Published on 03/28/2005

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Now that I have your attention, welcome to Cranial Insertion! This is a weekly column for rules questions, much like Saturday School or our own Rulings Forums. With that kind of competition, we need something special here, like tap-dancing emus. Unfortunately, the emus went on strike, so you're stuck with me. I'm Eli Shiffrin, a mere level 1 DCI Judge in Tucson, Arizona, but I have the force of #mtgjudge (on the efnet IRC server) behind me. That includes Jeff Vondruska, rules-answerer extraordinaire and our top proofreader and rules-checker, who will sometimes take the helm to answer top-level questions (Thanks Jeff!). Next week we'll meet my costar, a certain wizard who must fish a lot.

Hopefully this column will be enjoyable to read so you'll ask questions for CI instead of just posting in the rulings forum. If you have a question, send it to me in a private message, and I'll add it to the pile. Each week, my specially trained chimpanzee Moko will select several of these questions to be answered. Don't be afraid to send corner-case questions or tournament rules questions. Moko likes them. He says they taste like blueberries.

Anyway, questions! This week is a hodge-podge of questions, as we work towards a more stable column format.

Q: I attack my opponent with my Thief of Hope, but he wants to block with a Samurai of the Pale Curtain . The Thief sure looks like it's flying through the clouds. Can he do that?

A: This question is usually asked about Whippoorwill, not Thief of Hope. Are you just making this up to be current? You see, the Thief of Hope doesn't fly -- nowhere in the card text does it say that he has flying.

Quote from CompRules:
204.1. The illustration is printed on the upper half of a card and has no game significance. For example, a creature doesn't have the flying ability unless stated in its rules text, even if it's depicted as flying.

He must walk on the clouds. Or something. So if you live in a desert, you're safe from random Thieves of Hope running around trying to sell you Spirit Scout Cookies.

Of course, there's a psychological advantage to having creatures that look like they're flying. If your opponent didn't read the card, he might not have realized that he could block. In this situation, however, he's blocked by a Samurai of the Pale Curtain, and just gets removed from the game.

Q: My opponent just used Cranial Extraction on me, and removed three copies of Kokusho, the Evening Star. I drew the fourth one and played it, then sacrificed it for the win. Did we do something wrong?

A: Well, yes and no. Neither of you did anything wrong within the rules, but man, your opponent did something wrong!

Quote from CompRules:
Definition: Search
If you're required to search a zone not revealed to all players for cards matching some criteria, you aren't required to find those cards even if they're present; however, if you do choose to find cards, you must reveal those cards to all players. Even if you don't find any cards, you are still considered to have searched the zone.

The library is not a revealed zone -- barring some made-up card that makes you reveal your library -- so you can choose not to find all of the copies. That does defeat the purpose of Cranial Extraction, which makes the big guy in heavy armor very sad and chafed, but it's perfectly legal.

The cards in your hand are usually also not revealed. Unless your hand is revealed, you may choose not to find anything other than "a card" while searching your hand or library. However, the graveyard, for example, is public knowledge (no, you can't sand off the writing on the graves), so if you have to search a graveyard for a card that is there, you must find it.

Q: At a recent tournament, my opponent presented his deck for me to cut. I split it into seven pieces and put them back at random. Then he cut it again -- can he do that? I thought my cut was final.

A: Ah, the final cut is the cruelest cut -- but you didn't cut his library!

Quote from Floor Rules:
Definition: Cutting
One time only, removing a single portion of a deck and placing it on top of the remaining portion without looking at any of the card faces. Anything more than this one cut is considered a shuffle.

Quote from Floor Rules:
If the opponent has shuffled the player's deck, that player may make one final cut.

Since you moved more than one piece, you did not cut your opponent's library. You shuffled it, although not very well. A shuffle like that will have your opponent screaming for the judges if you do it to your own deck, but it's fine and dandy to use on an opponent's deck. A legal cut means splitting the deck into two piles and putting the bottom on the top, or splitting the deck into three piles and putting the middle on top. This last one is called a "Scarne cut", for the trivia buffs out there. Any more splitting, or putting the bottom on the top with a three-way cut, and you've just shuffled.

Make sure you shuffle your deck much better than that before presenting it to be cut. Riffle and pile shuffles are good for sufficient randomization. I'm sure this is a topic we'll be revisiting.

Q: If my opponent plays a fifth Platinum Angel from his deck, does he lose for having too many in there?

A: If you're playing in a sanctioned tournament, oh boy does he ever. This is what we call an "Illegal Main Deck," boys and girls. Can you say "Illegal Main Deck?" I knew you could.

Platy protects you from losing by game rules. Unfortunately, Platinum Angel does not protect you from the wrath of judges, who will be quite wroth that you're playing with five copies of a card. The penalty for this is a game loss at all rules-enforcement levels, so your opponent is going to lose that game, and he'll have to remove the fifth -- and sixth, and seventh -- angel and replace them with basic lands if he has less than 60 cards now.

Q: Can my opponent play Rack and Ruin if I only have one artifact in play? What if I have two, but sacrifice one in response to his Rack and Ruin?

A: Hey, you're sneaking in two questions at once. Are you trying to confuse our poor readers or something?

Let's start from the top. Rack and Ruin's current Oracle text says "Destroy two target artifacts." One nice little sentence. Notice that the word "target" only occurs once.

Quote from CompRules 409.1c:
The same target can't be chosen multiple times for any one instance of the word "target" on the spell or ability. If the spell or ability uses the word "target" in multiple places, the same object or player can be chosen once for each instance of the word "target" (as long as it fits the targeting criteria).

Since it does not say "Destroy target artifact. Destroy target artifact.", which would make it a rather catchy techno tune, you must target two different artifacts.

Now, what if you nuke one of your artifacts before it resolves? When the spell first begins to resolve, it will check for legal targets. If there are no legal targets left, it gives up and goes to the bar. But if there's any legal targets left, it still does what it can.

Quote from CompRules:
413.2a If the spell or ability specifies targets, it checks whether the targets are still legal. A target that's removed from play, or from the zone designated by the spell or ability, is illegal. A target may also become illegal if its characteristics changed since the spell or ability was played or if an effect changed the text of the spell. If all targets are now illegal, the spell or ability is countered. If the spell or ability is not countered, it will resolve normally, affecting only the targets that are still legal. If a target is illegal, the spell or ability can't perform any actions on it or make the target perform any actions. If the spell or ability needs to know information about one or more targets that are now illegal, it will use the illegal targets' current or last known information.

The one surviving artifact means that Rack and Ruin still has a legal target, so it will resolve as normal, and only rack that one artifact. You already ruined the other.

Q: What is this "CompRules" and "Oracle" you keep mentioning?

A: A very good question! I guess most of you know this already, but I'm answering it anyway because I have lots of space left.

The Oracle is the definitive text of cards. Whatever it says takes precedence over what the card itself says. In Vintage, it's more important than in Standard, but there are occasionally important errata in Standard. You can download a text file of the Oracle here:

When you search for a card with the Gatherer, the current Oracle text is displayed along with the card. The card tags here at MTGSalvation may or may not display the most recent Oracle text; they usually do.

The CompRules -- Comprehensive Rules -- are the rules behind the game. Consider it an English-Magicese dictionary. It's not vital that you memorize it, but it's handy to have, especially if you get into arguments about rules with people like me. This is a LONG document, and it just hit 100 pages in Microsoft Word. You can download it here:

Q: I edited the CompRules so that now I start with 50 life.

A: You are the reason that the DCI recently hired a crack squad of ninja penguins. The real CompRules remain unchanged, and that is what matters.

However, suppose that some prankster changed the CompRules in the Wizards database so that you now start with 50 life. That is obviously wrong. In any tournament, the head judge has the final say, and can overrule the CompRules AND Oracle if he believes that they have an error. This is very rare, but in this hypothetical situation, it would be the correct course of action.

By the way, that wasn't even a question. You lose.

Q: I'm confused about Ogre Marauder . When do I sacrifice a creature to be able to block it?

A: That's a good question! The WotC rules team actually saw it too late, after the card went to print but before its release. It has been errataed:

Quote from Oracle:
Whenever Ogre Marauder attacks, it gains "Ogre Marauder can't be blocked" until end of turn unless defending player sacrifices a creature.

The errata clears up the confusion. When it is declared an attacker, its triggered ability ("Whenever...") goes on the stack. When it resolves, you choose whether or not to sacrifice a creature. If you don't, it becomes unblockable and your living creatures are too distracted by the kami selling Spirit Scout cookies to block.

Q: I have three S.N.O.T.s joined together, one of which is foiled. If a certain card that does not exist were to give all foiled creatures +1/+1, how would it affect my S.N.O.T.?

A: Yes, Cranial Insertion is not afraid of Un- questions! Let's look at the card in question:

Quote from Card Text:
As S.N.O.T. comes into play, you may stick it onto another creature named S.N.O.T. in play. If you do, all those creatures form a single creature.
S.N.O.T.'s power and toughness are equal to the square of the number of S.N.O.T.s stuck together.

So now we have a one-third foily S.N.O.T.ball (as opposed to a 1/3 foily S.N.O.T.ball, as Jeff points out). In black-bordered world, a card that is red, green, and blue would get +1/+1 from an effect that read "All red creatures get +1/+1." If we follow that convention, you have a 10/10 S.N.O.T. I'd suggest this, since if you're playing with Unhinged cards, you're prepared for half-lives and half-damage. MaRo has said that halves are the only fractions that you can use for Unhinged cards, but if you want to be daring, go into thirds and give yourself a 9.333/9.333 creature! It's exciting! It's gooey! It's a trailing decimal place!

All in all, it's up to your play group to decide. Ask ahead of time if they'll accept non-half fractions, but don't tell them why. It's more fun that way.

Until next time, enjoy the Spirit Scout cookies!

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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