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Careful Consideration – Oh, Extended, You’re So Tricky!

 

Extended season’s in full swing, and I couldn’t be happier. We have MODO PTQs, real life PTQs, an American Extended Grand Prix, and I can finally put away my Sprouting Thrinaxes and dust off my Tarmogoyfs. But there are some tricky rules interactions that have come up, and I thought it would be valuable to go through some scenarios, explain what’s going on, and more importantly why it’s going on.

Let’s review some basics, shall we?

So maybe it’s been a while, or maybe this is your first Extended season, so let’s go over some basic ones that most of probably you know, but it’s never bad to brush up.

Situation: Let’s say Tarmogoyf is a 2/3. In the graveyards there are lands and creatures. If you Lightning Helix the three toughness Tarmogoyf, he will not die.

Why? Why does any creature die in the first place? That sounds a bit existential, but the reason why a creature dies is the state-based effect that says that “a creature with lethal damage but toughness greater than 0 is destroyed.” But state-based effects aren’t checked until after the Helix resolves, at which point the Tarmogoyf’s toughness is 4 (with an instant in the yard), so he’s a 3/4 with 3 damage on him, and he survives.

Situation:You have Urborg, I have Blood Moon. Your Urborg is just a regular ol’ Mountain, and so are all of his nonbasic land friends, even if you played the Urborg after the Blood Moon.

Why? Both are being applied at layer four (the type-changing effects), and usually when you have two effects being applied at the same layer, you go with timestamp order. Unless there’s a dependency.

The rule reads: “Within a layer or sublayer, determining which order effects are applied in is sometimes done using a dependency system. If a dependency exists, it will override the timestamp system.”

There is a dependency here. That is to say, Urborg doesn’t affect Blood Moon. Blood Moon is an enchantment and is not affected by Urborg (which only affects other lands), but Urborg is a land and is therefore very much affected by Blood Moon (which also affects other lands). Urborg depends on Blood Moon, Blood Moon doesn’t depend on Urborg, and therefore Blood Moon wins. Nonbasic lands are Mountains.

Situation:I play Cryptic Command on your Mogg Fanatic, choosing the modes to bounce target permanent and draw a card. You sacrifice the Mogg Fanatic in response. I don’t draw the card.

Why? When I played Cryptic Command, it had exactly one target: the Mogg Fanatic. When you made the Mogg Fanatic go away, the Cryptic Command had no legal targets, and did not resolve. If I had multiple targets when I chose the spell (let’s say I instead decided to counter target spell and bounce the Mogg Fanatic), then the spell would still be countered, because at least one of the targets was legal when the spell tried to resolve.

Situation: I play a Blinkmoth Nexus on my turn, then pass the turn. You attack with a Vendilion Clique. I activate the Blinkmoth Nexus, and block. I cannot tap my Blinkmoth Nexus for mana to play Shrapnel Blast.

Why? Blinkmoth Nexus came into play that turn, and as a creature is summoning sick. Even though it is also a land, it is a creature – and activated abilities of creatures, even mana abilities, cannot be used if the creature is summoning sick.

Oh, Pikula. Why are you so confusing?

Situation:I cast Meddling Mage. You let it resolve. I name Path to Exile. In response, you try to Path one of my creatures. It turns out you missed your opportunity, and it’s too late to Path.

Why? It’s the difference between when the card enters the battlefield, and as the card enters the battlefield. If it’s a “when,” it’s a triggered ability and you get priority and can respond. If it’s an “as,” then it just happens and there is no priority pass. So if Meddling Mage is on the stack and you really need that Path to Exile to kill something, Path before the Mage resolves. Similarly, the same goes for Pithing Needle.

(The “as” versus “when” thing is the only reason why a card like Body Double isn’t totally useless. If it was a “when it enters the battlefield” card, then it would be a triggered ability, and state-based effects would be checked, the game would realize that Body Double has zero toughness, and it would go to the graveyard immediately before it ever had a chance to become something else. That’s not a very good card.)

Situation: I play Hypergenesis and I put Angel of Despair onto the battlefield, but do not announce the target for her ability. You put in Meddling Mage and immediately name the card that Meddling Mage is supposed to name, Hypergenesis resolves, and I choose my target for Angel of Despair’s ability.

Why? This is the same thing of the “as” versus “when” situation, but applied a little differently. Is it an “as this enters the battlefield” situation, or “when this enters the battlefield?”

Situation: I play Meddling Mage, naming Dead//Gone. You cannot play either half of the card.

Why? Meddling Mage reads: “As Meddling Mage enters the battlefield, name a nonland card. The named card can’t be cast.”

If it read, “As Meddling Mage enters the battlefield, name a nonland spell then I would only be able to name Dead or Gone, but not both, allowing you to cast the half I didn’t name.

Situation: You have an Isochron Scepter with Lightning Bolt imprinted on it. I play Meddling Mage, naming Lightning Bolt. You can still happily activate the Isochron Scepter, Bolting away to your heart’s content.

Why? Isochron Scepter doesn’t actually cast the card itself. It creates a copy, and the copy is then cast. Meddling Mage doesn’t stop copies being cast, so Scepter gets around the Mage.

Speaking of artifacts

Situation: I play Isochron Scepter, imprinting Dead//Gone, as the Dead side is an instant that costs 2 or less. Once it’s imprinted, I can now copy the Gone side with Scepter, even though it costs more than 2.

Why? The imprint part of the Scepter ability and the casting of the card ability are two separate abilities. The imprint part is the only one that cares about the converted mana cost of the card. The “cast the copy without paying its mana cost” part doesn’t care about the converted mana cost of the card, so it will happily copy any side of a split card.

Situation: I have a Chalice of the Void with two counters on it. You play Engineered Explosives, using Island, Island, Plains to pay for it. Engineered Explosives enters the battlefield with two counters on it and resolves, even though Chalice was set to two.

Why? In this instance, Chalice of the Void counters spells with a converted mana cost of 2. When you use two different colors but pay three mana for the spell, the CMC of Engineered Explosives is 3. Explosives enters the battlefield with only two counters because you only used two colors, but Sunburst does not affect the converted mana cost of the card. This is a handy way to get Explosives around Chalice of the Void.

Situation: I have an Engineered Explosives with two charge counters on it. I also have a Chalice of the Void with three counters on it. You play your own Engineered Explosives for zero, then activate the Explosives. My Chalice and Engineered Explosives are destroyed.

Why? The converted mana cost of the Chalice of the Void or Engineered Explosives when it’s sitting there as a permanent on the table is zero, regardless of how many counters are on it.

This is a confusing thing about converted mana costs. The converted mana cost of a permanent and a spell on the stack can be different things. When the spell is on the stack, the converted mana cost is essentially the numbers in the upper-right hand corner, including X. So Engineered Explosives that I paid for with 3 mana has a converted mana cost of 3 when it’s on the stack.

But when it’s a permanent, you just look at the mana cost printed on the card, and X is treated at 0. In the case of Engineered Explosives, when you care about the converted mana cost of a permanent, X is now 0.

Even more confusing is when you’re talking about the converted mana cost of a card. A card like Dark Confidant can reveal Chalice of the Void or Engineered Explosives, and those cards have a converted mana cost of zero. But a split card like Dead//Gone has a converted mana cost of four. The split card is broken up into two spells, but the card itself has a converted mana cost of four.

Got that?

Situation: I have Darksteel Citadel, Ornithopter, Frogmite and Chromatic Star in play and I wish to cast Thoughtcast. I have four artifacts, but no blue mana unless I sacrifice Chromatic Star. But if activate Chromatic Star, I don’t have enough artifacts. But wait! I put Thoughtcast on the stack, then sacrifice the Chromatic Star for blue, and it resolves.

Why? Some people announce the spell and then tap their lands, others tap their lands and then announce the spell. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but this is a case where it most certainly does.

When you announce Thoughtcast, costs are determined. It usually costs 5, but you have four artifacts in play, so the cost is reduced to U, and that cost is locked in. At that point, you now have the opportunity to sacrifice Chromatic Star to get the necessary blue mana you need to pay the cost, and voila.

Situation: I have a 3/4 Tarmogoyf and you activate Vedalken Shackles, targeting my Tarmogoyf. You have only three Islands.

The next turn, I add a card type to the graveyard, making Tarmogoyf a 4/5, but you still have only three Islands in play. I don’t get my Tarmogoyf back.

Why? Shackles only checks when it initially targets the creature with the ability. If the condition of the creature having power less than or equal to the number of Islands I control is met, then nothing after that matters as long as Shackles remains tapped. If I were to Giant Growth my Tarmogoyf in response to the Shackles ability, then the ability would not resolve, since Tarmogoyf’s power would be greater than the number if Islands I control.

In other words, the only thing Shackles cares about from that point on is whether or not it’s tapped. If it’s tapped, it will retain control of the creature even if it stops being a creature! This matters if you Shackles a manland like Treetop Village. Treetop Village not a creature anymore? It’s still Shackled.

Situation: I have an Umezawa’s Jitte equipped to my 3/4 Tarmogoyf and my Jitte has no counters on it. I attack into your 3/4 Tarmogoyf. Damage is dealt. My opponent plays Lightning Bolt on my Tarmogoyf with the Jitte trigger on the stack, and I am powerless to save my Tarmogoyf.

Why? This isn’t particularly fancy or confusing, but it’s worth knowing that Umezawa’s Jitte’s ability of getting counters is a triggered ability, so you can respond to it, giving you a window to kill whatever creature that dealt damage. Though this is fairly basic, I see this play overlooked a lot and I think people forget that they can respond to the Jitte triggers.

Situation: I play Mistbind Clique and with Mistbind Clique’s champion ability on the stack, you steal it with Vedalken Shackles, and you don’t have any Faeries of your own. Mistbind Clique stays on your side of the table and you have a 4/4 and didn’t even have to champion anything.

Why? In this scenario, you’ve only grabbed the Mistbind Clique, not all the baggage associated with it, like having to champion a Faerie. I still control the champion trigger. Let’s look at the reminder text for Mistbind Clique:

When this enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless you exile another Faerie you control.

One thing to note is that you can’t sacrifice what you don’t control. I can’t sacrifice the Mistbind Clique at that point because I don’t control it anymore, so you get a fancy Mistbind Clique that conveniently attacks for 4 each turn. I still control the champion trigger, and can still choose to champion a Faerie (perhaps a Bitterblossom that’s going to kill me), but it won’t tap out my opponent. And if the Mistbind Clique leaves the battlefield for any reason while under my opponent’s control, I would get the championed Faerie back, not my opponent.

Fancy graveyard tricks

Situation:I have a Hellspark Elemental in my graveyard and you have a Tormod’s Crypt in play. I pay the unearth cost for the Hellspark Elemental, and you activate Crypt’s ability in response. Hellspark Elemental is exiled.

Why? Unearth is an ability, and the only cost to unearth is paying the mana cost, so you can Crypt in response to the ability. If part of the cost was to return it to the battlefield, then you would have to exile the player’s graveyard before they attempted to unearth.

Situation: I have Punishing Fire in my graveyard. You Extirpate my Punishing Fire. I respond by tapping Grove of the Burnwillows for red, and I get my Punishing Fire back, somehow moving even faster than split second speed. Now that’s fast!

Why? Split second says you can’t play spells or activated abilities that aren’t mana abilities. It doesn’t say that triggers can’t go on the stack. Since Grove of the Burnwillows is a mana ability, you can tap it for red in response to a split second spell. When that happens, it puts the “whenever an opponent gains life” trigger from Punishing Fire on the stack. Split second doesn’t say anything about not being able to respond to triggers on the stack, so the Punishing Fire can safely be returned to the player’s hand, and Extirpate is countered due to lack of legal targets.

(Similarly, you can sacrifice your Lotus Bloom in response to a Krosan Grip, or tap your unsick Birds of Paradise in response to a Sudden Shock, as these are all mana abilities.)

Punishing Fire is tougher to get rid of than it looks, and even Extirpate in all its split secondy goodness isn’t reliable enough. Your best bet is to Extirpate in response to them activating Grove of the Burnwillows, and hope they don’t have another Grove in play.

Situation: I’m eagerly holding on to an Extirpate against your dredge deck, waiting to nab that Dread Return. You go to your draw step and dredge one into your graveyard, which is dangerous, since you already have three creatures in play. I Extirpate your Dread Return during your draw step.

Why? You only have one chance to get priority here, and that’s during your opponent’s draw step. If you let him go to this first main phase, then he can cast Dread Return, and it’s too late to Extirpate at that time. The “getting priority during draw step” was less known before Vendilion Clique saw play, but it’s worth mentioning.

Also, keep in mind that some Dredge decks play Dryad Arbor. If your opponent has two creatures in play and you think you can just Extirpate in response to them playing the third creature, Dryad Arbor won’t give you that opportunity, as she is a land, and playing lands (even lands that happen to also be creatures) do not use the stack.

Word of caution: Play around Dryad Arbor, as silly as that may sound.

Situation: You cast Demigod of Revenge. I immediately Mana Leak it. Demigod is countered, but then returns to play off its own trigger. Oh no!

Why? Demigod reads, “When you cast Demigod of Revenge, return all cards named Demigod of Revenge from your graveyard to the battlefield.”

That means that the trigger goes on the stack immediately after you put the Demigod on the stack. So if you counter the Demigod, the “return all cards named Demigod of Revenge” trigger is still just hanging out there, waiting to resolve. If you counter the Demigod, then it says, “whoa, sweet!” and nabs the Demigod out of the graveyard, and you’re down a counterspell and you have a giant Demigod coming your way. Bad times.

What you can do instead is let the Demigod trigger resolve, then counter it.

But that’s not always the correct line of play, and there’s been a lot of debate in the past how judges should rule if it’s not explicit whether or not the trigger resolved. Fore example, if you’re playing a card like Faerie Macabre, you counter the Demigod, then use the Macabre’s ability to get the Demigod you just countered and maybe his Demigod friend, also hanging out in the graveyard.

Situation: It’s my turn, and you have two Bridge from Belows in your graveyard. In play you have a Stinkweed Imp and I have a Trinket Mage. I cast Wrath of God. My creature dies, your creature dies, but you get two fresh Zombie tokens should you choose.

Why? My creature and your creature are hitting the graveyard at the same time, but you control the Bridge from Below triggers. The ones that say you get Zombie tokens, and the ones that say the Bridges get exiled when an opponent’s creatures go to the graveyard. If you stack it so that the “get Zombie tokens” triggers resolve first, then you get Zombies. If you choose to stack it the other way, (maybe you’re worried about something bizarre like Mark of Mutiny), then you don’t get Zombies. It’s all up to you.

Lands are boring… or are they?!

Situation: I have a Dark Depths and two Vampire Hexmages in play, and you have a Ghost Quarter. I sacrifice my Hexmage to Dark Depths with the hopes and dreams of creating a 20/20. You let the Hexmage trigger resolve, but then Ghost Quarter my Dark Depths with the “When Dark Depths has no ice counters on it, sacrifice it. If you do, put an indestructible legendary 20/20 black Avatar creature token” trigger on the stack, and I don’t get a 20/20 after all, turning my hopes and dreams into despondency and sadness.

Why? This is kind of a corner situation, but certainly one that can, and has, come up. If I have just one Vampire Hexmage, you can sacrifice Ghost Quarter to target the Dark Depths in response to the Hexmage sacrificing, and the Hexmage’s ability doesn’t resolve. But if I have more than one Hexmage, I can sacrifice Hexmage, you Ghost Quarter Dark Depths, and I can then sacrifice my other Hexmage with your Ghost Quarter activation on the stack, and still have a 20/20.

But Dark Depths has a condition that must be met to get a 20/20. “When Dark Depths has no ice counters on it, sacrifice it. If you do, put an indestructible blah blah blah So if the Dark Depths is not sacrificed, but rather is destroyed by a Ghost Quarter, then the condition is not met, and no 20/20 is ever created.

Situation: I resolve Scapeshift, bringing in six Mountains and Valakut. With the Valakut triggers on the stack, you Ghost Quarter one of my Mountains, and I am unable to find a basic Mountain in my deck. Valakut fizzles, and you take no damage.

Why? Ah, it’s the classic “intervening if clause.” Valakut checks twice – both when it enters the battlefield, and again upon resolution. If the condition isn’t met upon resolution (because there aren’t enough Mountains in play), then the ability fizzles and that’s that.

However, if you Ghost Quarter the Valakut itself, the ability does resolve, because Valakut’s condition is “if you control at least five other Mountains,” not “if you control at least five other Mountains and Valakut is in play.” So be careful.

Bloodchief Ascension miscellany

Bloodchief Ascension has become more popular in the last couple of days in the wake of Adrian Sullivan’s Top 8 deck with an Ascension/Isochron Scepter deck.

Situation: I control Bloodchief Ascension and play Tribal Flames for 4, targeting you. It resolves. During my second main phase, you Lightning Helix me, gaining three life. Your net life loss for the turn was 1. Bloodchief Ascension still triggers.

Why? Bloodchief Ascension just wants to know if an opponent lost 2 or more life this turn. It doesn’t care if you gained it back, lost more life, conjugated some verbs, or saved money on car insurance. Did you lose 2 life? Cool. It gets a trigger.

Situation: I Lightning Bolt you, then after that resolves, I play Bloodchief Ascension. At the beginning of my end step, Bloodchief Ascension gets a counter.

Why? Bloodchief doesn’t care what it was doing when you got Bolted. If it’s in play at the beginning of the end step and makes a check. Did you lose 2 or more life this turn? Sweet. There’s a trigger. There’s nothing about the Ascension having to be in play when the life was lost.

Phew. Those are the ones I’ve documented and that have come up during testing or in play. I’m sure as the season goes on, new cards will emerge and we’ll have new interactions, at which point maybe I can follow up here.

It’s also possible I messed something up, although I tried to be very careful to check and doublecheck the rulings and the reasons for them. If something’s unclear or if I got something wrong, please let me know in the comments.

Yours accurately?

-Zaiem
zaiemb at gmail dot com
zbeg on Magic Online
zbeg on Twitter

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