Published on 06/05/2023

Rules Question Tango

Cranial Translation
Deutsch Español Français Italiano

When you're good to mama,
Mama's good to you.
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a local theater production of Chicago the Musical. It was an amazing experience and the jazzy tunes from the show are still bouncing around in my head. I was particularly blown away by the dazzling costumes and stellar vocal performances.

Of course you're not here for a review of a theater performance. You are here for answers to your Magic rules questions. If you have questions for us, you can email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will reply to you, and your question might even appear in a future article.

And now, without further ado, let's paint the town and all that jazz!

Q: Can I use Banishing Light to exile my opponent's Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines?

A: No, that won't work. Banishing Light's exile effect happens due to its enter-the-battlefield ability, and your opponent's Elesh Norn shuts down all enter-the-battlefield abilities of your permanents. You can play Banishing Light, but it'll just sit uselessly on the battlefield.

Q: If I control Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines and cast Jailbreak to return a card from my opponent's graveyard to the battlefield, do I then get to return two cards from my graveyard?

A: No. While Jailbreak has a reflexive trigger that triggers when a permanent enters the battlefield, Elesh Norn only causes triggered abilities of permanents you control to trigger an additional time. The resolving Jailbreak is a sorcery on the stack, not a permanent on the battlefield, so its trigger is not affected by Elesh Norn's ability.

Q: I control an Aboroth with one age counter on it, and I also control All Will Be One. Aboroth's cumulative upkeep triggers, and I know I get one trigger for 1 damage for putting on the age counter, but how many triggers do I get for putting the -1/-1 counters on Aboroth?

A: You pay the entire cumulative upkeep cost in one action, so you put two -1/-1 counters on Aboroth, which constitutes one event in which you put one or more counters on a permanent. This means you get one trigger that deals 2 damage, which is bad news for you if you were hoping to mow down two 1/1s.

Q: I control Portal to Phyrexia and Phyrexian Censor. When the Portal's second ability resolves and I choose a creature that's not normally a Phyrexian, does it enter the battlefield tapped or untapped?

A: It'll enter untapped. The Portal's effect causes the creature to enter the battlefield as a Phyrexian, as opposed to putting it onto the battlefield first and then turning it into a Phyrexian. Since it enters the battlefield as a Phyrexian, Phyrexian Censor is not interested in making it enter the battlefield tapped.

Q: I cast Invasion of Tarkir and I have one other card in my hand. The Invasion's enter-the-battlefield ability resolves and I reveal the last card in my hand, which is a Dragon card. My opponent responds to the damage trigger with Kolaghan's Command to make me discard that card. Does the damage trigger deal 2 or 3 damage?

A: It still deals 3 damage, since the reflexive trigger only cares about how many cards you chose to reveal. It doesn't care how many of those cards are still in your hand when the reflexive trigger resolves. In order to prevent you from revealing the card, your opponent would have to respond to the enter-the-battlefield ability itself, before they know for sure whether that last card in your hand is a Dragon card. We'll just assume that you gave your opponent the chance to do that and they chose not to. If you rushed things and revealed your Dragon card without giving your opponent the chance to respond to the enter-the-battlefield ability, a judge would most likely rewind the game to allow your opponent to respond to the enter-the-battlefield ability.

Q: If I control two Hoarding Broodlords, do the spells I cast from exile have double convoke? If so, does that halve the number of creatures I have to tap to pay for those spells?

A: Yes and no. The spells you cast from exile will have two instances of convoke, but that doesn't do anything more than just having one instance of convoke. Convoke isn't a triggered ability that makes mana when you tap creatures. It's a static ability that allows you to pay for mana symbols in the spell's total cost by other means, and having two instances of that ability is redundant.

With just one more brain
What a half-wit he'd be!
Q: I control Rakdos, Lord of Riots and my opponents have lost life, so the cost reduction effect is active. If I cast a creature card that was exiled with Elder Brain, can I apply the cost reduction from Rakdos to the colored mana symbols in its mana cost?

A: No. Rakdos's cost reduction effect only applies to the generic part of the mana in the spell's cost. Elder Brain allows you to spend mana for that spell as though it were mana of any color, but it doesn't actually change the cost of the spell to generic mana. For example, if the spell you cast is Child of Alara, its cost is still , not . Elder Brain's effect just means that you could tap five Mountains (or five Wastes, for that matter) and use the resulting mana to pay that cost.

Q: If I control Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second and make some tokens with White Sun's Twilight, do those tokens still have toxic 1?

A: I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that the tokens don't have toxic 1. The good news is that they don't have "this creature can't block", either. An effect that creates a token defines the token's base characteristics, and it might also set up additional effects or include additional instructions. Jinnie Fay replaces the base characteristics and leaves the additional effects and instructions alone. However, toxic 1 and the can't block ability are all part of the base characteristics that White Sun's Twilight defines, so Jinnie Fay replaces those with the characteristics of a hasty Cat or vigilant Dog.

Q: What about Incubator tokens? Do they still get +1/+1 counters if Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second causes them to be Cats or Dogs instead?

A: Yes. Incubate N means "create an Incubator token that enters the battlefield with N +1/+1 counters on it." The part that makes the token enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters is not an ability that's given to the token, it's an additional instruction to you that you carry out as you create the token. Jinnie Fay's replacement effect leaves that additional instruction alone, so you're getting a Cat or Dog with N +1/+1 counters on it.

Q: Does Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant's power reset to 0 when I pass the turn?

A: I'm afraid so. Once a new turn begins, "this turn" now refers to a turn in which no mana values have been noted yet. Therefore, "the greatest number noted for it this turn" is an undefined quantity, so the game uses 0 until a card gets exiled and its mana value gets noted during this new turn.

Q: Does Bitter Ordeal count tokens that were put into a graveyard?

A: Absolutely. The gravestorm ability counts how many permanents were put into a graveyard this turn. Tokens are indeed permanents, and even though they cease to exist shortly after arriving in the graveyard, they do go to the graveyard before they cease to exist.

Q: Does Vulturous Zombie trigger off of Treasure tokens or Clue tokens being sacrificed?

A: No. Unlike the gravestorm ability, Vulturous Zombie's ability triggers whenever a card is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere. Tokens are permanents, but they aren't cards.

It was a murder
But not a crime
Q: I control a 3/2 Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest and an untapped Mountain. My opponent tries to Murder Shu Yun. If I cast Bolt Bend in response, does Shu Yun's prowess kick in early enough so that I can cast Bolt Bend for just ?

A: No. In order to cast Bolt Bend, you have to announce the spell, put it on the stack, announce its target, calculate its cost, and pay its cost, and only then does prowess trigger. And then players get to respond to prowess, and if they don't counter prowess, it'll resolve, and that's when Shu Yun grows to 4/3. At the time you calculate the cost for Bolt Bend, Shu Yun is only 3/2, so you have to pay the full price for Bolt Bend, which means that you can't cast Bolt Bend if you only have one available.

Q: Does Blessed Sanctuary stop Murder?

A: No. While it is possible to cause a creature to be destroyed by dealing enough damage to it, destroying a creature is not the same as dealing damage to it. In order to be prevented by Blessed Sanctuary, a spell has to use the phrase "deal damage", such as Lightning Bolt. Murder simply instructs its controller to destroy the creature, so it's not prevented by Blessed Sanctuary.

Q: If I control Liesa, Forgotten Archangel, can I Murder a creature with indestructible by exiling it instead?

A: No. Liesa doesn't rewrite Murder from "destroy target creature" to "exile target creature". Its ability simply watches the game for any events in which a creature would die, and any such events get modified at the moment they're happening so that the creature is exiled instead. This means that Liesa's effect only kicks in if an effect would actually attempt to destroy a creature. If a creature is indestructible, destroying it is impossible, so the event that Liesa is supposed to replace is not happening in the first place. You can still target the creature with Murder, but Murder does nothing to it.

Q: Can I use Ichormoon Gauntlet's triggered ability to give extra voyage counters to an exiled Cosima, God of the Voyage?

A: No, that won't work. Ichormoon Gauntlet's ability targets a permanent, and permanents only exist on the battlefield. Your exiled Cosima is a permanent card, but it's not a permanent.

Q: If I control a face-down Thousand Winds and Flicker it, does that trigger Thousand Winds's turned-face-up ability?

A: No. Thousand Winds's ability only triggers if it goes from being face down to being face up while it's on the battlefield. With Flicker, Thousand Winds goes from being face-down on the battlefield to being face-up in the exile zone, and then it is returned to the battlefield as a new object that's a face-up Thousand Winds. This new object was not turned face up, it just arrived on the battlefield face-up.

Q: If I use Command the Dreadhorde to return Eternal Witness from my graveyard to the battlefield, can I use Eternal Witness's ability to return the same Command the Dreadhorde to my hand?

A: Absolutely. Command the Dreadhorde resolves and puts Eternal Witness onto the battlefield. This triggers Eternal Witness's enter-the-battlefield ability, but that ability only goes on the stack after Command the Dreadhorde has finished resolving and has gone to the graveyard. When Eternal Witness's enter-the-battlefield ability goes on the stack, Command the Dreadhorde is in your graveyard, so it is a legal target for the ability.

And that's all that jazz for today. Thanks for reading and please come back next week!

- 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!