Hey folks! Welcome back to “Tolarian Academy,” where your rules questions are part of an evil plot to usurp Riki Hayashi’s position. Just kidding, Riki! To contribute to the war effort the health of this column, send your rules questions to [email protected] I have two points to lead off with which are not so much rules questions as they are gentle reminders that I feel the need to dispense after the PTQ I judged yesterday, so we’ll belay the questions for a moment.
–Wirewood Symbiote’s ability requires you to return an Elf you control to your hand as part of the cost, not part of the effect. Removing the target doesn’t keep the Elf from returning to your hand.
-Not all of Cryptic Command’s modes target, and if the only target is no longer legal upon resolution, the whole spell is countered by game rules. For example, if you cast Cryptic Command choosing “return target permanent to its owner’s hand” and “draw a card,” and your opponent plays Mage’s Guile on the creature you targeted, then you don’t draw a card.
Q: I have a Knight of the Reliquary and two Forests in my graveyard. I play Sutured Ghoul, removing the Knight in my graveyard from the game. How big is Sutured Ghoul?
A: Sutured Ghoul will be a 2/2. The Knight’s first ability, as it is a static ability, only applies when it is in play, so it will be a 2/2 anywhere else regardless of the number of land cards in your graveyard. See rule 405.1: “A static ability does something all the time rather than being activated or triggered. The ability isn’t played-it just “exists.” Such abilities apply only while the ability is on a permanent in play, unless the ability is covered by rule 402.8.” Since the Knight’s ability is not one of the listed exceptions, I hope you enjoy your 7-mana Scathe Zombies!
Q: I cast the Ends half of Odds//Ends, targeting my opponent. He casts Delay, targeting my Odds//Ends. When the last suspend counter comes off my Odds//Ends, what happens?
A: Delaying the Odds//Ends gives the whole card (not just one side of it) suspend. When the last counter comes off, you get to play Odds//Ends. Whenever you play a split card, you choose which half to play, so as normal, you can pick either Odds or Ends. Of course, it would be pretty Odd(s) if you wanted to cast Ends during your upkeep.
Q: I control Cromat, a Taiga, a Plains, an Underground Sea, and a Howltooth Hollow. No one has any cards in hand. I activate Howltooth Hollow and flip up my Coalition Victory. Do I win?
A: Yes. Coalition Victory doesn’t require separate objects for the five basic land types, nor does it require that for “a creature of each color.” Essentially, the game checks one by one – “Do you have a Plains? Oh, okay, you do.” If all the conditions it checks are met, then you win the game! Congratulations! Enjoy the ire of your friends and their future satisfaction at killing your Cromat every single time you cast it from now until forever.
Q: I have a Countryside Crusher with no counters on it and six lands in play. My opponent has four lands. I cast Burning of Xinye. Despite my Countryside Crusher’s clear right to live through my very valuable version of Wildfire, my opponent claims he is destroyed. Who is right?
A: Your opponent is right, unfortunately for you. When Wildfire resolves, it deals 4 damage to Countryside Crusher, and some lands get sacrificed. As soon as those lands get put into the graveyard, Countryside Crusher triggers for each one of them, but those triggers don’t go on the stack yet. You see, triggers won’t go on the stack during the resolution of a spell or ability; they wait until a player would receive priority and then pre-empt that by heading for the stack. However, before that can happen, state-based effects are checked, and the game notices a 3/3 with 4 damage on it. Countryside Crusher is then destroyed and never gets to grow fat from eating delicious land.
Q: Okay, I understand that, but now my opponent is saying his Knight of the Reliquary lives through the Burning of Xinye! What kind of cheats is this guy trying to run on me, anyway?
A: No cheats here, unfortunately for you. The Knight’s first ability is a static ability; it doesn’t use the stack, and it changes the power/toughness of the Knight as lands move into and out of your opponent’s graveyard. (See, once again, rule 405.1, particularly the statement “The ability isn’t played-it just “exists.'”) As such, the Knight’s power and toughness can change during the resolution of Burning of Xinye, and after all the Wildfire-y goodness, the game sees the Knight, a 6/6 with 4 damage on it, and wisely leaves it in play where it belongs.
Q: I control a Nacatl War-Pride equipped with Loxodon Warhammer. I attack my opponent, who controls two 2/2 Bear tokens. I say I get two 6/3 lifelinking Nacatl War-Pride tokens. My opponent doesn’t believe me. Who’s right?
A: Your opponent has been right for the last few questions and is right once again. Perhaps he should consider the DCI Judge program. The War-Pride creates tokens that are copies of itself, so we should check out the rules for copying objects. Here’s a quote from the Comprehensive Rules:
503.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object’s characteristics (name, mana cost, color, card type, supertype, subtype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, toughness, loyalty) and, for an object on the stack, choices made when playing it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether a kicker cost was paid, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The “copiable values” are the values that are printed on the object, as modified by other copy effects, by “as . . . comes into play” 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.
The bolded part is what we are really concerned with here. The War-Pride tokens come in as copies of the printed card. The effects of the Warhammer that add abilities and power are not copied, as they are not “copiable values.” So, you have two regular kitties and one big one that has learned how to use the ol’ Whammer.
The next two questions are pretty intense. If you’re not interested in delving into layers or the way in which spells are cast, skip them and check out the new and exciting segment at the end of this article.
Q: I attack with my 2/4 Crag Puca enchanted with Lance. (My deck’s theme is “cards that sound like their names are people’s names.”) Before first strike damage, one of my opponents casts Ego Erasure, reducing poor Craig’s power to zero. Before regular damage, my other opponent casts Aggressive Urge on my Puca to draw a card. I then use Crag Puca’s ability to switch its power and toughness. What happens?
A: This is a bit of a multi-layered question. First off, we have to figure out how big Crag Puca is, which requires us to review layers for a moment. Layers are the rules’ way of making sure continuous effects (effects that apply for an indefinite period) interact properly by applying them in a set order. All power/toughness changes apply in layer 6, the final layer, which has five different sublayers. I’ll present those here alongside a nice mnemonic I use to remember the order in which they apply. Going from first to last, we have:
6a) Effects from characteristic-defining abilities (for example, the power/toughness setting effect on Tarmogoyf, which applies in all zones, even outside the game. Yes, the game knows how big the Goyf in your binder is.)
6b) Everything not covered in the other sublayers of layer 6.
6c) Changes from counters. (+1/+1, -1/-1, etc.)
6d) Static effects that change, but do not set power and toughness (like Glorious Anthem.)
6e) Effects that switch power and toughness (like Phantasmal Fiend. Or Crag Puca, I guess.)
Any time two or more effects apply in a single sublayer, the game applies them in timestamp order. (Whatever happened first applies first.
The way I remember these is to think of the following things: A = Aeon Chronicler, B = Biggest of the five (since it’s everything not covered in the other four,) C = Counters, D = Deathbringer Liege, E = AquamoEba. Yes, the last one is a stretch. So, applying things in order, Crag Puca gets -2/-0 in layer 6b, becoming a 0/4, and then gets +1/+1 from the Urge, which makes it a 1/5. The switch applies last, in 6e, making the Puca a 5/1. Now that we know how big the Puca is, we have a new and interesting problem: does the Puca deal damage? Well, let’s take a look at the definition of first strike.
502.2b At the start of the combat damage step, if at least one attacking or blocking creature has first strike or double strike (see rule 502.28), creatures without first strike or double strike don’t assign combat damage. Instead of proceeding to end of combat, the phase gets a second combat damage step to handle the remaining creatures. In the second combat damage step, surviving attackers and blockers that didn’t assign combat damage in the first step, plus any creatures with double strike, assign their combat damage.
The Puca didn’t assign damage during the first combat damage step, since it had zero power at the time. Despite having first strike, it will still assign damage during the second combat damage step- in this case, five damage.
Q: I control a Braid of Fire with two counters on it, and I have a Lotus Bloom suspended with one counter remaining. My opponent has an untapped Trinisphere. I know that the top card of my library is the Resounding Thunder that will kill my opponent. I stack my upkeep effects such that I get three mana from Braid of Fire before my Lotus Bloom comes in from suspend. My opponent says that I have to spend the three mana on Bloom. Is he right?
A: He is correct. Suspend gives your Lotus Bloom the following ability: “When the last time counter is removed from this card, if it’s removed from the game, play it without paying its mana cost if able. If you can’t, it remains removed from the game. If you play a creature spell this way, it gains haste until you lose control of the spell or the permanent it becomes.” Notice that playing the spell is non-optional.
During the announcement of the Lotus Bloom, after Trinisphere locks in the Bloom’s cost at 3 colorless mana, you get a chance to play mana abilities. (Rule 409.1g.) You don’t have to play any mana abilities if you don’t want to, though. Right after that comes paying for the spell, as described in rule 409.1h: “The player pays the total cost in any order. Partial payments are not allowed. Unpayable costs can’t be paid.” It doesn’t say that the player “may pay the cost”- if you can pay at this point, you must pay. Since you have three mana available, the game takes those away and lets you have your Lotus Bloom. I suppose you could say that your opponent’s Trinisphere stole your Thunder. (I know, I know.) [The Resounding Thunder that you can play by sacrificing Lotus Bloom? I guess Eric is refusing to answer the strategy question like a good Judge. –Riki, being a bad Judge and pointing out strategy]
If you didn’t have enough mana to pay for the Bloom, you wouldn’t be forced to tap land to pay for it – 409.1g gives you a “chance to play mana abilties” rather than forcing you to add sufficient mana to your pool.
I thought it might be fun to add a little extra interactivity to this column, so I’ve decided to add one last segment that I’d like to call “Urza’s Homework Assignment.” Here’s how this will work: I’ll pose an interesting rules question and let you aspiring rules gurus flex your knowledge muscles at it. When you think you’ve got a well-worded and concise answer, perhaps with Comprehensive Rules citations, send that answer to me at [email protected] with the subject line “Urza’s Homework Assignment”. If you get the question right, you’ll get a shout-out in the next column, and the best answer will be posted in next week’s column!
Urza’s Homework Assignment #1
Mirri has a Forest in play. Crovax plays Lifespark Spellbomb and plays its animation ability, targeting Mirri’s Forest. Crovax then plays a Clone and chooses to copy Mirri’s Forest. On Mirri’s turn, she enchants Crovax’s Clone with Evil Presence and then plays Blood Moon. What is the name of the object that was originally called Clone, and what are its types, subtypes, and supertypes?
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Tolarian Academy. Next week, we’ll abandon rules questions forever and put a bunch of artifacts in play so that we can tap this column for an abusively large amount of blue mana. Just kidding, more rules questions, so send me those emails. See you next week!