Published on 03/22/2021

Modal Double Faced Cards & Where to Find Them

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I'm a sword wielding god,
of coarse I would be everyone's
favorite example MDFC.

Before we get into the meat of today's article, if any questions pop into your head, feel free to send them to us. We may even use your question in a future article! If you have a short question, you can contact us via our Twitter account at @CranialTweet, and longer questions can be sent to us via our e-mail account .

Modal Double-Face Cards (for which we can abbreviate to MDFC) were first introduced to the world with Zendikar Rising. They are one part split card and one part double-faced card and function like both and a little different at the same time.

For today's article I thought we could review this enigmatic mechanic and get a deep dive into its darkest corners. I've taken every question we have answered about MDFCs from the last 7 months and put them into this one article. As we review the release notes on MDFCs from the Kaldheim Release notes, I will inject questions relevant to that part of the notes. All notes will be tinted blue. Lets get started.

Playing with Modal Double-Faced Cards

  • To determine whether it is legal to play a modal double-faced card, consider only the characteristics of the face you're playing and ignore the other face's characteristics. For example, if an effect stops you from casting creature spells, you can't cast Halvar, God of Battle, but you can still cast Sword of the Realms.

Q: My opponent controls a Void Winnower. Which sides of Alrund, God of the Cosmos/Hakka, Whispering Raven can I cast?

The answer is
Only Alrund. As stated above, only consider the face being cast.

  • If an effect allows you to play a specific modal double-faced card, you may cast it as a spell or play it as a land, as determined by which face you choose to play. If an effect allows you to cast (rather than "play") a specific modal double-faced card, you can't play it as a land.

Q: Kabira Takedown/Kabira Plateau is in my graveyard. Can I cast Kabira Takedown with Snapcaster Mage?

The answer is

Snapcaster Mage sees the card as an instant, so it can give it flashback to allow you to cast it Kabira Takedown from the graveyard.

Q: I attack with a Dreadhorde Arcanist, and with its attack trigger, I target Spikefield Hazard. Can I choose to put it onto the battlefield as Spikefield Cave instead of casting the Hazard?

The answer is
No you cannot. The Arcanist tells you to cast the targeted card, and a land cannot be cast - they can only be played. You can target the Hazard with the Arcanist's trigger, but you can only cast the Hazard - you can't put the Cave onto the battlefield.

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?

The answer is
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.

This is covered by rule 702.1b in the Comprehensive Rules.

Q: I cast Bloodbraid Elf, and I cascade into Valki, God of Lies. Can I choose to cast Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor instead of Valki?

The answer is
You cannot any longer. With the banned and restricted announcement recently, they also announced a rules change for how cascade works. Now, cascade looks at the converted mana cost of the card in exile and the converted mana cost of the spell on the stack, not just the converted mana cost of the card in exile. Casting Bloodbraid Elf and hitting Valki means that's the card you can cast, but you have to cast the side that has a converted mana cost of three or less. Valki fits the bill, but Tibalt does not since its converted mana cost is seven, so you can't cast Tibalt off of the cascade trigger anymore. If you want to cascade into Tibalt, then the spell with cascade needs to have a converted mana cost of eight or more (like Maelstrom Colossus).

Also, note this rules change only applies to the way cascade works. There are other ways of "cheating" the Tibalt into play, with things like Bring to Light or Emergent Ultimatum that still work to cast the Tibalt side.

You all act like my mischief was unexpected.

  • If an effect allows you to play a land or cast a spell from among a group of cards, you may play or cast a modal double-faced card with any face that fits the criteria of that effect. For example, if an effect allows you to cast artifact spells from your graveyard, you can cast Sword of the Realms but not Halvar, God of Battle. (Don't worry Halvar. We'll get you onto the battlefield eventually.)

Q: Kabira Takedown/Kabira Plateau is in my graveyard. Can I play it as Kabira Plateau with Crucible of Worlds?

The answer is

Crucible of Worlds allows you to play land cards from a group of cards, i.e. your graveyard, so can play the back face because it fits those criteria.

Q: If Cosima, God of the Voyage is my commander, could I cast The Omenkeel from the command zone?

The answer is
Yep, you can! Cosima can be your commander, since it's a legendary creature on the front face. And since you're allowed to cast your commander from the command zone, you can cast either face of the modal double-faced card. So if you'd rather your commander be a boat, you can do that.

Just keep in mind two things: the commander tax is applied to the commander, not one face or the other. What that means is if you cast Cosima, then Cosima goes back to the command zone and now you want to cast The Omenkeel, you'll have to pay the commander tax of an additional two mana to cast it. It doesn't matter that you haven't cast The Omenkeep from the command zone yet, the entire card is your commander and the tax applies to both faces.

Second, since the entire card is your commander, commander damage from both faces count and is added together. If you deal nine points of combat damage to the opponent with The Omenkeel and then you deal 12 points of combat damage with Cosima, they've taken 21 points of combat damage from the same commander, and they'll lose the game.

Q: I have Valki, God of Lies in my graveyard and a Lurrus of the Dream-Den in play. Can I cast Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor from my graveyard with Lurrus's ability?

The answer is
Nope, you cannot. Lurrus says you can cast a permanent spell with a converted mana cost of two or less from your graveyard. That means that Lurrus cares about the converted mana cost of the spell on the stack, not the converted mana cost of the card in your graveyard. But Tiblat has a converted mana cost of seven, which is not two or less, so you can't cast Tibalt from your graveyard using Lurrus's ability.

  • If an effect allows you to put a card with particular characteristics onto the battlefield without instructing you to play or cast it, you consider only the characteristics of a modal double-faced card's front face to see if that card qualifies. If it does, it enters the battlefield with its front face up. For example, if an effect allows you to put a creature card from your graveyard onto the battlefield, you can put Halvar, God of Battle onto the battlefield. (See?) An effect that allows you to put an artifact card from your graveyard onto the battlefield wouldn't affect Sword of the Realms, however: a modal double-faced card has only its front side's characteristics while in the graveyard.

Q: I control a Sisay, Weatherlight Captain that's currently 3/3 and I activate her ability. Can I search for Valki, God of Lies and put it onto the battlefield as Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor?

The answer is
No, that doesn't work. While effects that allow you to cast a modal double-faced card, such as cascade, allow you to cast either side, this does not apply to effects that put a card onto the battlefield. The rules say that a double-faced card that enters the battlefield from somewhere other than the stack enters front-face-up by default, and Sisay's ability does not override this default.

  • The converted mana cost of a modal double-faced card is based on the characteristics of the face that's being considered. On the stack or the battlefield, consider whichever face is up. In all other zones, consider only the front face. This is different than how the converted mana cost of a transforming double-faced card is determined.

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

The answer is
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.

  • A modal double-faced card can't be transformed or be put onto the battlefield transformed. Ignore any instruction to transform a modal double-faced card or to put one onto the battlefield transformed.

General Information on Double-Faced Cards

  • Each face of a double-faced card has its own set of characteristics: name, types, subtypes, abilities, and so on. While a double-faced card is on the stack or battlefield, consider only the characteristics of the face that's currently up. The other set of characteristics is ignored.

  • While a double-faced card isn't on the stack or battlefield, consider only the characteristics of its front face. For example, the above card has only the characteristics of Halvar, God of Battle in the graveyard, even if it was Sword of the Realms on the battlefield before it was put into the graveyard.

Q: My opponent is trying to discard the only card in his hand Vastwood Thicket to activate Borborygmos Enraged's last ability to kill my 2/2 Zombie token. Can he do that?

The answer is
No, he can't. Vastwood Thicket, is the backside of Vastwood Fortification, and so while its in their hand, the game doesn't recognize it as a land for the purposes of discarding a land.

What can I say,
I like to sit pretty.

Q: If I cast Burning-Rune Demon with it's trigger can I choose Egon, God of Death and a different copy of Egon but naming it's back side Throne of Death?

The answer is
You can not. When searching through your library, only the front face of a modal double face card is visible to you.

Q: Kabira Takedown/Kabira Plateau is in my graveyard. Can I return it to my hand with Living Lightning? Can I return it to my hand with Life from the Loam?

The answer is
Yes to Living Lightning and No to Life from the Loam.

This double face card is only a sorcery in your graveyard for being targeted by spells and abilities.

Q: If Jegantha is my companion, can I include Birgi, God of Storytelling in the deck?

The answer is

For Birgi only the front face exists in the library, so the mana cost of the back face is not a problem.

  • If an effect puts a double-faced card onto the battlefield, and its front face can't be put onto the battlefield, it doesn't enter the battlefield. For example, if an effect exiles a modal double-faced card whose front face is an instant and returns it to the battlefield, it remains in exile because an instant can't be put onto the battlefield. (Kaldheim doesn't have any modal double-faced cards whose front faces are instants or sorceries.) Hmmm, I wonder if Strixhaven: School of Mages will have a MDFC that is a sorcery or instant on the front, but a creature on the back.

  • If an effect instructs a player to choose a card name, the name of either face may be chosen. If that effect or a linked ability refers to a spell with the chosen name being cast and/or a land with the chosen name being played, it considers only the chosen name, not the other face's name.

  • In the Commander variant, a double-faced card's color identity is determined by the mana costs and mana symbols in the rules text of both faces combined. If either face has a color indicator or basic land type, those are also considered.

Q: If Jorn, God of Winter is my commander, can I include blue and black cards in my deck?

The answer is
Just as it says above.

  • One or both faces of a double-faced card may include a reminder about what's on the other face. This reminder text has no effect on game play.

  • Each double-faced card has an icon in the top-left corner of each face. For modal double-faced cards in this set, these icons are a single triangle for the front face, and a double triangle for the back face. These icons have no effect on game play.

Using Substitute Cards

  • It's important that the cards in your deck be indistinguishable from one another. To help you accomplish this with double-faced cards, you can use the substitute cards found in some Kaldheim booster packs. A substitute card can stand in for a double-faced card in hidden zones or wherever its identity is concealed (such as in exile if it's exiled face down). Using substitute cards is optional, but in tournaments, players with double-faced cards must use either substitute cards or opaque card sleeves (or both).

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?

The answer is
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.

Is it possible to run out
of questions about MDFCs?
I doubt it.

  • You must have the actual double-faced card the substitute card is representing with you. The double-faced card should be kept apart from the rest of the deck and your sideboard.

  • A substitute card can be included in a deck only when it's being used to represent a double-faced card.

  • You must write clearly on the substitute card to show which double-faced card it represents. The name of at least one face must be written on the substitute card, and any other information visible on either face of the card may also be written. Information that isn't available on the card may not be written on a substitute card.

  • During the game, a substitute card is considered to be the double-faced card it represents.

  • If a substitute card enters a public zone (the battlefield, the graveyard, the stack, or exile unless it's exiled face down), use the actual double-faced card and set the substitute card aside. If the double-faced card is put into a hidden zone (your hand or library), use the substitute card again.

  • If a double-faced card is exiled face down or put onto the battlefield face down, keep its identity hidden by using the face-down substitute card or opaque card sleeves (or both).

  • In some older sets, the substitute cards were checklists that listed double-faced cards or meld cards from those sets. A Kaldheim substitute card can be used to represent those double-faced cards. The same rules about what information may be written on substitute cards apply.

Hopefully you now feel well equipped to deal with MDFC!

See you all next week.

- Justin Hovdenes AKA Hovey
Level 2 Magic Judge
Rapid City, SD


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