Published on 03/29/2021

Moko's Sweet Sixteen

Cranial Translation
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There are three creatures in Magic
that have a 16 on them.
This is one of them.
Greetings and welcome to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Today is a very special day, because today marks the sixteenth anniversary of Cranial Insertion. To celebrate his Sweet Sixteen, Moko requested a small birthday party with just three of his friends, which I unwisely agreed to before I found out which three friends he had in mind. You can see them in the pictures of this article. However, I am a man of my word, so I rented the largest conference hall in town to host the party, and then I retreated to a safe distance several miles away. Let's answer some rules questions while the party is underway.

As always, if you have questions for us, please email them to or tweet short questions to us @CranialTweet. One of our writers will get back to you with an answer, and your question might show up in a future article.

Q: I control Yixlid Jailer and my opponent plays Underworld Breach. Do the cards in their graveyard have escape or not?

A: They do. Both the Jailer's effect and Underworld Breach's effect apply in layer 6, and neither effect is dependent on the other, so the effects apply in timestamp order. Yixlid Jailer's effect removes the abilities from the cards in your opponent's graveyard, and then Underworld Breach's gives them escape. Conversely, if your opponent played Underworld Breach first and you later play Yixlid Jailer, the cards in your opponent's graveyard would lose all abilities including escape.

Q: I control a Strangleroot Geist that has a Gemrazer mutated on top of it. What happens if it dies with no +1/+1 counter on it?

A: Your Strangleroot Gemrazer is a single creature that's made up of two cards. When it dies, one creature dies, but two creature cards arrive in the graveyard. Undying triggers, and when it resolves, it returns each card to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. Now you have two separate creatures that each have a +1/+1 counter on them.

Q: I control Krark, the Thumbless and a Sakashima of a Thousand Faces that's copying Krark. If I cast, say, Lightning Bolt and I lose the first coin flip, do I still get a second coin flip?

A: Yup! Both instances of the "flip a coin and stuff happens" ability go on the stack and resolve independently, and each one does as much as it can. The ability doesn't target the spell, so it's not important whether or not the spell is still on the stack when the ability resolves. If you win the coin flip, the ability copies the spell, using the spell's last-known information from when it was on the stack if it is no longer on the stack at the time.

Q: My opponent activates Goblin Welder's ability, targeting an artifact they control and an artifact card in their graveyard. Can I use Spellskite's ability to change the first target to Spellskite to make the ability fail?

A: No, that doesn't work. When Spellskite's ability resolves, it can only change a target of Goblin Welder's ability if the resulting set of targets would be legal. Regardless of which of the two targets you'd change to Spellskite, the resulting set of targets would be illegal, so Spellskite's ability does nothing at all.

Q: I control a 1/1 Soldier token and my opponent controls Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons. My opponent targets my Soldier with Grim Affliction and in response I activate Gavony Township's ability to put a +1/+1 counter on the Soldier. Does my opponent still get the Hapatra trigger if they proliferate the -1/-1 counter?

A: Yup, although they can't choose just to proliferate the -1/-1 counter. Gavony Township's ability has resolved, so there's a +1/+1 counter on your Soldier, and now Grim Affliction starts to resolve. Your opponent puts a -1/-1 counter on your Soldier, which cancels out the -1/-1 counter in a mathematical sense, but not physically. Physically removing counters that cancel each other out happens as a state-based action, and it's not time for that yet, since Grim Affliction is not done resolving. Grim Affliction moves on to the proliferate step, and if your opponent chooses to include the Soldier, they'll add both a +1/+1 counter and a -1/-1 counter on it, since those are the two kinds of counters that are on the Soldier. Then, state-based actions happen and the counters go poof, and two Hapatra Snake triggers go on the stack because the ability triggers twice while Grim Affliction happened.

Q: I control Heartless Summoning and Emiel the Blessed. If I cast some 1/1 creature, does Emiel save it from Heartless Summoning's effect?

A: Not at all. Emiel's ability is a triggered ability that goes on the stack after the creature has entered the battledfield, and it resolves some time after that. The creature enters the battlefield as a 0/0, which does trigger Emiel's ability, but state-based actions put the creature into the graveyard before the ability even goes on the stack, let alone resolves.

Q: My storm count is five and I cast Grapeshot, and then I Reverberate Grapeshot. How many copies do I get?

A: You get six copies of Grapeshot: Five from its storm ability, and one from Reverberate. The Reverberate copy is not cast, so its storm ability doesn't apply.

Q: I control a Forest, three green creatures, and Ashnod's Altar. Can I cast Impervious Greatwurm if I tap the Forest for mana, tap the three green creatures for convoke, and then sacrifice them to Ashnod's Altar for ]?

A: No, that doesn't work. In the process of casting a spell, the second-to-last step is where you get to activate mana abilities to add mana, and the last step is where you pay the total cost of the spell. Sacrificing creatures at Ashnod's Altar is a mana ability, so you do that in the second-to-last step, but tapping creatures for convoke in lieu of spending mana is part of the last step. This means that the creatures can only be sacrificed for mana, or only tapped for convoke, but not both.

Q: Can Spinal Embrace target an untapped creature?

A: Absolutely. Spinal Embrace's target is "target creature you don't control", so it doesn't matter whether the creature is tapped or untapped; it only matters that you don't control it. When Spinal Embrace resolves, assuming that the target is still a creature you don't control, it will resolve and do as much as it can. If the creature is untapped, Spinal Embrace fails to untap it, but all its other effects still happen.

Q: If I mutate a creature, let's say with Vulpikeet, and I put Vulpikeet on top, does Overburden trigger?

A: No, because no new creature entered the battlefield. The resolving Vulpikeet is changing a lot about an existing creature, including its name, but this doesn't change the identity of the creature. Despite the new look and the new name, it's still the same creature it was before.

Q: My opponent attacks me with Stormscape Familiar and Hypnotic Specter. I don't block, but I use Aven Redeemer's ability on myself. Do I have to discard a card to Hypnotic Specter?

A: Only if you want to. Since no first strike or double strike is involved, both attackers deal their combat damage at exactly the same time, for a total of 3 damage. As the player who would be affected by this damage, you get to choose which of those points of damage are the "next 2" for the purpose of applying Aven Redeemer's prevention effect, so you can choose to prevent the damage from Hypnotic Specter and avoid its ability.

Q: I activate Sensei's Divining Top's second ability and copy the ability with Rings of Brighthearth. Does Rings of Brighthearth go on top of my library when the copy of the ability resolves?

A: No, the copy of the ability has the same source as the original, which is the Top. The copied ability is on top of the stack, so it resolves first, causing you to draw a card and put the Top on top of the library. Then the original ability resolves, causing you to draw the Top from the top of your library, and then it tries to put the Top on top of the library, which it can't do because the Top is no longer on the battlefield.

Q: My opponent has put Imprisoned in the Moon on one of my creatures. If I play Devastation Tide, does that return my creature to my hand as well?

A: No, your creature is safe from the Tide. Devastation Tide returns all nonland permanents to their owners' hands at the same time. When it determines which permanents to bounce, your creature is a land, so it's not included in the set of permanents that gets bounced. Imprisoned in the Moon gets returned to your opponent's hand, which turns your creature back into a creature, but Devastation Tide has already done its thing, so your creature stays on the battlefield.

Q: Suppose I control Rhox Faithmender and Axis of Mortality. I'm at 15 life and my opponent is at 20 life. What happens if I use Axis of Mortality to exchange my life total with my opponent?

A: You'll end up at 25 life, and your opponent will be at 15. Exchanging life totals sets the life totals to the new numbers, which the game sees as life gain or life loss as needed to get to the new life total. To set your life total from 15 to 20, you have to gain 5 life, which Rhox Faithmender doubles to a life gain of 10, resulting in a life total of 25.

Q: I control a Plains, a Swamp, a Mountain, a Forest, and two Wastes. Can I cast Draco?

A: Not with those lands. Wastes is a bit weird because it's a basic land, but it doesn't have a basic land type. There are only five basic land types, and you control four of them. Draco's cost is only reduced by , so you're two mana shy of casting that big Dragon.

Q: I cast two Shriveling Rots, choosing the second mode each time. If a creature dies, does its controller lose life equal to twice its toughness?

A: Yup! Each resolution of Shriveling Rot set up a delayed triggered ability that triggers when a creature dies, and each of them triggers and resolves independently.

Q: I have from lands and the from Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor's -8 ability. Can I use Tibalt's emblem to cast Bring to Light for five if I spend the as though it were ?

A: Nice try, but that doesn't work. Tibalt's emblem allows you to spend the mana as though it were those colors, allowing you to pay a cost you couldn't otherwise pay, but Bring to Life actually looks at the colors of mana that you spent to pay for the spell. You only spent red and black mana on Bring to Life, and that what Bring to Light counts.

Q: My commander is Esika, God of the Tree, but I've played it as The Prismatic Bridge. Can I still cast Deflecting Swat without paying its mana cost?

A: Absolutely. Being your commander is a property of the card regardless of what it actually looks like or which face of it is up. You do control your commander even though it's not currently a creature, so Deflecting Swat's condition is satisfied.

Q: If my commander gets Oublietted, can I put it into the command zone?

A: Nope. The command zone rule unfortunately doesn't apply every time something uncool happens to your commander. There's a state-based action that applies when the game finds a commander in the graveyard or in exile, and there's a replacement effect that can replace a zone change from anywhere to your hand or library with a trip to the command zone. Phasing out your commander leaves it on the battlefield, but in a phased-out state, so neither of those two command zone mechanisms steps in to help your commander. It'll be stranded in a phased-out state until you can deal with Oubliette somehow.

Moko informs me that the party is over and that he had a lot of fun. I suppose I should go check out the venue and clean up the aftermath. I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm not getting my security deposit back. Anyway, see you all again next week!

- 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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