Published on 08/28/2023

Back to School, 6th Edition

Now with a Very Slightly Updated Foreword

Cranial Translation
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We put the "grim" in "grimoire."
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. As August draws to a close, schools and universities are starting their Fall semesters, and my child has started another year of college. This makes me realize once again how insanely fast time flies, and will probably make you realize that I am old. It's true, I am older than most Magic players, but on the bright side, I am still younger than most houses.

Unlike at my child's college, here at the school of Cranial Insertion your education is still free, you don't have to buy expensive textbooks, and all our tests are open-book. If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will send you and answer, and your question might appear in a future article to educate other readers like yourself.

Let's begin today's lesson!

Q: If I animate Needle Spires with Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, does it have double strike?

A: No, Needle Spires only gains double strike when its own animation ability resolves. If you have the mana to do so, you could activate Needle Spires' own ability as well, and its effect would combine in interesting ways with the effect of Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi. You'd end up with a legendary red and white Elemental creature with haste and double-strike named Vitu-Ghazi. Its base power and toughness is 2/1, but thanks to the nine +1/+1 counters on it, it's 11/10.

Q: I control Ghalta, Primal Hunger, which is my commander and was cast once from the command zone, as well as Food Chain and a 20/20 Psychosis Crawler. If I feed Ghalta to Food Chain, how much mana do I get and how much will it cost to re-cast it from the command zone?

A: Food Chain looks at Ghalta's mana value to determine how much mana to give you. This is derived purely from the mana symbols in Ghalta's mana cost and has very little to do with how much you have spent, will spend, or might spend, on casting it as a spell. Ghalta's mana value is 12, so you get thirteen mana from Food Chain, and you're probably choosing to make green mana. When you re-cast Ghalta, you calculate its total cost by starting with the mana cost of , adding the commander tax of , and subtracting for Ghalta's own cost-reduction effect. This reduction eliminates the entire generic mana component of the cost, but it can't touch the green mana component, so you're left with a total cost of , and you'll keep eleven floating mana for fun and profit.

Q: If I control both Aven Wind Guide and Poppet Factory, do my creature tokens have flying and vigilance or not?

A: The answer comes down to the timestamp order of the two effects, since neither effect depends on the other. The timestamp of Poppet Factory's effect is set when Poppet Stitcher transforms, and the timestamp of Aven Wind Guide's effect is set when it enters the battlefield. The two effects are applied in timestamp order, from oldest to most recent, so if Aven Wind Guide entered more recently than when Poppet Stitcher transformed, your tokens have flying and vigilance. Otherwise, they don't have any abilities.

Q: I control Death's Shadow and I cast Dress Down, and then I cast Berserk on Death's Shadow. Does it have trample?

A: Yup! Once again this is due to timestamps. Dress Down's effect has the earlier timestamp, so its effect in layer 6 gets applied first and removes all abilities from Death's Shadow. Berserk's effect gets applied afterwards and gives Death's Shadow trample. Have fun beating up your opponent with a 26/13 trampler!

Q: If I control Tazri, Stalwart Survivor and Reassembling Skeleton, can I tap the Skeleton for mana?

A: Absolutely. The Skeleton has another activated ability besides the mana ability that Tazri gives it. The fact that this other ability can only be activated when the Skeleton is in the graveyard doesn't matter. The Skeleton has the ability even while it's on the battlefield, and the ability from Tazri only cares whether the creature has another activated ability, not whether it could be activated.

Q: Does Hardened Scales apply when I move a +1/+1 from one creature to another with Daghatar the Adamant?

A: It does! To move a counter from one creature to another means to remove it from the first creature and to put it onto the second creature. Hardened Scales notices that you're putting a +1/+1 counter onto a creature you control and replaces that with putting two counters onto it instead.

Q: If I enchant an opponent's creature with Daybreak Coronet, who gains life when it deals damage?

A: Your opponent will gain the life, so you probably don't want to do this. Daybreak Coronet gives the creature lifelink, which means that the controller of the creature, not the controller of the Aura, gains the life. Compare this to Spirit Link, which has a triggered ability that causes the Aura's controller to gain life.

Setting fire to your textbooks
is not recommended.
Q: I have a bunch of cards exiled with my Bag of Holding and the Bag gets bounced to my hand. If I play the Bag again, can it bring back the cards I exiled with it before?

A: No, those cards are stuck in exile. Bag of Holding has a pair of linked abilities, and the last ability only looks for cards that were exiled by the first ability of the same permanent. Even though it's represented by the same piece of cardboard, the Bag you control now is no longer the same Bag whose first ability exiled those cards. Once it changed zones, it became a new object without any connection to the permanent it was before.

Q: I cast Runeclaw Bear and my opponent Cancels it. Then I cast Serra Angel and my opponent copies Cancel with Twincast to cancel Serra Angel, too. Can they do that?

A: No, that's not how Twincast works. Twincast can only copy a spell on the stack that's waiting to resolve. Your opponent's Cancel has resolved and is in the graveyard now, so it can't be copied with Twincast.

Q: Can I make a Commander deck with both Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade as my commanders?

A: No, Bruna and Gisela don't have partner, so they can't both be your commanders. You'd choose one of them to be your commander, which would start the game in the command zone, and the other would be among your other 99 cards in your library.

Q: If I use Decimate to destroy both Resurrection Orb and the creature it's attached to, does the creature still come back at the end of the turn?

A: Yup. Decimate destroys the Orb and the creature at the same time, so the game state goes in one event from the creature being on the battlefield with the Orb attached to it, to both the Orb and the creature being in the graveyard. The Orb's ability is a "dies" trigger, so it looks back in time and triggers based on the game state before the event. In that game state, the creature was the "equipped creature", and it died, so the ability triggers and creates the delayed trigger that returns the card from the graveyard to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step.

Q: Does Archon of Coronation save me from commander damage?

A: It does not. While the damage doesn't cause you to lose life, the damage still happens, and any other effects that the damage might have still happen. For example, if a creature with lifelink deals damage to you, its controller still gains that much life. Also, as Archon of Coronation's reminder text helpfully point out, combat damage dealt to you by a creature still causes its controller to become the monarch. Finally, if a commander deals combat damage to you, that damage still gets counted towards the 21 damage game-loss condition.

Q: I'm playing a deck in which I want to lose life, and I cast any spell and respond to it with Dash Hopes. Do I get to pay 5 life first, or can another player pay the 5 life before me?

A: The game asks all players in turn order, starting with the active player, whether they want to pay 5 life. If you're the active player, you get asked first. However, even if you do this on your opponent's turn and your opponent chooses to pay 5 life, you can still choose to pay 5 life as well. Dash Hopes asks all players in turn order whether they want to pay life, and it doesn't stop asking just because a player says yes. Once all players have made their choice, the life payments by all players who said yes happen at the same time, and then Dash Hopes gets countered if at least one player said yes.

Copying your classmates' work
is not recommended, either.
Q: I'm in a four-player game, and I control Pramikon, Sky Rampart for which I chose left. I cast Irenicus's Vile Duplication to copy Pramikon, choosing right for the copy. In which direction can players attack?

A: Players can't attack in either direction. Each Pramikon creates an attack restriction, and players have to attack in a way that obeys all restrictions. Attacking left disobeys the restriction created by the copy, and attacking right disobeys the restriction created by the original, so the only legal declaration of attackers is not attacking at all.

Q: Can Pithing Needle stop Incubator tokens from transforming?

A: No. In order to stop the Incubator token's activated ability, you'd have to name "Incubator Token", since that's the name of the token that has the ability you wish to stop. However, there is no card by that name, so that's not a valid choice for Pithing Needle.

Q: In a four-player Commander game, player A casts Gitaxian Probe to look at player B's hand. Are they allowed to tell players C and D what was in player B's hand?

A: Sure. It's private information that player A has access to, and player A may choose to share that information or not. Also, since it's private information, they are allowed to lie about it, so players C and D might want to consider the possibility that player A is not telling the truth.

Q: I hate it when my opponents shuffle my deck. Can I forbid my opponent from shuffling my deck?

A: No. At Regular REL, your opponent is allowed to shuffle your deck, and at Competitive REL, your opponent is actually required to shuffle your deck, so you can't forbid your opponent from shuffling your deck. However, if you think that your opponent is shuffling your cards in a way that might damage them, you should call a judge.

Q: If I cast The One Ring and don't announce that I gain protection from everything until my next turn, do I have protection? Let's say on the following turn my opponent attacks me with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, can they exile the top card of my library?

A: As long as you point out the Ring's ability once it becomes relevant, you have protection. Triggered abilities are intended to happen automatically, so once the game reaches a point at which an ability should have resolved, it's assumed to have resolved unless there's a visible indication that it was missed. With abilities that create a visible effect or require a choice, it's easy to tell whether it was missed, but abilities whose effect is invisible can create an ambiguous game state. However, even with invisible abilities, the assumption is that it resolved until proven otherwise.

You only need to point out that you have protection once your opponent attempts to do something that's illegal while you have protection, such as cast a Fireball at you or deal combat damage to you with an attacking Ragavan. If you allow this to happen, that would be the indication that you missed the ability and you don't have protection. Note that you don't even have to say anything about protection while your opponent declares attackers, since attacking you is perfectly legal while you have protection. You only have to point it out once the game gets to the combat damage step.

And that's it for today's lesson. Thanks for reading, and please come back next week for more Magic rules questions and answers.

- 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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