Published on 05/06/2024

Horsing Around

Cranial Translation
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He rides across the nation,
The thoroughbred of sin
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Outlaws of Thunder Junction has been out for several weeks now, but the questions about this set are continuing to gallop into our inbox. Thanks to a few troublesome Horses, you might notice a certain equine undercurrent in today's selection of questions.

As always, if you have questions for us about Horses or other Magic cards, you can email them to or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will send you a reply, and your question might even appear in a future article.

Q: If I saddle Calamity, Galloping Inferno with a creature and that creature dies before I attack with Calamity, can I still copy the creature?

A: No. When the attack trigger resolves, you have to choose a nonlegendary creature that saddled Calamity this turn. No creature matching that description is present on the battlefield at that time, so you can't choose such a creature, and the rest of the ability doesn't do anything.

Q: I control Calamity, Galloping Inferno and use its triggered ability to make two token copies of my Stalking Vengeance. How many damage triggers do I get when I sacrifice the tokens at the end of the turn?

A: You'll get three triggers. Each token has its own delayed triggered ability to get sacrificed at the beginning of the end step, so they'll get sacrificed one by one. The first token to be sacrificed triggers the abilities of the original Stalking Vengeance and of the other token, but the second token only triggers the ability of the original Stalking Vengeance because the first token is no longer around to trigger.

Q: My opponent saddles Calamity, Galloping Inferno and attacks with it. What happens if I use Return the Favor to copy its attack trigger?

A: You'll get a copy of the attack trigger that goes on the stack above the opponent's original ability. You control the copy, so you get to make two token copies of creatures that saddled Calamity. Since it's not your turn, those tokens won't be attacking. However, they will still be tapped, so you won't be able to use them to block the tokens that your opponent ends up making when their original ability resolves. Furthermore, you still have to sacrifice the tokens at the end of the turn, so the tokens aren't going to be super useful without some additional help.

Q: I cast Leyline Binding and target my opponent's Bear Cub with its enter-the-battlefield ability. My opponent responds with Return the Favor to copy Leyline Binding's enter-the-battlefield ability, and they target Leyline Binding with the copied ability. What happens?

A: It turns out that your opponent wasted their Return the Favor with this peculiar choice. Let's walk through the situation carefully. Your opponent's copy of the ability resolves first, so it exiles Leyline Binding until Leyline Binding leaves the battlefield. Since this causes Leyline Binding to leave the battlefield, Leyline Binding gets returned to the battlefield immediately as a new object, which causes its enter-the-battlefield ability to trigger again. You target a nonland permanent your opponent controls, for example their Bear Cub, and it gets exiled until this new version of Leyline Binding leaves the battlefield. Eventually the original enter-the-battlefield ability will resolve, but it won't do anything because the Leyline Binding that was the source of the ability already left the battlefield, so it wouldn't be able to exile the Bear Cub if you had chosen to exile something else with the new trigger.

Note that if your opponent had chosen something other than your Leyline Binding, such as a creature you control, the result would be much simpler. In that case, your opponent's copy of the trigger exiles your creature, then your original trigger exiles your opponent's Bear Cub, and both creatures remain exiled until Leyline Binding leaves the battlefield.

Q: Does Blood Artist's ability trigger for creatures that die at the same time as it with something like Damnation?

A: Absolutely. A "dies" trigger is a special case of a leaves-the-battlefield trigger, which is an example of a triggered ability that looks back in time. While most triggered abilities trigger based on the game state immediately after the event that triggered it, leaves-the-battlefield abilities trigger based on the game state that existed immediately before the event. Immediately before Damnation destroyed all creatures, Blood Artist was on the battlefield, so its ability triggers for each creature that was destroyed by Damnation.

Q: I control Kambal, Profiteering Mayor that's enchanted with my opponent's Kenrith's Transformation. If I destroy Kenrith's Transformation with Excavation Technique, does Kambal's token-copying ability trigger for the Treasure tokens that Excavation Technique creates?

A: Yup! Excavation Technique has two instructions that get performed one after the other, in the order they're printed on the card. You destroy Kenrith's Transformation first, which restores Kambal's abilities immediately, and then your opponent creates the Treasure tokens, so Kambal's triggered ability is around to see the tokens being created.

Q: I'm playing a game on Arena, my opponent controls Giant Beaver, uses Aloe Alchemist's plot ability on it to give it +3/+2, and attacks with it. I use Metamorphic Blast to turn the Beaver into a 0/1 Rabbit, but it becomes a 3/3 instead. Why is that?

A: The answer lies in the layers. The important effects here are the "becomes 0/1" from Metamorphic Blast, which is applied in layer 7b, and "gets +3/+2" from Aloe Alchemist's ability, which is applied in layer 7c. Since the bonus gets applied on top of the base power/toughness set by Metamorphic Blast, the Beaver ends up as a 3/3.

A heinous crime, a show of force
A murder would be nice of course
Q: Is Gonti, Canny Acquisitor's triggered ability committing a crime?

A: While Gonti's ability certainly does something to a specific opponent, it doesn't target that opponent. An ability only targets a player if it literally uses the word "target" to refer to that player. No "target" means no crime.

Q: So I guess Notion Thief isn't committing a crime, either?

A: Correct, which is a bit of a flavor failure since theft is literally a crime in real life, but the rules of Magic care very little about real life. In fact, Notion Thief's ability is not even a triggered ability. It's a static ability that creates a replacement effects.

Q: I control Leyline of Lightning and I cast some spell. Do I need to pay if I want to commit a crime with the Leyline's trigger?

A: No, you're already committing the crime well before the game asks you if you want to pay . Casting the spell triggers the Leyline's ability, and you choose the target for the ability when you put it on the stack, so that's when you're committing the crime if you target your opponent or their planeswalker, regardless of whether you're planning to pay once the ability resolves.

Q: Does activating Soldevi Sentry's ability constitute committing a crime? Also, when does the chosen player actually draw the card?

A: Yes, you choose a target opponent when you activate the ability, which means you're committing a crime. The resolution of the ability sets up a regeneration shield and a delayed triggered ability that triggers when the regeneration shield gets used, so the chosen player only gets to draw a card when the regeneration shield gets used up by an attempt to destroy Soldevi Sentry.

Q: Who chooses the creatures I gain control of with Seize the Spotlight?

A: You do. When a spell requires a choice and it doesn't specify who makes the choice, the spell's controller makes that choice by default, and you are the spell's controller. Note that the chosen creatures are not being targeted, which is good news if you're trying to get around hexproof, but it's bad news if you were hoping to commit a crime.

Q: I'm at 13 life and I cast a copy of Shadow of Mortality with Kaervek, the Punisher's ability. How much mana do I need to pay?

A: The cost reduction for Shadow of Mortality is determined by your life total at the time you cast it, which happens before you lose 2 life to Kaervek's ability. Your life total is 7 points lower than your starting life total, so you have to pay to cast Shadow of Mortality. You then lose 2 life, but that loss of life is too late to change how much you already paid to cast Shadow of Mortality.

Signed: Bad Horse
Q: If Phantom Steed exiles a face-down 2/2 creature, does its attack trigger make blank 2/2 tokens or copies of the actual card?

A: It makes a token copy of the actual card. The Steed doesn't look at what the creature looked like when it was on the battlefield. It looks at the exiled card, and the card gets exiled face-up, so that's what the ability copies.

Q: If a dead Nightmare gets copied by Sauron, the Necromancer, is it still a */* based on the number of Swamps I control?

A: No, it's fixed at 3/3. Since the copy effect that made the token provides a specific set of values for the token's power and toughness, the characteristic-defining ability for Nightmare's power and toughness is not copied, so there's no reason for the token to look at the number of Swamps you control.

Q: I control a Child of Alara that's enchanted with Journey to Eternity. When Child of Alara dies, does Journey to Eternity return it to the battlefield before or after its death trigger destroys all nonland permanents?

A: That's up to you. Both abilities trigger at the same time and want to go on the stack at the same time, and you control both triggers, so you decide the order in which they go on the stack. If you want to make sure that the Child doesn't destroy itself, just put its trigger on top of the stack so it resolves first. Then, Journey to Eternity's trigger resolves and returns the Child (and itself, transformed) to the battlefield.

Q: I control Hydra Omnivore and target it with The Pride of Hull Clade's ability, and then I attack one of my three opponents with it. If it connects, do I draw 8 cards or 24 cards?

A: You'll draw "only" 8 cards. The card-draw trigger that the Hydra got from The Pride of Hull Clade only triggers for combat damage, and only the damage that the Hydra assigned and dealt to the opponent you attacked is combat damage. The damage that the Hydra deals due to its built-in triggered ability is dealt during the combat damage step, but it's not combat damage. If it were, the damage would re-trigger that ability again and again in an infinite loop, and Wizards of the Coast generally try to avoid making single-card infinite combos.

Q: The Blackstaff of Waterdeep was used to turn some artifact into a 4/4 creature. If I use Casualties of War's first two modes to destroy both the Blackstaff and the 4/4 creature, do they both actually get destroyed?

A: Yup. Casualties of War doesn't continually recheck the legality of its targets while it's resolving. It rechecks its targets when it starts to resolve, and at that time both targets are legal, so it resolves fully. Resolving the first mode makes the target for the second mode illegal, but that doesn't matter because the legality of the target is not checked again. Destroying the second target is still possible, so it gets destroyed even though it is a noncreature artifact now.

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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