Published on 04/19/2021

Professor Onyx's Home for Superb Owls

Cranial Translation
Deutsch Español Français

I am a superb owl!
Greetings, and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Strixhaven: School of Mages is out on Arena, prereleases are happening all week long, and the official release is just around the corner, which means that it's time for our first look at Strixhaven. We're very excited about this set here at Cranial Insertion, because this set focuses on teaching and learning magic, and that's what we're about, too.

Speaking of education, if you have questions for us, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will answer your question, and your question might even appear in a future article to educate and entertain readers like yourself.

And now, without further ado, let's see what Hogwa— I mean Strixhaven — has in store for us!

Q: What's "mana value"?

A: Mana value is what used to be called "converted mana cost", a term so unwieldy that most people would usually abbreviate it to CMC. The new term has exactly the same meaning as the term it replaced, so it's a number that represents the amount of mana in a card's mana cost. Apart from the new name, it's exactly the same concept, and any interactions involving mana value are exactly the same as they were with the old name.

Q: I control a Venerable Warsinger that's been given double strike. If it attacks and goes unblocked, what happens?

A: A creature with double strike deals combat damage twice, in two separate combat damage steps. Each time, Venerable Warsinger's ability triggers for the amount of damage dealt at that time. Unless something changes its power in between those two combat damage steps, you'll get to return a creature card with mana value 3 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield.

Q: I have ten cards in my hand and cast Flunk on my 1/1. What happens?

A: A whole lot of nothing happens. Flunk resolves and takes seven minus the number of cards in your hand, which is nine assuming that Flunk was one of those ten cards, so the result is negative two. There are some situations in which the game uses negative numbers, but this is not one of them, so the game uses zero instead and your 1/1 stays a 1/1.

Q: I cast Show of Confidence after having cast a sorcery and an instant, and then I cast another Show of Confidence. How many copies does the second Show of Confidence make?

A: It makes three copies. The first Show of Confidence made two copies, but you didn't cast those copies; they simply appeared on the stack. At the time you cast the second Show of Confidence, the number of instant and sorcery spells you've cast this turn was three, so that's how many copies it makes.

Q: If I cast Lorehold Command choosing the first and fourth modes, can I sacrifice the token from the first mode for the fourth mode?

A: Certainly. The actions are performed in the order they're written, and you don't have to choose which permanent to sacrifice for the fourth mode until it resolves. At that time, the first mode has already resolved, so you are the proud controller of a newborn 3/2 token, and there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to choose that as the permanent to sacrifice.

Q: I cast Mentor's Guidance and I control one of the things that lets me copy it. What happens?

A: You'll resolve two instances of Mentor's Guidance, one copy and one original. Each one tells you to scry 1 and draw a card, so you scry 1, draw a card, then scry 1 again and finally draw a card. It would be cooler if it were scry 2 and draw two cards, but unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

Q: Does Spectacle Mage work with spells that have an X in their mana cost, like Exponential Growth?

A: It can, yes, provided that the mana value is 5 or greater. For example, if you choose X=2, Exponential Growth's mana value is 6 because each in the mana cost contributes the number you chose to the mana value. In that case, Spectacle Mage gives you a discount of and you only pay to double the target creature's power twice. If you choose X=1, the mana value is only 4, you don't get a discount, and you have to pay to double the target creature's power once.

Team Prismari scores 50 points!
Q: If there are nine point counters on Strixhaven Stadium and I proliferate, does my opponent lose the game?

A: Maybe in a bit, but not right away. Simply having ten or more point counters on Strixhaven Stadium is not a win condition in itself. This condition is only checked during resolution of Strixhaven Stadium's last ability. Proliferating can help you get to ten counters faster, but you'll still need a creature to deal combat damage to your opponent to trigger that ability and to get the win.

Q: If Strixhaven Stadium's last ability takes it to ten point counters but the opponent has hexproof, do they still lose the game?

A: Absolutely. Hexproof prevents your opponent from being the target of spells and abilities you control, but just because Strixhaven Stadium's ability wants to do something to your opponent doesn't mean that it's targeting them. The ability doesn't use the word "target", so your opponent is not a target of the ability, so having hexproof does not help them.

Q: I'm in a multiplayer game and I cast Baleful Mastery for . Who decides which opponent draws a card?

A: You do. The instruction "an opponent draws a card" requires a choice, and the card doesn't specify who makes the choice, so by default you make that choice because you are the spell's controller.

Q: If I'm reading Verdant Mastery correctly, I don't have to shuffle my library after searching if I pay the full cost for it. Is that right?

A: No, you seem to be misreading the card. Verdant Mastery contains a bunch of instructions, but only one of them is contingent on paying the alternative cost, which is that an opponent gets one of the cards you searched for if you paid the alternative cost. The instructions that follow this conditional instruction, including shuffling your library, apply regardless of which cost you paid for Verdant Mastery.

Q: I control Strict Proctor and play Archway Commons. Do I get to keep Archway Commons without having to pay ?

A: Yup! Triggering Archway Commons' "pay or sacrifice me" ability triggers Strict Proctor's ability, which goes on the stack above Archway Commons' ability. If you choose not to pay for Strict Proctor's ability, Archway Commons' ability gets countered, so the game won't ask you to pay , and Archway Commons doesn't have to be sacrificed. Note that this trick doesn't work for the Snarl lands. Those have replacement effects that change how they enter the battlefield, so Strict Proctor doesn't interact with those lands.

Q: My opponent controls two Strict Proctors and I cast Elite Spellbinder. Do I need to pay to get Elite Spellbinder's enter-the-battlefield ability?

A: I'm afraid so. Elite Spellbinder's enter-the-battlefield ability triggers both Proctors' abilities, and both abilities go on the stack. Each ability will ask you to pay to stop it from countering Elite Spellbinder's ability, so you'll need to pay a total of to get the effect from Elite Spellbinder.

Q: My opponent used Elite Spellbinder to exile a card from my hand. If I kill Elite Spellbinder, do I still have to pay extra to cast the exiled card?

A: Yes. The only reason you can play that exiled card in the first place is the effect that was created by the resolution of Elite Spellbinder's ability, and that effect doesn't end when Elite Spellbinder leaves the battlefield. Since you're using that effect to cast the exiled card, you have to pay the additional cost that it demands.

The quill is mightier than the sword.
Q: I control Killian, Ink Duelist and cast Silverquill Command choosing the second and third mode. Does Killian reduce the cost for Silverquill Command by ?

A: I'm afraid not. Killian's ability only applies to spells you cast that target a creature, which means a creature on the battlefield. Targeting a creature card in a graveyard is not the same as targeting a creature, so Killian won't give you discount for your spell.

Q: I control Parallel Lives and cast Fractal Summoning for X=5. What happens?

A: You'll get two 5/5 creatures. Fractal Summoning creates a 0/0 Fractal token, which Parallel Lives changes to two 0/0 Fractal tokens. Then, you're instructed to put five +1/+1 counters on "it", which refers to each token you created in the previous instruction, so both tokens get five +1/+1 counters.

Q: I control Esix, Fractal Bloom and Triskelion. If I cast Body of Research and choose to copy Triskelion for the Fractal token, will it still get the +1/+1 counters from Body of Research?

A: Yup! Esix's effect changes the characteristics of the token that Body of Research makes, but it doesn't chage anything else about the resolution of Body of Research. You create a Triskelion token, which enters with three +1/+1 counters on it already, and then Body of Research puts a bunch more +1/+1 counters on it, where "a bunch" is the number of cards in your library.

Q: If I control Codie, Vociferous Codex, can I still suspend Errant Ephemeron?

A: No. You can only perform the special action of suspending a card if you could legally begin the process of casting it from your hand. Since Codie forbids you from casting Errant Ephemeron, you can't suspend it, either.

Q: If I use Double Major to copy a mutating creature spell, can I change its target?

A: Nope. When you copy a spell, you can only change the targets of the copy if the effect that creates the copy explicitly allows you to change the targets. Most spell copy effects do say that, but Double Major does not, because it's intended to be used on creature spells which usually don't have a target.

Q: If I target my commander with Elemental Expressionist's Magecraft ability and it gets destroyed later that turn, can I still put it into the command zone?

A: Absolutely! The replacement effect that was set up by Elemental Expressionist will exile your commander instead of it going to the graveyard, but that's not a problem. Once your commander has been exiled, the state-based action check gives you the opportunity to move it into the command zone. Also, since your commander was exiled, the triggered ability that was given to it by Elemental Expressionist triggers and you also get a 4/4 Elemental token.

Q: Are Mystical Archive cards legal in tournaments?

A: Generally yes, but you have to pay attention to the format of the tournament. In constructed tournaments, the Mystical Archive cards are only legal if the card was already legal in that format. For example, Blue Sun's Zenith has not been printed in a Standard-legal set, so just because you can pull one out of a Strixhaven booster doesn't make it legal in Standard tournaments.

On the other hand, in limited tournaments, your entire card pool is legal for the tournament, so any Mystical Archives card that you drafted or that were in your sealed deck pool can be used in that tournament.

And that's all the time we have for today's lesson. I hope you paid close attention; there might be a quiz at some point.

- 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.


No comments yet.


Follow us @CranialTweet!

Send quick questions to us in English for a short answer.

Follow our RSS feed!