RNA New Set Digest

Q: Hey Dave, how does the KCI combo work?

A: Okay, I admit this ban really hurt me. Not because I played the KCI deck in Modern, but because my video explaining this combo garnered over a thousand YouTube views, making it by far the most popular piece of content I have ever produced. So much so that I rewrote my article and reshot the video to clean up the explanations. Just two weeks later, and no one’s going to be playing that deck in Modern ever again. Magic is truly a cruel mistress. If you would like to make it a bit less cruel, or would like to support me in the work I do, please consider following JudgingFtW on Twitch, YouTube, or Twitter.

Q: For the purposes of spectacle, what exactly counts as “losing life”?

A: Anything that makes a player’s life total go down counts as losing life. Damage causes loss of life, effects that specifically say the player “loses life” count, and even them paying life.

Note: The opponent’s life total has to actually change for spectacle to go live. For example, if the opponent controls Platinum Emperion and takes combat damage, the damage is dealt, but their life total won’t change, so you can’t pay the spectacle cost.

Q: Can you reveal Sphinx of Foresight and then exile it with Gemstone Caverns?

A: Yes. You can take actions with your opening hand in any order, so you can reveal the Sphinx first, then put Gemstone Caverns onto the battlefield. After that, you choose a card to exile. The Sphinx’s scry ability looks at whether you revealed it, not at whether it’s still there, so you still get to scry.

Q: Amy wants to attack with Steward of Valeron, but Nicole played Forbidding Spirit last turn. Can Amy attack with Steward of Valeron and also tap it for mana to help pay for the cost to attack?

A: Yes. Although Steward of Valeron has vigilance, it needs to be untapped when you declare attackers, so she can’t tap it for mana before that point. The process of declaring attackers includes a time when players can activate mana abilities to help them pay costs to attack. This point is after the time when attacking creatures become tapped, though, so this trick will only work with creatures that have vigilance.

Note: If Nicole controls Verity Circle while this is happening, it will trigger. Steward of Valeron did become tapped, and it wasn’t because you were declaring it as an attacking creature, even though it happened to become tapped during that process.

Q: Amy sacrifices Pestilent Spirit to cast Thud. Does Thud’s target take deathtouch damage?

A: No. Thud makes you sacrifice as a part of paying the costs. Accordingly, Pestilent Spirit is in Amy’s graveyard and not giving anything deathtouch when Thud resolves and deals the damage.

Note: The situation is a bit more interesting in the case of a spell like Rupture because it makes you sacrifice during resolution. The answer is the same, though. Because you sacrifice first, then deal the damage, Pestilent Spirit is not giving Rupture deathtouch at the time the damage is dealt.

Q: How does Amplifire work with…

  • Spinal Parasite? A: Calculations can use negative numbers just fine. Usually, if the result of a calculation would yield a negative number, zero is used instead, but if the result of that calculation is used to set a creature’s power or toughness, the real number is actually used. Amplifire becomes a -2/-2.
  • Scion of the Wild? A: Scion of the Wild has a characteristic-defining ability, which functions everywhere, not just on the battlefield. Amplifire will see a creature with p/t equal to the number of creatures you control and set its p/t to twice that.
  • Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy? A: In contrast, this card does not have a characteristic defining ability (this is because the ability does not define, but rather modifies, Shanna’s p/t). With this being the case, Amplifire becomes a 0/0.
  • My deck has no creature cards? A: Amplifire’s p/t are set to an undefined number, which the game treats as 0, so Amplifire dies.

Q: Can you cast Electrodominance with X=0 and cast a Ancestral Vision?

A: Yes. Electrodominance lets you cast a spell with converted mana cost 0 or less in this case. Ancestral Vision doesn’t have a mana cost, so its converted mana cost is defined to be 0.

Q: Can I use Biogenic Upgrade to put 3 counters on a creature I control and then double the number of counters on that creature and two other ones?

A: No. If a spell has you divide or distribute something such as damage or counters, each target must receive at least one of whatever is being distributed. So if you want to double counters on a creature, you have to give it at least of the Biogenic Upgrade counters.

Note: Because Biogenic Upgrade targets the creatures it affects, you have to say how many counters you are giving to each creature while you’re casting it. This distribution is locked in at that point, and cannot be changed if the game state changes somehow or one of the creatures is destroyed.

Q: How does Incubation Druid work with…

A: Reflecting Pool was the first effect of this type, which has become increasingly more common. It turns out that there are quite a few complications in this type of effect, but rather than rehash them each time it comes up, I just wrote a returning mechanics review article that covers them.

Q: Amy casts Grizzly Bears while she has Guardian Project, and Nicole kills it with the trigger on the stack. Assuming Amy has no other Grizzly Bears in play or her graveyard, does she draw a card?

A: No. Guardian Project has a triggered ability with an intervening if clause. This means that the condition needs to be true when the ability is put onto the stack and when it resolves. When Guardian Project’s ability starts to resolve, the game will see that Grizzly Bears is the name of a card in Amy’s graveyard, so the ability is removed from the stack.

Note: The fact that both of the Grizzly Bears that “shared a name” were the same card is of no consequence. When a card changes zones, it becomes a new object with no relation to its previous self. In fact, if Amy plays a Grizzly Bears and responds to the Guardian Project’s ability with Justiciar’s Portal, that trigger will not give a card draw because when it tries to resolve, there’s a “new, different” object on the battlefield named Grizzly Bears (of course, the trigger from Grizzly Bears entering the second time will be a card draw).

Q: If I choose no targets for Priest of Forgotten gods’ ability, does it count as a mana ability?

A: Interestingly, no. Any ability that requires a target cannot be a mana ability. Thanks to a new change in the rules, this includes even abilities that are able to target, even if no targets are chosen.

Note: The fact that this ability is not a mana ability has some important consequences. For example, it can be responded to, for example, by Repudiate. Interestingly, that also means that mana from this ability cannot be used to pay for costs to attack like Forbidding Spirit‘s. You can’t tap it during the process of declaring attackers because players don’t get priority then, but you can’t activate it beforehand because the next most recent time you would have priority would be in the previous step, and the mana would empty from your mana pool.

Q: Does Biomancer’s Familiar affect cycling?

A: No. Biomancer’s Familar reduces the cost of abilities of “creatures” you control, and creatures only exist on the battlefield. Anywhere else, including in your hand, Shimmerscale Drake is considered a “creature card,” and therefore not affected by Biomancer’s Familiar’s ability.

Q: Amy activates the 1G ability of Combine Guildmage, then plays Galloping Lizrog. Can Amy remove the counter from Galloping Lizrog to put two counters on it?

A: Yes, this works. Combine Guildmage has a replacement effect, which means the counter will be on Galloping Lizrog by the time Galloping Lizrog’s triggered ability resolves. Galloping Lizrog just says the counters have to come off of creatures you control, so there’s no problem with taking one from itself.

Q: Nicole controls Lavinia, Azorius Renegade. Can Amy cast Bedeck (Amy controls 3 lands)?

A: Yes. A player chooses which half of a split card to cast before putting that card on the stack. At no point does the spell that Amy is trying to cast have any of the characteristics of Bedazzle, so Lavinia doesn’t stop it.

Q: Can I sacrifice Nikya of the Old Ways to cast Final Payment?

A: No. You have to be allowed to cast a spell to begin the process of casting it, so even if it’s possible that Nikya may not be in play to see you finish that process, its ability preempts you from even starting.

Note: If an ability says you can’t cast spells with certain characteristics, you are allowed to begin to cast a spell with those characteristics if choices you make during its casting might change them. Nikya’s ability indeed does prevent you from casting spells with certain characteristics (in this case, noncreature spells). However, no choices you can make during the casting of Final Payment will change its characteristics into something you are allowed to cast, so this rule does not apply.

Q: Amy controls Teysa Karlov and…

A:Teysa is the poster card for weird interactions in this set. So much so, that I devoted an entire article to questions just with her. Please refer to that article and let me know if I missed your favorite question.


Q: Amy dredges a Narcomoeba and Prized Amalgam into her graveyard with a Stinkweed Imp. She puts the Narcomoeba onto the battlefield, but forgets to return the Prized Amalgam at the end of her turn. When Amy is dredging during the draw step of her next turn, she realizes that she should have returned Prized Amalgam and calls a judge. How do you rule?

A: Triggered abilities that should have happened prior to the current phase of the previous turn are generally just ignored with a few exceptions. Prized Amalgam’s trigger used to fall under one such exception, but with the new IPG, delayed zone-change triggers need to undo a prior zone change for this to be the case. Accordingly, Prized Amalgam’s triggered ability is considered missed, and it remains in the graveyard.

Note: Token creation is explicitly treated as a zone change for these purposes, so forgetting to exile a Geist of Saint Traft Angel, for example, is handled as it was before. It is always fixed by exiling the token immediately.

Note: Cards like Aetherling and Obzedat, Ghost Council still work as before; missing the trigger that returns them to play is handled by returning them to the battlefield no matter how much time has passed. The opponent decides whether this happens immediately or at the beginning of the next phase (this prevents this fix from generating “surprise blockers” and a few other undesirable complications).

Note: Prized Amalgam’s ability is actually composed of two triggered abilities: the first triggers when another creature enters the battlefield and the second triggers at the end of turn and actually returns Prized Amalgam. Because the first triggered ability’s only result is creating the second, the first trigger resolves automatically, with no need for acknowledgement from either player. The second trigger is the one that can be missed.

Q: Amy controls True-Name Nemesis with protection from Nicole. Nicole controls The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. Amy draws for turn, and Nicole calls for a judge. She points out that Amy forgot to pay 1 to keep True-Name Nemesis around. How do you rule?

A: Triggered abilities that have a default action associated with a choice made by the ability’s controller used to also be handled exceptionally, but no more. Now, these are handled just like any other triggered ability. Amy controls this triggered ability, so Nicole chooses whether to put it on the stack now or let it be missed. Presumably, she will put it on the stack. In another change, whether a Missed Trigger is a Warning depends on whether the trigger is generally detrimental not for the ability’s controller, but for the owner of the card responsible, which in this case is Nicole. Since Amy having to pay 1 or destroy her creature isn’t generally detrimental to Nicole, there is no Warning.

Note: True-Name Nemesis is indeed able to be destroyed by this ability, as The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is neither targeting, damaging, enchanting/equipping, or (of course) blocking it.

Q: Amy draws for turn. Nicole calls a judge and points out that last turn, Amy played Summoner’s Pact, but she forgot to pay for it. What do you do?

A: As in the previous question, triggered abilities with a default action for a choice made by the controller are no longer treated specially. Since this ability was caught within a turn of when it should have happened, Nicole has the choice of whether to put that ability on the stack immediately or let it be missed. If it is caught anytime after Nicole’s Beginning Phase, Nicole no longer has this choice, and the ability is missed.

Note: Nicole is not obligated to point out Amy’s triggered abilities, but she can if she wants. Importantly, there is no policy support for the notion that Nicole is somehow “locked into” her choice of whether to point abilities like this out. This means that Nicole is allowed to wait until a strategically advantageous time to call a judge. If Nicole points out this missed trigger anytime before the end of her draw step, she will be able to put it on the stack, and if Amy can’t pay 2GG at that time, too bad for her.

Note: If Nicole puts this triggered ability on the stack, Amy cannot make any choices involving objects that were not in play at the time the ability should have resolved. This means that Amy cannot tap any lands that she played that turn to help pay for the pact.

Note: It’s a good idea to involve the head judge in a call like this, since the outcome may very well be functionally a Game Loss.

Q: While searching her library at a Sealed event, it is discovered that Amy mistakenly sideboarded out more cards than she boarded in, and thus presented 39 cards. What is the appropriate infraction, penalty, and fix?

A: Presenting too few cards is a Deck Problem, which has a penalty of a Warning. The fix is to shuffle cards in so that she has 40. Since this is a sideboarded game, the cards (or in this case, card) to be shuffled in used to be chosen at random from among all the cards currently in the sideboard. In limited events, this was especially punishing, since the random card would often be an off-color card that the player had no intention of ever putting in. For this reason, the policy changed so that the random card is chosen from among all the cards in the sideboard that are part of the main deck.

Note: Logistically, determining which cards currently in the sideboard started in the maindeck is a challenging and time-consuming task. My recommendation is to ask the player to identify which cards have been sided out and confirm this against the player’s decklist later.

Note: Although the philosophy for this change focused on limited events, the change discussed applies to constructed events as well.

Q: Did you know that moving your head to the side at an inappropriate time during a draft is considered a Limited Procedure Violation?

A: It is now.

Q: Amy says “go.” Nicole cracks a fetchland during Amy’s end step. While Nicole is searching her library, time is called in the round. What happens?

A: A new change for the MTR defines that if a player passes turn, and time is called before the other player’s turn begins, the other player’s turn is turn zero. This is to remove incentive to play slowly or take actions in the end step to influence the extra turns. Even if significant game actions happen after the active player passes (for example, if Nicole uses the land she gets to cast a spell, which they have a counter war over), this applies. So after Amy’s end step, Nicole will take her entire turn, then Amy will start her turn, which is the first of the five additional turns.

Q: Amy and Nicole are in a stalemate. Amy has eight cards in hand, one of which is Nexus of Fate, which she is continuously discarding every turn. Nicole has a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria which she is continuously putting in her library with its -3 ability. Neither of them has any other cards in library, nor any way to interact with the other. What happens?

A: In the past, this would have been a win for Amy, since she is keeping the game in a loop by making a choice of what to discard, rather than by making the same game action over and over. But that seemed a little dumb, since really, they’re both keeping the game in a loop, and either one could break it by choosing to do something different. The fact that Amy’s hand could hypothetically be all cards with a similar shuffling in effect shouldn’t make her claim to continue in the loop somehow stronger. Now, if Amy wants to claim a win, she will need to show, or get a judge to confirm, that she is unable to make any choice that would bring the loop to an end. Otherwise, the game will end in a draw (unless either player cedes her right to continue indefinitely).

Q: What do I need to know about the changes to Bribery/Wagering/Improperly Determining a Winner?

A: Here are some important points. Refer to the official article here for a fuller explanation.

  • The default penalty for all of these is now a Match Loss rather than a Disqualification.
  • Committing any of these infractions intentionally is Cheating, so it’s still a DQ.
  • These infractions now include a provision that attempting to get the opponent to make an offer that’s against the rules (“You know, if we draw, neither of us can day 2. If only there were SOMETHING we could do…”) is itself an instance of the infraction you are trying to get your opponent to commit, and so meritorious of a Match Loss.



Q: Amy controls Hardened Scales and plays Crazed Firecat. She wins two flips when it comes into play. How many +1/+1 counters are placed on Crazed Firecat in total?

A: It’s unclear from the printed text whether this ability has you put a counter on after each discrete flip (in which case Hardened Scales would apply to each instance of a counter being put on) or flip until you lose, then put all the counters on at once (in which case Hardened Scales will only give you one additional counter no matter how many flips you win). The intended actions are the latter, so the wording of Crazed Firecat was updated by changing a single letter to better reflect this. You now put a +1/+1 counter on it for each flip you “won.” This is two for the case presented above, which will be increased to three.

Q: Amy controls Coalition Honor Guard and activates Cuombajj Witches. Must Nicole choose for her 1 damage to go to Coalition Honor Guard?

A: The Flagbearer ability originally only affected spells and abilities that were controlled by opponents, but updating the wording on that ability lost this distinction. The new Oracle wording reverts this change, meaning that Nicole is not forced to choose a Flagbearer as the target of this ability.

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