No Mercy 4

Welcome, readers, to the fourth annual No Mercy rules challenge. Each year, I collect the hardest rules questions I can find into the most merciless article I can write. If you can answer even one or two of these questions confidently, rest easy knowing that you should be able to answer anything that comes up in a real tournament.

But that brings up an interesting point. What value is there in this? Are we really worried about someone breaking the Legacy metagame with the Gliding Licid/Soul Sculptor deck? The answer is that there is essentially no practical value to be found here. Unlike the other questions found on this site, “No Mercy” questions test your knowledge not of the fundamentals, but of the exceptions, and it’s hard for me to consider rules knowledge of this level, impressive as it may be, a skill that judges should concern themselves with. Why write this article, then? One word: Fun. Because if you try to take judging too seriously, you’re just asking to burn out. So take this article as an annual reminder to have some fun judging, too. Don’t think of judging, improving, or even learning the rules as an onerous chore, because it doesn’t have to be. In the words of too many illustrious judges before me to count, If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong!

Full contest rules can be found in the previous post. Here’s a brief summary:

  • We are looking for interesting, stimulating, and difficult questions, answerable only by detailed knowledge of the CR. On the other hand, the difficulty should come from needing knowledge of obscure rules, precise wordings, and subtle interactions, not gratuitous complexity. To this end, each question may reference only three cards. Basic lands, creatures with no abilities, and creatures whose only ability is a single evergreen keyword are not counted towards this limit (Reference CR 702.2 through 702.20 for a list of evergreen keywords).
  • The question must have a correct answer which can be determined from the Comprehensive Rules alone.
  • Due to their increased complexity and reduced penetration, questions concerning any multiplayer or casual variant (except two-headed giant) will not be eligible.
  • Each year, I will promote one question as the best, based on the criteria of originality, creativity, and difficulty. Really excellent questions may be considered even if they break one or more of these rules as long as they stay within the proper spirit.

Q: Amy controls Enduring Renewal and Keranos, god of Storms. During her upkeep, she activates Sindbad. What happens?

A: Enduring Renewal replaces the card draw from Sindbad’s ability by having Amy reveal the top card of her library and put it into her graveyard if it’s a creature card. If that happens, the process stops there. No card draw occured, so there’s no card for Sindbad to have Amy discard and neither of Keranos’s abilities trigger. If the card isn’t a creature, Enduring Renewal’s replacement effect has Amy draw a card. Sindbad will not have Amy reveal or discard this card, even if it’s a nonland card, because the card draw from Sindbad’s ability was replaced. This means that any ancillary actions in Sindbad’s ability that would have been performed on the drawn card (such as revealing and discarding) are not perfomed, even if a card was drawn as part of the actions the draw was replaced with [CR 614.11b]. Keranos will still interact with this as normal though, because Amy still did draw a card. Keranos will reveal this draw, and its appropriate ability will trigger to either have Amy draw an additional card or deal 3 damage.

Q: Amy controls Whisperwood Elemental that’s enchanted with Infinite Reflection and a Grizzly Bears that’s a copy of Whisperwood Elemental and is also enchanted with Infinite Reflection. In her End of Turn Step, Amy manifests two cards, a Balduvian Bears and a Brainstorm. What are the characteristics of both those cards? How much will it cost to turn them face up? What will be their characteristics if they are turned face up?

A: As each card is manifested, both Infinite Reflections have replacement effects that want to apply to it entering the battlefield. Amy controls both, so she chooses the order in which they apply [CR 616.1]. Her choice doesn’t matter, though. Because Grizzly Bears is copying Whisperwood Elemental, other copy effects will see that and use Whisperwood Elemental’s values if something becomes a copy of Grizzly Bears [CR 706.2]. Therefore, no matter what order Amy picks to apply the Infinite Reflections’ effects in, the result is that each of her manifested cards enters the battlefield with Whisperwood Elemental’s copiable values.

To determine the characteristics of an object, start with their printed values (if applicable), modify those according to any copy effects acting on it and then by the object’s status [CR 706.3]. In this case, both manifested cards have the characteristics of Whisperwood Elemental, but their face down status applies after this and makes them 2/2 creatures with no name, mana cost, or abilities [CR 707.10, 701.32a]. If either card is turned face up, its status will no longer be affecting its characteristics, so it will have the characteristics of Whisperwood Elemental.

It isn’t possible to turn the Brainstorm face up. That’s because the special action of unmanifesting involves showing that the card representing the permanent that’s being turned face up is a creature card [CR 701.32b]. Because Brainstorm isn’t a creature card, it can’t be turned face up this way. In fact, it can’t be turned face up any other way, because if a manifested permanent that’s represented by an instant or sorcery card would turn face up, its controller just reveals it and leaves it face down [CR 701.32e].

The Balduvian Bears is a little more interesting. It is a creature card, so it can be turned face up using the normal unmanifesting process. This process involves showing and paying “that card’s mana cost” [CR 701.32b]. Because this rule refers to the card rather than the object, the Balduvian Bears’ 1G mana cost is the appropriate one to pay.

Q: Amy controls Psychogenic Probe and casts Mind Rot targeting Nicole. Nicole discards 2 Progenituses. What happens?

A: Because both Progenituses are discarded as part of the same event, both are shuffled into Nicole’s library at the same time. Abilities that look for a library being shuffled will trigger for each thing causing it to be shuffled if multiple effects cause a library to be shuffled multiple times simultaneously [CR 701.18f]. Nicole takes a total of 4 damage.

Q: Amy plays Resurrection targeting Dearly Departed while she controls Ashes of the Fallen, for which the named type is Human. Does Dearly Departed get a +1/+1 counter?

A: No. To determine which replacement effects apply to the event of a permanent entering the battlefield, look at how the permanent would exist on the battlefield [CR 614.12]. On the battlefield, Dearly Departed isn’t a Human, so its ability does not apply to itself.

Note: Continuous effects that will affect the characteristics of the thing entering the battlefield are taken into account when determining which replacement effects apply. If Amy controlled a Hivestone that had artificially evolved into a Humanstone, Dearly Departed would enter with an additional +1/+1 counter.

Q: Amy uses Mystic Confluence to return Nicole’s Spellskite and two Grizzly Bears to her hand. Can Nicole use Spellskite’s ability to make it so that only Spellskite is returned?

A: Yes. A specific permanent can only be chosen as the target of a spell once for each instance of the word “target” on that spell [CR 601.2c]. Although the word “target” is only printed on Mystic Confluence’s “bounce a creature” mode once, the text “You may choose the same mode more than once” on Mystic Confluence means that if a mode is chosen more than once, the spell is treated as though it had the text of that mode appearing that many times in sequence [CR 700.2d]. This means that Spellskite can be the target of each instance of that mode’s ability, since the game considers the text of the mode, and therefore the word “target” to be iterated three times in this case.

Note: Because the text appears that many times “in sequence,” all three targets are returned one at a time, rather than all together [CR 608.2e]. If you’re bouncing Vela the Night-Clad and two other creatures, be sure to bounce Vela first.

Q: Amy plays Fiery Confluence. Can she deal 2 damage to 3 different planeswalkers that Nicole controls?

A: Yes. As noted above, if the “deal 2 damage” mode is chosen three times, Fiery Confluence is treated as though it had that text appearing three times in sequence. This means that there are three separate instances of Fiery Confluence dealing damage to Nicole, so there are three opportunities for Amy to choose to redirect to a planeswalker.

Q: Amy uses casts Necromancy from under her Howltooth Hollow. Is Necromancy sacrificed at the beginning of the next cleanup step?

A: No. The “sacrifice in cleanup” is part of the same ability that lets you cast Necromancy as an instant [CR 608.2e]. Therefore, it’s only applicable if you are casting it using that ability. If you cast it some other way, that part of the ability won’t come into play.

Q: At the end of Amy’s turn, Nicole Smeltes Amy’s Trinisphere, generating the R to do so by using Chromatic Sphere‘s ability as part of casting Smelt. The card she draws is Terminus. Can she cast it for its miracle cost? How much will she pay to do so?

A: Followers of No Mercy may recall that if a spell or ability causes a card to be drawn while another spell is being cast, the drawn card is kept face down until that spell becomes cast, and that while face down, the drawn card has no characteristics [CR 120.8]. Interestingly enough, this doesn’t mean that the card can’t be revealed or cast with its miracle ability. This same rule says that if an effect allows a player to reveal the card as it’s being drawn, that reveal happens after the spell becomes cast. This means that Nicole can reveal Terminus after she completes the process of casting Smelt. Because the miracle ability triggers while Smelt is being cast, it will resolve and let Nicole cast Terminus before Smelt resolves, which means that Terminus will still be in play, so Terminus will cost a slightly less miraculous 2W to cast.

Q: Nicole casts Master Warcraft while she controls Ghostly Prison. Her opponent Amy controls 2 Grizzly Bears and an Omnath, Locus of Mana with 6 green mana in her mana pool. Amy wants to attack with both bears, but Nicole wants her to attack with Omnath alone. What happens?

A: Master Warcraft changes the rules for the combat step by changing which player chooses the creatures that attack. This is the step described in CR 508.1a in the process of declaring attackers. The remainder of this process is unaffected. The step where the active player pays the cost to attack occurs later, and does not indicate that paying this cost is optional, so Amy has to pay the cost to attack with whatever creatures Nicole chooses as long as she is able [CR 508.1j].

Note: Ordinarily, Amy could effectively refuse to pay the cost to attack by not activating mana abilities to generate the mana to pay for this cost. Activating mana abilities is never mandatory, even if paying a cost is [CR 117.3c]. Unfortunately, because Amy already has the mana in her mana pool, this tactic isn’t on the table.

Note: Astute readers may notice a line in the process of declaring attackers which seems to be relevant here: “If a creature can’t attack unless a player pays a cost, that player is not required to pay that cost, even if attacking with that creature would increase the number of requirements being obeyed” [CR 508.1d]. This clause only applies when determining whether a set of attackers is legal in regards to restrictions and requirements. It means that, for example, a player with Crazed Goblin is not forced to pay 2 to attack with it if his opponent controls Ghostly Prison. In the situation originally presented though, this rule does not apply. Master Warcraft does not create requirements or restrictions. It just changes who makes the decision of which creatures attack. Because there are no restrictions or requirements to consider, any set of attacking creatures Nicole chooses is legal, and Amy will have to pay for them if she can (although see the above note for a potential loophole available to Amy).

Note: Nicole chooses which creatures attack, but Master Warcraft doesn’t say she chooses who or what those creatures are attacking. That happens in the step after the set of attacking creatures is declared [CR 508.1b]. Amy still chooses which player or planeswalker each creature attacks from among the full set of legal possibilities. Master Warcraft does nothing to affect or limit this choice.

Note: This question was chosen the best. Lots of stuff going on, and not very immediately obvious, but from a rules standpoint, this question is very straightforward. I hope you liked reading about some fun interactions, and I hope to see you back next year!

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