Published on 03/08/2021

In the Real World

Cranial Translation
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Don't wanna live my life
In the real world
Greetings and welcome back to another episode of Cranial Insertion! I recently purchased a link cable to connect my Oculus Quest 2 to my PC, which opened up a whole new realm of possibilities and virtual realities in which to immerse myself. I have spent countless hours in the world of Half Life: Alyx, and I have learned three things. First, Headcrab Zombies aren't nearly as cuddly as our beloved Moko. Second, I'd be utterly useless in the zombie apocalypse. Third, I think I need a new gaming PC.

Anyway, I am taking a break from virtual reality to spend some time in the real world in order to bring you a fresh batch of Magic rules questions and answers. The real world has some advantages, too: fresh air, far fewer zombies, and more chocolate. Mmm, chocolate.

As always, if you have questions for us, please email us at or contact us on Twitter at @CranialTweet. One of our authors will respond to you, and your question might appear in a future article.

Q: Let's say I mutate Nighthawk Scavenger with Cloudpiercer and put the Cloudpiercer on top of Nighthawk Scavenger. Does the combined creature have power 5 power or 1+*?

A: Its power will be 1+* regardless of where Nighthawk Scavenger is in the mutate pile. Since the mutate pile has all abilities of all cards in the stack, it has the ability "This creature's power is equal to 1 plus the number of card types among cards in your opponents' graveyards", which overrides the base power that it gets from the card that's on top of the mutate pile.

Q: If I use Grusilda, Monster Masher to combine Nighthawk Scavenger and Cloudpiercer, does the combined creature have power 6+* or 1+*?

A: Yes, its power is definitely one of those! On the one hand, Grusilda tells you that the combined creature's power is the total power of the two parts, so its power is 6+*. On the other hand, the combined creature has the ability "This creature's power is equal to 1 plus the number of card types among cards in your opponents' graveyards", so its power would just be 1+*. I'd go with 6+* because it's more in line with Grusilda's intent, but with silver-bordered cards the final say is always what your playgroup decides is more fun.

Q: I play Showdown of the Skalds and its first chapter resolves. Then, my opponent Disenchants it. Can I still play the exiled cards until the end of my next turn?

A: You sure can. The resolution of the first chapter ability created a continuous effect with a duration of "until the end of your next turn". Destroying Showdown of the Skalds does not end this effect prematurely, so permission to play the exiled cards remains in effect.

Q: If I control Rest in Peace and my opponent sacrifices a creature, who exiles that creature? My Hero of Bretagard wants to know.

A: Rest in Peace's replacement effect has an implied "you" because it doesn't specify who does the exiling, so Rest in Peace's controller exiles the card regardless of whose card it is or why it is trying to go to the graveyard. You're doing the exiling, so your Hero of Bretagard's ability triggers.

Q: I control Nylea, Keen-Eyed and Gigantosaurus, and those are my only sources of devotion to green. I attack with both of them, and my opponent uses Flicker of Fate on my Gigantosaurus. Does that stop the attack from both creatures?

A: I'm afraid so. Gigantosaurus left the battlefield and has been replaced with a creature that looks really similar, but it's a new creature that knows nothing about wanting to attack your opponent. Meanwhile, Nylea stopped being a creature while Gigantosaurus was in exile, and a creature that stops being a creature is removed from combat. This is not a state-based actions check and it happens immediately, so the fact that Gigantosaurus comes back before Flicker of Fate finishes resolving doesn't matter. Nylea stopped being a creature long enough for the game to notice and remove her from combat, so your opponent successfully dodged the attack from both creatures.

Q: If I use Dream Devourer to foretell Valki, God of Lies, can I cast it as Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor next turn, and would I pay or to do so?

A: You can, but you'll have to pay for this. The foretell cost isn't locked in at the time you foretell the card. It's calculated at the time you cast the card and decide which side of it you're casting. There doesn't seem to be a particular rule in the Comprehensive Rules to point to, but there is a ruling in Gatherer that makes it clear that this is the intended behavior, and it also follows the established precedent of using Snapcaster Mage on a split card.

Q: If I control both Corpsejack Menace and Hardened Scales and an effect wants to put a +1/+1 counter on one of my creatures, which effect happens first?

A: Up to you! Both permanents create replacement effects that want to change how a creature you control gets affected by the "put one +1/+1 counter" event. As the controller of the affected creature, you choose one replacement effect to apply first. After the event has been modified by that effect, the other effect is still applicable to the modified event, so it's applied second. In the end, this results in three or four +1/+1 counters being put on your creature depending on which replacement effect you applied first.

Diamond Eyes
That burn me and turn me to stone
Q: Can I use Lithoform Engine to copy Lion's Eye Diamond's ability?

A: Nope. Even though Lion's Eye Diamond's ability has an activation restriction that limits when you can activate it, it's still a mana ability. This means that the ability resolves immediately after being activated without using the stack, so it's never a legal target for Lithoform Engine's ability.

Q: Can I sacrifice Field of Ruin if there is no nonbasic land I can target, just to get the land tutor effect?

A: Nope. Field of Ruin's activated ability requires a target, so you can't activate the ability if you can't choose a legal target for it.

Q: Wait, does this mean I can't play Rambunctious Mutt if my opponent doesn't control any artifacts or enchantments?

A: No, that's different. Rambunctious Mutt doesn't have an activated ability; it has a triggered ability that triggers when the Mutt enters the battlefield, and you don't have to choose a target for the ability until after the Mutt has entered the battlefield. If you can't choose a target for the ability, the ability is removed from the stack, but the Mutt stays on the battlefield.

Q: I control Unbound Flourishing and Well of Lost Dreams and I gain 1 life. Can I pay to draw two cards?

A: No. Even though there's a cost involved, Well of Lost Dreams has a triggered ability, not an activated ability. You simply pay during the resolution of that triggered ability, which is not an activation cost for an activated ability, so Unbound Flourishing does nothing for you there.

Q: If I control Outland Colossus and give it menace with Madcap Skills, which effect wins?

A: Both of them! In this set up, there are two blocking restrictions, and a proposed set of blockers must obey both blocking restrictions. Attempting to block the Colossus with a single creature fails to obey the blocking restriction from menace. Attempting to block it with more than one creature fails to obey the Colossus's own blocking restriction. This means that the only legal block is to not block it at all.

Q: If I reveal Birgi, God of Storytelling to Ad Nauseam, how much life do I lose?

A: Only 3 life. Outside of the stack or the battlefield, a modal double-faced card only has the characteristics of its front face, so the back face doesn't matter to Ad Nauseam.

Limelight, you were all I ever wanted
Since it all began
Q: If I copy Gemstone Mine with Thespian's Stage, does the Stage get mining counters?

A: No. Thespian's Stage changes its characteristics to those of Gemstone Mine, but it's not entering the battlefield, so it's not getting the three mining counters from the "enters with counters" ability. This is the very same feature that makes Thespian's Stage awesome with Dark Depths, and that feature makes it pretty much useless with Gemstone Mine.

Q: I used Valki, God of Lies to exile one of my opponent's card from their hand. If they use Oko, Thief of Crowns's ability to turn Valki into an Elk with no abilties, does the exiled card still go back to their hand when Elki leaves the battlefield?

A: Yup. When Valki's ability resolved, it created a one-shot effect that will return the card immediately after Valki leaves the battlefield. This one-shot effect keeps track of Valki regardless of what it looks like and whether it retains the ability that created the effect, and the effect will return the exiled card even if Valki is an Elk with no abilities at the time it leaves the battlefield.

Q: If there's a Solemnity on the battlefield, does Jhoira of the Ghitu's ability still put time counters on the suspended permanents?

A: Yes, because they're not permanents. Permanents only exist on the battlefield. Jhoira exiles the card and then puts time counters on it, and since the card is in exile, Solemnity does not interfere with those time counters in any way.

Q: I'm in a four-player Commander game and I control Psychic Corrosion. If someone plays Windfall, in which order does the drawing and milling happen?

A: Psychic Corrosion has a triggered ability that uses the stack, and it can't go on the stack until Windfall has finished resolving, so all the discards and draws from Windfall happen first. After Windfall has finished resolving, the Psychic Corrosion triggers from your draws go on the stack, and when they resolve, your opponents mill twice as many cards as you drew.

Q: If I play modal double-faced cards in my deck and I use sleeves, does it matter which face is visible? Like, I have Valki, God of Lies in my deck but I usually play the Tibalt side, can I just have the Tibalt side up in the sleeves?

A: Strictly speaking, no. When the card is in the library or in your hand, it only has the characteristics of its front face, so having its back face visible would be an incorrect representation of the game state. However, since the library and hand are hidden zones, nobody would care about this unless your opponent is searching through your library or gets to look at your hand for some reason, in which case you should make it clear to your opponent that you have some Tibalts in there that are actually Valkis. As a judge I would allow this as long as your opponent understands what's going on, since the potential for confusion seems smaller than the risk of you accidentally marking your sleeves by repeatedly unsleeving and resleeving your Valki/Tibalt for no good reason.

Q: Just out of curiosity, how does Cranial Insertion get paid?

A: We don't, actually. We just do this for fun and to provide knowledge to the greater Magic community of players and judges. I pay the modest web hosting costs out of my own pocket, and all of our writers, translators, and editors donate their time to help publish these articles each week. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them from the bottom of my heart for their tireless efforts. The best thing that you, our readers, can do to support us is to keep reading our articles and keep sending in your questions so that we can continue our mission of entertaining and educating you.

And that's all the time we have for now. If you'll excuse me, I need to get back to City 17 to shoot some Zombies and Combine soldiers. See you again in three weeks!

- 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.

The Grusilda question is covered in the Unstable FAQ, which agrees with your suggested answer here: it says if the constituent creatures has their P/T defined by a CDA, you calculate that for each individual creature and then add them together. So this situation would indeed have 6+* power.
#1 • Date: 2021-03-16 • Time: 06:57:13 •

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