Published on 07/01/2024

Killing Me Softly

Cranial Translation
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Killing me softly with his blade
Greetings and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion! Assassin's Creed is coming to stores this Friday, so it's time for our first look at this set. What I said just a few months ago about Fallout applies to Assassin's Creed as well: I haven't played it, but I'm excited that a Magic set based on this game exists. For one, a new set always leads to new questions for us to answer. For another, the fact that we've had two Magic products based on video games come out in one year gives me hope that a Magic set based on Skyrim and/or The Elder Scrolls could happen at some point. How cool would it be to cast Dragonrend on Alduin the World Eater and attach Mace of Molag Bal to Lydia, Loyal Housecarl? While I daydream about those possibilities, fans of Assassin's Creed get to attach Hidden Blade to Ezio Auditore da Firenze and hide in a Haystack, and that's pretty cool, too.

Anyway, if you have questions for us, you can email them to us at , or you can find us on X at @CranialTweet for short questions. One of our authors will send you an answer and your question might appear in a future article.

Q: In which Constructed formats are Assassin's Creed cards legal?

A: As with all special products that aren't actual sets, Assassin's Creed doesn't enter the Standard rotation, but it is of course legal in the Eternal formats and in Commander. However, unlike other special products, cards from Assassin's Creed are also legal in Modern. This fact is not evident from the Magic Tournament Rules at the moment — I assume due to an oversight that will be corrected in the next version of that document — but it's stated in the Release Notes for Assassin's Creed.

Q: Does killing a tapped creature with Royal Assassin allow me to cast a spell for its freerunning cost?

A: No. The condition for casting a spell for its freerunning cost can only be satisfied by dealing combat damage to a player with an Assassin or with a commander. While your opponent is probably feeling some pain as a result of you killing their creature, what Royal Assassin did had nothing to do with dealing damage, let alone combat damage, to them.

Q: If I play Phantom Blade and don't attach it to a creature, can I still destroy a creature?

A: Yup. Phantom Blade's enter-the-battlefield ability has two optional targets, one for attaching the blade to a creature and one for destroying a creature. The second part is not contingent on the first part, so it's perfectly legal to choose a target for the second part without choosing a target for the first part.

Q: I control Bleeding Effect and there are a Hookblade Veteran and Sokrates, Athenian Teacher in my graveyard. If it's my turn, will my creatures have flying and hexproof?

A: No. The Hookblade Veteran in your graveyard doesn't have flying. It has an ability that would give it flying during your turn, but that ability doesn't function in the graveyard. By the same logic, Sokrates doesn't have hexproof while it's in your graveyard. The ability that would give it hexproof doesn't function in the graveyard, and even if it did, the Sokrates in your graveyard is neither tapped nor untapped since the tapped/untapped status only applies to permanents.

Q: If I use Battlefield Improvisation on an attacking creature, can I attach an Equipment to it that's already attached to another creature?

A: Sure, as long as you control the Equipment, since that's the only condition that Battlefield Improvisation demands of the Equipment. However, note that attaching the Equipment to the attacking creature will automatically unattach the Equipment from the creature it's currently attached to, so you can't get two creatures sharing the same Equipment in case that's what you were hoping to accomplish.

Q: My Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad triggers, I target a Royal Assassin in my graveyard, and somehow my opponent exiles the Royal Assassin from my graveyard in response, maybe with something like Cremate. I know I won't get to make a token copy of Royal Assassin, but can I still make copies of other creature cards I exiled with memory counters on them in previous turns?

A: No. Altaïr's triggered ability has a single target, which is an Assassin creature card in your graveyard. If that target is not legal by the time the ability starts to resolve, the ability doesn't resolve and none of its effects happen, so you won't exile a new card and you won't get to copy the previously exiled cards.

"So-crates: The only true wisdom consists in
knowing that you know nothing."
"That's us, dude!"
"Oh yeah! Let's bag him!"
Q: I control Sokrates, Athenian Teacher which is untapped, so it has hexproof. My opponent uses Shay Cormac's ability to make Sokrates lose hexproof. If I somehow tap and untap Sokrates, does it get hexproof back?

A: No. The "has hexproof" and "loses hexproof" effects apply in layer 6 in timestamp order. The "loses hexproof" effect was created by a resolving activated ability, so it got its timestamp when that ability resolved. The "has hexproof" effect is generated by a static ability, so its timestamp is that of Sokrates itself. Tapping and untapping Sokrates doesn't update its timestamp, so Sokrates's effect still has the older timestamp and gets overridden by Shay Cormac's effect.

Q: My opponent announces that they're activating The Capitoline Triad's ability by exiling a bunch of cards from their graveyard. Can I counter the ability by exiling one of those cards in response with something like Cremate?

A: No, that's not possible. Activating The Capitoline Triad's ability is a process that starts with announcing the ability and ends with paying the activation cost, and no player can interrupt this process. By the time you get priority to respond, the ability has already been activated and its activation cost has been paid.

Q: Can Excalibur, Sword of Eden be attached to a nonlegendary creature?

A: Yes, although it'll need some help with that, such as Battlefield Improvisation. Excalibur's own equip ability is restricted to legendary creatures, but it doesn't have an ability that forbids it from being attached to a nonlegendary creature, so when an effect instructs it to attach itself to a nonlegendary creature, it will happily do so.

Q: Can I equip Excalibur, Sword of Eden to a legendary creature for free if I control two Bureau Headmasters?

A: Absolutely, for a couple of reasons that all work together in your favor. For one, Bureau Headmaster's ability applied to Excalibur's equip ability because it is in fact an equip ability, albeit a special kind of equip ability with an added restriction. For another, Bureau Headmaster's effect is cumulative, so two of them will reduce your equip costs by . Finally, unlike similar cost reducing effects that refuse to lower costs below , Bureau Headmaster's ability has no such limitation, so it has no problem with reducing the equip cost to .

Q: Can I tap attached Equipment to activate Shao Jun's Rope Dart ability?

A: Yup, that's no problem, assuming that they're not already tapped for some reason (such as an earlier activation of the same ability). Equipment are artifacts, they can be tapped, and being tapped doesn't interfere in any way with the Equipment's function or the creature it's attached to. In particular, tapping an Equipment does not unattach it, turn off its abilities, nor tap the creature it's attached to, just to name three examples of things that don't happen when an Equipment is tapped.

Q: If I cloak a card from my library, do I have to reveal it at the end of the game?

A: Yup, and possibly sooner if it leaves the battlefield for some reason. Per rule 708.9, face-down permanents must be revealed to all players as they leave the battlefield and at the end of the game, regardless of how or why they came to be face-down.

Everything is permitted,
Nothing is true.
Q: I target my opponent's tapped Bear Cub with Royal Assassin's ability. In response, my opponent somehow manages to untap it. Still in response to Royal Assassin's ability I somehow manage to tap the Bear Cub. Does the Bear Cub get destroyed?

A: Absolutely. The legality of the targets of a spell or ability only matters at two points in time. The first point is when the spell is cast or the ability is put on the stack. The second point is when the spell or ability starts to resolve. If the targets are illegal at the second point, the spell or ability doesn't resolve. What happens in between those two points is irrelevant. Even though the Bear Cub was temporarily not a legal target, it was a legal target when the ability was activated and it's a legal target when the ability resolves, so it gets destroyed.

Q: Does Desynchronization return Towering Viewpoint? It's both an artifact and a creature, so how does the game decide if it's historic or not?

A: Towering Viewpoint is historic because it is an artifact, so it won't get bounced by Desynchronization. The fact that it has another card type besides artifact doesn't negate the fact that it is indeed an artifact.

Q: If I use Petty Larceny to exile my opponent's cards face down, who is allowed to look at those cards?

A: Only you are allowed to look at those cards. When a card is exiled face down, by default nobody can look at it, so only players that are given permission by some effect can look at it. Petty Larceny instructs you to look at the cards before you exile them face down, which is enough to give you permission to look at them when they are face down.

Q: Over what time frame does Ratonhnhaké꞉ton hexproof ability check for damage? I understand that it loses hexproof once it deals damage, but does it get hexproof back on the next turn until it deals damage again?

A: The ability doesn't specify a time frame, so it refers to the entirety of Ratonhnhaké:ton's existence as a permanent. As soon as it deals damage, it won't regain hexproof from its own ability as long as it exists as a permanent. However, note that it becomes a new permanent if it leaves the battlefield and comes back, for example if its your commander, goes to the command zone for some reason, and you recast it. Once it comes back as a new permanent, it hasn't dealt damage yet, so it has hexproof (until this new version of it deals damage).

Q: Ezio, Brash Novice, who is not my commander, has a +1/+1 counter on it already and I attack with it, so it gets a second +1/+1 counter from its attack trigger. If it deals damage to my opponent and then loses its +1/+1 counters to Vampire Hexmage, can I still cast a spell for its freerunning cost?

A: Sure, assuming that your opponent inexplicably waited to activate Vampire Hexmage until after they were dealt the damage. The only condition for freerunning is that you dealt combat damage to a player with an Assassin or commander. At the time Ezio dealt combat damage it was an Assassin, so the condition for freerunning is fulfilled. It doesn't matter whether Ezio is still an Assassin, or even if it's still on the battlefield for that matter, by the time you cast a spell for its freerunning cost.

Q: Can I control Ezio, Brash Novice and Ezio Auditore da Firenze at the same time?

A: Yup. While the former is a younger version of the latter, Magic doesn't concern itself with any time travel paradoxes that arise from a character meeting their younger or older self. The two versions of Ezio are legendary permanents with different names, so there is no reason why you can't control both of them at the same time.

And that's game over 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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