Published on 09/18/2006

On to the Past

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

There is still a bit of time left before temporal chaos descends upon the world of Magic. We at Cranial Insertion would like to use that precious time to stuff some keywords from Magic's past into your head.

All of Magic's keyword abilities are described in section 501.* of the Comprehensive Rules, so that's where the little snippets you'll see in this article come from. The official Time Spiral FAQ will be released during the course of this week, and there's the possibility that it will reveal changes to the rules discussed in this article.

Flanking (Mirage block)

He isn't shadow.
He just looks that way.
"Flanking" means "Whenever this creature becomes blocked by a creature without flanking, the blocking creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn."

Q: If my Shadow Rider (3/3 flanking) is blocked by my opponent's Icatian Infantry (1/1), do I get to assign combat damage to my opponent?

A: The Icatians will be -1/-1'ed to death in the declare blockers step, before any combat is assigned. But simply killing the blocker doesn't let your attacking creature deal its combat damage to the defending player. It needs trample to do that. (Maybe you already knew this answer because you ran into a similar situation with double strike in place of flanking. Or because you read our article about the combat phase.)

Shadow (Tempest block)

A creature with shadow can't be blocked by creatures without shadow, and a creature without shadow can't be blocked by creatures with shadow.

Q: Can Wall of Diffusion enchanted with Frog Tongue block an attacker with flying and shadow?

A: Sure; the two can-block-as-though abilities aren't mutually exclusive, but both apply at the same time, allowing your little Wall to block the kind of big and scary creatures that have both flying and shadow.

Buyback (Tempest block)

"Buyback [cost]" means "You may pay an additional [cost] as you play this spell. If you do, put the spell into your hand instead of into your graveyard as it resolves."

Keep your expensive stuff
out of the red mage's way.
Q: If my Shattering Pulse is countered with Dissipate, where does it go?

A: Dissipate removes the Pulse from the game when it counters it. Buyback never gets any say in the matter; it only does anything if the spell resolves.

Q: If I play Constant Mists from my graveyard using Bosium Strip, where does it go?

A: Bosium Strip applies a replacement effect to any "card played this [that] way would be put into a graveyard this turn." But buyback is trying to apply a different replacement effect to the same event. As the controller of the affected spell, you get to decide which of these two replacement effects is applied first. So you get to pick between returning the Mists to your hand or removing it from the game. The other replacement effect will just have to sit by and watch; it doesn't apply anymore now the spell isn't headed for the graveyard.

Echo (Urza block)

Empires rise and fall...
"Echo" means "At the beginning of your upkeep, if this permanent came under your control since the beginning of your last upkeep, sacrifice it unless you pay its mana cost."

Q: If I play Volrath's Shapeshifter and discard Herald of Serra the same turn, will I have to pay the echo cost on my next upkeep?

A: Yes, that little shapeshifting act won't throw off the echo ability. The Herald/Shapeshifter wasn't under your control yet during your last upkeep, but it is now, so you're paying.

Flashback (Odyssey block)

"Flashback [cost]" means "You may play this card from your graveyard by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost. If you do, remove this card from the game instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack."

Q: Does Thunderscape Familiar reduce the cost of Acorn Harvest played via flashback?

A: To determine the cost you have to pay for a spell, you normally start with the mana cost, then add all cost increases and subtract all cost reducers. If you use flashback to play a spell, you follow those same steps, except you start with the flashback cost in place of the mana cost. The Familiar's cost reduction will then be applied to it, so you get the third and fourth Squirrels for the low, low price of :symg: and 3 life.

Q: I use Recoup to get some more mileage out of Fanning the Flames, which somehow ended up in my graveyard. If I pay the buyback cost in addition to the flashback cost, do I get to return it to my hand?

A: You can pay the buyback cost, but that won't save the Flames from being removed from the game. This may surprise you after the Bosium Strip question, but there's one important difference between the two scenarios: Flashback's replacement effect is much broader than Bosium Strip's, and it will replace the card going anywhere with it being removed from the game. You'll still get to choose which of the two replacement effects to apply first (buyback's or flashback's), but if you apply buyback's effect, flashback will still get the last word and make sure the card isn't coming back.

Madness (Torment)

"Madness [cost]" means "If a player would discard this card, that player discards it, but may remove it from the game instead of putting it into his or her graveyard" and "When this card is removed from the game this way, until that player passes next, the player may play it any time he or she could play an instant by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost. When the player passes next, he or she puts this card into his or her graveyard."

That was probably confusing, so here's a little explanation:
  • If a card with madness would be discarded, you can either let it go to the graveyard, or you may remove it from the game.
  • If you remove it from the game, the second ability triggers and goes on the stack.
  • After the ability has resolved, you get one chance to play the madness card. That chance occurs the next time you would be able to play an instant. If you don't take that chance, the card goes to your graveyard after all.

Basking in rules complexity, maybe?
Q: What happens when I discard two Basking Rootwallas due to Mind Sludge? Can I play both of them? How does the timing work?

A: You will be able to play both. Here's the timing in detail: Mind Sludge's effect, modified by madness, makes you discard the two madness cards to the removed from the game zone, and any other discard victims to your graveyard. After Mind Sludge is finished resolving, the two madness triggers go on the stack. Both players get to respond to them, and after all responses are done, the first trigger will resolve. The active player (presumably your opponent, because he played a sorcery) will receive priority first, but let's assume he just passes it to you. This is the moment where you have to play the first Rootwalla. The Rootwalla spell goes on the stack while the second madness trigger is still waiting. Simply let both resolve, and play the second Rootwalla the same way.

If you discarded different madness cards, you get to choose the order in which you play them because you choose in which order the madness triggers you control go on the stack.

If you and your opponent both discarded madness cards (because of something like Dragon Mage), the triggers controlled by the active player have to be put on the stack first, so the inactive player gets to play his or her madness cards first.

Morph (Onslaught block)

"Morph [cost]" means "You may play this card as a 2/2 face-down creature, with no text, no name, no subtypes, no expansion symbol, and a mana cost of :0mana: by paying :3mana: rather than its mana cost." Any time you could play an instant, you may show all players the morph cost for any face-down permanent you control, pay that cost, then turn the permanent face up. This action does not use the stack.

Q: My opponent targets my face-down 2/2 creature (actually a Proteus Machine) with Shock. Can I dodge the Shock by turning my Machine face up to make Shock fizzle?

A: The Shock will still hit its target. Turning a creature face up doesn't make it a different permanent. It just makes it look completely different, but that wouldn't fool a burn spell.

There's a lot more going on with morph, so expect some morph questions in these articles in the coming weeks. If you can't wait that long, read the rules in all their comprehensive detail: 502.26. Morph, and 504. Face-Down Spells and Permanents.

Storm (Scourge)

I don't feel cold at all...
it must be all between your ears.
"Storm" means "When you play this spell, put a copy of it onto the stack for each other spell that was played before it this turn. If the spell has any targets, you may choose new targets for any number of the copies."

Q: On my turn, I play three small spells, then a Brain Freeze with 3 storm copies, then another Brain Freeze. Does that second Brain Freeze come with 4 or with 7 copies?

A: You'll get just 4 copies for that one (though your opponent may find that quite a lot already). The reason is that storm only counts cards that were played. Copies of spells that are put on the stack without being played (such as those created by the storm ability itself) don't count towards your storm count. Also, the storm ability doesn't trigger for spells snuck onto the stack, which should be considered a good thing: a single storm copy would set off a never-ending chain reaction.

And thus endeth my last article as a regular writer for Cranial Insertion. I've had a great time writing, and I'd like to thank all readers, posters, emailers, writers, editors, and everyone who contributes to making this column possible. (That should cover it, right?) Eli, Tom, and a mysterious hooded figure whose identity you will soon learn will continue to run this column. They will answer your rules questions at . Remember, the only stupid questions are the ones not in our mailbox yet!

Fare well!

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands

About the Author:
Even though I'm not a judge, my interest in the rules of the game is the main reason for me to play. You'll usually find me answering questions in the rulings forum. I'm mostly a casual player: the only tournaments I visit are prereleases.


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