Published on 05/11/2009

Mother of Rules

or, Giving Birth to Alara, Again

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Thanks for protecting me, Mom.

Here in the U.S. and in many other countries throughout the world, Sunday was Mother's Day. It's a time when we reflect on the women who have raised us and taught us what's right and what's wrong. I'm especially thankful for Alara's mother, whoever she is, because she's apparently given birth to that child twice now. And what better way to celebrate than by helping you sort out right and wrong ideas about Magic's latest set?

It's amazing how all of you keep coming up with new and interesting questions about Alara Reborn; I've got a pile of them I'm about to serve up. Before I do, let me remind you that if your mother has any questions about Magic rules or policy, she can send them, along with a plate of her awesome caramel-chip cookies, to

This one's for you, Mom:

Q: You said last week that if a creature gets a feather counter from Aven Mimeomancer, and all the feather counters are moved off of it, it stops being affected by the ability because it no longer has a feather counter on it. But what happens if a feather counter is moved back onto that creature? Does it become a 3/1 with flying again?

A: As soon as the creature loses its feather, the duration of the "Make it a 3/1 flyer" effect is over, and it stops applying. The effect won't start up again if the creature merely picks up a feather. Of course, if you use the Mimeomancer's ability on it again, that'll create another effect that works just fine.

Q: I decide to use the landcycle ability of Valley Rannet. I say "forestcycle" and start to search. Could I change it while I'm searching to look for a Mountain? The reminder text on the card makes me think that I can.

A: The important part here is that mountaincycling and forestcycling are two separate abilities, so you'll have to decide which ability you're playing at the time of announcement. If you play the forestcycling ability, you'll be searching for a Forest; you can't change your mind in the middle of the search. The card's reminder text is perhaps a little misleading about that, but reminder text isn't authoritative, so you can't always rely on it.

Q: I play a Demonic Dread on my opponent's only creature, and for cascade I flip up a Crystallization. Obviously I put that on the creature too, but does he get removed from the game because he's targeted by Demonic Dread?

A: No, the Crystalline creature gets RFG'd when it becomes a target, and that happened when Demonic Dread was played, before the creature was Crystallized. The enchantment doesn't care that the creature is currently the target of a spell; it'll only notice the act of targeting.

Q: If I use a Terminate on my opponent's 10/10 Lord of Extinction, how many counters does my Kresh the Bloodbraided get? Is it 10, 11, or none at all?

A: Kresh's trigger is a leaves-play trigger, so it looks at the Lord of Extinction as he existed right before he became extinct. At that point, Terminate isn't in the graveyard yet, so Kresh will get 10 counters.

Q: Does my Glory of Warfare make my creatures bigger so that they count for Godtracker of Jund, Sunseed Nurturer, Spellbreaker Behemoth and the like?

A: Assuming you play the creatures on your own turn like a good little planeswalker, they'll be coming into play with an increased power, which could make the Godtracker and Nurturer trigger when they otherwise wouldn't. Glory of Warfare doesn't have any interaction with the Behemoth, though, since that guy affects spells, and warfare is only glorious for creatures that are in play.

Here, Mom, I got you these counters.
Q: So what happens to my Tundra Wolves if I play them when I have two Sigil Captains in play?

A: Just like in real life, having two Captains is no better than having one. The intervening if clause on the Captain checks that the creature is 1/1 both when the ability triggers and when it resolves. They'll both trigger when your 1/1 wolves come into play, but after the first Captain gives away some free +1/+1 counters, the second takes another look, sees a 3/3 Wolf, and saves his counters for a creature that needs them more.

Q: OK, but are there any shenanigans I can pull to get the extra counters? Could I use Echoing Decay to make the 3/3 Wolf into a 1/1 again in time to get those free counters?

A: If you're going to pull wolf shenanigans, the only thing you need to do is make sure the creature is a 1/1 when it comes into play, and when each Captain's ability goes to resolve. You can play that Echoing Decay in response to the second Captain's ability, and now when he checks, he sees a creature who qualifies for aid. The new Wolf gets some extra counters, though his brothers are probably wolf bacon by now.

Q: Well, what if I've got a Bramblewood Paragon alongside my Sigil Captain, and I play a Warren-Scourge Elf? Can I arrange the order that stuff happens so the Elf gets three counters?

A: No, it'll just get one. The Paragon's ability is a replacement effect that modifies how the Elf comes into play. It comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it, so it's a 2/2 when the Captain checks to see if his ability ought to trigger.

Q: My opponent sacrificed a Dauntless Escort during combat to make his guys indestructible, and then after combat played another creature. I tried to Terminate the new creature, but he said it was indestructible too, even though it wasn't around when he sacrificed the Dauntless Escort. Is he doing this right?

A: It's right as a rhino. The effect from the Escort's ability doesn't alter characteristics of permanents; if it did, the set of permanents it affects would locked in when the ability resolved. Indestructible isn't a characteristic of a permanent, though, so the effect is always active until it expires in the cleanup step.

Quote from 418.3b:
[...]Continuous effects that don't modify characteristics or change the controller of objects modify the rules of the game, so they can affect objects that weren't affected when the continuous effect began.

Q: Can I use Wargate to put a Steel of the Godhead or a Shield of the Oversoul on my Empyrial Archangel?

A: Sure! The Angel's shroud prevents it from being targeted, but if you're just putting the enchantment into play, you get to attach it to something it can enchant without targeting that object.

Quote from 212.4j:
If an Aura is coming into play under a player's control by any means other than by being played, and the effect putting it into play doesn't specify the object or player the Aura will enchant, that player chooses what it will enchant as the Aura comes into play. The player must choose a legal object or player according to the Aura's enchant ability and any other applicable effects.

Q: What happens if I have a Maelstrom Nexus in play, and I play a Bituminous Blast as my first spell?

A: The Bituminous Blast has two instances of cascade, and each will trigger and resolve separately. You'll get to cascade twice! Isn't that great?

Q: If I play Maelstrom Nexus as the first spell of the turn, do I get to cascade?

A: Not unless you already control another Nexus. Cascade triggers when a spell is played, but the Nexus can't grant cascade until it's in play, which isn't until much later.

Q: I played a Bloodbraid Elf and cascaded into a Flame Javelin. Can I play it?

A: No, the comparison is based on the card's converted mana cost. Even though you could play Flame Javelin for , its CMC is 6, which is greater than the Elf's CMC of 4. You'll have to keep flipping.

Q: Can I play the ability of my Vectis Dominators on a tapped creature just to have my opponent lose 2 life? Since he can't choose to tap a tapped creature, he has to pay life, right?

A: Not exactly. The controller of the targeted creature has to choose between paying 2 life, or not paying 2 life. If he doesn't pay, then the ability attempts to tap the targeted creature. If that creature is already tapped, the ability just does nothing.

If you devour me, you won't get
any counters from the Sigil Captain.
Now behave!
Q: Can a token from Dragon Broodmother devour the Broodmother itself?

A: Yes, that little Dragon token can indeed devour its mother, because there's nothing to say that it can't. That has to be the worst Mother's Day present ever.

Q: If I use the alternate cost to play a Borderpost, does my Quirion Dryad still get counters?

A: She'll get her counters. It doesn't matter what you pay, the Borderposts are all some color other than green, and that's all the Dryad cares about.

Q: Can I enchant Naya Hushblade with Shield of the Oversoul?

A: Assuming you control no other multicolored permanents, you sure can. The Hushblade doesn't get shroud until the Shield comes into play, which happens long after the last check for target legality.

Q: So you said that in Two-Headed Giant, you choose one of the defending players for Nemesis of Reason. But when do we choose, when the ability goes on the stack, or when it resolves?

A: Choosing a defending player isn't defined as one of the choices that has to be made when a spell or ability is announced, so it's chosen on resolution. This means the other team doesn't get to see who's being milled before they have to respond.

Quote from 413.2c:
If an effect offers any choices other than choices already made as part of playing the spell or ability, the player announces these while applying the effect.

Q: How does Retaliator Griffin work with combat damage in Two-Headed Giant? If I control one of those, and my team takes 3 from an unblocked creature, does the Griffin get counters?

A: In Two-Headed Giant, you attack the whole team, but you assign damage to an individual head. If your opponents are foolish enough to assign that damage to you, then your Griffin will get counters, but they can easily assign it to your teammate instead, in which case the Griffin won't trigger.

Q: OK, for real, what happens when I play Hypergenesis? If my opponent chooses not to put anything into play, is that the end? Or does it keep going as long as I want to drop stuff on the board?

A: Hypergenesis has seen a dramatic surge in popularity, and it's brought a fair amount of confusion with it. The card's text says that players take turns putting stuff into play "until no one puts a card into play." If you put down a permanent and your opponent doesn't, you can't say that no one put a card into play, because you did. The process will keep going until everybody decides he or she is done.

Isn't this set great? It makes me wonder if Alara has any siblings. Anyway, join us again next week when we'll be dispensing more answers, and maybe a few of our mothers' secret recipes.


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