Tolarian Academy – Two Heads are Significantly More Confusing than One

Hey folks!  Welcome to the first of many rules articles in my question and answer series, Tolarian Academy.  I’m Eric Levine, a Level 1 Judge from the San Jose area. [Now Level 2. Congrats, Eric. –Riki, who purposely didn’t edit it just to get this parenthetical comment in.] Throughout this series, I’ll be answering any rules questions you might have as well as interesting ones I come across while working at events.  If you have questions, feel free to send them to [email protected]

Q: My opponent sacrifices his Martyr of Ashes and reveals 3 red cards.  Can I sacrifice Martyr to prevent the damage even though the source is already in a graveyard?
A: Yes.  To quote the definition of “source of damage” from the Comprehensive Rules, “If an effect requires a player to choose a source of damage, he or she may choose a permanent, a spell on the stack (including one that creates a permanent), or any object referred to by an object on the stack (including a creature that assigned combat damage on the stack, even if the creature is no longer in play or is no longer a creature).”  Since the Martyr is referenced by its ability on the stack, you may choose the Martyr with your Forge-Tender.

Q: So, Worldheart Phoenix.  Can I play it from my graveyard on my opponent’s turn?
A: No.  All the Phoenix’s ability gives you is an alternate method of playing it.  You still have to obey the normal timing restrictions for playing the creature.

Q: I have a Necrogenesis, a Saproling token, and two mana open.  My opponent plays Dark Temper on my Saproling token, killing it.  Is the token in the graveyard for long enough that I can remove it from the game with Necrogenesis and make a new Saproling?
A: Unfortunately, no, for two reasons.  First, Necrogenesis requires you to remove a creature card, and tokens are not cards.  Even if that weren’t the case, here’s the second reason: before any player gets priority, the game checks a series of things called “state-based effects” to make sure that the game is in a legal state.  If creatures have lethal damage on them, they get destroyed, and so on.  One of the state-based effects is that tokens that are anywhere but in play cease to exist.  So, before you can abuse the heck out of Necrogenesis, the game says “Hey, that shouldn’t be there!” and takes your token away forever.

Q: My opponent has Thornling and Wretched Banquetin play.  I play Blister Beetle, giving Thornling -1/-1.  I then mess up and play Wretched Banquet (which I misread) targeting Thornling.  What happens?  Do I have to destroy my Blister Beetle?
A: Don’t worry, your precious Beetle is safe.  Wretched Banquet does not require the creature you target to have the lowest power, so it still targets Thornling.  Upon resolution, Wretched Banquet asks, “Does this creature have the lowest power, or is it tied for lowest power?” If the answer is “No,” as it is in this case, Wretched Banquet merrily floats on away to your graveyard and does nothing.

Q: I have an Ember Weaver and a 1/1 red Goblin token in play.  My opponent attacks me with Cavern Thoctar.  I block with Ember Weaver.  With first strike damage on the stack, I Unsummon my Goblin token.  Does the Ember Weaver deal normal combat damage now, since it no longer has first strike?
A: No.  As the definition of first strike states, “Adding or removing first strike any time after combat damage has been put on the stack in the first combat damage step won’t prevent a creature from dealing combat damage or allow it to deal combat damage twice.”  Tricky thinking, though!

Q: My opponent has Guile in play, and I play a spell.  (What spell I play is unimportant.)  He plays Lapse of Certainty, targeting my spell.  What happens?
A: Well, just to make my life easier, let’s assume your spell is Carnival of SoulsLapse of Certainty tries to counter your Carnival, but when it does, Guile’s replacement effect kicks in and removes the spell from the game.  Since Lapse of Certainty says “If that spell is countered this way,” the spell does not get put on top of your library – it wasn’t countered!  Then, your opponent can go ahead and play that Carnival for himself.  You know, if he wants to, for some reason.

Q: I have Sigil of the Empty Throne and Enchanted Evening in play.  I get a 4/4 every time I cast a spell, right?
A: Wrong.  Sigil triggers whenever you play an enchantment spell, but Enchanted Evening only affects permanents.  Thus, your spells on the stack are unaffected by the Evening, and you will only get Angels when you play actual enchantments.

Q: I have Tukatongue Thallid in play, and I cast Gluttonous Slime.  If I devour the Thallid, can I also devour the Saproling it generates?
A: No.  The Thallid triggers as soon as it gets devoured, but its ability doesn’t go on the stack until a player would next receive priority.  In this case, no one would get priority until the Slime was actually in play and done eating things, so the delicious Saproling would not be able to be snacked upon quite yet.
(Addendum: Can anyone figure out why Gluttonous Slime’s development name was Surprise Watkins?  It’s fun to shout, but I can only assume I’m missing some reference.)

Q: My opponent plays Raven’s Crime on me, and I discard Progenitus.  Can I return it to play with Makeshift Mannequin before it gets shuffled into my library?
A: Sadly, no, you will not be turning that Avatar sideways any time soon.  Progenitus’s last ability is a replacement effect, which means that when you discard it, instead of ever going to the graveyard, it gets shuffled into your library instead.  Sorry, reanimator fans!

Q: I have a Mountain, a Forest, and an Exotic Orchard in play.  My opponent has an Island, a Swamp, a Plains, and an Exotic Orchard in play.  What colors of mana can our Orchards produce?
A: All of them, actually.  You see, your opponent’s Orchard can produce red and green mana.  Therefore, so can your Orchard.  Similarly, your Orchard can produce blue, black, and white mana, and therefore, so can your opponent’s.  Those crazy lands!

Q: My opponent has a Marsh Flitter in play.  I cast Unwilling Recruit (X=3) targeting Marsh Flitter.  Once I control it, I sacrifice one of my Goblin tokens from Siege-Gang Commander to pump the Flitter.  How big is it?
A: Your Marsh Flitter is a 3/3.  You might think it would be a 6/3, but the game has a very pleasant system for dealing with the interaction of continuous effects like these: layers.  All power and toughness changes apply in Layer 6, which is split up into five sublayers: a) characteristic-defining abilities (like Tarmogoyf), b) everything not covered in 6a, 6c, 6d, and 6e, c) changes from counters (+1/+1, -1/-1, etc), d) static abilities that change but do not set power and toughness (like Glorious Anthem), and e) effects that switch power and toughness (like, uh, Phantasmal Fiend.)  Both the Unwilling Recruit’s  +X/+0 and the Marsh Flitter’s ability apply in layer 6b, so they get applied in timestamp order- the order in which they occurred.  In this case, the Marsh Flitter becomes a 4/1 from the Unwilling Recruit and then changes to a 3/3 when it munches on your Goblin token.

Q: My opponent has a Master Transmuter in play.  He plays a Tidehollow Sculler and targets me with the comes-into-play ability.  He then activates the Transmuter, returning the Sculler to his hand, and puts the Sculler back into play upon resolution of the Transmuter’s ability.  He says he gets to take two cards from my hand, and one of them is gone forever.  Is he right?
A: Yes.  Right now, the stack looks like this:
Sculler’s comes into play ability 2
Sculler’s leaves play ability (referencing card removed by ability 1)
Sculler’s comes into play ability 1
Assuming no one responds to any of this, the newest instance of the Sculler’s comes into play ability will resolve and strip a card from your hand.  That card is the one that will be returned if the Sculler leaves play.  Then, the Sculler’s leaves play ability will resolve.  It attempts to return whatever card was removed by the first instance of the Sculler’s ability, but since no such card exists, it does nothing.  Finally, the first instance of the Sculler’s comes into play ability will resolve, taking another card from your hand – one which will never return!  (Unless you have some sort of cunning plan, or burning desire, or, um, Glittering Wish.)

And now, our special 2HG section!  Hooray!

Q: How does Mindslaver work in Two-Headed Giant?
A: Much as I want to give you the comedy option of “You take one player’s turn and then bicker with the other head endlessly,” I can’t.  What actually happens is that you control the entire team’s turn.  Yes, this does give you the opportunity to argue with yourself over what the right play is and then assert your authority as the dominant head.  Who doesn’t love that?  (Answer: Your opponents.)

Q: How does Magister Sphinx work in Two-Headed Giant?
A: Geez, more 2HG questions?  Well, in 2HG, a player’s life total is considered to be half of his or her team’s life total, rounded up.  So, if Nebuchadnezzar and Nicol are at 29, Nebuchadnezzar is at 15.  When Axelrod targets Nebuchadnezzar with Magister Sphinx’s triggered ability, it changes Nebuchadnezzar’s life total from 15 to 10, causing Nebuchadnezzar and Nicol to lose 5 life and end up at 24.

Q: Okay, I get Magister Sphinx.  But how does Lich’s Mirror work?  Does it even work?
A: Yes, yes, it works.  You see, in 2HG, Lich’s Mirror actually replaces the “your team loses the game” state-based effect that occurs when the team runs out of life or one of the heads loses independently for some reason.  So, let’s say Gerrard and Hanna knocked Tahngarth and Squee down to -5 life, but Squee has Lich’s Mirror in play.  Tahngarth would get to sigh and snort and do whatever minotaurs do as Squee shuffled up as per the Lich’s Mirror effect.  Squee was at -2 (rounding up in the negatives is fun) but becomes 20 because of the Mirror, meaning his team gains 22 life and goes from -5 to 17.  Isn’t 2HG exciting?

Well, that’s it for this article.  Come back next time, when we explore the exciting questions that show up in my email inbox.  I hope you learned lots of exciting stuff about Exotic Orchard, Two-Headed Giant, and, um, Rare-B-Gone.  See you next week!


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