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!

42 thoughts on “Tolarian Academy – A Vendetta Against Gideon”

  1. Oh, never mind I see. It’s just the power and toughness that can’t be copied.

  2. Articles like this one are always really, really helpful and informative for me, as I would have answered every one of those questions incorrectly. Thanks a bunch!

  3. People who use spin down life counters do not have that thorough of an understanding of the rules…..FACT!

    Other than that good article Eric.

  4. i have a question about gideon as well. when he is in creature form, can you still remove loyalty counters and “kill” him from direct damage?

  5. I don’t understand why the -1/-0 kills Boar, but +2/+0 doesn’t make it a 9/1. Is it supposed to be telling us, that it switches it’s P/T AND any effects that would change those numbers also effect the other one?

    And megahunter, you can copy Deprive and get value out of it. If you copy Summons, you’ll get 2 0/0’s, so basically nothing.

  6. Re: the Fireboar/Layers question..

    What if he played the Virulent Swipe AFTER the opponent declared no blocks but before damage? It would be a 9/1 then right?

  7. fascinating Q & A’s. I also would have been wrong about all of these rulings. Such obscure rulings that make a huge difference in the outcome of actions. this has helped me out a great deal as well.

    I would enjoy as many of these as possible. Each new set, I would love to read the best 50-100 rule questions and informative answers like this.

  8. @ jeremy, andrew – When the fireboar switches P/T, all effects that modify P/T also get switched regardless of the timestamp. This is the layering effect that eric is talking about. the p/t modifying effects get applied to the creature before the swap, regardless of timestamp. so -1/-0 kills the boar since it affects the toughness, and likewise the +2/+0 also affects the toughness.

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  10. PelakkaIwantYourBabies

    So there is a merfolk overseer(2/1) enchanted by drake umbra making it a 5/4 flyer. I play shrivel(all creatures get -1/-1 until end of turn) and then I play vendeta. How much life is lost now?

    Valakut fireboar enchanted by eland umbra(enchanted creature gets +0/+4) attacks as a 7/5 and not as 11/1?

  11. @Pelakka: I like your last question a lot. What a weird rule that I never knew existed. But based on the layering list he provided, it sure does appear that you are right (which I NEVER would have guessed).

    That said, don’t play Eland Umbra… i know, i know, this was just for the point of rules clarification lol. Because I also have to say: don’t play Merfolk Overseer either.

    In another example of asking questions about interactions you would never actually want just to learn rules, I asked my judge yesterday if I cast Splinter Twin on my fully levelled Enclave Elitist, could I make a copy of him fully levelled each turn to draw a card with the token. I figured the answer was no but I was curious (even though this would obviously be pointless anyway)

  12. @Pelakka: Why wouldn’t you switch the P/T of your 1/11 Fireboar to become an 11/1?

    P/T switching isn’t this hard guys. Think of Tireless Tribe. You can discard a card to give him +0/+4 until EOT. If you cast Inside Out on him switching P/T, you have a very aggressive Tireless Tribe that can pump his power.

    Here’s an easy way to do it. Follow all the steps in each layer prior to 7E, then do what 7E says: Switch it!

  13. So wait, putting damage on the stack was removed because it was confusing new players, but this monstrosity is still there? Clearly, one of the most counter-intuitive rules in existence.

  14. Awesome article. Question about the zero toughness / sent to the graveyard rule. If the creature is technically not being destroyed, does that mean if I play Urge To Feed on my opponent’s 3/3 Student of Warfare, he can’t sacrifice a Dauntless Escort to save it b/c the Student isn’t being destroyed per se but simply binned?

  15. That is correct Jason. Being indestructible does not protect against being binned due to having 0 toughness.

  16. If you Urge to Feed your opponent’s 3/3 Student of Warfare, it will be binned upon resolution of the spell. This doesn’t stop your opponent from sacrificing his Dauntless Escort though, if he isn’t well-informed about this rule. So, hopefully he 2-for-1’s himself and you get more value out of your Urge.

  17. “So I guess echo mage can't copy Devastating Summons or Deprive either?”

    Negative, works fine on Deprive. It’s fine with spells that required an additional cost to play, it just can’t get information from the additional cost, like the number of lands sacrificed to Summons, or the power of the creature that took a Fall.

  18. Whoah. re: Fireboar/Swipe –
    so it’s not a case of letting a trigger resolve (switching P/T)?
    So for giggles, if I send my fireboar into the red zone and the opponent casts a 2 damage instant, any sort of +2 power boosting effects (like swipe) would save the fireboar?

  19. sigh at all of you idiots. I didn’t know these rules either, but what I have done is read eric’s explanations and learnt them. It’s not that hard.

    I will try to explain in simpler terms. When you attack with fireboar, don’t imagine the numbers of power and toughness switching, but actually the power and toughness switching. So for the rest of the turn, the number on the left of the slash is its toughness, and the number on the right is its power. Anything that changes power or toughness, still does that, but the position of the power and toughness have moved.

    Eland Umbra still modifies the toughness of the Fireboar, but it just so happens that the Fireboar’s toughness is now in front of the slash, and he will be attacking for 11, regardless of when you have played your Eland Umbra.

    As for 0 toughness, I like to resolve many rules by imagining how events would actually occur if they were real. So you can imagine being destroyed as something attacking you or damaging you and you dying from the outcome of that. eg. A bolt of lightning hits you and you are fried to a crisp, you will die unless there is a magical aura around you to block the bolt of lightning. However, if you have zero toughness, it is like having no internal organs to keep your body alive, yet somehow you still have the power to attack, lol, yet no healing salves will cure you of that.

  20. @rayked:

    No, your understanding is wrong.

    The P/T arent switched like you describe for the rest of that turn.

    The state of the creautre is assesed on trigger resolution, what the guy did wrong was to cast virulent swipe as an instant on top of the stack when the P/T switch was below it. This yields a result that the thing is a 3/7 swipe resolves, then P/T switch to 7/3 as the switch activated ability is resolving.

    If he had at the dec blockers stage and then passed priority and allowed the switch to resolve THEN cast Virulent Swipe’d, it would be a 9/1 like he wanted.


  21. Corrections:
    First “Trigger Resolution” should be “Activated Ability Resolution” and after, “had” in the last paragraph it should have “used the activated ability” after it .

  22. @Jeremy Fuentes — I’m with you…cant you just let the power-toughness switch-trigger resolve after declaring him as an attacker…then after declare blockers cast the Swipe on him to make a 9/1?

    And @rayked — nice use of “idiots” and “learnt” in the same post.

  23. It doesn’t actually matter when you cast the virulent swipe, it will affect the value which was the creature *original* power. The modifying effect will “follow” the value is was supposed to change. this is true for the toughness as well (the boar attacks as a 11/1 with eland umbra).

  24. @MessyCorpse @absolutflipz

    Read the article and the layers section of the comp rules. P/T switch is always applied after P/T +/-, so it doesn’t matter when he casts the swipe. It will always become a 7/3.

  25. I Vendetta’d a Grotag Seige-Runner wearing a Boar Umbra at 4 life yesterday and my opponent was pretty mad when I didn’t lose the game. Curse you eric for letting the vendetta/totem secret out 😉

  26. Wait if I vendetta a glory seeker with Crusade on the battlefield do I lose 2 life or 3?

  27. Read the second to last question before posting, please. The comments are just confusing people more.
    Based on the second-to-last question, it doesn’t matter when you boost or decrease it’s power, due to the layer.

    ” No matter whether you do this before or after the P/T swap, that is one dead Fireboar.”

    Anything that modifies the power of the Boar will end up modifying its toughness because of the switch, regardless of when you play the card.

    2 scenarios:

    A.)1/7 Boar attacks, and with the P/T swap on the stack, you use Virulent Swipe. It then becomes 3/7, and then the P/T is swapped, making it a 7/3.

    B.) Boar attacks, and the P/T swap resolves, making it a 7/1. You then cast Virulent Swipe, giving it +2/0. Because swipe works in Layer 7.c, it modifies the creatures original power (which is one). Because 7.c is before 7.e, the Swipe’s bonus affects the creature’s original power (one), pumping it to three(3). In 7.e, his power, now three (3) becomes his toughness, and the end result is a 7/3 Boar.

    Please someone who actually understands the layers correct me if I’m wrong. I’m trying to make this clearer for readers, and more comments from people who’ve only skimmed the article (and are confused themselves) are going to serve to only further confuse people.

  28. I hate when people who don’t know the rules are explaining how something is supposed to work, when it actually works somehow differently. MessyCorpse, next time you try to rules-lawyer, please make 100 % sure you are correct.

    It was explained in the article above that it doesn’t matter whether you let the trigger resolve or not before you play Virulent Swipe. The end result will be 7/3 anyway.

  29. Copying a Devastating Summons will give you whatever the original does. For example, if you sacrifice 4 lands, both the original spell and the copy will give you two 4/4s. It is different from Momentous Fall, because with Devastating Summons the value of X is chosen when the spell is cast. Rule 706.2 states that copy effect do copy choices made when casting the spell, including the value of X in this case:

    “706.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object's characteristics and, for an object on the stack, choices made when casting or activating it (mode, targets, the value of X…”

  30. That’s limited for you; where the crappiest cards make that most complex rules interactions.

  31. Merfolk Observer: “I am NOT a freaky fish guy! Only the ocean understands me…”

  32. It seems to me that Momentous fall would copy the additional casting cost of the ulamog’s crusher being sacrificed if you read the second example of rule 706.9. “Example: Fling is an instant that reads, "As an additional cost to cast Fling, sacrifice a creature" and "Fling deals damage equal to the sacrificed creature's power to target creature or player." When determining how much damage a copy of Fling deals, it checks the power of the creature sacrificed to pay for the original Fling.” This seems to suggest that you do indeed draw 8 and gain 8 life.

  33. @PelakkaIwantYourBabies
    It doesn’t seem like anyone answered your first question.
    So you have a 5/4 flier that you’re molesting with Shrivel and Vendetta.. let’s go step by step.

    First you cast Shrivel. The Merfolk is now 4/3.
    Next you cast Vendetta. The first instruction is to destroy the creature.. this gets replaced with destroying the Totem Armor, so you move the totem armor to the graveyard. The Merfolk is now 1/0.
    The second instruction is to lose life equal to it’s toughness. You lose 0 life.
    Now, state-based actions get processed. Since the Merfolk has 0 toughness, it is put in the graveyard.

    You might have thought that the Merfolk would move to the graveyard immediately, but state based actions don’t get processed in the middle of the resolution of a spell. It sticks around long enough for Vendetta to see that it’s at 0 toughness.

    If the target of Vendetta isn’t on the board anymore, the game will use last known information. So following the list of actions on the card, first you destroy the target (move it to the graveyard) then you’ll lose X life.. the game tries to figure out what that X is, but can’t find the Glory Seeker, so it’ll remember it was 3/3 just a second ago, and you’ll lose 3 life.

  34. @Toby

    Yeah, you seem correct..

    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.***

  35. Ups! Got it now, Layers override casting order due to the switching happening at a lower layer than a p/t changing spell.

  36. From the Wizards GP Lyon coverage:

    When you copy one of these spells, the additional cost paid for the original is copied as well. So if, let's say, your opponent casts Disaster Radius, revealing Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to deal 15 damage to all of your creatures, and if you happen to control Echo Mage with two level-up counters, untapped, together with two untapped Islands, you can actually return the favor. Mass carnage.

    Yeah, I know it’s already been said, but confirmation from the mothership is always comforting.

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