Published on 01/14/2013

Three Years and Counting

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Time flies when you're having fun!
Welcome back and happy new year! Back in January of 2010 I wrote my first issue of Cranial Insertion, which means that I have now been a member of this wacky team of rules nuts for three full years. At one issue every three weeks and about 20 questions per issue, that means I have answered over 1000 rules questions in this column so far. As crazy as that number sounds, it's eclipsed by Eli's who is coming up on 8 years later this year.

Some things have changed since I started three years ago. Back then I was a level 0 judge with little tournament experience; now I am a level 2 judge with ambition for level 3. Back then we didn't have a presence on Twitter; now you can send your questions via email to or by tweeting to @CranialTweet.

Many things have not changed, though. Our readers still have plenty of rules questions to answer, I still enjoy writing this column, and I hope that you still enjoy reading it. Let's celebrate my three year anniversary with another selection of questions from our inbox!

We'll start off with a correction to a question from last week:

Q: My opponent casts Temporal Mastery and Reverberates it, then I Reverberate it in response to his Reverberate. What happens now?

A: The boring rulesy answer is that extra turns are taken in the opposite order as created, similar to things resolving on the stack. But let's use a visual!

Here's the turn order, with the current turn bolded and player turns named O and Y for "opponent" and "you": YOYOYOYO

Your Reverberate resolves first, so a copy of Temporal Mastery resolves for you, so now we have (with extra turns underlined): YOYOYYOYO

Your opponent's Reverberate and the resulting copy of Temporal Mastery resolve next: YOYOOYYOYO

And now your opponent's Temporal Mastery resolves: YOYOOOYYOYO

Each time a "take an extra turn after this one" effect is created, you just tack that extra turn on immediately after the current one, and they'll accumulate and then happen just as the funny string of letters is laid out.

Q: My opponent controls Norn's Annex and I attack with Thragtusk. Can I use Deathrite Shaman's first ability to pay the attack cost?

A: No, that doesn't work. Deathrite Shaman's ability has a target, which means that it can't be a mana ability. Since it's not a mana ability, you can only activate it when you could cast an instant, and during the declaration of attackers is not one of those times. You'd have to activate the ability in the beginning of combat step, but then the mana will just disappear from your mana pool when you go into the declare attackers step.

Q: Can I fetch Cairn Wanderer with Mwonvuli Beast Tracker if a creature card with trample is in a graveyard?

A: No. Cairn Wanderer doesn't have trample. It has an ability that might give it trample, but that ability only functions on the battlefield because it has no reason to function elsewhere. In particular, the ability doesn't work in the library, and Mwonvuli Beast Tracker doesn't care about Cairn Wanderer's trampling potential.

Q: My opponent just brought out a Batterskull. What happens if I use Reality Ripple to phase out the Germ token that's wielding the Batterskull?

A: What happens is that your opponent gets to say goodbye to his Batterskull forever, at least for the duration of that game. When the token phases out, everything that's attached to it phases out indirectly along with it. Permanents that phased out indirectly can only phase back in indirectly, along with the permanent that originally caused them to phase out indirectly. This leaves the Batterskull in a bit of a pickle because a token that's phased out ceases to exist, so the Batterskull has lost its ride back to the material state of existence and it's stuck phased out forever! Cue evil laughter!

Q: How effective is the combination of Progenitus and Concerted Effort?

A: It's SUPER EFFECTIVE! Progenitus's protection won't stop Concerted Effort from looking at it, so Concerted Effort will give protection from everything to all your creatures. Meanwhile, protection won't stop Concerted Effort from giving abilities to Progenitus either, so if any of your creatures have useful abilities like flying or double strike, Progenitus gets those abilities, too.

Q: My opponent just played Dark Depths and announced that he's removing its counters with Vampire Hexmage. Can I respond with Contagion Clasp's ability to keep the Marit Lage token from coming out?

A: Not so much, no. Vampire Hexmage's ability doesn't lock in how many counters it wants to remove; it simply removes all counters it sees when the ability resolves. If you respond to the Hexmage's ability, you'll proliferate one counter onto Dark Depths that the Hexmage will remove right away. If you let the Hexmage ability resolve first and respond to Dark Depth's trigger, there won't be a counter on Dark Depths to proliferate. Either way, Marit Lage is coming to town.

Q: Do my opponents get to see which cards I choose when I cast Ill-Gotten Gains?

A: That depends on whose turn it is, but since Ill-Gotten Gains is a sorcery, I'll assume it's your turn. The choices are made in active-player-nonactive-player order (APNAP), so the active player goes first, which is you, and then the choices proceed in turn order. Since the cards are chosen from a public zone, each player knows what cards the players before them have chosen, so your opponents can play around your choices. If you don't want them to have that advantage, you should find a way to cast Ill-Gotten Gains during an opponent's turn, preferably the opponent to your left so you'll choose last.

Did you know that there are four Magic cards
with the word "Three" in their name?
Q: Let's say I control an Akroma, Angel of Wrath and a Squire, and I cast Conspiracy naming Sliver. Does my Squire get all of Akroma's abilities now?

A: Unfortunately not. The Sliver creature type doesn't automatically cause any ability sharing. Natural-born Slivers only share their abilities because they have explicit ability-granting abilities such as "All Sliver creatures have double strike." Akroma doesn't have such an ability even if you turn her into a Sliver, so she won't share her extraordinary abilities with your lowly Squire.

Q: If I Ghostly Flicker a Clone and a Thragtusk, can the Clone that's coming back copy the Thragtusk?

A: Nope. Clone has a replacement effect that changes how it enters the battlefield, and this replacement effect is applied before it actually enters the battlefield. When you choose what to copy, you can only choose something that already on the battlefield at that moment, and the Thragtusk isn't there yet because it'll show up on the battlefield at exactly the same time as the Clone.

Q: How many counters does my Druids' Repository get if I attack with Geist of Saint Traft?

A: Only one, I'm afraid. Druids' Repository only triggers for creatures that are declared as attackers. Creatures that are put onto the battlefield attacking after attackers have been declared don't count.

Q: If I have three Heartless Summonings out, does that give my Maga, Traitor to Mortals six extra counters?

A: Not exactly, but close enough. When you cast Maga, you choose a number for X and then you calculate the cost you have to pay for that spell. For example, if you choose X=6, the resulting mana cost is and then you apply the cost reductions from Heartless Summoning, which yields a total cost of just . For that cost, you're getting a Maga with six +1/+1 counters that you didn't pay for, which is a pretty good deal even if the Heartless Summonings shrink it to 3/3.

Q: Would a Sword of Kaldra in the hands of a pinger be good against my opponent's Blightsteel Colossus?

A: I'd say so. Anytime your pinger deals damage to a creature, this triggers the Sword's ability to exile that creature. Exile means "go to Saint Helena", not "you're dead" or "go to the graveyard", so the Colossus's indestructibility and its replacement effect are entirely irrelevant and powerless to prevent this forced vacation.

Q: If I copy Diaochan, Artful Beauty's ability with Rings of Brighthearth, who chooses the targets for the copy?

A: You do! The instruction in Diaochan's ability for who chooses its targets only matters when the ability is activated. Rings of Brighthearth's ability says that you choose the targets for the copy, so that's what you do.

Q: I have a suspended Ancestral Vision with four time counters in the exile zone and my opponent controls Leyline of the Void. If my opponent casts Pull from Eternity on my Ancestral Vision, what happens?

A: What happens is that the card moves from the exile zone to the exile zone, so it doesn't actually move at all. However, due to a quirk in the rules it becomes a new object that has been newly exiled. The Ancestral Vision with four counters ceases to be, and its place gets taken by a new Ancestral Vision that has no reason to have time counters on it, so there are no time counters on it and it's just a lonely exiled card. This does not trigger the "cast me now" ability, since no time counters were actually removed from the new Ancestral Vision.

Q: My opponent controls Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and I copy Teferi with Sakashima the Impostor. How does the game decide which one of us is restricted to sorcery speed and which one of us can cast flashy creature spells?

A: The answers are "both" and "neither" in that order. Your Sakashima/Teferi creates a restriction on when your opponent can cast spells and your opponent's Teferi creates a restriction on when you can cast spells. Restrictions always override permissions — which is often described as the Golden Rule that "can't" beats "can" — so both you and your opponent are restricted to only casting spells when you could cast sorceries.

Here's to many more years!
Q: If I cast Past In Flames following my Shaman's Trance, would that give flashback to cards in my opponents' graveyards and allow me to cast them?

A: No, that doesn't work. Past in Flames only gives flashback to cards that are actually in your graveyard. Shaman's Trance doesn't move your opponents' graveyards into yours; it just lets you cast cards from your opponents' graveyards if your opponents could somehow cast them, for example if the cards already have flashback.

Q: I enchant my opponent with Curse of Bloodletting and cast Havoc Festival. Do I win on his next turn?

A: Only if he's already down to 1 life. Havoc Festival causes loss of life, not damage, so the Curse won't double the amount of life loss. Your opponent will live for a little while longer.

Q: If I control Omniscience, can I cast overloaded spell for free now?

A: Nope, sorry. Omniscience gives the spell an alternative cost that allows you to cast the spell for free, and overload is also an alternative cost, and you can't combine two alternative costs.

Q: What happens if I target two creatures with Cannibalize and one of them gets bounced or killed in response?

A: First, Cannibalize checks whether it still has at least one legal target. Part of this check is to verify that both targets are controlled by the same player. The last known information of the target that has disappeared says that it was controlled by the same player as the target that's still there, so the targeting requirement is still fulfilled and Cannibalize still has a legal target. This means that Cannibalize resolves and does as much as it can. You start by exiling one of the target creatures, which is the one remaining target, and then you discover that there is no other target creature there that could receive the +1/+1 counters. How unfortunate.

Q: Does a face-down commander still deal commander damage?

A: Yup! Commanders deal commander damage simply by virtue of being a commander, and being a commander is a property of the physical card itself. That property is not tied to any specific abilities on the card and doesn't go away when the card is face down.

Q: My friend says that if he controls Witchbane Orb and I forget it and try to target him with a Lava Axe, I have to target myself. Is that true?

A: No, that's not true. Magic is not a game of "Gotcha!" — When a player casts a spell illegally, the entire casting process is rewound: The card goes back to the player's hand (or wherever it was cast from), and any lands that were tapped to cast the spell get untapped. The player may then cast the spell with a legal target or not cast that spell at all and take another legal action instead.

And that's all the time we have for now. Next week, James will present the last issue before we go crashing gates. Don't miss it!

- Carsten Haese

About the Author:
Carsten Haese is a former Level 2 judge based in Toledo, OH. He is retired from active judging, but he still writes for Cranial Insertion and helps organize an annual charity Magic tournament that benefits the National MS Society.

Re: The Witchbane Orb question: But what if the target is from a trigger ability, like valakut? Or Cunning Sparkmage targeting the player?
#1 • Date: 2013-01-14 • Time: 05:43:58 •
About the Batterskull not phasing in: Why is this not a case for Rule 702.24h?
"An Aura, Equipment, or Fortification that phased out directly will phase in attached to the object or player it was attached to when it phased out, if that object is still in the same zone or that player is still in the game. If not, that Aura, Equipment, or Fortification phases in unattached. State-based actions apply as appropriate."
#2 • Date: 2013-01-14 • Time: 07:28:33 •
@AzaghalsMask: When tokens phase out, they just leave the game for good, meaning they can't phase back in. Anything attached to that token gets removed from the game as well. Or at least that's my understanding from having read these articles.
#3 • Date: 2013-01-14 • Time: 09:14:04 •
Re: The Witchbane Orb question: But what if the target is from a trigger ability, like valakut? Or Cunning Sparkmage targeting the player?

Pretty much the same thing. The game is rewound to the point where the illegal play was made. In the case of Valakut, a new target would need to be chosen. In the case of the sparkmage, the entire ability is rewound.
#4 • Date: 2013-01-14 • Time: 09:55:56 •
@AzaghalsMask: What the article is referring to is slightly different from the rule you brought up. In the article they are talking about the token being directly phased, which indirectly phases out everything attached to it. The rule you are quoting pertains to if someone chose to phase out the Batterskull.
#5 • Date: 2013-01-14 • Time: 10:41:23 •
Re: Witchbane Orb situation
I feel like the heart of a lot of confusion about things like this stems from the difference in interaction between the given example and Oblivion Ring (As illustrated here: it's question 3).
#6 • Date: 2013-01-14 • Time: 17:01:43 •
+1 for the Napoleon reference :).
#7 • Date: 2013-01-16 • Time: 09:22:10 •
Quote (Dread):
+1 for the Napoleon reference :).

Thanks. We make references to Buffy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Game of Thrones, and more, but a reference to French history gets a reaction. It's like we don't understand our audience at all ;)
#8 • Date: 2013-01-17 • Time: 08:03:11 •
Quote (Carsten):
Thanks. We make references to Buffy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Game of Thrones, and more, but a reference to French history gets a reaction. It's like we don't understand our audience at all ;)

Perhaps they are bigger/more well-known in the US. Here in Europe, French history is the way to go for a fun pastime ;).
#9 • Date: 2013-02-12 • Time: 15:27:16 •

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