Tolarian Academy – Brainstorms Hurt Sometimes


Hey folks, and welcome back to Tolarian Academy, the rules column that keeps on giving. Giving me nightmares, that is. I spent a few months without putting pen to paper, which made sense for me given that I had to spend time doing other things, but I tossed and turned at night, haunted by the horrible visage of Microsoft Office and the terrible blinking cursor.

Okay, that’s a lie, but I’ve really wanted to finally come back to writing, and now I actually have the time to do it. I never intended to quit, disappearing John Rizzo-style into the mists, never being heard from again; I only wanted to take a break while taking care of real life. Now real life has settled down again, so here I am on the Internet, answering your rules questions.

It’s been a while, so you may not remember, but the person who submits the best question each week to my rules column will receive $5 in store credit with ChannelFireball.com. I try to answer every rules question, regardless of whether or not it makes it into the column, so please send your questions to [email protected] or tweet your question to me; my Twitter account name is Psychatrog. I’ve got a lot of questions piled up from events, my email, and stuff I’ve thought of randomly at home, so let’s get to those!

Questions of The Week

Q: My opponent activates Stirring Wildwood and attacks with it. Being the wily player I am, I tap two Swamps and shout “IT’S A TRAP!” Nemesis Trap, that is, targeting the attacking Stirring Wildwood. Then, however, I wonder what I get when Nemesis Trap resolves… What do I get?

A: You get an unanimated, tapped Stirring Wildwood. Since copy effects copy the printed values of the copied object, you don’t get a sweet 3/4 to block something else with. If you have the mana up, you can animate it, but it’s tapped anyway.
You might also wish to know that the rules text of Nemesis Trap has been adjusted a little bit. Take a look at the new Oracle wording:

“Exile target attacking creature. Put a token that’s a copy of that creature onto the battlefield. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step.”

That makes the card a little clearer, even if it doesn’t really help too much with this ruling. The wording now mirrors cards like Clone to indicate that it works in the same way as those kinds of cards.

Q: My opponent has a Jace, the Mind Sculptor in play with three loyalty counters on it. He casts Wall of Denial, tapping two Islands and a Plains during the announcement of the spell to pay for it. I understand that the three Manabarbs triggers go on the stack above his Wall of Denial, but here’s what I don’t know: can I redirect the Manabarbs damage to his Jace, the Mind Sculptor?

A: Yes. Since it’s noncombat damage being dealt to an opponent, you are allowed to redirect it. In this case, you will be able to kill Mr. the Mind Sculptor with Manabarbs. Seems unfair, though; it’s not like he was the one spending the mana.

Q: I have Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in play. I use Jace’s 0 loyalty “Brainstorm“ ability. While I’m resolving said ability, can I look at the top card of my library? It seems like it should work, because those cards are in my hand now, and the top card of my library is different.

A: You’re right; you can! This may seem surprising to most of you, and indeed, it seemed surprising to me. Then, however, I took a gander at the Zendikar FAQ, which reminded me of the following:

“Essentially, Sphinx of Jwar Isle lets you play with the top card of your library revealed only to you. Knowing what that card is becomes part of the information you have access to, just like you can look at the cards in your hand. You may look at the top card of your library whenever you want, even if you don’t have priority. This action doesn’t use the stack.” As I’ve said a few times in the last few weeks, Sphinx of Jwar Isle is much better implemented on MTGO than in paper, and if you’ve ever played with it on MTGO, you’ll understand the FAQ entry pretty well.

Q: Okay, so how about Sphinx of Jwar Isle during the resolution of a Halimar Depths trigger? Same thing, right?

A: Not the same thing, actually. With Jace’s 0 Loyalty ability, you actually draw cards. With the Halimar Depths trigger, however, you don’t draw cards; you just look at the top three cards of your library. Even though you have those cards in your hands when you’re looking at them, they’re still “in your library” as far as the game is concerned, and so Sphinx of Jwar Isle is just showing you one of the same cards Halimar Depths is showing you. Not a particularly useful interaction, sadly.

Q: Does Oracle of Mul Daya work the same way as Sphinx of Jwar Isle does with those two cards, or is it somehow different because the cards is also revealed to my opponent?

A: Revealing the cards to everyone as opposed to just you doesn’t change a thing about what I’ve said above. The only difference is that, with Oracle, you’ll have to reveal each card you draw off the Jace Brainstorm to your opponent, since “draw three cards” really means “draw a card, then draw a card, then draw a card,” as far as the rules are concerned.

Q: With Necrogenesis, if there are no creatures in any graveyards, can I simply pay 2 to make a Saproling? I’m pretty sure I can, because removing the creature isn’t part of the cost and because the word “target” occurs in a different sentence from the one in which the Saproling token is made.

A: An interesting analysis of Necrogenesis, for sure, but you’ve missed one very important thing: there are rules that govern the announcement of spells and abilities, including the following rule:

601.2c. The player announces his or her choice of an appropriate player, object, or zone for each target the [ability] requires[.]

What this means for you and your Necrogenesis is that, in order to activate the Saproling generation abilty, you actually need to have a legal target. You can’t simply make Saprolings all willy-nilly. Too bad, though; that would be great!

Q: My opponent is at 1, and he has an Agadeem Occultist on the battlefield. He controls no other Allies. I control Burning-Tree Shaman, which is perma-tapped due to a Paralyzing Grasp, and a Mindslaver. The only creature in my graveyard is a Krosan Tusker. I have no cards remaining in my library, and I will die during my draw step. Can I win here?

A: That sounds like a strategy question to me!

Q: Okay, whatever. What I want to know is, if I Mindslaver my opponent, can I, on his turn, activate his Agadeem Occultist to kill him even though Krosan Tusker’s converted mana cost is greater than the number of Allies he controls?

A: That’s a sweet play, and yes, it does work! Check out the rules text on Agadeem Occultist:

T: Put target creature card from an opponent’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control if its converted mana cost is less than or equal to the number of Allies you control.

The restriction isn’t a targeting restriction or an “intervening if” of any kind. Agadeem Occultist’s ability checks on resolution to see whether or not its controller has the appropriate amount of Allies, which means that, in this case, you will be able to force your opponent to activate the Occultist’s ability targeting the Tusker. Since you have Burning-Tree Shaman on the battlefield, your opponent will take one sweet point of damage, killing them! Ha ha ha!

The person who submitted the following question is receiving $5 in store credit with ChannelFireball.com!

Q: Suppose I have a Sigil Captain on the battlefield. If I play Wild Nacatl and I control a Mountain, will Wild Nacatl get +1/+1 counters? How about Oran-Rief Survivalist?

A: Great question that’s been sitting in my email since mid-January, reader! Let’s take a look at the Oracle text of Sigil Captain and figure this out.

“Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if that creature is 1/1, put two +1/+1 counters on it.”

That little bit in the middle that says “if that creature is 1/1″ is known among rules nuts as an “intervening if clause.” What this means for you is that Sigil Captain’s ability will check twice for the creature being a 1/1. If the creature that enters the battlefield isn’t a 1/1 when it enters, Sigil Captain won’t even trigger. Assuming that condition is met, however, it will trigger, but it will check whether or not the creature is 1/1 again when it resolves. If it’s not, it won’t be bestowing two +1/+1 counters on it. Let us then take a look at the two creatures you’ve asked about and see what would happen with Sigil Captain. Wild Nacatl, in your example, enters the battlefield as a 2/2, since you control a Mountain. Therefore, Sigil Captain doesn’t even notice what my roommate calls “the best one-drop ever” entering the battlefield, and it certainly won’t give it counters.

Oran-Rief Survivalist, however, is a different story altogether. It’s printed as a 1/1, and the ability that gives it a +1/+1 triggers upon it entering the battlefield. So, since you have two triggers upon the Survivalist entering the battlefield, you get to stack them however you want since you control both of them. If you stack them in such a way that Sigil Captain’s ability resolves first (i.e. by putting that on the stack above the Survivalist trigger,) your Survivalist will get two +1/+1 counters from Sigil Captain, since it’s still a 1/1, followed by another +1/+1 counter from its own ability. If you stack them the opposite way, however, the Survivalist will be a 2/2 by the time the Sigil Captain ability resolves, and it won’t get the counters. For my money, I’d rather play a [card]Juniper Order Ranger[/card] (and I do, in my [card]Rhys the Redeemed[/card] EDH,) but it’s your call!

Ahh, it feels good to be back. I missed answering all of these great questions. I missed it so much that I’ve already built up a store of questions; I’ve got twenty-four more sitting in the queue just waiting to be answered! I’ll mix those in with your questions and we’ll have a great time next week examining rules quandaries even further. Join me next week when I tell you the story of the time I got given two trumpets despite my inability to play the trumpet. Until then, please send all of your rules questions to [email protected] or to Psychatrog on Twitter! Thanks!


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