Published on 04/27/2015

Formidable Questions

or, No Questions Involving Formidable

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

"These swords look delicious!"
This week, we'll dive into questions great and small, easy and formidable - but sorry, Surrak, no questions about formidable. Formidable just isn't formidable, you see. Sure, some of the cards that use it do things that inspire questions, but overall, "can your creatures count to 8?" has been one of the least-wrote-in-about topics ever.

There are plenty of other questions, though! If you've still got more, send an email over to or a tweet to @CranialTweet for short and simple questions. You'll get an answer hand-delivered by a zombie chimpanzee, and depending on how you tip him, your answer may appear in an upcoming article.

Q: Zurgo Bellstriker is my commander, and I dashed it and returned it to hand. How much does it cost to cast now?

A: If you're casting your commander from your hand, the commander-tax rule doesn't apply and it'll cost just to cast or to dash. This also won't increase the taxable casting count, so if it cost you to dash it from the command zone before it went to your hand, it'll cost to dash it next time from the command zone after it makes its way back there.

Q: When Phenax, God of Deception mills Legacy Weapon and six other cards, do I see Legacy Weapon, shuffle it in, and then keep counting to seven, or does the shuffle happen later?

A: Closer to "later," but it's not really later. You'll look at all seven cards that are going to move to determine whether any replacement effects modify them and, if the format requires it, the order they'll enter your graveyard. Then you move them all, putting six into your graveyard at the same time you shuffle Legacy Weapon back in.

Q: Can I just reveal a card without an effect telling me to?

A: The Comprehensive Rules don't govern player interaction behavior, so they're silent on the matter; luckily, the Magic Tournament Rules, which do govern player behavior when house rules can't be relied on, have something to say. Any time a player has access to information (cards in hand, scried cards) and is not forbidden to reveal it (while drafting a pack, for example), the player may share this information with any other players.

Q: Can I just sacrifice a creature without an effect telling me to?

A: Nope - the Comprehensive Rules do govern in-game actions, so unless you mean to offer up your creature as a literal sacrifice to Elder Gods and other eldritch entities best unnamed, the game will restrict you to only what the rules or an effect specifically permit you to do. That doesn't include sacrificing creatures, discarding cards, or any number of things.

We do repeat questions when they
get asked over and over - that means that
the question touches on a topic that obviously
confuses a large number of players.
Q: Will Wingmate Roc count a Goblin token from Mardu Ascendancy for the life gain?

A: The difference between "attacking, adjective" and "attack, verb" is an unfortune one that never stops causing confusion. A creature is attacking if it's in combat pointed at a player or planeswalker; a creature attacks when the turn-based action of declaring attackers causes it to become an attacking creature. Effects like Mardu Ascendancy make the creature attacking without having attacked, and Wingmate Roc counts the creatures that are attacking, rather than the ones that attacked, so it'll count your little Goblin buddy.

Q: If I attack with a face-down Dirgur Nemesis then turn it face up after blocks, is it removed from combat because it has defender?

A: Creatures with defender are perfectly content to be attacking creatures. They just can't be declared as attackers, but your Nemesis didn't have defender as you attacked. It'll get in one good punch before it hangs out blocking for the rest of the game.

Q: I target Fabled Hero with Dromoka's Command, choosing to give it a counter and to have it fight another creature. Does heroic trigger twice?

A: Just once. You targeted Fabled Hero twice, but you only cast one spell, and heroic triggers care about "when you cast a spell [plus words]," not "when you target [etc etc]." If it makes you feel any better, the heroic trigger still resolves before the Command so your Hero has two extra counters to punch another creature in the face with.

Q: I control Hardened Scales and a Phalanx Leader. I know if I target one of them twice for Common Bond heroic only triggers once, but will Hardened Scales apply twice and get four counters just from Common Bond?

A: It will. If you placed two counters at once, you'd only add a third, but the number of times the word "put" appears is relevant. Each verb is a separate action and separate event, and Hardened Scales gets to apply once to each event.

Q: Clever Impersonator copying my opponent's Dragonlord Silumgar can steal a creature, can't it?

A: It can! Enters-the-battlefield triggers are checked after applying all applicable replacement effects to the entering event, including Clever Impersonator's clever impersonation. You'll get to take a creature, and keep it for as long as you control the Clever Imdragonator - and if you take Silumgar itself, you can toss it into the graveyard for the legend rule and commit a very in-depth case of identity theft.

Q: So if Clever Impersonator copies my own Dragonlord Silumgar, can I sacrifice the Impersonator to the legend rule and steal a creature forever?

A: That won't work out for you. You can put the Impersonator into your graveyard, put its trigger on the stack, pick a target for it, let it resolve... and then nothing happens. Because the duration ("for as long as you control this") has expired before the effect began, it can't ever begin at all, and you never gain control of the targeted creature for even a millisecond.

Q: Can I cast Secure the Wastes or Icy Blast for 0 and get 0 tokens, tap 0 things, but trigger Jeskai Ascendancy?

A: Yup! Unless a spell or ability says otherwise, its X may be any non-negative integer, including 0. Whether or not it'll do anything as it resolves isn't important for it becoming cast, which is what Jeskai Ascendancy cares about.

Q: I attacked with a morph, and my opponent blocked with a morph. Can I see if it's getting turned face up or not before I decide whether to turn mine face up?

A: There are two possible interpretations to your question:

"Can I only choose whether to turn mine face up after I know the other isn't?" - No. You've passed priority in the declare blockers step on an empty stack, so if no further actions are taken when your opponent has priority, the step ends and the combat damage step's assignment and dealing starts.

"Can I turn mine face up if the other is turned face up?" - Yes. Your opponent didn't pass priority with an empty stack; special actions like unmorphing don't use the stack but they still aren't passing, and so you'll get priority again after the blocker's face up and you can turn the attacker face up.

Q: Someone said that two Enduring Scalelords go infinite, but that can't be right, can it?

A: It's pretty close. The only reason it's not infinite is because of the "may," which lets the Dragons only become arbitrarily large (is 500/500 big enough?) and then you'll have to choose no on the may to continue the game. "Too good to be true" is a reasonable metric for suspicion that a simple combo is so game-ending, but in this case, it's really that explosive.

Of course.
Q: Epic Experiment for five gives me four duds and Reiterate. Can I cast Reiterate targeting Epic Experiment to continue experimenting?

A: You can cast Reiterate, but it won't help you. All of the Epic Experiment spells are cast while it's resolving, so it's still on the stack and a legal target, but as soon as you're done casting them all, it goes to your graveyard - before any of the new spells resolve. Reiterate will go to resolve and find that its target is gone, and then it'll be countered by the game rules.

Q: I cast Silumgar Butcher and exploit a creature, and I also control Ruthless Deathfang. How do the triggers work here? Can my opponent sacrifice the creature I want to kill?

A: Since you control both triggers, you choose the order. You have to pick a target for the -3/-3, and the sacrifice-a-creature trigger has no target. If you have the sacrifice trigger resolve first, the target of the -3/-3 may indeed be the one sacrificed, countering the other trigger. Just resolve the -3/-3 trigger first, kill that creature, and then one of the creatures still alive has to be sacrificed.

Q: Do megamorphs keep counters and Auras when they turn face up?

A: They do. Being turned face up doesn't make the creature into a new object, so anything attached to it is still attached (and, if not legally attached, it'll fall off soon), anything that targets it is are still targeting it (and if not legally, that'll be checked as they resolve), and so on.

Q: My opponent has Illusory Gains on my Acid-Spewer Dragon and tries to cast a creature. I flash in Silumgar Sorcerer to counter it. I know that because it's not my turn my exploit and counter resolves before Illusory Gains's trigger. Does Illusory Gains go away when it attaches to nothing that so I can have my Dragon back?

A: No such luck. The trigger resolves and tries to attach Illusory Gains to your Sorcerer, but that's not legal. So Illusory Gains doesn't move at all, and stays on the battlefield attached to your Dragon.

Q: If I have two Jeskai Ascendancy and cast one spell, is there a way I can draw twice before discarding twice?

A: There's no way to do that. Each draw and discard is paired up inside of one resolving trigger, and there's no way to interject part or all of another trigger in the middle of one.

Q: Has Jeskai Ascendancy been banned from Standard yet?

A: Nope, it's still alive and kicking. You can always see what cards are banned in which formats at Wizards's banned and restricted page.

Q: I cast Ultimate Price targeting Icefall Regent and my opponent pointed out that I didn't pay enough. Do I have to pay more, or is my spell countered, or can I just change my mind?

A: When you've just done something illegal, you rewind the game. You don't have to take additional actions to make it legal. This is reinforced in the game rules, so it's beyond a tournament issue, and no tournament at any level will force you to pay more.

Q: What's the latest I can do things with my phone before I have to put it away for a match?

A: A match is not considered to have started until all pregame procedures are completed and game one begins. This lets players perform shuffles and mulligans before the start of time in the round, which is good for everyone involved. As a side effect, it means that the electronics policy barring use of information-transmitting devices doesn't kick in until after you've kept your opening hand.

That's all for this week, but it's coming up on Modern Masters 2015 time! Will the set cause questions? Oh yes indeed.

Until next time, may all your challenges turn out to be simple!

- 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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