Published on 03/25/2013

Not gold or silver

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

You shouldn't have...
It's time for a party! This is Cranial Insertion's 8th anniversary — the traditional theme for gifts is bronze — and also the anniversary of this site serving as our home. And since I can't think of a more appropriate way to celebrate than by answering some rules questions, let's dive in.

And as always, if you've got questions, please send them to us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: So, Corpsejack Menace is confusing me. Say I control a Cloudfin Raptor and an Experiment One, each with no counters, and then cast Corpsejack Menace. How many counters do they get?

A: Two apiece, which is some mighty fine evolving. Corpsejack Menace enters the battlefield, and evolve triggers for both the Raptor and the Experiment. When those evolve triggers resolve, Corpsejack Menace says to double down on the counters.

Q: OK, so if I control Master Biomancer and its power is 4, and cast Corpsejack Menace, what happens? Does it come in with 8 counters?

A: Nope, just 4. Corpsejack Menace's ability only works while it's on the battlefield. And any sort of "enters with..." ability has to apply before that happens — what it's doing is saying "replace the event of this entering with the event of this entering with counters on it" (the technical term for this is, actually, "replacement effect"). Since that is, by definition, being applied at a time when Corpsejack Menace isn't yet on the battlefield, its own ability isn't yet doing anything and doesn't double the counters.

Q: What about undying? If, say, my Strangleroot Geist dies while I have a Corpsejack Menace, how many counters does it come back with?

A: It comes back with 2! Corpsejack Menace basically just can't ever double the counters it would enter with; it will still quite happily double the counters any other creature enters with, so long as Corpsejack Menace is around when the other creature enters the battlefield.

Q: If I have Hyena Umbra enchanting my Elite Vanguard, and my opponent sets off an Engineered Explosives with one counter, does my Vanguard live?

A: Yup. Engineered Explosives tries to destroy everything simultaneously; it doesn't first blow up the Umbra and then try to come back for the Vanguard. So at the time the Explosives' effect says to destroy the Vanguard, it's got the Umbra attached, totem armor kicks in and does its thing and the Vanguard lives to fight another day.

For best results, give two.
Q: I've got a Deathrite Shaman equipped with Illusionist's Bracers. If I activate the Shaman's first ability but there's only one land in a graveyard, what happens?

A: You'll only get one mana. Both the original ability and the copy of the ability from the Bracers will be targeting the same land; the first to resolve (in this case, the copy) will exile the land, and then the other will be countered since its target has become illegal.

Q: I'm attacking with a Primeval Titan and my opponent flashes in Darksteel Sentinel and blocks. If I Lightning Bolt the Sentinel, I know it won't get killed, but would I be able to trample through for the full 6 on my opponent?

A: You most certainly will. The rules for trample require that all blockers have lethal damage before you assign any damage to the player; they don't require that the blockers actually have to die as a result, and you're allowed to count damage that's already marked on them from earlier in the turn. So even though it doesn't die, the Sentinel has lethal damage marked on it, and the rules happily let you move on to assigning all 6 damage from the Titan to your opponent.

Q: I've got a spell with flashback exiled with Shelldock Isle, and I really really need to get and cast it but I can't activate the Isle. Could I use Runic Repetition to fetch it into my hand?

A: That card is going to stay docked in the exile zone. Hideaway instructs you to exile the card face-down, which means Runic Repetition can't "see" that it has flashback.

Q: I have a Hellhole Flailer with a +1/+1 counter on it, equipped with Grafted Exoskeleton. How much damage does it deal, and will it be infect damage?

A: It'll be 6 damage, and it will result in poison counters. Since the Flailer is sacrificed as a cost of its ability and isn't on the battlefield anymore when the damage gets dealt, the game looks at its last known information — basically, how the Flailer looked the last time it was on the battlefield. At that point, the Flailer's power was 6 and it had infect, so you get 6 damage from a source with infect.

Q: What if I have the Exoskeleton equipped to Bosh, Iron Golem and use Bosh's ability to "fling" the Exoskeleton?

A: That's slightly less infectious. First, you sacrifice the Exoskeleton as part of the cost of Bosh's ability. This triggers the Exoskeleton's ability, which goes on the stack above Bosh's ability. When the Exoskeleton's triggered ability resolves, you sacrifice Bosh. And then finally Bosh deals 4 damage. But the last time Bosh was on the battlefield, he didn't have infect: he lost that the moment you sacrificed the Exoskeleton, which was before you sacrificed Bosh. So it's just 4 points of normal, non-infecting damage. But if you have enough mana, you can always activate Bosh's ability again in response to the Exoskeleton trigger, sacrificing himself and getting another 8 damage, for a total of 12 (though still not with infect).

Q: I have Chandra's Spitfire, and I cast Lava Spike targeting my opponent, and splice on Glacial Ray. Does my Spitfire get +3/+0, or +6/+0?

A: Your opponent will be spitting something here, because your Spitfire will trigger twice and end up with +6/+0. Splicing on Glacial Ray doesn't change Lava Spike's original effect; it just adds another. So during the resolution of Lava Spike, your opponent is dealt 3 damage, then dealt 2 damage, which is two instances of noncombat damage for your Spitfire.

Q: What happens if I cast Vanish into Memory targeting my Precursor Golem (say I have only the two tokens it made as other Golems)?

A: Lots of things! First, Precursor Golem makes two copies of Vanish into Memory; one for each of the Golem tokens. You'll end up exiling both tokens and the Precursor Golem, and drawing 9 cards. Then at the beginning of your next upkeep, you'll return Precursor Golem to the battlefield and discard 3 cards. But you can't return the tokens that got exiled, since they ceased to exist as soon as they left the battlefield (something tokens do). That means the "if you do..." part of Vanish into Memory doesn't happen, and you don't have to discard any more cards.

Q: I attack my opponent with Boros Reckoner. He doesn't block, but before damage is dealt he casts Divine Deflection with X=6, targeting my Reckoner. When the combat damage gets dealt, what exactly will happen?

A: Well, Divine Deflection will prevent the 3 points of combat damage dealt by the Reckoner, and deal 3 damage to the Reckoner. That kills the Reckoner and also triggers its ability; Boros Reckoner then tries to deal another 3 damage to him. But Divine Deflection's effect isn't used up yet — it said to prevent the next 6 damage, and so far it's only prevented 3. So it prevents the 3 damage from the trigger, but since the Reckoner is dead it can't deal 3 damage to the Reckoner again.

Q: If I have a Clone copying Orzhov Pontiff, and it dies, can the Clone haunt something? Will it trigger when the creature it's haunting dies?

A: It will get to haunt something, but that's about it. The Clone had haunt when it died, so haunt will trigger and you can exile it haunting a creature. But the Clone no longer has any memory of the fact that it was an Orzhov Pontiff, so it no longer has the ability that triggers when the haunted creature dies.

No take-backs!
Q: Can Locket of Yesterdays reduce the cost to flash back a spell from my graveyard?

A: It can, but only if you have another card in your graveyard with the same name. Flashback is casting — just from an unusual zone — so it follows the same rules as casting any other spell. And the first step of casting a spell is to move it from where it is to the stack, so by the time you get around to determining what you'll pay to cast it, it's no longer in the graveyard to be seen by the Locket.

Q: I have a Witchbane Orb and my opponent blows up one of my lands with Molten Rain. Do I still take damage?

A: Yup. Witchbane Orb gives you hexproof, which means you can't be targeted by your opponent's spells. But Molten Rain isn't targeting you (something is only a target if it's identified by the actual word "target" — lots of things, including Molten Rain, can affect you without doing that). So it blows up its target — the land — and then deals 2 damage to you.

Q: My opponent has a Spellskite and a Pestermite. If I cast Electrolyze, choosing 1 damage to the Spellskite and 1 to the Pestermite, can he pay 2 life to have all the damage go to the Spellskite?

A: Your opponent can pay 2 life and activate Spellskite if he wants, though it won't do anything useful. Activating Spellskite is pretty much always legal so long as there's a spell or ability on the stack, but Spellskite's ability won't actually change anything unless the end result of changing the target would be legal. And though it's not often important, a single thing can only be chosen as a target once per instance of the word "target" in a spell or abiliity. Electrolyze only uses the word "target" once, so Spellskite can only be chosen as a target for it once — which it already was, when Electrolyze was cast — and Spellskite won't change anything. It'll end up being dealt 1 damage, and the Pestermite will be dealt 1 damage and probably die.

Q: If I cast Blasphemous Act when my opponent has a Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and I have Boros Reckoner, what will happen?

A: Gisela will cause the damage to your creatures to be doubled — to 26 — prevents half the damage to his creatures, rounded up (half of 13 rounded up is 7 damage prevented per creature). So your Reckoner takes 26 damage and his Gisela takes 6. Gisela dies due to lethal damage, and the Reckoner's trigger is put on the stack; when it resolves, it deals 26 damage (which won't be cut in half, since Gisela's gone), most likely giving your opponent quite the reckoning.

Q: My opponent cast Slaughter Games targeting me and naming Sphinx's Revelation. He pulled out the Revelation in my hand, and the one in my graveyard and one from my library, but missed that there was another one in my library. Does he have to find that one, and do I have to tell him about it?

A: No, and no. Slaughter Games says to search for "any number of cards with that name"; in this case, he searched for 3, which is a number! Nothing requires him to find all the copies, and nothing requires you to remind him how many more there are for him to find.

Q: If I play Vesuva as a copy of Lotus Vale, do I still have to sacrifice two lands?

A: You don't have to, but you'll need to if you want it to stick around. As Vesuva is entering the battlefield, you apply its replacement effect by choosing to have it enter as a copy of Lotus Vale. This makes Lotus Vale's replacement effect applicable, so now you apply that, and either sacrifice two untapped lands or put your Vesuva/Vale into its owner's graveyard.

Q: When a creature phases out, does it get to keep any counters it had on it? Or does it lose them, like when it goes to other zones?

A: Phasing out actually isn't a zone change; it's a sort of weird state where the creature hasn't gone anywhere, but is temporarily treated as if it's not on the battlefield. This means that the normal things that happen on zone changes don't happen; the creature keeps any counters on it, Auras and Equipment stay attached, and so on, and they'll all still be there when it phases back in.

I'm about partied out, and all this bronze stuff is kinda heavy, so I'll call that a wrap. But don't forget to check back next week when Carsten will have another issue of Cranial Insertion!

- James Bennett

About the Author:
James Bennett is a Level 3 judge based out of Lawrence, Kansas. He pops up at events around Kansas City and all over the midwest, and has a car he can talk to.

For the Bosh question, it is possible to deal 8 poison damage by saccing bosh...
#1 • Date: 2013-03-25 • Time: 00:37:52 •
In the deathrite shaman/illusionist bracers question, doesn\'t illionist\'s bracers allow you to choose new targets for the copy? Since that\'s not part of the cost, I don\'t see why it wouldn\'t copy the ability twice, as long as there are two different lands to target.

#2 • Date: 2013-03-28 • Time: 17:36:55 •
Yes, that is correct. If there are multiple lands in the graveyard, you could change the target to another land, so both abilities would resolve.

However, in the example in the article, there was only one land in the graveyard, so the target could not be changed.
#3 • Date: 2013-03-28 • Time: 23:55:49 •
OK. Reading is hard. I didn't catch that any of the times I read that segment. Thanks.
#4 • Date: 2013-03-29 • Time: 02:46:07 •

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