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Pojo's Magic The Gathering
Judge's Corner

What Good Is Master Decoy?
February 10, 2004

First, a long set of questions that distill a question I get frequently down to its bare essentials:

Q: I'm kind of confused about a certain aspect of Magic. One person wrote to you about Shepherd of Rot and Mind Over Matter, where a player used Shepherd of Rot's ability, and in response the other player tapped the Shepard with Mind Over Matter, to prevent the loss of life. You say that the Shepherd is already tapped, his ability is already on the stack, and tapping it with Mind Over Matter doesn't counter Shepherd's effect.

A: Correct. I distilled the following rule down to Mantra 8:

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 wonít affect the ability. Note that some abilities cause a source to do something (for example, ďProdigal Sorcerer deals 1 damage to target creature or playerĒ) 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 sourceís last known information if itís no longer in play.

Let me name the two players, to help simplify matters a little. Alan controls the Shepherd of Rot, and Bob controls the Mind Over Matter.

Alan plays the Shepherd of Rot's ability. To do this, he pays the cost, which is tapping the Shepherd of Rot. There are no targets or modes, so he needs to do nothing else to play Shepherd of Rot's ability. Since the ability was played, it is put on the stack.

Now, the ability exists separate from the Shepherd of Rot. No Matter what happens to the Shepherd of Rot, unless the ability is countered (with a card like Stifle, for example), it will resolve.

The second angle to this question, and the one confusing you (I think), is, "Why can't Bob 'step in' while Alan is playing the Shepherd of Rot's ability, and tap it before he can play the ability?'"

There are two answers for that question. The main answer is, because Bob doesn't have priority. Alan has priority, so he's the only one that can do anything. Bob has to wait for Alan to pass priority to him, and by then, the ability is on the stack.

(For more information on priority, read Section 408.1 of the Comprehensive Rulebook, titled "Timing, Priority, and the Stack.")

Second, once Alan announces that he is playing the ability, neither player can do anything until the targets and modes for that ability are chosen, and costs are paid. (If Alan couldn't pay the cost, then he would back up to right before he tried to play the ability.) Alan can pay the costs (the Shepherd is untapped), so he pays the costs and taps the Shepherd.


Q: So to me this would pretty much mean that Mind Over Matter is useless for tapping things, and so is Icy Manipulator for that matter, because what's the use of being able to tap artifacts or lands or creatures if it doesn't matter if you tap it or not because it's already on the stack?

A: In that sense, yes. Think, however, of tapping creatures before they are able to attack, or tapping the permanent during that player's upkeep so they have to play that ability then, or not at all. (Think of tapping a land that provides a player with the only source of that color he has on the board.)


Q: Like if player A has one land open, and taps it for mana, and player B responds by tapping that one land with his Icy Manipulator, if what you say is true he can't do that...so the card is useless. Much like the Shepard of Rot vs. Mind Over Matter, right?

A: Yes.


Q: If I use Mind Over Matter to tap the Shepard BEFORE he uses the ability, or even an Icy Manipulator or Whipcorder or Master Decoy for that matter, couldn't he just say, "In response I tap Shepard of Rot and use its ability?"

A: Correct. If Bob plays the ability of Mind Over Matter to tap the Shepherd, that ability goes on the stack, and Alan can respond by playing the ability of the Shepherd before the Shepherd is tapped.


Q: I'm sorry, but I'm just confused because I've never played like that before. Because I always thought that all creature abilities used the stack and therefore if say I tap an Elvish Piper for its effect, and my opponent uses Master Decoy to tap it in response, then Elvish Piper's effect is cancelled because it is tapped BEFORE I can use it's ability (Last In First Out) because both the abilities play at instant speed.

A: Incorrect. Your opponent doesn't have priority, and therefore, can't tap the Lyrist at that time.


Moving on ...

Q: If I have a creature in play with, say, a white enchantment on it, and I cast a spell that gives a creature I control protection from white until end of turn when the white enchantment is already on the creature, will that white enchantment be destroyed, or does that enchantment not apply since, although it can't be enchanted with white enchantments, the enchantment is already on my creature, so it doesn't count?

-Kyle F.

A: The enchantment will be put into the graveyard. Read Mantra 4.


Q: If I steal my opponent's Pentavus with Grab the Reins and then break off (some) parts of the Pentavus into 1/1 Pentavite tokens, do I keep the tokens at the end of the turn or does my opponent get the Pentavus and the tokens back?

-Robert H.

A: You keep the tokens. You were the player that played the ability, so you will control the tokens, regardless of what happens to the Pentavus.


Q: When can or can't you play a land?

A: 212.6a A player may play a land card from his or her hand only during a main phase of his or her turn, and only when he or she has priority and the stack is empty. A land card isnít a spell card, and at no time is it a spell. When a player plays a land card, itís simply put into play. The land card doesn't go on the stack, so players canít respond to it with instants or activated abilities.


Q: Here's the reason. I have Crosis's Catacombs in my hand. Can I tap a land to play a spell THEN replace that tapped land with Crosis's Catacombs during the first phase?


A: Yes.


Q: I see that Darksteel has indestructible, how exactly can you get rid of a permanent that is indestructible?


A: 1. Bounce it back to their hand (Boomerang).

2. Remove it from the game (Swords to Plowshares).

3. Make it have 0 or less toughness (Irradiate).

4. Have them sacrifice it (Barter in Blood).

5. Get a copy of that creature out, and make yours a Legend first, then make theirs a Legend (Unnatural Selection).

There may be others, but that's all that comes to mind right now.


Q: What happens if Skullclamp equips Auriok Steelshaper?


A: The Steelshaper is 3/1, and lives. Its bonus is applied at the same time the Skullclamp's ability is.


Q: A buddy of mine plays with Karplusan Forest combined with both Kird Ape and Orcish Lumberjack. I say that both creatures abilities only work with basic Forests. Who's right?


A: Neither of you. Kird Ape gets bonuses from, and lands can be sacrificed to Orcish Lumberjack, only if they have the land type (subtype) Forest. So, for Example, Taiga will give Kird Ape a bonus, but Karplusan Forest won't, since Karplusan Forest does not have the land type Forest.


Q: Player A Plays Spellweaver Helix, and it hits play, imprinting Mind's Desire and Reprocess. Next turn, Player A plays 4 Frogmite, and Mind's Desire. Spellweaver Helix triggers, Reprocess gets played. Now here's the question. Which will happen first?

-Dustin B.

A: Reprocess will happen first. It gets played during the resolution of the Helix's triggered ability, and since it is higher on the stack than the Desire, it will resolve first.

(However, the Reprocess won't count toward storm for the Desire - storm only counts spells played BEFORE the storm spell.)


Q: I have Great Furnace out and I use its ability. Would I lay down another red land or does the ability count as like if you would tap the red land?

-Justin A.

A: It counts just like tapping the red land - you add one red mana to your mana pool.


Q: I have a Disciple of the Vault and one Welding Jar in play and one Welding Jar in my graveyard. Can I keep on regenerating Welding Jar back and forward in one turn like 20 times to win the game?

A: No. Only permanents can be regenerated, and you can not regenerate from a sacrifice (so having 2 Welding Jars out won't work).


Q: Can Plated Slagwurm and Troll Ascetic be blocked by creatures?

A: Yes. See Mantra 3. (Nowhere in the rules for declaring blockers does it say "target.")


Q: Do creatures stay as spells through out the game?

-Dee M.

A: No. Creatures are only spells while they are on the stack. Once creatures come into play, they are permanents, not spells.


Q: Urza's Armor states that if a source deals damage to me, I prevent one of the damage. Does this only apply if the source deals damage directly to my life?

A: It only applies to damage done to _you_.


Q: For example, if my opponent attacks with Glory Seeker or something and I block with Wind Drake, will the Glory Seeker only deal 1 damage because of Urza's Armor, or will he deal 2 because it's a creature heís causing damage to?

A: The Glory Seeker will do 2 damage.


Q: Does Final Punishment only duplicate damage caused directly to opponent's life?

A: Correct. Final Punishment will only make you opponent lose life for damage dealt to _him_.


Q: For example, if I attack with a swarm of creatures and my opponent blocks them all, can I use Final Punishment to make him lose life equal to the combined power of my creatures, or will he lose none as his life wasn't touched?

-Matthew B.

A: The latter.


Q: When I use Icy Manipulator's ability to tap something, can my opponent tap my Icy Manipulator in response to prevent the Icy Manipulator's activated ability?


A: No. This was covered earlier in this column.


Q: What would be the result of imprinting Fog onto Spellbinder? Would the damage be dealt first, then triggering Fog to no effect (because damage is done), or would the damage be put on the stack, then the Fog trigger, which causes Fog to resolve first and no damage be dealt?


A: The first situation is the correct one. Spellbinder will only trigger on damage that is actually dealt. By the time the Fog would be played, it's far to late to prevent the damage. (If there is another combat phase in this turn, though, that damage will be prevented.)


Q: Does Auriok Steelshaper's effect when it's equipped effect any Soldiers and/or Knights (Like Cat Knight or Elephant Soldier)?

-John A.

A: Yes. Any creature that has the creature type Soldier or Knight (no matter what other types that have) will get +1/+1. Even Mistform Ultimus will get the bonus.


Q: I have a tapped Pristine Angel on the table. Can I enchant it with Serra's Embrace? What about equipping it?

A: Yes to both. But at soon as the Angel untaps, the Embrace or equipment will fall off, due to the rules of protection.


Q: Can you play Diabolic Tutor and not take any card into your hand?

A: No. (Unless you have no cards in your library.) Diabolic Tutor doesn't ask for a type of card, it just asks for a card, so you have to take a card.


Q: Can you counter Troll Ascetic?


A: Yes.


Q: You cannot have more than 4 cards that have the same name in a deck, yes? But what if you have the same card, but in a different language? For instance if I have 4 Pentavus in English and 4 in Japanese can I put all 8 in my deck?

A: No. The Pentavuses, no matter what language they are in, are considered the same card. You are limited to 4 (of any language) in your deck.


Q: If I block a Clockwork Beetle with a 1/1 creature, after combat, does the beetle die? Does the Beetle carry the damage then lose a +1/+1 counter to become a 1/1 and therefore carries lethal damage?

A: Exactly correct.


Q: Can you sacrifice indestructible artifacts?


A: Yes. (And they will be put into the graveyard, as sacrifice is not a destroy effect.)


Q: I have a few questions about Phyrexian Negator's ability. What if you have no permanents left to sacrifice or not enough permanents to sacrifice because of the amount of damage the Negator took?


A: You sacrifice as many permanents as possible. If the Negator took more damage than you have permanents, you sacrifice them all. (Phyrexian Negator IS a permanent you can sacrifice too.)


Q: Does Mask of the Mimic allow you to search for a copy of the sacrificed creature, or does it allow you to search for any creature?


A: Rune Horvik has already answered this question in his column on MagicTheGathering.com. To quote him:

"The function of Mask of the Mimic, essentially, is to "transform one creature into another". As you play it, you choose one creature (the target), and sacrifice another. When the spell resolves, you fetch a copy of the first creature, and put it into play as a replacement for the second.

(You can target and sacrifice the same creature, if you want; but then the spell's target will be illegal, and it will be countered.)"


Tournament Report - FNM - Diamond Bar, CA

Well, I decided to retool my affinity deck for the week, to see how a more aggro design would work:

4 Broodstar

2 Frogmite

4 Myr Enforcer

3 Chromatic Sphere

4 Chrome Mox

3 Lightning Greaves

4 Mana Leak

4 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Shrapnel Blast

1 Talisman of Indulgence

4 Talisman of Progress

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Thoughtcast

4 Ancient Den

3 Glimmervoid

4 Great Furnace

4 Seat of the Synod


4 Detonate

4 Override

4 Pyroclasm

3 Sacred Ground

I get to rush throughout my night, and get to the tournament just in time for Round 1 ...

Round 1 - Kyle L. - R/G Piper.dec

Game 1 - He goes first. I get enough land, and drop triple Enforcer, followed by a Broodstar. It's too fast for him.

Sideboard: In: 3 Sacred Ground (though it was a more traditional R/G build). Out: 2 Frogmite, Talisman of Indulgence.

Game 2 - I keep a hand with 1 land, but I have a couple of 1 mana cost artifacts. I draw all 4 Broodstars while I am still land light, but eventually draw a couple of lands, empty my hand, and win. The last 2 turns he plays Elvish Piper, and puts out a Kilnmouth Dragon with the Piper as I attack for the win with 2 Broodstar and 2 Enforcer.

Games: 2-0, Matches: 1-0.

Round 2 - Sean S. - His U/W combo-mill deck

Game 1 - I get the quick Enforcer, Broodstar draw, and he doesn't get any board clearing effects.

Sideboard: In: 4 Override. Out: Broodstar, Pyrite Spellbomb, Lightning Greaves, 1 ?.

Game 2 - I mulligan a hand of 4 land, Shrapnel Blast, Mana Leak, and Lightning Greaves. He drops an early Ensnaring Bridge, and gets his combo out. I don't have enough burn to burn him out, so we go to game 3.

Sideboard: In: 4 Detonate, Pyrite Spellbomb, Lightning Greaves, 1 ? (the card I took out game 2). Out: 4 Override, Talisman of Dominance, 2 Frogmite.

Game 3 - I keep a hand of Ancient Den, Mox, and 5 cards. 8 Turns later, I still have no other mana sources out, and he's milled me far enough that I have to scoop.

Games: 3-2, Matches: 1-1.

Round 3 - Alex V. - B/G Cemetery

Game 1 - I think over a hand of 2 Mox, 2 Talismans, Glimmervoid, Broodstar, and Frogmite, and decide I don't have enough information on his deck to chance keeping it. Turns out he's playing his old standby, which makes my mulligan decision even better.

I get the early beats with an Enforcer, but he gets down a Baloth, and then the Cemetery, and cycles a Tusker to get to the requisite number of creatures. From there, it's academic.

Sideboard: In: 4 Pyroclasm (for Birds). Out: 2 Frogmite, Talisman of Indulgence, Lightning Greaves.

Game 2 - He tries an early March of the Machines (through City of Brass), but I have the counter. A quick 10/10 Broodstar comes down and finishes him off in 2 turns.

Sideboard: In: 3 Override. Out: Pyroclasm, Broodstar, Thoughtcast.

Game 3 - I mulligan a one land hand, and keep the 6. Unfortunately, I don't draw into any pressure, as he gets his Cemetery down turn 2, and goes to town.

Games: 4-4, Matches: 1-2.

Round 4 - Tim C. - U/G Urzatron

He is 2-1 at this point, so as we sit down, I tell him he'll get the match win to keep him in contention.

Game 1 - He drops a quick Triskelion, then makes the mistake of immediately removing the counters and Vengeancing without even attacking once. I have the counter, and allow him to attack for 1 a few times before I drop an Enforcer. He gets rid of it, and I attack for a while with a Frogmite. I make the mistake of immediately sacing 2 Pyrite Spellbombs (one right after the other), and he has the Gilded Light to punish me. Fortunately, I have a Shrapnel Blast to finish him off.

Sideboard: In: 4 Override. Out: 2 Frogmite, Broodstar, Lightning Greaves.

Game 2 - I quickly attack him down to 8. He tries to drop one Oblivion Stone, and I counter it. Unfortunately, he has another, and I don't have a counter for it. His Stone takes out all but 1 artifact land and 2 Glimmervoids. It is academic after that.

Game 3 - I fail to find a land in the first 13 cards I draw, causing me to mulligan twice. I keep the 5, and get enough card draw to make up for it. Unfortunately for me, though, he has the Vengeance while I foolishly tap out, and I lose.

Games: 5-6, Matches: 1-3.

Round 5 - Devin L. - Mono-Red Control

Game 1 - I draw my hand, and yell over to Scott, "I found my land!" He is confused, and comes over, and I explain. My 7 card contained 6 land. I mulligan once, and we begin.

He attacks with Rorix once, and then an unimprinted Mox helps me leap into 2 Frogmite and 2 Myr Enforcer in the same turn. He attacks once, then stays back with a Prospector. I just attack through for the win.

Sideboard: Nothing.

Game 2 - Another quick Enforcer/Broodstar draw curves me out before he can even get to Rorix mana.

Games: 7-6, Matches: 2-3.

See you Friday.

Bill Guerin

DCI Level 2 Judge


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