level 1 Practice exam to see if you're ready for the actual L1 exam. None of this is compulsory for testing to become a judge, but the exam manager's data shows that taking these steps raises your chances of passing by a truly remarkable percentage.

Q: Some people are saying that for Competitive events you have to verbally announce all triggers, others are saying that noting them in other ways is good enough. Help!

A: You do not need to verbally announce your triggers. You only need to acknowledge them in some way - it's easier for Head Judges making brief announcements to say "announce your triggers," and that's always the clearest course of action, but demonstrating that you know about the trigger is enough. Some examples:
  • Attack with Geist of Saint Traft and say "Swing for 6." That's fine.
  • Attack with Geist of Saint Traft and pick up an Angel token. That's fine.
  • Cast Tendrils of Agony with a lethal storm count and say "Game?" That's fine.
  • Opponent attacks with a 3/3 after you've activated Jace, Architect of Thought's first ability. You say "okay, I take 2." That's fine.

The important thing to remember, players and judges both, is that the policy isn't about "say the magic word and get your trigger" - it's about showing in some way that you have not forgotten about the trigger.

Q: At FNM, my opponent's Thragtusk dies on his turn and somehow we both honestly forget about him getting a 3/3 Beast. On my turn I declare my attackers and while declaring blockers my opponent remembers the 3/3. Do we backup to the declare attackers step and give him a 3/3? What if it's been a couple turns?

A: All of the Missed Trigger stuff in the last question only applies to Competitive events, and FNM isn't Competitive - at higher-level events, you're "penalized" for missing your triggers by not getting them, but that isn't the case for FNM. You'll still get your trigger if it's within a turn. Don't rewind, just take care of it now and your opponent gets a 3/3 Beast. If it's been more than a turn, we don't want to upset the game too much by throwing surprise variables after all that time, so he won't get a Beast in that case.

Man, my brain is feeling stuffed. Though in my case that'd be Moko trying to use me as a piggy bank. Hey, chocolate coins? That can only mean one thing - happy Chanukah, to all of our readers who observe it!

Join us again next week when Carsten brings you more happy shiny rules questions.

Until next time, may you dance and be merry!

- 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.

Q: My opponent has Konda, Lord of Eiganjo, and I have a 3/3 Elephant token and Drop of Honey. Does my Elephant have to eat the Honey?

Since you can't choose to destroy Konda, and the only legal choice is your Elephant.

I thought one can still choose the Konda, it tries to destroy but due to indestructibility, it won't be destroyed. So I see no reason to purposely choose your own elephant when it is also legal to choose Konda.
#1 • Date: 2012-12-10 • Time: 01:31:05 •
* Invalid user.

As it's been said in the article, it is not a targetted trigger, when it resolves, YOU DESTROY the creature wit the least power, but if the creature is undestructible, then it CANNOT be destroyed, thus you have to chose another to DESTROY. As opposed to "detroy target creature with the least power blahblah..." in this case, you can target Konda with no issue, and when it resolves it'll fail to destroy it.

Another question, same one but replace Konda by Stuffy Doll, in this case, would the Elephant (only other creature) be destroyed too?
#2 • Date: 2012-12-10 • Time: 05:30:06 •
The elephant would live as there is no choice involved. The stuffy doll has the lower power so the drop would attempt to destroy that and fail. The destructibility of the creature only becomes an issue if there is more than one creature tied for the lowest power. IF there isn't the ability will just do as much as it can.
#3 • Date: 2012-12-10 • Time: 05:56:39 •
About the IPG change:
How was it before the change? Could people really "sneak in" the angel with Geist of Saint Traft before the change?

Can I still sneak in the bonus damage of Kiln Fiend?

Are lapsing abilities still a thing?
#4 • Date: 2012-12-10 • Time: 09:43:54 •
In regards to Geist of St Traft. If you didnt announce the trigger in some form, then the Angel never came around to proceed with face smashery
#5 • Date: 2012-12-10 • Time: 12:46:08 •
Lapsing triggers no longer exist.

I'm no sure how "before" you mean, but I strongly recommend not worrying about that since you can only confuse yourself by trying too hard to remember how things were plus how things are. :)
#6 • Date: 2012-12-10 • Time: 14:12:40 •
Okay, but I\'m still curious about what brought this change.

What about Kiln Fiend? Do I need to acknowledge triggers that aren\'t visual?

I can see Jace is there, so I guess it\'s \"yes\".

Speaking of that Jace example. What if I do something in between like casting a spells or blocking other creatures. Will I have to acknowledge the trigger before/during that? Or can I still wait until damage?

Last edited on 2012-12-10 17:23:03 by Rocket_Knight
#7 • Date: 2012-12-10 • Time: 16:18:49 •
About the Falkenrath Aristocrat question:

If I have multiple ones in play, my opponent casts Sever the Bloodline on one, and I sac the targetted Aristocrat to itself/one of the others (assuming that doesn\'t matter), will Sever the Bloodline fail to resolve since its target is gone? Or will all other Aristocrats still get exiled?

I\'m assuming it will fail to resolve.


PS. why are there backslashes being added to words with apostrophes?
#8 • Date: 2012-12-11 • Time: 05:51:59 •
Yes, it will fail to resolve. Since its only legal target became illegal, the spell get countered instead of resolving.

608.2b ... The spell or ability is countered if all its targets, for every instance of the word "target," are now illegal. ...
#9 • Date: 2012-12-11 • Time: 08:10:05 •
Rocket, if you declare blocks before mentioning the trigger, the trigger doesn't happen.
#10 • Date: 2012-12-18 • Time: 05:37:58 •
From the answer given in the article, the trigger definitely happens.
#11 • Date: 2012-12-18 • Time: 09:04:02 •
They really need to change "CARDNAME is indestructible" to be a static ability. Implementing indestructibility as an inherent property of a card, like token-ness or commander-ness, leads to weird rules exceptions.

I know why they originally did it that way. But we have better rules technology now. And the ability is so grokkable that even if it were implemented in some weird way under the hood, no one would play it wrong. (Oops - I just called it an ability! It's not.)
#12 • Date: 2012-12-26 • Time: 00:14:00 •
"CARDNAME is indestructible" is a static ability. It means "CARDNAME can't be destroyed", which is why you're not allowed to choose an indestructible creature for Drop of Honey when you're in a situation where you're required to make a choice.
#13 • Date: 2012-12-26 • Time: 10:43:43 •
Although "~ is indestructible" is a static ability, the implementation of indestructible is currently done as a weird exception. According to the rules:

700.4a Although the text "[This permanent] is indestructible" is an ability, actually being indestructible is neither an ability nor a characteristic. It's just something that's true about a permanent.

What does that last sentence even mean? Objects can now have properties which aren't characteristics, status, text, etc? It's just something that's true! Well okay then. And as long as it's true then 'destroy' effects are as forbidden as paying life with Platinum Emperion.

Here's why it sucks.

Imagine a Giant Spider enchanted with Flight. (lol.) If Sudden Spoiling happens then it will lose both flying and reach, obviously. Now replace Flight with Indestructibility. The Spider remains indestructible! Even dumber, a Stuffy Doll would lose its indestructibility because it was granted by a static ability.

We're allowed to target untapped lands with Rewind. We're allowed to try to Remand uncounterable spells. But we're not allowed to choose Konda in this example? How about as long as the rules manager is making "something" "true" he makes it not suck.
#14 • Date: 2012-12-29 • Time: 03:01:42 •
That last sentence is to clarify that "Indestructible" isn't a keyword ability.

The way it's treated as "something that's true about a permanent" isn't a new or weird thing. Compare it to Pacifism. If you use that in your example instead, the Spoiled Spider would still be unable to attack or block, you wouldn't be able to choose it as an attacking or blocking creature to fulfill the requirements of some effect, and none of this would strike you as being unusual at all.

The way indestructibility is handled follows well-known and established game/rules conventions.
#15 • Date: 2012-12-29 • Time: 08:13:34 •

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