Tolarian Academy – A Vendetta Against Gideon


Hey folks, and welcome to yet another edition of Tolarian Academy, where I consume copious cough drops while answering your rules questions. Yes, I’m sick again, and what better time to be sick than when I was trying to run prerelease and release events? None, obviously. There was no TA last week on account of my illness, but I won’t let that happen two weeks in a row! Let’s start straight in with your rules questions! Remember, by the way, to send those questions to [email protected] or to Psychatrog on Twitter!

Q: Is there any way to stack the rebound triggers so that you can Staggershock 3 times using only 1 Staggershock and 1 Surreal Memoir? The sequence I’m imagining would be: Staggershock, Memoir it back the next turn and cast it, then let it rebound before the Memoir rebound and get it back again.

A: Well, you can’t Memoir it back until after it Rebounds, since it’s still in exile. What you want to do (and what I did a little while ago in draft!) looks more like this:
1. Cast Staggershock and exile it
2. Cast Staggershock “on the rebound” (which sounds wrong, but bear with me) so it goes to the graveyard
3. Cast Surreal Memoir, “randomly” returning Staggershock (assuming it’s your only instant in the graveyard) and exile the Memoir
4. Cast Staggershock a third time, exiling it.
5. During your next upkeep, stack the triggers such that Staggershock resolves before Surreal Memoir (Staggershock on top followed by Surreal Memoir)
6. Cast Staggershock a fourth time, putting it into your graveyard
7. Rebound the Memoir, returning Staggershock to your hand
8. Cast Staggershock a fifth time
9. Rebound the Staggershock

Talk about value! That’s twelve points of damage from two cards! This is all predicated, of course, on having no other instants in your graveyard, but it just proves how sweet both of these cards are. I guess getting something on the rebound isn’t always bad.

Q: My opponent uses Gideon Jura’s +2 “challenge” ability, but before my turn, I send Mr. Jura Into the Roil. What happens?

A: Well, Gideon obviously won’t get the challenge he’s asking for, since he’s not on the battlefield. Gideon Jura’s ability says that all of your creatures will attack him “if able.” Since he’s not on the battlefield, your creatures aren’t able to attack him, so there are no requirements on whether or not they need to attack.

Q: Follow-up question: What if my opponent recasts Gideon Jura after I bounce him but doesn’t use the +2 ability a second time? Do my creatures still need to attack Gideon?

A: Nope! Since your opponent recast Gideon, he’s considered a new object by the rules; that is to say that, while he is still Gideon Jura, he is not the same Gideon Jura that insulted all of your Wild Nacatls’ mothers before leaving the battlefield. So, your creatures don’t have quite the same Vendetta against him.

Q: Speaking of Vendetta, I have a question. My opponent controls a Merfolk Observer (2/1) with Drake Umbra on it, making it a 5/4. While Merfolk Observer is normally terrible, I’m having issues with this 5/4 flyer, so I Vendetta it. How much life do I lose?

A: Let’s take a look at the Oracle text of this lovely reprint so that we can better understand the question:

Destroy target nonblack creature. It can’t be regenerated. You lose life equal to that creature’s toughness.

As with any spell, the whole thing happens in order, so the first thing Vendetta does is destroy the Observer. Well, it tries, anyway. Drake Umbra’s Totem Armor ability is a replacement effect, so at this point in the resolution of Vendetta, the Drake Umbra gets destroyed. Vendetta then checks the toughness of Merfolk Observer – which is now 1! That means you’ll only lose one life in the bargain. I’d say that’s pretty good for you.

Q: So my opponent has just done to me exactly what you’ve described above. Can he then block my creature with his Lagac Lizard to kill it, or is Merfolk Observer removed from combat? I guess my question is “how similar is Totem Armor to regeneration?”

A: Totem Armor and regeneration are almost entirely different from one another. If this were a matter of regeneration, Merfolk Observer would be removed from combat, but in this case, all that’s happened is the replacement of a “destroy” effect with a different permanent getting destroyed. So, Merfolk Observer is actually still attacking, and, in point of fact, is about to become lizard chow. Rough beats.

Q: So, my opponent once again has a Merfolk Observer with Drake Umbra on it. This time, instead of Vendettaing it, I cast Induce Despair revealing Nema Siltlurker to give it -5/-5. What happens?

A: Our 2HG opponents at the prerelease called a judge to ask the same question! Many people think that a creature with 0 toughness or less is destroyed. This is, in fact, not the case. Instead of being destroyed, a creature with 0 toughness or less is put into its owner’s graveyard as a “state-based action.” State-based actions are, essentially, the game’s way of dumping its garbage. After your opponent’s Observer gets -5/-5, but before either of you get priority after the resolution of Induce Despair, the game says “Hey! That freaky fish guy has a toughness of -1! Let’s dump him in the graveyard.” Thus, your opponent’s freaky fish guy is unceremoniously put directly into his graveyard along with the Drake Umbra. On an unrelated note, the angel on Induce Despair has enormous freaky eyebrows. Take a look!

Q: So, I control Valakut Fireboar, and I attack with it, switching its power and toughness. Following that, I play Virulent Swipe on it to give it +2/+0. My opponent, who is at 9, doesn’t block. I rejoice, since I’m pretty sure he’s dead. He, however, turns his Scourge spindown life counter to 2 and asks if I’ve got anything else to do before his turn. What just happened to me?

A: Layers have just happened to you! The gist of things is as follows: All effects that change power and toughness, regardless of the order in which they are played, are applied in a series of “layers” that govern their order so that the game of Magic can work properly. These layers cause power and toughness-related effects to apply in the following order:
A) Characteristic-defining abilities (like the */*+1 of Tarmogoyf.)
B) Effects that set power and toughness (like Humility! Yay Humility.)
C) Effects that modify but do not set power and toughness (like, um, Virulent Swipe.)
D) Changes from counters (like Frankenstein’s Monster? Oh, and relevant cards too. Maybe Mortician Beetle.)
E) Effects that switch power and toughness (like Valakut Fireboar.)

Of course, sometimes you have multiple effects that apply within the same layer, in which case, they happen in the order in which they actually happened. (This is less confusingly known as “timestamp order.”) This is all part of a greater “layers” system that governs how continuous effects work. All of this information is in the comprehensive rules under Rule 613, Interaction of Continuous Effects. Power and toughness is layer #7, the last layer, which then has the five sublayers I described above. In this case, Virulent Swipe applies in layer 7c, which occurs before the power/toughness switch in layer 7e. So, your Fireboar is a sweet, sweet 7/3, and your opponent is still alive. Believe me.

Q: Let’s say my opponent, on his turn, attacks me with a Valakut Fireboar. I play Fleeting Distraction on it after the power/toughness switch. What happens now?

A: No matter whether you do this before or after the P/T swap, that is one dead Fireboar. Fleeting Distraction, just like Virulent Swipe, applies in layer 7c, before the power/toughness swap in layer 7e. So, in layer 7c, the Fireboar becomes a 0/7, and then in layer 7e, it becomes a 7/0. So you get to kill it AND draw a card. That just seems unfair.

***The author of the following question will receive $5 in store credit with ChannelFireball.com!***

Q: My opponent casts Momentous Fall and sacrifices his Ulamog’s Crusher to pay the additional cost. In response, I activate my level 2 Echo Mage, targeting the Momentous Fall. Do I draw 8 cards and gain 8 life, or 0 and 0?

A: Your copy of Momentous Fall is EDIT: surprisingly momentous! Let’s take a look at the Comprehensive Rules and see why:

706.9. To copy a spell or activated ability means to put a copy of it onto the stack; a copy of a spell isn’t cast and a copy of an activated ability isn’t activated. A copy of a spell or ability copies both the characteristics of the spell or ability and all decisions made for it, including modes, targets, the value of X, and additional or alternative costs. (See rule 601, “Casting Spells.”) Choices that are normally made on resolution are not copied. If an effect of the copy refers to objects used to pay its costs, it uses the objects used to pay the costs of the original spell or ability.

So, as it turns out, you’ll be gaining 8 life and drawing 8 cards! What a sweet Momentous Fall. Only someone on a full regimen of cold medicine could think it worked any other way. (*cough cough*)

All right, that’s it for this week’s edition of Tolarian Academy. As always, send your rules questions to [email protected] or to Psychatrog on Twitter for a chance at $5 in store credit! Join me next time when I drop Ulamog from the top of the tallest building in San Jose to see if it’s really indestructible. Bye!


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