Deathcurse you, Captain Obvious!

Posted in Feature on October 16, 2004

By John Carter

Send your rules questions to Magic Rules Manager John Carter. Can't find the answer to your question somewhere else? Maybe he's already answered it! Try the Saturday School Searchable Rules Database.

Gatherer Rules

Whether you're a “forces of good” or a “forces of evil” kind of person, Magic can still be baffling. Well, have no fear — Gatherer Rulings are here!

Knew you were right all along? Pull up the card and see what the Official word is. Does being bad feel good when it's legal? Take a look before those meddling kids thwart your plans. On each card that has an associated ruling there will be a horizontal bar in the card's popup window that reads, “Official Rulings”. Below that bar are the most current rulings on that card. More rulings will be available as The Master Plan unfolds.

The Gatherer Rulings database will grow over time. As rulings are compiled, edited, and inserted into the database more and more cards will have answers at your fingertips, and there's more to come as other features are added to Gatherer down the road. Today is the dawn of a new era—one simple enough to make Captain Obvious proud.

The Latest in Super-Villainy

Q: I have a Deathcurse Ogre and a Nezumi Ronin enchanted with an Oni Possession and my opponent's Cage of Hands. At the beginning of my upkeep, I put the “sacrifice a creature” on the stack from the Oni Possession. My opponent does nothing, so I sacrifice the Nezumi Ronin. Now he says he will return his Cage of Hands to his hand. Can he return the Cage of Hands to his hand after I sacrifice the Nezumi Ronin? Do I choose the creature to sacrifice when it is resolved or announced? --Peter W.

A: You chose and sacrifice a creature when the trigger resolves. Your opponent will not be able to return the Cage of Hands once the ability begins resolving, and after the ability resolves state-based effects will put the Cage in to the graveyard before you get priority (and before your opponent can do anything).

Q: If a creature with first strike is equipped with Kusari-Gama and deals damage to a blocking creature, do all the defending player's creatures take first-strike damage (and thus, if destroyed, can't damage the creatures that they are blocking unless they themselves have first strike)? If this is what happens, then would this mean that some of the attacking player's creatures might now be unblocked, and able to swing for damage to the defending player? --Stephen Coleman

A: All of the defending player's other creatures will be damaged by the Kusari-Gama. This is not the same thing as first strike damage (nor is it combat damage), but it does get dealt before regular combat damage and could potentially finish off many blockers before regular combat damage is assigned.

Creatures whose blockers were killed by the Gama are still blocked for the rest of combat, so they won't assign damage to the defending player unless they have trample.

Q: Would Kusari-Gama be usable to deal damage to a creature that is not actually blocking the equipped creature? In other words, if I have Kusari-Gama equipped on Kumano, Master Yamabushi can I attack with another creature, then deal damage via my Kusari-Gama equipped creature to their blocker once it is declared? --Ryan B.

A: Yes, you can. In the Yamabushi case, a blocking creature would take one from Kumano's activated ability, and all the other creatures that defending player controls would take one from the Gama's triggered ability (without Kumano's RFG side effect). Wash, rinse, and re-ping as necessary.

Q: I'm curious: if you cast Wrath of God with Samurai of the Pale Curtain in play, are all creatures removed from the game or destroyed? --Ben C.

A: Both. All the creatures are destroyed, and instead of going to the graveyard they'd be removed from the game. This stops modular and soulshift triggers which both use going to the graveyard as their trigger event. (Indestructibles still just giggle though—Wrath tickles. They ignore the destruction effect and therefore the Pale Curtain won't apply to them.)

Bushi Tenderfoot
Q: Two generic 3/3 creatures block a Bushi Tenderfoot equipped with a No-Dachi. During the first strike damage step the Tenderfoot kills one of the 3/3's. Will it then flip and deal five damage during the regular damage dealing step to the other creature as Kenzo the Hardhearted? --Chris G.

A: Yes. That first combat damage step was first strike and double strike, and the second step was everybody not in the first step plus double strikers [CR 310.5].

Q: I was wondering when a creature targeted by Blessed Breath gains the protection - this came up when I spliced Glacial Ray onto the Breath, targeted the same creature with both effects, and then wanted to choose "Protection from White". Will this prevent the damage form the Ray? --James M.

A: Spell instructions are followed in the order written [CR 413.2b]. The check for legal targets happens only once—at the beginning of resolution [CR 413.2a]. This question is an excellent example of why order matters, especially with splice cards. In the Breath-with-Ray example for get the following:
Critter gains Pro: White. Ray text tries to deal white damage—damage is prevented.

*Extra* Swap it around for comparison. Let's say the Breath is spliced onto the Ray, and you want to choose “red”:
Critter takes two damage. Breath text grants protection from red.
If the creature were a 2/2 you'd have a pro: red critter with two points of red damage going to the graveyard as a state-based effect. The pro: red can't go back in time and erase the damage that was already resolved even moments before.

Q: Can I splice a Glacial Ray onto a Crushing Pain to kill an 8/8? --GSP

A: No – you'll have to play the Ray first, and then the Pain. Crushing Pain requires the target to have already been damaged. You can't even announce Crushing Pain unless the intended creature has been hurt already. Until that point, the Crushing Pain will just have to wait.

Q: I was wondering if you'd mind clarifying the interaction between Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Crucible of Worlds? --Joseph B.

A: Azusa plus Crucible means you may play a total of three lands on your turn. Each one may come from your hand or your graveyard.

*Extra* You don't need to have two additional lands to invoke Azusa's ability. Playing one additional land is fine.

Q: I have a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and an Ember-Fist Zubera in Play. I play Teller of Tales and then activate Kiki-Jiki for a Zubera token. Does the token count as the playing a Spirit? --Samuel G.

A: No. Playing a spell means putting it on the stack. What you played was Kiki-Jiki's ability, which put a Spirit into play. (Putting something into play is not the same as playing it.)

Q: I'm incredibly confused by what happens when Zubera kill each other in combat. Is it equal effects for both players, based on the number of zubera that have gone to the graveyard or is it that one goes to the graveyard first, causing greater effects for one of the players? --Joseph R.

A: If zubera are dying at the same time (such as from combat damage), then the effect is the same for each trigger. What happens is state-based effects put the combat dead into the graveyards causing (let's say) two triggers. The active player put his trigger on the stack, and the non-active player puts his trigger on the stack. As each of these resolves the trigger asks for how many zubera died this turn. The answer each time is “2”.

*Extra* In this scenario, the active player could let the other player's trigger resolve and then sacrifice or otherwise whack more of his own zubera to cash in on the body count without letting the other player capitalize.

Q: Ghostly Prison taxes attackers, but some attackers must attack each turn if able. Does this mean if both are in play, their controller must pay the 2 mana, or can he choose not to and then the creature can't attack and it's ability is satisfied? –Joe

A: The choice is up to the attacker when it comes to paying for Prison. This is where the “attacks each turn if able” of the must attack ability kicks in—if you don't pay the two mana to bail out a Battle-Mad Ronin, he won't be “able” to attack.

Q: I have three life and there are six points of combat damage on the stack against me. I play Candles' Glow, targeting myself. Am I dead or not? --Chris I.

A: You're alive and at 3 life. When the six points resolve three things happen: (prevent 3) + (gain 3) + (take the remaining 3). Once that's all said and done the active player gets priority—just after that, state-based effects check and find out you're doing fine.

Nefarious Plans From Yesteryear

Star Compass
Q: Can my Star Compass generate any color mana when I have under my control a basic land enchanted with Fertile Ground? --Michael J.

A: No, it can only produce colors your basic lands are producing. Fertile Ground, while enchanting and trigger off of your land, is not the same as the land producing mana.

*Extra* If you had a Joiner Adept your lands could tap for mana of any color—because Joiner Adept gives the tap-for-any-color ability to the land. Thus your Compass could do likewise (assuming at least one of your lands is basic).

Q: If you're going to attack with a creature and your opponent is going to use Thornscape Apprentice to tap that creature, do you really have to hurry up and be the first one to tap? --Trey M.

A: No. Once in the combat phase there is a step before attackers are declared—it's the Beginning of Combat step. Your opponent may tap potential attackers at that point (or any time before that), and you can't begin declaring your attackers until you have given your opponent a chance to do this. Tapping or not tapping a creature isn't a matter of how quickly either player can speak or move.

Q: Do multiple Essence Sliver abilities stack? –Jeffery

A: Yes. For instance, if you attack with two Essence Slivers, when they deal damage to something or someone, you'll put four triggers (two slivers with the Essence ability two times each) on the stack. Yum yum.

Q: I have a Master Apothecary and two other clerics in play and my opponent attacks with a Skyhunter Cub equipped with Loxodon Warhammer and one equipped with Bonesplitter. I tap my 3 clerics to prevent the next 6 damage that would be dealt to me. Who says which damage is prevented? --Peter Corwin

A: You, as the player being damaged, decide which damage gets prevented [CR 419.7b]. Preventing the Warhammered Cub's six would mean the gain life trigger wouldn't happen for your opponent.

*Extra* You could even prevent five from the Warhammered Cub and the last one for the other Cub so that you can play Reciprocate on the Warhammered Cub.

Q: Regarding Isochron Scepter and Fire/Ice; if were to imprint this card on to the Scepter can I play both of the spells or do I have to choose which one I want to imprint to later play it? --Albert R.

A: You may play either half off the Scepter. When you imprint the Scepter, you're imprinting the whole card. When you activate the Scepter, you get a copy of that card. You then get to play said copy, and as you do that you make the decision on which half you'd like to use. You can Fire sometimes, and Ice sometimes. Good times.

Q: I remembered an argument about the Emblazoned Golem + Mycosynth Golem combo, first appeared in Mark Gottlieb's column weeks ago. However, I'm still not sure about the thing. Could you please explain to me how it really works? –Tiziano

A: I'd watch out for Mago—his lair blew up recently, and he's been moping around the office wearing an eye patch.

Anyway, regarding the enormous Emblazoned Golems: Yes, it works fine. Mycosynth Golem gives the Emblazoned Golem affinity for artifacts, and affinity doesn't care what part of the cost it pays for. Emblazoned Golem doesn't worry about how it got paid for, just that you “Spend only colored mana on X”—covering your costs in other ways is fine. If you have two colorless, a blue mana, and the Mycosynth grants an affinity for nine artifacts, then you could spend the 2 for the base cost and blue + affinity for the rest. You'd have an 11/12 golem. That's almost big enough to take over the world.

Q: I was playing against a friend; he had a Myr Quadropod out, with a Slagwurm Armor equipped. He says that if you pay three to swap its power & toughness it would then become a 10/7 as it's defense was swapped to make a 10/1, then the armor will then boost it's toughness by +6 again. I can see the logic but wish to clarify. –Mark

A: The Quadropod is a 10/1. If your friend re-equipped the Slagwurm Armor the Quadropod would be 4/7. The way to figure this out is to take the power and toughness and apply the various effects in timestamp order:
Base of 1/4. Add Slagwurm--1/4 + 0/6 = 1/10. Swap into 10/1.
If he re-equipped, the Slagwurm effect would be after the swap: 1/4 becomes 4/1 and then gets + 0/6 = 4/7.

Q: If you have more than one Elfhame Sanctuary in play, can you search for a land for each Sanctuary in play? --Josh S.

A: Yes, and you'll only skip the one draw step that turn. Elfhame Sanctuary specifies “skip your draw step this turn” (notice “this turn”) as opposed to Blinding Angel which helps players to “skip his or her next combat phase”.

Q: Can I imprint Condescend to Isochron Scepter? What will be the value of X in it's casting cost? Would it be zero? –Rye

A: Yes. Playing the copy would have X = 0. Chances are that your opponent will decide to pay that 0, but at least you get to scry.

Q: Angel's Trumpet is giving my group a small problem. We are unclear on whether a creature with summoning sickness is affected by the Trumpet. --Brian L.

A: The Trumpet affects creatures regardless of summoning sickness. The only things the Trumpet asks for is (1) if the creature is untapped and (2) whether or not it attacked. If the answer is yes to #1 and no to #2, then that player gets blasted.

Breakfast with the Evil Genius

Q: Does this combo work with the following cards-- Volrath's Shapeshifter, Flowstone Hellion, and Phyrexian Dreadnought-- to make Volrath's Shapeshifter huge? You play the Shapeshifter, discard the Hellion, and then discard the Dreadnought. The Shapeshifter retains all abilities of the cards discarded… --Chris L.

A: Not so fast there. The Shapeshifter mimics only one thing at a time. However, the idea you're after works even if the details need some adjustment.

Its creator, Paul Barclay, dubbed the deck that most famously used this combo “Full English Breakfast”. At the time, the Extended combo deck to beat was “Trix” and “Necro-Donate” (Trix with black for Necropotence). The Trix deck was named in the vein of another famous combo pair Enduring Renewal / Goblin Bombardment-- named "Fruitty Pebbles" and (with black) "Cocoa Pebbles". The name is good-natured ribbing at the simple, cereal-based decks of the day compared to the complexity oddity the used Volrath's Shapeshifter as its major path to victory.

Full English Breakfast

Download Arena Decklist

The simple (I use the term loosely) kill mechanism required Volrath's Shapeshifter, Flowstone Hellion, and Phyrexian Dreadnought. Survival of the Fittest was hugely helpful in completing the pieces in the right order. Here's the setup:
Have a Volrath's Shapeshifter in play.
Use the Shapeshifter or Survival to put a Flowstone Hellion into the graveyard (assuming it's not already on top of your graveyard).
Having the Hellion's text means the Shift-Hellion has haste.
Attack.
Activate the Shift-Hellion's “{0}: +1/-1” ability eleven times successively.
Respond to those by discarding a Phyrexian Dreadnought (via Shift-Hellion or Survival).
The Shift-Hellion shifts into being a Shift-Nought—it's 12/12 and has trample.
Since it's already attacking, losing haste doesn't matter.
Resolve the eleven pending Shift-Hellion effects.
12/12… 13/11… 14/10… all the way to 23/1 (and trample-y to boot!).
Stack damage.
Crunch.

See? Easy.
Don't forget the maniacal laughter. The English accent just makes it better.

Class dismissed.

--Carter

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