Published on 10/20/2014

The Morph Things Change

or, Surprise Scornful Egotist!

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Is it... a werewolf?
Despite the catchy pun in the title, morph hasn't actually changed since its last go-around. Morphs, delightful blobs of mystery. What's inside? Exalted Angel or Willbender? Grinning Demon or Thousand Winds? Island or a Game Loss?

Remember, folks, be careful about putting down the right card when you play a morph, and never, ever let the morph go anywhere without making sure your opponent sees it. If you use the morph overlay cards, you'll probably never forget to show them. If history's any teacher, this will be a non-issue by the time Fate Reforged comes out, but until then, we're going to keep reminding you to not shoot yourself in the foot!

Speaking of feet, how do you all like non sequiturs? It's time to roll on to questions we've picked up this week, fresh from our @CranialTweet Twitter feed and the inbox. Remember, Twitter is for short questions and answers. Email should be the default if you need an explanation or can't state your question really quickly.

Let's start off with a blast from the past - we got a question about a creature I haven't heard from in years!

Q: My Iron-Heart Chimera got a +2/+2 counter, and then got two -1/-1 counters from Contagion Engine. Are the -1/-1 counters still there to proliferate? I thought they'd go poof with the +2/+2 counter.

A: They'll be sitting there just fine and dandy. Only +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters nuke each other. No other counters, not even +0/+1 and -0/-1 counters, remove each other. The rule was added specifically to limit counter pileups in Standard, and only +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters are intended for future use as far as numeric counters are concerned.

Q: Can I cast Valley Dasher after combat so it can block, or do I have to cast it before combat to satisfy its ability?

A: You can do that. An ability stating that something must happen or can't happen only modifies that thing - the game never reaches the level of meta and predestination required to railroad you into earlier actions to make a future action possible.

Q: If Clever Impersonator copies a token and gets bounced, does it cease to exist?

A: It'll be as alive and well as a -1/-1 counter on a creature with a +2/+2 counter. Whether or not something is a token is not a copiable value. Clever Impersonator will copy the token's base values and be a nontoken copy of the token's info.

Q: Is Clever Impersonator a noncreature spell for things like prowess and Narset, Enlightened Master if it's copying a planeswalker?

A: As you cast Clever Impersonator, and all the way down till it resolves, it's still just a Clever Impersonator and not doing its impression of Sarkhan or Jeskai Ascendancy or an end table, or whatever it's planning to pretend to be. It'll be its normal self, and subject to all the rules for casting it and triggering things based on that. Prowess won't trigger, and Narset won't let you cast it, possibly because she just lacks vision.

Few realize that Scornful Egotist
is more than a joke - it deliberately feeds
into three of
Scourge's mechanical themes.
Q: Can I use Magewright's Stone to untap a Abzan Falconer?

A: The outlast keyword represents an activated ability whose cost contains a , even if doesn't appear on the card other than in the reminder text. The in the card's text isn't what matters, just the in the ability's cost, so Magewright Stone works wonderfully with the Abzan Houses.

Q: My opponent cast Siege Rhino, so I Disdainful Stroked it. In response, he cast Surrak Dragonclaw. Is my Stroke countered?

A: It's not countered, but it's not going to do anything useful. Surrak resolves first, and then Disdainful Stroke resolves. Its target is legal - that Rhino still has a converted mana cost of 4 - so Disdainful Stroke goes to perform its first action. This is the point where Surrak's effect butts in and says "NUH UH" while doing a sassy finger wag, and since Disdainful Stroke has no further effects, it finishes resolving and goes off to the graveyard.

Q: Can I throw a second Disdainful Stroke at the Rhino in response to Surrak Dragonclaw?

A: You can! Any object on the stack can be targeted, not just the top one, and players can keep casting things like you two have already started to do until they're out of mana to cast things with. Surrak's Wagging Finger doesn't take effect until it's entered the battlefield (unlike its second ability that affects Surrak itself), so the Rhino can still be countered before Surrak's resolved.

Q: When Simic Guildmage moves counters around, will Hardened Scales get involved and make it more awesome?

A: To move a counter means to remove it from where it is and place it on the recipient. You'll remove just one counter, and while following the second part of the instruction, Hardened Scales kicks in and boom, two +1/+1 counters for the price of one! Or seven for the price of six, if you're Bioshifting or something, but that's still a free counter.

Q: Do I get to strive for free when Narset, Enlightened Master exiles Ajani's Presence?

A: Nope. Narset only lets you skip out on the mana cost printed on the top-right - any additional costs, like strive imposes, still have to be paid with actual payments.

Q: One of my friends has been playing Magic for a long time, and he was saying something about spells being "successfully cast" not working the same as a spell being "cast." What does that mean?

A: Many years ago, in the dim ages before Sixth Edition, players didn't simply cast spells. They would start to cast a spell, and after completing the steps of doing so, there would be a "window." The "interrupt window." This was the time that players could cast interrupts, like Counterspell's original printing. You couldn't respond to a spell by countering it, you had to stop it as it was being cast. If the spell wasn't countered by an interrupt, it was "successfully cast."

That's the past. There's no such thing as "successfully cast" anymore - you either did cast a spell, or you didn't. In order for a spell to be countered, it must have already been cast, so anything that cares about a spell being cast will have already triggered.

Q: Clever Impersonator is impersonating an Ashcloud Phoenix. What will it do when dies?

A: It had the "when dies" trigger just before it died, so it'll trigger. The trigger will return Clever Impersonator to the battlefield face down, and because it's face down, its replacement effect can't apply. It's not a copy of the Phoenix anymore, nor is it a copy of anything, so it doesn't have a morph cost and can't be turned face up. If someone like Ixidor comes along and pries it face up with a crowbar, it'll die for being a poor lil 0/0 creature.

Q: In a big Commander game, the mono-blue player had taken my Archangel of Thune with Bribery and my Kitchen Finks with Blatant Thievery. Naturally, the entire table ganged up on him and we managed to kill him. What happens to all my stolen stuff now? Am I the new target?

A: You probably won't be much of a target. When a player leaves the game, first stuff the player owns leaves and any effects giving that player control of an object from another player wear off - Kitchen Finks gets its boogie shoes on and dances across the table. Next, anything that the player controls but did not take from another player's control is exiled - shove that Archangel into a can in the void. With only a Finks joining your side, you shouldn't be super scary.

Q: Another player has enough attackers coming at her to kill her, but I don't want her to die just yet. Can I send in my creatures to block?

A: No, you can only block creatures for which you're a defending player, meaning they must be attacking you, a planeswalker you control, or your team if you're playing Two-Headed Giant. Your group of players is, of course, entirely welcome to modify the rules for casual games to allow you to send in reinforcements for other players, but that sort of thing should be discussed before it matters!

My Little Ponyback Brigade
Coming soon to toy stores near you!
Q: You have to turn a face-down creature face up when it goes to your hand or library, so if I Force Away a Ponyback Brigade, do I get Goblins?

A: A creature leaving the battlefield ceases to have a face-up-or-down status, the same way it ceases to have a tapped-or-untapped status. It's not being turned face up or becoming untapped; it's entering a third state. Since showing the card is an anti-cheating measure rather than a gameplay tool, the rule to prove the card had morph doesn't cause you to turn it face up, but only to reveal it as it moves. Your little Goblins won't get to run free.

Q: With Quiet Contemplation, can I cast two spells to keep a creature tapped for two turns?

A: Each trigger will stop the creature from untapping "next untap step." This isn't a replacement effect, where only one could apply and the other would wait around. It's just a continuous effect that modifies the game rules. Both will try to apply in the same "next untap step" and the creature will just feel extra sad about being tapped.

Q: Does Batterskull trigger Temur Ascendancy?

A: Oddly enough, it won't. The Germ token enters the battlefield as a 0/0, and that's what's used for determining triggers. Immediately after that, it'll suit up and become a 4/4, but it's already entered the battlefield before that.

Q: I have a Jeskai Student that had one prowess resolve this turn. Does it gain flying from Abzan Falconer?

A: It'll still be studying the ground. An effect giving +1/+1 isn't a counter giving +1/+1. A counter is only a counter if the word "counter" is used (and before you try to counter that, context counts for counting counters).

Q: Can I use Lens of Clarity to look at the second card down while I'm scrying 1?

A: That card might be in your hand, but that's only because you're human. You're looking at the top card of your library when you scry. It's still the top card of your library, but if it were actually on top of your library and you were looking at it, without also revealing it to your opponent, you'd have to have some sort of weird x-ray vision or something.

Q: How does Reflecting Pool work with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx?

A: "Could produce" looks at every possible choice of every possible ability that could resolve, whether or not it could be activated. So for the Pool and Nykthos, you look at each of the six possibilities: the first ability, the second ability choosing white, the second ability choosing blue, etc.

The Pool can produce colorless mana, since it calls out "type" rather than "color," so that's good. Beyond that, we need to ask what happens if the second Nykthos ability resolves after choosing the colors. I chose white, and what do I get? No mana, I have no devotion to white. So Reflecting Pool can't produce white. Continue through the other colors and you'll see what you can get.

Q: I took my opponent's Woolly Loxodon with Act of Treason, swung, then handed it back. But this Loxodon has my Singing Bell Strike on it, too. Can my opponent untap it during my turn before he untaps?

A: Act of Treason's effect wears off during your cleanup step, and it's exceedingly rare for a player to get priority in the cleanup step. So in just about every case you'll ever encounter, no, he can't take any action before his upkeep.

Priority in the cleanup step happens only if there's a state-based action to be performed (cast Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker after animating another one) or triggers to put onto the stack (Liliana's Caress when discarding for hand size).

Q: I cracked a Polluted Delta and a foil Polluted Delta in pack two of the draft! Can I drop and run off cackling with my cards?

A: I'd recommend not literally cackling, but you may do that. Players may drop from a draft and take the pack they're currently holding, cards thus far drafted, and undrafted packs they have. This is entirely valid as far as Wizards is concerned, although your store and players may have separate opinions on the matter and you may be banned at the store's discretion, which Wizards will also allow. Especially if you were cackling.

That's all for this week, but pay attention to Wizards' media - it's time for Commander 2014 previews to start up and finally, finally put to rest all of the speculation on the planeswalkers and legends in the set.

Join us next week when James really wants to talk about C14 but can't, and then the week after when Carsten does get to talk all about C14.

Until next time, may your morphs always contain whatever you'd like!

- Eli Shiffrin

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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