Rotfeaster Maggot and Seraph of the Masses

This one may have come up for some of you in the past couple of weeks since M15, and it may very well happen to you in the future if it hasn’t! Rotfeaster Maggot is a common Black creature that eats dead guys. More specifically, when it enters the battlefield it’ll exile a creature card from any graveyard you so choose, and gain you life equal to that creature’s power. The bigger the meal, the bigger the reward for you! Now, it’s generally pretty easy to figure out how much that’ll be- you just look at the card. Hitting Clone gets you nada, hitting Runeclaw Bear gets you 2, so on and so forth.

But sometimes, it’s not so simple! What happens if you hit one of the Kinda Kird Apes from this set, like Sunblade Elf or Dauntless River Marshal? Do you gain their printed power, even if you control their boosting land type? The answer to that, sadly, is yes. Like the vast majority of abilities on permanents, these abilities only work on the battlefield- nowhere else! Your Sunblade Elf is always a 1/1 in your graveyard, no matter how many Plains you try to satisfy it with.

Now, there are abilities that work in other places. For the purposes of today’s tip, we’ll be looking at Characteristic Defining Abilities. The short version of what these are is wrapped up neatly in the name: they’re abilities that define the characteristics of the object. For example, Seraph of the Masses (boy who saw THAT example coming?). Seraph’s printed P/T is */* but what does that mean to the game? Seraph’s ability defines her P/T, and that works everywhere- the stack, your library, and importantly for today: the graveyard. So, how much life DO you gain if your Rotfeaster Maggot eats a Seraph of the Masses? You gain life equal to however many creatures that Seraph’s owner controls at the time! This’ll work with other stuff that has a CDA too; a Spellheart Chimera, for instance!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Tournament Tuesday: How To Handle a Missed Roaring Primadox Trigger

Welcome back to Tournament Tuesday, where we’re going to cover our favorite topic again: Missed Triggers! Today’s missed trigger discussion is going to be about an uncommon creature from Magic 2015, originally printed in Magic 2013: Roaring Primadox. Primadox has a trigger that makes you bounce a creature you control to its owner’s hand at the beginning of your upkeep. Perhaps this is because it’s fairly aggressively costed as a 4/4 for 4- but it mostly gets used to repeatedly enjoy the ETB triggers of fun creatures like our old friend Acidic Slime. But, enough strategy – let’s get to the meat of today’s discussion. We’ll talk about it both for Regular REL (Rules Enforcement Level) (Which is what you’d encounter at prereleases, FNMs, your shop’s Friday draft, stuff like that) and also at Competitive REL (for events like Pro Tour Qualifiers, Grand Prix Trials, and Grands Prix themselves).

So, Regular REL first. Regular is a more ‘relaxed’ environment – the focus is less on competition and perfect play, and more on community, learning, and fun. As such, we’re a lot more lenient with fixes and stuff, and there’s no real penalty system. Most things get fixed if possible (and the players are reminded to be more careful), and serious bad behavior is met with “Please leave the store.” If you’re at your local FNM and you untap, draw, and totally forget your Primadox trigger until your main phase (or even after combat), we can fix that! Effectively, if the judge feels that too much stuff has happened since you missed your trigger this turn, they’ll just tell you the trigger was missed and ask you to be more mindful of your triggers. If it was caught quick enough, though, we just add it to the stack right then – a lot of players actually do this without calling a Judge, in the sense of “Untap, upkeep, draw. Play a Forest – oh, dang, forgot my Primadox trigger! I’ll bounce this guy.” We would prefer you call a judge to be sure, though!

It’s a little hinkier at Competitive REL, because we actually give out penalties for infractions. We’ll go with the same situation – you just plain forget your Primadox trigger but then you remember it later. You call a Judge over. What he’ll do is give you a Warning for Game Play Error – Missed Trigger, because the trigger is ‘usually considered detrimental.’ Your opponent will then be asked if he’d like to have the trigger put on the stack. If they decide that you do, the ability is added where it SHOULD go on the stack, or more commonly onto the bottom of the stack. If they DON’T want you to get your trigger, you just don’t!

Now, you may be wondering what the timeframe is for you to remember your trigger before it becomes ‘missed.’ That varies from trigger to trigger, and you can read more about it in the Infraction Procedure Guide, or IPG (if you click that handy link, you’ll end up at the Annotated IPG, which is a fantastic project spearheaded by L3 Judge and general good guy Bryan Prillaman. The aim of it is to expand on the IPG itself, to help judges and players alike understand it better! Bookmark and share, kids). For now, though, we’re just gonna talk about the Primadox itself: this trigger falls firmly into the category of “Causes a change in the visible game state” – what creatures are on board is ABSOLUTELY part of the visible game state! For this kind of trigger, your window is pretty small – if you do anything you couldn’t have done with the trigger on the stack, you missed it. The most common way this will show up is by you drawing a card for your turn. You could untap, fire off an instant for some reason, and then remember your Primadox trigger – that’s fine! You legally could have cast that instant with the trigger on the stack, so you haven’t demonstrated that you forgot the trigger. But sorceries, non-flash/non-instant spells, playing a land, drawing a card, moving to combat, all of that? Absolutely you’ve missed it, sad to say. My suggestion for remembering your upkeep triggers? A dice! Put a dice or other small, non-card (and non-card-sized!) marker on top of your library. That way if you move to draw for your turn, you’ll stop for just long enough to remember you have triggers to declare.

An important note about this trigger at either Regular or Competitive REL is that there’s a special clause for triggers that require a choice on resolution. You can’t make a choice involving objects that weren’t in the appropriate zone referenced by the trigger at the time it was missed. Specifically, this means if you start your turn while controlling only Roaring Primadox and no other creatures, and you forget the trigger until after you cast a Runeclaw Bear, you don’t get to choose to bounce the Bear. You’ll have to make a choice that would have been legal at the time it was missed, which means bouncing your Primadox.

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Mass Calcify, Hunter’s Ambush, and Multicolored Creatures

Keeping with the long tradition of there needing to be some kind of white board wipe somewhere in Standard, M15 gave us back Mass Calcify, a 7-mana potentially one-sided board wipe originally printed in Shadowmoor. Conveniently, Mass Calcify goes pretty well with another card from M15 (as far as what we’re discussing today, anyway): the green common, Hunter’s Ambush. Both of them have one thing in common (besides being in M15 and being Magic cards, I mean!): they both do something to all creatures not of a certain color. Mass Calcify destroys all nonwhite creatures, and Hunter’s Ambush prevents the combat damage of all nongreen creatures that turn.

So, let’s take a look at that. I’ve seen many new players misunderstand what things like “nongreen” mean. For example, a multicolored creature. Is Xenagos, God of Revels “nongreen” because he’s red? Is Daxos of Meletis ‘nonwhite’ because he is also blue? The answer to both of these is no! “Nonwhite” does not mean “Black, blue, green, or red,” it means “Not white.” If the answer to the question “Is that a white card” is “yes”, then it’s white. The fact that it also happens to be blue doesn’t make it NOT white. So, Mass Calcify will not hit Daxos – he’s white, so he’s fine. Hunter’s Ambush will let your Xenagos break some faces, because he’s not nongreen – he’s green AND red.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Inferno Fist in Combat: Choices, Choices

Among the new cards we’ve gotten questions about from M15 is a neat little aura called Inferno Fist. As with other Auras, it’ll enchant something (in this case, a creature!) and do something neat. What Fist does, specifically, is boost your creature by +2/+0. It also has an ability that lets you sacrifice the Fist to do 2 damage to a target creature or player, so you can sorta choose how you want that 2 “extra” damage to go. You can leave it strapped to your creature so your creature hits harder, or you can use it as removal or burn if your opponent’s close to death. Heck, you can even effectively use it as a 3 mana Shock, as awful as that may be, by casting it and immediately sacrificing it once it resolves.

But that’s all pretty easy to understand. What we’re going to talk about today is how Infero Fist works when you need to make some choices in combat! Potentially difficult choices, at that. Similar to old favorite Mogg Fanatic, you can’t have your cake and eat it too: if your creature’s going to die in combat, you can sacrifice your aura to throw 2 damage elsewhere. The thing is, if you do that, your creature doesn’t have the boost from Inferno Fist come damage. So, say you control a Runeclaw Bear who is exercising his right to bear fire arms. Your opponent attacks you with a 4/4 and a 2/2. You can kill ONE of those two- not both! If you sacrifice the Inferno Fist before the damage step to kill the 2/2, your Bear is only a 2/2 itself when it deals damage, so it won’t kill the 4/4. If you keep the Inferno Fist for damage, your Bear dies in combat with the 4/4 before you can sacrifice the aura, so you can’t kill the 2/2. So, again: you can’t have your cake and eat it too! You have to make a choice.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Preeminent Captain Won’t Trigger Military Intelligence

As is usual with the summer Core Set, we’ve gotten back some good old friends from days past. One of those old friends is Preeminent Captain, a very fun creature that was originally printed with all his Kithkin buddies in Morningtide. Captain has an interesting ability: Whenever he attacks, you can throw down a Soldier creature from your hand onto the field, tapped and swinging with Captain. That can spell trouble for your opponent pretty quickly!

So, you might be considering using some Military Intelligence with your Captain and his maneuvers- but that won’t work out QUITE as well as you’d hope. You see, the creature that Captain calls in for reinforcements is never declared as an attacker, like the Captain was- it simply came down already attacking. For it to count as having ‘attacked’, you need to actually declare it as an attacker in the appropriate step. So, if you attack with JUST your Captain, then you didn’t attack with two or more creatures, so Intelligence won’t trigger. If you swing with Captain and his buddy the NEXT turn though, it’ll work because you actually are attacking with two creatures now.

This can also work a little in your favor, in older formats. Cards like Crawlspace ALSO don’t count the reinforcements that your Captain brings in, since they weren’t ever declared as attacking your opponent, so you can send three Soldiers into a Crawlspace that should only fit two! Fun times.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Trevor Nunez

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Cone of Flame NEEDS Three Targets

I’m sure many of you ran into Cone of Flame at your local Magic 2015 draft. Hopefully, you were on the casting end, and not the receiving end. Today, we’re going talk about targets and Cone of Flame.

Cone of Flame has three targets: a target creature or player, another target creature or player, and a third target creature or player. You have to choose three different targets for it. You can’t target the same creature or player multiples times with it (sorry, the Cone is good, but it’s not good enough to take down one of the mythic Souls by itself). And if there aren’t three legal targets for it, you’re not going to be able to cast it at all. Luckily, if you really just want to be rid of your opponent’s Scrapyard Mongrel, but there’s no other creatures on the battlefield, there is a way to kill it.

The Mongrel is a legal target, but in most cases, there’s two other legal targets as well: you and your opponent. There’s nothing preventing you from targeting yourself if you really need to cast the Cone (just try to make sure you choose yourself as the target for one damage, unless you have other plans.

And one final note: how much damage each creature or player is assigned is chosen when you announce the spell, not when it resolves. For instance, if you target three of your opponent’s 1/1s with the Cone, and they respond by casting Gather Courage on the one that was assigned one damage, you can’t change your mind and say that you want to deal 3 damage to that creature instead – that choice was locked in when you announced the spell, and it can’t be changed later on.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Nathan Long

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Tournament Tuesday: Redefinition of USC Major

Some of you who keep a closer ear to the tournament scene might have heard about a change to Unsporting Conduct – Major. Among other things, we’ve upgraded this penalty from a Game Loss to a Match Loss, and now focuses on players who make a toxic or unwelcome environment.

To start off with, let’s take a look at the definition from the Infraction Procedure Guide:

A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked. This may include insults based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.

So why this change? When playing in a Magic event, we want players to feel welcome and safe. And the actions and words of a player can potentially be harmful to them. Even if that player says or does something without the intent to harm them, we still need to step in and investigate. Sometimes, someone doesn’t want to speak up, but we still want to step in and curb this bad habit before it does harm someone. Judges should also take some time to educate the player about their behavior and why it is bad. Hopefully, the player will understand why what they did was inappropriate.

And why the penalty was upgraded to a match loss? Two reasons. Before, you could sit down for your match, make a derogatory comment to your opponent, get the USC – Major penalty of Game Loss, then your opponent still has to sit there and play you for a game or two. This makes it very uncomfortable for the opponent. The other reason why it was changed to a match loss is that it gives the some time to cool off, rather than have things escalated beyond control.

I feel like I could go into more detail, but it’s already been done by someone else. I’d like to link to two articles written by Level 4 Judge Sean Catanese. This first article is a more general article about the change, while this article addresses some of the more common questions that have popped up.

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Nathan Long

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Elesh Norn vs. Sakura-Tribe Elder, et. al.

Although Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite hasn’t been seen in a while, her image has been showing up all over Magic recently, from Conspiracy’s reprint of Rout to the head-crest on Soul of New Phyrexia. One thing Elesh is excellent at is brutally shutting down small utility creatures. Because the -2/-2 ability is a static effect, any creature that tries to enter the battlefield on an opponent’s side will immediately have its power and toughness reduced – sometimes going straight to the graveyard before its controller can even do anything with it! For example, Sakura-Tribe Elder is a 1/1 that can sacrifice itself to fetch a basic land from the library. Against Elesh Norn, it’ll enter as a -1/-1. Because state-based actions (like creature death) are checked before a player would ever receive priority, by the time its controller would be legally allowed to sacrifice the Tribe-Elder, Elesh will have already daintily swept it into the bin. At least triggered abilities will still work, like with Shriekmaw!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Characteristics, State-Based Actions, Static Abilities | Comments Off

What “attacks if able” really means.

As of the time of this writing, the full set of Magic 2015 has been spoiled, including a blast from the past: the implacable Juggernaut! This creature has the ability to “attack each turn if able.” So what does “if able” really mean? First off, if there’s an effect that says it can’t attack at all, it can’t attack — so no circumventing summoning sickness and Pacifism. The next thing to note is that if an effect like Sphere of Safety says that it can’t attack unless you pay a cost, you’re allowed to attack, but you don’t have to — even if you could pay the cost, you’re not required to; and if you don’t pay the cost, Juggernaut isn’t able to attack.

Things get a bit more complicated once you throw other creatures into the mix. Let’s say you control Loyal Pegasus, who can’t attack or block alone, and a Traveling Philosopher. If Shipwreck Siren uses its ability to force Loyal Pegasus to attack, you’re required to attack with the Philosopher as well, since sending additional creatures into combat isn’t a cost that disqualifies the phrase “if able.” On the other hand, suppose you’re drafting Conspiracy and you’ve somehow picked up two Cogwork Trackers, but one of your opponents has a Silent Arbiter. In this case, you can’t fulfill both requirements at once, so you pick one and ignore the other. If both of your Trackers are required to attack different players, you’ll get to pick which opponent you’re required to attack this turn.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

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Notion Thief and Dredge

The dredge ability seems a lot like a trigger, but it’s not — it’s a replacement effect that modifies the event of drawing a card. Which means it’s probably not a good idea to try to use other replacement effects to stop your opponent from dredging. For example, if you control a Notion Thief, don’t expect to be drawing any cards soon. When your opponent tries to resolve an effect that would let her draw a card, such as Cephalid Coliseum, both replacement effects jump in and say “pick one!” to your opponent (the affected player). Your opponent will probably choose the dredge effect, which means there’s no longer any draw for Notion Thief to replace.

Perhaps you can stop your opponent from drawing entirely? Spirit of the Labyrinth, for example, prevents your opponent from drawing any cards at all after the first card each turn. This is great if you can somehow trick your Dredge opponent into drawing a card. However, if she replaces each of her draws with dredges, the Spirit never sees that she actually drew a card — and therefore won’t stop her from replacing her prospective card draws with further dredges. Of course, if she draws her first card normally under Spirit of the Labyrinth, then tries to dredge from a later draw, that won’t work because the second draw effect won’t be possible.

If you want to shut off dredging entirely, you’ll need an effect that says players “can’t draw cards,” like Maralen of the Mornsong or Omen Machine. On second thought… you could just play cards that exile their graveyard instead, like Tormod’s Crypt.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

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