Published on 12/14/2020

One Year Older

Cranial Translation
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Unlike me, this joke never gets old.
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Yesterday was my birthday, so I am once again a year older, although I don't feel any older than I felt the day before. As an early birthday present to myself, I got an Oculus Quest 2 headset a few weeks ago, and I've been having a lot of fun — and getting a lot of exercise — playing Beat Saber. Now the classic game Myst is coming to the Quest, and I'm looking forward to re-experiencing the world of Myst in VR. I'm reminded of playing the original game in the Nineties, and now I feel old again.

To distract myself from this wave of nostalgia, let's answer some of your rules questions. As always, if you have questions for us, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will get back to you, and your question might appear in a future article!

Q: Can I sacrifice more creatures than necessary to Ashnod's Altar to cast a spell? I want several Clerics to die simultaneously for Orah, Skyclave Hierophant's ability, and I'm wondering if Ashnod's Altar can help me with that.

A: As long as the spell you're casting is asking for a mana payment, which most of them do, then yes. If that's the case, you get the chance to activate mana abilities during the spell-casting process before you pay the total cost. At that point you can activate as many mana abilities as you'd like, even if you make more mana than you need for the spell. All abilities that trigger during this process will go on the stack after you've finished casting the spell.

Q: How does Blood Moon affect Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle? Does it matter which one entered the battlefield first?

A: Assuming that there still slumber counters on Arixmethes, it doesn't matter which one entered the battlefield first. Blood Moon's effect and Arixmethes's effect both happen in layer 4, and Blood Moon's effect (B) is dependent on Arixmethes's effect (A) because applying A changes what B applies to. Because of this dependency, A is always applied before B regardless of their timestamp order. While Arixmethes is a Mountain, it only has the ability to make red mana, so it won't lose any slumber counters when you cast spells, so it'll sleep indefinitely unless you can remove the counters some other way or get rid of Blood Moon.

Q: My opponent controls Galecaster Colossus and I attack with Invisible Stalker. The Stalker doesn't get blocked, of course, so I ninjutsu in Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. Can my opponent bounce Yuriko to my hand before its trigger goes off?

A: Yes, they can do that. You're activating the ninjutsu ability in the declare blockers step, and after the ability has resolved and put Yuriko on the battlefield, there is another round of priority in which players can do things before the game moves on to the combat damage step. This allows your opponent to activate their Galecaster Colossus to avoid being dealt damage by Yuriko.

Q: Does Kunoros, Hound of Athreos stop Kitchen Finks's persist ability?

A: I'm afraid so. Persist doesn't prevent a creature from dying; it returns the creature to the battlefield from the graveyard with a -1/-1 counter on it. With Kunoros on the battlefield, the persist ability still triggers, but when it resolves, the action of returning the Kitchen Finks to the battlefield is impossible, so the Kitchen Finks stay dead.

Q: I have a follow-up question to question 20 from two weeks ago. My opponent insists that if he controls a planeswalker with the "can be your commander" ability, such as Estrid, the Masked, then he can activate War Room's ability. Is this true?

A: Not even a little bit. Just because Estrid can be your opponent's commander doesn't mean that she actually is his commander at any given moment. The ability in question only modifies the deck construction rules, only in Commander games (or Brawl), and it functions before the game begins. The ability has no effect during the game.

903.3a Some planeswalker cards have an ability that states the card can be your commander. This ability modifies the rules for deck construction, and it functions before the game begins. See also rule 113.6m.

Q: I control Ruric Thar, the Unbowed and my opponent casts a Shimmerwing Chimera. Does Ruric Thar deal 6 damage to them?

A: No. "Noncreature" means an object that doesn't have the card type "creature". Shimmerwing Chimera is a creature, among other things, so it can't be a noncreature spell.

Q: I control Krark, the Thumbless and flash back Lava Dart from my graveyard. If I lose the coin flip for Krark, does Lava Dart go back to my hand?

A: Sorry, no such luck. Casting a spell with flashback sets up a replacement effect that exiles the card if it leaves the stack for any zone other than exile. When Krark's ability tries to return Lava Dart to your hand, that effect kicks in and exiles the card instead.

Q: Can I use Blizzard Strix to remove the ice counters from Dark Depths?

A: Not in any useful way, no. It's true that Dark Depths won't have any ice counters on it while it's in exile, but its triggered ability doesn't work in exile, so you won't get a Marit Lage from that. When Dark Depths is put back onto the battlefield in the end step, its first ability kicks in and makes it enter the battlefield with ten ice counters on it.

Q: What is Sphinx of the Guildpact's color identity?

A: Its color identity is "all colors", so you can only use it with a commander that has all colors, too, or with two partner commanders whose color identites add up to all colors. While Sphinx of the Guildpact doesn't have a color from its mana cost or mana symbols in its rules text, it does have a characteristic-defining ability that defines its colors to be all colors. This ability functions outside the game and is taken into account when determining its color identity.

Q: Can I take a creature with Act of Treason and then end the turn with Obeka, Brute Chronologist to make the control-change last indefinitely?

A: Nope. Act of Treason doesn't have a triggered ability that gives the creature back at the end of the turn. It creates a continuous effect with a duration "until end of turn." Such effects end in the cleanup step, and ending the turn skips straight to the cleanup step, so Act of Treason's effect still ends when you use Obeka to end the turn.

Q: If I activate Evra, Halcyon Witness's ability and then respond by giving Evra to my opponent with Bazaar Trader, am I setting my opponent's life total to 4?

A: No, that doesn't work. The "you" in Evra's ability refers to the controller of the ability, which is the player who activated the ability. Even though you no longer control Evra when the ability resolves, you control the ability, so you'll exchange your life total with Evra's power.

Q: I control Phyrexian Unlife and Solemnity, and I'm at 0 life. If my opponent attacks me with Goblin Lackey, will Goblin Lackey's ability still trigger?

A: Yup. In the combat damage step, Goblin Lackey does everything it can to deal 1 damage to you. Now, Phyrexian Unlife changes the result of that damage into poison counters, and Solemnity forbids that poison counter from being given to you, so the damage doesn't actually have a visible result. However, this doesn't change the fact that damage was dealt, so Goblin Lackey's ability still triggers.

Q: My Tangle Wire is triggering on my opponent's turn. Can I copy the ability with Strionic Resonator to make my opponent tap stuff twice?

A: Sure. You control Tangle Wire and you control its triggered ability even when it triggers on your opponent's turn. Since you control the ability, you can target it with Strionic Resonator.

Q: Let's say I equip a creature with menace with Grappling Hook. If I attack with it and choose that my opponent has to block it with their Runeclaw Bear, do they have to block it with the Bear and another creature?

A: If they can, yes. Grappling Hook has created a blocking requirement while menace creates a blocking restriction, and your opponent has to block in a way that fulfills as many requirements as possible without breaking any restrictions. Blocking with just the Bear would fulfill the requirement but it would break the restriction. Not blocking at all would satisfy the restriction, but it would leave the requirement unfulfilled, which is an illegal block if there's a way to fulfill the requirement.

Q: My commanders are Akroma, Vision of Ixidor and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces. They're both on the battlefield and Sakashima is copying Akroma, so they're both 11/11 because of the bonuses they give each other. I attack my opponent with both, and my opponent takes the damage. Is that game over for my opponent?

A: Not quite. While it's true that your opponent has been dealt 22 points of "commander damage", they haven't been dealt 21 damage by a commander. Each commander tracks its damage separately, even if a player has two commanders that are partnered together.

Q: If I copy Maelstrom Wanderer with Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, do I get the cascade triggers for Sakashima?

A: Nope. Cascade is an ability that triggers when you cast a spell that has cascade, but Sakashima as a spell doesn't have cascade. Sakashima copies Maelstrom Wanderer once it's on the battlefield, and then it'll have cascade, but by then it's too late for the ability to trigger.

Q: When Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith makes a Rock token, can I equip it to a creature with summoning sickness and use it right away?

A: No. The Rock token gives the equipped creature an ability whose cost includes, among other things, the tap symbol. That tap symbol refers to tapping the creature, not the Rock, so the ability can't be activated if the creature has summoning sickness.

Q: If control a creature that's enchanted with Bear Umbra, and my opponent plays Humility. Does that stop the attack trigger from Bear Umbra?

A: Yes, it does. Bear Umbra has an ability that gives the enchanted creature a triggered ability. Humility's effect is newer and removes that ability, so the creature doesn't have the triggered ability. If Humility is already on the battlefield and you then enchant your creature with Bear Umbra, the situation is reversed. In that case, Bear Umbra's effect is newer and your creature has the ability.

Q: I cast Leveler to exile my library, and then I cast Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. I activate Jace's +1 to win the game, but my opponent responds with Beast Within on Jace. What happens?

A: You'll get a cute Beast token that will be of little comfort to you as you lose the game. Jace's +1 ability on the stack is independent from its source, so it'll still resolve and force you to draw a card from your empty library. However, the "win the game instead" effect comes from a separate static ability that only functions while Jace is on the battlefield. Since he's not on the battlefield anymore, you'll lose the game.

I'm feeling the urge to go play Myst now, so that's it for today. Thanks for reading and please come back next week for more Magic rules questions and answers. My next article will be next year, so until then, have a safe and happy holiday season and a happy new year!

- Carsten Haese

About the Author:
Carsten Haese is a former Level 2 judge based in Toledo, OH. He is retired from active judging, but he still writes for Cranial Insertion and helps organize an annual charity Magic tournament that benefits the National MS Society.


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