Published on 02/18/2013

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

or, Sneaky Questions

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Nothing is forbidden.
Everything is permitted.
The Orzhov sell salvation for pennies, but what if there were something better? The knowledge to get you whatever you want, to defy right and wrong, to stand firm in the face of death itself - what would you pay for that? Certainly more than pennies. Knowledge is power, and power is what we offer in House Dimir, to those worthy, to those who pay, to those who truly desire it. The power to have what you desire, the power to find your way in the darkest shadows, and the power to remove those who dare to find themselves in your way.

It would be only fitting that we occlude this article from your eyes until the proper price is paid, but we have decided to offer you a taste. A rather large taste. Okay, we're keeping Cranial Insertion free because House Dimir doesn't have any sway in our dimension and we're nice people. Fine. You got me to admit our dark secret. Happy?

If you'd like some more free power, send us an email at , or tweet us at @CranialTweet. For now, let's look into some of the mysteries of the Dimir.

Q: In a multiplayer game, can I let player A attack player B, kill him, and then Aetherize A's creatures?

A: That clever play will work out nicely. An attacking creature remains an attacking creature until the combat phase is over, regardless of what happens to the defending player, blocking creatures, etcetera. Players get priority during the combat damage step after damage is dealt, as well as the end of combat step, and in either of those steps you can Aetherize the army that's outlived its usefulness.

Q: Do my creatures remain encoded when they phase out?

A: Nope! Even though phased-out creatures are on the battlefield, the rule that checks to see if the card is encoded can't see the creature anymore, so it stops caring and goes off for coffee at the Eternity Cafe. When the creature phases back in, it'll find itself boring and unencoded.

Q: Since Nightveil Specter says to play the cards, not cast them, do I get them for free?

A: The only difference between "play" and "cast" is that lands can be played but cannot be cast. Playing a card is only free if the effect letting you play it explicitly says so, or if it doesn't have a cost anyway.

Q: What happens when my Nightveil Specter is taken with Act of Treason?

A: Now your opponent can attack you and exile one of your cards! Nightveil Specter's ability that lets you cast the exiled cards is separate from the ability that exiled them, so only its current controller - now your opponent - can play the exiled cards. He can cast as much as he can, and then you can cast what's left when you get it back, which might include the card he exiled from your library.

Q: When I cast a card with cipher from Nightveil Specter, do I get to encode it onto one of my creatures?

A: You do! It doesn't matter who owns the card with cipher, or how you're casting it - the controller of the spell may choose to encode it on one of his or her creatures. Because why should thievery only have to happen once?

Q: How does cipher work when the spell also has rebound thanks to Cast through Time?

A: Rebound exiles the card as it would go to a graveyard while resolving and sets it up to fire again later. However, thanks to cipher tucking it away on one of your creatures, it never even tries to go to a graveyard. Rebound does nothing.

Q: Snapcaster Mage lets me flash back Hands of Binding, and I want to encode it on Snappy. Can I do that?

A: Oh, blue, is there anything your overpowered toys can't do? This does work out very well in your favor. Flashback tries to exile the spell if it goes anywhere from the stack other than to exile. Since cipher's exiling the spell, flashback also does nothing, and goes to have a little pity party with rebound.

Q: If my spell with cipher is countered, do I still get to encode it?

A: Nope. Encoding is just one of the instructions performed during the resolution of the spell. If it doesn't resolve, you don't get to perform any of its instructions.

Q: Do I get cipher copies when the encoded creature hits a planeswalker?

A: You won't. Despite certain branding saying that you are a planeswalker, you aren't. Tough truth. Planeswalkers are also very clearly not players. Dealing damage to them won't get you a trigger from anything that cares about dealing damage to a player.

Q: If I have Undead Alchemist and I attack with another Zombie that has a card encoded, would cipher trigger?

A: You won't get a cipher trigger. Undead Alchemist replaces the damage with milling, and since the damage was replaced, it never happens. Without damage actually happening, cipher can't trigger.

Q: Does giving a creature protection from blue remove the Call of the Nightwing encoded on it?

A: Your Call is safe - cipher does not damage, enchant, block, or target the creature, so protection doesn't interact with it in any way. You can even encode a creature that always has protection from blue!

Tastes like candy!
Q: If I sneak Cheatyface onto the battlefield, do I get to untap Blasting Station?

A: Un alert! Un alert! Answers from Un-world are not set in stone, but they're fun. The shared opinion among Cranial Insertionists is that if you call attention to the trigger, you're still in a time frame for your opponent to point out your shenanigans, and you'll have to exile Cheatyface. An alternative interpretation is that you have to sneak Cheatyface onto the battlefield, and acknowledging anything about that is not very sneaky.

Q: Can I target a tapped creature with Hands of Binding?

A: You can - the only requirement is "target creature an opponent controls." Nothing says it has to be untapped to begin with. That creature just won't untap during its controller's next untap step then.

Q: I hit a creature with Hands of Binding, swing, and then hit it with the copy. Does it stay tapped for two turns?

A: Only one. This isn't a "skip" effect, which add up (you can't skip the same thing twice, after all). It's just setting a rule for the next untap step, and multiples of that rule are redundant.

Q: I have a Consuming Aberration and hit a 5/5 with Grisly Spectacle. Does he mill five before or after he grinds for one?

A: He'll grind first. If an ability triggers on a spell being cast, it will always resolve before the spell resolves.

The art is clearly
showing a tail.
Q: I control Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and Grisly Spectacle Mikaeus, the Lunarch and he flips over Wolfir Silverheart. Can I make Lazav into a copy of Mikaeus, add a counter, and then make it into a Wolfir?

A: That crazy chain of events does let you do that. Even though Mikaeus dies first, the triggers all go on the stack at the same time and may be ordered as you like. Each Lazav trigger resolves individually, with players getting a chance to do things in between them.

Q: How can I tell whether a card like Black Sun's Zenith implicitly targets or not?

A: That's simple enough: Nothing ever, ever, ever "implicitly" targets. Something either explicitly uses the word "target" and thus targets, or it does not. Rarely, the "target" may be buried in the meaning of a keyword that's missing reminder text, such as enchant and equip; for new keywords, though, it will always appear in the reminder text.

Q: My opponent has a Havoc Festival out, and I've got Duskmantle Seer. Which happens first during my upkeep?

A: The active player (you) puts his triggers on the stack first, and then the nonactive player does; and then the topmost object resolves first. So your opponent's Havoc Festival will chop your life before your Seer takes some life away.

Q: What's the rule about how many foils I can have in my tournament deck?

A: The only rule regarding foils is the same one that applies to every other card in your deck: they can't be marked. Foils often curve unusually in ways that normal cards don't, which makes them awkward in any place with nonzero humidity, but that just means that you need to be more careful or run 100% or 0% foils - there's no magical percentage that somehow makes your warped foils not marked.

Q: What stuff can I lie about in a tournament?

A: The first rule: You can't lie about anything if a judge is asking. That gets you disqualified.

The second rule: If your opponent is asking about information he doesn't have the right to (what is in your hand or deck, what you drafted or have in sideboard, what a face-down creature is), you can lie as much as amuses you.

The third rule: You cannot state anything that is untrue about card text, game rules, the current game state, life totals, and so on. In some situations, you may omit details, especially those that you don't believe are immediately relevant, but you can't state anything that is false.

Q: May I just straight-up show my opponent that I have a Psychic Strike in hand to dash his spirits?

A: Any time you have access to information in a game, you can show it off for any reason - laziness ("I don't feel like holding up my hand"), multiplayer strategy ("I have this, so you do that..."), or demoralization ("I have seven counterspells, good luck resolving anything."). As long as you're not being obnoxious with your demoralization, you're okay.

Q: My opponent cast two creature spells while he controlled Consuming Aberration, and then told me to grind for two lands. Isn't that a missed trigger under the new policy, so I only grind for one?

A: Out-of-Order-Sequencing still applies. Also known as OOOS, that means "a player does something technically wrong with with a legal result and in a way that he doesn't realistically get an advantage from it." Casting two spells before resolving the triggers from both is a good example of that, as long as there aren't significant pauses and whatnot that indicate that maybe he did in fact forget the trigger until he had cast the second spell. OOOS represents "playing Magic like humans and not punishing people for not being machines," and it supersedes all other points of policy when applied appropriately.

That's enough lurking in the shadows for this week. Join us next week when we island-hop over to the Simic with a special Simic-aligned guest writer to discuss the theory of evolution.

Until next time, may you wield your power well.

- 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.

About phasing and Cipher:

That's an interesting catch. I take it it's because the card says "as long as" and that duration ends when the creature phases out.

But if it's just the effect that ends, then technically, the cipher card would still be encoded on the creature after it phases in again, but without any functional effect. Right?

I mean, if a Haunt card was haunting a creature, and the creature phases out and later phases in, the Haunt card would be haunting that creature. Right?
#1 • Date: 2013-02-18 • Time: 03:42:33 •
Why doesn't the encoded card remain encoded after the creature phases in?

Cipher is not an effect with a limited duration from a resolving spell or ability ("for as long as"). It's a continuous effect from a static ability with a condition to apply ("for as long as"). It shouldn't expire, I think.
#2 • Date: 2013-02-18 • Time: 04:39:07 •
Wouldn't making Lazav into a copy of Mikaeus always be a bad idea? Wouldn't it die from state based actions for having zero toughness before any of the other triggers could resolve?
#3 • Date: 2013-02-18 • Time: 08:38:38 •
Oh, you\'re right Nylon, it\'s static so it\'s not the culprit. But checking the rules again, there\'s a rule that gives it duration:

702.97c The card with cipher remains encoded on the chosen creature as long as the card with cipher remains exiled and the creature remains on the battlefield. The card remains encoded on that object even if it changes controller or stops being a creature, as long as it remains on the battlefield.

This kind of rule doesn\'t appear for Haunt, so I guess that they re-haunt creatures that phase-in.
#4 • Date: 2013-02-19 • Time: 03:57:57 •
That rule still uses the wording that implies a condition rather than a duration.

Compare Aegis Angel to Angelic Overseer.

If Aegis Angel (resolving ability, "for as long as") phases out and in, the other permanent will stop being indestructible forever.

If the only human on the battlefield phases out and in, the Overseer (static ability, "as long as", same as cipher) will lose and then regain hexproof.
#5 • Date: 2013-02-19 • Time: 05:01:52 •
I get what you say Nylon. But the rules themselves don\'t follow the same conventions as card templates.

Also, the rules say \"remains encoded\". Showing that the card stops being \"encoded\" when the condition stops being true, and that it doesn\'t get to be considered \"encoded\" again if the condition becomes true again.
#6 • Date: 2013-02-20 • Time: 14:10:06 •

Last edited on 2013-03-05 18:43:36 by Esplin
#7 • Date: 2013-03-05 • Time: 18:13:49 •

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