Published on 03/21/2016

Incredible Savings

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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 word on what she does in
the missing "fall back" hour
Even though there are shadows lurking over Innistrad, here in sunny California where I'm writing it's an unusually bright time of the year: daylight saving started last weekend, and the shift gives me an extra hour of daylight every evening. And the temporary brightness seems to be spreading: our friends across the Atlantic will be springing forward into their respective summer time-change next weekend.

Of course, here at Cranial Insertion the best use of an extra hour is to answer more rules questions, so if you've got one 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: My opponent controls a Platinum Angel and is currently at 0 life. I'm hoping to draw a card that will destroy the Angel, and plan to keep attacking in the meantime; does my opponent have to keep track of how low his life total goes?

A: Your opponent most certainly does have to keep tracking it, and you probably should too, just to be safe and avoid confusion. Even though players normally lose the game the instant their life total reaches 0, it's perfectly possible — if a bit unusual — for a life total to become negative, and even deeply negative. Accurately keeping track of it is still a requirement when that happens, not least because there are ways to gain life. In that case, knowing whether your opponent really did get back into the positive numbers could be extremely important when you finally manage to kill the Angel!

Q: My opponent's only creature is an Arashin Cleric. If I cast Silumgar's Command targeting it and choosing the bounce and -3/-3 modes, what will happen?

A: The Cleric will be returned to its owner's hand, and... that's it. When a spell or ability resolves, you follow its instructions in the order written on the card. Since the return-to-hand mode is listed before the -3/-3 mode, it's the one that happens first. And after that point the -3/-3 mode is sort of moot, considering the Cleric isn't on the battlefield anymore.

Q: If I cast a Stasis Snare on my opponent's Reality Smasher, do I have to discard a card?

A: You never have to discard a card for Reality Smasher (you can always just choose to let it counter your spell). But in this case you don't get the option, either: Reality Smasher's ability only triggers when it's targeted by a spell, and Stasis Snare has no targets as a spell. It's a triggered ability of Stasis Snare that does the targeting, and Reality Smasher won't do anything to interfere with that.

Q: If Stasis Snare is the only card in my hand, and my opponent just cast a Thought-Knot Seer, is there any way to hit it with the Snare and have my hand be empty when the Seer's trigger resolves?

A: If you thought not, you'd be right. The first chance you get to Snare the Seer is after its enters-the-battlefield ability has triggered. You'll need to respond to that ability with the Snare in order not to have the Snare get taken out of your hand, but that will trigger the Seer's leaves-the-battlefield ability and cause you to draw a card. Then — unless you were lucky enough to draw an instant you could cast right away — the Seer's ability will resolve and, if the card you drew was nonland, will exile it it right out of your hand.

Q: If I control a Phantom Tiger and do something to boost its toughness without using counters (say, by putting a Grasp of the Hieromancer on it), does it become unkillable?

A: Well, damage won't kill it, but other things (like having its toughness reduced by a spell or ability, or something which just destroys a creature without damage) still could. Phantom Tiger's damage-prevention ability continues to work just fine when it has no +1/+1 counters; it's just that normally a Phantom Tiger with no +1/+1 counters dies due to having zero toughness. But since it'll still have at least 1 toughness in this case, it stays alive and keeps right on preventing damage.

Q: I control Keranos, God of Storms and my opponent controls a Notion Thief and a Thought Reflection. If the first card I draw in my draw step is a nonland, can I have Keranos kill the Notion Thief so I get to draw the second card?

A: You can kill the Notion Thief, but it won't happen in time; during your draw step first you draw your card for the turn (as modified by any replacement effects), and then any resulting triggers are put on the stack. Since Thought Reflection and Notion Thief are both replacement effects, they both will have already applied — first replacing your draw with "draw two", then replacing the second of those with your opponent drawing a card — before you even get to put Keranos' damage-dealing trigger on the stack and choose a target.

Strive to use that hour well.
Q: Would Breaching Leviathan's ability tap a Frostburn Weird?

A: No. A creature is all the colors of the mana symbols in its mana cost (plus any colors defined by a color indicator on its type line or by effects which set color). Frostburn Weird's mana cost includes two hybrid blue/red symbols, so it's red and blue. And since "nonblue" refers to lack of blue rather than other colors in addition to blue, the Frostburn Weird is not a nonblue creature and won't be tapped by the Leviathan.

Q: If I have a suspended card with no counters — say, an Ancestral Vision — do I have to cast it right away, or can I wait?

A: If you've just removed the last time counter, you cast it if able. You don't get to save it for later, and you can't choose not to cast it just because you don't want to; the only way to avoid casting it is if you're not able to at all (say, if your suspended spell requires targets and you can't legally choose the required targets), in which case it would stay permanently exiled.

Q: My opponent has two 2/2 creatures and announces she wants to attack. I cast a Bounding Krasis and tap one of the creatures; can she then decide not to attack with the other?

A: Assuming you did this in the beginning of combat step (which is your last chance to prevent a creature from attacking by tapping it), yes: the actual choice of which creatures to attack with doesn't come until the next step of the combat phase. If you want to ambush one of the 2/2s by blocking it, you'll need to wait to cast the Krasis until after attackers are declared, at which point the Krasis' ability won't prevent anything from attacking.

Q: If I want to cast a Bone Splinters and only have one creature, can my opponent counter it by killing my creature in response? What if I have one big creature and one token? Could my opponent kill the token in response to force me to sacrifice my big creature?

A: No and no, because payment of costs doesn't use the stack and no player can interrupt or respond to it. The earliest chance your opponent will get to respond to Bone Splinters is after you've fully paid its costs, so the sacrifice will have happened and there's no way they can prevent it or force you to choose a creature you didn't want to sacrifice.

Q: I control a Monkey Cage and I cast a Grizzly Bears. In response to the Monkey Cage trigger, I cast Restoration Angel and "blink" the Grizzly Bears. How many Ape tokens do I get?

A: You'll get 8 Apes, which is pretty great. Most cards which have you sacrifice them and do something use an "if you do..." wording which ensures the effect only happens once. But Monkey Cage doesn't: its ability triggered three times (once for the Bears, once for the Angel, and once for the Bears coming back after the Angel's ability), and although you only sacrifice the Cage once that doesn't prevent the rest of the ability from happening all three times. So you'll get 2, then 4, then 2 tokens for a total of 8.

Q: My opponent used Narset Transcendent's -9 ability to get an emblem, and now I'm attacking him with Narset, Enlightened Master. Will I get to cast the cards from my Narset's trigger since it happened later than the emblem?

A: Fittingly, no: Narset the planeswalker beats Narset the creature. Or, more correctly, in Magic the question of "can't" versus "can" is never settled by timestamps; the rules simply say that "can't" always wins.

Q: If I sacrifice my Arcbound Ravager to activate its own ability (and get to use modular), and control Marchesa, the Black Rose, will her ability return the Ravager?

A: Yup! Marchesa looks at whether your creature had a +1/+1 counter on it when it died, and if you managed to activate Ravager's ability it probably had a counter on it at the time. So even though the now-dead Ravager no longer has any counters, Marchesa's ability will still trigger for it and return it (with a +1/+1 counter, so you can do this again the next turn).

Q: If I control a Plaxcaster Frogling with 3 +1/+1 counters, and cast a Hangarback Walker for X=0, can I use the Frogling's graft to save the Walker?

A: No; the counter-moving part of graft is a triggered ability, and triggered abilities don't even get put on the stack until after state-based actions (like dying due to 0 toughness) have been dealt with. So the Walker will be dead long before the Frogling's graft trigger could resolve and move a counter to it.

The Parsley, Rosemary and Thyme of Hours
got left at the fair.
Q: I control a Wingmate Roc and its Bird token, along with Brave the Sands. My opponent is attacking me with two Siege Rhinos. If I assign the Roc to block both Rhinos and the Bird to block both Rhinos, will I take any trample damage?

A: No. When combat damage is being assigned, each Rhino needs to assign lethal damage to all its blockers before using trample to assign any to you. Although this gets to take into account other damage being assigned at the same time (so each Rhino "knows" about the 4 damage from the other), it would still take a total of more than 8 damage to do any trampling, and 8 is all the damage your opponent has.

Q: If my opponent controls a Plains, an Island, a Swamp, a Mountain, a Forest and a Wastes, do I get to knock out all six with a Sundering Titan?

A: Nope! Although Wastes is a basic land, it doesn't have any basic land types (its type line is just "Basic Land") and "Wastes" isn't a basic land type (there are still just the original five of those). So Sundering Titan won't be able to hit a Wastes.

Q: I attacked with Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and dealt 2 damage to my opponent. Now I'd like to cast Radiant Flames using at least two colors of mana. Would I be able to use Chandra's abilities to save her by making her flip before Radiant Flames kills her?

A: That works, and is just the kind of heavy burn Chandra would approve of. When you cast Radiant Flames, Chandra's first ability triggers and untaps her; then you can activate her second ability, and when it resolves (since she's already dealt 2 damage that turn) she'll exile and return transformed as a planeswalker. Then Radiant Flames will resolve and, since Chandra's no longer a creature, won't damage her at all.

Q: My opponent is playing the Modern Ad Nauseam combo and has drawn her entire deck. Now she's cast a Lightning Storm and discarded 23 lands. If I have a Spellskite, do I have to activate it 23 times to save myself, or just once?

A: Just once, if you activate it at the right time. You'll want to pay attention to how many lands your opponent got from the Ad Nauseam; once there are none left in her hand, you can activate Spellskite once, change Lightning Storm's target to Spellskite, and that'll be that: the only way your opponent could change the target of Lightning Storm at that point is by discarding another land, which she (hopefully, if you counted correctly) won't have.

Q: Can Tallowisp search out Encase in Ice? Or not, because Encase in Ice doesn't have exactly "enchant creature"?

A: The latter; Tallowisp wants to find a card with "enchant creature", and "enchant red or green creature" doesn't match that.

Q: At my local FNM there was a situation where someone thought her opponent drew an extra card. How should an accusation like that be handled?

A: At any level of tournament play, a judge (and every DCI-sanctioned tournament has a judge, just not always a certified one — if nobody is specifically designated as a judge, the tournament's organizer is its judge) would investigate and try to determine what happened. In the case of a suspected extra card, there are multiple ways to approach this: for example, it's possible to count the number of cards in play, in hands, graveyards, exile, and so on to try to figure out if there was an extra (taking into account any card-drawing effects which have been played) by comparing to how many cards the opponent has or which turn of the game it is.

If it turns out the player did draw an extra card, and the judge believes it was accidental, then at Regular enforcement a card should be put back from their hand on top of the library (it should be the extra, if you can figure out exactly which card it was, or a random card if not), with no other penalty issued. If the judge believes the extra card was drawn deliberately, the player would need to be disqualified from the tournament.

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.

For the Silumgar's Command question, the order the abilities are printed doesn't matter. If the -3/-3 effect were first, you would have a -2/0 Arashin Cleric on the board that gets returned to its owner's hand. The creature wouldn't die until state based effects happen, which is after the spell finishes resolving and before anyone gets priority to do anything else.
#1 • Date: 2016-03-21 • Time: 07:30:13 •
For the keranos question, why would you be drawing two cards if your opponent is the one that controls the reflection?
#2 • Date: 2016-03-21 • Time: 12:35:25 •
robinhoody430, because sometimes, the rulesmens misread the question, or mistype the question.
#3 • Date: 2016-03-21 • Time: 14:06:10 •

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