Published on 03/11/2013

Gates Crashed

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Who needs a gate when you
have a glowing sword?
Greetings and welcome to the first "normal" episode of Cranial Insertion after the release of Gatecrash. Our tour of the guilds has concluded, all the gates have been crashed, and we now return to our regularly scheduled programming of answering Magic rules questions from all over the multiverse. However, first I'd like to commend James for handling Moko while preparing last week's Gruul episode. Since his zombification, Moko has usually been a fine writer without requiring a translator, but for that episode he was overcome by his Gruul instincts and simply refused to write without a translator. Thanks for taking one for the team, James!

As always, if you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet at @CranialTweet. One of our writers will answer directly, and your question might even appear in a future issue.

Q: There are three cards in my graveyard, so my opponent's Consuming Aberration is 3/3. One of those cards is a Dimir Charm. Can I use Snapcaster Mage to flash back Dimir Charm and destroy the Aberration?

A: Yes, that works. The first step of casting a spell is to take it from where it is and to put it on the stack, and a bit later you choose targets. When you move Dimir Charm from your graveyard to the stack, Consuming Aberration immediately becomes 2/2, so it is now a legal target for Dimir Charm's second mode.

Q: When Mutilate resolves, does it count shock lands such as Overgrown Tomb? What about Golgari Guildgate or Woodland Cemetery?

A: Mutilate counts how many Swamps you control, which means it counts lands that have the Swamp subtype. They don't have to be basic Swamps, so Overgrown Tomb will count, as will any land that is enchanted with Contaminated Ground. Golgari Guildgate and Woodland Cemetery can produce black mana, but that doesn't make them Swamps. Mutilate won't count them any more than it would count Elves of Deep Shadow.

Q: If I give Illusionist's Bracers to Jhoira of the Ghitu, would I be able to suspend two cards with four time counters each?

A: Unfortunately not. Exiling a card is part of the cost of Jhoira's ability, and the cost isn't copied, but the copied ability remembers which card you exiled to pay the cost. This means that both the original ability and the copy will put four time counters on the card you exiled to pay for the original ability, for a total of eight. Instead of getting twice as many spells, you get one spell that takes twice as long to happen, which doesn't seem all that useful.

Q: I control Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and plan to gain a lot of life by activating Ajani, Caller of the Pride's ultimate ability. However, my opponent controls Blood Seeker. How will this play out?

A: This won't end well for you if you pop Ajani's ultimate. You put a litter of kittens onto the battlefield equal to your life total, so that many instances of Trostani's ability and that many instances of Blood Seeker's ability trigger at the same time. Those triggers go on the stack in APNAP order, which means that your Trostani triggers go on the stack first because it is your turn, followed by your opponent's Blood Seeker triggers. Last-in-first-out means that the Blood Seeker triggers resolve first and you lose life equal to your life total. Ouch!

Q: Let's say I control a bunch of Eldrazi Spawn tokens and I sacrifice them for mana. Can I use Second Sunrise to get them back so I can sac them again for even more mana?

A: No, that won't work for two reasons. For one, the tokens will cease to exist shortly after hitting the graveyard, long before you even get to cast Second Sunrise. Also, Second Sunrise only returns cards from graveyards, and tokens are never considered to be cards.

Q: If I control Leyline of Singularity, can I use Time of Need to tutor up a Snapcaster Mage?

A: Nice try, but no. Leyline of Singularity only affects permanents, which by definition only exist on the battlefield, so the cards in your library are not affected by it. That Snapcaster Mage in your library might be awesome, but it's not legendary.

Q: If I use Riptide Mangler's ability to change its power to Serra Avatar's power, does Riptide Mangler's power change with my life total now?

A: That would be entertaining and possibly useful, but it doesn't work that way. When the ability resolves, it looks at Serra Avatar's power at that moment, and then it creates a continuous effect that sets Riptide Mangler's power to that number. The effect is locked in and won't change when Serra Avatar's power changes.

I don't feel quite like myself today.
Q: If I cast Rapid Hybridization on my opponent's creature and he gives it hexproof in response, does he still get a token?

A: Nope. When Rapid Hybridization starts to resolve, it checks whether its target is still legal. Hexproofing has made the creature an illegal target, so Rapid Hybridization is countered on resolution because its only target has become illegal. Your opponent won't get a token, but at least he'll get to keep his creature.

Q: What happens if he makes his creature indestructible instead?

A: In that case, he gets to keep his creature and he gets a token! Being indestructible doesn't make his creature an illegal target, so Rapid Hybridization is not countered on resolution. It resolves and does as much as it can. It tries and fails to destroy your opponent's creature, and since the token creation isn't conditional on having destroyed the target creature, he also gets a happy 3/3 Frogodile token.

Q: My opponent controls Mindcrank and Bloodchief Ascension with three counters on it. I control Vampire Hexmage which I want to use to get the counters off of the Bloodchief Ascension. Will sacrificing my Hexmage start my opponent's combo or can I somehow stack the abilities so that I survive?

A: Unfortunately you have no choice in how the abilities go on the stack. To activate Vampire Hexmage's ability, you first put the ability on the stack, and then you pay for the ability which triggers Bloodchief Ascension's ability, so your opponent's ability ends up on the stack above yours. Bloodchief Ascension's ability resolves, which triggers Mindcrank's ability, so now Mindcrank's ability goes on the stack on top of your ability that's still waiting to resolve. Mindcrank and Bloodchief Ascension continue to trigger each other until you're cranky and dead, and your Hexmage's ability never gets the chance to resolve.

Q: Suppose I control two Master Biomancers and I Ghostly Flicker both of them. With how many counters do the come back?

A: They'll come back with zero counters. Master Biomancer's ability only works if it's already on the battlefield at the moment that another creature is entering the battlefield. This is because the ability creates a replacement effect that has to exist when the event it's replacing happens, as opposed to an enter-the-battlefield trigger that checks after the event what happened. Since both Biomancers are reentering the battlefield at the same time, neither is already on the battlefield at the time the other is entering, so their effects won't apply to each other.

Q: If my opponent Essence Harvests me and I Reverberate his spell, does my copy use the same X as the original or does it look at the greatest power among creatures I control?

A: It looks at creatures you control. If the X were a choice your opponent made, such as with Fireball, Reverberate would copy that choice. In Essence Harvest's case, the X is not a choice, though. It is determined when the spell resolves, and "you" refers to the spell's controller. You control the copy, so the copy looks at the creatures you control.

Q: My opponent controls Sulfuric Vortex and I destroy it with Solemn Offering. Do I gain life?

A: Yup! You follow the instructions on Solemn Offering in order, so you first destroy Sulfuric Vortex and then you gain life. By the time you gain life, Sulfuric Vortex is not around anymore, so the replacement effect that replaces the life gain with "neener neener!" is no longer working.

Q: My opponent attacks me with a 9/9 creature and I block with Boros Reckoner. Does the Reckoner deal 3 or 9 damage back with its ability?

A: That depends on whether the 9/9 has trample or not. If it does, your opponent only needs to assign lethal damage to Boros Reckoner and he can assign the remainder to you, so only 3 damage is dealt to Boros Reckoner. If the 9/9 doesn't have trample, it'll have to assign and deal damage equal to its power to Boros Reckoner. A creature's toughness does not limit how much damage can be assigned to it, so the full 9 damage is dealt to the Reckoner, and then it deals 9 damage back with its ability.

Q: My opponent attacks me with Thragtusk and I block it with Boros Reckoner. Can I use the Reckoner's revenge damage to kill the Beast token that my opponent gets from the dying Thragtusk?

A: No, that doesn't work. The Thragtusk ability and Boros Reckoner's ability go on the stack at the same time, in APNAP order, and you have to declare the target for Boros Reckoner's ability when you put it on the stack. At that time, the Thragtusk's ability hasn't resolved yet, so the Beast token is not around to be targeted. The same is true if the roles are reversed and your opponent's Thragtusk blocks your attacking Boros Reckoner.

Q: So, I'm attacking my opponent with Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and my opponent uses Healing Salve to prevent the next 3 damage that would be dealt to him. How does Gisela's damage doubling interact with that? Does he take 4 damage or 7 damage?

A: He gets to choose. As the player that would be affected by the damage, he chooses the order in which applicable replacement and prevention effects are applied. He can prevent 3 and then double the remaining 2, or he can double the damage to 10 and then prevent 3 to get to 7.

Q: If I pair Goblin Arsonist with Nightshade Peddler, will it deal deathtouch damage with its death ability?

A: Yup! Even though the pair breaks when Goblin Arsonist dies, what matters is that it was paired at the moment it died. When the ability resolves, the game looks at the Arsonist's last known information to see if it had deathtouch. At the last moment the Arsonist was alive, it had deathtouch, so the damage it deals is deadly.

Q: Does Tragic Slip trigger High Priest of Penance's destruction ability?

A: Nope. The Priest's ability only triggers when damage is dealt to it. While getting -1/-1 or -13/-13 is most likely a decidedly unpleasant and deadly experience, it's not "damage", so it doesn't trigger the Priest's ability.

Q: My opponent suspends a Rift Bolt during his turn. On his next turn, he draws a card and then remembers his suspended Rift Bolt. What happens now? Does he still get to cast his Rift Bolt? Should I have reminded him before he drew his card?

A: First off, you are not responsible for triggered abilities your opponent controls, so you did nothing wrong by not reminding him. You could have reminded him if you wanted to be sporting, but not doing so is perfectly acceptable. What happens now that he remembered it too late depends on the tournament's Rules Enforcement Level. At Regular REL, such as at FNM, he gets to resolve the trigger now, so he takes off a time counter and casts his Rift Bolt. At Competitive or Professional REL, such as at a PTQ or higher, the judge will give you the choice to have the trigger happen or not. If you choose not to have the trigger happen, the card remains in the exile zone with a time counter on it, so your opponent will get the Rift Bolt on his next turn unless he forgets it again.

Q: Am I allowed to know how many cards my opponent is playing with in his deck?

A: Yes, that's allowed. The number of objects in a zone is derived information, which means it's information that players have access to but might require some skill to determine. At Regular REL, derived information is considered free, and if you ask your opponent he must answer truthfully. At Competitive REL, your opponent may refuse to answer or answer truthfully, but if he refuses, you're allowed to determine the answer yourself by counting the cards in his library. You just have to be careful not to change the order of the library and not to look at any of the cards' faces while counting.

And that concludes today's selection of rules questions. Before I go, I'd like to tell you about an exciting tournament that is coming up later this month. Regular readers may recall that I run an annual charity tournament to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This year marks the fourth annual Cast a Spell on MS, and I hope it will be the biggest one yet. We have over a dozen boxes of Magic product for the main event and drafts, and lots of Judge promo foil cards to give out as prizes. There's even going to be a raffle with random door prizes, including a Judge foil Karakas. If you're in or near Toledo, Ohio on March 30th, come on out and play Magic for a good cause!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at Cast a Spell on MS!

- 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.

About the Trostani/Ajani/Blood Seeker question, wouldn't each creature trigger Trostani and Blood Seeker seperately, meaning you would alternate Blood Seeker and Trostani for each creature, loosing 1 life then gaining 2 each time? Even though the creatures enter the battlefield at the same time, don't you have to put all triggers for one creature on the stack before putting triggers for the next?
#1 • Date: 2013-03-13 • Time: 09:29:29 •
Quote (dragontiers):
About the Trostani/Ajani/Blood Seeker question, wouldn't each creature trigger Trostani and Blood Seeker seperately, meaning you would alternate Blood Seeker and Trostani for each creature, loosing 1 life then gaining 2 each time? Even though the creatures enter the battlefield at the same time, don't you have to put all triggers for one creature on the stack before putting triggers for the next?

No. While it's true that each token triggers both abilities independently, the triggers have to wait until Ajani's ability has finished resolving before they can go on the stack. We have a bunch of Trostani triggers and a bunch of Blood Seeker triggers that want to go on the stack all at the same time after Ajani's ability has finished resolving. All of the active player's triggers go on the stack first, followed by all of the non-active player's triggers.
#2 • Date: 2013-03-13 • Time: 10:13:04 •

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