Published on 02/15/2016

Roses Are Red

And Fireballs, Too

Cranial Translation
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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

You can't go wrong with flowers.
Welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. Yesterday was Valentine's Day, which is a day for showing people how much you love them by giving them flowers or other gifts. Our gift to you is a fresh selection of Magic rules questions from our inbox, because we know how much you love those. Happy belated Valentine's Day!

If you want to send us a Valentine's Day gift, please send us your rules questions! You can email them to , or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our writers will send you an answer, and your question might appear in a future article to educate readers like yourself.

Q: I control Eldrazi Mimic and I cast an Endless One for 6/6. If I choose to change the Mimic's power and toughness, does it become 6/6 or 0/0?

A: It'll be 6/6. The Mimic's ability sets its base power and toughness to the current power and toughness of the creature that entered the battlefield. It does not look at the base power and toughness of that creature. The current power and toughness of Endless One is 6/6, so that's what the Mimic becomes.

Q: I've read in the Oath of the Gatewatch Release Notes that when I copy a spell that was cast for its surge cost, the copy doesn't get the surge effect. However, I've heard other sources say that it does. Which one is correct?

A: The other sources are correct. As rules manager Matt Tabak confirmed on Twitter, this particular bullet point in the release notes is incorrect.

Q: I've heard that I can cast a 2/2 Endless One for no mana if I control Eye of Ugin. How does that work?

A: It works because of how cost reductions and costs interact with each other. Contrary to a popular misconception, X isn't determined by how much you pay for the spell. You choose the value of X you want, and then you calculate the corresponding total cost while taking into consideration any cost increases and reductions. For Endless One, you can choose X=2, and the total cost comes out as because of the cost reduction from Eye of Ugin, so you get a 2/2 creature for free.

Q: Can I declare a Thraben Doomsayer as a blocker, tap it to make a token, and use the token to block as well?

A: No, that doesn't work. All blockers are declared at once as the declare blockers step begins, so you can only block with untapped creatures that you control as the declare blockers step begins. In order to block with the token, you'd have to tap the Doomsayer in the declare attackers step, but then you wouldn't be able to block with the Doomsayer.

Q: If I control Spellskite, can I redirect my opponent's Cancel to it to counter the Cancel?

A: Nope. You can activate Spellskite's ability, but the ability won't do anything when it resolves. Spellskite can only change the target to itself if it would be a legal target for the spell, and a Spellskite on the battlefield is not a legal target for Cancel.

Q: If I control Purphoros, God of the Forge and Hostility and I cast Shock, do I get infinite tokens?

A: I'm afraid not. Shock's damage gets prevented by Hostility, which makes two tokens, and that will trigger Purphoros's ability twice. However, the damage that Purphoros deals is not dealt by a spell, so Hostility's ability doesn't apply to it and doesn't make more tokens. This means that the infinite loop you were hoping for is neither infinite nor a loop.

Q: Does Coalition Victory now require a Wastes for its win condition?

A: No. Wastes is a basic land, but it's not a basic land type. The land type is printed on the type line, and Wastes doesn't have any land types. The basic land types are still only Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and Forest. As long as you control some number of lands that include all of those land types in their type line, that part of Coalition Victory's condition is fulfilled. Note that the lands don't even have to be basic lands. A dual land such as Canopy Vista has two basic land types, so it's possible to have all five basic land types represented in fewer than five lands.

Would you like some sweets?
Q: Does Torpor Orb stop Endless One's counters?

A: Unfortunately, no. Torpor Orb only stops triggered abilities, which use the words "whenever," "when," or "at." Endless One has a static ability that generated a replacement effect that changes how Endless One enters the battlefield, and Torpor Orb does nothing to such abilities.

Q: If my opponent targets my Shorecrasher Elemental with Bring Low and I use its first ability to turn it face down, does that stop my opponent's spell?

A: It does, because Shorecrasher Elemental isn't just being turned face-down. The Elemental is actually getting exiled, and then it returns to the battlefield face down. This zone change means that the Elemental is becoming a completely new creature without any connection to the creature that was previously represented by that piece of cardboard, so your opponent's Bring Low loses track of it and it gets countered on resolution.

Q: If I sacrifice Smothering Abomination, do I still draw a card?

A: Absolutely. Smothering Abomination's ability is a special case of a leaves-the-battlefield ability, so it looks back in time to before the sacrifice to see if the ability existed and to determine whether it triggers. At that time, Smothering Abomination was on the battlefield, and you sacrificed a creature, so the ability triggers.

Q: If I control Liliana, Heretical Healer and I play a second one, I have to sacrifice one of them, which triggers Smothering Abomination's card draw ability, right?

A: Not quite. It's true that the legend rule kicks in and you have to put one of the Lilianas into your graveyard, but this is not actually a sacrifice. It's just a "put into the graveyard" action that doesn't have a handy verb attached to it. Since it's not a sacrifice, it doesn't trigger Smothering Abomination's ability.

Q: If I give Bring to Light flashback with Snapcaster Mage, does the converge effect count the colors of mana I spent on the flashback cost?

A: Certainly. The converge effect looks at the colors of mana you spent on the total cost to cast Bring to Light. It doesn't matter whether the total cost came from the card's mana cost, from an alternative cost, or from additional costs or cost increases.

Q: Can I use Sliver Overlord's ability to gain control of my opponent's Crib Swap?

A: Nice try, but that doesn't work. The text "target Sliver" in Sliver Overlord's ability only refers to a Sliver permanent on the battlefield. The ability can't target a Sliver spell on the stack.

Q: I control Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and I have the emblem from Teferi, Temporal Archmage. If my opponent attacks Gideon with a 7/7 trampler, can I turn Gideon into a creature and block the attacker? If so, what happens to the trample damage?

A: First off, yes, you can do that. Once Gideon is a creature, he can be declared as a blocker. However, he's still a planeswalker, so he's still being attacked by the trampler. Your opponent has to assign at least 5 damage to Gideon the blocker, and then she can assign the remainder to Gideon the planeswalker. However, Gideon the blocker and Gideon the planeswalker are one and the same, so regardless of how your opponent assigns the damage, 7 total damage would get dealt to Gideon, and that damage ends up getting prevented.

Or maybe a romantic
candlelight dinner?
Q: If I attach Elemental Resonance to Reaper King, what kind of mana do I get from Elemental Resonance's ability?

A: That depends. For each mana symbol in Reaper King's mana cost, you get to choose which half you want. This means you can get or , or any of the other 30 possibilities in between that I'm not going to list here.

Q: If I control two Pyromancer's Gauntlets, do my Lightning Bolts deal 7 damage?

A: Absolutely! Each Gauntlet creates its own replacement effect that changes the damage that Lightning Bolt would deal. The first replacement effect increases the damage to 5, and the second replacement effect takes it from there and makes it 7.

Q: I'm at 5 life and I control Phyrexian Unlife. My opponent attacks me for 15 damage. What happens if I don't block?

A: Assuming that no first strike or double strike are involved, all combat damage is dealt at once. This means that all 15 damage is dealt normally, so you lose 15 life but you don't get any poison counters. Your life total goes to -10, and from now on all damage will be dealt to you in the form of poison counters.

Q: I control Karlov of the Ghost Council and Rhox Faithmender. If I cast Faith's Fetters to gain 8 life, does Karlov get two or four counters?

A: It'll only get two counters. Karlov's ability triggers each time you gain life, and Rhox Faithmender doesn't change how often you gain life. It only changes how much life you gain each time. Instead of gaining 4 life in one event, you gain 8 life in one event, so Karlov's ability only triggers once.

Q: Let's say I have six experience counters, and I control Starfield of Nyx and three tokens from Daxos the Returned. If I make another token with Daxos to turn on the Starfield's effect, what happens to my tokens?

A: I'm afraid they're 0/0 creatures now, so they'll die promptly. The tokens have a characteristic-defining ability that is applied in layer 7a. The Starfield's effect is applied afterward in layer 7b, so it overwrites the token's power and toughness with 0/0 because the tokens don't have a mana cost.

Q: I have a blue-green commander deck and I control Exotic Orchard. My opponent has a white-blue-red commander deck and controls Cavern of Souls. What colors of mana can my Exotic Orchard produce?

A: Not too long ago, this question would have been difficult to answer, but a recent change to the Commander rules has made this very easy. The rule that turns mana outside your commander's color identity into colorless mana no longer exists. Your opponent's Cavern of Souls could produce any color of mana, which means that your Exotic Orchard can produce any color of mana.

Q: Does Mizzix of the Izmagnus work well with spells such as Fireball?

A: Yes, it works very well. For one, as we've seen in the Eye of Ugin question above, the cost reduction can be applied to the portion of the cost, which allows you to choose larger values for X than you could afford otherwise. For another, the X you choose is included in the converted mana cost of the spell, so it'll make it easier to get more experience counters.

For a specific example, if you have five experience counters, you could cast a Fireball with X=5 by just paying . This Fireball has a converted mana cost of X+1, which is 6. That's greater than the number of experience counters you have, so it triggers the ability that gets you another experience counter, and that will enable you to throw even bigger Fireballs. Your opponents will be extra crispy in no time!

And that's all the time we have for now. Thanks for reading, and please come back next week!

- 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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