Judge Bill

Bill Guerin is a Level II Judge who we can personally vouch as walking Magic encyclopedia.  He'll be answering all your Magic Ruling questions.  Write him at PojoMagicJudge


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Judge Bill's Corner

How much Sparksmith Damage?

Questions: 28


Q: When I have a Sparksmith in play and X other goblins, when I tap it to deal X damage to target creature and X damage to myself In response can my opponents or even myself change the number of goblins in play? i.e. kill some goblins in response to have the Sparksmith deal less damage?

A: X is not a cost of the spell, so X is defined when Sparksmith's ability resolves. Only when X is in a cost or involved in targeting is it defined on announcing the spell.


Q: If the target leaves play in response to the ability do I take any damage?

A: No. All the targets are illegal, so the entire ability is countered.


Q: When a player uses Spikeshot Goblin, can they respond by Giant Growthing to raise the power? Can an opponent lower its power by destroying power raising enchantment/equipment in response or play things like Shrink?

A: See above. The amount of damage will be determined on resolution.


Q: What happens if the Spikeshot leaves play in response? does a null creature deal damage = to its power? what if it was equipped/enchanted at the time?

A: When the ability resolves, it asks for the power of Spikeshot Goblin. Since Spikeshot Goblin is no longer in play, the ability asks what the power of Spikeshot Goblin was just before it left play, and it will deal that amount.

402.6. Once activated or triggered, an ability exists independently of its source as an ability on the stack. Destruction or removal of the source after that time won’t affect the ability. Note that some abilities cause a source to do something (for example, "Prodigal Sorcerer deals 1 damage to target creature or player") rather than the ability doing anything directly. In these cases, any activated or triggered ability that references information about the source will check that information when the ability resolves, or will use the source’s last known information if it’s no longer in play.

Q: At FNM, Player 1 during their upkeep sacrificed a permanent to their Braids in play (a land) and then after drawing a card proceeded to use a Cabal Interrogator on their opponent for 4. After choosing a card they said go. Player 2 untapped and was about to draw a card but then realized that player 1 had made an illegal play - The mana used by the Cabal Interrogator was derived from a combination of 2 swamps and a Temple of the False God (only 4 land were in play as the previous player sacrificed their 5th).

What would you do in that situation?

A: Nothing significant has happened, so I would back up to where the Interrogator's ability was used, and put the card back in that player's hand. The Interrogator would untap, and both players would receive penalties for Procedural Error - Major. Player 1 would receive a Warning, since he made the illegal play, and Player 2 would receive a Caution, as it is both players' responsibility to make sure abilities are played properly.


Q: After that, because of the confusion of the last players turn, player 2 then forgot to sacrifice to the Braids ability. Would there be a lesser penalty to player 2 because of the distraction of the previous turn by player 1? Or does it truly matter what the other player does - a mistake is a mistake?

A: Player 2 would receive a Caution for a Procedural Error. Normally, this would be upgraded to a Warning, since it is a second offence. However, due to everyone being confused, I would then downgrade the penalty to a Caution. I would warn Player 2, though, that another Procedural Error will result in a game loss (third offence).

If it was Player 1 that forgot to sacrifice to his own Braids, it would be a Warning, normally upgraded to a game loss for a second offence. However, you may want to use your discretion, and downgrade it to a second Warning. Your option.

The reason for the higher penalty on Player 1 is because they are his cards. Player 1 has the responsibility of knowing how his cards work.


Q: We have some really good players going here and their ratings are getting close to the 1900's mark. I once heard that when your rating is high enough that you will automatically qualify for certain events. If this is true what is the number we need and for which events? Does it have to be in constructed for a constructed event and limited for limited or does in fall on to our composite ratings?

-Dan S.

A: Players can qualify on rating to Pro Tours, and receive byes at Grand Prix events.
For Pro Tours the top 50 players previously uninvited are invited to that event, based on the appropriate rating (limited for a limited Pro Tour, and Constructed for a Constructed Pro Tour). The ratings cutoff for New Orleans, best as I can tell, was 2038. (This is based on current ratings, so it could have changed slightly. However, I would expect to need AT LEAST a 2000 rating to even have a chance, and being in about the top 100 total worldwide in that format.)

Byes are awarded by rating at Pro Tours in the following fashion:

For Europe and North America, an 1800 rating is required for one bye. In "Asia Pacific and Latin America" (basically everywhere else that is not Europe or North America), a 1750 rating is required for one bye. For each full 100 point increment above that, you get another bye, up to a maximum of three byes.

This information is for individual events. Different thresholds apply to limited events.


Q: You said in your mantras that protection means something cannot be enchanted by a card (or equipment) of that type/color. This is not true. If the enchantment or artifact (equipment) was already on that creature (or permanent) and THEN it gains protection, it does not lose the enchantment and / or artifact.

A: You are incorrect. Quoting directly from the rules:

502.7c A permanent with protection can’t be enchanted by enchantments that have the stated quality. Such enchantments enchanting the permanent with protection will be put into their owners’ graveyards as a state-based effect. (See rule 420, “State-Based Effects.”)

502.7d A permanent with protection can’t be equipped by Equipment that have the stated quality. Such an Equipment stops equipping that permanent, but remains in play. (See rule 420, “State-Based Effects.”)


Q: Does Serra Avatar's graveyard ability go on the stack?

-Will V.

A: No. Serra Avatar's ability is a replacement effect. It replaces going to the graveyard with shuffling in the library. (You can tell it is a replacement effect because it uses the word "instead.") So it will never be in the graveyard, barring Humble or Humility.

Q: I have a deck where it is possible to draw many cards per turn (Gigapede + Greater Good). During one game, I had 25 cards in my hand, among them Genesis and Brawn. During my discard phase I tried to discard them for their graveyard effects, but my opponent said I couldn't because of Spellbook's ability. I argued that since I had more than 7 cards, I could discard. Is my move legal?


A: Assuming you control the Spellbook, no. You have no maximum hand size, so you never need to (or are able to discard).

You have no maximum hand size.


Q: If I had Platinum Angel and Transcendence in play, and my life is over 20, would I still lose the game because of Transcendence's effect?


A: No. But unless you can remove either the Platinum Angel or the Transcendence, the game is a draw, as Transcendence will trigger an unbounded amount of times, and each time the trigger resolves, you won't lose, but a new trigger will be put on the stack. So we have an "infinite" loop, which results in a draw.


Q: If there are 3 distinct creatures attacking me, suppose they all have triggered abilities that trigger "When this creature deals combat damage to a player" and each have power and toughness of 1. Now I use Pearl Shard or a similar ability to prevent the "next 2 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player", targeting myself. Who decides which creatures deal their combat damage and have their triggered abilities trigger? The controller of the attacking creatures or controller of the prevention effect?

A: You would choose which one damaged you, since you are the person affected by the damage.

419.7b Some prevention effects refer to a specific amount of damage—for example, “Prevent the next 3 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn.” These work like shields. Each 1 damage that would be dealt to the “shielded” creature or player is prevented. Preventing 1 damage reduces the remaining shield by 1. If damage would be dealt to the shielded creature or player by two or more sources at the same time, the player or the controller of the creature chooses which damage the shield prevents first. Once the shield has been reduced to 0, any remaining damage is dealt normally. Such effects count only the amount of damage; the number of events or sources dealing it doesn’t matter.


Q: Somebody I was playing against today told me that before 8th edition, when a spell, such as Starstorm, says "This does <insert effect here> to each creature and/or player" that spell was considered to be actually targeting. He tried to use the fact that he is a regular at Type 2 tournaments to demean me and make me lose credibility and even my friend turned on me there (because we had the same argument in which is referred to one of you glorious mantras "If it don’t say target it doesn’t target"). I argued that it doesn’t say target so it doesn’t target (again) and presented the argument of "Why would wizards print a card that’s obviously supposed to be a board clearer and not let it get past "Cannot be target of spells or abilities"?" and I then asked, "Are you telling me that a Starstorm cant hit a friggin Gigapede?" to which he said "No, it cant". I scoffed and left, deciding to send you this letter.

A: Show him Mantra 3 and Rule 415 - Targeted Spells and Abilities, from the Comprehensive Rulebook.


Q: When cards have cycling triggers (for example, Krosan Tusker), which happens first? The trigger or the draw from cycling?

-Nizar K.

A: The cycling trigger will always resolve first. This is because it doesn't trigger until the cycling ability has actually been played, and goes on the stack on top of the cycling ability. Last in, first out, and so the trigger resolves first.

In the case of Krosan Tusker, that would mean you search for the land before you draw the card from cycling.


Q: Player A plays a random goblin.
Player B plays Chain of vapor, returning the goblin.
Player A Copies the spell, (sacrificing a land, and bouncing the creature Player B had out) and replays the goblin.
Player B passes priority.
Player A Goes into the combat step, and announces attackers.
Player B Plays Wing Shards.
How many creatures must be sacrificed?
5 or 3?


A: Only 3. The only spells played were the goblin (twice) and the Wing Shards.

503.10. To copy a spell means to put a copy of the spell onto the stack; a copy of a spell isn’t “played.”...


Q: Can you sacrifice a creature any time you want?

A: See Mantra 7.


Q: If you run out of cards to draw, but have a Platinum Angel in play what happens?


A: You keep playing.


Q: If a card that requires a creature type (Engineered Plague) states a creature type that was previously printed (e.g. Mana Birds for Birds of Paradise), would it get the -1/-1 as it once was a Mana Birds, or nothing, as it has a current errata of Creature-Bird?

A: You have to choose the current creature type for Engineered Plague. So for Birds of Paradise, you would choose Bird. For Longbow Archers, you would choose Soldier.


Q: If you play Transcendence and your life total would be altered to 20 or more (by Phyrexian Arena, Misery Charm, etc.), can you use enchantment removal to gain the life and not lose, or would you have no change in life?

-Ray C.

A: You can. You will want to put the life gain on the stack, and "Disenchant" the Transcendence before that resolves. If you go to 20 before removing Transcendence, you will lose, whether or not the Transcendence is still in play when its "lose the game" trigger resolves.

Q: How does Howling Mine exactly work? Does its effect allow you to draw an extra card during your draw step if it is untapped, or does it only allow you to draw your regular card if it is untapped? And I mean for you and your opponent, since it applies to both players (as I'm sure you know).


A: If Howling Mine is untapped at the start of a player's draw step, that player will draw one additional card. This is in addition to his or her normal draw. So if you have a Howling Mine out (and nothing else affects your draws), you will draw two cards.


Q: Is it illegal to separate mana before a match and shuffle it back into the deck to avoid mana clumps?


A: It is not illegal to remove all the land and "seed the deck" before shuffling in and of itself. However, there are several problems with this. First, you have to present a randomized deck to your opponent. This means you must remove the seed from the deck by shuffling (a lot). Most people won't shuffle enough after seeding, and thus, present a deck that is not randomized to his opponent. This leads to penalties. Second, since you have to sufficiently randomize a deck, if you randomize a deck sufficiently, it will not matter what the starting configuration was. And this leads to the final problem - you only have 3 minutes between the end of the game (or from when the round was started) to fully randomize your deck and present it to your opponent (which includes sideboarding). If you take the time to remove all the land, you will not have enough time to shuffle the deck to make it randomized.

Moral of the story is, it is legal, but the consequences of doing it are illegal. So don't do it.


Q: If you have Portcullis and Angel's Trumpet in play, since the creatures are stuck in Portcullis are "set aside" are they still victim to the effects of the wording of Angel's Trumpet? Or is that not going to work, meaning: Portcullis actually puts the creatures out of play?


A: The Oracle wording of Portcullis is as follows:

Whenever a creature comes into play, if there are two or more other creatures in play, remove that creature from the game.
When Portcullis leaves play, return to play under their owners' control all creatures removed from the game with Portcullis.

Since the creatures are removed from the game, Angel's Trumpet won't affect them.


Q: If Wall of Vapor was attacked by a 5/5 creature with trample would Wall of Vapors's controller take 4 damage?

A: Oracle wording of Wall of Vapor:

Wall of Vapor
Creature -- Wall
(Walls can't attack.)
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to Wall of Vapor by creatures it's blocking.

The controller of Wall of Vapor will take between 0 and 4 damage, depending on how damage is assigned. See Mantra 5.


Q: Do creature tokens count as spells?

A: No. However, the effect that created the token may be a spell (or it could be an ability).


Q: With Cryptic Gateway, if I tapped an elf and a beast could I then put an elf and a beast into play?

-Mark D.

A: No. If you tapped an elf and a beast, the only creature you could put into play is a creature that has both types - elf and beast.


Q: For cards like Barren Moor and Forgotten Cave, do I add the mana from my deck or my hand?


A: If you are playing the ability that adds mana, you tap it when it is in play, and it adds on mana to your pool to be used to play a spell.

If you are playing the Cycling ability, you add one mana of the appropriate color (usually from a land that is already in play), and then you discard it to draw a card.



>>>Q: On Krosan Cloudscraper, it says pay GG during your upkeep or sac it. Does this apply before it is morphed?

A: No. When it is face down, it doesn't have that ability.


Q: Also, by pay does it mean sac, or just tap?

-John W.

A: Sacrifice MEANS sacrifice. If it is face up, and you do not pay GG during your upkeep, then you will have to sacrifice it.<<<

C: For John's second question, I think that he is asking if he needs to sacrifice two forests, or pay two mana (reading "pay GG" as "sacrifice 2 forests" in the former). If this is the case, I would argue that this is very good reason to have "T: add <mana symbol> to your mana pool." on basic lands, so as to differentiate between lands and mana.

-Nate Z.

A: The sacrifice refers to sacrificing the Cloudscraper. You either have to pay GG (two green mana, which is NOT the same as sacrificing 2 Forests), or sacrifice the Cloudscraper.

We had the exact wording previous to Sixth Edition Rules on the lands. It was taken off, but the questions I get seem to indicate it might be good to put it back on.


>>>Q: My opponent plays a Jinxed Idol, and sacrifices it to give me control of Jinxed Idol. At the end of the turn, I sacrifice a creature in order to give back the Jinxed Idol. My opponent claims that I cannot use the ability, as the card states, "...your opponent gains control of this card permanently" (or along the lines of). I do not agree with my opponent, as I control the permanent and can use its effect. Is my opponent correct, or am I?

A: First, let me give you the Oracle text of Jinxed Idol:

Jinxed Idol
At the beginning of your upkeep, Jinxed Idol deals 2 damage to you.
Sacrifice a creature: Target opponent gains control of Jinxed Idol. (This effect doesn't end at end of turn.)

There is no limitation on playing the ability. So as long as you have Jinxed Idol, you can sacrifice a creature to give it to your opponent.<<<

C: I read in the question that his opponent had sacrificed the Idol to give it to him. Wouldn't that mean that Jinxed idol is in the graveyard before it can be transferred, since the sacrifice is a cost?


A: Obviously, he can't sacrifice the Idol, as it is not a creature (barring Titania's Song or a similar effect). I failed to correct it to have him sacrifice a creature.

See you Friday.

Bill Guerin
DCI Level 2 Judge





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