Ask A Judge: Colorless Conundrums

The Eldrazi are here and they’re bringing some strange rules with them! Paul Baranay and his guest judge columnist stop in to help you with all your rules questions!

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This week’s special guest is my good friend Charlotte Sable. Charlotte is a renowned rules expert and the author of the popular Ask a Magic Judge Tumblr, so I’ve been looking for an opportunity to invite her. And Valentine’s Day was a perfect excuse, because Charlotte literally moved halfway across the world to be with her partner! Talk about romantic.

Originally from Canada, Charlotte has been judging since 2009 and has officiated tournaments at every level, all the way up to the Pro Tour. In spite of living in the Great White North for most of her judging career, Charlotte even found plenty of time to judge StarCityGames.com events, including ten Open Weekends. After moving to Finland in 2015, she’s continued to judge events big and small and share her rules knowledge with thousands of Magic players every day through her blog.

The Eldrazi are devouring every format in sight, so we have a ton of questions about our colorless overlords. Let’s make like Kozilek and start turning these questions into crazy geodesic answers!

Eldrazi Questions

Mark Smallpage of England asks: The Gatherer ruling for Herald of Kozilek says that its ability can apply to alternative costs. Does this mean that Herald also reduces the cost of Bearer of Eldrazi’s triggered ability, so I can pay just {C} and make my opponent sacrifice a creature?

(Charlotte) Bearer of Silence is one of several cards from Oath of the Gatewatch that lets you pay colorless mana when you cast it to get an extra effect. However, the cost to get the extra effect isn’t a cost to cast the spell. It’s part of a triggered ability that triggers when you cast the spell. When that trigger resolves, you can choose to pay that mana to get the extra effect. Since these effects are triggers, not spells, they aren’t discounted by Herald of Kozilek.

As for the Gatherer ruling you mentioned, that ruling is there primarily for the sake of completeness. There are no colorless cards from Battle for Zendikar or Oath of the Gatewatch with alternate costs. However, Herald of Kozilek does apply when you cast a card with morph face-down. So you can cast those cards for two generic mana.

Mark also wants to know: I’ve enchanted my Reality Smasher with Mirror Mockery. Because Reality Smasher has haste, can I declare it as an attacker and then also attack with my new Reality Smasher?

(Charlotte) Combat doesn’t work this way, sadly. When you declare attackers, you choose all of the creatures you’re going to attack with at once. Only once that choice is made will Reality Smasher become an attacking creature and cause Mirror Mockery’s ability to trigger. By the time the trigger resolves, it’s too late to declare the token copy as an attacker.

Mirror Mockery is generally better used on an opponent’s creature, since the token can be declared as a blocker, or on a creature with a good enters-the-battlefield trigger, like Abbot of Keral Keep.

My friend told me I can’t use the two colorless mana from Eldrazi Temple to return World Breaker to my hand, but that doesn’t sound right. Is he right or am I?

(Charlotte) I know that it looks like you should be able to do use that mana for World Breaker’s ability, but you can’t. And no, this has nothing to do with devoid: devoid functions in all zones, so World Breaker is colorless in your graveyard.

The issue is with how the ability on Eldrazi Temple is worded: “Spend this mana only to…activate abilities of colorless Eldrazi.” When a card refers to a creature type (or another permanent type or subtype) this way, it’s referring strictly to permanents of that type on the battlefield, not other cards of that type in other zones.

World Breaker’s activated ability can only be activated while it’s in your graveyard. It’s an Eldrazi card in your graveyard at that time, not an Eldrazi permanent, and thus you can’t spend the mana from Eldrazi Temple’s second ability on it.

And remember when I talked about Bearer of Silence’s trigger earlier? Well, in a similar way, you can’t spend that mana from Eldrazi Temple to pay for the triggered abilities of Bearer of Silence, Eldrazi Obligator, Vile Redeemer, or Gravity Negator. This is because these cards’ costs are neither the cost to cast the spell nor the cost to activate their abilities.

Does Painter’s Servant really turn off Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple?

(Charlotte) Yup! Painter’s Servant makes cards, spells, and permanents in all zones the chosen color. (This even overrides devoid.) This means that any Eldrazi spells you cast aren’t colorless, so they don’t get the discount from Eye of Ugin and you can’t spend the {C}{C} from Eye of Ugin on them. To make matters even worse, you can’t find anything with Eye of Ugin’s search ability, since none of the cards in your library are colorless.

Can I use Myriad Landscape to search my deck for Wastes? I need to know for my Kozilek EDH deck.

(Charlotte) Myriad Landscape allows you to search for up to two basic lands that share a land type, but Wastes doesn’t have a land type, so you definitely can’t search for two Wastes since they don’t have a land type to share. (No, “no land type” doesn’t match “no land type.” Remember Bile Blight vs. face-down creatures?)

What you can do, though, is search for any single basic land. So you can find one Plains, or one Mountain, or even one Wastes. When you only choose to find one basic land this way, there’s nothing to compare it against to see if the land type matches, so you just don’t look to see if it has a land type at all.

My opponent just cast a big Eldrazi and now the Kozilek’s Return is their graveyard is about to deal five damage to everything. I can prevent that damage with Dromoka’s Command, right?

(Charlotte) Sadly, no. If you look at the first mode on Dromoka’s Command, it says that it prevents damage from an instant or sorcery spell, but the five damage to each creature will be dealt by an instant card in your opponent’s graveyard. (A card in a graveyard isn’t a spell, since spells can only exist on the stack. It’s that World Breaker / Eldrazi Temple scenario all over again!)

What all of this means is that Kozilek’s Return is an illegal target for Dromoka’s Command when it’s triggering from a graveyard. You can absolutely prevent all the damage from it when it’s cast normally to deal two to each creature, though.

For the same reasons, Soulfire Grand Master doesn’t give Kozilek’s Return lifelink while it’s in your graveyard, so you won’t be gaining any massive amounts of life from it.

I blink my Thought-Knot Seer with Eldrazi Displacer. Does my opponent draw a card first or do I exile another card from their hand first? I’m confused here.

(Charlotte) Your confusion is understandable.

First Thought-Knot Seer leaves the battlefield, so its leaves the battlefield ability triggers, but it doesn’t go on the stack just yet, since no one gets priority in the middle of a spell or ability that’s resolving.

Next, Thought-Knot Seer returns to the battlefield and its enters-the-battlefield ability triggers, but it also has to wait to go on the stack.

Now we get to the fun part. Finally, we finish resolving Eldrazi Displacer’s ability, so it’s time to put the triggers on the stack. You control both triggers and they’re both waiting to go on the stack, so you get to choose their order. You can have your opponent reveal their hand first, exile a card from it, and then draw — or you can have your opponent draw first, make them reveal their hand, and exile a card from it. The choice is yours!

At Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, I saw a pro cast Dismember on their opponent’s new Reality Smasher and somehow that made the opponent not able to copy its stats with their Eldrazi Mimics? What’s going on here?

Well, it’s not that they couldn’t copy the power and toughness of Reality Smasher onto their Mimics; it’s just that it would have been a really bad idea. Eldrazi Mimic looks at the current size of the new colorless creature when its trigger starts to resolve, or its last known size if it’s no longer on the battlefield.

When Reality Smasher died, it was a 0/0 thanks to Dismember. This means that choosing to have the Eldrazi Mimics copy Reality Smasher’s power and toughness would have also made them 0/0 creatures and sent them to the graveyard.

Okay, got it. What if my Eldrazi Mimic copies something with a * in its stats, like Vile Aggregate?

(Bearz) Eldrazi Mimic’s ability is like taking a photograph. Let’s say Vile Aggregate enters the battlefield and causes your Eldrazi Mimic to trigger. When the ability resolves, the Mimic’s base power and toughness change to match whatever your Aggregate’s power and toughness are at that time. Those values are then frozen, like a photograph. If Vile Aggregate entered the battlefield as a 4/5, for example, the Mimic’s base power and toughness will be 4/5, even if the number of colorless creatures you control changes.

Non-Eldrazi Questions

I have a Monastery Swiftspear. I cast Titan’s Strength on it and attack. After my opponent doesn’t block, I cast Gift of Tusks on it. How much damage does it do to my opponent? I say it’s eight, but my opponent thinks it’s just three.

(Charlotte) You’re correct here. When Gift of Tusks resolves, it doesn’t override the bonuses Swiftspear is getting from prowess or Titan’s Strength. Even though it loses prowess, the previous bonuses from it remain. So what we have here is base power and toughness of 3/3 from Gift of Tusks, +3/+1 from Titan’s Strength and +2/+2 from the two prowess triggers, making Swiftspear a respectable 8/6 green elephant.

Why aren’t there more questions about non-Eldrazi stuff?

(Bearz) Roses are colorless. Violets are colorless. Everything is nothing.

Questions for Charlotte

Why did you become a judge?

An unhealthy obsession with the rules and a desire to prove that I was better than others around me. Those are both terrible reasons to become a judge, by the way, but they’re what pushed me to finally start on the path to being a judge and I’ve grown a lot since then. I actually attended my first tournament mostly so I could get a DCI number and take the Rules Advisor test.

When did you start Ask a Magic Judge? Why?

I started it on 19 December 2012. I’d been using Tumblr for about a year and Mark Rosewater was one of the Tumblrs I followed. I noticed that he was answering a lot of fairly standard rules questions (and not always getting them right), so I saw that there was a need to be filled.

Since then I’ve answered over 12,000 questions and amassed over 7,000 followers. When I started the blog, there wasn’t much of a Magic community on Tumblr outside of MaRo’s blog, but now it’s huge and awesome and I’ve gotten to know a lot of really cool people through the Magic side of Tumblr.

Most interesting question you’ve gotten?

The most interesting questions are the ones that force me to dig into the rules or policy and learn new things. So if I have to pick one example of that, I guess I’ll go with a question from 2014. It was just “Explain banding now…”, and well… Banding isn’t exactly the easiest ability to understand, so it took me a bit of time to work up a good explanation, but once I’d answered the question, I understood banding a lot better. I even went back and expanded it to explain “Bands with Other” last week on a day where I was home sick.

You recently moved from Canada to Finland. What was that experience like?

Stressful! An international move isn’t easy at all, but it was worth it.

Happiest moments?

Either the day I arrived here to stay, or the day that I found out that my residence permit application was accepted so that I could begin the process of actually winding down my life in Canada.


The biggest challenge leading up to the move was purging most of my possessions. I moved here with just three suitcases and one backpack. Once I got here, the biggest challenge was trying to find a routine and figure out what the “new normal” was going to be. I moved at the end of April 2015 and didn’t really find that routine until I started language classes in October.

What was it like as a judge?

Also stressful. I’d met a good chunk of the Nordic judge community at GP Stockholm in October 2014, but meeting people at one GP and actually integrating into the community are very different things. I was also right in the middle of the L3 advancement process at the time I moved and had to juggle that with all the move prep and settling in on the other end.

Since I got here, I’ve been slowly finding my place in the region. I work for a couple of local TOs fairly regularly and I’ve semi-adopted the Norwegian judges as my own since they don’t currently have their own L3.

How did you meet your partner, Arto?

We met online through a My Little Pony artist and writer group. (Go ahead, roll your eyes all you want, I’ll wait…) Our friendship built slowly over a couple of years, until all of a sudden we were chatting online for hours most days and finally realized that this might be something more than just friendship.

I really can’t pin down when that switch flipped, but that’s perfectly all right, since it’s the solid friendship that keeps our relationship really working. We also have Magic in common, but Arto pretty much only plays Commander with his friends (despite having 28 decks). It’s been really refreshing to have his perspective on things and be able to see the non-tournament, non-competitive side of the game a bit more clearly.

Favorite judging moment?

It’s hard to pick just one, but being selected to judge Pro Tour Dark Ascension in 2012 in Honolulu was pretty amazing. It was the first Pro Tour where applications were limited to Level 3 or higher judges, so I hadn’t applied — but my name was suggested by a senior judge as a “deserving L2” so I got a special invitation. Being at the Pro Tour is an experience I’ll never forget, and I really hope that I get to judge another one soon.

Favorite commander?

Uril, the Miststalker! Uril was my very first commander in the very first EDH deck I ever built. While I recently retired Uril because his deck was stagnating, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for him.

Favorite format and deck?

Commander is an insanely fun format when you’re playing with the right people, and that’s most of the Magic I get to play these days. Competitively, I really love Legacy. You can play weird and crazy decks and they can still compete most of the time. I’m currently trying to make a Hedron Alignment deck work in Legacy, though it’s going to take a lot of more tweaking and tuning.

Thanks, Charlotte! Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for today. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about how to properly play the Eldrazi deck, or at least gained some insights into properly combatting the colorless menace.

Although I can’t be found on Tumblr, I’m always happy to answer questions via email and feature them in future editions of this column. Catch you later!

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