Published on 09/18/2023

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Cranial Translation
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Did someone say "pumpkin spice?"
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! The temperatures are falling, as are the leaves, and stores are selling Halloween decorations and food with pumpkin spice in it, which must mean that Fall is upon us. While we marvel at the beautiful fall colors all around us, let us harvest a fresh crop of Magic rules questions from our inbox.

As always, if you have questions for us, please feel free to email them to or tweet short questions to @CraniaTweet. One of our writers will send you an answer, and your question might show up in a future article!

And now, sit back and relax with a pumpkin spice latte, or maybe an apple cider, and enjoy this week's selection of questions.

Q: Does Helm of Awakening reduce the kicker cost of Everflowing Chalice?

A: Not directly, but the Helm does help a little bit. When you cast the Chalice, you decide how many times to kick it, and then you calculate the total cost, taking into account that the total cost gets reduced by due to the Helm. For example, if you kick the Chalice twice, the total cost ends up being minus , so you'll pay for a Chalice with two counters on it.

Q: If I use Teferi's Protection, can my opponent still kill me with poison counters?

A: Maybe, depending on how exactly they go about doing that. You do have protection from everything, which means that your opponent can't kill you just by attacking with a bunch of creatures that have infect, since the damage just gets prevented and you won't get any poison counters. However, if you already have at least one poison counter, your opponent could use proliferate to give you more poison counters. Proliferate does not target or deal damage to you, or do anything else that protection cares about, so Teferi's Protection doesn't do anything to stop those poison counters.

Q: I cast Cut In targeting an opponent's creature for the damage and my creature for the Role token. In response, my opponent feeds their creature to some sacrifice outlet. Does my creature stil get the Role token?

A: Yup! When a spell starts to resolve, it checks whether its targets are still legal. If all of its targets have become illegal, the spell fails to resolve and does nothing, but if at least one of its targets is still legal, it resolves and does as much as it can. Cut In still has a legal target, so it resolves and does as much as it can. It fails to deal damage to your opponent's creature, but it still gives your creature the Young Hero Role token.

Q: I control Maralen of the Mornsong and my opponent plays Windfall. Do we still draw cards because Windfall has the later timestamp?

A: No, this interaction is not handled with timestamps. Timestamps are an aspect of the layer system that governs how continuous effects interact with each other. In this situation, we have a continuous effect that says players can't draw cards, and a one-shot effect instructing players to draw cards. Such an interaction is handled by one of the golden rules of Magic, which is usually summed up as "can't" beats "can". Maralen's "can't" effect overrides the draw instruction from Windfall, so each player just discards their hand and they don't draw any cards.

Q: What about Asmodeus the Archfiend? If I control Maralen of the Mornsong, can my opponent's Asmodeus still replace their card draws?

A: No. An effect needs to be able to happen before the game considers what replacement effects can apply to it. Since Maralen says that the draw can't happen, Asmodeus's replacement effect has no event to apply to.

Q: If I use Anikthea, Hand of Erebos to make a token copy of a Doubling Season in my graveyard, does Doubling Season token double itself as it enters the battlefield?

A: No, you'll only create one token. Doubling Season's ability creates a replacement effect which watches the game for a particular event (in this case the creation of some number of tokens) and replaces it partially or completely with another event (in this case doubling the number of tokens being created). In order to do this, a replacement effect has to exist before the event it is replacing happens. A replacement effect can't turn back time or change an event that has already happened. Since the Doubling Season token doesn't exist yet while you're creating it, it can't change the event of its own creation.

Q: I have three Lava Spikes from Modern Masters that say "target player" and one Lava Spike from Time Spiral Remastered that says "target player or planeswalker." Can I play all four cards in the same deck, and if so, which wording is correct?

A: Yes, it's perfectly legal to play with different printings of the same card as long as you stick to the limit of at most four copies of the card. Regardless of the rules text that's printed on the card, each card functions according to its Oracle text in Gatherer, which says "target player or planeswalker."

Hammer time!
Q: If I cast Jaya's Immolating Inferno targeting one of my opponent's creatures, does it trigger Imodane, the Pyrohammer's ability?

A: If the spell resolves and ends up dealing damage to the creature, sure. Imodane's ability doesn't care that the spell could have targeted three creatures. What matters is that it targets only one creature and that it deals damage to it. As long as that condition is met, Imodane's ability triggers.

Q: If Likeness Looter copies a creature and later on copies another creature, does it have the abilities from both creatures?

A: No. When the ability resolves a second time, Likeness Looter becomes a copy of the second creature, except it also has flying and the ability. As such, it only copies the abilities (and other characteristics) of the second creature, so it forgets the abilities of the first creature.

Q: If I've exiled two Wall of Roots with Agatha's Soul Cauldron, can a creature with a +1/+1 counter on it activate the Wall's ability twice?

A: Essentially yes. The creature gets two separate abilities that are identical to each other, but each ability tracks its activation restriction separately, and activating each ability once is practically indistinguishable from activating one ability twice.

Q: I cast Lich-Knights' Conquest, and for some reason I want to sacrifice two things but only return one creature card from my graveyard. Can I do that?

A: Yes, provided that there is only one creature card in your graveyard at the time you get to the second half of resolving Lich-Knights' Conquest. You perform the steps in order and you do as much as possible. If there are at least two creature cards in your graveyard when you get to the "return" instruction, you have to choose two of them since the spell doesn't say "up to that many". However, if there is only one creature card in your graveyard, you simply return that one card to the battlefield and there is no penalty for failing to return a second card.

Q: I've lost 5 life this turn and I activate Rowan, Scion of War's ability, then untap her somehow and activate her ability again. Do my black/red spells cost or less to cast?

A: They'll cost less to cast. Each resolution of Rowan's ability creates its own cost-reduction by . When you cast a black and/or red spell later that turn, both reductions are applied, for a total discount of .

Q: Gadwick's First Duel's chapter III just resolved, and I cast Johann's Stopgap with its bargain cost. Does it get copied?

A: No. The mana value of a spell is derived only from the mana cost printed on the card and has very little to do with how much you paid for it. Johann's Stopgap's mana cost is , so its mana value is 4, which means you have not cast a spell with mana value 3 or less yet.

What a wicked game you play...
Q: How does Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator's -7 ability count the mana value of cards that were exiled face-down, for example with Asmodeus the Archfiend?

A: It doesn't. A card that's exiled face-down has no characteristics, which means it doesn't have a mana cost, which means that its mana value is 0.

Q: I've heard that Heartless Hidetsugu can kill a Two-Headed Giant team with one activation, but Havoc Festival doesn't. What's the difference?

A: Let's look at Havoc Festival first. It has a triggered ability that triggers at the beginning of each player's upkeep. The team plays a shared turn, so two instances of this ability go on the stack, one for each player. Let's say the team is at 30 life when this happens. The first trigger resolves and asks the game what the player's life total is. The game uses the team's life total, which is 30. The effect halves that to 15, so the player loses 15 life, which reduces their team's life total to 15. Now, the second trigger resolves, and it asks the game for the second player's life total. This trigger sees a life total of 15 and halves that, rounding up, so the second player loses 8 life and the team is left with 7 life.

Heartless Hidetsugu's activated ability first asks the game what each player's life total is, calculates how much damage to deal to each player, and then all that damage is dealt simultaneously. If the team starts out at 30 life, each player is dealt 15 life, so the team is left with 0 life. (If the team starts at an odd number, the team is left with 1 life because Hidetsugu's ability rounds down.)

Q: If I put a Cursed Role token on my opponent's Cruel Somnophage, is its power/toughness still */* or does it become 1/1?

A: It becomes 1/1. Cruel Somnophage's characteristic-defining ability is applied in layer 7a, while the effect from the Cursed Role token is applied in layer 7b, so the Cursed Role wins.

Q: I control Field of Dreams and my opponent plays Ponder. Do I get to see the three cards that my opponent is looking at, and maybe even the fourth card?

A: No. At each point in time, you only get to see the one card that is the top card of your opponent's library. While your opponent is looking at the top three cards of their library, those cards are still considered to be in the library in their original order even though your opponent is physically holding them in their hand and looking at them. The card that was on top of their library at the time Ponder started to resolve is still the top card of their library, and that's the one card that's known to you. You have no reason to see any of the cards that are in the library below it.

When your opponent puts the cards back in any order, this happens in one simultaneous action, and it may result in the order of the top three cards being changed. You get to see the new top card, but you don't get to see the other two cards as they're being put back.

Q: If I control Jaheira, Friend of the Forest and I have a bunch of creatures with Role tokens on them, can I tap the Role tokens for ?

A: Absolutely! They are tokens, so Jaheira gives them the ability to be tapped for green mana. The fact that they're Auras doesn't matter to Jaheira even a little bit. However, since Auras don't usually get tapped, I want to point out a couple of things that might not be obvious. For one, you tap the Aura itself for mana, not the creature it's attached to. Also, you can even tap a Cursed Role token that you have attached to your opponent's creature, since you control the Role even if you don't control the creature it's attached to.

And that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for reading, and please come 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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