Published on 09/25/2006

Time Spiraling out of Control

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Last week, Thijs penned his final column as a member of the CI team. If we apply that to Time Spiral, that means he'll return at some point (but probably have suspend, which has to be a big frown). This week, we're all about Time Spiral! We're going to cover general questions on the set, including its new and returning mechanics, and answer some questions lifted directly from the floors of the Prerelease. However, since time is spiraling so wildly, our usual format has gotten messed up. This column has suspend 4, so you won't be able to read it for four weeks. Sorry!

Just kidding. Time isn't going that crazy for us. It has wreaked some havoc here, though, turning our usual Q&A format into an A&Q format. This means you'll be getting the answer first, then the question. If you're playing along at home, please remember to phrase your responses in the form of a question.

We're always looking for more questions, and you can send them to us at . Despite the temporal fluctuations, we'll give you an answer, and perhaps shamelessly steal your question for use in a future column. The only easier way to get your name in lights is to make a Wacky Foreigner speech to the United Nations!

On to the temporal wackiness!

A: They're special Barney cards. You can only use them if you sing a song about how much you love them (and they love you). Failure to do so during your upkeep means the cards are destroyed.

OK, that's not entirely true. They're a special series of reprints for Time Spiral. There are 121 of these "Timeshifted" cards. They come one per booster pack, or three per tournament pack, replacing commons. All of them are rare, regardless of their original rarity when printed. They will have the original card face, but will have updated Oracle text.

Singing about the cards, however, might get you a penalty if you can't carry a tune.

Q: So what's with these purple cards?

A: After a lot of speculation both ways, it was determined that the Timeshifted cards will be legal in any environment in which Time Spiral is legal. This means you'll again be able to attack with Akroma in Standard ... as long as you can wait until October 20th to do so. This was confirmed on the rules insert that comes in every tournament pack.

Bonus: As with any card legal in a format, you may use any previous printings of the card when making your deck.

Q: Are these Timeshifted cards going to be legal in Standard?

A: Each pack will essentially have two rares (and each tourney pack will have six). You'll be able to use the Timeshifted cards in any Limited event. Strategically, this increases the number of bombs in the format, since some of the reprinted cards are quite strong.

Bonus: I just learned that foils will replace commons, not a card of the same rarity. So whatever the rarity of the foil card in your pack, it's replacing a common. In theory, this means it's possible for a pack to have three rares in it. (Note that foil Timeshifted cards replace regular Timeshifted cards, so you shouldn't be getting any packs with two foils, or two Timeshifted cards.) I have not heard of any [O]fficial policies for how this distribution change will effect Limited play. Part of managing Limited events is being able to establish the number of rares. That number appears to be changing.

Q: How do the Timeshifted cards work in draft or sealed?

A: Damage does not reduce toughness. While flanking does give the creature -1/-1, making its toughness 4, the 2 damage applied to it just makes it a 4/4 with 2 damage on it. It is not a valid target for Strangling Soot.

If my opponent attacks with a 2/2 that has flanking, and I block with a 5/5, can I finish the defender off with Strangling Soot?

Disco inferno!
A: You have to decide on the value of X as you're playing the spell, and declare what it is. Then you choose your target(s), and state how much damage each of them will be receiving. Then you pay twice that amount, plus .

Example: Your opponent controls three 1/1, and you want to kill them all. So you announce Conflagrate and put it onto the stack. You say that X will be 3, and you'll be targeting your opponent's three men for 1 damage each. Then you pay + + , for a total of .

Bonus: Congratulations for playing the most expensive Arc Lightning ever.

Q: How does Conflagrate work?

A: Kaervek is a most observant man, and he will see all of that mana being paid. Remember, X has a declared and known value while an X spell is on the stack. In the example above, the Conflagrate cost , for a converted mana cost of 7. Kaervek would deal 7 damage in this case.

Q: How does Kaervek the Merciless interact with X spells?

A: Yes. Your opponent has a chance during the declare attackers step to flash the Drudge Reavers into play. (While he can do it during the declare blockers step, no one gains priority in that step until after blockers have been declared, so he couldn't block with them.) Once the Drudge Reavers spell resolves, both players will have to pass priority on an empty stack to send them game into the declare blockers step. So once the Reavers are in play, you will have a chance to tap them and prevent them from blocking.

Here's how declaring blockers goes:
309.1. As the declare blockers step begins, the defending player declares blockers (this game action doesn't use the stack). Then any abilities that triggered on blockers being declared go on the stack. (See rule 410, "Handling Triggered Abilities.") Then the active player gets priority and players may play spells and abilities.

Q: If my opponent flashes a Drudge Reavers into play, can I tap them with Errant Doomsayers before he can use them to block?

Look out or he'll hit you with a TORCH.
A: Yes. Because of Teferi's ability, creature cards you own that aren't in play have flash. A creature card in your library certainly falls under these criteria.

Q: If I control Teferi, can I use Mystical Teachings to search for a creature card?

A: Nope. Time Spiral might be doing some wonky things, but it can't make you your own opponent. You control the enchantment, so when the creature deals damage to you, it's not dealing damage to an opponent.

Q: I play Ophidian Eye on one of my opponent's creatures. If it deals damage to me, do I get to draw a card?

A: Not anymore. Grinning Totem has been issued errata once again to revert it to its original wording - while you might have done this with the Sixth Edition wording, it is no longer possible. Now it has an additional clause that says that you can only play the spell until your upkeep.

(This is a quick reversal of the answer posted earlier this morning.)

Q: If I've used Grinning Totem on my opponent, can I play the removed card during my upkeep?

A: You can pay 2 life, but the card will come into play tapped regardless. This is just like the interaction of Farseek with the Ravnica duals: the card is put into play or comes into play tapped because the effect that's doing so (Farseek in that case, Vesuva in this one) specifically says it does. Paying 2 life will not change this.

Q: If I play Vesuva and have it copy one of the Ravnica dual lands, can I pay 2 life to put it into play untapped?

A: Yes. While split second prevents players from adding any abilities other than mana abilities to the stack, that doesn't apply to unmorphing a creature. Turning a creature face up is a special action that doesn't use the stack. When the Apprentice is turned face up, its ability will trigger – split second does not prevent abilities from triggering, either.

502.26a Morph is a static ability that functions in any zone from which you could play the card it's on, and the morph effect works any time the card is face down. "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 no mana cost, by paying 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 doesn't use the stack. (See rule 504, "Face-Down Spells and Permanents.")

Q: Can Voidmage Apprentice be used to counter a spell with split second?

A: Yes. Mirari has a triggered ability, which split second has no control over. When you play a spell, even a split second spell, Mirari will trigger. When its triggered ability resolves, you have the option to pay to copy the spell.

Q: So does that mean Mirari works with split second?

A: When you play the creature, two abilities trigger: Pandemonium's and the Forcemage's. As the controller of both of those abilities, you can put them onto the stack in any order you want. If you stack Pandemonium's trigger, then the Forcemage's, the creature will have the +3/+3 bonus by the time Pandemonium cares what its power is.

Q: I have Pandemonium and Primal Forcemage in play. If I play another creature, can it get the Forcemage bonus before Pandemonium deals its damage?

A: The Eye's ability triggers when Akroma blocks it. When that ability resolves, Akroma will be destroyed. Protection from Black does not save the angel in this case, since she is not being damaged, enchanted/equipped, blocked, or targeted by anything Black. This all happens inside the declare blockers step, so Akroma never even gets to deal her first strike damage. Somewhere in time, Ixidor is weeping.

Bonus: Remember the DEBT mnemonic and you'll easily be able to know what protection does.

Q: My opponent blocked my Evil Eye or Urborg with Akroma. What happens?

Maybe not so arrogant now?
A: That window has been closed. It used to work because you could play the madness spell until the next time you passed priority. So you could discard an Arrogant Wurm to your Wild Mongrel, play a land, and then play the Wurm because playing a land doesn't pass priority (usually, this was done by Looting into the third land needed). Now, however, you have to play the madness spell when the madness trigger resolves.

Here's what the new rule will look like, with further explanation, from the Time Spiral rules primer:

502.24a Madness is a keyword that represents two abilities. The first is a static ability that functions while the card with madness is in a player's hand. The second is a triggered ability that functions when the first ability is applied. "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, its owner may play it by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost. If that player doesn't, he or she puts this card into his or her graveyard."
502.24b Playing a spell using its madness ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 409.1b and 409.1f-h.

Under the old rule, after the madness triggered ability resolved, the owner of the madness card had a short window of time (until he or she passed priority) to play the madness card. During that window, the player could perform special actions (such as playing a land) before playing the madness card. Furthermore, if the player who discarded the card wasn't the active player, that player wouldn't receive priority after the madness trigger resolved, and would have to wait to play the madness card until the active player passed.
Under the new rule, playing the madness card is part of the effect of the madness triggered ability. The player either plays the madness card as the madness triggered ability resolves, or the player puts the card into his or her graveyard at that time.

Q: I know you used to be able to play a land before playing a spell with madness, like Arrogant Wurm. Is that still true?

A: Not normally, but it's no longer impossible, like it used to be. You still can't play a spell with no mana cost. However, if something allows you to play it without paying its mana cost, then you can play it (this is why suspend works). So you could imprint Evermind on an Isochron Scepter and draw a card for every turn.

Here's a tidbit from the rules primer:

• A card with no mana cost can't be normally played as a spell, because it's impossible to pay a nonexistent cost in step 401.9h. (Note that this is different than a spell that costs , which is a cost that can be paid.) If there are any additional costs associated with playing a spell, a card with no mana cost still can't be played this way: { } + is an impossible operation to calculate.

• If there's a way to play such a card without paying its mana cost, then it can be played as a spell. This is possible if an effect allows it to be played "without paying its mana cost" (such as suspend or Spelljack do, for example), or if an effect allows it to be played for an alternative cost (such as Fist of Suns does, for example).

Q: With all the spells with no mana cost in this set, does this mean I can play Evermind now?

The next several questions all deal with suspend. Suspend is a very rules-heavy new mechanic, and most of the questions I fielded at the Prerelease had something to do with it. We also got questions about how suspend interacts with cards not in Time Spiral, and we'll cover some of those here, too.

Quicken lets you play your next sorcery anytime you could play an instant. When you pay the suspend cost for a card and remove it from the game, that action follows the normal timing rules for playing the spell. So you could only suspend a sorcery during your main phases on an empty stack. Because of Quicken, you can suspend a sorcery anytime you could play an instant. Let's say you suspend a sorcery during your opponent's end of turn step, after you played Quicken. You still haven't played a sorcery, so Quicken's effect is still applied. Go ahead and suspend another one. And since you still haven't played a sorcery, keep suspending them to your heart's content. When you do actually play a sorcery, then Quicken's effect ends, and you can no longer suspend them anytime.

Q: How does Quicken interact with suspend?

A: Once you've resolved an epic spell, you can't play any spells for the rest of the game. Also, because you can't play spells, you can't suspend anymore spells, either. When the last time counter is removed from a suspended spell, you play the spell without paying its mana cost. And since epic tells you that you can't play spells, the no-longer-suspended spell will remain removed from the game with no time counters on it.

Q: How do epic spells interact with suspend?

Careful with those suspenders, Eugene.
A: With Rule of Law in play, you can suspend as many spells as you want, until you actually play a spell. Once you've played a spell, you can no longer suspend any spells that turn. When you remove the last time counter from a suspended spell and play it, that will count as your one spell for the turn. If you have more than one spell getting its last time counter removed, you'll only be able to play one of them, so you'll need to stack their remove-the-last-time-counter triggers to play the one you want.

Q: Does Rule of Law stop you from playing suspended spells?

A: Yes. Teferi restricts your opponent to playing spells only when they could play a sorcery. Since a player cannot (normally) play sorceries during his upkeep (nor during the resolution of an ability), your opponent will be unable to play the suspended spell when the last counter is removed from it. The spell will remain removed from the game with no time counters on it for the rest of the game.

Q: Does Teferi stop my opponent from being able to play a spell that has been suspended?

A: Yes. You're only able to suspend a spell when you could normally play it. Because Teferi allows you to play your creature spells whenever you could play instants, you can suspend a creature spell on your opponent's turn. The time counters will still be removed during your upkeep.

Q: If I control Teferi, can I suspend creature spells on my opponent's turn?

A: No. Grinning Totem allows you to play the spell, and that's it. It doesn't let you suspend it, since the action of suspending a spell is not at all the same as playing that spell. Suspend only works while the card is in a player's hand, not removed from the game, and not on top of a library.

Q: If I use Grinning Totem to remove a card with suspend from my opponent's library, can I suspend that card?

Whew! That's a lot of questions. That brings us to a close this week. But fear not, fans of Time Spiral – we're covering the new set again next week. This set brings a whole lot of rules questions with its mash-up of abilities, and I'm sure Eli heard a lot of questions in Arizona that we didn't get here. Until then, remember not to sing about your purple Time Spiral cards.

-Tom Fowler

About the Author:
Tom is a Level 2 judge who frequently works in the MD, DC, and PA areas. He is also an active player, and has written articles from both perspectives. Tom has judged numerous Pro Tours, but would like to make it there as a player at least once.


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