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Tolarian Academy – Spiders and More

Hey folks, and welcome to another edition of Tolarian Academy, where I spend way too much time thinking about the rules so you don’t have to. I collected some exciting questions during prerelease weekend, and I figure you’ve got many of those same questions. Let’s not hesitate – here goes!

Q: My opponent used [card]Birthing Pod[/card] earlier in the turn to search up a creature, and at the end of his turn, I cast [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] to give [card]Archive Trap[/card] flashback until end of turn. I don’t have 3UU available – can I use Archive Trap’s alternate cost out of the graveyard?

A: Tiago Chan is a powerful mage, but not quite that powerful. Snapcaster Mage gives the instant or sorcery card you target flashback, with the cost of that ability being equal to its mana cost. The mana cost of a spell is what you’d expect – the thing in the upper right. So, you can cast Archive Trap for 3UU, but you can’t use its alternate cost.

Q: Okay, but I’ve heard you can Snapcaster Mage a [card]Dismember[/card] and pay 1 and 4 life for it. Why can I do that?

A: The rumor here is true, first of all – you can do that. The interesting part is the reason why. Dismember’s mana cost is 1 colorless mana and 2 black Phyrexian mana. That means its flashback cost will be the very same thing. As with all Phyrexian mana symbols, you can choose to pay mana or life to pay for them in a cost. (Note: When you target Dismember with Snapcaster Mage, if I’m your opponent, I’ll definitely ask you, “Which member?”)

Q: I’m at 2, and my opponent casts [card]Shock[/card], targeting me. In response, I activate [card]Tree of Redemption[/card] to exchange my life total with its toughness. My opponent responds with [card]Victim of Night[/card] to destroy my Tree. What happens?

A: Well, your Tree is destroyed, obviously. The question is, what happens to your life total when Tree of Redemption’s ability resolves? Well, Magic has specific rules for exchanges. One of those rules is this one:

701.8a A spell or ability may instruct players to exchange something (for example, life totals or control of two permanents) as part of its resolution. When such a spell or ability resolves, if the entire exchange can’t be completed, no part of the exchange occurs.

Tree of Redemption is no longer on the battlefield, so the ability can’t find it! Since you can’t complete the entire exchange, nothing actually happens. That means you’re still at 2, and the shocking conclusion of this exchange is that, well, you lose.

Q: I control [card]Tree of Redemption[/card] with [card]Slagwurm Armor[/card] attached to it, making it a 0/19. I also control a [card]Platinum Angel[/card], and my life total is -5. My opponent casts [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] targeting Platinum Angel. In response, I activate my Tree. What exactly happens now?

A: Well, you exchange your life total with your Tree’s toughness. Your life total becomes 19, and your Tree’s toughness becomes -5. Time to get out the saw, because your Tree is firewood, right? But wait! It’s not that simple. Slagwurm Armor is still attached to your Tree, and its effect still applies. Effects that set a creature’s power and toughness, like the exchange effect of the Tree, always apply before effects that add to or subtract from a creature’s power and toughness, like Slagwurm Armor. So, we add 6 to that -5, which means Tree of Redemption is now a 0/1. You’re safe! If you aren’t too worried about your life total, you can exchange your life total with the Tree’s toughness again, making the Tree a 0/25 and your life total 1. Do it again, and you’ll be at 25 with a 0/7 tree. It just keeps getting better, over and over!

Q: I spent all this time and mana to flip [card]Ludevic’s Test Subject[/card] into [card]Ludevic’s Abomination[/card], and what happens? My opponent uses [card]Into the Maw of Hell[/card] to kill my Abomination! I’ve got an [card]Unburial Rites[/card] in my graveyard, and I’d like to bring my Abomination back. It died as an Abomination, so it should be an Abomination in the graveyard, right?

A: Sadly, no. All of that dying and whatnot put Ludevic’s Abomination back in its shell.

711.2a In every zone other than the battlefield, and also on the battlefield with its front face up, a double-faced card has only the characteristics of the front face.

This means that in the graveyard, Ludevic’s Test Subject is Ludevic’s Test Subject and not Ludevic’s Abomination, so you’ll be digging up an Easter egg and not a terrifying lizard. It just goes to show you, you can’t make an Abomination without breaking eggs. Or changing its type to Human and casting [card]Moonmist[/card].

Q: My opponent casts [card]Evil Twin[/card] and copies my [card]Inferno Titan[/card]. I use [card]Mindslaver[/card], and on my opponent’s turn, I want to use Twinferno Titan’s additional ability to have it destroy itself. Does that work?

A: Yep! Evil Twin’s ability says “Destroy target creature with the same name as this creature.” It has the same name as itself, so it can definitely evilly murder itself. On an unrelated note, how cool would Inferno Titan be with a goatee? The goatee would probably be on fire, too. That would be sweet.

Q: My opponent uses [card]Spider Spawning[/card] to create ten spiders. Ten spiders! What? That’s ridiculous! Regardless, I have [card]Sever the Bloodline[/card], and I need to take care of those spiders somehow. Spider Spawning, however, doesn’t say that the spiders have names, and I’m worried that they don’t. Can I exterminate his creepy-crawlies with my low-rent [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]?

A: As long as you can pay the exterminator, or in this case, the cost of Sever the Bloodline, you can slay his spidery spawn. It turns out all those spiders he made are just named Spider! Take a look at this:

110.5c. A spell or ability that creates a creature token sets both its name and its creature type. If the spell or ability doesn’t specify the name of the creature token, its name is the same as its creature type(s). A “Goblin Scout creature token,” for example, is named “Goblin Scout” and has the creature subtypes Goblin and Scout. Once a token is on the battlefield, changing its name doesn’t change its creature type, and vice versa.

So, Spider creature tokens are named Spider, as you might expect from seeing the Spider creature tokens in Innistrad booster packs. This means you’ll be able to blow them all up! Of course, Spider Spawning has flashback, but so does Sever the Bloodline, so you’ve got things covered.

Q: Let’s say I’ve got a [card]Daybreak Ranger[/card] that I’ve transformed into [card]Nightfall Prowler[/card]. Let’s then say that my opponent casts [card]Fiend Hunter[/card] and targets Nightfall Prowler with the Fiend Hunter ability. Can I have Nightfall Prowler fight Fiend Hunter?

A: I’ll answer this question the same way one of the other judges at my prerelease did: “You can, but that’s probably not a good idea.” You see, if you do that, Fiend Hunter will die before its first ability resolves. Then, its second ability will go on the stack on top of its first ability. That ability will resolve, returning nothing. The first ability will then finally resolve, exiling Nightfall Prowler forever! Plenty of similar tricks have been pulled in the past with [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], [card]Journey to Nowhere[/card], [card]Faceless Butcher[/card], and similar cards.

Q: I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz recently about [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] and [card]Sundial of the Infinite[/card]. It works this way, it works that way, it doesn’t work, and so on and so forth. What’s the deal?

A: Glad we could clear this up. Here’s how it all works.

Geist of Saint Traft creates two things when it attacks: an Angel and a delayed triggered ability that causes the Angel to be sacrificed. That delayed trigger will be put on the stack during the next End of Combat step. If you skip your End of Combat step by activating Sundial of the Infinite before that part of your turn comes around, the delayed trigger will just go on the stack during your opponent’s End of Combat step. If, instead, you wait for your End of Combat step, allow the delayed trigger to go on the stack, and then end your turn, you’ll have an Angel permanently. Since the delayed trigger has gotten onto the stack, that’s it – you don’t have to worry about it triggering again.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the difference between casual and competitive players. I have an article brewing on the subject, but I thought that, since I’ve got you folks to draw on, I might get some good insight from you. I’ve drawn up a survey to ask questions about how casual and competitive players feel, and I’m hoping you’ll take it!

Here’s a link to the survey.

UPDATE: The survey is now in the form of a Google Form at the above link. Please take it if you haven’t already!

If you have rules questions, please send those along! Fire them at [email protected] with the subject line “Rules Question” and I’ll get back to you soon. It might even end up in the article!

That about wraps up this edition of Tolarian Academy. Join us next time, when I’ll give you seven hundred Standard decklists to pour over, critique, and blindly play at huge tournaments. Wait, that’s not my job. Never mind. (Although next week may actually contain a bonus decklist.)

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