Send your rules questions to Level Four Judge John Carter. Can't find the answer to your question somewhere else, like the Magic Comprehensive Rules? Maybe he's already answered it! Try the Saturday School Searchable Rules Database.
This weekend players all over the world will be attending release events. Release events are a way to premiere a new set at your favorite retailer's local store. Wizards of the Coast is giving away unique gifts for gamers, and you'll be some of the first to get your hands on the Core Set that will be reshaping the way players think about Core Sets.
If you haven't seen Mark Gottlieb's article about some of the changes that Ninth Edition introduces, especially the adjustment in local enchantments (now called Auras), check out yesterday's Latest Developments. You can also find helpful information in the Ninth Edition FAQ.
An Itsy Bitsy More on Spiders
As MarGo mentioned in his article, Spiders (really all "may block" / "may be blocked" cards) got a facelift. Was it really that much of a change? No, it actually restores some of the wording that was used from Giant Spider in Alpha until Plated Spider in Urza's Destiny. "Can" has been reinstated because "may" is often used with optional abilities, and the spider ability is describing what is able to be done, not what might or might not be done.
Another reason is the adjustment helps to more clearly define attacking and blocking restrictions. "May block as though it had flying" plus "can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying" tends to take a while to understand. Putting both into simple can and can't terms makes it easier to decipher which blocking assignments are and aren’t legal. After all, one of Magic's Golden Rules [CR 103] is that "can't" beats out "can."
This does add a new twist to Masako the Humorless. With Masako in play, your tapped as well as your untapped creatures will be forced to block a creature with Lure attached to it that's attacking you. On to the inquiries…
Q: Suppose I have Marble Titan out, and I activate my Jade Statue to attack. Will the artifact untap during my next untap phase since it's no longer a creature? --Jay P.
A: Yes, Marble Titan's static ability only applies to objects that are creatures as they would untap. Since Jade Statue is a creature only during combat, the Titan's lockdown won't apply.
Q: I know Altar of Shadows gets the counter even if the creature regenerates, but what happens if the opponent sacrifices something like a Shard Phoenix in response to the Altar's ability? --James F.
A: If the target is gone (from a sacrifice or killed by damage, for example), the ability is countered for lack of target. The Altar wouldn't even get a counter.
Marble Titan, Shard Phoenix, and Jade Statue are part of the one hundred and sixty-six new additions to the Core Set. If you haven't had a chance to look at the full Ninth Edition list, you can find it here.
Q: I attack with Myojin of Night's Reach, and they block with a 2/2. Would this mean that if you took off the counter this turn it would die? If it was a 5/4 and the same thing happened could they Shock it afterwards? --Matthew V.
A: Yes, and yes. With the divinity counter on the Myojin, its indestructibility makes the otherwise lethal damage just tickle, but the damage doesn't go away. Once the Myojin's divinity counter goes away, the indestructibility goes away, and those two (or four) lethal points of damage are no laughing matter, and the Myojin is destroyed.
*Extra*: In the case of the 5/4 Myojin of Night's Reach, your opponent could even Shock the Myojin in response to the ability that would make him or her discard their hand. The lethally damaged 5/4 would be put into the graveyard as a state-based effect after the Shock resolves. Then you'd resolve the Night Reach's ability and that opponent would discard what's left of their hand.
Q: If a Greater Harvester was attacking me, could I remove a white card with a cost of 5 to play a Shining Shoal, making all the damage hit my opponent and making him sacrifice two permanents? --Khedran S.
A: Yes. Redirecting damage doesn't change where it's coming from (or whether it's combat damage or damage from some effect), and Greater Harvester's ability affects any player damaged by the Harvester. If the Harvester's ability said "opponent," then the situation would be different. That's why it's important to recognize which cards use "opponent" (like Hypnotic Specter), and which use "player" (like Abyssal Specter).
Q: I equip Shape Stealer with Scythe of the Wretched. When my opponent attacks the next turn, and I block with Shape Stealer, does it maintain the +2/+2 bonus and ability to steal the creature? --Jonathan
A: The +2/+2 bonus is essentially covered over by the new power and toughness, but if the creature you're blocking is put into the graveyard, you will be able to steal it. The Scythe's stealing ability is always looking while the Scythe is attached. The +2/+2 power/toughness bonus is also there, but Shape Stealer's ability also affects power/toughness. When trying to figure out the true P/T, you take each one in the order that they started-- technically called "timestamp order."
Since the Scythe's P/T bonus was stamped earlier, when the Shape Stealer's triggered ability resolves, it blankets over whatever the P/T is with a new P/T. The good part is that you could move the equipment around to reset the timestamp and wind up with the +2/+2 on top of whatever the Shape Stealer ability's P/T is.
The key is that the Shape Stealer's ability is adding or subtracting values-- it's setting them exactly. But Giant Growth (and Scythe of the Wretched) says to take the existing value and do math to find a value. For example, we'll use a Giant Growth (the effect from a spell gets a timestamp just like attaching equipment). We have a 1/1 Shape Stealer. We Giant Growth it to 4/4. It blocks a 3/5, and becomes a 3/5. The Giant Growth's "I get +3/+3" effect is buried beneath the "I am 3/5" effect. Instead, we'll block, and get that "I am 3/5" effect. Once that's stamped, then we hit it with a Giant Growth making "I am 3/5" also have "I get +3/+3" after it for a total of 6/8.
Q: When Quicksilver Fountain is in play is it possible to play Oboro, Palace in the Clouds after my upkeep and return it to my hand after my opponent's turn but before your next upkeep to permanently to keep my opponent's lands Islands? --Jason H.
A: Somewhat. You can't return Oboro, Palace in the Clouds between their turn and your upkeep, but you can wait until the End of Turn step has verified that not all lands are Islands and then return the Palace.
*Extra*: If absolutely necessary, you could even wait until your own upkeep, target the Palace with the Fountain's ability, and tap the Palace for mana to pay for returning the Palace before the Fountain turns it into an Island. This would counter the Fountain's ability, but you'd have your Palace in hand ready to be played during your main phase. Just be careful-- if the Palace becomes an Island, it loses the ability to bounce itself.
Q: When there are 2 counters on a Betrayers of Kamigawa flip card, it says you "may" flip it does this mean I can wait to put more on or am I forced to flip it? --Kevin
A: At end of turn you make the choice to flip it or not flip it. That "may" is what allows the choice. If you want to put more counters on it, then you'll have to wait, but if you want the cooler abilities, you have to flip. You decide.
Q: I am pretty new to MtG, and I was wondering: Can I play Final Judgment followed by Otherworldly Journey and use Hikari, Twilight Guardian's ability to save two of my creatures? --Jan (Polish for John)
A: Yes, you can. Hikari's ability could save one after it triggers off of playing the Arcane spell, and Otherworldly Journey could save another. If Hikari is your only creature, you could still play the Journey targeting Hikari and have your choice of Hikari or the Journey saving Hikari. I'd recommend letting the Journey save it because that would let Hikari come back with a +1/+1 counter.
And welcome to MtG, Jan. With Ninth Edition just out and Ravnica: City of Guilds just around the corner, you've picked an excellent time to start playing!
Q: Is Heartless Hidetsugu plus Overblaze a combo? --Igor R.
A: If you feel the need to wipe out a whole bunch of people at once, yes. You have to be careful though-- anyone at an even life total will be killed, even you.
*Extra*: If you're at an odd life total, Heartless Hidetsugu will round down the damage before Overblaze doubles it, and you'll wind up at 1 life. For example, at 19, half is 9.5 and rounds down to 9. Doubling 9 means taking 18 damage. Clever use of the "pain lands" in Ninth Edition can help you regulate your life total to help avoid Heartlessing yourself to death.
Q: I have a flipped Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant. My friend has cards that say -X/-X to a certain creature, would he be able to do the -X/-X? Would "destroy" cards would work? --Eric
A: Destroy effects (like Polymorph or Chastise) work fine, and so would a -X/-X effect. Rune-Tail's Essence only works against damage-- removing from the game, destroying, and reducing toughness to 0 or less aren't damage.
*Extra*: With an effect like Flaring Pain that specifically says you can't prevent damage, Rune-Tail's Essence wouldn't work either. When you have a "do foo" and a "can't do foo," the "can't" version trumps [CR 103.2] the "do foo."
Q: I enchant a land with Living Terrain and my opponent plays a Terror on it. Is this legal? --Sidney G.
A: Yes, the land is both a land and a creature, and it isn't black or artifact. If this were a land animated by Genju of the Fens, then the fact it was made black would keep the Terror away, but a Living Terrained land isn't so lucky.
Q: I have an Ironfist Crusher (a 2/4) and block two 4/4s with trample. Does each of the 4/4s assign all of their damage individually to the Crusher? --Anton
A: The attacking player can assign four of the damage to the Crusher and the other four to you. Even if one of the creatures didn't have trample, the player could assign the regular damage to the creature, and the four from the trampler to the player [CR 502.9b].
Q: My friend claims Read the Runes allows a player to sacrifice one permanent and not have to discard anything. I say for each card you drew you can either discard a card or sacrifice a permanent. Who is right? --Andrew P.
A: If more than one card was drawn, then more than one thing will have to be discarded or sacrificed.
*Extra*: Because the cards says "drawn this way," you can avoid discarding or sacrificing if you can avoid drawing cards. For example, you could replace the draws by spending mana for Words of War or by putting study counters on a Pursuit of Knowledge.
Q: If you played a Sculpting Steel as a Chalice of the Void would it come into play with no charge counters or 3 charge counters? --Nick C.
A: You're actually playing the Sculpting Steel as a Sculpting Steel; the Chalice you sculpt it into will have zero charge counters on it.
*Extra*: Sculpting Steel works slightly differently with Sunburst though. Sunburst looks for the mana used to play the spell that created the artifact, so spending three different colors to play Sculpting Steel and then sculpting it into a Pentad Prism would give you a Prism with three charge counters.
Q: If I activate Vedalken Shackles on my friend's creature and in response he activates his own Shackles, who gains control of it? --Charles
A: You do. Your friend should let your Shackling resolve and then Shackle his creature back if he wants to keep it.
That's it for this week. Next week we'll have more questions, and then it's off to Baltimore, Maryland, for the US National Championships for questions from Pro Tour players, Regionals winners, and the Junior Super Series.