Published on 02/22/2016

Null and Devoid

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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.

It... doesn't not do nothing?
The planeswalkers of the Gatewatch have begun to fulfill their oaths, Moko was last seen on Zendikar arranging hedrons and leylines to dump mana into a banana, and we're in the brief cooldown period before we gear up for the next set in Magic's new release schedule (Shadows Over Innistrad, coming in April). But that doesn't mean there's nothing going on: last week Wizards of the Coast announced Eternal Masters, a reprint set targeted at older formats coming in June, and our own Cranial colleague Carsten announced 2016's iteration of Cast a Spell on MS, a tournament which raises money to fight multiple sclerosis.

And even when there isn't a week chock-full of announcements, there are still rules questions to answer, and Cranial Insertion to answer them. So if you've got a rules question (about new or old cards) burning a hole in your brain, feel free to ask us by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet.

Q: Where does Wastes get its mana ability from? Is it like the other basic lands where it's defined in the rules?

A: It gets its ability from its text — the rules text of Wastes is ": add to your mana pool". This doesn't come from any subtype it has (since it doesn't have any subtypes), it's the official rules text of the card (which can be different from what's printed on the actual piece of cardboard you hold in your hands; when in doubt, look up a card's rules text in the official Gatherer card reference).

Q: So if I've used a spell with awaken to animate a Wastes and then Humility enters the battlefield, can the Wastes still tap for ? Would other types of basic lands — say, an animated Mountain be unaffected since they don't rely on an ability in their text box?

A: The Wastes wouldn't be able to tap for any kind of mana, since it no longer has any abilities. An animate Mountain (or Plains, or Island, or Swamp, or Forest) also wouldn't be able to tap for mana; Humility removes abilities regardless of whether they're actually part of a card's rules text or came from somewhere else.

Q: If I control a Zada, Hedron Grinder with a +1/+1 counter on it, then cast Tezzeret's Gambit and proliferate only Zada, do I get to copy the Gambit for all my other creatures?

A: Nope. A spell or ability only targets something if its text, or the definition of a keyword in its text, uses the exact word "target". The rules text for Tezzeret's Gambit doesn't use the word "target", and neither does the definition of proliferate, so Zada isn't being targeted and her ability won't trigger.

Q: If I control a Cavern of Souls naming "Eldrazi", can I tap it to cast an uncounterable Reality Smasher?

A: You can — just not to pay for the part of Reality Smasher's mana cost, since "colorless" isn't a color and so Cavern's second ability can't produce it. You can happily tap it for , , , , or and use that to pay for part of the generic in Reality Smasher's cost, though, and the Smasher will be uncounterable if you do.

Q: What if I control an Eye of Ugin and tap an Island and two Eldrazi Temples to cast a Drowner of Hope, and then my opponent responds with Abstruse Interference? Can I use the leftover in my mana pool to pay the additional cost?

A: No. Abstruse Interference and other "taxing" counterspells don't impose any additional cost to cast the original spell, they just counter the spell unless you pay a separate cost they impose. So the payment you make to Abstruse Interference isn't to cast an Eldrazi spell, and you won't be able to use mana from Eldrazi Temple's second ability to pay it.

Q: If I haven't cast any spells yet this turn, can I announce I'm going to cast Fall of the Titans, hold priority and respond with another Fall of the Titans to surge both of them?

A: Holding priority is an often-misunderstood concept in Magic. Normally you cast one spell or activate one ability, let your opponents decide whether to respond, then cast/activate something else, and so on. But if there's a strategic reason to let your opponent know you want to do multiple things, you can cast/activate one, hold priority and cast/activate the next, and so on until you've got everything you want on the stack. Then you pass priority to your opponents, who can respond before any of your spells or abilities resolve.

So although you can cast a Fall of the Titans, hold priority and immediately cast a second one, it will only get you the surge discount for the second, because by the time you can respond you've already calculated and fully paid the () cost of the first one.

My artifact had a 5-year, 50,000-mile
or 5-CMC warranty.
Q: Why do people ever "hold priority", then, if it doesn't do anything useful?

A: There are some plays which only work by holding priority; a common example is activating two Tectonic Edges when your opponent has only four total lands. Since the four-land clause is a requirement for being able to activate Tectonic Edge, you have to get both activations onto the stack up-front; if you activate one, pass and your opponent lets it resolve, they'll be down to three lands and you won't be able to legally activate the other one.

Q: Since tapping works as an instant, can I wait until the end of my opponent's turn to tap my Vampire Envoy to gain life?

A: You can... if you also have some other card letting you tap the Envoy. You can only do something in Magic if a rule or a card gives you permission to, and although you gain life whenever Vampire Envoy becomes tapped, it doesn't have any ability (and there isn't any rule) saying you can tap it whenever you want, so you'll either need to give it an ability that lets it tap, use another card to tap it, or attack with it in order to get it tapped.

Q: If my Matter Reshaper dies and my top card is a land, what happens?

A: A land is a permanent card, and its converted mana cost is zero, so you'll get a choice: you can put it on the battlefield, and if you don't you'll put it in your hand.

Q: If I choose to draw the land instead of putting it onto the battlefield, would that trigger Sphinx's Tutelage?

A: No, because you didn't draw the land; only things which use the word "draw" will cause anyone to draw cards, and anything else which happens to put a card in a player's hand isn't drawing.

Q: If I've already cast a spell this turn but my opponent controls a Void Winnower, can I cast Fall of the Titans with X=5?

A: You can. In fact, you can always cast Fall of the Titans when your opponent controls a Void Winnower; a card's converted mana cost is determined solely by the symbols in its upper right corner, and is never affected by paying an alternative cost like surge, so Fall of the Titans' converted mana cost is always X + X + 1, which is always an odd number.

Q: If I control an Eldrazi Mimic and a Ruination Guide, and I cast a Thought-Knot Seer, which will Eldrazi Mimic's power and toughness become?

A: When the Seer enters the battlefield, it's 5/4 (courtesy of Ruination Guide), so Mimic sets its own base power and toughness to 5/4. And since it's still being affected by the +1/+0 of Ruination Guide, that means the Mimic ends up at 6/4.

Q: If instead of a Ruination Guide I had a Ruins of Oran-Rief, and tapped it to put a +1/+1 counter on Thought-Knot Seer in response to Eldrazi Mimic's trigger, what would happen?

A: Eldrazi Mimic sets its base power and toughness to whatever the power and toughness of the other creature happen to be when Mimic's trigger resolves. Since by that point the Seer is 5/5 (thanks to the counter from the Ruins), the Mimic will become a 5/5.

Q: Can I use Eldrazi Obligator on one of my own summoning-sick creatures to let it attack?

A: You can! Eldrazi Obligator simply says "target creature", and doesn't specify anything about who has to control that creature. So you can target any creature on the battlefield, including one of your own. The target also doesn't have to be tapped already; you can target an untapped creature just fine (in which case the "untap it" part of the Obligator's ability just won't do anything).

Q: I control a Deceiver of Form and four other creatures, and at the beginning of combat on my turn I reveal my top card and it's a Whisperwood Elemental. Does Deceiver's effect last long enough to let me manifest four cards at the end of my turn?

A: It does — Deceiver of Form's effect (and anything which lasts "until end of turn") wears off in the cleanup step, and Whisperwood Elemental's triggered ability happens in your end step, which comes before cleanup. So your creatures will still be doing their Whisperwood impression at that point and you'll manifest the top four cards of your library.

Q: If I control a Reflecting Pool and a Wastes, can I tap the Pool for ? What if my opponent has a Wastes and I have a Fellwar Stone?

A: Yes for Reflecting Pool, no for Fellwar Stone. This comes down to a one-word difference in the cards' text: Reflecting Pool says it can produce mana of any type your other lands could produce, and is a type of mana. Fellwar Stone, on the other hand, says it can produce mana of any color your opponent's lands could produce, and "colorless" is not a color. So Fellwar Stone's ability won't let you tap it for .

Q: If I cast Collected Company and get a Flickerwisp and a Wasteland Strangler, can I have Flickerwisp exile one of my opponent's permanents, and then have Wasteland Strangler process it to give something else -3/-3?

A: You can, so long as you put the triggers on the stack in the correct order (Strangler first, then Flickerwisp). This works because Wasteland Strangler's ability doesn't target the card in exile (it only targets the creature that will get -3/-3), so you don't choose an exiled card until the ability resolves. And if Flickerwisp's ability has already resolved by that point, the card Flickerwisp targeted will be there in exile for the Strangler to grab and choke one of your opponent's other creatures with.

Q: If I Banefire a Reality Smasher for X=5, do I still have to discard a card?

A: You never have to discard a card for Reality Smasher — you can always just refuse to, and let Reality Smasher try to counter your spell. And since X is 5 or more, Banefire will simply shrug at Reality Smasher's attempt and say "sorry, I can't be countered by you", then resolve and do some smashing of its own.

Q: If I use Eldrazi Displacer to "blink" a face-down creature, does it return face-up? What if it's not a creature when it's face-up?

A: Yes, the exiled card returns face-up (and will be face-up in exile), and returns even if it's no longer a creature card; the targeting requirement of being a creature is only checked at the time you activate the ability, and as the ability is about to resolve. If the target stops being a creature after the Displacer's ability begins to resolve, it still gets exiled and returned as usual.

Q: If my opponent controls a Chalice of the Void with one counter on it, is it legal for me to cast a one-mana spell and see if they miss the trigger, or do I have to point it out?

A: In tournament play, only the controller of a triggered ability is responsible for remembering it and ensuring its effect happens. So if your opponents miss their own Chalice triggers, you're within your rights to let them do so, and have no obligation to remind them about it when you cast spells the Chalice would counter.

That's all for this week, but be sure to check in again next week when we'll be back with another issue of Cranial Insertion!

- James Bennett

About the Author:
James Bennett is a Level 3 judge based out of Lawrence, Kansas. He pops up at events around Kansas City and all over the midwest, and has a car he can talk to.

Just to add to the Displacer question towards the end there. If the face down creature ends up being an instant or sorcery card (thanks to being Manifested) the card will remain in exile due to rule 400.4a (If an instant or sorcery card would enter the battlefield, it remains in its previous zone.)
#1 • Date: 2016-02-22 • Time: 06:45:41 •
An addition to the Eldrazi Displacer answer: it\'ll return, even if it\'s not a creature, as long as it\'s still SOME kind of permanent when face-up, yes? Otherwise, it just stays exiled.

Edit: Ha, too slow.
#2 • Date: 2016-02-22 • Time: 16:56:40 •

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