Published on 07/13/2015

Back to the Past

or, Be Kind, Please Rewind

Cranial Translation
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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

I put the "Abz" in "Abzan."
Greetings, and welcome to another issue of Cranial Insertion. The Magic Origins prerelease is in the books, and I hope you had the chance to show your prowess, gain renown, master spells, and watched some would-be planeswalkers ignite their spark. Magic Origins looks like a fun set with a bunch of amazing top-down designs, and I'm excited to present you this selection of rules interactions both within this set and with other sets.

If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet short questions to us at @CranialTweet. As always, you'll get a direct answer from one of our writers, and your question might appear in a future issue alongside an obscure pop-culture reference or a brutal pun. We've got both in this issue, so let's return to our Origins and get this show on the road!

Q: Let's say I take my opponent's Eyeblight Assassin with Enthralling Victor's ability. Can I then pump it up with Titanic Growth without losing control of it right away?

A: Sure, that works. Enthralling Victor's ability only cares about the Assassin's power at two points in time: When you choose it as the target, and when the ability resolves. Since the Assassin was a legal target at both moments, the ability resolved and created the control-changing effect until end of turn. Changing the Assassin's power won't make that effect end prematurely, so enjoy swinging in with your new 6/6!

Q: I control Willbreaker and target an opponent's creature with some spell or ability to gain control of it. Does the spell/ability still resolve?

A: Probably, but not necessarily. Changing control of a creature doesn't change its identity, so the spell or ability doesn't lose track of it the way it would when a target gets blinked. This means that in most cases, the spell or ability will still resolve normally. However, if the target restriction cares about who controls the target, for example Eyeblight Assassin's ability, the ability is countered on resolution and does nothing.

Q: Can I target a creature with Aerial Volley and not assign damage to it just so I can gain control of it with Willbreaker?

A: That's a good idea, but it's not legal. When you're asked to divide damage among a number of targets, each target has to be assigned at least 1 damage.

Q: Can I target a creature with Blightcaster's ability to gain control of it with Willbreaker and then not give it -2/-2?

A: Yup! You choose the target for Blightcaster's ability when it goes on the stack, but you choose whether to give it -2/-2 when the ability resolves. The first part is enough to trigger Willbreaker's ability and give you control of the creature. When the ability resolves, it asks you whether you want to give the creature -2/-2, and it's perfectly legal to say "You know, on second thought, I'd rather not."

Q: What happens if I control two Avaricious Dragon?

A: You mean besides having two 4/4 fliers to smack your opponent with? Well, at the beginning of your draw step, you'll draw an additional card twice, and then at the beginning of your end step, you'll discard your hand twice. The second time you discard your hand it'll probably be empty, but that's not a problem. You simply discard all zero cards in your hand and that's it.

Q: What happens if I control two Blessed Spirits and I cast an enchantment spell?

A: Each Blessed Spirits' triggered ability triggers and resolves separately, so each Blessed Spirits gets a +1/+1 counter. They won't get two counters each because each Blessed Spirits only refers to itself and not the other creature that happens to have the same name.

Q: Can I regenerate my opponent's creature with Dark Dabbling to tap it?

A: Well, you can regenerate the creature, but that's not going to tap it. Regenerating a creature only puts an invisible bubble around it that saves it the next time it would be destroyed this turn, and bursting that bubble is what causes the creature to be tapped. Until something tries to destroy the creature, it won't be tapped.

You're gonna get your fingers burned
Q: Can I use Avacyn, Guardian Angel's ability to prevent the damage from Chandra, Roaring Flame's emblem?

A: No, you can't do that. While Chandra is red, her emblem is colorless, and the emblem is the source of the damage. Avacyn's ability can only prevent damage from sources of a chosen color, and colorless is not a color.

Q: If I target Kytheon, Hero of Akros with Cruel Revival and my opponent makes it indestructible in response, do I still get to return the Zombie card I targeted?

A: Yup! The part that returns the Zombie card is a separate instruction that has nothing to do with the first instruction, and there's no condition like "if you do" attached to it, so it happens even if the first instruction failed to destroy its target.

Q: What if I target a creature with Cruel Revival and my opponent sacrifices it in response?

A: The answer is basically the same. If you target a Zombie card to return, Cruel Revival is a spell with two targets, and rendering just one of those targets illegal won't cause the spell to be countered. Since Cruel Revival still has a legal target, it resolves and does as much as it can, returning the Zombie card to your hand.

Q: I control Demonic Pact and I've already chosen then first and third mode. Now it's my upkeep and my opponent has hexproof thanks to his newly acquired Orbs of Warding. What happens?

A: Looks like the demon is claiming your soul sooner than you wanted. In the process of putting the ability on the stack, you choose a mode first, and then you choose targets if the mode requires targets. If you can't complete this process legally, you have to start over. If you choose the second mode, you can't choose a legal target, so you have to choose the fourth mode and you'll lose the game when the ability resolves.

Q: If I control Demonic Pact and it's down to the fourth mode, can I give it to my opponent in response to the trigger with Zedruu the Greathearted?

A: No, in response to the trigger is too late. The "you" in the ability refers to the player who controls the trigger, and that's the player who controlled Demonic Pact at the time the ability triggered. Even if you give the Pact away in response to the trigger, you controlled it when it triggered, so you'll be the one who loses the game when it resolves.

Q: Does Displacement Wave for X=0 bounce Gideon, Battle-Forged and the other back-face planeswalkers?

A: It sure does. Displacement Wave for X=0 bounces all nonland permanents with converted mana cost 0. The iconic planeswalkers in Magic Origins have no mana cost, so their converted mana cost is indeed 0.

Q: Let's say I control the emblem from Liliana, Defiant Necromancer and I wipe the board with End Hostilities?

A: You'll get all those creatures back under your control, but not all at the same time. Each creature's death triggers an ability that creates a separate delayed trigger for the beginning of the next end step. When the end step comes around, you choose the order in which those triggers go on the stack, and the creatures enter the battlefield in the reverse order as those triggers resolve.

And I don't need to see any more
To know that I can read your mind
Q: Does the cost reduction from Jace's Sanctum apply to spells cast with Jace, Telepath Unbound's -3 ability?

A: Absolutely. Jace's ability lets you cast the card, and the cost reduction effect from Jace's Sanctum doesn't care from which zone the spell is being cast, so yes, those card work as well together as their names suggest.

Q: Does Nissa, Sage Animist's +1 ability trigger Sphinx's Tutelage's ability if I reveal a nonland card?

A: Nope. Sphinx's Tutelage's ability only triggers when you draw a card. Nissa's ability tells you to put the top card of your library into your hand. While this looks very much like drawing a card, it's not drawing a card, so it doesn't trigger Sphinx's Tutelage's ability.

Q: Does Hallowed Moonlight stop Liliana, Heretical Healer, for example, from coming back transformed?

A: It does not. Hallowed Moonlight only applies to events that would try to put a creature onto the battlefield. Liliana is entering the battlefield as a planeswalker, so Hallowed Moonlight isn't getting involved.

Q: Can I use Whip of Erebos to get Liliana, Heretical Healer from the graveyard and, assuming I have some sacrifice outlet, sacrifice a creature to transform Lily and keep her?

A: Yes, that works. Whip of Erebos creates a replacement effect that only cares about the reanimated creature going anywhere other than the exile zone. Since Liliana exiles herself, the Whip is not interested in replacing that event, and then Liliana comes back as a new permanent that is not affected by the Whip's replacement effect or by the exile-it trigger at the end of the turn.

Q: I control Valeron Wardens and it deals combat damage to my opponent for the first time. Do I draw a card?

A: You sure do. Dealing combat damage to your opponent triggers Valeron Wardens' renown ability, so it becomes renowned. Since the second ability doesn't say "another creature you control", it triggers for Valeron Wardens itself, so you draw a card.

Q: If I cast Hangarback Walker with three or more counters and I control Elemental Bond, do I get to draw a card?

A: Yup. Hangarback Walker doesn't enter the battlefield as a 0/0 and then it gets the counters. It enters the battlefield with the +1/+1 counters already on it, so Elemental Bond's ability sees it as a creature with power 3 or greater as long as you spent enough mana on the Hangarback Walker.

Q: How does Sentinel of the Eternal Watch work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: It works twice as well as in a duel. The Sentinel's ability triggers once for each opponent even if the opponents are taking their turns at the same time, so you get to tap down one creature for each of your two opponents.

Q: Does Alhammarret, High Arbiter work twice as well in Two-Headed Giant, too?

A: Not exactly. You get to look at both opponents' hands, but you only get to choose one card, and only that one card will be prohibited from being cast by either opponent.

And that's all the time we have for today. Next week, Callum will be back to shake up our writer rotation and to serve up a fresh helping of rules questions. See you then!

- 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.

I believe the answer to the 12th question (about Demonic Pact and Zedruu the Greathearted) should be "Yes, but..." (or just "Yes" in a Judge call scenario), as you can indeed give the Pact away in response - it just won't help you a whole lot.
#1 • Date: 2015-07-13 • Time: 02:38:59 •

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