The Riki Rules – Mirror, Mirror… Who’s The Most Confusing Card Of Them All?

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Monday, July 14th – A full 189 players showed up to do battle for a slot to Berlin on the Fifth of July. After just a few rounds we discovered that Mirrorweave is hands down the most rules intensive card in this Block format. Let’s just hand it the Humility Award now.

Two weekends ago I finally got my first taste of Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Block Constructed at a local PTQ. Is that really the official name of the format? What’s the abbreviation, LSBC? LShBC?

A full 189 players showed up to do battle for a slot to Berlin on the Fifth of July. I’ve heard other people comment on this phenomenon as proof that Magic players have no social lives, but I see it another way. The Fourth of July is a stupid holiday. Celebrating the birth of the United States is good and all, but do we have to do it by going outside in the middle of summer heat and making more heat with fireworks? It was especially stupid in California because we’ve been suffering through one of the worst wildfire seasons I can remember. The normally clear sky looks like LA around here.

Anyway, does anything important happen on the day after Blow Up Day? Maybe a BBQ or something, but really no good excuse not to sling the spells. Family schamily.

The staffing for the PTQ was a bit shuffled up from the norm. Our usual Head Judge, Jeff Morrow, was out of town on business, so we pulled out Toby Elliot from the cold storage of Penalty Guideline management. Several regular judges like Eric Levine, Daniel Lee, and Sean Catanese were playing. In exchange, we got a welcome surprise in Brendan O’Connor, back in town again for the summer.

After just a few rounds we discovered that Mirrorweave is hands down the most rules intensive card in this Block format. Let’s just hand it the Humility Award now. Or is that the Volrath’s Shapeshifter award. Chains of Mephistopheles? One of those three is probably the most confusing cards of all time. Mirrorweave isn’t nearly in their class; it doesn’t need tons of errata or supporting rules documents in order to understand. However, it touches upon a commonly used area of the rules that players still have very little proper understanding of: layers.

We’ve been over some of this layer nonsense before, and we’ll probably cover it again in the future. For today, I’m just going to share with you some of the scenarios that I’ve come across involving Mirrorweave. I’ll try to keep the rules chatter to a minimum. If you’re really that interested, you can probably do the follow up research on your own. And yes, that is just a clever excuse because I am too busy this week to go digging up all the specific rules.

The classic case is Mirrorweave targeting an activated Mutavault. Because copy effects generally only look at the printed characteristics of a card, all creatures will become inanimate Mutavaults, mere lands and not 2/2 creatures. Played during combat, this has the added benefit of removing all of the suddenly non-creature Mutavaults from combat as is known to happen to non-creatures that find themselves in combat for some reason.

At the PTQ, I saw this play happen, pretty much the Blue/Whitest of Fogs, and the player who got fogged wanted to know if he could reanimate his Mutavaults and keep them in combat. Alas, that doesn’t work. By the time you could activate them, the Mutavaults are already removed from combat, and turning them back into creatures won’t reinsert them.

However, if your squad gets turned into Mutavaults before attackers are declared, then it’s high time for a massed animation and attack. Although I did not see this happen at the PTQ, Evan Erwin purportedly pulled off this maneuver, first Mirrorweaving his creatures into Mutavaults to avoid being tapped down by Cryptic Command, then activating them and attacking. Hot soup.

Level 5 Psychic

While walking past a match, Head Judge Toby Elliot saw a Mirrorweave get played and decided to stick around and correct the inevitable confusion. Player A had attacked with his army of five creatures which included a Mirror Entity, pumping everyone up to 2/2.

Yeah, he must have played Spectral Procession or something because “pumping” his guys to 2/2 doesn’t seem that impressive to me either. Anyway, Player B countered with Mirrorweave, turning everything back into lowly 1/1 Stonybrook Bannerets (in Block?). Confident in his play, Player B declared no blocks and said, “I’ll take 5.”

“Actually, you take 10,” corrected Toby. Both players looked up at him confused and waited for him to explain that the P/T change from Mirror Entity happens in a higher layer than the copy effect of Mirrorweave.

Incidentally, the creature type addition also happens in a higher layer, so all those 2/2 Stonybrook Bannerets had all creature types.

Colossus Mistake?

Here was another actual scenario from the PTQ. Player A played Mirrorweave on Player B’s turn, essentially as a mini-Fog, turning everything into 1/1s. In response, Player B activated his Chameleon Colossus’s doubling ability. It became a powerful 8/8. Then Mirrorweave resolved and… What?




I actually played a little trick on you earlier. Did you see it? I tricked you. I called it Chameleon Colossus’s doubling ability, while it is actually a variable pump that happens to double the current stats. When the ability resolves, the variable becomes locked in – that’s my final answer – and the pump stays the same for the remainder of the turn.

In this example, the Mirrorweave turns the Colossus into a lowly 1/1. However, that happens in the earliest layer, the copy layer. The pump from the activated ability still applies to the creature deep within layer 6.

+X/+X becomes locked in as whatever value it was when the ability resolved. In this and most cases with Chameleon Colossus that means +4/+4. Thereafter, it becomes locked in and affects the creature like any other Giant Growth type effect would and does not change along with the creature’s power and toughness due to effects like Mirrorweave. That means that the creature will end up as a 5/5 after Mirrorweave and the pump effect.

If the order of spell and ability were opposite, with Mirrorweave resolving first, then the Chameleon Colossus would become a lowly 1/1 and the pump ability would resolve only giving the creature +1/+1, making for a final answer of 2/2.

MTGO is (Always) Wrong

I observed Paul Yale on a noteworthy call for all you MTGOers out there. Player A played Mirrorweave targeting Wizened Cenn, looking to make one of those oh so famous all lord alpha strikes. Player B responded with Makeshift Mannequin on a Sower of Temptation (taking the Wizened Cenn in question) to give himself some blockers. Player A tried to argue with Paul that once Mirrorweave resolved, Sower of Temptation was now a Wizened Cenn and thus would return his original Cenn back to his side because “Sower of Temptation was no longer in play.”

Player A’s argument centered on the text “as long as Sower of Temptation remains in play.” Paul explained correctly that when a card used its own name in its text box, it meant “this card,” meaning it didn’t matter that the Sower was not a Wizened Cenn. The card was still in play, so the effect kept the OG Wizened Cenn on Player B’s side of the field.

Later I found that the reason Player A might have been so adamant that he would get his Wizened Cenn back was because that’s how it currently works on MTGO. Just add it to the long list of “don’t trust MTGO” card interactions. For the longest time I remember all of the Wishes shuffling your library upon resolution, because you always shuffle your library after looking through your sideboard. Venser, Shaper Savant also had a funny interaction with flashback spells. Normally, whenever a spell is flashed back it gets removed from the game no matter what you otherwise try to do to it. If you Memory Lapse it, it is removed from the game. Remand. Removed from game. Hinder. Top or bottom of your library. Just kidding. Making sure you were paying attention.

Based on this, Venser should have obviously removed the flash back spell from the game instead of putting it back in the player’s hand. That wasn’t what it did. The first time one of my friends discovered this was when they tried to Venser a Mystical Teachings, expecting to straight up counter the spell. Instead, the opponent got two more Mystical Teachings. My friend lost that one, but in the future took full advantage of the bug.

Back to the PTQ, this Mirrorweave/ Sower bug was probably behind the player insisting – insisting – that things worked that way. Just remember that MODO is an excellent learning tool for most of the rules interactions, but it isn’t the definitive source of all rules knowledge.

Attack of the Inanimate Mutavaults

Mirrorweave is confusing from a rules perspective, but Mutavault is equally troublesome from a communication standpoint. Here’s the basic scenario that’s been popping up. Player A has a grip of creatures and a Mutavault, but suspects that Player B has a Cryptic Command. Player A declares his combat step without animating his Mutavault and passes, waiting to see if Player B will play the Cryptic. Player B shakes his head. He doesn’t have it. Seeing the way is clear, Player A activates his Mutavault and gets in there. Roar!

Not so fast, son. Declaring your combat step or saying something like “attackers” is an established shortcut that means you are passing priority in your first main phase and your beginning of combat step. If your opponent also passes priority (which he is doing when he doesn’t play Cryptic Command or any other spell), then you automatically move into the declare attackers step. That means you have to declare all of your attackers without having the opportunity to play spells or activated abilities, like animating Mutavault.

It’s basically the classic bluffing game. If you pass without activating Mutavault, your opponent can pass back and keep your Mutavaults out of the combat phase. If you activate Mutavault to attack with it, your opponent is free to play his Cryptic Command and tap down all of your creatures including your activated Mutavault. If you pass priority without activating Mutavault and your opponent plays the Cryptic Command, the way is clear for you to activate your Mutavault and attack with it.

Tea Time

Nothing to do with the rules, but just a funny story from the PTQ. At one point I walked down one of the side hallways towards the bathroom with the TO Conan and we discovered a lovely little table setting left over from some other event. There was silverware, napkins, and other assorted things that might have been useful for a luncheon. I looked over the display for any food, but didn’t find anything. Conan pointed out the tea bags though. I joked about taking some tea bags and Conan told me to go ahead.

“Really?” I said.

“Sure. Go ahead,” said Conan, as he continued down the hall.

I looked around nervously and reached for the tea bags. I had the first one in my grasp when…

An alarm went off. Conan turned around and gave me one of those googly eye looks like “What did you do?” I shrugged my shoulders and quickly stuffed the tea bags in my pocket.

Turns out there was no burglar alarms on the tea bags, and it was actually a fire alarm. At first we tried to ignore it but when it kept going on and on, we decided to finally evacuate the players. This caused quite a bit of bedlam as some players scooped up their cards, while others were understandably nervous about having to leave their cards behind in the room.

To allay their fears, we posted judges at both the entrance to the hall and at the window to watch the room with all the cards. After ten or fifteen minutes we got the all clear and let the players back in. Everything turned out okay in the room and we were able to get the round moving properly again. It was a pretty strange situation all around, the strangest since that time a player got arrested. But that’s a story for another time.

Next week, I’ll address a few rules lawyerish issues that have popped up recently in other people’s articles.

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