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Lotus Cobra and How We Spoke When We Were Young

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About Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori
Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori is a level 5 judge from Italy (and former Pro Player ^__^); he judged a hundred professional events, headjudged 15 Grand Prix events in Europe, the United States and Asia and has been headjudging Pro Tours and World Championships since 2009:

  • Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • Pro Tour Austin 2009
  • Worlds Chiba 2010
  • Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011
  • Pro Tour Barcelona 2012
  • World Magic Cup Indianapolis 2012

Lotus Cobra, and How We Spoke When We Were Young

Hello everybody!

2013 has started, are you ready for a new year full of wonderful Magic?

We finished 2012 with quite a long article about tournament policy, and we will start the New Year with the “opposite” topic: rules, hard Magic rules.

First, let’s warm up with our always present five questions of the week, and then let’s discover the Top5 of the weird obsolete expressions and the first Card of the Month in 2013: Lotus Cobra.

Happy reading.

Questions of the Week

Q: If I cast an Ornithopter (which costs zero mana) and I use a Cavern of Souls to pay the additional cost due to a Sphere of Resistance or a Trinisphere, will my Ornithopter be counterable or not?

A: It will be uncounterable. The effect of Cavern of Souls applies if the mana is used to cast the spell, whether to pay for the mana cost or for any additional costs.

Q: I attack with Geist of Saint Traft, I put the Angel token on the battlefield, and then I use Ninjutsu to return my Geist to my hand. Will I get to keep the token?

A: No. The effect “exile it at the end of combat” is created by the triggered ability that creates the token; this ability is not linked to the Geist, and the token will be removed independently from what happens to the Geist.

Q: I control Martyr of Sands and Ajani's Pridemate; if I use the Martyr’s ability and I reveal four white cards, how many +1/+1 counters will I put on my Pridemate? One, four, twelve?

A: Just one. Ajani's Pridemate has an ability that triggers every time you gain life; Martyr of Sands has an ability that allows you to gain life once; the amount depends on the number of white cards you reveal, but the gain of life is a single effect.

Q: Can I use Sundial of the Infinite to save my Ball Lightning?

A: Well… Yes… but it will die at the end of your opponent’s turn, because his ability triggers at the beginning of each end step.

Q: I control three Phantasmal Bears, and my opponent casts Echoing Decay; will he kill all my bears?

A: No, just one. The targeted Phantasmal Bear will be sacrificed before Echoing Decay resolves; when Echoing Decay tries to resolve, it will be countered because its target won’t be on the battlefield; the other two Phantasmal Bears were never targeted, and they will survive.

Damage on the Stack – Top 5 Obsolete Sentences

About a year ago, we talked about a few obsolete terms; today, we will take a look at a few obsolete expressions. Fasten your time-travelling seat belts and, especially if you have been playing Magic for many years, enjoy our trip into the Stone Age of Magic!

5) “You may play cards as though they were in your hand”

In the beginning: In modern times, with abilities like flashback, dredge and unearth, the idea of playing with the graveyard (or against our opponent’s graveyard) is part of the DNA of any player.

In the first days of Magic, the idea of getting cards back from the graveyard and add them to our hand was quite common (for example Regrowth and Raise Dead), but it was next to impossible to actually cast cards from the graveyard; only cards in your hand could be cast!

Very few cards allowed the rare exception and, to avoid misunderstanding, they said we could cast the cards “as though there were in your hand”.

A few questions come to mind immediately:

OK, it’s like these cards are in my hand; can I discard them to Wild Mongrel? Can I cycle them?

No and no, saying that “we can cast them as though they are in our hand” is very different from “they are in our hand”; the cards are still in the graveyard; when we decide to cast them they move from the graveyard to the stack; there is no moment when they are in our hand.

So, why mention the hand at all?!?

Good question, and here is the answer:

Today: …Wizards of the Coast decided to remove that part of the sentence. How these cards work hasn’t changed; it has become clearer.

4) “Can block as though it had Flying”

In the beginning: similarly to several Magic cards that have been reprinted since the first versions, Giant Spider was born with a rules text far from precise, and has been reworded a few times.

With Sixth Edition, it got a quite official text that didn’t change until Tenth Edition: “Giant Spider can block as though it had flying”.

A short and clear text, which shouldn’t cause misunderstandings, right?

OK, can Giant Spider block Elven Riders, which can be blocked only by creatures with flying?

Well, the Spider hasn’t flying, so it shouldn’t be allowed to block; but blocks like it had flying, so it should be allowed to block; well, for a long time, Giant Spider was allowed to block Elven Riders.

Today: With Future Sight, just before Tenth Edition, a new ability (Reach) was created. Since then, the rules say that “creatures with flying can be blocked by creatures with flying or reach”.

Our Giant Spider doesn’t have “blocks as though it has flying” anymore, but has “Reach” instead.

It cannot block Elven Riders.

3) “Does not deal or receive combat damage”

In the beginning: Let’s take a look at the original text of Fog Bank.

It doesn’t deal any combat damage; OK, its power is zero, this was clear.

It doesn’t receive any combat damage. OK, whatever is the attacking creature it blocks, it doesn’t receive any damage and it doesn’t die; it looks simple again.

Let’s imagine now that the attacking creature has trample; can a 5/5 creature with trample deal damage to the defending player?

Answer A: Yes, it deals three damage. Even though Fog Bank doesn’t receive any damage, we should assign to it at least damage equal to its toughness; the remaining three can be assigned to the defending player.

Answer B: No. Fog Bank cannot receive damage, therefore any amount will never be considered lethal; Fog Bank absorbs all damage.

Answer C: Yes, it deals five damage. Because Fog Bank cannot receive any damage, we cannot assign any damage to it.

Damn, all these three answers might make sense!

Today: The ambiguity has been removed by modifying the Oracle text of Fog Bank; it now says that all combat damage is prevented.

It works exactly like with creatures with protection: if Fog Bank blocks a creature with trample, the attacking player can assign to the wall just an amount of damage equal to its toughness, and the rest to the defending player.

The correct answer is A: three damage.

2) “When you successfully cast”

In the beginning: When Skittering Skirge was initially printed, there were Interrupts.

The topic is vast; let’s just say that, any time a spell was cast, there was a window where we could respond with interrupts (all counterspells were interrupts); once this window closed, there was a window where we could cast instants and no more interrupts. At that time, responding to our opponent’s spell with Brainstorm (an instant) and then cast a Counterspell was not doable.

The original text of Skittering Skirge speaks about a creature spell “successfully cast”, which meant “still on the stack after the window for interrupts closed”; if the creature spell was countered, it wasn’t “successfully cast” and Skittering Skirge wasn’t sacrificed.

Today: With Sixth Edition, interrupts didn’t exist anymore, and the abilities like the one from the Skittering Skirge trigger when the creature spell becomes cast; it doesn’t matter if the creature spell resolves or is countered; the Skirge will be sacrificed in any case.

1) “at end of turn”

In the beginning: I believe it happened to many of us to play with a person that had just started playing Magic, and we had to explain the following:

Him: “your turn”

Us: “at the end of your turn, I create a token with Rakdos Guildmage, I untap and I attack with the Goblin”

Him: “But… the Goblin doesn’t die at the end of my turn?”

Us: “No, because blah blah”

Him: “OK, so if I cast Giant Growth at the end of your turn, my creature is still bigger in my turn, right?”

Us: “No, because at the end of turn is different from until the end of turn”

Saying that an ability triggered “at the end of turn” meant that the ability triggered just before the real end of the turn; exactly, it triggered at the beginning of the end step, which is a step where players receive priority.

Because we could make actions in that step, we could activate an ability that would have created a delayed triggered ability in the following end of turn step.

This way of playing wasn’t too complicated; it just needed to be explained, and it needed some minutes to be accepted.

Today: With M10, the “end of turn step” became the “end step”; the abilities that triggered “at the end of turn” now trigger “at the beginning of the end step”.

The new wording, in addition to being more precise, is also much more similar to “at the beginning of your upkeep”, which is much more known to all the Magic players.

Card of the Month – Lotus Cobra

The Modern season has just begun and it looks like the format is very healthy, with a lot of competitive archetypes; we have many possible deck choices!

It’s also true that a few decks are, at the moment, slightly stronger than the others; Jund, as it often happens, is one of the decks to beat… or to play… or to play with an anti-Jund version of Jund:

Lotus Cobra
Versions:
Zendikar (Foil)

Deathrite Shaman and Lotus Cobra, powered by fetchlands are a great mana boost, which creates a significant advantage both in the mirror match and also against combo decks.

From the rules point of view, Lotus Cobra’s ability is apparently simple, but it can easily create misunderstanding; let’s see why.

Lotus Cobra’s ability is not a mana ability

“A triggered ability without a target that triggers from activating a mana ability and could put mana into a player’s mana pool when it resolves is a mana ability.” [CR605.1b]

Lotus Cobra’s ability triggers any time a land enters the battlefield under our control, not when we activate an activated mana ability. As a consequence, Lotus Cobra’s triggered ability doesn’t meet the definition of triggered mana ability.

A similar case is with Deathrite Shaman, whose ability that produces mana is not a mana ability because it has a target.

These are a few consequences:

  • The ability uses the stack, it can be responded to, and it can be countered by spells like Stifle.
  • The color of the mana is chosen on resolution; if you declare it when the ability is put on the stack and your opponent doesn’t respond, you won’t be able to change it on resolution; if you declare it when the ability is put on the stack and your opponent makes an action in response, you will have the choice of changing it on resolution.
  • Asking your opponent “What color?” is equivalent to allowing the ability to resolve.

Lotus Cobra’s ability has to be announced

According to the current policy about missed triggers, any time one of our triggered abilities should resolve, we have to announce it or somehow demonstrate that we are aware of its existence, otherwise the ability has no effect.

What does “demonstrate awareness” mean, in practice?

  • We play a land and we say “Cobra gives me one mana.
  • We play a land and we point at the Cobra.
  • We play our third land and we immediately cast a four mana spell (that we couldn’t cast unless the Cobra gave us the extra mana).

The ability uses the stack, but playing a land doesn’t

Lotus Cobra’s ability, just like all the triggered abilities associated to landfall, is a normal triggered ability: it triggers and is put on the stack. The trigger event, on the contrary, is a special action that doesn’t use the stack and nobody can respond to it.

If we ask to a judge “my opponent is playing a land, can I respond?”, the correct answer would be “no”, because we cannot respond to the action of playing a land, which is what we asked.

If we ask to a judge “my opponent is playing a land, can I respond to the Cobra?”, the correct answer will be “yes”.

As always, it’s important to ask a precise and appropriate question.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

Don’t forget to submit all your rules questions for the next installment of Ask the Judge:

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See you in a few weeks!

Riccardo

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