Published on 02/29/2016

Leap into Spring

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

No no, wrong kind of spring,
and you're going the wrong way besides!
Hello and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion!

Ask an astronomer when the first day of spring is and they'll tell you that according to the astronomical definition of the seasons here in North America, the first day of spring is the vernal equinox, which this year lies on March 20th. Lies! Lies, I say! Everyone knows March is part of spring, and it's practically March already. Heck, why would they call 2016 a leap year if we weren't supposed to leap ahead?

Speaking of the equinox, though, if you're going to be in Toledo, Ohio on that weekend, you'll want to participate in the 2016 edition of Cast a Spell on MS, an annual tournament held to raise money to combat multiple sclerosis; your entry fee goes towards the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and there's always a bunch of great prizes to be won in the tournament and the accompanying side events. And if you're not going to be in Toledo, Ohio, why on earth not?

But for now, if you have rules questions you'd like us to answer, send them to us via email at , or on Twitter @CranialTweet for the shorter stuff. We will jump, nay, spring and leap into action, providing you with an answer and potentially a spot for your question in one of our future articles.

Q: Mind Bend doesn't work with things that say "colorless", correct?

A: Indeed. "Colorless" is not a color word (because colorless is not a color), so it isn't something that can be changed by Mind Bend or cards like it.

Q: Can I cast Athreos, God of Passage with Ancient Ziggurat?

A: Absolutely. Athreos's devotion ability can only apply and stop it from being a creature while it's on the battlefield. In your hand, on the stack, in your graveyard, up your sleeve, or anywhere else imaginable, Athreos is a creature card. As such, when you're casting Athreos it is a creature spell, and therefore you can spend mana from Ancient Ziggurat to cast it.

Q: Is it possible to use land cards and/or mana creatures (Birds of Paradise) to play instants during your upkeep before they untap?

A: No. There's actually several problems with that. The first is that your upkeep happens after your untap step; your turn starts with the untap step, and only after that proceeds to the upkeep step. After that, your draw step happens, and then you move on to the rest of your turn. So you can't do something during upkeep before untap because there is no such time.

The second problem with that is that you can't do anything during your turn before you untap; players don't get priority during the untap step, which means you can't cast spells during it. The first chance you have to do things on your turn is during your upkeep step, which as was mentioned above, happens after your untap step.

Q: Let's say I play a plains with an Emeria Shepherd on the field and return Hangarback Walker. I know Hangarback Walker would normally die due to being 0/0 but would I be able to tap Ruins of Oran-Rief to give it +1/+1 and save it?

A: Afraid not. 0-toughness creatures dying is what's known as a state-based action (SBA), and any time any player would get a chance to do anything, state-based actions are checked first. So once Emeria Shepherd's ability resolves and returns the Walker, before you have a chance to use the Ruins, the game will see that the Walker has 0 toughness and kill it off.

And even if there was enough of a chance to use the Ruins, that still wouldn't help you because that ability would still have to go onto the stack and wait to resolve, just like any other normal spell or ability, and state-based actions would have long since killed off the Walker by the time the ability could resolve and try to place the counter.

That's more like it.
Q: I have Master of Waves out as well as four of its Elemental tokens. If my opponent uses Eldrazi Displacer on the Master of Waves, what happens?

A: You get some more tokens, and not much else, other than your Master being tapped now; your existing Elemental tokens will survive. While they do become 1/0 creatures briefly while the Master is gone, the one time state-based actions aren't checked is while you're in the middle of resolving spells or abilities (like Eldrazi Displacer's). As such, once the Displacer's ability finishes resolving and the game gets around to checking SBAs, Master of Waves has already been returned to the battlefield and they're 2/1s again.

Q: Can an Eldrazi Displacer's flicker ability be used to cause Phantasmal Image's ability to trigger and thus cause it to be sacrificed?

A: Yes, absolutely. As soon as you finish activating the Displacer's ability targeting the Image, its sacrifice-me ability will trigger and be placed onto the stack on top of the Displacer's ability. It will resolve first and cause the Image to be sacrificed, and when the Displacer's ability tries to resolve a few moments later it will find its only target missing, and so will be countered for no longer having a legal target.

Q: Does Eldrazi Displacer allows a player to bounce Oblivion Sower so that the opponent gets milled and loses their mana base?

A: Afraid not. Unlike many otherwise-similar creatures that do things when they first show up to the party, Oblivion Sower's ability triggers when the Sower is cast, not when it enters the battlefield. As such, flickering it with the Displacer won't re-trigger the ability, because while it is leaving and re-entering the battlefield, you're definitely not casting it.

Q: Can Mizzium Meddler redirect Sorin Markov's last ability?

A: Unfortunately not. In order to change the target of a spell or ability, the new target has to be a legal target for that spell or ability, and since Mizzium Meddler isn't a player, it isn't legal for Sorin's last ability. Thus, when the Meddler tries to get Sorin's ability to target the Meddler, it fails, and nothing happens.

Q: Suppose I play Dragonlord Silumgar and I steal a planeswalker, but my opponent has removal for Silumgar (say Hero's Downfall). Can I get an activation off the stolen planeswalker before they can use it?

A: Only if they let you steal it in the first place, which they can stop if they know how. (So you may want to hope they don't read Cranial Insertion!)

Dragonlord Silumgar's ability allows you to gain control of your opponent's creature or planeswalker, but only for a certain duration: as long as you control Silumgar itself. If Silumgar's ability resolves only to find that you no longer control Silumgar (say, because it's dead), the ability doesn't do anything at all because its duration has already expired. So that means that if your opponent responds to Silumgar's ability by killing off Silumgar, you never gain control of your opponent's planeswalker in the first place, so you have never have a chance to use it.

In the unlikely scenario, however, that for some reason your opponent does not respond with their removal, and lets Silumgar live long enough for its ability to resolve, then you will be able to use the planeswalker you've stolen before they get a second chance to use their removal spell. Since it's your turn, after any spell or ability resolves you're the one who gets the first chance to cast additional spells or activate additional abilities—your opponent can't jump the gun and do something without giving you the chance to do things first. So you can activate your stolen planeswalker, and only after that will they get a chance to use removal on Silumgar.

Q: I have Strionic Resonator and sac Kokusho, the Evening Star. Can I target Kokusho's triggered ability with the Resonator? Or is it an illegal target since Kokusho is going to the graveyard and isn't under my control as it leaves play?

A: You can absolutely do that. You're the one who controlled Kokusho just before it left the battlefield, so you're the player who controls its triggered ability. As such, it's a legal target for Strionic Resonator's ability, and can be copied.

Q: My opponent has a Worship out along with a creature and is at 1 life. I use Destructive Revelry on Worship. Will my opponent take lethal damage from Destructive Revelry?

A: Yes they will. When a spell or ability resolves, you follow its instructions in the order printed on the card. This means that when Destructive Revelry resolves, you destroy the targeted artifact or enchantment first, and only after that does the Revelry deal damage to that permanent's controller. So by the time the Revelry deals damage, Worship is already gone, and is no longer protecting your opponent. They take 2 damage, reducing them to -1 life and probably killing them.

Drip, drip, drop, little April shower,
What can compare with your beautiful sound?
Q: Does Wild Defiance trigger when the spell targeting the creature has Split Second, such as Sudden Shock?

A: Yes, definitely. While spells with split second stop players from casting additional spells or activating (non-mana-producing) abilities in response to them, they don't change the rules of the game in any other way. Since they don't say that they stop triggered abilities from triggering as normal, they don't; Wild Defiance works the same way with a split second instant or sorcery that it does with a normal one—it triggers when the spell that targets your creature is case, and the ability goes onto the stack on top of that spell and resolves first.

About the only quirk of this process is that since a spell with split second is on the stack, that will prevent players from being able to respond to the Wild Defiance trigger by casting spells and abilities the way they normally could.

Q: What's the power and toughness of my Kiln Fiend if I target it with Inside Out?

A: There's an easy way to figure out how power-toughness-switching effects affect what your creature looks like: figure out what it would look like without worrying about any switches at all, and only then apply the switch. It's really that simple. It doesn't matter when the switch happened or what kind of effect made the switch—switching power and toughness always always always happens last.

In this case, you've cast one instant spell, so Kiln Fiend has given itself +3/+0, making it a 4/2. That's the only other thing affecting the Fiend's power and toughness, so now you apply the switch, and find that your Kiln Fiend has ended up a 2/4. It might have been a better idea to target something else with that Inside Out.

Q: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy blocks Reality Smasher, activates its ability, and flips. 2 damage is blocked by Jace, and 3 trample damage carries over. Given that there were no planeswalkers on the battlefield under an opponent's control when attackers were declared, is there still no opportunity to redirect?

A: There's a couple problems here. First, you don't redirect combat damage to deal damage to planeswalkers—instead, you attack them with creatures directly, and if they aren't blocked they'll deal damage to whichever player or planeswalker you attacked. This should make clear what Reality Smasher's going to deal damage to: whoever it's attacking, which is the same person it was attacking in the first place: Jace's controller.

The second problem is that Reality Smasher is going to deal a total of 5 trample damage to the defending player, not 3. When the time comes to assign damage, the Smasher will see that while it's blocked, there's no creatures left blocking it, so it will deal all of its combat damage to the defending player—Jace doesn't soak up any of the damage because he's not there any more, so trample means the Smasher smashes right through.

Q: What is Moonmist's interaction with Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh?

A: Not good, unless maybe you're talking about an opponent's Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh.

Normally, Chandra becomes a planeswalker by exiling herself and then returning to the battlefield transformed, as a planeswalker. And since she's entering the battlefield as a planeswalker she enters with the appropriate amount of loyalty counters on her, as indicated in the lower right corner of the card.

Moonmist circumvents that procedure and transforms Chandra while she's still sitting on the battlefield, but it doesn't put any loyalty counters on her. Meaning Chandra's now a planeswalker on the battlefield, and she doesn't have any loyalty counters on her. So she dies. Sad times all around, unless you're the opponent.

Q: I cast Primal Command to place my opponent's Krark-Clan Ironworks on top his library and then have him shuffle it away. But what if my opponent's graveyard is empty? Is my opponent still forced to "shuffle his graveyard into his library" despite his graveyard having zero cards?

A: Absolutely. If a player is told to shuffle a particular set of cards into their library (such as, say, their hand or graveyard), they'll shuffle their library even if that set happens to be empty—the core idea is that even if your hand or library is empty, the zone itself still exists.

Q: If I don't want to return an artifact to my hand does Myr Retriever's ability oblige me to?

A: Yes it does. Myr Retriever's ability isn't optional—it doesn't say "may" or "up to"— and you can't ignore your cards' abilities that are supposed to happen just because you want to. If there's a legal target for Myr Retriever's ability when it's put onto the stack, you must choose one, and you must return that card to your hand when the ability resolves.

Q: How does Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet interact with opposing commanders in Commander? My assumption was that his effect triggers and that I get a token no matter where the general goes thanks to exile and zombie parts being separate clauses. Is that correct?

A: Not so much. Both Kalitas and the commander-specific you-may-put-it-in-the-command-zone-instead rule are replacement effects, and they're trying to replace the same event: the opposing commander dying. Since they're two replacement effects, the player affected by the event being replaced (your opponent) decides which of them to apply.

Being your opponent, they'll probably choose to put their commander into the command zone first, leaving Kalitas bored and lonely with nothing to do and no zombies to eat talk to. They could choose to apply Kalitas first, and then apply the commander replacement second, giving you a zombie and putting their commander in exile, but why would they want to help you like that when they don't have to?

Q: I'm told that I need to follow normal timing restrictions for casting spells for free with Narset, Enlightened Master. Why, when I don't have to for something like Diluvian Primordial?

A: Because Narset is changing the rules of the game for a specific duration by telling you "Until the end of the turn, you have permission to cast these cards from a place you normally can't cast them from, and to do so without paying their mana costs." It doesn't change the rules in any other way, just where you're allowed to cast from and what you spend when you do. Diluvian Primordial, on the other hand, is giving you a direct instruction. "See this card, here in the graveyard? Cast it. Right now." And because the Primordial is telling you to, you can, even though casting spells during the resolution of an ability would normally be against the rules.

Q: In a multiplayer game, Player A takes control of one or more permanents player B controls, and Player B dies. Player A continues to play the game with Player C but what happens to the permanents Player A took from Player B?

A: That depends. When Player B leaves the game, they take everything they own with them—that means that if the stuff Player A stole was owned by Player B, it's going to disappear too. If those things weren't owned by Player B, however—maybe Player B had stolen them from someone else earlier—they'll hang around.

Q: Will the cards of Eternal Masters be inducted into Modern?

A: No no no no definitely not no. The only time being reprinted can affect which cards are legal in which formats are when those cards are reprinted as part of normal expansion sets, like Shadows over Innistrad. Being reprinted in supplementary products like _____ Masters, Conspiracy, or the Commander decks doesn't affect a card's format legality at all.

The only way cards from Eternal Masters will be legal in Modern is if they were already legal in Modern thanks to some other reprinting in a Modern-legal set.

Q: I have Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Kitchen Finks, and a Viscera Seer in play. My opponent has nothing relevant either on board or in hand and is freely passing priority.

If I go for the infinite life combo, is it a legal shortcut to freely stack my deck while resolving infinite scry triggers from Viscera Seer?

A: No, because repeated scrying for 1 can't possibly allow you to stack your deck, no matter how many times you repeat it, because it doesn't allow you to change the order of the cards in any way, just to cycle through them. Looking through your deck to find the card you want and cutting the deck to put that card on top and everything that was above it on the bottom in the same order it was already should be fine, however. But you need to make sure you do it right, and to let your opponent know what you're doing, and make sure to call a judge to make sure everything's okay if your opponent isn't sure about what's going on

Here's the long version that you're shortcutting through; you need to know how to do this so you can explain it to your opponent and the judges. First, sacrifice your Finks once for each card in your deck, putting the card on the bottom each time. This leaves your library exactly as it was, only you now know its exact order, so you know exactly how far down the card you want is. Then sacrifice the Finks that many times, putting the card on the bottom each time, until the card you want is on top. This amounts to exactly what was described above—it's just a longer way of getting there.

Note that once the card you want is on top, you can perform any number of additional scrys and just leave that card there. This means you can avoid having to do a bunch of math to figure out exactly how much life you gain during this process by just saying you do it a million or few times, and "wasting" the extra scrys you don't need by leaving the card there.

That's all I have this week, but be sure to join us again next week when Nathan will be back with another fresh batch of rules questions.

Now if you'll excuse me, I see flowers starting to bloom in the garden. Ergo, spring. QED.

- Callum Milne

About the Author:
Callum Milne is a Level 2 judge from British Columbia, Canada. His home range is Vancouver Island, but he can be found in the wild throughout BC and also at GPs all along the west coast of North America.


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