The Eternal Question

As fun as Eternal Masters is to draft, old cards are…well…weird. Need help with those bizarre interactions that nobody saw coming? Paul Baranay and his guest are here to sort out the craziness!

Eternal Masters is one of the most exciting supplemental sets Wizards has ever released. As an avid Legacy player and insatiable drafter, this set hits all the high notes for me: cool cards, exciting reprints, and a complicated Limited environment. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done with this format already.

Of course, with old cards come weird rules interactions and complex situations. Fortunately, that’s where we judges come in! For this week’s Ask a Judge, I’ve invited a special guest who’s no stranger to Eternal formats: Kevin King! A former New England grinder who now lives in Baltimore, Kevin is an experienced judge and an even more experienced player, making the Top 4 of last year’s Legacy Championship with his trusty Lands deck. You can find out more about him at the end of this article.

With introductions out of the way, let’s get to the questions!

I cast Natural Order and get Maelstrom Wanderer. Do I get to cascade? — Joshua Hudson

(Kevin) No, you’ll have to wander elsewhere. Cascade only triggers when you cast the spell, so putting Maelstrom Wanderer onto the battlefield with Natural Order will not trigger the Wanderer’s cascade ability. It’s still a good creature to get on the battlefield, though.

I control a Coalition Honor Guard, and I target my opponent with Chain Lightning. If they copy Chain Lightning, do they have to target my Flagbearer? — Stephan Classen

(Kevin) As Chain Lightning resolves, the affected player gets to choose to pay {R}{R} to put another copy on the stack. At no point is a spell cast or ability activated, so no, your opponent would not have to target a Flagbearer.

Can I cast Hydroblast/Pyroblast targeting a spell/permanent that isn’t red/blue? — Jeff Higgins

(Kevin) Yes; in fact, this is a common play to trigger Monastery Swiftspear, Young Pyromancer, or Monastery Mentor in Eternal formats. The wording of “target spell/permanent if it’s red/blue” means that you can target any spell or permanent, regardless of its color, but you will only counter or destroy your target if the target is the correct color. This is the opposite of Red Elemental Blast and Blue Elemental Blast, which are handy in other situations, as your opponent can’t use Misdirection to make them target any permanent they want.

My opponent has a Sulfuric Vortex on the battlefield. Can I cast Invigorate for its alternate cost? — Jeff Higgins

(Kevin) Yep! Sulfuric Vortex has a replacement effect that says, “If a player would gain life, that player gains no life instead.” So you can declare you’re using the alternate cost on Invigorate and pay it, at which point the lifegain would be replaced with no lifegain. But as far as the game is concerned, you’ve still paid the cost. I guess there is such a thing as a free lunch.

(Note: The situation would be different if the effect instead said “Players can’t gain life,” as on Everlasting Torment. In that case, one can’t even start to pay the cost because the game rules currently don’t allow it.)

How does protection work?

(Bearz) There are a bunch of cards in Eternal Masters with protection. Protection is one of the oldest abilities in Magic, and it has a reputation for being complex. But there’s really nothing to be scared of. Protection is all about keeping your cards safe, and it does that in four different ways.

As a specific example, let’s say I control Wildfire Emissary, which has protection from white. That means the following four things are true as long as my Wildfire Emissary is on the battlefield:

Damage: My Wildfire Emissary can’t be dealt damage by anything that’s white.

Enchanting: White Auras can’t enchant my Wildfire Emissary. If an Aura on my Wildfire Emissary becomes white somehow, that Aura will “fall off.” (The same is true for Equipment, but there aren’t any Equipment cards in Eternal Masters.)

Blocking: White creatures can’t block Wildfire Emissary.

Targeting: White spells and abilities can’t target Wildfire Emissary.

And that’s it! You can remember these rules with the acronym “DEBT.”

It’s important to recognize that protection prevents only the specific actions listed above, and nothing else. If a spell doesn’t specifically target Wildfire Emissary, it can still affect it; the classic example is that Wildfire Emissary could still be destroyed by Wrath of God.

Finally, several effects in this set let you give a creature protection from “a color of your choice.” You can’t give a creature “protection from artifacts” or “protection from colorless” this way, since those aren’t colors!

How does Animate Dead work?

(Kevin) Barely. There is a reason Animate Dead has so many different words in its text box and it has mostly to do with the fact that it targets a creature in your graveyard, but eventually enchants a creature on the battlefield. Let’s do it step by step.

>>>Enchant creature card in a graveyard

You cast Animate Dead, targeting a creature card in your graveyard.

>>>When Animate Dead enters the battlefield, if it’s on the battlefield, it loses “enchant creature card in a graveyard” and gains “enchant creature put onto the battlefield with Animate Dead.”

Animate Dead puts a trigger on the stack with an “intervening if” clause. That’s a fancy judge term that means we check whether Animate Dead is still on the battlefield as the trigger would start to resolve. If Animate Dead isn’t on the battlefield at that point, the trigger does nothing. (Basically, if you cast Naturalize on Animate Dead before the trigger resolves, the “intervening if” prevents you from getting the creature back.)

>>>Return enchanted creature card to the battlefield under your control and attach Animate Dead to it.

This part is the real meat of the thing. Now that the verbal acrobatics necessary to make casting Animate Dead legal in the first place are over, we can bring back the creature and attach to it the “enchant creature put onto the battlefield with Animate Dead” version.

>>>When Animate Dead leaves the battlefield, that creature’s controller sacrifices it.

Another trigger, created by the original trigger resolving. When Animate leaves the battlefield for any reason, “that creature” (the creature brought back by Animate Dead) gets sacrificed. Not “the creature currently enchanted,” in case Animate Dead fell off, but the specific creature that was brought back. Sorry, White Knight. Protection won’t save you.

>>>Enchanted creature gets -1/-0.

Because why not?

At what points do I have the opportunity to respond to the Worldgorger combo? — Dylan Rippe

(Kevin) Well, several times. For those unfamiliar, the combo is to cast Animate Dead (or Dance of the Dead or Necromancy in Legacy) on Worldgorger Dragon, which exiles all of your other permanents, including Animate Dead. Animate Dead triggers and makes you sacrifice Worldgorger Dragon, which triggers again, this time bringing back all those exiled cards. Animate Dead enchants Worldgorger Dragon, starting the cycle over. If you tap all of your lands for mana each cycle, you can make as much mana as you want. You can also repeat some card’s enters-the-battlefield trigger over and over, which lets you do things kill all your opponent’s creatures with Nekrataal, gain arbitrary life with Faith’s Fetters, draw cards with Wall of Omens, or win with something like Siege-Gang Commander, to name a few interactions in this set.

Let’s say your opponent is looping Worldgorger Dragon and Animate Dead. You get priority a few times. Assuming it’s not your turn, you get priority after each of the following actions (but only after your opponent passes priority):

First, after putting Animate Dead on the stack.

Second, when Animate Dead triggers to bring back the creature.

Third, when Worldgorger Dragon triggers to exile their permanents.

Fourth, when Animate Dead triggers to sacrifice Worldgorger Dragon.

Fifth, when Worldgorger Dragon triggers to bring back the permanents.

Then we’re back at trigger #2 with Animate Dead’s first trigger on the stack.

What you probably want to know is how to best respond to the combo with a kill spell. Since we’re not in a game of Magic right now, I can answer that! Your best option for max value is to kill Worldgorger Dragon with its exile trigger on the stack. That will put its “bring everything back” trigger on the stack above the exile trigger. When the dust clears, you’ll leave your opponent with all their permanents exiled.

What’s a pangolin? — Charlotte Sable

(Kevin) Pangolins are real-world mammals of the order Pholidota. The word “pangolin” is from the Malay word “pengguling,” meaning “something that rolls up.” Though they generally live in the tropics of Africa and Asia, judging by the new art, giant pangolin apparently also live on Innistrad.

Magic has a history of moving away from real animals like the Grizzly Bear to inventions like the Runeclaw Bear for a more immersive fantasy experience, though sometimes they work in some fun stuff from real-world history. For example, Loathsome Catoblepas from Theros is based on the legendary Catoblepas creature reported to have once lived in Ethiopia. Pliny the Elder first described the creature as having a lethal gaze, like a basilisk. Claudius Aelianus later refuted that description, claiming that instead its breath was poisonous. They are both supposed to have seen and wildly misunderstood wildebeests, reminding one of Marco Polo’s disappointment at finding, when he first encountered the rhinoceros, that unicorns were much uglier than he was told.

Let’s say I target a creature spell on the stack with Eight-and-a Half-Tails’s second ability. Will the creature be white when it enters the battlefield? — Jacen Simon

(Bearz) Oddly enough, yes. If a spell changes color while it’s the stack, the color change also applies to the permanent that spell becomes when it resolves. There aren’t many situations in Eternal Masters where you’d want to do this, but like Armadillo Cloak, it still works. (Two rare situations that could come up: get around a Giant Solifuge’s shroud by targeting it while it’s on the stack, or turn a Man-o’-War spell white and then give all your creatures protection from white so your opponent has to target and bounce one of their own creatures with Man-o’-War.)

Tournament Logistics

Can I take the foil Wasteland from my draft pack and replace it with a non-foil Wasteland I drafted earlier? If I don’t want to pass a pack because it has a Mana Crypt and a foil Force of Will, what can I do?! — Louis Annino

(Bearz) The answer to your first question is no, you need to draft with the cards you opened. When drafting at home, do what you like, but in tournament play, allowing players to switch out cards would be horribly inequitable. Swapping a foil card for anything else looks a lot like you substituted a bad foil you opened for a strong rare, which would obviously be cheating. That’s not a road any of us want to go down!

For your second question, one thing you cannot do is get a replacement pack. Just like in the first answer, allowing any sort of “re-buy” during a sanctioned tournament starts us down a very unpleasant path.

(Kevin) However, you can drop from a tournament at any time with the cards in your possession. If you really like a pack and you decide those cards are worth not playing in the tournament you came for, by all means, take your pack and any draft picks up to this point and walk away. No tournament organizer can stop you from leaving with your rightfully owned possessions.

Can I check card prices during a draft?

(Bearz) Sorry, but no. Players aren’t allowed to consult outside information during a draft. This is true for all sanctioned events, even ordinary drafts at your local store. Among other reasons, preventing outside notes prevents folks from holding up the whole draft by looking up a bunch of prices.

I have Sylvan Library on the battlefield. Before the Sylvan Library trigger resolves, I cast Brainstorm. What’s the interaction here? Do I have to show my opponent which cards I drew for the turn? What if I want to hide that info? — Patrick Wong

(Kevin) You will essentially need to keep two separate hand piles: one of cards that you’ve drawn this turn, and one of all the others. Any card from the first pile is eligible to be put back with Sylvan Library.

To the point about trying to hide the information, sort of. You will need to keep the piles separate (although they can be face-down, of course) at all times. So while Brainstorming, you essentially end up informing your opponent whether you put back any of the cards you just drew. You can choose not to do this and keep your hand as one pile, but then you lose the ability to put your Brainstorm cards back with Sylvan Library.

Some would suggest asking a judge to watch you to verify which cards are which, but that is not a workable solution. This is simply a matter of tournament logistics, even at Casual events at your local store. Judges need to be available to players with rules questions and games in need of fixing, as that is our primary role. We are not able to assist players in gaining strategic advantage in an interaction which already has a workable solution. The short version: “Sorry, we have other players to assist.”

Questions with Kevin

Who are you?

I am an ex-New England grinder turned Eternal specialist in Baltimore. I consider myself a player who judges more than a judge who plays, and I think each of those roles makes me stronger in the other.

When did you start playing?

Originally back in Fifth Edition, but I didn’t start playing sanctioned events until Alara block in college.

When did you start judging?

I started judging local events in 2011 and took my Level 1 exam in 2013.

What’s your proudest accomplishment as a player?

Losing to a friend in the Top 8 of the Legacy Championship last year. I’m playing for the title this year.

What’s your proudest accomplishment as a judge?

Certifying my first judge, Asa Russell. Growing the judge program was and is my primary goal as a Level 2.

What’s your favorite card in EMA?

Since they left Razor Boomerang out again and I didn’t play Limited until Magic 2010, I’m excited to finally play a format with Nekrataal at uncommon.

What card are you most upset wasn’t reprinted in EMA?

Again, Razor Boomerang. But Life from the Loam would have been fun to play in Limited outside of Cube.

Diminishing Returns

With so many old and cool cards, we couldn’t possibly cover all the possible rules interactions that can come up in this set. If you have burning questions that we didn’t answer, let us know in the comments! Or shoot me a message at [email protected]. Your questions might even be featured in a future column.