Feature: Rules Mayhem!

Posted in Event Coverage on October 21, 2006

By Scott Johns

When you've got as many mechanics running around as Time Spiral does, there are bound to be some whacky rules interactions, and bringing back effects from the far past only exaggerates things. We here at the Pro Tour aren't only here to entertain, we're here to educate. So follow through on these examples and you'll definitely learn a trick or two for your next game.

Momentary Blink

For example, did you know that it's possible to remove a token creature from the game and then return it without losing the token? Momentary Blink will actually return a token to play! Normally when a token creature leaves play (if you cast Boomerang on it, for instance) it would disappear as a state-based effect once the spell had resolved. But the way Momentary Blink works, there's no chance to check state-based effects while the token is off in the great beyond, so, it just comes back.

What if the token creature has an Aura on it? Say you've got a Goblin token with an Eternity Snare on it. What happens now if you cast Momentary Blink on the creature? The Goblin token will come back, but the Eternity Snare will fall off into the graveyard. That's because once the Goblin token returns to play, it does so as a brand new object. It doesn't know the enchantment is supposed to be on it, so the Eternity Snare heads off to the graveyard and our dimension-traveling token is back in business.

A related issue came up in today's Round 9 feature match, Amiel Tenenbaum cast Lightning Axe on an opposing Plague Sliver, which was 5/7 thanks to Amiel's own Watcher Sliver.

Plague Sliver
Watcher Sliver

The Axe resolved, and then Amiel cast Momentary Blink on the Watcher Sliver, thinking it would kill the Plague Sliver. He was right that, for a moment, the Plague Sliver was a 5/5 with 5 damage on it, but according to the rules, the game only checks if a creature is dead as a state-based effect - and as with the token trick, there's no chance during the Momentary Blink for state-based effects to be checked. Thanks to that, the Plague Sliver lived right on through it until the Watcher Sliver had returned to play - costing Amiel the game.

Draining Whelk

Another Momentary Blink combo that's been coming up this weekend is its interaction with Draining Whelk and Mystic Snake, creatures that counter spells when they come into play. Got a Draining Whelk in play and an opponent trying to cast an Ixidron to end your fun? Blink your Draining Whelk, and when it returns to play, just counter the Ixidron, and now you've got a 6/6 flier, too.

Of course, you don't have to counter just one thing. Suppose you have a Whelk already in play and your opponent casts a Lightning Axe on one of your creatures, discarding Dark Withering with madness and then aiming the Withering at a second creature you control? No problem! Cast Momentary Blink on your Whelk, letting it come into play targeting the Lightning Axe, then flashback your Blink on the Whelk - and this time when it comes into play, counter the Dark Withering, picking up six counters in the process! (And no, it doesn't get a counter for the Lightning Axe, because it comes back as a different object.)

Ready for more? Let's say you're facing two Call of the Herd tokens. You've got the following hand and four Swamps in play, and that's it.

Nightshade Assassin
Cyclopean Giant

X 3

Did you know you could kill your opponent's whole team this turn and have a creature still in play on your side? Click here when you're ready to see the answer.

Thanks to the way madness works, when you cast Smallpox you'll be able to remove the Nightshade Assassin from the game with madness, then wait until the Smallpox is done resolving (the next time the triggered ability can go on the stack) before bringing the assassin into play.

Madness can get confusing, so let's take it step by step. You tap all four Swamps and cast Smallpox. Time to start resolving the spell. Each of you loses 1 life. Each of you discards a card, which is when you discard your Assassin to madness, removing it from the game for now. Next you each sacrifices a creature. You don't have a creature in play (yet), so you're fine. Your opponent loses an Elephant. Then you each sacrifice a land. Now that Smallpox is done, your assassin gets to come into play, offing the remaining elephant token in the process by revealing the remaining three black cards in your hand. Your opponent just lost two creatures and a card, and all you lost was the Smallpox - and you got a 2/1 first striker into play in the process!

(That one was courtesy of Ted Knutson, who came across it as a possible interaction with one of Anton Jonsson's decks yesterday.)

Fun, right? Another crazy thing comes up courtesy of just plain old first strike. Say you've got this guy in play:

Fungus Sliver

Now, for fun, let's say he's got first strike somehow. (Perhaps you've got Valor in your graveyard with a Plains in play.) You have the following two cards in hand, with just enough mana to cast them.

Might of Old Krosa

Your opponent sends over a 1/1 Goblin token with no abilities or anything else. Did you know there's a way to kill off the 1/1 and grow your Fungus Sliver in the process? When you think you've got it figured out (or when you give up), click here for the answer.

Here's the play: Block the token with the Fungus Sliver, then before first strike damage cast Bewilder on your Sliver, making it -1/2 (0/2 for all purposes except changing its power). At this point, first strike damage would be assigned, but since you have no power, you can't assign it. (This is where things get whacky.) Now, there's a rule that says that if a first striker can't assign damage during first strike damage, it gets to assign damage normally instead. So, once first strike damage is out of the way, just cast Might of Old Krosa, making your sliver a 1/2. Now you go to normal damage assignment and get to put a point of non-first strike damage on the Goblin, enough to kill it while

Another interesting rules interaction involves Crookclaw Transmuter, and actually happened at the main event this weekend.

Crookclaw Transmuter
Basalt Gargoyle

Player 1 summoned a Basalt Gargoyle. On the next turn he paid its echo with a few more red to spare, and then sent the Gargoyle in for the attack. Player 2 cast a Crookclaw Transmuter and waited to see if the Gargoyle would get any pump in response. It didn't, and the Gargoyle became a 2/3. Thinking the Gargoyle could kill the Transmuter and live by pumping more toughness, Player 2 decided not to block. From there, Player 1 correctly pumped all his red mana into the Gargoyle's ability, which was now pumping its power thanks to how the power/toughness switching rules work. That means that Player 1 could have just blocked with the Transmuter and gotten the trade, since there wasn't any way for the Gargoyle to increase its toughness. So, rather than getting the trade he could have had, he took 6 damage instead of 3 and now wasn't able to handle the Gargoyle he could have killed instead!

Another card that can be surprising, particularly if you haven't seen it much in action yet, is Mangara of Corondor, which is worded to encourage all kinds of abuse.

Mangara of Corondor

Former World Champion Julien Nuijten reportedly brought an opponent down to zero permanents yesterday by repeatedly using his Mangara. One sequence involved tapping Mangara, then using Coral Trickster to untap it in response, then tapping it again on another target. Then, before it was removed, he used Momentary Blink to get it out of play and then back in. At that point it's a whole new Mangara, so it got to stay around until next turn, at which point Julien could tap it again, then flashback the Blink to save it yet again!


Another interaction that came up this weekend involves Vesuva. If you use it to copy a basic land, Vesuva will actually gain the "basic" supertype as well as the relevant subtype. Thanks to Tromp the Domains and Tribal Flames, which care about your count of basic types, Vesuva can be used to push your damage even farther.

Deep-Sea Kraken

Normally this card's ability to remove counters because of opposing spells is a bonus. But for at least one poor player yesterday, it turned out to be disaster. With only two counters left on his Deep-Sea Kraken, his opponent played a creature, let that resolve, and then cast a split second spell. The Kraken's owner didn't realize it at first, but that was the point when his lovely Kraken got stuck in the removed from game zone forever.

The split second spell caused the final counter to come off the Kraken, at which point, per the split second rules, the player with the Kraken received priority. Since the Kraken couldn't resolve with a split second spell on the stack, it got stuck in the removed-from-game zone, and that was that. In fact, because of how suspend is worded, at that point he couldn't even use something like Clockspinning to bring it back. Once a card doesn't have any counters on it anymore, it doesn't count as suspended, so Clockspinning can't put any counters on it.

Sudden Spoiling

Another interesting interaction is morph and Sudden Spoiling. Players seem to have gotten used to the idea of being able to use morph triggers in response to split second spells. Though morphs can do a lot, they can't do everything. Yesterday a player lost a key morph creature because after a Sudden Spoiling resolved, he blocked with his morph creature and then tried to turn it face up. Sudden Spoiling removes all abilities from creatures, though, even morph, so the creature had to fight as a 0/2 and then went straight to the graveyard.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

Then there's madness. While most players now understand that Teferi will hose opposing suspend spells (after all, you couldn't play a sorcery during your upkeep), perhaps not as many get Teferi's interaction with madness. Can you resolve a madness spell with an opposing Teferi in play? Nope. Under the old madness rules, some effects would have been possible, but under the new version, Teferi shuts madness down completely. The reason is that removing a card with madness creates a madness trigger. When that resolves, you have to play the madness spell or put it in the graveyard, but you do so while the madness trigger is still resolving. Because an opposing Teferi is in play, you can't play spells unless there's an empty stack. So, since madness spells by definition have to be played while an ability is still on the stack, they simply don't work against Teferi, because you're never playing with an empty stack when it comes to resolving madness.

Speaking of madness, how about a final question to drive you nuts? This one's from Brian David-Marshall, so when it makes your head asplode, blame him.

Say you've got a Mana Skimmer and a Dauthi Slayer in play from the previous turn. Your opponent is at 2, and his only creatures in play are a Penumbra Spider and a Looter il-Kor. Your opponent has no cards in hand. The only card you have is Aether Web, and you have enough mana to cast it. It's your main phase. Can you win this turn if your opponent plays optimally?

When you're ready, click here to reveal the answer.

You sure can! All you have to do is play Aether Web on the Looter il-Kor and then attack with both of your creatures. The spider can block your Mana Skimmer, but the Looter now can't block your Dauthi Slayer.

Why? Because Aether Web says the looter "…can block creatures with shadow as though they didn't have shadow." That "can" there is mandatory, not optional, so rules-wise that's effectively the same as "…must block creatures with shadow as if they didn't have shadow." (The point is, you can't opt out.) But because the Looter does have shadow, it now can't block creatures with shadow because of the Web on it!

With a Web on it, the Looter now blocks creatures with shadow as though they didn't have shadow, i.e., it treats shadow creatures as non-shadow creatures. Since the Looter has shadow, now you've effectively got a shadow creature trying to block a non-shadow creature, which can't be done. Even worse, the Looter can't block non-shadow creatures either, because it has shadow! (Aether Web doesn't say anything allowing shadow creatures to block non-shadow creatures.) Tournament players take note: the lesson here is that a shadow creature with Aether Web on it can't block anything!

Although some of these examples may seem ridiculous, rest assured that many of them have come up this weekend, and the rest easily could have. PTQ competitors would do very well to study the latest rules twists brought on by Time Spiral.

(Special thanks to Head Judge John Shannon for helping out with this article and double-checking the examples.)

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