Published on 11/06/2006

Standards and Practices

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Champs events are in the books for most of the world now. The brand-new Time Spiral Standard format was on showcase for a few short weeks, already tossed aside for Time Spiral Limited. We don't like 40-card decks (actually, we do, but the 60-card world is more fun to write about this time of year), so we're going to be all about Time Spiral Standard today.

As always, send your rules questions – about any format or tournament query – to us at . We will not only give you an answer, you can watch us Sarnath ourselves as two or three of us answer the question at the same time. We'll also use it in a future edition of CI. The only easier way to get your name in lights is to put an "Ocho Cinco" decal on the back of your shirt!

On with the questions!

It's a small Pox. Get it?
Q: Can I play Smallpox if I control no creatures?

A: You sure can. Smallpox doesn't require you to have anything it tries to make you give up (good luck casting it with no lands in play, though). When it resolves, both players will have to lose 1 life, discard a card if they have at least 1 card in hand, and sacrifice the appropriate types of permanents, if they control any. You can even play Smallpox if your opponent has no cards in hand, no permanents, and is at 1 life.

Q: I control no creatures and my opponent plays Smallpox. If I discard Dodecapod (and put it into play), would I then have to sacrifice it?

A: You will. Both players do all of the instructions on Smallpox in order. Putting Dodecapod into play replaces discarding it, but once that's done, Smallpox wants you to sacrifice a creature. Since you control no other creatures, that brand new Dodecapod is off to the graveyard.

Q: What if I discard a madness creature (like Nightshade Assassin)? Would I still have to sacrifice it?

A: No, you wouldn't. When you discard the Assassin, you can choose to remove it from the game with madness. Now the play-this-spell-for-its-madness-cost trigger is waiting to go onto the stack. It will do so only when Smallpox has finished resolving. At that time, if you still have available, you may play the Assassin.

Q: I have Vesuva in play, copying a Swamp, and my opponent plays Blood Moon. What happens?

A: Not much. When Vesuva copies the Swamp, it becomes a basic land with the type Swamp, since type (including supertype) is a copiable value. Because Vesuva is a basic land in this case, it will happily ignore the static ability of Blood Moon.

Q: I have Flagstones of Trokair in play, and my opponent has a Blood Moon. What happens if I play a second Flagstones?

A: Again, not much. This time, it's because nothing special happens when two Mountains go to the graveyard. Well, the dwarves and mountain goats might tear up a bit, but that's about it. While Blood Moon is in play, each Flagstones will be a nonbasic legendary land, named Flagstones of Trokair, with the type Mountain, and a text box of, ": Add to your mana pool." Blood Moon does not remove supertypes, so the legend rule will still banish both Flagstones to the graveyard. However, they're Mountains when they leave play, so the search ability does not exist and cannot trigger.

Q: I resolve a Living End and return a Soul Warden and four other creatures to play. Do I gain 4 life?

A: You do. Soul Warden "sees" each of the other creatures coming into play at the same time it does, and it will trigger once for each of them.

410.10a Comes-into-play abilities trigger when a permanent enters the in-play zone. These are written, "When [this object] comes into play, ... " or "Whenever a [type] comes into play, ..." Each time an event puts one or more permanents into play, all permanents in play (including the newcomers) are checked for any comes-into-play triggers that match the event.

Split cards must be interrogated!
Q: How does Sunforger interact with split cards, particularly Odds // Ends? Can I unattach it and choose to play Ends, even though its converted mana cost is 5?

A: You can. Split cards have been the source of many questions since they returned. This one cropped up again with Sunforger turning up in several Champs decklists.

When something needs to know if a split card's characteristic(s) matches a certain value, it gets a positive answer if either half meets the criteria. Sunforger essentially asks Odds // Ends some questions, and the answers to those questions determine what you can and can't do with it.

Sunforger: Are you an instant?
Odds: Yes.
Ends: Yes.

That's one criterion met.

Sunforger: Are you White or Red?
Odds: I'm Red and Blue, so yes.
Ends: Oh yeah? Well I'm White AND Red. Take that, Odds! Neener neener!
Odds: :(

That's another criterion down. We're good so far.

Sunforger: Is your CMC 4 or less?
Odds: Yes.
Ends: No. I suck at life.

Sunforger: What is your favorite color?
Odds: Red.
Ends: Blue. No, wait, Green! Aiiieeeeee!

I have no idea where that last question came from. Clearly, you should unattach your Sunforger before it starts quoting Monty Python movies.

Since at least one half of Odds // Ends was able to answer in the affirmative to each of those questions, you can fetch it with Sunforger. Sunforger's ability lets you play the spell, and when you play a split card, you can choose to play either half. So you could use Sunforger to play Ends, even though its CMC is 5.

505.6. An effect that performs a positive comparison (such as asking if a card is red) or a relative comparison (such as asking if a card's converted mana cost is less than 2) involving characteristics of one or more split cards in any zone other than the stack gets only one answer. This answer is "yes" if either side of each split card in the comparison would return a "yes" answer if compared individually.

Q: If I copy a storm spell with Mirari, does the copy Mirari creates have storm?

A: It does, but it won't matter. The copy has storm because that's among the copiable values of the original spell. Storm, however, only triggers when you play the spell. Mirari simply creates a copy which goes onto the stack; you're not actually playing it.

Q: My opponent plays Demonfire with no cards in his hand and X=6. If I use Reiterate to copy it, do I keep the X=6 and the hellbent status?

A: You definitely keep the value of X. While a spell is on the stack, the value of X is known, and is part of the mana cost of the spell. A copy of an X spell will keep that value, so you also have a Demonfire for 6. Whether or not you get the perks of being hellbent depends on whether you have any cards in your hand or not. The Reiterated copy of Demonfire will look at the number of cards in your hand when it resolves.

Mommy, I think this meat is bad.
Q: How does Sudden Spoiling interact with Moldervine Cloak? What about Giant Growth?

A: We've done some talking about continuous effects in CI before. This is the 418.5 family of rules, which is often confusing and intimidating to players. To figure out Sudden Spoiling's interaction with these two cards, we're going to look specifically at layer 6 of the layers of continuous effects, which specifically deals with power and toughness. (Yes, Sudden Spoiling also applies in layer 5, when it removes all abilities from all creatures, but we're going to focus on the layer 6 interactions.)

Layer 6 is divided into five sublayers, and by following these, we can determine the power and toughness of the creature. Let's say we're dealing with a 3/3 Elephant token created by Call of the Herd. You start with the base power and toughness (3/3), and then work thru the layers:

6(a): Characteristic-setting abilities
6(b): Effects which do not apply in sublayers c, d, or e.
6(c): Counters
6(d): Effects from static abilities which modify, but do not set, power or toughness
6(e): P/T-switching effects

So, in the case of Moldervine Cloak, we have the following, starting from the Elephant's base values of 3/3:

6(a): Nothing
6(b): Sudden Spoiling makes the punchy pachyderm a puny 0/2.
6(c): Nothing
6(d): Moldervine Cloak adds its +3/+3 bonus.
6(e): Nothing

In this case, we have a 3/3 that becomes a 0/2 and ends up as a 3/5.

Now let's look at Giant Growth:

6(a): Nothing
6(b): Both Sudden Spoiling and Giant Growth will apply in this sublayer. But which do we apply first? We'll get to that.
6(c): Nothing
6(d): Nothing
6(e): Nothing

So, do we apply Sudden Spoiling or Giant Growth first, since they're both 6(b) effects. Here, we need to apply them in timestamp order. The one that was played first will apply first. If Giant Growth was played first, the Elephant goes from 3/3 to 6/6, but ends up being a decidedly non-menacing 0/2. If Sudden Spoiling was played first, the Elephant goes from 3/3 to 0/2, but ends up as a 3/5.

Bonus: If you want to know a lot about continuous effects, slog your way thru section 418.5 of the Comp Rules. It's definitely not beginner stuff, so be forewarned. It will help you figure out a lot of things that happen in the game, though, so if you can wrap your head around it, you're doing well.

Q: Can Sudden Spoiling be used to stop comes-into-play abilities?

A: No. If you were to play Sudden Spoiling before the creature came into play, then it wouldn't be affected by it. If you play if after the comes-into-play ability has triggered, then removing the ability doesn't do anything, since it's already on the stack.

Q: I played a Lightning Helix at the end of my opponent's turn. He responded by playing Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, and said my Helix would be countered because I couldn't play instants once Teferi resolved. Is this true?

It is false. While Teferi changes when you can play spells, and you normally can't play sorceries during your opponent's turn, he will have no effect on instants already on the stack. Teferi does quite a lot, but much like Meddling Mage, he is not a counterspell.

Q: My opponent has Haakon, Stromgald Scourge in play. He plays a Court Hussar from his graveyard with no . Does he still get to look at his top three cards and put one into his hand?

A: Yes. Court Hussar has two abilities which trigger when it comes into play. One is the "mini-Impulse," and the other is to sacrifice it unless was spent to play it. The player who played Court Hussar can stack these two triggers in whatever order he wants. Regardless of the order chosen, both will resolve, and the result will be the Hussar in the graveyard, and your opponent with an extra card.

Q: If he ends up paying for the Hussar, can he still choose to sacrifice it?

A: No, and it's not a choice that he has either way. When that triggered ability resolves, the game will know whether or not any was spent to play the Court Hussar. If it was, the Hussar remains in play. If not, then it is sacrificed.

Q: How does Dovescape interact with storm?

A: Probably with a handshake.

When you play a spell with storm and there's a Dovescape in play, both storm and Dovescape will obviously trigger. If you control both, you may stack the triggers in whatever order you want. If you control the storm spell and your opponent has the Dovescape, then the triggers will go on the stack in APNAP (active player, nonactive player) order. This means that on your turn, Dovescape's trigger will be on top of the stack. It will counter the original storm spell and put X bird tokens into play. After that, the storm trigger will resolve and put some number of copies of the original storm spell onto the stack. Because those copies are not being played, Dovescape will not affect them at all.

Gorilla Monsoon's favorite card.
Q: I have Pandemonium in play and I play a creature spell. When does Pandemonium check to see how much damage it would deal? Can I pump my creature in response to the trigger?

A: You certainly may. Pandemonium will check the creature's power when its triggered ability resolves. At the time, the creature will deal damage to the chosen target equal to its power.

Q: What happens if the creature is destroyed before the trigger resolves?

A: In that case, Pandemonium would use last known information to determine how much damage is going to be dealt. The creature's power right before it left play will be used.

Q: So that means that if I play Sudden Death and kill a 4/4 in response to the Pandemonium trigger, no damage will be dealt?

A: Correct. Because the creature is no longer in play, the game will use last known information to determine its power. Because of Sudden Death, the answer that it receives will be a big fat goose egg.

Q: If I attack with Akroma, can my opponent use the ability of Ith, High Arcanist to prevent her damage?

A: Yes. While Akroma has vigilance, and will this not be tapped when attacking, Ith's ability will still affect it. If the attacking creature is already untapped, then the instruction to untap it is ignored, but the rest of Ith's effect will still apply.

Bonus: Going old school for a moment, Maze of Ith works the same way. That Ith is a tricksy one.

Q: Will Counterbalance, revealing a land, counter the suspend spells with no mana cost?

A: Yes. The game is looking for the converted mana cost of the spell on the stack. Because these spells (like Restore Balance, Ancestral Visions, etc) have no mana cost, their CMC will be treated as 0. The same is true for the land that's on top of your library.

Bonus: This would also work if you revealed a card with a 0 mana cost, like Ornithopter, or another no-mana-cost suspend spell.

Q: I'm confused about Firemane Angel. If I stack the lifegain ability during my upkeep, and respond by returning the Angel to play, I was told I don't gain the life. Is this correct?

A: It is. When the Angel's ability triggers, it is either in play or in the graveyard. For the ability to resolve and you to gain the 1 life, the Angel must remain in that same zone, unmolested. If you return it to play with the lifegain ability on the stack, then the game will see the Angel that's in play as a different object than the Angel which created the lifegain trigger. The same is true if you have a Firemane in play at the beginning of your upkeep, and your opponent kills the Angel in response to the trigger. The Angel that's now in your graveyard is not the same object that created the ability.

Q: So if I let the Angel's trigger resolve, when do I have a chance to pay the mana to return it to play?

A: Once the lifegain ability has resolved, you as the active player have priority. It's your upkeep step. If you pass priority, and your opponent does the same, then the game will proceed to the draw step and you won't be able to return the Angel to play. You'll need to play the ability after the lifegain has resolved, while you have priority.

Bonus Non-Rules Question
Q: I'm watching a match at Champs and I see an illegal play. What am I supposed to do?

A: As an spectator, if you witness a rules infraction, you are required to call a judge. Section 14 of the Universal Tournament Rules says, in part:
Spectators and members of the press who believe they have observed rules violations should inform a judge, but must not interfere with the match.

If you're watching a match, whether or not you know either of the players involved, and you see something illegal, it is your responsibility to call for a judge. Usually, a spectator calling for a judge will cause the players to stop their game. However, remember that at no time should a spectator interfere with a game in progress. Call a judge and let the judge sort it out.

That's it for CI and our look at Standard for the week. We hope your Champs experiences were good ones! Join us next week, when we talk about ... uh, more rules stuff.

-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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