Tolarian Academy – Sakashima is… an Imposter!


Hey folks, and welcome to another exciting edition of Tolarian Academy, where I never stop talking about trumpets. Well, actually, I never really start. My friends who gave me those trumpets were displeased that their story got put at the end of my article, where I always lie. They bought trumpets at a yard sale, and when I came into my apartment, there they were, trying their hardest to make the most annoying combination of trumpet notes at me that they could.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that I’m here to answer your rules questions! I got quite a few questions in my email, which was great. Keep sending those to me at [email protected] or to Psychatrog on Twitter for your chance to win $5 in store credit with ChannelFireball.com. On with the questions!

Q: I’m at 7, and I have Jace Beleren in play with 1 loyalty. My opponent has lethal damage on the board in the form of two 5/5 Kazandu Blademasters and a Kor Skyfisher. I have Earthquake in my hand, but if I kill the Blademasters, I’ll go to 2 and die to the Skyfisher. Is there any way for me to redirect the 5 Earthquake damage from myself to my own Jace Beleren?

A: Sadly, there is not. The only noncombat damage you can redirect is damage you deal to your opponents, and then, only to your opponent’s planeswalkers. This is well-codified in the Comprehensive Rules covering planeswalkers, which state:

306.7. If noncombat damage would be dealt to a player by a source controlled by an opponent, that opponent may have that source deal that damage to a planeswalker the first player controls instead. This is a redirection effect (see rule 614.9) and is subject to the normal rules for ordering replacement effects (see rule 616). The opponent chooses whether to redirect the damage as the redirection effect is applied.

So, no, you’re pretty dead. I try to be at a higher life total when I ask rules questions so that I come out the winner. Keep that in mind next time.

Q: If I have Jhoira of the Ghitu on the battlefield, can I suspend the Erayo’s Essence part of Erayo, Soratami Ascendant? If I can, which one enters the battlefield?

A: Jhoira of the Ghitu lets you exile a nonland card from your hand and give it suspend. So, what is stopping you from suspending Erayo’s Essence instead of Erayo, Soratami Ascendant? Well, as usual, the rules are getting in the way of what I assume are your EDH shenanigans. Let’s take a look:

709.1a. The top half of a flip card contains the card’s normal name, text box, type line, power, and toughness. The text box usually contains an ability that causes the permanent to “flip” if certain conditions are met.
709.1b. The bottom half of a flip card contains an alternative name, text box, type line, power, and toughness. These characteristics are used only if the permanent is on the battlefield and only if the permanent is flipped.

So, the only way the game even knows about Erayo’s Essence is if it’s on the battlefield and its conditions for flipping have already been met. The card in your hand, as far as Magic: the Gathering is concerned, is Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. I realize this is strange, but it’s to keep people like you (and me) from ruining games with this kind of tomfoolery. Besides, shouldn’t it be easy enough to trigger Erayo using Jhoira anyway?

Q: My opponent controls Abyssal Persecutor. I am at -5 life; my opponent is at 5 life. I cast Cruel Ultimatum, and my opponent sacrifices his Abyssal Persecutor. What happens? Does this change if I am at -4?

A: So, let’s go through what happens when Cruel Ultimatum resolves. First, your opponent sacrifices his Persecutor. You might think this wins him the game, but it doesn’t; state-based actions don’t get checked until a player would get priority, and no one gets priority until after Cruel finishes resolving. So, let’s keep resolving this spell. Your opponent discards some cards, loses 5 life and goes to 0. You return some creature card to your hand, draw three cards, and go back up to 0. The spell is done resolving, so let’s check state-based actions. Both of you are at 0, so you both lose, making the game a draw. In your scenario where you’re at -4 instead, you end up at 1 and your opponent ends up at 0, so you’ll be winning the game. It’s the little things in life, like that single point of life, that… well, that keep you alive.

Q: I have a Quicksand that my opponent has enchanted with Brink of Disaster. My opponent attacks me with his Squire. (So sweet!) Can I destroy his Squire, or will Brink of Disaster destroy Quicksand before I get the chance?

A: So, you’ve got a Squire attacking you, and you activate your Quicksand’s non-mana ability. When you pay the cost of the ability, you tap the Quicksand, which triggers Brink of Disaster. You’re still in the middle of activating the ability, however, so that ability doesn’t go on the stack yet. You finish paying the cost by sacrificing Quicksand, and the -1/-2 ability goes on the stack. The Brink of Disaster trigger then goes on the stack above the Quicksand ability. That resolves and tries to destroy the Quicksand, which is no longer in play. After that, the Quicksand ability resolves, giving the Squire -1/-2 and sending it to your opponent’s graveyard. So, even though your Quicksand was on the Brink of Disaster, it still got to eat a Squire. The moral of the story? Brink of Disaster is awful. And, uh, you get to use your Quicksand.

Q: Okay, so this time, I have a Quicksand that I’ve tapped for mana, and my opponent enchants it with Brink of Disaster. Since it’s already tapped, does it get destroyed, or does it stay on the battlefield?

A: Brink of Disaster only triggers when the enchanted permanent becomes tapped, so until you actually tap the Quicksand again, Brink of Disaster won’t do anything. I was serious when I said this was a terrible card. Seriously, don’t play Brink of Disaster. And please don’t bring me any copies of Brink of Disaster.

Q: I was just looking through your article from last week and was curious about your response regarding Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Jace’sBrainstorm” ability. You refer to the FAQ to say that you are able to look at the card below the ones you drew, but doesn’t the other entry from the FAQ prevent this from happening? It reads:”If the top card of your library changes during the process of casting a spell or activating an ability, you can’t look at the new top card until the process of casting the spell or activating the ability ends (all targets are chosen, all costs are paid, and so on).”

A: The FAQ is right… but so am I. HOW CAN THIS BE? Well, it’s simple. “The process of casting a spell” (or activating an ability, in this case) is putting it on the stack, choosing modes/targets, paying for it, and then it becoming considered having been cast. The movement of the cards during Jace’s “Brainstorm” ability occurs during the resolution of the ability, not the activation of the ability, so Sphinx of Jwar Isle works as I described in my previous article. (For those too lazy to go back, it means that you can look at the next card of your library after drawing the three cards from the Brainstorm, before you put two cards back on top.)

Q: I have Nezumi Shortfang in play, and my opponent plays the last card in his hand: a Burst Lightning (unkicked.) Does Nezumi Shortfang flip by itself, or do I have to tap it, pay mana, and target my empty-handed opponent?

A: The only way to flip Nezumi Shortfang is by activating it. It doesn’t just magically (ha!) flip if your opponent has no cards in hand. In order to turn your Shortfang into Mr. the Odious, you’ll have to actually pay to do so; it’s all part of that ability.

Q: So I’ve just used Nissa Revane’s ultimate ability, and in addition to all of the other awesome Elves I get to put on the battlefield, I’ve brought out an Oracle of Mul Daya and 4 Elvish Visionaries. My question is this: can I choose the order in which those five Elves hit the battlefield? More directly, I’d like to have the Oracle come in first and show me the top card of my library so that, if it’s a land, I can play it before I draw it with one of my Visionaries. Is that possible?

A: Sadly, that’s not at all possible. As soon as the Nissa ultimate finishes resolving, your top card will get revealed by the Oracle… and four Elvish Visionary triggers will go on the stack. You aren’t allowed to play lands while objects are on the stack, so you had better hope that fifth card down is a land for you to play with Oracle!

Q: My opponent casts an Oran-Rief Survivalist, and I have a Cunning Sparkmage on the battlefield. I want to zap the Survivalist before it gets +1/+1. Can I do that?

A: Absolutely! When the trigger goes on the stack, you can tap your Sparkmage and blow up the Survivalist. I guess he wasn’t too good at his job. Of surviving. And if you didn’t like that pun, um, LSV edited it in. Sure.

Q: I put a Conqueror’s Pledge under my Windbrisk Heights a few turns ago, and now I can actually activate the Windbrisk Heights. I’d like to play it with kicker, for reasons that should be obvious. I figure that, since I have enough mana, I can do so, in the same way I can kick spells I cascade into. Am I right?

A: Absolutely! You can only pay one alternate cost for a spell (in this case, playing it without paying its mana cost) but you are certainly allowed to pay additional costs for those spells. You do actually have to pay the mana if you want to kick the spell, but it’s definitely permitted.

Q: My opponent controls a Bazaar Trader, and I control a Mordant Dragon. I’m pretty sure I’m going to win, but my opponent casts Mark of Mutiny on my Mordant Dragon. This is fine by me, because the Dragon won’t kill me. He attacks me, and I go down to 6. Then, something crazy happens; he uses Bazaar Trader to give control of Mordant Dragon to himself. At end of turn, he won’t give back my Dragon! He says he keeps control of it because he used Bazaar Trader. Is that right?

A: Unfortunately for you, he’s right. The Bazaar Trader puts a control effect on the Mordant Dragon that assigns the Dragon to your opponent. At that point, there are two control effects being applied- the Mark of Mutiny effect, which will end at end of turn, and the Bazaar Trader one, which is the only one that actually matters since it’s the most recently timestamped one. So, he traded your Dragon to himself. Bizarre, but true.

Q: My opponent has a Benevolent Unicorn on the battlefield, and his life total is 8. I’ve already cast six spells this turn, so I flash back Flaring Pain, making the storm count 7. I then cast Grapeshot, pointing the original and the seven storm copies at my opponent. He claims his Unicorn will still save him, since it reduces the amount of damage being dealt instead of preventing damage. I think those two things are the same. Who’s right?

A: Your opponent is right in this case. Benevolent Unicorn’s ability is a replacement effect that changes the amount of damage spells do. It does not actually “prevent” anything. If you check out the wording, you’ll notice it ends with “instead,” which is what makes it a replacement effect. Of course, the only place these cards get played against each other (that I know of) is MTGO, which, according to David Ochoa, does it properly.

The author of the following question will receive $5 in Store Credit with ChannelFireball.com!

Q: I control Homura’s Essence. My opponent plays a Homura, Human Ascendant. I play Sakashima the Impostor and copy Homura, Human Ascendant. What happens when my Sakashima dies?

A: Well, that depends. When it goes to the graveyard, its trigger will go on the stack, and it’ll return to the battlefield “flipped.” Flipped is just a status that any card can have, so Sakashima will enter the battlefield “flipped.” If it enters the battlefield as Hohmura, Human Ascendant, it’ll be a Homura’s Essence because it’s “flipped.” Its name will still be Sakashima the Impostor, though!

Well, that’s it for this week. Join me next time as I discuss the important differences between various kinds of birds and how well they would do as furniture salespeople. See? I’m lying! I never talk about this stuff. Never! Until then, send your questions to [email protected] or Psychatrog on Twitter for a chance to win $5 in store credit with ChannelFireball.com! See you next week!

10 thoughts on “Tolarian Academy – Sakashima is… an Imposter!”

  1. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  2. “If it enters the battlefield as Hohmura, Human Ascendant, it'll be a Homura's Essence because it's "flipped." Its name will still be Sakashima the Impostor, though!”

    The way I understand this is that you can clone a new target when the Skashima comes into play again and the way this is written suggests that. Is that correct?

  3. That last one brings up an interesting question. Say all of those cards are on the battlefield, plus I have a Bushi Tenderfoot. Sakashima hits the grave, then returns “flipped”. Can I have him copy Bushi Tenderfoot and have him instantly become Kenzo the Hard-Hearted?

  4. Hey, a question of mine got used! And yes, brink of disaster is a disaster of a card… Ugh. Cost me that game.

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Tolarian Academy - Sakashima is… an Imposter! | ChannelFireball.com -- Topsy.com

  6. Sid the Chicken

    @Grev: I believe you can. Just like you can turn a non-morph face down with the right effect, you can flip a non-flip card, so Sakashima etb flipped and its trigger happens, copying the Bushi card, which gives it the flipped stats.

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