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!

27 thoughts on “Tolarian Academy – Brainstorms Hurt Sometimes”

  1. I actually had someone Nemesis trap my Celestial Colonade and block my Archon at the WW pre-release. I thought it was an amazing play, guess not. It’s alright though, i won the match

  2. Why would the stirring wildwood be tapped?

    The “copiable values” are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name, mana cost, card type, subtype, supertype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by “as … enters the battlefield” and “as … is turned face up” abilities that set characteristics, and by abilities that caused the object to be face down. Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied. [CompRules 2009/10/01]

    The tapped property isn’t in that list, and the card seems pretty terrible if you only get tapped copies of creatures they attack with.

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  4. RE: necrogenesis

    if there is only 1 creature in all yards but you have 6 mana up you could make 3 tokens by targeting it, before that resolves target again, before that resolves target again. Then they all resolve but because it is in seperate sentence is it still checking for valid target?

    seems like this should work……

  5. @asap: Once you resolve one of those Necrogenesis abilities, the rest are countered on resolution due to having no legal targets. “Separate sentences” don’t actually matter here.

  6. Also @KevinH: 706.5. An object that enters the battlefield “as a copy” or “that’s a copy” of another object becomes a copy as it enters the battlefield. It doesn’t enter the battlefield, and then become a copy of that permanent. If the text that’s being copied includes any abilities that replace the enters-the-battlefield event (such as “enters the battlefield with” or “as [this] enters the battlefield” abilities), those abilities will take effect. Also, any enters-the-battlefield triggered abilities of the copy will have a chance to trigger.
    Example: Skyshroud Behemoth reads, “Fading 2 (This creature enters the battlefield with two fade counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a fade counter from it. If you can’t, sacrifice it.)” and “Skyshroud Behemoth enters the battlefield tapped.” A Clone that enters the battlefield as a copy of a Skyshroud Behemoth will also enter the battlefield tapped with two fade counters on it.

  7. Again @Kevin: It’s not because it *was* tapped, it’s because it enters the battlefield tapped. I misunderstood your question.

  8. RE: Necrogenesis

    Just to clarify. The reason the additional necrogenesis tokens don’t get made is because necrogenesis is like a spell with 1 target, and 1 no target, like a cryptic command with “return target permanant” + “tap all creatures your opponent controls” if you kill that permanant in response, then since the spell has no legal targets, the whole thing is countered?

    Or is it some other rule that is making this ability countered?

  9. @Eric: Ah yes. I completely forgot about the land cip tapped.

    @asap: you can put them on the stack, but only the first will resolve. The others will be countered because none of the targets are legal at resolution. If the burning tree shaman were in play, you’d take the 3 damage though.

  10. Sid the Chicken


    A spell or ability is countered on resolution if ALL its targets are illegal. Cryptic with 2 targets won’t be countered if one target is illegal, however, if you chose ‘return target permanent’ and ‘draw a card’ it would be countered if the permanent to be returned became an illegal target. From the comp. rules;

    608.2b If the spell or ability specifies targets, it checks whether the targets are still legal. A target that's no longer in the zone it was in when it was targeted is illegal. Other changes to the game state may cause a target to no longer be legal; for example, its characteristics may have changed or an effect may have changed the text of the spell. If the source of an ability has left the zone it was in, its last known information is used during this process. The spell or ability is countered if all its targets, for every instance of the word "target," are now illegal. If the spell or ability is not countered, it will resolve normally. However, if any of its targets are illegal, the part of the spell or ability's effect for which it is an illegal target can't perform any actions on that target or make that target perform any actions. The effect may still determine information about illegal targets, though, and other parts of the effect for which those targets are not illegal may still affect them.
    Example: Aura Blast is a white instant that reads, "Destroy target enchantment. Draw a card." If the enchantment isn't a legal target during Aura Blast's resolution (say, if it has gained protection from white or left the battlefield), then Aura Blast is countered. Its controller doesn't draw a card.
    Example: Plague Spores reads, "Destroy target nonblack creature and target land. They can't be regenerated." Suppose the same animated land is chosen both as the nonblack creature and as the land, and the color of the creature land is changed to black before Plague Spores resolves. Plagues Spores isn't countered because the black creature land is still a legal target for the "target land" part of the spell. The "destroy target nonblack creature" part of the spell won't affect that permanent, but the "destroy target land" part of the spell will still destroy it. It can't be regenerated.

  11. Wow, so two sigil captains never do anything…

    So if I brainstorm with oracle in play, my opponent sees the cards I draw and the 4th card in my library. Does he also see both cards I put back or just the top one? (is putting two cards on top of your library actually put a card on top of your library, then put another card on top of your library as far as rules are concerned?)

  12. “Wow, so two sigil captains never do anything"¦”

    Not necessarily. You can play a 1/1, put both triggers on the stack. Let one resolve, then move the counters off the 1/1 somehow (say [card]Spike Rogue[/card]), then let the other resolve.

  13. I had a problem with part of this article… on mtgo, when you draw say 4 cards or whatever, it just draws them all at once and whatever is revealed on top of your library instantly changes to the next card after those 4… the cards you draw are never revealed to your opponent. Does this mean mtgo is wrong or this article?

  14. Sid the Chicken

    From the Comp. Rules;

    119.2. Cards may only be drawn one at a time. If a player is instructed to draw multiple cards, that player performs that many individual card draws.

    Since playing with your top card revealed isn’t something that uses the stack, you reveal immediately after each draw. However, a spell like Telling Time would not require you to reveal until you’ve finished resolving the ability, since it says “look at the top 3, put 1 in hand, 1 on top, 1 on bottom”. You would resolve it then reveal the card you put on top.

  15. @ Vick – He will only see the card on top.

    CR 401.4. If an effect puts two or more cards on the top or bottom of a library at the same time, the owner of those cards may arrange them in any order. That library's owner doesn't reveal the order in which the cards go into his or her library.

  16. @mtgleader:
    No one will be able to win, one says you can not win, and the other says your opponent can not win, so until one dies there is no winner

  17. @mtg leader: Since neither player can win and neither player can lose, *nobody* will win (or lose) until at least one of those guys gets removed from the battlefield.

  18. @numdiar It’s generally a bad idea to use MTGO as a basis for how things actually work. Usually, just assume it’s in the wrong.

    Or always assume it’s wrong, if there’s a contradiction. That usually works.

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