Published on 07/25/2005

A Legacy of Questions

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

This week, the MTGS article section will be running some Legacy-themed articles. Of course, Cranial Insertion will join in and answer some questions involving cards from that tournament format. There won't be any Kamigawa questions this week!

Q: Does a Chalice of the Void with zero charge counters counter a spell like Force of Will if it was paid using the alternative cost?

A: No, the spell will not trigger the Chalice. Using a spell's alternative cost only affects what you have to pay for the spell. It doesn't change what the spell's mana cost actually is. The Force's mana cost is always , regardless of what you paid, and so its converted mana cost is always 5.

Q: What is the converted mana cost of the Soldier-generating part of Decree of Justice? Do the two 's count as whatever I paid for X, or does it work differently?

A: An object's mana cost equals whatever is printed in the top right corner, and the converted mana cost is a number equal to the amount of mana in that mana cost. However, the Soldier-creating part is not a spell, but just an ability. It has nothing in its top right corner (because it isn't even a card that has a top right corner :)). When you cycle the Decree, it is discarded as part of cycling's activation cost. The "draw a card" part and the "make lots of Soldiers" part go on the stack (in that order), but they're just abilities sitting on the stack, while the card is in your graveyard. If something wants to know the converted mana cost of either ability, it would get the number 0.

I'd like to clear up another misunderstanding in your question while I have the chance :). You don't decide on the value of X until the triggered ability resolves. The "you may pay " isn't a cost in the usual Magic sense of the word, but just part of the ability's effect when it resolves. Deciding the value of X, paying , and getting the tokens all happen during resolution, without any player receiving priority to respond to these parts separately in the meantime.

Q: Here's the scenario: it's my precombat main phase. I have a Forest and a Tropical Island in play and a third land in my hand. There's also an Arrogant Wurm in my hand. I want to go to the combat phase and attack with Basking Rootwalla, so I pass priority. Then my opponent unexpectedly plays Recoil on my Rootwalla. If I choose to discard Arrogant Wurm, can I play my third land in time to pay its madness cost?

A: Yes, that actually works. During Recoil's resolution, the Rootwalla goes to your hand and the Wurm gets discarded. Due to its madness ability, you're allowed to discard it to your removed-from-the-game zone instead of to your graveyard. If you do (and let's assume that's the case :)), the other part of the madness rules trigger and go on the stack. Because the stack isn't empty, you can't play your land yet, so let's assume both you and your opponent pass priority. The ability will resolve. Here's the full text of that ability:
From the CompRules (under rule 502.24. Madness):
When this card is removed from the game this way, until that player passes next, the player may play it any time he or she could play an instant as though it were in his or her hand by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost. When the player passes next, he or she puts this card into his or her graveyard.
So this ability gives you a window of opportunity in which to play the madness card. This window is open from the moment the ability resolves until the moment you pass priority. You have to wait for the ability to resolve, because you can't play your land while the ability is still occupying the stack. Fortunately, playing a land doesn't cause you to pass priority: you can both play the land and play the madness card before passing priority.

If your opponent had known this, he'd probably have waited with his Recoil until your combat phase, where you wouldn't have been able to play the third land.

Q: My opponent had a Standstill out. I decided to break it by playing a spell because he was beating me down with Mishra's Factory while I was going nowhere fast. My opponent sacrificed the enchantment and drew three cards, then proceeded to counter my spell with one of the cards he just got! Is he allowed to do that?

A: Yes, he is. When you played your spell, Standstill's ability triggered and went on the stack on top of your spell. Your opponent let it resolve, but both players will receive priority again after the ability resolves before your spell resolves. That's where your opponent gets the chance to counter the spell that broke the Standstill, while he already got the cards.

Its ability got larger in the Oracle:
When Gilded Drake comes into play,
choose one - sacrifice Gilded Drake;
or exchange control of Gilded Drake
and target creature an opponent
controls. If you can't make the
exchange, sacrifice Gilded Drake.
This ability can't be countered. (This
effect doesn't end at end of turn.)
Q: I played Gilded Drake, which resolved succesfully. I targeted one of my opponent's creatures with the Drake's comes-into-play ability, but my opponent responded to that by returning that creature to his hand. Since that creature was the ability's only target, the ability should fizzle, and I should get to keep the Drake, right?

A: No; strangely enough that's not what would happen. You should know that "fizzle" is an informal term. On the Rulings board, we prefer to refer to it as "countered on resolution." But Gilded Drake's ability can't be countered, so it will try to resolve even though its only target is gone. However, the invalid target can't be affected in any way, so you won't be able to make any exchange. (Remember, you can only exchange something if both parties involved in the exchange actually receive something. Otherwise, nothing happens.) This is where the "If you can't make the exchange"-part of the Drake's ability comes in and forces you to sacrifice the Drake.

Here's the rule that governs this all:
From the CompRules:
413.2a If the spell or ability specifies targets, it checks whether the targets are still legal. A target that's removed from play, or from the zone designated by the spell or ability, is illegal. A target may also become illegal if its characteristics changed since the spell or ability was played or if an effect changed the text of the spell. The spell or ability is countered if all its targets, for every instance of the word "target," are now illegal. If the spell or ability is not countered, it will resolve normally, affecting only the targets that are still legal. If a target is illegal, the spell or ability can't perform any actions on it or make the target perform any actions. If the spell or ability needs to know information about one or more targets that are now illegal, it will use the illegal targets' current or last known information.
Extra trivia tidbit: Gilded Drake's ability is the only thing in Magic that can avoid being countered by the rules this way. All other "uncounterable" spells and abilities that have targets (and could therefore sometimes be countered on resolution) use the text "can't be countered by spells or abilities", which still allows the game rules to counter them.

Damage to your artifacts will not be
Q: If I attack with Goblin Vandal and my opponent pops a Spore Frog to prevent its damage, do I still get to blow up an Artifact?

A: Yes. There are a lot of conditions that need to be satisfied before you're allowed to use the Vandal's activated ability. According to the Oracle reference:
Goblin Vandal

Creature - Goblin
: Destroy target artifact defending player controls and prevent all combat damage Goblin Vandal would deal this turn. Play this ability only once each turn, only during the declare blockers step, and only if Goblin Vandal is attacking and unblocked.
Once those conditions are satisfied, the ability will work fine. There is no requirement that the Vandal deals damage. The part where it prevents its own combat damage is just a side effect of the ability.

Q: How many targets does the spell Misdirection actually have?

A: While the word "target" appears three times in the card's text, the spell only has one target. The word "target" doesn't always imply that something is being targeted; it only does if it appears as part of the phrase "target FOO." In Misdirection's case, only the second instance of the word target fits this template, where FOO equals "spell with a single target".

Can't hear the Words for the War?
Q: I faced a deck with Words of War yesterday, and now I'm slightly confused about how that card works. If he is about to draw a card, he gets to pay , pick a target, and put the damage-dealing ability on the stack. Do I have that right?

A: No, that's not how the Words cards work. The has to be paid before the card is drawn. In fact, the entire activated ability has to resolve before the card draw would take place. When this ability resolves, it sets up the "shield" that will turn the next card draw into a bit of damage. This damage will be aimed at the target that was chosen when the ability was played. In summary, this is the order in which things work: your opponent announces that he wants to play the ability, he picks the target, he pays . The ability resolves, and sometime later that turn, a card draw will be replaced by damage.

Q: Is Trinisphere banned in Legacy?

A: No, it isn't. It's restricted in Vintage, but you're allowed to play up to the usual four in deck and sideboard combined in Legacy. If you're wondering whether a particular card is banned or restricted in a certain tournament format, take a look at the official Banned / Restricted Lists. You'll find several links there, including one to the Legacy Banned List.

Q: If I have Survival of the Fittest out and Squee, Goblin Nabob in my hand, can I discard it to the Survival during my upkeep and get it back the same turn?

A: Squee will have to remain dead until your next turn. His ability will only trigger if he's in the graveyard at the very beginning of your upkeep. After you used Survival, it was too late for him to catch the bus back to your hand.

Q: How exactly do Gaea's Blessing and Brain Freeze interact?

A: When Brain Freeze is played, the spell itself and all its storm copies go on the stack. They will all resolve one by one, each milling three cards from the top of your opponent's library. If one of these cards is Gaea's Blessing, its ability will trigger be put on the stack on top of the remaining Brain Freezes. (You can tell the Blessing is a triggered ability because it uses the word "When".) The ability will unmill the entire graveyard, including itself, making it unlikely that their library will ever be properly empty.

You can sometimes get by the Blessing by responding to its triggered ability: if you mill them while the triggered ability is on the stack and the Blessing itself still in the graveyard, it won't be much help to them. Of course, this gets even harder if they happen to have multiple Blessings in their library. A well-aimed Stifle on the Blessing's ability would also help.

Q: My opponent had a lot of mana available and a Morphling out. He claimed he could use its -1/+1 ability to make it 0/11, and then follow that up with the +1/-1 ability until it was 10/1. I thought that was impossible, but I couldn't quite explain it to him. Can you help?

A: You were of course correct. When a number in Magic becomes negative, it's treated as zero for most intents and purposes. The only exception is, that effect that further increase or decrease that number get to see that actual negative value rather than the zero. The +1/-1 effect will see that the Morphling was actually -5/11, and will turn it into a -4/10, which is mostly the same as a 0/10. But the sum of the actual power and toughness of Morphling can never be something other than 6 if you're only using his own abilities.

Q: Can Fire // Ice be imprinted on Isochron Scepter? If yes, when do I choose which half I want: when I imprint it, or when I play it?

A: A card can be imprinted if it's an instant with a converted mana cost of 2 or below. For a split card, if either half fits these criteria, then it's good to go: The entire card becomes imprinted on the Scepter. When you use the second ability to play a copy of that card, you have to choose which half you're using as part of playing the spell. Even if only one half of the split card had a CMC of 2 or less, you can choose either half at this point. (It should be an instant, though, but that doesn't matter: all ten split cards currently in existence are either Instant // Instant or Sorcery // Sorcery.) This means that you could imprint Stand // Deliver on a Scepter to Deliver permanents to their owner's hand each turn.

Next week, Eli will answer some questions from the distant future known as Ninth Edition. Of course, if you have more questions involving older cards, send them in and we'll be happy to answer them.

-Thijs van Ommen, The Netherlands

About the Author:
Even though I'm not a judge, my interest in the rules of the game is the main reason for me to play. You'll usually find me answering questions in the rulings forum. I'm mostly a casual player: the only tournaments I visit are prereleases.


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