Published on 04/25/2016

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 Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes.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

April showers may bring May flowers,
but April sun and heat just can't be beat!
Hello and welcome to another edition of Cranial Insertion! It's the end of April, and as of my writing this, here in Nanaimo we've recently been having some unseasonably hot and sunny weather. The sun is shining, the bees are buzzing, and I think we may have skipped spring entirely in favor of jumping directly into summer. Though knowing the weather here, by the time you're reading this things may well have completely reversed course and returned to more seasonally-appropriate mild temperatures and light rain. We'll have to see.

One thing we'll definitely be seeing, though, is some more rules questions. As always, if you have questions of your own, send 'em to or tweet 'em to @CranialTweet to receive an answer and possibly inclusion in an upcoming article.

Q: When discarding Bridge from Below to activate Insolent Neonate's ability, will that trigger the Bridge?

A: It can if you want it to. When activating the Neonate's ability, you can pay the costs in any order you wish, which means that you can either discard the card before you sacrifice the Neonate—in which case the Bridge will trigger—or you can do it the other way around and sacrifice the Neonate before discarding, in which case it won't.

Considering you probably would prefer to get a Zombie token than to not, you probably want to do the former.

Q: Will Pandemonium trigger when I play a creature with bloodthirst and give it the counters after it resolves?

A: Sadly for you, no. Pandemonium uses a triggered ability that triggers and resolves after the creature enters the battlefield, but Bloodthirst is different—it's a replacement effect that alters how the creature it's on enters the battlefield...and you may be seeing the problem already.

Bloodthirst checks whether or not your opponents have been dealt damage at the time it's applied, well before Pandemonium can even trigger, so the damage from Pandemonium will never happen in time to enable bloodthirst on that creature.

Q: If Forbidden Ritual is cast with The Gitrog Monster on the field, will the Monster's draw ability trigger each time I repeat the process (and sacrifice a land as my repeat) or will it trigger only once (Assuming at least one land was among all permanents I sacrificed)?

A: The Monster's ability will trigger multiple times, once for each land you sacrifice to the Ritual. This happens because each repetition causes a separate sacrifice, and you finish performing the rest of the spell's effect before deciding whether or not to repeat the process again.

Q: If I activate Geralf's Masterpiece ability and one or more of the cards I discard is Prized Amalgam, would I trigger that Amalgam's ability?

A: Absolutely. If you discard Prized Amalgam as part of the cost of activating Geralf's Masterpiece, it will therefore be in the graveyard as the ability resolves and puts the Masterpiece onto the battlefield, which is exactly where it needs to be in order for its ability to trigger.

Q: Village Messenger has haste, but if I have Vildin-Pack Alpha on the field, will it get summoning sickness when it transforms?

A: Sadly for you, Moonrise Intruder doesn't have haste and hasn't been under your control since the beginning of your most recent turn, so it won't be able to attack.

Haste doesn't work by "removing" or "negating" summoning sickness in some way—it merely allows the creature it's on to ignore the normal rules for creatures for the moment and carry on regardless. If haste is suddenly removed from the creature, it's once again subject to those rules, and if you haven't controlled it for long enough, it won't be able to attack, just like any other creature.

Sometimes, being a control freak pays off.
Q: If my opponent controls both Squallmonger and Garruk Wildspeaker, can I use their own Squallmonger to kill Garruk?

A: No. The rules for redirecting noncombat damage to planeswalkers only allows damage to be redirected from a player to their planeswalker if the source that's dealing the damage is controlled by one of that player's opponents. Here, while you may control the instance of Squallmonger's ability that you activated, the damage is being dealt by Squallmonger itself, and your opponent is the one who controls that.

Since your opponent controls the source of the damage, that damage can't be redirected to their planeswalker, even though you control the ability that's causing the damage to be dealt.

Q: Wait, what? Does that mean that if I was the one with the planeswalker instead...?

A: Then your opponent could use your own Squallmonger activation to deal damage to your planeswalker, yes. Squallmonger's the source of the damage, and Squallmonger's controlled by your opponent, so that opponent can choose to redirect the damage to your planeswalker, even though you're the one who activated Squallmonger in the first place. Probably not a good idea to activate it in that case.

Q: I control Outrider en-Kor and High Priest of Penance. If my opponent casts a Lightning Bolt at the Outrider and I use the redirect damage ability three times to redirect the damage to the Priest, how many times will the Priest's ability trigger?

A: Just once. While there may be multiple separate redirection effects at work redirecting individual points of damage, all of that damage is still dealt at the exact same time, so the Priest has still been dealt damage only once, triggering its ability only once.

Q: If I use Arlinn Kord's +1 to make my Deathcap Cultivator vigilant, can it provide mana for the Ghostly Prison tax on its own attack?

A: Yes, it can. Normally, the Cultivator wouldn't be able to help pay for the cost of its own attack since attacking causes it to become tapped before you're asked to pay costs like Ghostly Prison's. (And you can't tap it for mana beforehand because then it couldn't be declared as an attacker in the first place.)

But here, thanks to vigilance, attacking doesn't cause the Cultivator to become tapped, leaving it untapped and ready to be used to help pay the Prison tax.

Q: So, suppose someone uses a counter from Umezawa's Jitte to give their creature +2/+2. While that activation's on the stack I use Magnetic Theft to steal the Jitte and put it on my own creature. Does that mean my creature gets the pump instead?

A: Yes indeedy. "Equipped creature" in Jitte's ability means "the creature this equipment is currently attached to." (Or, if it's left the battlefield, the one it was attached to just before it left.)

This means that if you can cause the Jitte to become attached to something else before the ability resolves, it's the new equipped creature that's going to get the bonus, not the one the Jitte was attached to at the time the ability was activated.

Q: Goblin Dark-Dwellers lets me cast an instant or sorcery from my yard with CMC 3 or less. Does that mean I can cast Boom // Bust?

A: Absolutely. While it's in your graveyard, Boom // Bust has all of the characteristics of both of its sides, which means that it has two separate mana costs ( and ) and therefore two separate converted mana costs (2 and 6). This means it's a legal target for the Dark-Dwellers' ability, since it does indeed have a converted mana cost 3 or less (2). The fact that it also has a second CMC that's greater than 3 isn't relevant.

Even better, once the Dark-Dwellers has given you permission to cast the card, you can cast whichever side you like, so Bust away!

Q: One of the rulings for Pyromancer's Goggles says "If the copied spell has an X whose value was determined as it was cast, the copy has the same value of X.". But Radiant Flames has an X that's determined as it's cast, and its ruling says that if it's copied, it won't deal damage. Which ruling is correct? Will a Radiant Flames cast for X=3 be copied for another 3?

A: Both rulings are correct; the one for the Goggles is just talking about something slightly different than what Radiant Flames is talking about.

The ruling on Pyromancer's Goggles is talking about spells where you explicitly choose a value for X as you cast the spell, like Blaze—you choose a value for X, then you pay whatever amount of mana the spell requires with an X of that value. Since copying a spell copies the choices you made as part of the casting process—which includes that choice of X—you get the same X out of any copies of that spell.

But Radiant Flames is different. You never actually choose a value for the Flames' X yourself—you simply cast it, paying whatever you need to, and then the spell itself automagically calculates what X should be on its own when it resolves. So when the Flames gets copied, there's no choice of X to get copied in the first place. The copy has to perform its own calculation when it resolves, and since that copy was never cast at all, it determines that no colors of mana were spent for it and it should have an X of 0.

Q: What happens if Strionic Resonator copies Phyrexian Ingester's enters-the-battlefield trigger?

A: Assuming both targets are successfully exiled, the Ingester will end up getting boosts from both of them: it'll be getting +X/+Y, where X is the total power of both exiled creatures and Y is the total toughness of both exiled creatures. (And yes, this scales up if you manage to copy the ability multiple times.)

In the rare cases like this one where a linked ability for some reason finds that there's more objects to reference than it had expected, it references all of them. Thus, when the Ingester asks for "the exiled creature card's power", it is told the power of both exiled cards and uses the sum of those values to determine the boost it applies. The same goes for toughness.

Bloodchief, bloodchef...
Sometimes the subtle differences matter.
Q: If I control a Zulaport Cutthroat and a board wipe kills it along with a bunch of other creatures of mine, do I drain my opponent for each of those creatures, or just for the Cutthroat?

A: You drain your opponent for each of those creatures. After all the triggers have resolved they'll have ended up losing an amount of life equal to the number of your creatures that were killed by the board wipe, and you'll gain that much life.

This happens because the Cutthroat's ability is what's known as a leaves-the-battlefield ability. Normally, triggered abilities function by looking around the game immediately after something has happened in order to check for triggered abilities that should trigger. But that doesn't work for leaves-the-battlefield abilities, because they might not be there immediately after the event that's supposed to trigger them.

You go from the Cutthroat being on the battlefield—and nothing should trigger yet because nothing's died yet—to the Cutthroat being dead and in the graveyard, and now there's no ability around to trigger, because the Cutthroat's in the graveyard and its ability shouldn't function while it's in the graveyard. Which is kind of silly because it would make cards like Black Cat entirely pointless.

So to avoid this problem, the game carves out an exception for leaves-the-battlefield triggers (as well as a few other kinds of triggers with similar problems) and says that for those triggers, you "look back in time" after the event happens to see if there were any triggers around *before* the event that should trigger off of it. Thus, Zulaport Cutthroat can see itself die, as well as everything else that dies at the same time.

Q: What about Bloodchief Ascension? If a boardwipe gets rid of the Ascension and a bunch of my opponent's stuff at the same time, do I drain for all of those cards, too?

A: Nope! And this is because, unlike Zulaport Cutthroat, Bloodchief Ascension doesn't have a leaves-the-battlefield ability. Bloodchief Ascension's ability triggers when cards are put into your opponent's graveyard from anywhere, not just when they're going there from the battlefield, so it's not a leaves-the-battlefield ability.

This means that the special exception laid out in the previous question's answer doesn't apply, and Bloodchief Ascension won't see or trigger off of things that get put into the graveyard at the same time as itself, because the ability isn't around after the event to be able to trigger.

Q: I cast Lightning Axe, discarding and madnessing Fiery Temper. Does that let me get two untaps and three damage out of Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh?

A: Yes, absolutely. There's a variety of ways you can decide to stack the triggers and use the pinging ability, so the exact order things happen may vary, but you're casting two red spells, which is going to trigger Chandra's untap ability twice, so since spells and abilities on the stack resolve one at a time with chances to respond in between each, somewhere in there you're going to have the chance to use her pinging ability enough times to get her to exile herself.

Q: In a multiplayer game, I attack with a 5/5 lifelink, double strike creature and my opponent doesn't block. If they're at 4 life, they're clearly going to be killed, but will I get the full 10 points of lifelink?

A: Unfortunately not; you'll only get the 5. Double strike means your creature will deal 5 damage in the first strike combat damage step, which is going to kill your opponent. Normally your creature would deal another 5 damage in the normal combat damage step, but since the player your creature's attacking has left the game, there's no longer anything for them to assign damage to, and they won't be able to assign any damage.

Q: Can I dredge with 0 cards in my library to avoid losing the game by decking?

A: Afraid not. The replacement effect that allows dredge to work explicitly doesn't function if you don't have enough cards in your library to dredge. So if your library is empty, you can't choose to dredge, and you'll be decked in short order.

Q: When exactly does one decide to play or draw? If it's game 2 with me taking game 1, I'd like to know if my opponent will let me play or draw so I could sideboard accordingly.

A: The decision of whether to play or draw is only made after decks have been shuffled for the game to come, immediately before both players start to draw their opening hands and begin the mulligan process. Obviously, this happens after sideboarding has already been completed, so you're going to have to guess whether or not you'll be on the play or the draw when sideboarding.

Thankfully, most players will almost always choose to play first when given the opportunity, so it's likely going to be a pretty easy guess.

Q: I was playing in a GPT recently and my opponent missed her Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet triggers several times. Later on I was told I should have reminded her of them. I thought you didn't have to remind your opponent of their triggers if they forgot them?

A: You don't have to remind your opponent about the triggered abilities that they miss. However, you do need to remind them about Kalitas's exile-and-zombie ability, because it's not a triggered ability, no matter how much it might feel like one. As such, you're obligated to make sure that it's applied at the appropriate time—you cannot let your opponent miss the trigger.

You can recognize triggered abilities because they always use one of the words "When", "Whenever", or "At" to describe when or under what conditions they trigger. If an ability doesn't use one of those words, it's not a triggered ability, and as you can see from Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet's Oracle text, none of those three words appear anywhere. Kalitas's ability is actually a replacement effect which replaces the creature going to the graveyard with exiling and token-generation.

Q: I was wondering if you are required to tell your opponent all of the abilities and effects a card has on the other side? Or can they just take it out and turn it over to see?

A: If your opponent wants to know what's on the back face of your cards, you should just tell them. The Oracle text of cards—including that of their back faces—is not private or hidden information; you're not allowed to lie about it, nor can you prevent your opponent from obtaining it for themselves, either by looking at the back faces of cards on their own or by asking for the appropriate Oracle text from a Judge.

And that's a wrap for April here on Cranial Insertion; we'll be back next month to answer more of your questions, but until then, enjoy whatever weather you happen to be experiencing.

Just know that mine's better.

- 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.

On the Strionic Resonator and imprinting cards question: if you Resonator on Isochron Scepter and exile two spells, does activating the Scepter allow you to cast both spells, the spell of your choice, or the last spell imprinted?
#1 • Date: 2016-04-25 • Time: 06:43:39 •
You'll be able to cast a copy of both cards imprinted on the Scepter.
#2 • Date: 2016-04-25 • Time: 12:49:36 •
Sweet. What? I'm not making a new deck. Whatever could you mean?
#3 • Date: 2016-04-25 • Time: 13:37:23 •
RE: Strionic Resonator.

Does this mean if I imprint Brain Freeze and Shock on an Isochron Scepter, I always get a storm count of at least 1?
#4 • Date: 2016-05-17 • Time: 09:58:02 •

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