Published on 07/06/2020

Of Ogres & Onions

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

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Hi everyone, and welcome back to Cranial Insertion! I'm new here, this is my first article for Cranial Insertion. My name is Justin Hovdenes, but in the Magic community I usually go by Hovey. I'm a Level 2 judge from the Black Hills of South Dakota and I've been judging Magic Tournaments for over 10 years. Today we are going to talk all about Layers. Our resident Zombie Monkey recently wrote an article discussing the Layer Rules, so for more in-depth study you can go here Order of Operations (Ikoria Version).

While you read the questions below, it may help to reference this Layers Chart I have over here to the right.

If you have any question, don't hesitate to send them to us. We might even use your question in a future article. You can us send us your shorter questions via Twitter at @CranialTweet , and you can send us your longer questions at .

Q: I control a face down morph creature (its secretly Marsh Hulk), I then mutate Dreamtail Heron underneath of it. Do I draw a card? Does the morph creature have flying?

A: Nope and double nope. Layer 1 is split into 2 sublayers. In sublayer 1a, all copying & cloning effects first happen (this includes mutate), then Morph in sublayer 1b removes all abilities. If you later "megamorphed" up Marsh Hulk, it will have Flying, but will have long since missed the chance to draw you that card.

Q: In a three-player game, Nancy controls (and owns) a Drooling Ogre. Allen casts Vedalken Shackles and Nate counters it with Desertion. Then Nate uses the Shackles to steal the Drooling Ogre, since he has 4 Islands. If after all that, Allen Boomerangs the Shackles back to his own hand, who controls the Ogre?

A: Allen does. In Layer 2, control effects are almost always applied just in timestamp order. Before the Boomerang the timestamp order was first Nancy owns/controls, second Allen controls, and third Nate controls. Once the Shackles effect ends, the most recent controller was Allen.

Q: Nigel controls Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs and two Adaptive Automatons each naming Ogres. Adriana targets Kazuul with Artificial Evolution changing Ogre to Shark. She then attacks Nigel with four 4/4 elephant tokens, but only pays once for Kazuul's triggered ability. Nigel blocks the first 3 elephants each with a freshly made tokens from Kazuul, and blocks the 4th elephant with Kazuul. Which creatures die from this combat?

A: Kazuul, three shark tokens, and one elephant token all die. Because Artificial Evolution changed the text of Kazuul in Layer 3, Kazuul now creates shark tokens and even Kazuul is no longer an Ogre, he too is a shark. The automatons don't help Kazuul or the tokens he creates. Each shark token being smaller than the elephants die, and Kazuul trades with the elephant he blocked.

Q: Ogre Slumlord has been changed into a Rat by Imagecrafter. Does the Slumlord now have Deathtouch?

A: Yes, it does. Imagecrafter turns the Slumlord into a Rat in Layer 4. Then in Layer 5, grants itself deathtouch.

Q: I control Gray Ogre and Bad Moon. I then cast Darkest Hour. Do timestamps make it so Bad Moon doesn't help my Ogre?

A: So the good news is, the game doesn't strictly do everything in timestamp order. Timestamps are only relevant when more than one ability tries to affect the same object in the same layer. Since Bad Moon and Darkest Hour apply in two different layers, everything is good. Your ogre will get the +1/+1 from Bad Moon. Gray Ogre turns black in Layer 5, and then in Layer 7c gets +1/+1 since it is black by that point.

Ogres are like onions.

Q: Alice attacks Nissa with Sokenzan Bruiser. Before blockers are declared, Nissa uses Hammerheim on the Bruiser. After that resolves, Alice casts Piracy Charm on the Bruiser choosing to give it Islandwalk. Supposing Nissa has a Steam Vents, can she block the Bruiser this turn?

A: No, she can't. The Bruiser has Mountainwalk to start with, then in Layer 6 Hammerheim strips that away, but then Piracy Charm gives it a different landwalk ability Islandwalk.

Q: What is a CDA? I've heard this is important.

A: CDA stands for Characteristic Defining Ability. These are important because unlike most abilities they function in all zones, not just on the battlefield. In any Layer where more than one effect is being applied, CDAs are applied first before non-CDAs. CDAs will define a card or tokens own Power, Toughness, Color, and/or sub-types. The most common of these shows up in Layer 7a, such as Tarmogoyf's ability that defines its power and toughness. Other CDAs include the Changeling ability like on Avian Changeling or the devoid ability on cards like Flaying Tendrils.

Q: You said a CDA is an ability that defines a card or tokens own characteristics, what about cards like Mystic Enforcer, Mirror Entity, and Eldrazi Mimic?

A: There are 3 specific rules that distinguish a CDA from other abilities.
1. A CDA can only define a characteristic of either the card or token it comes from.
2. A CDA can't be triggered, activated, or conditional.
3. A CDA must define a characteristic. Usually color, power and/or toughness, or sub-type.
The Mystic Enforcer's Power and Toughness ability isn't a CDA because its conditional. The Mirror Entity's activated ability isn't a CDA for two reasons; 1) it effects more than just itself, 2) it is an activated ability. The Eldrazi Mimic's ability isn't a CDA because it is triggered.

Q: My opponent controls a Rubblebelt Recluse that has two +1/+1 counters on it and has Short Sword attached to it. I cast Ichthyomorphosis targeting the Recluse, how big is it?

A: Sadly, not as small as you might hope. Power and Toughness setting happens in Layer 7b, before bonus (and reductions). The Recluse is a 3/4. So, it becomes a 0/1 in Layer 7b, then in 7c it gets +2/+2 from counters (up to a 2/3) and then +1/+1 from the sword, for a total of 3/4.

Q: I cast Twisted Image targeting my Frost Ogre then I cast Sure Strike targeting the ogre again. How big is it?

A: The ogre is a 3/8. This is tricky to explain, but if we follow just the layers, the ogre starts out as a 5/3, then in Layer 7c it gets +3/+0 for a total of 8/3, then in Layer 7d it swaps to a 3/8. I like to think of it as a +X/+0 abilities will only ever effect a number that started in the power position, and similarly a +0/+X abilities will only ever effect a number that started in the toughness position.

They stink? They make you cry?
You leave them out in the sun,
and they turn brown and sprout
little white heads?

Q: Power and Toughness swapping is tricky. Let's try digging deeper. So, let's start where the last question left off, and Twisted Image the ogre again. Then we will Sure Strike it a second time. How big is it now?

A: The ogre is a 11/3. It started out as a 5/3, then in Layer 7c gets +3/+0 (up to 8/3), then another bonus of +3/+0 for a total of 11/3. Then in Layer 7d, it swaps once to 3/11, then swaps a 2nd time back to 11/3.

Q: Alfred casts Savage Knuckleblade and then immediately activates both its first and third abilities. Before Alfred can declare attackers, Nahiri casts Ovinize on the Knuckleblade. Then Alfred casts Maximize Velocity on the Knuckleblade. How big and what abilities does Knuckleblade have?

A: Knuckleblade is 3/4 with haste. In layer 6, it gains haste, then loses haste and all its activated abilities, then regains haste. In Layer 7b it gets set to a 0/1, then in Layer 7c it gets +2/+2 (up to a 2/3) followed by +1/+1, for a total of 3/4.

Q: I control only 3 Mountians, a Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth that I put onto the battlefield last turn, and a Henchfiend of Ukor that I cast on my last turn. Its currently my opponents turn and several turns ago my opponent cast Blood Moon. On my next turn will I be able to tap any of my lands for black mana to pay the echo cost on my Henchfiend?

A: Unfortunately not. Blood Moon will remove all the abilities on Urborg since it's not a basic land. This is what's called a dependency. Usually when two abilities apply in the same layer (as Blood Moon and Urborg do), you simply apply them in timestamp order. However, if one ability is dependent on the other, it is held until after the one its dependent on. Effect A depends on Effect B if both A and B are applied in the same layer and one of the following conditions is true:
• Applying B first causes A to no longer exist.
• Applying B first causes A to apply or not apply to object X.
• Applying B first changes how A works (but not how much A works)
So, because Blood Moon causes Urborg's ability to no longer exist it's always applied after Blood Moon, by which time it no longer has any abilities.

Q: Azor attacks Niambi with an Incurable Ogre which has attached to it both Embercleave and Demonic Embrace. Niambi cast Mystic Subdual targeting the Ogre. What does this ogre look like now?

A: The Incurable Ogre is 7/3 demon ogre with no abilities. In Layer 4, the ogre gains the type demon. In Layer 6 it gains Double Strike, Trample and Flying, and then loses all 3. The ogre starts out as a 5/1, then In Layer 7c, it gains +1/+1 (up to 6/2), then +3/+1 (up to 9/3) and suffers -2/-0 (ending up at 7/3).

Q: I have two Atarka Pummelers. I activate the ability of one and then attack with both. My opponent Murders one. How many creatures does it take for the opponent to block the remaining pummeler?

A: It takes 2 creatures at least to block the one pummeler. You needed to have "formidable" to activate the ability, but the menace it granted doesn't require you still have "formidable".

Q: Nelly has no blockers and has 5 poison counters. Antonio controls an Ogre Menial. He attacks with it and then activates its last ability five times. Nelly then casts Twisted Image on the Ogre. After that resolves, Antonio activates the last ability one more time. Does Nelly lose the game for having 10 poison counters?

A: Nope. The ogre starts out as a 0/4. Then in Layer 7c, it gets +1/+0 six times, for a total of 6/4, then in Layer 7d it swaps to be a 4/6. Dealing only 4 infect damage, leaving Nelly with 9 poison counters.

Q: Angela controls both Glorious Anthem and Wrecking Ogre. She attacks Nicodemus with the ogre. Nicodemus responds by casting Humble on the ogre. After Humble resolves, Angela "Bloodrushes" a 2nd Wrecking Ogre from her hand targeting the attacking one. Nicodemus doesn't block. How much damage does Nicodemus take?

A: Nicodemus takes 8 damage. The ogre starts out as a 3/3 double striker. In Layer 6, the ogre loses double strike, then gains it back again. In Layer 7b, it becomes a 0/1. Then in Layer 7c it gets +1/+1 (up to 1/2), then it gets +3/+3 (up to 4/5). The ogre is a 4/5 double striker.

Yes, No. No. No. Layers.
Onions have layers.
Ogres have layers.
Ye get it, we both have layers.

Q: I control Arcane Adaptation naming demon and no creatures. I then cast Raving Oni-slave. At the end of the same turn my opponent Murders it. How much life did I lose to the Oni-slave this turn?

A: Three life is lost to the Oni-slave this turn. The Adaptation makes it a demon, so it doesn't hurts you when it enters the battlefield. However, when it dies, its trigger looks for a demon creature you control, and since you have none, hurts you for 3 life loss.

Q: Abigail controls a Liquimetal Coating and Barrage Ogre which has a Deathtouch counter on it from Void Beckoner she cycled a few turns ago. If she turns the ogre into an artifact using the coating, can she sacrifice it to its own ability to kill a creature with toughness 3 or greater?
A: Yes, she can. Barrage Ogre's ability doesn't require it be a different artifact. And although the Barrage Ogre will be in the graveyard by the time its ability resolves, it will use last known information to see it had deathtouch.

Q: So Aiden attacks Norman with the following creatures:
• An activated Raging Ravine with a +1/+1 counter on it (gained from this attack).
• an activated Mutavault
• a 4/4 elephant token holding an Embercleave
• a crewed Smuggler's Copter
Before blocks Norman casts Mirrorweave targeting the Mutavault, supposing Norman doesn't block any of the creatures, how much damage does he take?

A: 6 damage total. Each creature becomes a copy of an un-activated Mutavault. If some ability isn't already making it a creature it stops being a creature and stops attacking immediately. The Raging Ravine is mostly unaffected and deals 4 damage. The Mutavault is unaffected and deals 2 damage. The elephant stops being a creature, stops attacking, and drops the Embercleave. The Smuggler's Copter stops being a Vehicle, and the ability making it a creature tries to determine its Power and Toughness, since there is no stat for it to find as its now a copy of Mutavault, it defaults to 0/0 and is placed in the graveyard.

Bye, bye. See you later.
- Hovey


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