Published on 08/08/2016

Back Out in the Outback

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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.

Nobody expected it to win the Pro Tour.
G'day! Although I'm writing this beforehand, you'll be reading this article just after Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, held down under in Sydney, Australia. Which means you know more than I do, including how the tournament turned out and which cards from Eldritch Moon made waves in the Pro Tour.

But luckily I don't need to know the results to be able to answer a bunch of rules questions for this week's Cranial Insertion. And if you've got a rules question you'd like answered, regardless of which hemisphere it comes from, feel free to ask us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: If I'm controlling my opponent with Emrakul, the Promised End, can I make her discard her whole hand?

A: A player can only take an action when a rule or card gives them specific permission to do so. And there's no rule letting players just discard whenever they feel like it, so your opponent will need to have some card that allows discarding (say, a Noose Constrictor).

Q: Does Torpor Orb prevent the second ability of Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder?

A: No; Endrek Sahr doesn't trigger based on something entering the battlefield, he just triggers based on the state of the game, so Torpor Orb won't stop him from sacrificing himself.

Q: I have a Lunar Force and my opponent just cast a Dragonlord Dromoka. Since it's an impossible action to counter Dromoka, do I still sacrifice Lunar Froce?

A: Yup! When a spell or ability tries to resolve, but some of the actions it calls for are impossible to perform, you just do the ones that are still possible. So you sacrifice Lunar Force, and it tries (and fails) to counter Dromoka.

Q: So what happens if I Spell Queller an Abrupt Decay?

A: Abrupt Decay can't be countered by spells or abilities, but that's actually a pretty narrow restriction; it just stops spells and abilities which use the word "counter". Abrupt Decay can still be countered by the game rules — if its target becomes illegal — and if it somehow gets removed from the stack before it resolves, it just won't resolve. And that's what Spell Queller does, by moving Abrupt Decay from the stack to the exile zone.

Q: I control a Fungus Sliver and a Might Sliver. If I cast Fiery Confluence, choosing the first mode three times, how many +1/+1 counters do I put on my Slivers?

A: Assuming all your Slivers are big enough to begin with in order to survive the damage, you'll put three counters on each Sliver. Each of the first two modes of Fiery Confluence, and each time one of those modes is chosen, will cause a separate damage event.

Q: If the proliferate from Steady Progress would bump my Echo Mage up to 2 level counters, can I then use the Echo Mage to copy Steady Progress?

A: No. While a spell or ability is resolving, you can only perform actions called for by that spell or ability; you have to wait until it's done resolving to be able to do anything else. And since Steady Progress has already begun resolving, you'll have to wait until after it's done resolving before you can activate Echo Mage's ability, at which point the Steady Progress is in your graveyard where Echo Mage can't do anything useful with it.

As if the local wildlife wasn't
dangerous enough already...
Q: My opponent controls Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light. If I wait until the meld ability triggers and then respond with Eldrazi Displacer's ability on Gisela or Bruna, will that stop the meld?

A: It won't stop them melding into Brisela if you Displace Bruna. But it will stop the meld if you Displace Gisela. Whenever a card refers to itself by name, it means "this game object". But the game object the ability is referring to no longer exists — Gisela became a new game object when she left the battlefield and returned. And her ability has what's called an "intervening if" (basically, the word "if" occurring in the description of the trigger condition), which means it only happens if the trigger condition is true both when it triggers and when it tries to resolve. So using Displacer on Gisela will cause the ability to fail to resolve.

Q: If I use Harmless Offering to give my opponent Phage the Untouchable, will it cause my opponent to lose the game?

A: Changing controllers doesn't cause a permanent to leave and re-enter the battlefield, so giving Phage to your opponent won't trigger her ability.

Q: I have a multiplayer deck that uses Phyrexian-mana spells and abilities to run my life total way down, then Soul Conduit to swap with someone else. But when I tried it out, the opponent I targeted with Soul Conduit announced he would concede in response to Soul Conduit's ability. Is that allowed? Do I still get his life?

A: It is allowed: a player can concede from a game at any time, for pretty much any reason. And you won't gain any life. Since the targeted player is no longer in the game, they don't have a life total to give you, and are no longer there for you to give your life total to (and an exchange can't partially happen; it either completely happens, or doesn't happen at all).

Q: If I attack with Hero of Bladehold and cast Berserk on one of the tokens she made, will the token get destroyed at the end of the turn?

A: No. Berserk only destroys the creature if it attacked, and that has a specific meaning in the rules: a creature only "attacked" if it was declared as an attacking creature at the beginning of the declare attackers step of the combat phase. But that didn't happen with the token, which was created as an attacker later.

Q: If I control Sigarda's Aid, attack with a creature, and flash in Stitcher's Graft before damage, attaching it to my attacker, will my creature untap next turn?

A: It will; Stitcher's Graft only triggers if it's attached to the creature at the time the creature is declared as an attacker. If it somehow becomes attached later, its ability won't trigger and the creature gets to untap normally.

Q: If my opponent casts Ruinous Path with awaken, can I still Spell Queller it?

A: You can! Alternative and additional costs only change what you pay to cast a spell; they don't change the spell's mana cost or its converted mana cost (which always come from the cost printed in the upper right corner of the card). So Ruinous Path always has a converted mana cost of 3, and is always eligible to be Quelled.

Q: If I target my opponent's Reality Smasher with the cast trigger of Elder Deep-Fiend, do I have to discard a card to keep it from being countered?

A: No, because Reality Smasher's ability only triggers for spells, and the triggered ability of Elder Deep-Fiend isn't a spell, even though it's triggered by casting a spell. Creature spells (and other permanents as spells on the stack, other than Auras) never have targets.

Q: I know that if I cast a planeswalker, I get priority first after it enters the battlefield and can activate one of its abilities before my opponent gets a chance to kill it. But if I cast, say, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, can I play a land to transform her before my opponent can kill her?

A: When Nissa enters the battlefield, her land-search ability triggers and goes onto the stack. Your opponent can respond to that with a spell or ability to kill Nissa. And since the stack isn't empty — Nissa's trigger is there, waiting to resolve — it's not a legal time for you to play a land and trigger her transformation to save her.

Unfortunately, it's a VERY long
flight home.
Q: In that case, if I had an Evolving Wilds and at least six other lands, could I use the Wilds in response to my opponent trying to kill Nissa?

A: That would work; Evolving Wilds would cause a land to enter the battlefield, and trigger Nissa's ability to transform.

Q: If my opponent destroys my Stitcher's Graft with a Naturalize, do I sacrifice the creature it was on?

A: You do; an Equipment becomes unattached whenever it's attached to something else, falls off (due to the creature it's attached to gaining protection or leaving the battlefield or ceasing to be a creature), or if the Equipment leaves the battlefield. So Stitcher's Graft will trigger when it gets destroyed, and make you sacrifice the creature it was attached to.

Q: If my graveyard is empty when I cast Grapple with the Past, and that puts a land or creature into my graveyard, can I return that card to my hand?

A: Yup! Any choices other than targets, modes, how to divide an effect or how to pay for a spell or ability will wait until the spell or ability is resolving. So you don't choose the card to return until you reach that instruction in Grapple with the Past's resolution, at which point there should be at least three cards in your graveyard, and can choose one of those fresh cards if it happens to be a land or a creature.

Q: I control a Rattlechains and want to flash in a Geist of the Archives in my opponent's turn. If he responds with Savage Alliance to kill Rattlechains, what happens to my Geist?

A: Nothing — it resolves normally and enters the battlefield. There's also no way for your opponent to prevent you casting the Geist by killing your Rattlechains; the process of casting a spell can't be interrupted or responded to, so by the time your opponent can do anything, you've already got your Geist onto the stack, and taking away the Rattlechains won't go back and undo that.

Q: I control Zada, Hedron Grinder and two other creatures. My opponent casts a Planar Outburst and I respond with two copies of Otherworldly Outburst on Zada. How many Eldrazi Horrors will I get?

A: Six! Each Otherworldly Outburst will be copied for each of your other two creatures. And when each of your creatures dies, both Outbursts will be triggered, for two tokens per creature, which is a total of six.

Q: At the Pro Tour, I saw that the packs they drafted were already opened and in sleeves. Can we do that at my local game shop for our next draft?

A: No. Only Professional-enforcement draft events (that means a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour) are allowed to use this; all other draft tournament must use unopened booster packs, and cannot sleeve the cards prior to drafting.

That's all for this week, but be sure to check in again next week when we'll be back with another issue of Cranial Insertion!

- James Bennett

About the Author:
James Bennett is a Level 3 judge based out of Lawrence, Kansas. He pops up at events around Kansas City and all over the midwest, and has a car he can talk to.


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