Hello and welcome to another week of insightful tips on the Rules Tips blog! This week, we’re going to take a look at the denizens of Zendikar in Oath of the Gatewatch. And where better to begin than with the land itself? Wandering Fumarole (along with its compatriots Needle Spires and Hissing Quagmire) complete the long-awaited enemy-color cycle of “creature lands,” which each have an activated ability that turns them into a creature until end of turn. Even among this elite class, the Fumarole is special in that it has another activated ability once it’s animated. This ability switches its power and toughness. In the “layer” system that governs how big each creature ends up, switching always applies last. Say you activate each ability once. The Fumarole will become a ¼, then a 4/1. If you activate the animation ability again, the Fumarole will not become a 1/4, because the switching ability still goes last. However, you can hit the switch again and it’ll swap back to a ¼, overwriting the previous switch. You can keep flip-flopping between 1/4 and 4/1 as much as you like, since this ability costs no mana.
In addition to being a better attacker or blocker in combat, this ability is a pretty nifty way to dodge removal! For instance, in response to a Complete Disregard on your 1/4, you can make the Fumarole a 4/1, leaving it too big to be Disregarded. The same trick applies to spells that care about a creature’s toughness, like Reality Hemorrhage. Trying to burn that 4/1 won’t have much effect when it can just switch back to a 1/4.
For those wondering how to get rid of the pesky Fumarole, the answer is that there’s a specific window when it has its shields down. You want to cast your burn spell when the Fumarole is a 1/4, and an activation of its switching ability is on the stack. At this time, if the Fumarole player lets the burn spell resolve, it’ll do nothing… at first. Then the switch ability will take effect and make the Fumarole a 4/1, which immediately dies due to having lethal damage on it. Activating the switch ability in response won’t do much good, either, since if the Fumarole is a 4/1 at the time the burn spell resolves, it’ll die as soon as it’s burned, and before its ability to switch back to a 1/4 ever resolves. (However, this trick does not work with Complete Disregard, as you need the Fumarole to be a legal target before you can even cast it.)
Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong