Published on 04/27/2009

I'm Thinking ARB

or, Gold, It Makes the World Go Round

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

I'm getting dizzy.

Wait, didn't Conflux just come out? It sure feels like it, but whoa, it's already time for Alara Reborn! And unlike Conflux, this set brings lots of questions. The FAQ alone sets a record for the longest small set FAQ to date (and if we end up with a FAQ longer than Shadowmoor's, someone's probably doing something wrong).

And with a new set, we have not only delicious new questions to feed our beloved zombie monkey friend, we also have our traditional Prerelease question article! You should still read the FAQ (linked above) in addition to this article – there is a small amount of overlap, but so far we're mostly avoiding "just read the FAQ" questions.

Do you have more questions not answered here? Fire them off to to Moko's tenderizing, loving care. Not only will you get an answer, your question may appear in next week's article!

So, let's go for the gold.

Q: What does "costs less" on cascade's reminder text mean? Does Etherium Sculptor reduce that?

A: Reminder text is just a shorthand way to refer to overly long and complex rules. Case in point, the actual rules for cascade do specifically refer to converted mana cost, not the ambiguous "cost," so go by converted mana cost.

Keep in mind that while on the stack, the value of X is the only thing that will change converted mana costs. Otherwise, just add up the stuff at the top. Etherium Sculptor reduces the cost, but not the mana cost nor the converted mana cost. While in the library, nothing at all changes the mana cost nor converted mana cost, so it's even easier (and X in this situation is 0).

Q: Does my opponent get to see what I remove for cascade that's not cheap enough to play?

A: He sure does. Cards removed from the game are face up as a default; if they're face down, the effect doing the removing will specify so, and cascade does not say so.

Q: If I cascade into a Lotus Bloom can I play it?

A: Yup! Cards without a mana cost can't be played in any situation where you have to pay that null cost; but any time you don't have to pay the cost, you're able to play them with a little squeal of glee.

Q: How do I put the cards in a "random order"? This is so confusing. :(

A: "In a random order" pretty much means "shuffle them" and then put them on the bottom. The only problem is that if it actually said "shuffle," people would be very confused with Psychogenic Probe (not to mention that "shuffle" does have a very specific meaning with other tournament implications).

If you only have two or three cards to randomize, you can also just roll a die or flip a coin or something instead of looking silly trying to shuffle two things. If it's only one card, there isn't really much you can do anyway.

Q: What do we do if I cascade into a spell that targets an attacking creature but it's my main phase? Can I play it later? Or does it stay removed from the game?

A: You have to play the card you hit – or choose not to – during the resolution of the cascade trigger. Waiting isn't an option. If, for any reason, you don't play the card you cascade into (such as there not being a legal target, like in your situation!) it'll fall under that "the removed cards" clause and get put on the bottom in a random order with all the other stuff.

It's a dead man's party!
Q: If I attack with a 1/1 creature with Finest Hour in play, it becomes 2/2 from the exalted trigger. If I attack with it again in the second combat phase, will it become 3/3?

A: It will! Exalted's bonus lasts until end of turn, and it doesn't stop applying just because combat's ended and/or that creature is no longer attacking. Your creature will get a second buff and then stay that way until after "at end of turn" triggers like Drumhunter's have triggered.

Q: Will two Finest Hours, despite the oddity of having two of a superlative like that, give me two additional combat phases?

A: These are our two finest hours! Hmm. That does sound weird. Must be one heck of a good movie, I suppose. But they will still trigger individually, and each will tack on another combat phase.

Each will untap that one creature that attacked, but they will do so as the triggers resolve – if that creature has a tap ability, this could be useful, but otherwise it'll be kinda pointless. That creature can attack in combat #2, but then it will be tapped in combat #3, barring some other effect.

Q: Is there any way I can cycle Pale Recluse and get both of its landcycling abilities?

A: Nope. These are two activated abilities, each with "Discard that itsy bitsy spider" in the cost. You can't discard it once to pay two costs and you can't discard it twice without breaking the space-time continuum. You'll only get one land.

Q: Does Mage Slayer cause combat damage?

A: Combat damage is only the damage dealt as a result of assigning damage as the game action during the combat damage steps; any other damage dealt in the combat phase, no matter how it's dealt, isn't combat damage.

Q: Wait, Karrthus's ability steals me Dragons forever? Even Dragons I fake with Blades of Velis Vel?

A: Yup! All that matters is that it's a Dragon when the trigger resolves; then you'll control it until something else takes control of it and/or the game ends. The ability doesn't say "until end of turn," so it defaults to lasting until end of game.

Q: Do I still get to search if my opponent doesn't have the named card in hand for Thought Hemorrhage?

A: You do – the searching is not contingent upon dealing damage or finding that card in the player's hand.

Q: While my opponent is under Sen Triplets's effect, can he not even play mana abilities?

A: It's extremely unusual, but yes, Sen Triplets stops mana abilities just like any other abilities. Mana abilities don't use the stack and can't be countered, but they sure can be rendered unplayable.

Q: If I have three other multicolor permanents, will Bant Sureblade get +3/+3?

A: Bant Sureblade and his bladey friends have one ability: that one ability gives an ability and +1/+1 under a certain condition. It doesn't say "for each multicolor permanent" or some such anywhere, so it can only ever give +1/+1.

Candy swirl!
Q: Will Etherium Sculptor make Firewild Borderpost cost just a land bounce?

A: The Borderposts have an alternate cost, and Etherium Sculptor reduces the cost – so you take the mana cost or alternate cost plus cost increases and then subtract cost reduction. Now the Borderposts costs and "Return a land you control to its owner's hand." Tada!

Q: Do Crystallization and Simic Guildmage make a hot combo or total bombo?

A: It's a pretty savage combo. Crystallization says to remove "that creature" from the game, not "enchanted creature," so "that creature" is the one already referred to: the creature that was enchanted at the time the ability triggered, which may not be the creature that's enchanted at the time the ability resolves. If Crystallization is happily sitting on another creature, the first one will be removed from the game while Crystallization grins evilly at the new creature.

And oh, lookie, Simic Guildmage's first ability can target a creature if its controller controls another creature, and then its second ability can switch the Aura from one of those creatures to the other in response. Isn't that adorable?

Q: What happens if I target a creature but don't attack with Giant Ambush Beetle?

A: Not much. The "must block me" requirement doesn't matter in this combat at all (I typed up "doesn't come into play at all," but then realized that had unfortunate Magicese implications. Effects never come into play, of course!). That creature can block anyone else that attacks, or it can just sit back sipping a piña colada and not block at all.

Q: I hit my opponent's Mycoid Shepherd with Drag Down for -4/-4 but he says he still gains 5 life. Is that right?

A: He's right. Mycoid Shepherd triggers whenever it or another creature is put into a graveyard; these are two separate triggering conditions, similar to the Sojourner cycle but less of a hassle. The "other creature" condition just happens to require 5+ power to trigger, but that phrase only applies to that condition, not to the Shepherd's "when I leave play" trigger condition.

Q: My opponent controls a Spellbreaker Behemoth. If he plays another fatty, can I Cryptic Command to bounce the Spellbreaker and counter the creature?

A: This one's a little cryptic, but you just need to look at the ordering on the Command. The modes will happen in the order printed; there's nothing you can do about that. Unfortunately, the "counter that" mode is first, so that'll try to happen and fail. Then the "boingy boingy" mode happens, and the Spellbreaker wanders off, leaving the new big creature to resolve and come into play.

Q: I'm attacking my opponent's planeswalker with Vedalken Ghoul and he blocks. Does he lose life or does the planeswalker lose loyalty?

A: He'll lose life. Even if the creature is attacking a planeswalker, the controller is still the "defending player" so he'll lose life. It's not damage, so it can't be redirected to a planeswalker – it's aaaall his. This applies to Mage Slayer as well, though in that case it's damage and can be redirected to a planeswalker.

Q: If Aven Mimeomancer dies, will my creature stay 3/1, or does that effect end?

A: They'll still be 3/1. The "you're a birdy!" effect is created by the resolving trigger and is independent of the Mimeomancer itself. All that matters is that it holds onto that feather, or it'll fall to the ground and regain its normal power and toughness.

Q: Will Stifle make my Slave of Bolas permanently mine, or will I have to sacrifice it next turn?

A: Slave of Bolas sets up a delayed triggered ability, and such an ability triggers only once unless otherwise specified: the next time the condition is met. This card doesn't say anything about triggering over and over, so it'll trigger once – and if you stop that trigger, it'll never trigger again. Enjoy your slave!

Q: I get hit with a Lavalanche for 5, and I use Healing Salve or something to prevent 3 of that damage. How much do my creatures take?

A: 5 damage each. The amount of damage dealt to your slaves – er, creatures – is based on the value of X, not how much damage is actually dealt to you.

We'll wrap up today here. Stay tuned for next week, when Paskoff comes in with yet more ARB questions for your entertainment and elucidation!

Until next time, enjoy your gold-mining!

- Eli Shiffrin
Tucson, Arizona

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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