Published on 05/27/2024

Avacyn's Memorial Day Sale

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Remembering our fallen heroes
Greetings and welcome to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Today is the last Monday in May, which means it's Memorial Day in the USA. We have the day off to remember our fallen heroes, and today also marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Families are getting together for cookouts and fireworks, and stores are selling their products at a slightly smaller markup than usual and call it a Memorial Day sale. Of course here at Cranial Insertion we're celebrating with a delicious batch of fresh rules questions — barbeque sauce optional — for the unbeatable price of absolutely free!

As always, if you have questions for us, you can email them to us at , or you can send short questions to us on X at @CranialTweet. Yes, it's been long enough by now that it's clear that Elon Musk isn't going back on the name change, so we might as well get used to it. Anyway, one of our authors will reply to you, and your question might even appear in a future article.

Q: I'm at 7 life, so my Death's Shadow is currently a 6/6, and it already has 1 damage marked on it. I play Titan of Industry, and for its enter-the-battlefield trigger I choose to gain 5 life and put a shield counter on Death's Shadow. Does the shield counter save my Death's Shadow?

A: It will not. Death's Shadow is now a 1/1 with 1 damage marked on it, since the shield counter doesn't remove any damage that was already marked on Death's Shadow. Death's Shadow has lethal damage marked on it, so it gets destroyed by the next state-based action check. The shield counter would replace the destruction if it were the result of an effect, but it doesn't apply when the destruction happens due to state-based actions.

Q: On my previous turn I plotted my Freestrider Commando and now I want to cast it for free, but my opponent responds with Phantom Interference. If I pay for Phantom Interference, does Freestrider Commando still get the two +1/+1 counters?

A: It does! The you paid during Phantom Interference's resolution is not part of the cost to cast Freestrider Commando. Freestrider Commando's ability asks two questions: 1) Was it cast? 2) Was mana spent to cast it? As long as the answer to one of those questions is no, it gets counters. You didn't spend mana to cast Freestrider Commando, so it gets the counters.

Q: I don't understand how Rebbec, Architect of Ascension's ability works. Can you explain it?

A: I'll try. Let's begin with what protection means. A permanent that has protection from a quality gets four specific benefits: Damage from sources with that quality is prevented, Auras and Equipment with that quality can't be attached to it, creatures with that quality can't block it, and spells with that quality and abilities from sources with that quality can't target it. A player can also have protection and gets the same benefits minus the blocking part, but that's not really relevant here as Rebbec only grants protection to (some) permanents. Specifically, Rebbec gives protection to artifacts you control. Finally, the quality from which your artifacts get protection is each mana value that can be found among artifacts you control.

Let's say the artifacts you control are a Sol Ring and a Solemn Simulacrum. Their mana values are 1 and 4, so both of them get protection from mana values 1 and 4. This means that damage from sources whose mana value is 1 or 4 gets prevented, and so on for the other benefits described above. For example, neither Sol Ring nor Solemn Simulacrum could be targeted by Crumble (because it's a spell with mana value 1) or by Goblin Trashmaster's activated ability (because it's an ability whose source has mana value 4).

Q: Does Ethersworn Canonist stop the discover effect from Pantlaza, Sun-Favored?

A: It doesn't stop it entirely, but it can interfere with it. Let's suppose you've already cast a nonartifact spell this turn. You can still do the "discover X" instruction, and if the card you end up discovering is an artifact card, you can still cast it or put it into your hand as you wish. If you discover a nonartifact card, casting it is not an option, so you can only put it into your hand.

Q: If I control Norn's Annex and my opponent gives me a battle to protect, does Norn's Annex apply to creatures that attack the battle?

A: No. Norn's Annex only applies to creatures that attack you or a planeswalker you control. The wording has not been updated with the introduction of battles, so your opponent can attack the battle without having to pay for Norn's Annex.

Q: If I cast Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward and choose my Soul Warden as one of the creatures to exile with its enter-the-battlefield ability, do I still gain life for the tokens it makes?

A: No. Abdel Adrian's ability first exiles the chosen permanents, and then it creates the tokens. Soul Warden is no longer on the battlefield at the times the tokens enter the battlefield, so its life gain ability won't trigger.

Q: Can I sacrifice Midnight Clock after putting the twelfth hour counter on it so it'll get shuffled into my library instead of getting exiled?

A: Well, you'll need some effect or cost that lets you sacrifice it. Midnight Clock has no built-in way to be sacrificed, and "I really want it to be in the graveyard" is not enough of a reason to sacrifice a permanent. However, if you have an appropriate sacrifice outlet, such as Atog, then yes. Midnight Clock's last ability uses the stack, and you can respond to it by activating Atog's ability. Midnight Clock will be in the graveyard when its ability resolves, but its ability still resolves because an ability on the stack is independent from its source. The ability does as much as it can, which is everything except for exiling Midnight Clock since Midnight Clock is no longer on the battlefield.

Please be careful with those fireworks.
Q: If I control Lightshield Array and attack with Anim Pakal, Thousandth Moon, do the Gnome tokens from Anim Pakal get +1/+1 counters, too?

A: No. Lightshield Array puts counters on creatures that attacked this turn, but the Gnome tokens are put onto the battlefield attacking. They are attacking creatures, but they were never declared as attackers, so they didn't attack as far as Lightshield Array is concerned.

Q: I control ten Goblins including Krenko, Mob Boss as well as Epic Struggle. When my turn begins, can I activate Krenko's ability in response to Epic Struggle's ability to make ten more Goblins and win the game?

A: No, that doesn't work. Epic Struggle's ability has an intervening-if clause that is part of the trigger condition. If the condition isn't true at the time the ability would trigger, it doesn't trigger at all. Since you didn't control twenty or more creatures at the time your upkeep step began, Epic Struggle's ability didn't even trigger, so there's nothing to respond to. You can activate Krenko's ability in your upkeep, but that won't make Epic Struggle's ability trigger retroactively, so you'll have to keep those twenty creatures and Epic Struggle around until your next upkeep to win the game.

Q: I control Lazav, Familiar Stranger and I commit a crime by targeting my opponent with Thought Scour. I want Thought Scour to resolve first so I have more cards to choose from for Lazav's ability. Can I choose the order of effects to make that happen?

A: No, you don't get to choose the order here. If multiple triggered abilities you control want to go on the stack at the same time, you choose their order, but that's not what's happening here. You are casting a spell, Thought Scour, and the process of casting that spell triggers an ability. The process of casting Thought Scour starts by putting it on the stack, so Thought Scour is already on the stack by the time you put Lazav's ability on the stack, and the effects happen in the exact opposite order of what you want.

Q: I control Grinding Station and sacrifice Treasure Vault to make a bunch of Treasure tokens. Can I repeatedly tap and untap Grinding Station for each of those Treasures to mill my opponent for a bunch (times three) of cards?

A: Yes, that works. The Treasure tokens enter the battlefield all at the same time, but each one of them triggers Grinding Station's untap ability individually, so that many instances of the untap ability go on the stack. Before each instance resolves, you can activate Grinding Station's ability in response, and then the untap ability untaps Grinding Station. You can repeat this tap-untap dance for each Treasure token you made, and your opponent will mill three times that many cards.

Q: If my opponent controls a bunch of face-down 2/2 creatures, does Homing Lightning kill all of them?

A: Nope, it'll only kill the one that you target with it. Face-down creatures don't have a name at all, so they can't possibly have the same name as another creature.

Q: Why does Five Hundred Year Diary have the card-drawing ability in its rules text? Doesn't it have that ability just by having the Clue subtype?

A: No, merely having the Clue subtype does not give a permanent the ability to sacrifice it for a card draw. A Clue token that's created by the instruction "Create a Clue token" (or "investigate") has this ability because Clue is one of several predefined tokens. The rules contain a list of predefined tokens that are (in most cases) identified by their subtypes, and the definition spells out all characteristics, including abilities, that such a token has. This means that the ability is given by the effect that creates the token even though the effect doesn't have to spell out the ability. Five Hundred Year Diary on the other hand is not a token, so it has to spell out all of its characteristics, including the card draw ability.

Please be careful while cooking, too.
Q: My opponent attacks with Zur the Enchanter and uses its ability to search for Diplomatic Immunity. If they try to attach it to their Serra Angel, can I Unsummon the Angel in response?

A: No, you won't get the chance to do that. When Zur's ability starts to resolve, your opponent searches their library for an enchantment card and then they put it onto the battlefield. If the enchantment is an Aura, such as Diplomatic Immunity, the Aura enters the battlefield attached to something it can enchant, as chosen by your opponent in that very moment. You don't get the chance to respond to the choice, and by the time you get priority, the Angel already has shroud. You could respond to Zur's ability, of course, but at that point you don't know yet which enchantment your opponent will find and what they'll attach it to if it's an Aura, and if you bounce the Angel in response to Zur's ability because you deem it the biggest threat, your opponent still gets to attach the Aura to their second-biggest threat.

Q: I've cast my commander most recently for an additional and it gets bounced to my hand, and I choose not to put it into the command zone so I can cast it from my hand. If it gets countered, can I still put it into the command zone? And if I then cast it again from the command zone, how much extra does it cost?

A: First off, yes, you can put it into the command zone. Countering your commander puts it into the graveyard, and from there the state-based action allows you to put it into the command zone. Casting it from there will cost extra. The commander tax simply counts how many times you've cast your commander from the command zone earlier in the same game. Casting your commander from your hand does not reset that counter. That counter must have been at two before, so now it's at three and you have to pay extra to cast your commander from the command zone.

Q: If my opponent attacks me with their Bear Cub, can I counter the attack with Essence Scatter?

A: No. Essence Scatter can only counter a creature spell that was just cast and is on the stack, waiting to resolve. Since it's attacking you, it must be a creature on the battlefield, which means it has resolved a while ago and it's way too late to be countered.

Q: Does The Ninth Doctor's extra-upkeep ability get around Eon Hub upkeep-skipping effect?

A: Nope. While Eon Hub is on the battlefield, all players skip all their upkeep steps. It doesn't matter if it's the regular upkeep step that happens normally or if it's an extra upkeep step that was created by an effect. It's an upkeep step, so you skip it.

Q: Can I plot Ancestral Vision with Fblthp, Lost on the Range?

A: No. Fblthp gives Ancestral Vision a plot ability, but the associated cost is Ancestral Vision's mana cost. Ancestral Vision's mana cost is nonexistent and unpayable, so you won't be able to plot the card.

And that's all the time we have for now. Have a safe Memorial Day if you celebrate it, and we 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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