Tolarian Academy – Robots Can Be Zombies

Tolarian Academy – Robots Can't Be Zombies

by Eric Levine

Hey, folks! Welcome back to "Tolarian Academy," where the food is always cold and the drinks are always lukewarm, and my phone is constantly bugging me about the rules questions you've sent to [email protected] Seriously, though, sometimes you have to wait a few rounds to eat when you're a judge, and your sandwich cools off while the ice melts in your drink. Now that you've waited two weeks for the answer to the last "Punts to Puzzles," I assume you know how I feel during my lunch breaks at PTQs. Let's refresh our memories on the question, shall we?

Punts to Puzzles #2
It's your first main phase, and you're at one life. Your opponent has [card]Dread[/card] in play along with a [card]Hissing Iguanar[/card] and a [card]Honden of Infinite Rage[/card]. Unfortunately for you, he has [card]Privileged Position[/card] in play, so targeting his stuff won't be an option. He has no cards in hand, and he's at 4 with 36 cards in his library. He's cackling maniacally because he knows he'll be killing you with Honden of Infinite Rage during his upkeep.

Luckily, you have a few tools at your disposal. You've got a [card]Jhessian Infiltrator[/card] in play, which, sadly, has [card]Bloodshed Fever[/card] attached to it, meaning you'll have to attack in with it. You have the following cards in hand:

[cardlist]Cho-Manno, Revolutionary
Hissing Iguanar
Great Wall
Altar of Dementia[/cardlist]

You have twelve of each basic land in play, so you can pretty much play whatever. How do you win this game?

As many of you astutely observed, there are multiple solutions to this puzzle, and one of them is fairly trivial. In fact, in addition to your many e-mails on the subject, I was accosted by fellow writer Josh Utter-Leyton, who said to me, "You didn't mean for that to happen, right?" As soon as I saw the article in print, I realized I meant for Dread to be [card]No Mercy[/card]. The solution most of you found was to attack in with the Infiltrator and, before blocks, [card]Cytoshape[/card] it into Dread, which deals your opponent a lethal six damage.

The solution I intended was rather different. What I envisioned was that you would play [card]Mutavault[/card], attack with the Infiltrator and with the damage on the stack activate the Mutavault and Cytoshape the Infiltrator into Mutavault, rendering it a land and keeping it from triggering Dread (or in my mind, No Mercy). This would put your opponent at 2. You would then play [card]Altar of Dementia[/card] and Hissing Iguanar and pass the turn. With your opponent's Honden trigger on the stack, you would activate Mutavault and, by sacrificing it as well as your Infiltrator to your Altar of Dementia, kill your opponent, since your Iguanar triggers would go on the stack on top of theirs.

However, some of you found a third solution- a solution which I did not envision, and a solution for which I applaud you. Nice work. The best example of said solution was submitted by David Stroud, who will be the recipient of this week's $5 store credit prize. Nice work, David! (David also submitted the trivial answer and wrote an admirably clear explanation of it, but this is much cooler.)

Here’s a way to do it more stupidly:

[card]Cytoshape[/card], targeting [card]Jhessian Infiltrator[/card]. At resolution, choose [card]Dread[/card]. Jhessian Infiltrator now looks like Dread. Play [card]Wildfire[/card]. At resolution, the [card]Hissing Iguanar[/card] dies, and does nothing interesting since nothing else bit the dust. Play your Hissing Iguanar, Cho-Manno, and [card]Mutavault[/card]. The order does not matter. Play [card]Altar of Dementia[/card]. Then attack (as required) with your Dread. Your opponent is forced to block, since taking six would kill him. The Dreads both die from combat damage. Your opponent’s Dread trigger resolves first, shuffling it into his deck. Then, the twin Iguanar triggers take your opponent to two life. You then play Altar of Dementia, activate Mutavault, and sack Cho-Manno and Mutavault to the Altar without passing priority. The stack will then be Altar Activation (X=2), Iguanar Trigger, Altar Activation(X=2), Iguanar Trigger (top of stack). Resolve it in order; your opponent dies from SBE [state-based effect – Eric] of life=0 at the second Iguanar trigger.

I was impressed at the creativity of all the submissions. There are a few other variants of David's alternate solution, but they all share the same basic elements, so I don't feel the need to list them all here. I hope you folks will be just as clever this week!

Q: I control two creatures, and my opponent controls three. During my beginning of combat step, my opponent casts [card]Choking Tethers[/card] and targets both of my creatures. I cast [card]Commandeer[/card] targeting Choking Tethers. Since Choking Tethers can tap up to four creatures, can I tap all three of my opponent's creatures, or only two of them?
A: Unfortunately for you, this is only a moderately-sized blowout. While you do get to change the targets, the number of targets was set during the announcement of the spell, and nowhere in the text of Commandeer does it say you're allowed to change the number of targets the spell has.

Q: My opponent puts [card]Sangrite Backlash[/card] on my [card]Tower Gargoyle[/card]. Since that means he'll kill my Gargoyle with the [card]Jund Sojourners[/card] he has in his deck if he draws it, I [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] the Sangrite Backlash. A few turns later, he [card]Naturalize[/card]s the Oblivion Ring. At this point, the Gargoyle is dead, and the only creature in play is my [card]Deft Duelist[/card]. Can my opponent put the Sangrite Backlash on my Deft Duelist?
A: Interestingly enough, he can. If he were just playing the Sangrite Backlash, obviously it couldn't target the Deft Duelist, but when Auras come into play without actually being played, it gets weird. According to rule 212.4j, "If an Aura is coming into play under a player’s control by any means other than by being played, and the effect putting it into play doesn’t specify the object or player the Aura will enchant, that player chooses what it will enchant as the Aura comes into play. The player must choose a legal object or player according to the Aura’s enchant ability and any other applicable effects. If no legal choice can be made, see rule 212.4k." Take particular note of the word choice here – the player must choose a legal object or player. At no point must the player actually target a creature, so it turns out shroud doesn't apply here. That Sangrite Backlash can, and indeed must, go right on your Deft Duelist. Weird, right?

Q: I have [card]Maelstrom Nexus[/card] in play, and I play [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card]. It is my first spell of the turn. How many times do I get to cascade?
A: Twice, actually! Much like lifelink, cascade is even cooler if you invite more instances of it to the party. Cascade is a triggered ability, so if a spell has two instances of cascade, they both trigger when that spell is played. Exciting rules note: You get to put those two instances of cascade on the stack in whichever order you like, so feel free to go into the tank about said ordering during testing to annoy your friends. It works for me!

Q: I have an [card]Alert Shu Infantry[/card] equipped with [card]Unscythe, Killer of Kings[/card]. I swing, and my opponent blocks with a Myr token from [card]Myr Matrix[/card], which summarily dies. Do I get a Zombie token?
A: As amusing as it would be to see a Zombie-bot or whatever it is you'd be creating, no, you don't. See, Unscythe specifically says that when you kill a creature, "you may remove that card from the game." Only if you do that will you get a Zombie. Since the Myr token isn't a card, it ceases to exist as a state-based effect when it hits your graveyard, so it won't be there to be removed from the game by Unscythe. Even if it did stick around long enough, it's a token, and tokens aren't cards, so this Myr is doubly ineligible for Zombie duty. Plus, we all know robots can't be zombies anyway.

Q: I have a [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], an [card]Akrasan Squire[/card], and a [card]Rhox War Monk[/card] equipped with [card]Mage Slayer[/card]. When I attack with just Rhox War Monk, do I gain life from the Mage Slayer damage? If so, how much?
A: Well, since Mage Slayer says that the equipped creature is dealing the damage, you will indeed gain life, since lifelink isn't limited to combat damage. As for how much, well, that's more of a strategy question, but I can tell you that the two instances of exalted you have on board trigger simultaneously with Mage Slayer, which means you can stack those triggers in any order you choose. (Hint: Stack Mage Slayer on the bottom under the two exalted triggers, let Mage Slayer resolve when Rhox War Monk is a 5/6, and gain 5 life.)

Q: Okay, let's say all that happens, but with the [card]Mage Slayer[/card] trigger on the stack, my opponent casts [card]Resounding Silence[/card] targeting my [card]Rhox War Monk[/card]. Does he still take damage from the Mage Slayer trigger?
A: Once again, this hinges on the wording of Mage Slayer, which says the equipped creature is dealing damage. If there is no equipped creature, then there's nothing there to deal damage, so the Mage Slayer trigger will do nothing upon resolution.

Q: My opponent has an 18/18 [card]Lord of Extinction[/card] in play along with [card Mayaels Aria]Mayael's Aria[/card]. With its upkeep trigger on the stack, he cycles a [card]Yoked Plowbeast[/card]. He argues that, since his Lord will be 20/20 after the first part of the Aria trigger, he'll win. Is he right?
A: Luckily for him, he is indeed right. Mayael's Aria's ability triggers and resolves regardless of how big its controller's creatures are. It doesn't check for a creature with 20 power until it actually gets to that last sentence, meaning it first puts the +1/+1 counter on the Lord of Extinction. It also gains your opponent an irrelevant 10 life. By the time the Aria asks about a creature with 20 power, your opponent has it, since the +1/+1 counter pushed it from 19/19 to 20/20. He should be proud.

Q: How does [card]Thraximundar[/card]'s first triggered ability work in Two-Headed Giant? Who chooses who the "defending player" is?
A: You're just asking a question about my favorite card so I'll print it, aren't you? Well, the good news for you is, it worked. Rule 606.7a states that "Any one-shot effect or characteristic-defining ability that refers to the “defending player” refers to one specific defending player, not to both of the defending players. The controller of the effect or of the object with the characteristic-defining ability chooses which one the spell or ability refers to." So, whichever player controls the attacking Thraximundar gets to choose who sacrifices a creature. Protip: if you shout "Thraximundar!" loudly enough, both players on the defending team will be so scared that they'll sacrifice all of their creatures. (Disclaimer: This will probably not work.)

Q: In a game of Two-Headed Giant, I have a [card]Behemoth Sledge[/card], and my teammate has our only creature. Can I equip my Sledge to his guy, or no?
A: Unfortunately for you and your crazy uncommon bomb equipment, no. Despite your obvious allegiance to your teammate, since you are two halves of the same giant, you may only target creatures you control with Behemoth Sledge's equip ability. Note that other cards do allow you to attach equipment to other players' creatures by other means, and this only refers to the keyworded "equip" ability.

Q: In yet another game of Two-Headed Giant, I cast [card]Architects of Will[/card] and target my teammate with its ability. Can I show him the cards on top of his library?
A: As much as this would probably make things faster, no, your teammate has no right to see those cards. There is no effect allowing him to see the top three cards of his library, so showing them to him would not be within the rules. However, you can discuss the cards and the order he wants them to be put in, but only briefly. Odd, I know, but them's the breaks when you decide to play 2HG.

Q: I play [card]Puppeteer Clique[/card], and with its comes-into-play ability, I target my opponent's dead [card]Mistbind Clique[/card]. When the Mistbind comes into play, I champion my Puppeteer. My end of turn rolls around, and I remove the Mistbind Clique from the game, which returns my Puppeteer Clique to play. This time, I target my opponent's [card]Scion of Oona[/card], because that seems fairly clever. What happens to that Scion? When does it get RFG'ed?
A: Well, since you've already passed the beginning of your end of turn step, when delayed triggers like the Puppeteer ability go off, the Scion can't get removed from the game until the next time that ability is able to trigger. That can't happen until your next end of turn step, so the Scion will stick around until then. Nice play!

Those were some high-quality rules questions. Many of them came from the Prerelease and Release Events I judged, but a few came from the mailbag, which was very nice. I'd like to see more questions in the mailbag along with your "Punts to Puzzles" answers, so save me some time and include rules questions with those answers! I'm sure you're all waiting patiently for this week's question, so here's "Punts to Puzzles" #3, complete with 100% less Hissing Iguanar than last time. Email your answers to [email protected] for a chance to win $5 in store credit!

Punts to Puzzles #3
You've been playing against your friend's [card]Mortal Combat[/card] deck for a week, and no matter what you do, you can't seem to beat it. You're near the end of a game with said friend, and he is cackling because she has the win on the table; Mortal Combat is in play, and 20 creature cards are in her graveyard. She's down to just one card in her library: the [card]Darksteel Colossus[/card] you know she packs to keep you from decking her. Your life totals are both incredibly high. Earlier in the game, you had some cards shuffled into your library by a [card]Mnemonic Nexus[/card], but your [card]Battle of Wits[/card] deck's library is so huge that they're nigh-on impossible to find, and your opponent already cast [card]Cranial Extraction[/card] naming Battle of Wits to keep you from winning via your chosen game plan. At this point, most of your library is composed of cards that do so little in this situation that they might as well be blanks. For the purposes of this puzzle, therefore, your library has infinite blanks in it. Here's what you and your opponent have to work with:

You: Effectively infinite after an Invincible Hymn
Opponent: 8,000

Break Asunder
Spellweaver Helix[/cardlist]
[card Oonas Grace]Oona's Grace[/card]

[card]Tombstone Stairwell[/card] (1 age counter)
[cardlist]Vedalken Orrery
Heat Stroke
Call of the Wild
6 Tombspawn tokens
Infinite basic land

[cardlist]Forest Bear
Glory Seeker
Long-Term Plans
Bear Cub
Resounding Wave
Balduvian Bears
Cylian Elf
Break Asunder
Grizzly Bears[/cardlist]

Infinite Blanks (such that whenever you draw a card you did not put somewhere specific, you draw a blank)
The only copies you own of:
[card Zurs Weirding]Zur's Weirding[/card]
Max. legal number of copies of other cards listed


[card]Darksteel Colossus[/card] (you know about it, and that's all she has)

[cardlist]Mortal Combat
Privileged Position
Privileged Position[/cardlist]
[card Lands Edge]Land's Edge[/card]
20 Tombspawn tokens

4x [card]Eager Cadet[/card]
4x [card]Squire[/card]
4x [card]Brushwagg[/card]
4x [card]War Elephant[/card]
4x [card]Viashino Skeleton[/card]

It is your first main phase. How do you win?

That's all for this week. Join me next time, when instead of answering any of your rules questions, I post a link to a Youtube video of me singing "I'm On A Boat!" See you then!

Click here to discuss this article!

14 thoughts on “Tolarian Academy – Robots Can Be Zombies”

  1. Oh boy, we have an Oona AND an S Grace in hand!

    (Same problem happened with Land’s Edge.)

  2. Really Eric?

    Again with all that sauce on the table, and in my hand. How do I not lose?

  3. Update: Squallmonger should be Scandalmonger, and Rout and Long-Term Plans should not be in your hand. I’ve asked Riki to fix this, but consider this a temporary edit. I’m going to start having my roommate look at these on Mondays so I don’t screw up again.

  4. your main

    play helix imprint break and regrow
    play break on helix, regrow ur longtermplans
    play longtermplans get bribery
    use call of the wild to mill urself twice
    donate tombstone
    play compost

    opp upkeep
    before they win, they cant pay for tombstone stairwell, so you draw bribery from compost
    use bribery then grace them

  5. The intention is for people to figure it out on their own, please don’t post the answer here.

  6. Mike Destroyer

    since you have vedalken orrey (hah!) in play, you can do it all during your upkeep and don’t have to do the compost/donate thing, you just draw bribery during your draw step after you mill yourself twice, then main phase the oona’s grace. right?

  7. Mike, the problem says its your first main phase.

    Orie, they can just stack their upkeep triggers so mortal combat resolves before upkeep on TS.

  8. oona’s grace them.
    play helix imprint relearn and break.
    break helix, relearn plans
    plans for a land (it says max legal copies of other cards listed, which includes land)
    end step tombstone tokens are buried and you draw from fecundity and grace them with retrace

  9. Pay the Upkeep on Tombstone Stairwell
    Play Compost
    Donate your Compost
    Break Asunder your Tombstone Stairwell
    Your Opponent draws their last card
    Play Oona’s Grace, causing them to deck out.

    Or since you have Vedalken Orrery out…

    With the Upkeep of Tombstone Stairwell on the stack.
    Play Compost
    Donate your Compost
    Don’t pay the Upkeep for Tombstone Stairwell
    Your Opponent draws their last card
    Play Oona’s Grace, causing them to deck out

  10. “The solution most of you found was to attack in with the Infiltrator and, BEFORE BLOCKS, Cytoshape it into Dread, which deals your opponent a lethal six damage.”

    That should read either ‘before damage’ or ‘after blocks’, as Cytoshaping the Infiltrator before blocks will allow your opponent to block with Dread and you would die to Iguanar damage.

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