Published on 04/18/2016

Let Me Tax You a Question

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

Unfortunately you can't deduct the discarded cards
on your taxes.
It's mid-April in the United States, which means one thing is on everyone's mind: Magic rules questions!

Well, actually most people's minds are probably on their yearly income tax returns (which are due on Monday the 18th — the day of publication of this article — rather than Friday the 15th due to a holiday being observed in Washington, DC), but your intrepid author has already filed his taxes and is thoroughly fixated on rules for this Tax Day edition of Cranial Insertion.

If you've got a rules question you'd like answered, you can send it to us — without having to fill out a multi-page form and three attached schedules, one of many advantages we have over dealing with the IRS — by using the handy "Email Us" button, by sending an email to , or by tweeting at @CranialTweet. Although we may be taxed on income, we're never taxed by rules questions!

Q: So, I control The Gitrog Monster and have 8 cards in hand at the end of my turn. If I discard a land, what happens?

A: You discard down to your maximum hand size during the cleanup step of your turn; normally, it's a pretty uneventful part of the turn, since aside from discarding and a few other automatic bits of game-state housekeeping, nothing happens in the cleanup step — players typically don't even get priority in this step. But if an ability triggers as a result of some action that occurs in the cleanup step, it'll go on the stack as normal, players will get a chance to respond, and then it'll resolve. Once that's dealt with, the game inserts another cleanup step into the turn, and this keeps happening until a cleanup step occurs in which no abilities trigger and no state-based actions need to be applied. And since the Gitrog's triggered ability will put you right back up to 8 cards in hand, you'll need to discard down to 7 again in the extra cleanup step the rules add to the turn.

Q: So could I potentially cycle through my deck this way if I had enough lands?

A: Sure. As long as you have a land card in hand, you can choose to discard it when the game tells you to get down to your maximum hand size. That'll trigger Gitrog, which will insert another cleanup step, which will cause you to discard again if you're still at 8 cards when it rolls around, at which point you could discard another land and repeat for as long as you keep having lands available to discard (or until you have to stop to avoid losing by drawing from an empty library).

Q: Does this mean I can cast spells with madness from discarding at end of turn?

A: Yup! While normally you wouldn't get a chance to cast spells during the cleanup step, you always get priority in that step if an ability triggers or a state-based action has to be applied, and madness gives you permission to cast the card as the madness trigger resolves, which lets you cast the card even though it's a time when you normally couldn't (since "in the middle of an ability resolving" also is a time when players can't typically cast spells)

Q: I have a Thing in the Ice with only one ice counter left, but my opponent has put a Bound by Moonsilver on it. If I cast Root Out on the Bound by Moonsilver, what happens to the Thing?

A: Its ability will trigger and resolve before Root Out resolves, which means it will still be bound by that pesky moonsilver: the final ice counter will be removed, but the Thing won't transform. Then Root Out will resolve and Bound by Moonsilver will be destroyed. You'll have to wait until you cast another instant or sorcery to trigger the Thing again and finally transform it.

Q: If I control both Oath of Gideon and Doubling Season, and cast Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, how many loyalty counters will she enter with?

A: Either 7 or 8 depending on a choice that's up to you. Doubling Season and Oath of Gideon both are replacement effects, which means they don't do anything on their own: they modify other things, causing one event in the game to be replaced with another event. Whenever multiple replacement effects could apply to the same game event, the affected player or controller of the affected game object chooses which to apply first. And once a replacement effect has applied to a game event, it can't re-apply to that event, which means that you can never get more than one application of Doubling Season to the single game event of Nissa entering the battlefield, even if another effect replaces that event with one involving a different number of counters (and since a replacement effect doesn't do anything by itself, a replacement effect wouldn't cause Doubling Season to become applicable again anyway). So your options are:

Apply Doubling Season first: the event "Nissa enters with 3 counters" becomes "Nissa enters with 6 counters", then Oath applies and makes that event be "Nissa enters with 7 counters".

Apply Oath of Gideon first: the event "Nissa enters with 3 counters" becomes "Nissa enters with 4 counters", then Doubling Season applies and makes that event be "Nissa enters with 8 counters".

Q: Do I still get the "free" mulligan in a one-on-one Commander game?

A: Going strictly by the rules, no. In multiplayer games, each player's first mulligan is to 7 cards (rather than 6), but a one-on-one game isn't "multiplayer" — that's only for games with three or more players. But if you're just playing for fun (not in a tournament) with friends, you can just agree to modify that if you think it'll make for a better game.

Income tax is only once a year,
but Land Tax can enrich you every turn
Q: If I have a creature with skulk — say, Farbog Revenant — and I manage to get its power below zero (maybe with a Weakness), would a zero-power creature be able to block it?

A: Nope! The rules allow a creature's power to be negative; normally it's effectively the same as zero (a creature with negative power deals 0 damage, not negative damage), but for purposes of comparing the actual number is used. And since your Revenant's power would be -1 in this case, a creature with 0 power wouldn't be able to block it thanks to skulk.

Q: I control The Gitrog Monster and an Evolving Wilds. Can I sacrifice the Wilds during my upkeep to pay for the Gitrog and also get a basic land from my library?

A: When you sacrifice the Evolving Wilds, you'll need to say whether you're using it to pay for the Gitrog, or to pay the activation cost of Evolving Wilds' ability. Then you'll only get the benefit of the option you chose; if you decide to activate Evolving Wilds, you'll get a basic land out of your deck but you'll still need to sacrifice a land (other than the Evolving Wilds) to keep your Gitrog around.

Q: When my Pack Guardian enters the battlefield, if I have three lands in my hand can I discard them all to get three tokens?

A: You can only discard one land and get one token. When a triggered ability says you can do something, it lets you do that thing only once per trigger, unless the ability says otherwise.

Q: If I activate Ghoulcaller's Accomplice to make a Zombie, does that trigger Prized Amalgam since the token was produced from my graveyard?

A: No. First of all, Ghoulcaller's Accomplice is already in exile at the time the Zombie token is produced (exiling it is a cost of activating its ability), but more importantly Prized Amalgam is looking at where the creature on the battlefield entered or was cast from. And the token wasn't cast and didn't enter the battlefield from anywhere; it simply popped into existence. So Prized Amalgam will never be triggered by a token, even if the effect that produced the token came from a card in your graveyard.

Q: Suppose I control The Gitrog Monster and Bazaar of Baghdad. I activate the Bazaar, choosing to replace the first draw with dredging a Golgari Grave-Troll, which puts two lands into my graveyard from my library. Then for the second draw I dredge a Stinkweed Imp, putting another three lands into my graveyard. Finally, I discard two lands as part of the discard portion of the Bazaar's effect. How many times does the Gitrog trigger?

A: Three total. Gitrog's trigger occurs whenever "one or more" land cards are put into your graveyard; this means that multiple lands hitting the yard in the same event only result in one trigger. So you get one trigger from the lands on the first dredge, a second trigger from the lands on the second dredge, and a third trigger for the lands you discarded.

Q: How does Asylum Visitor work in Two-Headed Giant games?

A: It triggers once per player, rather than one per upkeep; since there are two players on each team, that means it can potentially draw you 2 cards (and lose you 2 life) during each upkeep, so long as both players on the active team (the team whose turn it is) are empty-handed.

Q: I know from a previous game that my opponent is playing with four copies of Startled Awake. Can I name Persistent Nightmare with Infinite Obliteration in order to get rid of them all?

A: Unfortunately this won't work; in any zone other than the battlefield, only the "front" face of a double-faced card is considered for determining characteristics (like the name). Which means that your opponent's hand, graveyard and library contain between them four cards named "Startled Awake" and no cards named "Persistent Nightmare".

Q: If my opponent controls three Reality Smashers and I decide to Declaration in Stone them, how many cards do I have to discard to avoid my Declaration being countered?

A: Declaration in Stone only targets one creature; the other affected creatures are not targets (since they're not identified by the word "target" in its text). So only the single targeted Smasher will trigger, and you'll only have to discard one card to get rid of all the Reality Smashers.

What is it good for? Absolutely
paying per creature to attack!
Q: If I control a manifested Lambholt Pacifist (from Whisperwood Elemental) and cast Moonmist, what happens?

A: All Humans will transform. But that won't include the Pacifist; it's currently a face-down 2/2 with no creature types, so Moonmist doesn't do anything useful to it.

Q: I heard that the rules changed to disallow transforming a card multiple times; does that mean if I have an Eldrazi Displacer and my Archangel Avacyn transforms, I can't use Displacer to transform her back and give my creatures indestructible in response to Avacyn, the Purifier's damage trigger?

A: What changed was what would happen if you triggered Archangel Avacyn's "transform me next upkeep" ability multiple times before she actually got around to transforming: in that case she'll transform once (into Avacyn, the Purifier) rather than transforming back and forth a bunch of times. Meanwhile, your proposed play with the Displacer works just fine: Eldrazi Displacer doesn't even transform Avacyn, it just causes her to leave and re-enter the battlefield (and rather than transforming, she just always enters as the Archangel face).

Q: If I cast Startled Awake on my opponent and the third card they put into their graveyard is a Gaea's Blessing, do the other ten cards also get shuffled back into the library?

A: Yes; triggered abilities can't be put onto the stack until the current spell or ability has finished resolving. So you first carry out all of Startled Awake's instructions, then put the Gaea's Blessing trigger on the stack, shuffling in whatever's in the graveyard when the trigger resolves.

Q: If I control a bunch of Clue tokens and cast March of the Machines, what happens to my Clues?

A: Since they have no mana cost, they have a converted mana cost of zero and become 0/0 creatures and die.

Q: Would that trigger Tireless Tracker a bunch of times?

A: No, because you didn't sacrifice them; your Clues simply died as a state-based action. And remember that once March of the Machines is on the battlefield, the Clues will die too quickly for you to be able to activate any of them, so if you want any Tireless Tracker triggers, you'll need to sacrifice your Clues prior to March of the Machines entering the battlefield.

Q: Do I have to reveal double-faced cards in draft?

A: When double-faced cards are present in a set being drafted, you can reveal them to other players at any time during drafting (you can't ever reveal other cards). And when you draft a double-faced card, you have to put it on top of your pile of drafted cards, which means it will be pretty obvious that you took it. There's no requirement in the Tournament Rules to do more than this, but drafts using sets with double-faced cards are encouraged (and allowed) to add a period at the start of each pack where all double-faced cards opened in the pack are revealed to all players in the draft, to give everyone equal access to that information (rather than causing trouble with players trying to peek around the table to see them, which may be mistaken for illegal behavior). If the person running your draft tournament instructs you to do this, you'll have to follow that instruction.

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.


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