Published on 07/08/2013

Starred and Spangled

Cranial Translation
简体中文 繁體中文 Deutsch Español Français Italiano

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Remember to set off your fireworks safely.
Independence Day in the US has come and gone this week, and Wizards of the Coast was kind enough to give the country a birthday present in the form of Magic 2014 previews! We'll have an M14 special issue coming out soon, and in the meantime we can celebrate independence from confusion by answering some 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. Just remember that until the rules update and FAQ for a new set is out, we won't always be able to provide official answers to questions involving previewed cards.

Q: So, I know that if my opponent casts Unburial Rites I know up-front what they want to reanimate, and I can exile it in response (say, with my Deathrite Shaman) to keep that from happening. But I had someone tell me that if they cast Slaughter Games then somehow I don't get to respond? What's up with that? Is that because it can't be countered?

A: You can respond to Slaughter Games, the same as you can respond to almost any other spell, and the fact that it can't be countered just means counterspells won't counter it (they can still target Slaughter Games, though, which might be useful — say, if you wanted to untap some lands with a Rewind, which would fail to counter Slaughter Games but would still have its other effects).

The tricky thing here is that you won't know what card your opponent wants to name at the time you respond. The basic difference here is that Unburial Rites targets a card in the graveyard, and targets are announced as a spell is being cast. But Slaughter Games doesn't target the card — it targets a player. Since the card to name isn't a targeting choice, it isn't made until Slaughter Games is resolving, at which point it's too late to try to respond. Also note that if your opponent jumps the gun and names a card early, you can respond, but if you do he's not held to his early choice.

Q: My opponent has a Nivmagus Elemental and wants to discard his entire hand to it. Is that legal?

A: Only if all the cards in his hand are instants or sorceries, and he can pay to cast all of them. Nivmagus Elemental's ability doesn't work on cards in hand; it works on spells on the stack. So in order to exile something, he'll first need to get it onto the stack, which typically means going through the process of casting (including paying all costs).

Q: If I have out a Legion's Initiative, does my Boros Reckoner get +1/+1?

A: Yup! Boros Reckoner is red, so it gets +1/+0. And it's white, so it gets +0/+1. Taken together, that's a total of +1/+1, making an even larger reckoning for your opponent.

Q: With Leaf-Crowned Elder, can I only reveal and play a card if it's also a Treefolk Shaman?

A: "Treefolk Shaman" isn't a creature type; it's two creature types, and many creatures in Magic have two creature types. So you'll be able to reveal and play any card that's either a Treefolk or a Shaman.

"Spangled" has apparently never appeared in a card name.
I've got a Maze's End and nine different Guildgates out. If I draw the tenth one, can I play it and win?[/Q]

A: Nope. The "you win the game" bit is part of Maze's End's Gate-searching ability, so it only kicks in if you activate that ability, rather than any time you happen to control ten different Gates. You can at least play the last Gate and then activate the ability, but you can't just play it and call out bingo.

Q: My opponent is at 10 life and I have two copies of Malignus. If I attack with both, will he die?

A: Well, if he doesn't block it somehow, he'll be pretty dead. All combat damage is assigned simultaneously based on the current power of the creatures involved. So each Malignus is a 5/5 at the time damage is assigned, and each assigns 5 damage to him, for a total of 10.

Q: If I attack with a Burning-Tree Emissary that has Mage Slayer equipped, do I get any chance to bloodrush (say, with a Ghor-Clan Rampager) in time to pump up the damage from the Mage Slayer's ability?

A: You're going to have quite the slaying time here, since Mage Slayer's triggered ability — which you can respond to as normal — only checks for the creature's power when resolving. So you can declare the Emissary attacking, Mage Slayer's ability triggers, and you can respond by bloodrushing the Rampager to add 4 power. Mage Slayer's ability will deal 6 damage.

Q: If I have Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and cast a Geist-Honored Monk, how much life do I gain?

A: Probably quite a bit. When the Monk enters the battlefield, Trostani's ability triggers and the Monk's ability triggers. You can put them on the stack in an order of your choice, and you probably want to have Trostani's ability resolve last — that way the Geist's tokens will be created first and pump its toughness up another two points. You'll end up gaining life equal to 5 plus the number of other creatures you already controlled when the Geist entered.

Q: I have a Life from the Loam in my graveyard, and activate the second ability of Sensei's Divining Top. If I dredge the draw, does that mean Top ends up in my graveyard, or on top of my library?

A: The Top will end up on top, in tip-top shape. When resolving a spell or ability, you follow the instructions in order, so first you're going to draw a card (which is replaced by dredging Life from the Loam — this isn't something that triggers and happens later, it just replaces the card draw in real time). Once you've finished doing that, you put the Top on top, and then you're done.

Q: Is the "Dangerous" half of Armed // Dangerous as good as I think it is when cast on a Stuffy Doll?

A: Well, it sure seems pretty dangerous! Your opponent will have to block the Stuffy Doll with everything that can block it, and he'll end up taking damage equal to the combined power of all those creatures (creatures in combat always deal damage equal to their power — they don't "hold back" and only deal enough to kill whatever they've blocked).

Q: I know that with Clone you get any enters-the-battlefield triggers from the creature you choose to copy with it. But what about Lazav, Dimir Mastermind?

A: You won't get any enters-the-battlefield triggers there. Even though Lazav gets all the abilities of the creature it copies, Lazav hasn't just entered the battlefield — he was on the battlefield the whole time, and just changed a bunch of his characteristics in-place.

Q: How do Yixlid Jailer and Snapcaster Mage interact? Will it still be possible to flash back the targeted card?

A: Probably, but not necessarily always. You have two competing effects here: one wants to grant an ability, the other wants to remove abilities. Whichever one is more recent will "win"; usually that's going to be Snapcaster Mage's ability, so the card will have flashback and can be cast. Though if you somehow flash in a Yixlid Jailer after Snappy's ability has resolved but before the card gets cast (which will require some unusual things to happen), the card will lose flashback.

Q: If my opponent targets one of my creatures with a spell, can I use Aether Vial to put Kira, Great Glass-Spinner into play in response and counter the spell?

A: Nope! Kira's ability only triggers if she's on the battlefield when your creature becomes a target of a spell. If she enters the battlefield in response to a spell, she'll arrive too late to trigger, and won't counter the spell.

Oh say can you see, by the
frog's early light...
Q: I have Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. My opponent has Sigil Captain and Ghave, Guru of Spores. If he activates Ghave's ability to make a token, will Sigil Captain save the token?

A: Nope. In fact, Sigil Captain won't trigger at all here! There's never a moment when the token is on the battlefield but not yet getting -2/-2, so Sigil Captain sees it as having negative power/toughness and won't trigger. And even if he could somehow trigger, the token would still die as a state-based action before the trigger could even get onto the stack.

Q: How does Ethersworn Canonist interact with suspend?

A: In a way that may seem kind of weird. The rules for suspend state that you can only suspend a card at a time when you could legally begin to cast the card. So if you've already cast a nonartifact spell this turn, you can't suspend any nonartifact cards. But suspending is not casting, so if you've suspended a nonartifact card this turn, you can still cast one nonartifact spell. Just note that when the last time counter comes off, you do cast the spell, so if you had a nonartifact card come out of suspend already this turn, you won't be able to cast or suspend any further nonartifact cards.

Q: If Living End returns a Shriekmaw from my graveyard along with a Pale Recluse, and the Recluse is the only nonartifact, nonblack creature on the battlefield, do I have to blow it up?

A: You do indeed; Shriekmaw's ability isn't optional, so if there is a creature it can legally target you must target and destroy that creature.

Q: If I Spell Crumple a spell that was cast via flashback, where does the countered spell go?

A: To exile, and nowhere else. Part of flashback is a clause that says to exile the card instead of putting it into any other zone if it would leave the stack. So any effect that tries to send the card to any other zone will just find it going to exile instead.

Q: If my opponent has activated Venser, the Sojourner's last ability twice, does he get to exile two permanents every time he casts a spell?

A: Yup! He'll have two emblems, each with its own triggered ability that will trigger whenever he casts a spell. So each spell he casts gives him two triggers and lets him exile two permanents.

Q: Is there any way to stop that from happening? Say with a counterspell, or by removing the emblem?

A: Anything that counters a spell won't stop the triggered ability, since an ability isn't a spell. Something that specifically counters a triggered ability — like Stifle, for example — could do it, though. And emblems are very hard to remove; they're not spells or permanents, so there's really not anything in the game that interacts with them. Short of restarting the game with a Karn Liberated, that emblem's going to be here to stay.

Q: What about multiple emblems from Tamiyo, the Moon Sage? Would it be possible to re-cast the card in between the triggers?

A: You could re-cast the card in between the multiple triggers, but it wouldn't accomplish anything useful; once the first trigger resolves and returns the card, the other triggers that are currently on the stack will lose track of it forever. Of course, as soon as it goes to the graveyard again, you'll get a fresh set of triggers to return it all over again.

Q: If there's a Rest in Peace on the battlefield and Blood Artist dies, will the Artist's ability trigger?

A: Trick question! Blood Artist never died — it went straight from the battlefield to the exile zone, with no stops in between. And "dies" specifically requires that the card be put into a graveyard from the battlefield, so Blood Artist didn't "die" and its ability won't trigger.

Q: If my opponent casts Renounce the Guilds, can I sacrifice a Golgari Guildgate?

A: Although that may be flavorful, it doesn't work within the rules. A card's color is determined, normally, by the mana symbols in its mana cost. Lands don't have a mana cost, so they normally are colorless (Dryad Arbor, which has a color indicator to make it green, is the exception). And a colorless permanent isn't multicolored, so it's not legal to sacrifice to Renounce the Guilds.

Q: I keep hearing all sorts of conflicting stories about what happens in big Sealed Deck tournaments when you want to drop right away because you opened a bunch of cool cards. Is there a real answer to this question?

A: Well, first off it's important to note why people care so much about this. Competitive-enforcement Magic tournaments often use what's called "sealed deck swap": basically, the set of packs you get at the very start aren't the cards you'll use to build your deck. Instead, you open them up, register what was in them, and then either pass them randomly to another player (who gets to build a deck from them) or hand them in to a tournament official who'll redistribute them. This is an anti-cheating measure, since now there's a record of what actually came out of the packs, making it much harder for whoever ends up with them to try to sneak some extra awesome cards in.

But what if the set of packs you're supposed to register has really cool or valuable cards in it? Well, for that we turn to section 7.5 of the Magic Tournament Rules, which tells us what to do: we let the player drop from the tournament with those cards, and they're recorded as losing their first-round match. This was the procedure used a few weeks ago at Grand Prix Las Vegas, for example, where we're told there was even a specific line set up for anyone who wanted to drop this way.

That's all for this week, but be sure to check in next time for yet more rules questions and answers in the next 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.

What happens in a draft when someone opens a valuable pack and wants to drop?
#1 • Date: 2013-07-07 • Time: 23:23:53 •
Ball your fist up and punch them in the jimmies. That's what I would do if someone in my draft opened a valuable pack and wanted to drop. They agreed to draft, the shop probably sold then discounted packs to draft with, they knew what they were getting into. Being discourteous to the rest of the draft group over the value of a pack is self centered and inexcusable.
#2 • Date: 2013-07-08 • Time: 19:12:17 •
At any point during a draft, you may take the cards you have already drafted, the pack that's in your hand, and any unopened boosters and drop from the draft. So if you open a pack and you would rather drop at that point rather than continuing the draft, you may do so. Do note that while Wizards won't take any action against you if you do (ie you won't be suspended), don't be surprised if there's actions in your local community. You may find that local players don't want to play with you anymore, and the local store can ban you from your store if you do this.

SpiritOfTheNight: Please do not advise using physical violence against anyone. It will result in a disqualification from that tournament, a possible suspension from Wizards, and there may also be possible legal issues you might run into if you do that.
#3 • Date: 2013-07-09 • Time: 11:43:57 •
Just read the article, sorry for a late comment.

About the last question, I looked up MTR (Effective July 19, 2013) and found that 7.5 doesn't actually tells us what to do. I realize that the document had been updated after this article was published, so I was wondering what is the correct 'fix' for a player dropping before a deck swap now?

2.10 states that it's OK for players to keep the product they paid for and I agree with that policy. What the MTR doesn't seem to tell me is what to do exactly with these players. Do we still have to assign the round 1 game loses? Or should we just drop them before pairing round 1?

Assuming I was blind and somehow missed reading about the 'fix' on the MTR, I have a question regarding assigning first round game losses. (Even if it's no longer relevant, I'm curious about the game loses given out during GP Vegas.)

Do we pair the players in the tournament as we usually do on the WER and effectively give someone a first round bye, or do manually fix the pairings and assign players who dropped individually a round 1 game loss and then drop them?
#4 • Date: 2013-08-05 • Time: 10:11:35 •

Follow us @CranialTweet!

Send quick questions to us in English for a short answer.

Follow our RSS feed!