Published on 04/20/2020

Destroy All Monsters (怪獣総進撃)

Cranial Translation
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Epic kaiju battles!
Coming soon to a local game store near you!
As Magic moves on from the beloved plane of Theros, there are some big shoes to fill in terms of compelling worlds, but luckily Ikoria has nothing but giant monsters with huge feet to rip through those shoes and push the game in an exciting new direction!

Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is an amazing set in terms of its flavor, its mechanics, and its super cool Godzilla tie in. I personally can hardly wait to get my hands on these exciting new cards and give a new meaning to the term "Battlecruiser Magic".

However, while I wait for the set to release as I play with my Godzilla figurines, I figured I would remind you all that you can send all of your rules questions to us at or tweet them to us @CranialTweet. You'll get an answer to your question and we might even feature it in a future column.

Anyway, enough talk, let's get on to you smashing questions! Rawr!

Q: Help me please! I really don't understand the whole mutate thing. How does it work? I'm very very confused.

A: To cast a spell for its mutate cost, you target a creature with the same owner and when the spell resolves, it merges with the target to become a single permanent with the abilities of all of those cards but the name, creature types, and power/toughness of whichever one is on top of the stack. For example, if you cast Sea-Dasher Octopus for its mutate cost targeting Almighty Brushwagg, then the resulting creature will have trample, the pump ability, and the draw trigger. If Almighty Brushwagg is chosen to be on top, then the creature is a green Brushwagg creature named Almighty Brushwagg that's 1/1. If Sea-Dasher Octopus is chosen to be on top, then the creature is a blue Octopus creature named Sea-Dasher Octopus that's 2/2. No matter which order you choose, it's still the same permanent it was before. Nothing has entered the battlefield.

Q: Wait, what? So if the card doesn't enter the battlefield, what kind of spell is it? What happens if the target isn't there when it tries to resolve?

A: A spell cast for its mutate cost is still a creature spell, but a special type of creature spell called a mutating creature spell. It's a creature spell with a target, unlike normal creature spells. If the target of a mutating creature spell isn't legal when the mutating creature spell would resolve, either because it's no longer there or because it has shroud or protection or the like, then the spell on the stack stops being a mutating creature spell and just becomes a normal creature spell instead. In this case, the spell will then resolve as normal and enter the battlefield as a creature as normal.

Q: Ok, so this sounds kind of like bestow then? In that case what happens when a mutated creature dies or is bounced or whatever? Do all the mutations pop off and become their own creatures?

A: No. Unlike bestow, which has its cards enter the battlefield as auras, mutating creature spells merge with the target and don't enter the battlefield at all, instead merging with the target to create a single permanent comprised of multiple cards, much like a meld pair. As such, if that permanent leaves the battlefield, then all of its constituent cards will go to the prescribed zone, be that their owner's graveyard, hand, or library, or to exile or even the command zone in the case of Leadership Vacuum. If the cards in the new zone have an order, such as the library or graveyard, then the owner of those cards chooses the relative order of each constituent card when they move to the new zone. If a merged creature is exiled and then returned to the battlefield, then each separate card that it was comprised of will return to the battlefield as its own separate permanent. When a merged permanent leaves the battlefield, only a single permanent is moving to the new zone even though multiple cards end up in that zone.

Q: Speaking of the command zone, what happens if my commander, Otrimi, the Ever-Playful, is part of a mutate stack and that creature dies? Can I still send my commander to the command zone? Do all the cards go there? Is the creature still my commander if it's not the top card of the stack?

A: The replacement effect that would move your commander to the command zone when it leaves the battlefield applies only to the physical card that is your commander and not to other parts of the merged permanent. The rest of the cards will go to the correct zone and the merged creature will have died or been exiled or returned to hand as appropriate. Only one creature has left the battlefield, even in this case. A merged creature that includes your commander is still your commander and will deal commander damage even if your commander isn't the top card of the pile.

Q: Can mutate cards mutate a creature for free if an effect like Fires of Invention or Aluren allows me to cast spells for free?

A: No, this doesn't work. The mutate cost of a card is an alternate cost to cast that card. You can only ever pay one alternate cost to cast a spell, so if you choose to cast a card for its mutate cost, then you're locked in to paying that cost and can't further replace it with additional effects. Normal cost reduction effects like Pollywog Symbiote's will apply to the mutate cost, though.

Q: Companion cards are kind of like commanders for non-commander formats, right? How exactly do they work? If I have Lutri, the Spellchaser as my companion, can I have another Lutri in my deck and still use the other Lutri as my companion? Also, how can I be sure that my opponent's deck is following the restriction of their companion if they're using one?

A: Companions aren't part of your main deck. Your one (and only one) companion exists outside the game, either in your sideboard in a tournament format or just outside the game in casual play. Since your companion isn't part of your deck, it doesn't consider itself when you reveal it and attest to meeting its deck-building restriction. This means that you can have a Lutri in your deck in addition to the one serving as your companion. Do note that your presented deck has to match the restriction in each game you want to use a companion, so you can't sideboard in a second Neutralize and still play Lutri as your companion for that game. As for determining if your opponent is meeting the companion's condition, that should be easy enough to verify, certainly no harder to verify than any other deck building restrictions imposed by the format you're playing. You're just going to have to trust your opponent to be honest with their companion in the same way you trust them to not be playing five Lightning Bolts.

Just too cute to be allowed in Commander!
Q: Do companions work in Commander or not? I thought Commander didn't allow cards in from outside the game.

A: Yes, you can have a companion for your commander deck. It will exist outside the game (a first for the format) and be a 101st card. Note that the companion has to fit within your commander's color identity and can't already be in your deck. Additionally, your commander is considered when you check to see if your companion's condition is met. For example, if you want to run Umori, the Collector as your companion in Commander, then your commander must have at least a green and black color identity and your deck can only be comprised of lands and nonland cards that share a type with your commander, be they creatures, artifacts, enchantments, or planeswalkers.

Q: Can I play companion cards in my deck normally? Do I still have to meet their deck building conditions?

A: Yes, you can play companions normally in your deck and in this case you don't have to worry about their deck building restrictions at all. Just play them and enjoy!

Q: What happens when I cycle a card if I control two Unpredictable Cyclones? Do I get two free spells or just one?

A: Just one. Unpredictable Cyclone's first ability is a replacement effect which replaces the draw from cycling a card. Once this draw has been replaced, no cards are being drawn and so there's nothing left for the second Cyclone to modify. You'd be better served just cycling the extra Cyclone to get something from the first one.

Q: Can the Ozolith have both +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters on it at the same time? I know creatures can't keep both types of counter, but does that rule also apply to noncreature permanents?

A: The state-based action that causes +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters on the same permanent to annihilate each other applies to all permanents and not just creatures. So, if your Ozolith gets both kinds of counters, either from a creature dying with both types of counter on it or from it already having one type and then getting the other type, it will lose an equal number of each of these counters until only one of the two types of counter remains. This happens before anyone gets priority so you'll never have the opportunity to move both types of counter onto the same permanent from the Ozolith.

Q: I mutate Illuna, Apex of Wishes onto Klothys, God of Destiny with Illuna on top. If I don't have sufficient devotion to make my merged permanent a creature, what happens to the resultant typeless permanent?

A: Nothing much is going to happen to your permanent. If a permanent loses all of its permanent types, it's still a permanent and will remain on the battlefield. In the situation you describe, your Illuna will be a legendary permanent without any types or subtypes and will stay that way until you gain sufficient devotion to green and to red.

Q: How is excess damage from Flame Spill targeting my opponent's Helica Glider calculated if I control Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or Dictate of the Twin Gods? What if my opponent also controls Tajic, Legion's Edge?

A: Excess damage calculation is handled almost exactly the same as with trample damage with the exception that Flame Spill must deal its excess damage to the creature's controller without the option to deal extra damage to the creature. In all cases, effects that increase or prevent damage aren't looked at until the amount of damage that would be dealt to the creature is determined. This means that in all cases, Flame Spill will try to deal 2 damage to Helica Glider and 2 damage to its controller before damage is increased or prevented. With Torbran, Flame Spill will deal 4 damage to the creature and 4 damage to your opponent. Dictate of the Twin Gods will do the same. Tajic will prevent the damage to the Helica Glider, but your opponent will still be dealt 2 damage. The only effect that can get around this is if Flame Spill has deathtouch from Pestilent Spirit, in which case 1 damage is the amount of damage dealt to the creature before spilling the rest over to creature's controller.

Q: If I control Tidal Barracuda, will Slitherwisp trigger each time I cast a spell?

A: No, it won't. While being able to cast spells as though they had flash is pretty good, those spells still don't actually have flash and cards like Slitherwisp and Cunning Nightbonder can tell the difference. Only spells that actually have flash will benefit from these cards. Do note that Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir actually does grant flash to your spells, so he's your man if you want to abuse these effects.

Q: If I want to use Zirda, the Dawnwaker as my companion, will it count conditional or granted abilities like the ones on Gauntlets of Light or Possessed Nomad? What about abilities on the back face of double-faced cards such as Growing Rites of Itlimoc?

A: No. In order to meet Zidra's companion condition, all of your permanent cards have to have actual activated abilities in their basic state. This means abilities they can grant to themselves or other permanents don't count, neither do activated abilities on the back face of double-faced cards or on the flipped version of flip cards.

The first time that Snapdax won the Ikoria
Lava-Surfing Championship was a day to remember.
Q: I control Luminous Broodmoth and my Kitchen Finks dies without flying or any counters on it. What happens? What does it look like when it returns to the battlefield?

A: When Kitchen Finks dies, both its own persist ability and Broodmoth's ability will trigger. Since you control both triggers, you get to put them on the stack in the order of your choice. Whichever one resolves first will return Kitchen Finks to the battlefield with the appropriate counter on it and the other trigger will do nothing.

Q: If I cast Mythos of Brokkos for and then copy it with Lutri, the Spellchaser's triggered ability, will the copy allow me to search my library or not?

A: No, it won't. While Lutri possesses amazing powers of cuteness, they're sadly not a very good storyteller, and so their version of the Mythos of Brokkos isn't quite as compelling as the original. When you copy a spell on the stack, the copy isn't cast and so no mana was spent to cast it meaning that the extra effects of the Mythos spells won't happen when they're copied.

Q: How exactly does Zilortha, Strength Incarnate work when it comes to creatures with 0 power or 0 toughness? Like what if I put Wall of Blossoms and Force of Savagery into play off of Collected Company. Do either of them die right away?

A: Zilortha is a mighty beast indeed, but even the king of the monsters doesn't possess power over life and death itself. Zilortha's ability changes how lethal damage is calculated for your creatures, but it doesn't change the rule that causes creatures with 0 toughness to die as that's a different state-based action. As for creatures with 0 power, lethal damage is only checked for when a permanent actually has damage marked on it. This means that Force of Savagery will die immediately but Wall of Blossoms will hang on until it takes damage.

Q: Did I hear something about a change to how layers work? What does that mean exactly?

A: Indeed you did. In addition to all the exciting new cards we're getting in Ikoria, there was an update to the rules around the interaction of continuous effects a.k.a. "Layers" for the first time in almost 11 years! The update itself is relatively simple though, with only a few changes being made to layer 1 (copy effects) to handle mutate and the removal of sublayer 7d, which considered power and toughness bonuses from counters. These counters are now looked at in sublayer 7c like any other effects that alter power and toughness without defining, setting, or switching it. The only interaction that this change to the rules alters is the rare interaction of Phyrexian Ingester exiling Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, now allowing Phyrexian Ingester to consider Skullbriar's counters when calculating the buff from its own ability.
Of course, with a change to layers, we here at CI will be updating our classic article "Order of Operations" which explains the layer system in much greater detail. Expect the new version soon!

Wow, what a weird, dense, cool set. I love Ikoria and am very happy to see Magic pushing its creative boundaries and trying out weird new things. I hope you enjoyed this first trip into its rules and will join us again next week for more exciting Cranial Insertion adventures!

- Charlotte


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