Published on 05/13/2013

Old Masters

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

In my day we didn't have all these fancy abilities...
The Dragon's Maze has been run, and now we enter into one of those horrible periods of the year when we have to go for weeks without spoilers. Never fear, though; before too long, it'll be time to talk about Modern Masters, and to tide you over in the meantime we've got a masterful selection of rules questions!

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: Suppose I control a Possibility Storm and I cast an artifact, but the first artifact I find in my library is an Ancient Den. Can I cast it? Can I play it as a land? Do I keep going until I hit something I can cast?

A: Unfortunately you can't do either one. If a card is a land, then no matter what its other types are, it can never be cast for any reason. So you can't cast the Ancient Den, and since Possibility Storm doesn't give you permission to play lands you also can't play it that way. Finally, Possibility Storm just says to exile cards until you get to one that shares a type with your original spell, not to keep going until you find one you could cast. So when you get to that Ancient Den you stop, gather up all the cards you've exiled, and put them on the bottom of your library in random order.

Q: My opponent has Varolz, the Scar-Striped and just cast a Phyrexian Dreadnought, sacrificing it to its own triggered ability. Is there any way I can exile it from his graveyard before he can scavenge it?

A: Assuming it's your opponent's turn (since he's casting creatures), this situation won't quite work for you; after the Dreadnought's ability resolves, your opponent will get priority first and, presumably, the stack will be empty. Which means he can activate the Dreadnought's scavenge ability, exiling it as part of the cost of that ability, before you get a chance to exile it.

Q: OK, so what if my opponent discards a Death's Shadow to Lotleth Troll? Could I exile it then to stop him scavenging with Varolz?

A: So long as you have an instant-speed exile effect, yes! Discarding a creature card is a cost of Lotleth Troll's ability, so that happens up-front and Death's Shadow will be in the graveyard with Lotleth Troll's ability on the stack. Your opponent can only scavenge at a time when he could cast a sorcery, and "while an ability is on the stack" is not one of those times. So you can respond to Lotleth Troll's ability and exile that monster out of your opponent's graveyard before he gets an opportunity to activate scavenge.

Q: My opponent is attacking me with Sunblast Angel; if I activate Mystifying Maze to exile the Angel, will she blow herself up when she comes back?

A: Yup! Sunblast Angel doesn't exclude herself from her own triggered ability; she simply destroys all tapped creatures when she enters the battlefield. So when she returns to the battlefield from the Maze she'll be so mystified that she'll destroy herself (and any other creatures which happen to be tapped).

Don't call him "old".
Q: Can I use Pillar of the Paruns to pay for a fused Turn // Burn?

A: You can. If you'd just cast Turn, then on the stack it would only be blue. And if you'd just cast Burn, then on the stack it would only be red. But since you're fusing, the spell on the stack is both red and blue, which means it's a multicolored spell and mana from Pillar of the Paruns can pay for it.

Q: I control a Blood Scrivener and have no cards in hand and cast Think Twice, and my opponent flashes in Notion Thief in response. What happens?

A: You get to choose, but both options are pretty bad. There are two replacement effects, each trying to replace your card draw. Which means that you, as the affected player, choose which one to apply first. If you apply Blood Scrivener's effect first, then you'll lose one life and your opponent will get to draw two cards. If you choose to apply Notion Thief's effect first, then your opponent only gets one card and, since you're no longer going to draw a card, Blood Scrivener no longer sees anything to apply to.

Q: What if I have Blood Scrivener and Words of Worship? Can I basically go infinite off this by activating Words a couple times and then letting the cascade of replacements gain me a ton of life?

A: Not quite. Any particular replacement effect can only apply once to a single event. So you could apply Blood Scrivener to a draw, turning into "draw 2, lose 1 life", then have two Words of Worship activations from earlier replace both draws (for a net gain of 9 life). But once you've applied Blood Scrivener to that draw, it can't re-apply, and once a Words of Worship activation has been applied to that draw, it also can't re-apply, so there's no infinite shenanigans here.

Q: Suppose I use some effect to animate a Dimir Guildgate, then copy it with Sakashima the Impostor. Will the Sakashima-gate count as a "different name" for Maze's End?

A: Yup! Even though it'll be a land and not a creature, the part of the copy effect that says Sakashima retains his name will still be applying. So you'll have a Legendary Land — Gate named "Sakashima the Impostor", and Maze's End will see that as a different name from the Dimir Guildgate it's copying.

Q: Suppose I control Sylvan Library and my opponent controls Chains of Mephistopheles. If I choose to use Sylvan Library's ability in my draw step, what happens? Do I have to pay any life since the draws got replaced?

A: Well, assuming you hadn't drawn any cards yet that turn, your first card drawn during your draw step will be unaffected. Then if you draw two additional cards with Sylvan Library, Chains will kick in; you'll need to discard a card before drawing each of the additional cards. And since Sylvan Library cares about all cards you've drawn this turn (rather than just cards you've drawn as a direct result of Sylvan Library's ability), you'll need to do something else with its effect, although what you'll do depends on how many cards in your hand have been drawn this turn. If you've got one card in hand that you drew this turn, you'll have to pay 4 life or put it back on top of your library; if you've got two cards in hand that you drew this turn, then for each of them you'll need to pay 4 life or put it back; and if you've got three or more cards in hand that you drew this turn, you'll need to choose two of them, and for each one pay 4 life or put it back.

Q: My opponent has an emblem from Elspeth, Knight-Errant; can I use Turn to make one of his creatures lose indestructibility and kill it?

A: Nope. "Indestructible" isn't an ability, so effects that remove abilities won't remove it, and Elspeth's emblem will keep on keeping on with causing his stuff to not be destroyed.

Q: What if I Turn a Darksteel Colossus? Same deal?

A: Actually, no. While "indestructible" isn't an ability, "Darksteel Colossus is indestructible" is an ability. Which it will lose, meaning it becomes susceptible to destruction. The general difference here is that a continuous effect from some other source saying "that thing is indestructible" is not an ability that can be removed, while a continuous effect that's actually a result of "this is indestructible", printed on or granted to a permanent, is an ability and will be removed.

Q: What happens when I cast Force of Savagery with Pandemonium out? Does it live long enough to get damage in?

A: Well, the Force will live for a savagely short time, unless some continuous effect (say, Glorious Anthem) is pumping its toughness. In fact, it won't even live long enough for you to try to use a spell to save it. But that doesn't change the fact that it did enter the battlefield, which will cause Pandemonium to trigger. And even though Force of Savagery is in the graveyard by the time the triggered ability resolves, it can still deal damage and the game can use its last known information (from the brief moment it was on the battlefield) to see that it deals 8 damage.

Q: If I give flashback to Unexpected Results with Snapcaster Mage, and reveal a land, can I choose some order of effects that will send Unexpected Results back to my hand?

A: Nope. You don't have competing replacement effects here, so there's no ordering to perform. Unexpected Results' instructions while it's resolving say to return it to your hand, but flashback's replacement effect says "if you would go anywhere other than exile, go to exile instead". So Unexpected Results will, as expected, end up in exile no matter what.

"Old?" I'm in my prime!
Q: My opponent controls Nacatl War-Pride and Gruul War Chant. Is there any way I can block the War-Pride or its tokens?

A: There is, in fact! Specifically, this comes down to the fact that War-Pride and its tokens include the words "if able". No one creature is able to block any of them, but two creatures can block one of them just fine. This is a subtle but important difference compared to something like Alpha Authority, which flat-out forbids blocking by more than one creature.

Q: Could I use Trait Doctoring to make the activation cost of Door to Nothingness a bit more palatable? Say, if I'm playing white/blue/black, could I cast it to change the green to white, and then attack the same turn and use the cipher copy to change the red to blue?

A: Not quite. Trait Doctoring changes color words, not colored mana symbols. And Door to Nothingness doesn't have any color words in its text, so Trait Doctoring wouldn't change anything about it.

Q: OK, so could I change a Black Knight into a White Knight?

A: You could change all instances of "black" in its rules text to "white", but that won't change Black Knight's name (and won't change it into an actual White Knight, either — any change Trait Doctoring would make is just a flesh wound).

Q: If I cast Angel of Serenity and choose three creature cards from my graveyard as targets for its enters-the-battlefield ability, can my opponent kill the Angel in response and force me to exile those cards forever?

A: Nope. You can exile them permanently if you really want to (this is generally only useful when you're exiling your opponent's stuff), but Angel of Serenity's ability clearly says "you may exile" the cards. Since that's not one of the choices made as part of putting the ability on stack, it's made during resolution. So you'll know everything that happened in response to the ability, including whether the stuff would be gone forever, and can choose to exile, or not, based on that.

Q: Say I have a bunch of Humans, and a Champion of the Parish, and I activate Legion's Initiative. When my creatures all return, will the Champion get counters?

A: It will get a bunch of counters! Whenever multiple things enter the battlefield simultaneously, any one of them which has an ability that cares about entering the battlefield will see them all enter alongside it, so the Champion will see that all your other Humans entered with it, and trigger an appropriate number of times. The same is also true for leaves-the-battlefield triggers and things dying simultaneously.

Q: How does Firemind's Foresight work with split cards? Say, if I have a split card where one half has a converted mana cost of 3, could I get that card from my library?

A: Yup! In a zone other than the stack, any card that asks for a split card's converted mana cost gets two answers (one for each half). And if it wants to make a comparison like "is your converted mana cost 3", it gets an answer of "yes" if either half can answer "yes". So if your split card has one half with a converted mana cost of 3, you can fetch that as the 3-CMC card for Firemind's Foresight.

Q: If my opponent casts a creature face-down with morph, how can I tell that he actually had a creature with morph and wasn't just cheating some other card he wanted to play?

A: Fortunately, the rules for face-down permanents handle this: if the face-down card goes to any zone other than the battlefield, or if the game ends, it has to be turned face-up and revealed to all players, so that they can see it was actually legal. In tournament play, failure to do this can bring pretty serious penalties, reinforcing how important it is to demonstrate that the play was legal.

That's all I've got for this issue, but remember to check in next week when Eli returns from his "trip" to deliver 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.

I think your ruling of Sylvan Library + Chains of Mephistopheles is wrong. We had the exact situation at GP Strasbourg and it\'s explicitely written in the comp.rules:
614.11b If an effect would have a player both draw a card and perform an additional action on that card, and the draw is replaced, the additional action is not performed on any cards that are drawn as a result of that replacement effect.

so no life has to be paid since the draw for Sylvan gets replaced by Chains and thus the second effect of sylvan does not apply.
#1 • Date: 2013-05-14 • Time: 05:39:17 •
614.11b is talking about a situation where you're instructed to take an action on that exact card as you're drawing it (Sindbad and Fa'adiyah Seer are the only examples I can come up with right now). Sylvan Library doesn't have you do anything like that, it just tells you later in the effect to do something with whatever cards you've happened to draw so far this turn, including your normal draw and cards drawn from other spells and abilities.

EDIT: If you don't want to take my word for it, Sylvan Library has the following ruling in the books from 2007 - If you choose to draw two cards, then replace one or more of those draws with some other effect, the rest of Sylvan Library's ability still happens. If you've actually drawn only one card that turn, you must choose that card and either pay 4 life or put it on top of your library. If you haven't actually drawn any cards that turn, the rest of the ability has no effect.
#2 • Date: 2013-05-14 • Time: 07:43:43 •
Zitat (grishaan):
I think your ruling of Sylvan Library + Chains of Mephistopheles is wrong. We had the exact situation at GP Strasbourg and it's explicitely written in the comp.rules

You can't apply portions of the CR to things they don't actually apply to. Rhadamanthus is correct. DanielK, who gave an [O]fficial ruling on this publicly a couple days ago, is correct. A random "consensus" of judges from Stasbourg is wrong, as a bunch of judges arguing over the rules tends to be. -_-
#3 • Date: 2013-05-14 • Time: 11:08:45 •
you guys are right, I'm sorry.
#4 • Date: 2013-05-14 • Time: 13:40:17 •

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