Tolarian Academy – Back to School

Hey folks! It’s been a while since my last rules column, so welcome back! I was so busy this week that I asked my friend Christoph to write my article for me, but when he sent me 500 words on the virtues of Icatian Infantry, I knew I had to buckle down and do it myself. I’ve got a lovely series of questions from my e-mail inbox lined up for this week. If you’d like to see your questions in this column next week, send them to [email protected] I hope you’re all gearing up for the M10 rules changes. I suggest you play a few games with the new rules before they go live. If you have rules questions about M10, feel free to send those in and I will answer them to the best of my ability. You folks submitted questions for the past two weeks expecting to win $5 in store credit, and I will, indeed, be awarding that prize to the people who submitted my two favorites! Read on – maybe you’ll see your rules conundrum!

Q: My opponent has a Spearbreaker Behemoth out with a Mage Slayer equipped to it. I have a Blood Speaker out on the field with a Deathrender equipped to it. I choose to sacrifice my Blood Speaker to find Malfegor. My opponent says that Deathrender’s effect happens before I get to search for Malfegor. Is my opponent right? I would really like to be able to kill my opponent’s indestructible fat and swing in for lethal next turn.

A: Deathrender triggers upon Blood Speaker being put into a graveyard from play, and that happens in the middle of Blood Speaker’s upkeep trigger. However, since the Blood Speaker ability is still resolving, Deathrender’s ability sits around and waits patiently to get put on the stack until you’re done finding whatever demon you want. So, you’ll get to search up “0-time MVP, John Malfegor,” as my friend Chas likes to call him, and blow up your pal’s Behemoth, assuming you have cards in hand. I hope pitching your entire grip was worth it!

Q: My opponent plays Duplicant, removing and imprinting my Silvos, Rogue Elemental. I play Vesuvan Shapeshifter, copying Duplicant, removing and imprinting his Exalted Angel. During my next upkeep, I turned the Shapeshifter face down. Later, I flipped it back up and copied his Duplicant, which, as you may recall, is an 8/5. I say this makes my Shapeshifter an 8/5. He says it’s a 2/4. Who’s right?

A: The Shapeshifter can only copy the “copiable values” of your opponent’s Duplicant, which includes only its printed power and toughness. There is no imprinted card for your Shifty Duplicant, so it doesn’t get power and toughness from some other source. Were Duplicant’s ability a copy effect, this would be different, but since it doesn’t use that very important word, the copiable values are the things printed on the card. Enjoy your 2/4!

Q: I have a Thunder-Thrash Elder with 18 +1/+1 counters on it. My opponent casts Snakeform on it and blocks it with a Trapjaw Kelpie enchanted with Favor of the Overbeing. He says it dies. I say it doesn’t. Who is correct?

A: At first I thought this question was about Snakeform and Favor of the Overbeing on the Trapjaw Kelpie (or if you’re me, “Helicopter Surprise Kelpie,” since like Silverstorm Samurai before it, this 6-mana flash creature is about as sneaky as a helicopter.) Then it turned out to be about Snakeform and counters, which is still cool. This is yet another question about layers, as it turns out. To keep it brief, Snakeform’s P/T change applies in Layer 6b, while the counters apply in Layer 6c. This means that, even though the Snakeform happened after the counters were put on, the counters apply after the Snakeform, making Thunder-Thrash Elder still a 19/19. I hope your opponent drew a really good card, for his sake.

Q: My opponent casts Predator Dragon, devours Sprouting Thrinax, then devours the tokens. I say that this doesn’t work, because the Dragon comes into play before the tokens. Who is right?

A: You are. The devour ability of the Dragon occurs as it’s resolving, and the Thrinax’s ability can’t possibly resolve while the Dragon is still resolving. Your opponent will have a 6/6 dragon and three delicious, nutritious Saprolings that will, presumably, get eaten by the next Dragon or Viashino or whatever.

Q: I’m playing in a multiplayer game, and I cast Cruel Ultimatum targeting the player on my left. He casts Twincast, targeting my Cruel Ultimatum. The player on my right casts Wild Ricochet targeting Twincast, letting it continue to target the Cruel Ultimatum and making a copy of it targeting Wild Ricochet. What happens? Is there some way the player on my right can make infinite Cruel Ultimatums? This seems really infinite.

A: This rules question killed a Briarberry Cohort, a Sootwalkers, and two basic lands, because I Sharpied stuff up to make sure I had this right. Everything you’ve said up to this point is fine. However, as soon as the Ricochet resolves, it’s removed from the stack, leaving the copy of Twincast that is targeting it sad and lonely (and countered upon resolution.) The original Twincast stays where it is and copies Cruel. Nothing infinite happens.

Q: At a recent FNM, a couple of us started debating the value of Mayael’s Aria. One person said that it is a great card because you can play pump cards like Colossal Might on your opponent’s turn during the clear up phase/step and that it will still be pumped until the end of your turn. Is this true? Can you play Colossal Might during your opponent’s clean up step and have the pump remain until the end of your turn?

A: This is all wrong! Normally, no one receives priority to play spells or abilities during cleanup. In special cases where people do (like cards with Madness being discarded during cleanup,) the cleanup step repeats, so even if you do manage to play a Colossal Might during cleanup, it still gets, well, cleaned up, just like one cast earlier in the turn would. However, Mayael’s Aria works a little differently than you seem to think it does. It’s not an “intervening if” like Drumhunter. What that means for you is that if you pump your 1/1 up to 5/3 with a Colossal Might with the Aria trigger on the stack, you get to do the first part of Mayael’s Aria.

The following questions are questions about M10 rules. This means that my answers are based on the official information posted on the official Magic: the Gathering website and any other official information I have gathered. I cannot promise these are all 100% accurate, nor do I have secret inside information about any changes to the official rules documents. I provide these as a way to help you (and me!) ease into the changes brought about by M10. If they turn out to be somehow wrong in the future, I apologize, but I think it’s better to talk about them than to not.

Q: Under M10 rules, can I still block with Dauntless Escort, sac it to make my creatures indestructible, and not take damage from the creature it blocked?

A: Absolutely. Even though combat damage no longer uses the stack, the combat phase still looks like this after M10:

Beginning Combat
-Priority passes
Declare Attackers
-Attackers are declared
-Priority passes
Declare Blockers
-Blockers are declared
-Attacker orders blockers
-Priority passes
Combat Damage
-Combat damage is assigned
-Combat damage is dealt
-Priority passes
End of Combat
-Priority passes

The ability to play spells and abilities (or as the first draft of my article said, “do stuff”) before combat damage is dealt doesn’t go away. [As an M10 section, this should say “cast spells and activate abilities.” -Riki, back from the future–there were Terminators] You just have to play them (“do stuff”) at a different time. In this case, if you block with the Escort and then sacrifice it during the Declare Blockers step, you get to make your guys indestructible and not take damage from the creature it blocked, assuming that creature didn’t have trample.

Q: Under M10 rules, if I block my opponent’s Durkwood Boars with my Darksteel Gargoyle and my Wandering Ones, and my opponent orders blockers such that my Darksteel Gargoyle will take damage first, will my Wandering Ones die, since there’s no way to deal the Gargoyle “lethal” damage?

A: Assuming the definition of lethal damage does not change between now and M10, then your opponent can choose to assign 3 damage to Darksteel Gargoyle and 1 damage to Wandering Ones. “Lethal damage” means, mathematically, a creature’s current toughness minus the amount of damage currently on it. The game doesn’t care that Darksteel Gargoyle is indestructible; three damage is still “lethal,” so your opponent can assign that last one to your poor vanilla spirit. Mmm, vanilla spirit.

And now, my two favorite questions from this week. Congratulations to Matthew Bishop and Tim Bartlett (not the same Tim as earlier, don’t worry,) winners of $5 store credit each!!

Q: My Vesuvan Shapeshifter is copying a Karmic Guide. During my upkeep, I stack the triggers such that the “turn face down” trigger resolves before echo. If I turn my Shapeshifter face down, do I have to pay anything for echo, since the converted mana cost of the object in question is now zero?

A: While this may look like a great idea on the surface, echo has actually changed a little bit since Urza’s block. Remember how in Time Spiral block, things had printed echo costs rather than just costing their mana cost? All previous cards with echo have been issued errata to look like that, so Karmic Guide now has “Echo 2WW.” That means that, even if you flip the Shapeshifter over into”¦ whatever the heck a morph creature looks like, (the Onslaught logo?) you still have to pay 2WW to keep it. Not really a bargain-shopper’s option.

Q: My opponent activates Zirilan of the Claw to fetch Worldgorger Dragon. The dragon, as it loves to do, eats the world. After it’s declared as an attacker, I cast Humble on it. Does it still get removed from game at the end of turn, or does Humble get rid of that ability?

A: I like this question because it involves an obscure Mirage creature. My friend Tim, who was here while I wrote this part of the article, identified Zirilan of the Claw’s art from across the room as maybe belonging to Hivis of the Scale. Close enough, and now I have a new Artificial Evolution target. That aside, Zirilan of the Claw sets up a delayed triggered ability that will still trigger regardless of whether or not Worldgorger has any abilities when it dies. It’s still the same object, so it still gets RFGed even if Zirilan isn’t in play anymore.

There won’t be a puzzle this week, as I’m busy trying to devise M10-related rules puzzles for after the Big Changeover. Instead, what I’d like you to do is think critically. We’ve all thought of plenty of cards that get worse with the M10 rules changes. Morphling, Mogg Fanatic we’ve all been there. I’d like to think of cards that get better with the M10 rules changes and explain to me why the card is better is an interesting way. The most interesting one will get the $5 store credit! Send your pleas for victory (and your rules questions) to [email protected] I assure you that this is possible if you just look through draft decks or someone’s cube; I had a lovely discussion about Temporal Isolation just a few minutes ago.

Join me next time, when I let my aforementioned friend Tim explain his Thopter Foundry infinite combo to you for at least an hour. Think about it, folks. Think about it.

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