Published on 07/01/2013

A Limited Supply of Rules Questions

...or, I'm Going to Hell For That Pun

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Dancing the fine line
between 'making history' and
you history' since 2005.
Those of you who attended Grand Prix Las Vegas just over a week ago know just how incredible an experience it was to be part of not just the largest Magic tournament ever held, not just the largest TCG tournament ever held, but quite possibly the largest single card game tournament of all time, held in a room the size of two football fields and bringing together over 4,500 players for three full days.

Needless to say, a lot of Magic was played in those three days. And a lot of Modern Masters boosters were opened in those three days. And a lot of rules questions were asked about the contents of those boosters in those three days. Even if you weren't able to come to the Grand Prix, maybe you can be there in spirit by reading them. Or something. That makes sense, right? Sure, we'll go with that.

All of these questions are guaranteed direct from the floors of GP Vegas, but even if you're not on a GP floor, you can get answers to your own questions (whether they're about Modern Masters or otherwise) by emailing them to or tweeting them to @CranialTweet. And hey, they may just show up in a future article!

Q: Does my opponent get a goblin token from his Mogg War Marshal when I use Path to Exile on it?

A: No. Mogg War Marshal's ability triggers when the Marshal 'dies', which means 'put into a graveyard from the battlefield'. Exiling the Marshal puts it into exile, not the graveyard, so its ability doesn't trigger.

Q: I chump block with Myr Retriever and Etherium Sculptor, so they die at the same time. Can I bring back the Sculptor with the Retriever's ability?

A: Yes. Both creatures die at the same time, and the Retriever's ability is put onto the stack immediately after that happens. At that time, the Sculptor is in your graveyard and therefore a legal target for the ability.

Q: I control a Doubling Season. What happens when my Murderous Redcap dies and persist triggers?

A: Persist will return the Redcap to the battlefield, but thanks to Doubling Season it will have not just one, but two -1/-1 counters on it. This means it will be a 0/0 creature, and will die immediately as a state-based action. The Redcap's ETB ability will trigger, but when it goes to check the Redcap's power, it will see that the Redcap had 0 power when it was last on the battlefield, and so won't deal any damage.

Q: My opponent alpha strikes, and I can't block enough creatures to survive. Can I give my blockers lifelink with Stir the Pride to save myself?

A: Sadly, no. Giving your creatures lifelink would indeed have saved you, because life from lifelink is gained as damage is dealt, but unfortunately for you Stir the Pride doesn't actually give anything lifelink.

Stir the Pride actually works by granting your creatures a triggered ability that triggers at the time damage is dealt, which only gains you life later, when that ability resolves. But you've already died and the game is over before that can happen.

People think it's the cards like Humility
that cause the most confusion.
Nope. It's ones like this.
Q: I block Sporesower Thallid with my Amrou Seekers and cast Test of Faith to save them. Will the +1/+1 counters let the Seekers kill the Thallid?

A: No. All combat damage is dealt at the same time, and the counters from Test of Faith are only added once damage has actually been prevented. At that time, your Seekers have already dealt their own combat damage. They won't retroactively deal more damage because their power increased after doing so.

Q: My opponent casts Test of Faith on his blocker, but my creature's dealing enough damage that even if 3's prevented, it'd still be still lethal without the +1/+1 counters. Does his creature get the counters in time to save it from the damage that wasn't prevented?

A: Yes. The counters from Test of Faith are added as part of the prevention effect, before state-based actions are checked and thus before the blocking creature's toughness is checked for lethal damage. By the time SBAs are checked, the blocker's big enough to survive.

Q: I cast Lava Spike on my opponent and splice Torrent of Stone targeting my opponent's Kira, Great Glass-Spinner; Kira's ability counters the splice, but the 3 damage still goes through, right?

A: No; the entire spell is countered, and none of its effects occur. Splicing spells together creates one big spell, not one for each individual splice, and since that spell targets Kira, Kira's ability triggers and counters the whole thing, not just part of it.

Q: My opponent controls Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and casts Take Possession on my creature. On my turn I draw a Take Possession of my own. I know I can't cast Take Possession on my creature to get it back because of Kira, but can I Take Possession of my opponent's Take Possession to get it back anyway?

A: Absolutely. You're now the controller of the first Take Possession, so it's now causing you to control your creature again.

Q: I evoke an Aethersnipe to bounce my opponent's flying blocker, then attack with Adarkar Valkyrie. After combat, can I tap the Valkyrie to return my Aethersnipe to the battlefield?

A: Sorry, but you're way too late. Adarkar Valkyrie's ability can't be used to return creatures that have already died earlier in the turn to the battlefield. It needs to be used on creatures that are still on the battlefield right now, and will then return that creature later if it happens to die.

Q: If I use Adarkar Valkyrie on a creature with persist, which happens first? Does the creature come back with a counter, or without?

A: If you control both the Valkyrie and the persist creature, then the answer is simple: whichever you want to happen first, does. You control both triggers, so you can put them on the stack in whichever order you prefer, which means that you get to choose which one ends up actually returning the creature.

If your opponent's the one who controls the persist creature, things are a little trickier. The player whose turn it is puts their trigger on the stack first, and then the other player puts theirs on the stack. Since the stack resolves from the top down, this means that the player whose turn it is "loses". If it's your turn, persist will return the creature to the battlefield under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter before the Valkyrie's ability can return it. If it's your opponent's turn, the Valkyrie's ability will return it under your control (with no counter) before persist can return it.

Q: I Take Possession of my opponent's creature, which has Bonesplitter attached to it. Can I then equip the Bonesplitter to another of my creatures?

A: No. Changing control of a creature doesn't change control of any Equipment or Auras attached to it. You may control the creature now, but you don't control the Bonesplitter, so you can't activate its ability.

On your opponent's turn, she'll be able to use Bonesplitter's equip ability to move it to one of her remaining creatures.

Q: Can I use Saltfield Recluse on my opponent's creature at the end of his turn to have the effect last until the end of my turn?

A: No. You're thinking of effects that have a delayed trigger that cause something to happen 'at the beginning of the next end step'. Saltfield Recluse doesn't do that; the duration of its -2/-0 effect ends during the cleanup step of the current turn, no matter when in the turn it's activated. There's no way to use the Recluse on one turn and have its ability carry over to the next turn.

Q: I control an Esperzoa, and my opponent casts Kataki, War's Wage. On my turn, do I have to pay Kataki's upkeep cost for the artifact I want to bounce with Esperzoa?

A: No. Luckily for you, Kataki, War's Wage works by granting an ability to each of your artifacts, and since you control those artifacts, you also control the Kataki-granted abilities when they trigger. Since those upkeep abilities and Esperzoa's ability all trigger at the same time, you can place them on the stack in whichever order you prefer, allowing you to bounce an artifact before needing to pay anything for it.

(The Kataki-payment ability from whatever you returned will still resolve and ask you to pay , but since the artifact's no longer on the battlefield, nothing bad will happen if you don't pay.)

Want to know how many suspend triggers
were missed at GP Vegas?
Numbers don't go that high.
Q: I use Vedalken Shackles to steal my opponent's Epochrasite, which then gets killed. What happens? Is it my suspended card because it was mine when it died, or is it my opponent's?

A: It's your opponent's. It doesn't matter who controlled the Epochrasite when it died, because cards in exile don't have a controller. All they have is an owner, and that's your opponent. Since he owns the suspended Epochrasite, he's the one who gets the suspend triggers on his upkeep, and he's the one who gets to cast it when the final time counter is removed.

Q: My opponent controls Ethersworn Canonist. I cast Reach Through Mists on my turn and draw Search for Tomorrow. I know I can't actually cast the Search, but suspending's something's not casting it, so I can do that instead, right?

A: No. You're right that suspending a spell isn't the same thing as casting it, but you're only permitted to suspend a card if you have permission to start casting that card. Thanks to Ethersworn Canonist, you don't have permission to start casting Search for Tomorrow, so you don't have permission to suspend it either.

Q: My opponent's Durkwood Baloth comes out of suspension; I know this means it has haste. Later I Take Possession of it. Can I attack with it this turn because it has haste?

A: No, because it doesn't have haste any more. The rules for suspend do grant haste to creatures cast from suspension, but they also limit its duration. The creature granted haste this way loses it as soon as it changes controllers, meaning that once you steal your opponent's creature it no longer has haste.

Q: I don't control a Swamp. Can I splice on Horobi's Whisper onto my Kodama's Reach, fetch up a Swamp, and destroy my opponent's creature?

A: Absolutely. When you splice a spell onto another, you follow the original spell's instructions first, and then the spliced parts after that. The instructions from Horobi's Whisper only check whether or not you control a Swamp at the time you start following the instructions, and that holds true when it's spliced.

So first you go searching up lands for the Reach, and only after that does the spell check whether or not you control a Swamp.

Q: If I cast Death Denied and splice on Horobi's Whisper, can I exile the creatures I'm targeting as part of the splice cost? If I can and I do, the spell still resolves and destroys the creature because it still has a legal target, right?

A: Yes, that's all correct; you can do that just fine. Targets are chosen before costs are paid, so you can choose some creature cards as targets for Death Denied and then exile them as part of the splice cost for the Whisper.

However, the question you probably want to be asking instead is "Do I have to target any creatures when I cast Death Denied?" And the answer to that is no. If you really want to, you could cast Death Denied with X = 0 and splice the Whisper onto it. No targeting shenanigans required, and cheaper to boot.

Q: I cast Otherworldly Journey on my opponent's Giant Warrior token. It doesn't come back, right?

A: Correct. A token that has left the battlefield can never re-enter the battlefield. It will cease to exist as a state-based action as soon as the Journey is finished resolving.

Q: I Flickerwisp your Skyreach Manta with five counters. What happens when it returns?

A: It will enter the battlefield with no counters, and probably immediately go to the graveyard as a state-based action for being a 0/0. The Manta doesn't remember how many counters it had on it, because as far as the game's concerned it's a completely new Manta, and it doesn't get any counters from Sunburst because this new Manta wasn't cast at all.

Q: My opponent's stolen one of my creatures with Vedalken Shackles. What happens to the creature if I Take Possession of the Shackles?

A: Your opponent keeps the creature...for now. But now that you control the Shackles you'll probably decide to untap them on your next untap step, and as soon as that happens, you'll get your creature back.

Once in effect, the Shackles' control-changing ability doesn't actually care who controls the Shackles, just whether or not they remain tapped.

Q: I have a suspended Phthisis with one counter and a Meloku the Clouded Mirror. My opponent controls no creatures. On my upkeep, I respond to the suspend trigger by making a token. My opponent kills the token with Peppersmoke. Do I still have a chance to make another token before having to cast Phthisis?

A: Certainly. Players will always have a chance to do things after the resolution of one spell or ability and before the next. The game never moves on to the next resolution until neither player has anything more to do.

Q: Playing in a Two-Headed Giant side event with a friend, our first opponents were bilingual. They would discuss at full volume in Chinese the contents of their hand and what cards to play, so in theory, everything they said were public knowledge. As it so happened, we had a friend sitting with us who also spoke Chinese. Are we allowed to have a translation?

A: No. Your friend isn't part of your match; he's a spectator, and spectators are responsible for remaining "silent and passive" during matches.

If you yourself happened to understand Chinese, listening to your opponents' discussion would be fine, but getting a translation from someone else would be considered Outside Assistance.

GP Vegas may be over, but there's still plenty of other GPs this year around the world. They can't all be record-breaking behemoths, but I still can't recommend coming to them enough. And maybe, just maybe, you'll be lucky enough to be a part of something even bigger.

Until next time, go out and make history!

- Callum Milne

About the Author:
Callum Milne is a Level 2 judge from British Columbia, Canada. His home range is Vancouver Island, but he can be found in the wild throughout BC and also at GPs all along the west coast of North America.


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