Published on 03/14/2016

Time Travel For Beginners

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Who's afraid of the big
Bad Wolf
Greetings, and welcome back to another issue of Cranial Insertion. This past weekend, the USA has entered into Daylight Saving Time, which basically means that for the next few days, my body won't feel ready to get up by the time I have to get up for work. For us humans who don't have access to a madman with a box, this feeling of jet lag for no good reason is probably the closest we'll ever get to time travel. Real time travel would probably be more exciting than this.

Speaking of time travel, some cards have started to arrive from the future, in the form of Shadows over Innistrad preview cards. Previews are awesome and get us excited for what's to come, but for now we'll focus on existing cards. If you have questions you'd like us to answer, please email them to , or tweet short questions at @CranialTweet. One of our writers will give you an answer, and your question might appear in a future article, possible alongside an awful pun or a more or less obvious pop culture reference.

Note that we encourage you to send in questions about officially previewed Shadows over Innistrad cards, and we'll answer such questions privately as long as we already know the answer. However, such questions won't appear until the Shadows over Innistrad prerelease article in three weeks from now.

Now, with that out of the way, let's dive into this week's selection of rules questions. Allons-y!

Q: If I attack with Somberwald Alpha and my opponent blocks it with two 1/1 creatures, does it get +1/+1 or +2/+2?

A: Just +1/+1. The trigger condition is "whenever a creature you control becomes blocked," not "whenever a creature you control becomes blocked by a creature." The latter would trigger once for each blocker, but the actual ability on the card only triggers once regardless of how many creatures block your Wolf.

Q: If I use Unity of Purpose to put counters on two creatures that don't have counters on them yet, do I get to untap those two creatures?

A: Yup! You follow the instructions in the order they're printed on the card, and the support instruction that puts the counters on happens first. By the time you get to the untap instruction, the counters are on those creatures, so they're included in the untap instruction.

Q: If I control two Thunderbreak Regents and my opponent targets one of them with a spell, can I deal 3 damage to my opponent and 3 damage to a planeswalker she controls?

A: Certainly. When your opponent targeted your Regent with her spell, both Regents' abilities triggered, and the two abilities resolve separately and independently. When each ability resolves, you choose whether to redirect the damage to your opponent's planeswalker or have the damage dealt to your opponent. You don't have to choose the same way for both abilities.

Q: I control two Expedition Envoys, and one of them is equipped with Stoneforge Masterwork. How much of a boost does it get?

A: It only gets +1/+1. Stoneforge Masterwork counts creatures, not creature types. Your equipped Envoy shares three creature types with the other Envoy, but that doesn't matter. Stoneforge Masterwork only counts one creature with whom the equipped Envoy shares a creature type, which results in a +1/+1 boost.

Q: Amy uses Coralhelm Guide to make her 8/8 Octopus token unblockable. Rory uses Gift of Tusks on the Octopus. Can he block it now?

A: No. Coralhelm Guide's ability doesn't give an ability to the Octopus. It creates a continuous effect that changes the rules of the game for the turn by introducing a blocking restriction. Since this blocking restriction doesn't come from an ability that the Octopus has, removing all abilities from the Octopus doesn't remove that blocking restriction, so Rory still can't block the 3/3 Elephant. The good news for Rory is that a 3/3 Elephant doesn't hit quite as hard as an 8/8 Octopus.

Q: I control two creatures and my opponent controls no creatures. Can I cast Incremental Growth to give two +1/+1 counters to one of my creatures and three counters to the other?

A: No, that's not possible. None of the targets on Incremental Growth are optional, so you need to target three different creatures to cast Incremental Growth.

Don't blink!
Q: If I use Eldrazi Displacer to blink Ancestral Statue, do I get to return a permanent I control to my hand?

A: Sure. The Statue is going to the exile zone and then it comes back to the battlefield. The fact that it entered the battlefield from the exile zone, and not from the stack like it would when you cast it, doesn't change the fact that it entered the battlefield. Since it entered the battlefield, its enter-the-battlefield ability triggers.

Q: Let's say I give a Memnite intimidate by equipping it with an Executioner's Hood. Can my opponent block it with a Blisterpod?

A: Nope. A creature with intimidate can only be blocked by artifact creatures or by creatures that share a color with it. Blisterpod is not an artifact creature, and both it and Memnite are colorless, so they don't share a color. Remember that colorless is not a color. It is the absence of color.

Q: My opponent casts Painful Quandary and I counter it with Cancel. Does Painful Quandary's ability trigger?

A: No. Painful Quandary is a permanent card, and abilities on permanent cards only function on the battlefield unless they have a reason to function elsewhere, which Painful Quandary doesn't. When you're responding to Painful Quandary with Cancel, Painful Quandary is on the stack, not on the battlefield, so its ability doesn't work yet.

Q: If I enchant my opponent's creature with Freed from the Real, can she pay to untap that creature?

A: No. Freed from the Real doesn't give any activated abilities to the enchanted creature. The Aura itself has activated abilities that tap or untap the enchanted creature, and those abilities can only be activated by the Aura's controller. You control Freed from the Real because you cast it, so you get to use its abilities.

Q: Does Stony Silence stop Darksteel Citadel from producing mana?

A: It sure does. Darksteel Citadel is an artifact, and its ability is an activated ability, so Stony Silence prohibits that ability from being activated. Such effects usually make an exception for mana abilities, but Stony Silence doesn't have such an exception, so it even shuts down mana abilities such as Darksteel Citadel's ability.

Q: If I control a Blistercoil Weird and I cast Tremor, does the Weird die?

A: No, it survives. When you cast Tremor, you put it on the stack first, and any abilities that trigger off of casting Tremor, such as the Weird's ability, go on the stack above Tremor. The ability resolves first and gives your Weird +1/+1, so it's tough enough to survive the Tremor.

Q: My opponent casts Kolaghan's Command, targeting my Lord of Atlantis for 2 damage and my Spellskite for destruction. Can I redirect the 2 damage to my Spellskite?

A: Yup! This wouldn't work with something like Arc Lightning because Arc Lightning only has one instance of the word "target", so its targets must be different from each other. Kolaghan's Command, on the other hand, has separate instances of the word "target," so it's legal for both targets to be the same.

Q: My opponent controls a Chalice of the Void with one counter on it, and I have an Isochron Scepter with a Lightning Bolt imprinted on it. If I cast the Bolt off of the Scepter, does my opponent's Chalice counter it?

A: Yes. Isochron Scepter tells you to copy the imprinted card and then to cast the copy. Even though the copy is not represented by a card, you're casting a spell, and that spell's converted mana cost is 1, so the Chalice's ability triggers and counters your Lightning Bolt.

Q: How does Choke interact with lands like Hallowed Fountain or Tundra?

A: It stops them from untapping. Choke only cares about one thing: Does the land have the subtype "Island" somewhere in its type line? If the answer is yes, Choke stops the land from untapping. Hallowed Fountain and Tundra are also Plains, but that doesn't change the fact that they are Islands.

Are you my mummy?
Q: If my Cyclopean Mummy dies, can I feed it to Scavenging Ooze?

A: Sure, that works. Cyclopean Mummy's ability uses the stack, so you can respond to it, and you can use Scavenging Ooze's like an instant. The Ooze's ability resolves first and gives the Ooze a counter, and then the Mummy's ability does nothing because the Mummy is no longer in the graveyard.

Q: I unearth a Corpse Connoisseur and I give it persist with Cauldron Haze. If I sacrifice it to some effect, does it get exiled or does it come back with a -1/-1 counter?

A: It gets exiled. Unearthing a creature sets up a replacement effect that exiles the creature instead of going anywhere else if it would leave the battlefield. When you sacrifice Corpse Connoisseur, that replacement effect kicks in and Corpse Connoisseur gets exiled instead of going to the graveyard.

Q: What if I unearth Corpse Connoisseur and then end the turn with Sundial of the Infinite. Does Corpse Connoisseur still get exiled if it dies the next turn?

A: I'm afraid so. The replacement effect that exiles Corpse Connoisseur doesn't have a duration, so that effect sticks around as long as Corpse Connoisseur sticks around.

Q: Rose and Martha are playing Two-Headed Giant against Clara and Donna. If Clara doesn't control any creatures, can Rose and Martha just attack Clara so that Donna can't block the attackers?

A: No, that's not how attacks work in Two-Headed Giant. In Two-Headed Giant, a team attacks a team, and the team blocks as a whole. If Clara and Donna choose not to block, then the damage from the unblocked attackers gets assigned to one of them (for the purpose of triggered abilities that care about damage being dealt to a player), but that's not the same as that player being attacked directly.

Q: Let's say Clara controls a planeswalker, and all creatures attack that planeswalker. Does that change the answer?

A: No. Even in that situation, both Clara and Donna are defending players, and creatures controlled by either one of them can block the attackers.

Q: Can I use Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in a colorless commander deck?

A: Sure, that's no problem. A card gets its color identity from its mana cost, from characteristic defining abilities that define its color, from any color indicators it might have, and from colored mana symbols in its rules text. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth doesn't have any of that, so its color identity is colorless.

Q: If I'm playing in a sealed deck Grand Prix Trial or Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier, can I change my deck in between rounds?

A: Nope. GPTs and PPTQs are run at Competitive Rules Enforcement Level and require deck lists. After you construct your deck, you submit a deck list that lists the contents of the deck you're playing for that tournament. In between games of a match, you may exchange cards between your deck and your sealed pool to your heart's content, but you always have to return your deck to the originally registered composition for the first game of each match.

And that's all the time we have for now. Before I go, I'd like to remind you of my charity tournament Cast a Spell on MS that's coming up in Toledo, Ohio this Saturday, March 19th. If you're in the area, come on by to play Magic for a good cause and win cool prizes. Hope to see you there!

Until then, or until next week, I wish you safe time travels.

- 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.

In fact, in a colorless Commander deck, I would even recommend an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. It makes your Maze of Ith and Eye of Ugin tap for mana.
#1 • Date: 2016-03-14 • Time: 21:05:53 •

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