Published on 12/31/2012

All Crazy Teenagers

Not to Be Confused with Those Crazy Teenagers

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

For those of you who don't know me, pfft I say. I am Moko, the Cranial Insertion secretary/mail-sorter/brain-eater, a zombified chimpanzee. That's me on the "Email Us" button at the top left. There doesn't seem to be fanfiction about me yet, but I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

With all of the regular writers celebrating the end of the year, you're once again stuck with me. I asked James what to write about and he threw the collected works of Kant at me. I asked Carsten, and he shouted "FUS RO DAH" until I went away. So I asked Eli and he told me to write about casting spells. Okay, he actually said something very rude since I was interrupting his dinner party with fleas and maggots, but I chose to interpret it as "write about casting spells" because I want to do that.

So for this week, I will not in fact be answering questions from the inbox. Eli can do that next week. If you need an answer before then, and it's not about casting spells, email me with the button up top or write to , or tweet at us @CranialTweet.

The first obvious question is "All Crazy Teenagers what? Are you on drugs, Moko?" The answer to that is "probably." I'm not sure that I was embalmed with genuine, pure formaldehyde.

To the first question: All Crazy Teenagers Have Tried Magic Pills. Level 5 judge Scott Marshall stumbled upon it years ago, and then we shoved it into the limelight like a toddler in a tiara. It's a pne... mnemno... thingy that you remember because the first letter of each word helps you remember something else. It's the steps of casting a spell, and in case you didn't see my handy glossary at the top, it stands for Announce, Choose, Target, How, Total, Mana, Pay. I could explain each step now, but that's what this whole article does, so read on! If you want to read the actual rules, this is 601.2 in the Comprehensive Rules.

Remember, these steps must be completed exactly in order. You need priority to start the process, or a resolving spell or ability needs to give you permission to start it. No player may take any action whatsoever except the ones I list until I say you may.

One last useful note: These steps apply exactly the same to activated abilities, except for the first one where you put the ability on the stack without a card to show it.

All: Announce

This step's pretty simple. You take the card from wherever it is - hand, graveyard, exile, library - and put it onto the stack. You don't need to literally "announce" it, but that's the official term for doing this. The only really weird thing here is morph, where you have to turn the card face down before moving it to the stack.

Q: Can I cast Fling by sacrificing a Meddling Mage naming Fling?

A: Nope. At this point, I haven't told you to sacrifice Meddling Mage yet, so it's still there stopping you from even starting the process of casting Fling.

Q: I want to exile my opponent's Unburial Rites in response to him casting it with flashback.

A: Oh well. You can't do anything until I say you can, and since Unburial Rites is already out of his yard and on the stack, you won't be able to exile it from his graveyard by the time I let you do stuff.

Catnip. Lots of catnip.
Crazy: Choose

Here's the bulk of the "just memorize this laundry list" work. You make a number of very important choices if applicable. These are:
For the alternative-cost part, remember that you can't mix two, and that "without paying its mana cost" is an alternative cost. The others are pretty straight-forward.

Q: Can I cast all the morphs I want whenever I want with Aluren?

A: Nope. You already chose to put it onto the stack face down, which means that you are required to choose the "pay " alternative cost. You can't mix that with Aluren's "cast without paying its mana cost," so you can't get it for free or with flash.

Q: When I Reverberate a Selesnya Charm, do I get to pick a new mode for it?

A: All of the choices made here are part of the copiable values of a spell. On the plus side, that means you do get a Devil's Play for 10 damage for just by copying the value chosen for X. On the down side, that means that you can't change the mode when you copy a spell.

Teenagers: Target

Here's where you pick targets. This doesn't always happen. It'll only happen if the spell you're casting explicitly says "target" on it. Sometimes picking targets depends on other things, like whether you paid a kicker cost (like Jilt's second target), overload cost, or spliced something on, and the modes of a modal spell usually change the spell's target count and requirements drastically.

Q: Can I cast Cyclonic Rift overloaded if all of my opponent's permanents have shroud?

A: You can! Due to choosing to overload the spell in the last step, Cyclonic Rift no longer has the word "target" in its text, so there are no targets to choose.

Q: When I activate Chandra, the Firebrand's last ability, can I choose the same player six times?

A: Nope. For each time the word "target" appears, you can't choose an object twice. This generally only matters for things like Chandra's ability here, or for Thrive, where the effect is capped but the spread of it is variable. The rule also matters for cards like Common Bond, where "target" is used twice and so you can target the same creature twice.

Let us take a moment to recall
that this card is a common.
Have: How

Here's the most boring and most skipped step. How you choose to divide stuff. This one's pretty rare, with Flames of the Firebrand and Forked Bolt being the recent-ish playable examples. It also appears more rarely distributing counters, such as on Blessings of Nature. It's important to note that the choice made here is locked in, and if one of the targets becomes illegal before the spell resolves, you do not get to redistribute the damage or counters.

Q: Can I cast Infernal Harvest for 0 and target all of my opponent's creatures so they die from Horobi, Death's Wail?

A: You can't. Each target has to be assigned at least 1 damage or one counter if you're going to target it. If you can't do so, you stop and rewind the casting. With X = 0, the only legal number of targets to choose for Infernal Harvest is zero.

As a site note, look at Infernal Harvest in this process. You choose that you'll return X Swamps back in the "Choose" step, and that affects the number of targets and the division of damage later on - but the Swamps are still there since you haven't paid any costs yet.

Q: I cast Fireball, adding an additional target and making X = 2. I target Runeclaw Bear as my first target, and a Phantasmal Image copying it as my second. How much damage gets dealt to the Bear when it resolves?

A: This question doesn't belong in this step! Intruder! Rawr! You see, I was being very specific when I said "how you choose to divide stuff." Fireball doesn't give you any choices, it just performs boring math. So it doesn't apply here, and the damage division isn't locked in. The Image dies before Fireball resolves, and Fireball deals 2 damage to the Bear.

Tried: Total

Now you take your little shopping cart of spell up to the cash register so you can finalize the transaction. We'll stick with that analogy for a little bit, in fact.

This is the part where the cashier scans your cart and pops up the total on the register. No haggling allowed, but if you have coupons in your cart, they'll be rung up.

Start with the mana cost, those circles in the top-right corner. First, take any variables like anywhere in this process and set them. Do you have anything saying to pay a different cost, like overload, morph, flashback, or Force of Will? Awesome, apply that now and replace the mana cost. Next, add on any additional costs that you've chosen to (or are required to) pay, and then apply any discounts you have lined up. Lastly, apply Trinisphere if there's one out and untapped. Trinisphere gets its own step because it's a silly card.

After you've done this math, you've got the total cost, some or all of which might not be mana. It's locked in now while you go through the rest of the process. The cashier can't surprise you with a change.

Q: How does Goblin Electromancer work with a hardcast Bonfire of the Damned?

A: Go through the whole process bit by bit. Start with the mana cost, with X defined (we'll call it 3 here): , also known by those proficient at addition as . Apply any alternative costs: None, you're not casting it by miracle. Apply any additional costs: Also none. Apply any reductions: Yes! You save on this spell! Awesome! So the cost is now . Trinisphere isn't involved, so good riddance. The final cost is .

Q: With Trinisphere out, do I have to pay and 2 life to cast Gitaxian Probe with life, or and 2 life?

A: Way back in the "Crazy/Choose" step, you choose to pay 2 life rather than for the in the cost. So now you start with the mana cost: 2 life. No alternative costs, no additional costs, no reductions. And then you go to apply Trinisphere, since that blasted artifact is actually here this time. It sees that you're not actually paying any mana for the cost, so it bumps the cost up to plus 2 life.

Magic: Mana

Now, while the cashier waits impatiently, you dig through your assorted mana sources for mana abilities to activate to pay for your spell. If you're a considerate shopper, you might already have your mana out and ready (that is, you've already produced the mana and it's waiting in your mana pool for you to spend). However, due to a particularly "hilarious" disqualification for announcing spells repeatedly without producing mana first, this step was added to the process and you can wait until this point to actually produce the mana.

Remember that you're not handing it to the cashier yet. You're just pulling your mana out. Also remember that if an ability targets or is a loyalty ability, it's not a mana ability.

Q: Can I cast Thoughtcast with only a Black Lotus and a Forest on the battlefield?

A: You can! At this step of the process, you've locked in the cost to cast Thoughtcast at by applying affinity. You can sacrifice your Lotus for some blue mana, and that cost remains locked in.

Q: I tapped all my lands to cast a spell, and then my opponent realized that I didn't have enough mana. Now what?

A: Now you reverse the casting. Pick the spell back up, and untap your lands. At a Competitive-level tournament, you get a Warning for breaking the game rules, but at FNM or a casual game, there's no penalty other than being teased. By a strict reading of the Comprehensive Rules, you can only untap the lands if you specifically tapped them as part of casting the spell in this step, rather than tapping them ahead of time, but in reality, you can rewind them either way.

Pills: Pay

It's the moment you've all been waiting for! This is where you pay the cashier. The cashier isn't picky - you can hand over the payments in any order. It is sequential, though, and that can lead to some interesting things even though players don't get priority to do anything in between the payments.

Q: I have nine green mana in my mana pool, and cast Momentous Fall sacrificing Omnath, Locus of Mana. How many cards do I get?

A: You have a choice here. You can sacrifice Omnath first, so that its power is 10 and you get ten cards and 10 life; or you can pay first and then sacrifice Omnath so you get six cards and 6 life. The two key tidbits here are that Omnath's power and toughness do continuously update, even in the middle of this step, and that Omnath's power as you sacrifice it is all that matters, not how much green mana you have afterward.

Q: If I control a Wild Cantor and no other available mana sources, can I convoke Sprout Swarm?

A: You can't. Way back in the "Crazy/Choose" step, you chose to tap one creature to convoke away or , but you didn't tap it then. You only made a choice. You have to tap it here, while you're paying costs. If you sacrificed your little Cantor in the "Magic/Mana" step, tapping it here is impossible and your Sprout Swarm is illegal.

All Done!

Finally, we're done. Any abilities that trigger when a spell, or this specific spell, is cast get to trigger now. The game goes to give priority to the player who just cast the spell, and before that, state-based actions clean up anything that got weird while you were casting, and then any triggers that triggered from casting the spell (conspire, replicate, Emrakul's trigger) or elsewhere earlier in the process (like a Phantasmal Image that was targeted or a Runewing that was Flung) all go on the stack. Normal AP/NAP ordering applies, and even though Phantasmal Image's trigger triggered distinctly before Runewing's, assuming you Flung the birdy at your own Image for some silly reason, you get to choose the order for those triggers you control.

Q: Can I conspire Fling sacrificing Wort, the Raidmother?

A: You can try, but it won't help. In the "Crazy/Choose" step, you select to conspire. In the "Tried/Total" step, you add "tap two red creatures" as a cost. In the "Pills/Pay" step, you tap two red creatures and sacrifice Wort. Now when you complete the process, Fling no longer has conspire. Wort's dead and gone. There's no ability to trigger, even though you paid the cost, and this is just weird.

Q: Bone Splinters is the last card in my hand, and I control Kagemaro, First to Suffer. Can I sacrifice Kagemaro to cast Bone Splinters?

A: Whether or not Kagemaro has bones under all that blob is debatable, but the fact that you can do this is not. At no point in the whole long process have state-based actions been checked, so the whole time Kagemaro was a 0/0 blob on the battlefield going ":(" and moping, and then in the "Pills/Pay" step, you sacrificed it before state-based actions could drag it away after the process was done.

Now you're all set to cast all the spells you like. I'm going to go take my revenge on the writers by flooding their inboxes with your emails and various spam, but I'll see you all again in a few months for the Gatecrash Gruul article. Until then, keep your brains safe and delicious for me as the new year begins!


About the Author:
Moko was born in Tanzania, and died in a tragic accident involving a catapult while being transported from Eli Shiffrin to Thijs van Ommen between the first two Cranial Insertion articles. Subsequently zombified, he helps sort their mail and occasionally answers questions. His pastimes include bananas and brains. Mmm brains.

Can I pay part of the mana for Momentous Fall, sacrifice Omnath and then pay the rest?

Also, do we still consider all actions described by a verb to be simultaneous for costs? If I activate Sword of the Ages ability, sacrificing Ballynock Cohort and an Elite Vanguard- is X always 5 or can I make it 4 by sacrificing the vanguard first?
#1 • Date: 2012-12-31 • Time: 10:35:59 •
Those are very good questions. Please email it over to us so we'll remember to double-check the answer after EfNet is resurrected and the holiday's over!
#2 • Date: 2012-12-31 • Time: 16:41:27 •
Will do.

Thanks for another great article.
#3 • Date: 2013-01-01 • Time: 03:45:32 •
Quote (Rocket_Knight):
Can I pay part of the mana for Momentous Fall, sacrifice Omnath and then pay the rest?

No. Partial payments are not allowed, so you have to pay the mana component of the cost in full either before or after paying the sacrifice cost.


Also, do we still consider all actions described by a verb to be simultaneous for costs? If I activate Sword of the Ages ability, sacrificing Ballynock Cohort and an Elite Vanguard- is X always 5 or can I make it 4 by sacrificing the vanguard first?

A single verb always represents one simultaneous action (unless explicitly stated otherwise), regardless of whether it's in a cost or in an effect. Hence, the X in your situation is always 5 since there's no order in which the creatures are sacrificed.
#4 • Date: 2013-01-01 • Time: 13:40:13 •
This article was pretty awesome. Thanks guys!
#5 • Date: 2013-01-01 • Time: 21:56:20 •
I'm not sure I understand the answer to the Wild Cantor/Sprout Swarm question. Why wouldn't you be able to tap it then sacrifice it for mana?
#6 • Date: 2013-01-02 • Time: 08:22:13 •
Quote (DarkWolff):
I'm not sure I understand the answer to the Wild Cantor/Sprout Swarm question. Why wouldn't you be able to tap it then sacrifice it for mana?

To get mana out of the Cantor you have to activate its mana ability, but that activation happens in the "mana" step. No abilities — even mana abilities — can be played during the "pay" step.

So, if you sacrifice the Cantor in the mana step to help pay the mana part of your cost, then the Cantor won't exist anymore when you actually make the payment. Since part of the payment you agreed to is "tap this Cantor", you are unable to pay for the spell and have broken the rules / made a mistake, requiring a rewind so you can try again.
#7 • Date: 2013-01-02 • Time: 09:19:43 •

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