Published on 12/26/2016

Merry X-Mas


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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

The Gruul do not celebrate this holiday.
It's beginning to look a lot like Gruul-mas! You might not realize it, but Moko — our resident zombie chimpanzee/mascot/cruel overseer — is Gruul through and through, and loves this time of year since everyone decorates in the colors of his favorite guild. Of course, sometimes it's hard to tell under the coating of mashed banana that inevitably ends up on everything after Moko "celebrates" the holiday, but really it's the thought that counts, not whether the festive red and green are still visible.

Luckily, a few mashed bananas don't stop us from delivering another stocking stuffed with rules questions and answers! And if you've got a rules question you'd like Santa Moko to bring you an answer to, you can send it to us — at any time of year — by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: My opponent just cast an Aetherworks Marvel; is there any way I can stop her from activating it to get something that'll ruin my day? Does it matter whose turn it is?

A: If they already have enough energy to activate the Marvel, and if you're trying to destroy it to prevent the activation, then no. No matter whose turn it is, and no matter what order you both act in, your opponent will get an activation. Either they activate it (in which case destroying it in response doesn't help), or wait until you try to blow it up and respond by activating (a Summary Dismissal can prevent the activation from resolving, though).

Q: I've heard there's a trick you can do with Spell Queller to permanently exile a spell. How does that work?

A: The easy way is to cast your Spell Queller, target a spell, and in response to the Queller's ability, kill the Queller. This causes its second ability to immediately trigger (and do nothing, since no card has been exiled yet), and then the first ability resolves and exiles the spell. Since the Queller's no longer around, that spell will be stuck in exile forever.

Q: What if I "blink" the Queller, say with an Eldrazi Displacer?

A: That can work, but is trickier; the problem here is Spell Queller's first ability will trigger again, and it's mandatory! If you target the same spell again, it'll get exiled, but the Queller's second ability will be tracking that card and be able to find it if the Queller later leaves the battlefield again. So make sure there's another spell you can legally target, in order to leave the original target in permanent exile.

Q: If my opponent controls a Thalia, Heretic Cathar and I have only two lands when I play a Botanical Sanctum, what happens?

A: The Sanctum enters tapped. Having two or fewer other lands doesn't create a blanket "I enter untapped" effect — it just overrides the Sanctum's own "I enter tapped". Thalia's effect will still apply and still cause the Sanctum to enter the battlefield tapped.

Or this one.
Q: I tapped out to cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance and just want her to gain a loyalty counter, so I activated her second +1 ability, and want to let the mana go to waste. My opponent says I have to take damage for that; is this true?

A: Once upon a time it would have been, but not anymore. Under much older versions of Magic's rules, any mana you added to your pool but didn't spend would result in "mana burn" — you'd lose 1 life for each mana you didn't spend. "Mana burn" was removed from the game in the Magic 2010 rules overhaul; now, unspent mana just vanishes back into the aether whence it came.

Q: My opponent has an emblem from Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Would protection from red stop the damage ability?

A: No; although Chandra is red, emblems are defined by the game rules to be colorless, so protection from a color won't ever stop an ability of an emblem from doing its thing.

Q: If I control Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, can my opponent's Archangel Avacyn transform?

A: Yes, but only if a non-Angel token dies. Kalitas' effect causes nontoken creatures to be exiled instead of dying, which means they can't trigger Avacyn. But tokens still die normally, and if one of them dies (and isn't an Angel), Avacyn's ability will trigger and she'll transform.

Q: My opponent is flashing back Conflagrate by paying and discarding 3 cards. How many Faeries do I need to counter it with a Spellstutter Sprite?

A: You'll need 7 Faeries. A card's converted mana cost is always the sum of the mana symbols in the upper right corner, no matter what cost was actually paid to cast it. So Conflagrate's CMC is always X + X + 1, which with X=3 is 3 + 3 + 1 = 7.

Q: I know that if I want to stop my opponent pumping up her creature, I can hit it with a Vines of Vastwood. Does that also work with Blossoming Defense?

A: No. The difference is Vines of Vastwood specifically says your opponents can't target that creature, which prevents your opponent doing things to her own creature if you Vines it, while Blossoming Defense grants the creature hexproof, which stops opponents of the creature's controller from targeting it. So a Blossoming Defense on your opponent's creature will only prevent you from targeting that creature.

Q: My opponent cast Lost Legacy on me naming Emrakul, the Promised End, and all four copies of Emrakul were in my library. Do they still get to look at my hand, or do they have to stop once they find all the copies?

A: Your opponent will still get a look at your hand (or, if all four were in your hand, they'd still get a look at your library). Even though you can't have more than four copies of Emrakul in your deck (in Constructed tournament play), Lost Legacy doesn't say to stop after finding four copies, and always lets its caster perform a full search of hand, library and graveyard, even if it turns out to be impossible for copies to be found in one of those zones.

Q: If Gideon, Ally of Zendikar has used his +1 ability, and I manage to remove all his loyalty counters (say, with a Vampire Hexmage), will he still get destroyed?

A: Gideon will be put into his owner's graveyard. This isn't destruction and isn't prevented by being indestructible (which only stops destruction via damage, or by effects which use the actual word "destroy"), it's a game rule which simply causes a planeswalker with zero loyalty counters to be put into its owner's graveyard.

Q: I'm controlling my opponent with Emrakul, the Promised End and he has a Nissa, Sage Animist with 7 loyalty. Can I make him animate six of my lands?

A: You can! Unlike some other versions of Nissa which only work on her controller's lands, the Sage Animist edition of Nissa can target any lands with her -7 ability, so if you control your opponent it's perfectly legal to make his Nissa animate your lands.

Q: If my opponent has an animated Shambling Vent, how much energy would I need to pay to take it with Confiscation Coup?

A: Lands have a converted mana cost of zero, so you'd pay zero energy to take the Shambling Vent.

This one they're OK with.
Q: Would I still keep that Shambling Vent after it stops being a creature?

A: You would! Confiscation Coup only cares that its target is an artifact or creature as it's being cast, and again at the moment it resolves. At all other times it doesn't care about types, so it will happily let you keep the Shambling Vent for the rest of the game (though figuring out how to pay to animate it again is still a problem you'll have to solve).

Q: If I attack with a crewed Smuggler's Copter, can I use the discard to activate Key to the City and make it unblockable?

A: You can discard a card to activate Key to the City's ability, but it can't be the card you're discarding for the Copter's ability; the discard for the Copter only satisfies the Copter's ability, and doesn't pay the cost for anything else. So you'd have to discard a different card from your hand to activate the Key.

Q: If I already control one Olivia, Mobilized for War and cast a second one, do I get a chance to discard a card and give one of the Olivias haste and a +1/+1 counter?

A: Yes; first you'll choose which Olivia to keep (you want to keep the new one), then you'll resolve the ability of the first dead Olivia and get a chance to discard a card to give the new Olivia haste and a counter.

Q: If my opponent casts a Surgical Extraction on a card in my graveyard, can I respond by activating Relic of Progenitus' first ability to exile that card and "fizzle" the Extraction? Or since Extraction says "choose" do they not lock in a choice when they cast it?

A: This works just fine; any choices other than targeting, modes, distribution of an effect among targets, and how to pay costs wait until the spell resolves, but Surgical Extraction targets the card (it says "Choose target card..."), so exiling the target in response will counter the Extraction.

Q: If I control Geier Reach Sanitarium and Notion Thief, and activate the Sanitarium in my opponent's main phase, what happens?

A: You draw two cards and discard one card, and your opponent discards a card. Yes, Notion Thief is a pretty evil card.

Q: If I just cast an Ancestral Vision from suspend and my opponent controls Codex Shredder and Lantern of Insight to see my cards as I draw them, what can they do to mess with my draws?

A: Your opponent can use the Shredder to get rid of the top card of your library before Ancestral Vision begins to resolve, and then you'll draw 3 cards. Or they can let you draw 3 and then Shred the new top card afterwards. But that's it: once Ancestral Vision begins to resolve, they don't get another chance to activate the Shredder until after it has completely resolved, so your opponent can't interrupt in the middle and try to get rid of the second or third card before you draw them.

Q: In a tournament, can I change how I'm sideboarding when I take a mulligan?

A: No; once you shuffle and present your deck to your opponent, you cannot make further changes to the contents of your deck for that game.

That's all for this festive week, but be sure to check in next week for our first issue of 2017, when we'll resolve to keep Moko and the bananas away from holiday decorations in the new year!

- 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.

In the Blossoming Defense question, isn't your opponent's creature an illegal target?
#1 • Date: 2016-12-26 • Time: 08:16:54 •
I went looking for a pump spell to replace Blossoming Defense, and there might not be one that can target your opponent's creature. Mage's Guile gives shroud, which technically makes the question work.
#2 • Date: 2016-12-27 • Time: 23:47:51 •
Rattlechains works if your opponent's creature is a spirit.
#3 • Date: 2017-01-05 • Time: 22:45:26 •

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