Published on 02/21/2022

Everything Old is Neon Again

Cranial Translation
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Don't throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is out now, and this set is giving me intense feelings of nostalgia, or should I say neo-stalgia? I probably shouldn't, because that's an awful pun, but I already said it, and I'm not taking it back. While the original Kamigawa block happened during my long hiatus from Magic — which spanned from around Homelands to around Time Spiral — the playgroup I joined at the end of my hiatus was playing with readily available preconstructed decks, so I have fond memories of battling against my friends' Ravnica and Kamigawa themed decks with my Slivers deck.

Let's celebrate the combination of old and new by answering more rules questions about old and new cards from our inbox. As always, you're welcome to email your questions to , or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will get back to you with an answer, and your question might appear in a future article!

Q: I attack with a Futurist Operative and of course it doesn't get blocked, so I activate Blade-Blizzard Kitsune's ninjutsu ability to swap it in. My opponent successfully counters the ninjutsu ability with Mirrorshell Crab's Channel ability because I can't pay the extra . What happens?

A: The ninjutsu ability gets countered and doesn't resolve, which means that you won't put Blade-Blizzard Kitsune onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. Unfortunately for you, you already paid the cost for the ninjutsu ability, which includes returning Futurist Operative to your hand. That cost doesn't get refunded when the ability is countered, so the Futurist Operative stays in your hand for now, and you're not attacking your opponent with anything.

Q: My graveyard is empty and The Restoration of Eiganjo's chapter II goes off. If I discard a Plains, can I return it to the battlefield with the second half of the ability?

A: You sure can. The "when you do" bit is a separate triggered ability that triggers when you discard a card to the first instruction, and it only goes on the stack after you have discarded the card. This means that the Plains you just discarded is a legal target for that ability.

Q: I control Valentin, Dean of the Vein and Draugr Necromancer, and I use Power Word Kill to destroy my opponent's Bear Cub. Who decides which replacement effect exiles the Bear Cub?

A: Your opponent decides. As Power Word Kill resolves, the game sees that there are two replacement effects that want to modify how Power Word Kill affects your opponent's Bear Cub. As the controller of that permanent, your opponent chooses one replacement effect to apply first. Once that effect has been applied, the modified event is no longer trying to destroy the Bear Cub, so the other effect is no longer applicable and does nothing.

Q: I control Tormod, the Desecrator and I use Underworld Breach to escape Weigh Down from my graveyard. How many times does Tormod's ability trigger?

A: Just twice. While you're casting Weigh Down from your graveyard, there are two moments at which one or more cards leave your graveyard. The first moment happens when you move Weigh Down from your graveyard to the stack. Then, you calculate the cost and pay the total cost. Even though there are two separate costs that ask you to exile cards from your graveyard, namely the one creature card from Weigh Down's own additional cost and the three cards from the escape cost, those costs are paid at the same time, so you're exiling four cards at once.

Q: I control Drumbellower and it's my opponent's untap step. Can I crew a Vehicle in response to Drumbellower's ability?

A: No. Players don't get priority during the untap step, and Drumbellower's ability doesn't use the stack. It's a static ability that changes the rules for the untap step and simply instructs you to untap your creatures during your opponent's untap step.

Q: I control Satoru Umezawa and two unblocked attackers. I use ninjutsu to swap one of them for Rune-Scarred Demon, whose enter-the-battlefield ability lets me search my library for a card and put it into my hand. Can I use ninjutsu again to swap the second unblocked attacker for the card I searched for?

A: Sure, that works. After Rune-Scarred Demon's enter-the-battlefield ability has resolved, the game is still in the same step it was before, so probably the declare blockers step. There is no limit to the number of ninjutsu abilities you can activate provided that you can pay the cost. The second attacker is still an unblocked attacker you control, so you can use it — along with the required mana payment — to activate another ninjutsu ability of a card in your hand.

When I was a very small boy,
Very small boys talked to me
Q: I activate Gideon Jura's 0 ability and enchant him with Swift Reconfiguration to turn him into a Vehicle. If I use his 0 ability on a later turn, what does he turn into?

A: Aha, a question about layers! The interesting layer to focus on is layer 4, where all the type-changing goodness is happening. We have the effect from Swift Reconfiguration and Gideon Jura's own effect, and the two effects aren't dependent on one another, so we apply them in timestamp order. Swift Reconfiguration changes his type and subtype to Artifact — Vehicle, and nothing else. Gideon's own effect turns him into a Human Soldier creature that's still a planeswalker, but that "still a planeswalker" bit actually just means "in addition to whatever types and subtypes he has", so it doesn't turn him back into a planeswalker. The resulting type line is Artifact Creature — Human Soldier Vehicle, which is a bit odd, but perfectly legal.

Q: Split the Party has me a bit confused because it doesn't say who chooses the creatures that get returned. If I cast this on my opponent, do I choose the creatures, or do they?

A: You do. When an spell requires a choice and it doesn't specify explicitly who makes the choice, the spell's controller makes the choice. Since you cast Split the Party, you're its controller, so you choose which creatures get returned to your opponent's hand. Also, the choice is made at the time Split the Party resolves, so your opponent can't respond to this choice.

Q: For Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, how can I know whether a spell is targeting something if it doesn't use the word "target?" For example, does Valakut Awakening get the cost reduction?

A: If the spell doesn't use the word "target", chances are that it doesn't target. The only exception to that rule is if the card uses a keyword that has targeting built in, but that exception applies more to keyword abilities (such as equip) than to spells. The only spells I can think of that target without saying "target" are Auras and mutate spells. Valakut Awakening isn't one of those and doesn't use any keywords that entail targeting, so it doesn't get a cost reduction from Hinata.

Q: I control Isshin, Two Heavens as One and Ghostly Prison. Does Isshin double the effect from Ghostly Prison so that my opponent has to pay for each attacker?

A: No. Ghostly Prison doesn't have a triggered ability. It has a static ability that imposes a cost on the declaration of attackers. Triggered abilities are usually written as "When/Whenever/At [event], [effect]."

Q: What about Curse of Opulence or Combat Celebrant, does Isshin, Two Heavens as One double those effects?

A: Well, both of those cards have triggered abilities, but Isshin's effect only cares about one of them, namely Curse of Opulence, because the direct cause of it triggering is a creature attacking. Combat Celebrant's ability triggers during the declare attackers step, but that's not enough for Isshin's effect. Combat Celebrant's ability is not triggered by attacking with the creature, it's triggered by exerting it while attacking with it, so the attack is not the direct cause of the trigger.

There is one imposter among us
Q: My opponent controls Xenagos, God of Revels and has enough devotion for it to be a creature. I use Imposter Mech to make a Vehicle copy of it, but I don't have enough devotion for it to be a creature. If I crew it, does it become a creature, or does my lack of devotion stop it from being a creature?

A: It becomes a creature, and the explanation comes down to layers again. The "isn't a creature" effect that Imposter Mech copied from Xenagos applies first in layer 4 because it has the earlier timestamp. (Note that at that point the Mech already isn't a creature due to the exception to the copy effect that's applied in layer 1.) The crew effect has the later timestamp, so it applies next and turns the Mech into a creature.

Q: I cast Behold the Unspeakable and chapter I gives my opponent's creatures -2/-0. My opponent brings out a creature with ninjutsu on their next turn. Does it get the -2/-0 effect, too?

A: Nope. The set of creatures that are affected by Behold the Unspeakable's -2/-0 effect is locked in when the effect is first applied. Creatures that enter the battlefield later are not affected by the effect.

Q: In a recent-ish article you said that copying an Alesha's Vanguard with Lithoform Engine results in a token with haste that gets returned to its owner's hand later. However, the Fate Reforged Release Notes state that "If a creature enters the battlefield as a copy of or becomes a copy of a creature whose dash cost was paid, the copy won't have haste and won't be returned to its owner's hand." Which ruling is right?

A: Both rulings are correct because they're addressing different situations. The ruling from the release notes talks about something like Spitting Image or Mirage Mirror, where something becomes a copy of an existing permanent on the battlefield. The ruling from the article talks about copying a spell while it's on the stack. The existing permanent on the battlefield doesn't remember that its dash cost was paid, but the spell on the stack knows this, and that knowledge gets copied.

Q: The Change of Heart question from a couple of months ago made me wonder: If I'm in my main phase and I just attack by turning creatures sideways, did my opponent just lose the chance to use Change of Heart to stop one of the attackers? That doesn't sound right to me.

A: You're correct, that's not right. Magic is a game of strategy and resource management, not a game of reflexes. Both players get a say in how the turn progresses, and you can't prevent your opponent from acting by rushing past the point at which they need to act. Before you declare attackers, you should communicate your intent to your opponent, in any fashion that works for both of you. If you forget to do this and rush into the declaration of attackers, the game simply gets backed up to the point before you declared attackers, and your opponent gets to cast Change of Heart then.

Q: My friends and I like to play casual games at home, but sometimes we get into tricky card interactions that we need help with. Where can we get quick help to get the game moving again?

A: Look no further than the Magic Rules Q&A Chat! It's an easy to use text chat where you can ask your rules questions and usually get a prompt response by one of many volunteer rules experts. However, sleep schedules and time zones are a thing, so depending on the time of day or night the chat might not be very active, and you may need to have a bit of patience for someone to get around to answering your question.

And that's all the time we have for today. Tomorrow's date is 2/22/2022, so I wish you a happy Twos' Day, and I hope you'll be back next week for more Magic rules Q&A!

- 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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