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Tolarian Academy – A Precursor to New Things

Hey folks, and welcome to the Revival Edition of Tolarian Academy, where by all rights, I should be answering a bunch of Reanimator-related questions.  Sadly, the only interesting thing that has happened to me recently regarding Reanimator is that my friend mistook Diabolic Vision for Lim-Duls Vault.  Oops!  He still made out okay in that trade, at least.  Instead of discussing the niceties of cards like Entomb, Exhume, and whatever else that deck plays, I’ll be talking about Scars of Mirrodin, which I suppose is appropriate given that it brings us back to an old plane.

I’d like to remind my readers to please send rules question submissions to [email protected].  The question I deem “most interesting” every week – which is oh-so-subjective –  will be specifically recognized in the following week’s column, and its author will receive $5 in store credit with ChannelFireball.com.  Make sure to register for a store account with ChannelFireball if you don’t already have one, so that you can more easily receive said prize.

Let’s go to the videotape!

Q: My opponent controls a Precursor Golem and the two 3/3 Golem tokens that come with it.  I cast Lightning Bolt targeting one of the Golem tokens.  With Precursor Golem’s ability on the stack, my opponent casts Negate targeting my Lightning Bolt.  When Precursor Golem’s ability resolves, what happens?

A: Great question.  When the triggered ability of Precursor Golem resolves, Lightning Bolt isn’t there.  Instinctively, one may feel like Lightning Bolt won’t be copied.  Instinct doesn’t always line up with the Comprehensive Rules, though, so let’s check:

608.2g. If an effect requires information from the game (such as the number of creatures on the battlefield), the answer is determined only once, when the effect is applied. If the effect requires information from a specific object, including the source of the ability itself or a target that’s become illegal, the effect uses the current information of that object if it’s in the public zone it was expected to be in; if it’s no longer in that zone, or if the effect has moved it from a public zone to a hidden zone, the effect uses the object’s last known information. See rule 112.7a. If an ability states that an object does something, it’s the object as it exists–or as it most recently existed–that does it, not the ability.

In this case, the effect requires information from Lightning Bolt.  Since it’s no longer in the public zone it was expected to be in (the stack), Precursor Golem’s ability uses Lightning Bolt’s “last known information.”  What in the world does that mean?  Well, it basically means that the game knows what Lightning Bolt looked like just before it left the stack, and it can use that information to create copies of the spell even though it’s not there anymore.  So, in this case, you will get two copies of Lightning Bolt to point at the other Golems.

Q: We’re testing Extended, and my opponent has Tunnel Ignus on the battlefield.  I cast Scapeshift, sacrificing ten lands and putting two copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and eight Mountains onto the battlefield.  We’re both at 20.  Somebody wins here, but I’m not sure who.  Who wins, Eric?

A: When you play Global Thermonuclear War with Valakuts, the only way to win is not to play.  Seriously, though, let’s talk about Tunnel Ignus for a second. Your opponent’s mildly inappropriate lizard reads:

Whenever a land enters the battlefield under an opponent’s control, if that player had another land enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn, Tunnel Ignus deals 3 damage to that player.

“But all of those lands came in at the same time,” you say. “There’s no way I’m taking any damage here.” Well, unfortunately for you, in the same way that the mountains coming in simultaneously can all “see each other” for Valakut’s purposes, all of your lands see each other for Tunnel Ignus’s even more sinister purpose. For each land that enters the battlefield during the resolution of Scapeshift, Tunnel Ignus asks “Did that player have another land enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn?” The answer comes back “Well, yeah, look at those other nine lands that came in this turn.” So, if you use Scapeshift or any other method of putting multiple lands into play at the same time, they’ll all trigger Tunnel Ignus.

So how do we deal with all of these simultaneous triggers? You’ve got sixteen Valakut triggers, and your opponent has ten Tunnel Ignus triggers. In this kind of case, the active player’s triggers (the player whose turn it is) go on the stack first followed by the non-active player’s triggers (the player whose turn it isn’t). That means that all of the ten Tunnel Ignus triggers are on top of the stack, and they’ll resolve first, dealing you a whole mess of damage and killing you. Sorry!

Q: I attack with Auriok Edgewright and three Memnites, which are my only artifacts.  My opponent controls only Saberclaw Golem and is at 6.  My opponent blocks one of my Memnites with his Saberclaw Golem and pays R to give it first strike.  What happens?  Does he get double-struck to death?

A: Let’s go through combat step-by-step to figure this out.  During the first strike damage step, Auriok Edgewright assigns two damage to your opponent, and Saberclaw Golem assigns four damage to your Memnite.  The damage event occurs, your opponent goes to 4, and your Memnite is destroyed.  You haven’t got metalcraft anymore, so your Auriok Edgewright loses double strike.  The question now is whether or not it deals damage in the regular damage step.  Luckily, the comprehensive rules have this covered:

510.5. If at least one attacking or blocking creature has first strike (see rule 702.7) or double strike (see rule 702.4) as the combat damage step begins, the only creatures that assign combat damage in that step are those with first strike or double strike. After that step, instead of proceeding to the end of combat step, the phase gets a second combat damage step. The only creatures that assign combat damage in that step are the remaining attackers and blockers that had neither first strike nor double strike as the first combat damage step began, as well as the remaining attackers and blockers that currently have double strike. After that step, the phase proceeds to the end of combat step.

Auriok Edgewright definitely had double strike when the first strike damage step began, so it won’t deal damage during the regular damage step.  Your opponent will go to 2, surviving your attack and living to Saberclaw you another day.

Q: Okay, here’s a similar situation.  My opponent has four cards left in his library.  I attack with Screeching Silcaw and three Memnites, which are my only artifacts once again.  My opponent blocks one of my Memnites with his Memnite.  Do I get to mill him when combat damage happens?

A: This is a question that can only be answered by reading Screeching Silcaw.  Let’s give that a try:

Metalcraft — Whenever Screeching Silcaw deals combat damage to a player, if you control three or more artifacts, that player puts the top four cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

That weird clause in the middle that says “if you control three or more artifacts” is called an “intervening if” clause. Such clauses cause an ability to check for its condition (in this case, controlling three or more artifacts) when the ability triggers and when the ability resolves. When it triggers, your Memnite hasn’t died to combat damage yet, since state-based actions have yet to be checked, so the ability will manage to get onto the stack. When it tries to resolve, however, your Memnite will have died and you’ll only have two artifacts, so it won’t actually do anything.

Q: Friggin’ spellbombs- how do they work?

A: Err…

Q: Let me ask that question in a less insane way.  Let’s say I crack Horizon Spellbomb, and I’m willing and able to pay G for the card draw.  Will I be drawing a card first, or will I be searching up a land first?

A: Sacrificing the Spellbomb is part of the cost of the search ability, and the ability will trigger when you pay that cost.  However, the ability can’t go on the stack yet- we’re still in the process of paying for another ability and putting it on the stack.  By the time you finish paying the costs for that first ability, the stack will look like this:

-TOP OF STACK-
Draw a card if you pay G
Land tutoring effect
-BOTTOM OF STACK-

So, if you pay that single green mana, you’ll draw a card, then you’ll search your library.  Please don’t do it in the other order.  It can cause big problems, especially with this particular spellbomb, where things can get hairy if you knew the positions of cards in your library before using it.

I’d like to close the rules portion of my column by reminding you, the reader, to please send your rules questions to [email protected] for a chance at $5 in store credit!

This week, with my triumphant return firmly in place, I want to add a couple of segments to my article.  The first one I like to simply call “Judge Call of the Week,” but if I had to give it one of my usual stupid names, it would be “Penalties, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the MIPG.”

What is the MIPG, you ask?  Why, it’s the Magic Infraction Procedure Guide – the artist formerly known as the Penalty Guidelines.  It’s the document that judges use as the standard for what penalties to apply in given situations in tournaments at Competitive REL or higher.  (REL means Rules Enforcement Level, and it defines basically how harsh penalties are at a given tournament.  Most tournaments at your local shop are likely run at Regular REL.  PTQs, day one of Grands Prix, and the like are run at Competitive REL, and day 2 of GPs and all Pro Tours are run at Professional REL.)  Events at Regular REL use the Guide to Fixing Common Errors, which shies away from penalties in favor of allowing players to have fun.

I’ll wager that most players haven’t read the MIPG or FCE and aren’t aware of the frequency with which the documents are updated.  Most players are probably also unaware of the amount of time judges spend debating such documents as far as their meaning, their philosophy, and whether or not we think they’re “right” in their current form.  Penalties are tough, and they’re a mystery to many players.  In order to help demystify the whole penalty-giving process, I’m going to post a situation every week that might (or might not!) cause a judge to give one or more penalties.  I won’t post the answer, though!  That’s right, this is an interactive segment.

If you think you know, based on reading the MIPG/FCE or based on tournament experience, what penalty would be given in the situation I lay out, send me an email at [email protected] with your real name (and what you’d like to be known as if I publish your answer, if that’s different), your current city of residence, and a detailed explanation.  The person who sends me the best answer each week will receive $5 in store credit with ChannelFireball.com, just like the person who sends me the best rules question each week.  There is one caveat, however. Though judges are permitted to send in their answers, this is an “amateur prize only,” meaning that anyone with a judge level of 1 or more is ineligible for the store credit.  Sorry, fellow judges!  (And yes, I can check to see if you have a judge level.)  So, here goes!

Judge Call of the Week

At a PTQ, Andy, who controls three Runeclaw Bears, says “Declare my attack step?”  Nathan says, “During beginning of combat, I use Vedalken Certarch to tap one of your Bears.”  Andy is about to attack with his two remaining Bears, but he realizes Nathan doesn’t have metalcraft and calls a judge.  Assuming Nathan is not cheating, what penalty or penalties should the judge give out, and what else, if anything, should he or she do?

I hope this is a fun way for players to familiarize themselves with the MIPG and the lesser-known parts of the rules.  Remember to base your answer on the documents I linked and send that answer to [email protected] for your chance at $5 in store credit.  All the answers are in there, I promise!

My second new segment is Judge Tip of the Week, and I’d like to give it a short preface.  I run into the same kinds of complicated situations at nearly every major tournament, most of which are preventable by players changing their play habits ever so slightly.  Some of the situations, like the one I’m about to describe, can be tough for judges to figure out accurately; here, I speak of “he said/she said” disputes during games where players cannot agree on what happened.  The tips I throw in will usually be something that helps players avoid such situations.  So, for example, here’s our first one:

Judge Tip of the Week

You know that guy at FNM that always says something like “Dragonskull Summit?” whenever he plays a land?  He does it like it’s a question so you’ll notice it, right?  I know that, for a lot of players, that can get on one’s nerves.  I mean, geez!  It’s like he thinks you’re going to counter his land or something!  Shockingly enough, this guy is doing you a favor.  In a Standard environment with a lot of landfall triggers, I end up having to adjudicate a lot of disputes that go like this:

PLAYER A: My opponent is trying to play a second land for his turn.

PLAYER B: No, I’m not.  I cracked a fetch, and this is my first actual land drop.

My point is that you should pay attention to what your opponent does with his or her lands.  How often do you actually look at what mana your opponent taps for his or her spells?  How often do you know whether or not your opponent missed his or her land drop for the turn?  It may not be the most exciting thing in the world, and it may not be something you’re used to yet, but give it a try.  At worst, you prevent a couple mildly miscast spells, and at best, you catch your opponent out trying to cheat.

It feels really good to be writing again.  I apologize for only including a few rules questions today, but my new weekly segments required some explanation, and I wanted to make sure they were properly introduced in order to adhere to my “bigger, badder, more explosions” philosophy for the return of this column.  See you next week, same place, same time, but maybe from a new computer!

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