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06.12.2016

Judge School
MTG cards

TrinisphereAt one of the Legacy tournaments I played an unusual deck for me – Ichorid. One of my frolicsome opponents started both games with Chalice for 1 (and I have nothing to do), followed by Chalice for 2 (and I have no chance to break the first one) and, finally, Trinisphere, for additional insurance. I had to win with triggers. :)

I wanted to write about Trinisphere long ago, because it is one of staple cards in the Eternal formats and players ask so many questions about it. So, when I encountered it on the battlefield, I realized that the time had come.

Translated by Lev Kotlyar


Trinisphere

In fact, it’s pretty easy™ (I wonder if I ever say differently about a card):

  1. If you are about to pay for a spell less than 3 mana, you get to pay 3 mana. Whatever else you might do as a payment is irrelevant. Trinisphere only cares about mana part of the total casting cost.
  2. Trinisphere’s effect is applied the last to define total cost.

The rest is details.

At one of the latter stages of casting spells a player defines its total cost:

Total cost is a spell’s mana cost or alternative cost, plus all additional costs, plus all effects that increase mana cost, minus all effects that decrease mana cost.

So, Trinisphere looks at the total cost after accounting for all plusses and minuses, checks the cost and adds generic mana to it to make it three. As a result, we get a final total cost that is then fixed and has to be payed in order to successfully finish the casting.

Let’s start from the easy things. Alternative costs:

Force of Will Ancestral Vision Isochron Scepter

Force of Will cast for its alternative cost has total casting cost: 1 life and exile of a blue card from the hand. What’s the mana part of its total cost? There’s none. So, Trinisphere’s effect says “Add 3 mana”. The final cost then will be: {3}, 1 life and exile of a blue card from the hand. Meh!

Ancestral Vision can be cast on resolution of the Suspend trigger without paying its mana cost. Total casting cost: none. Trinisphere’s effect says “Add 3 mana”. Finally, we get total casting cost: {3}.

You cast an instant spell without additional costs that is imprinted on Isochron Scepter. What is its total cost? Nothing. What’s the mana part of the cost? It has none. Trinisphere’s effect says “Add 3 mana”. Finally, the total casting cost: {3}.

Bloodbraid Elf Dread Return Chord of Calling

Casting a spell you’ve “cascaded” into allows you to pay the additional costs of that spell, such as Kickers. If the mana part of the total casting cost is then less than 3, Trinisphere’s effect will make you increase it to 3.

Casting Dread Return for its Flashback cost involves no mana payment. Can you hear it now?

Exterminate!

Pay more!

With the new rules (that came with M14) Convoke is not an additional cost. So, first, you define the total cost of the spell, applying Trinisphere effect the last. You then may pay that cost using either mana or tapping creatures.

Note that Trinisphere doesn’t allow you to cast spells with no mana cost. According to the rules, an “empty” mana cost (unlike {0} cost) cannot be paid and this can’t be changed just by applying the cost modifying effects. To cast a spell with an “empty” cost you need an effect that allows you to cast it without paying its mana cost. In the example above Suspend provides you with such an effect, not Trinisphere.

Trinisphere is absolutely ignorant about the CMC of the spell. And naturally, it changes neither spell’s mana cost nor its CMC:

Birchlore Rangers face down Gatekeeper of Malakir Dismember

If you cast a morph, then its CMC is 0, but the total casting cost is {3}. Trinisphere is fine with that, no additional payment is required.

If you cast Gatekeeper of Malakir with Kicker then its CMC is 2 and total casting cost is {BBB}. Trinisphere is content. You pay {BBB}, but your opponent still can easily counter your Gatekeeper with Spell Snare.

If you are casting Dismember by paying life for it, its mana cost stays {1}{P/B}{P/B}, CMC is 3 and total cost is {1} and 4 life. Trinisphere is upset and wants 2 more mana to be paid. As a result you get to pay {3} and 4 lifes.

Let’s make the scenario more complex by adding the effects that modify the total casting cost.

Birchlore Rangers face down Dream Chisel

If you are casting a Morph with Dream Chisel on the battlefield, the Morphs’ total casting cost is {2}. The Trinispere’s effect is applied after all the effects that modify the cost, so it makes you pay {3}. The Morph will still cost {3} to cast as a result.

Shining Shoal Thornscape Familiar Alabaster Leech

Shining Shoal that is cast for its alternative cost (exile of Disenchant from the hand) with Thornscape Familiar on the battlefield has total cost: exile Disenchant from the hand. The Trinisphere’s effect insists on paying 3 mana and is applied after Thornscape Familiar’s effect that could affect the mana part of the white Shoal’s casting cost which has none. In the end, the total cost is: {3} + exile Disenchant from the hand.

Shining Shoal that is cast for its alternative cost (exile of Disenchant from the hand) with Alabaster Leech on the battlefield has total cost: exile Disenchant from the hand + {W}. The Trinisphere’s effect insists on paying 3 mana and is applied after Alabaster Leech’s effect that increases the white Shoal’s casting cost. So, the total cost is: {2W} + exile Disenchant from the hand.

There both Thornscape Familiar and Alabaster Leech on the battlefield. Shining Shoal that is cast for its alternative cost (exile Disenchant from the hand) will have total cost: exile Disenchant from the hand + {W} (cost increases are accounted first} + … that’s it. Thornscape Familiar only decreases cost if it has colorless mana, but there’s none. After the calculations we see that Trinisphere is bashing the table with its boot and demands additional payment. So, in the end we have: {2W} + exile Disenchant from the hand.

Now, I think, is a good time to discuss the spells that aren’t cast. Copies created by Storm, Replicate and Gravestorm are not cast! They are simply put on the stack.

Shattering Spree

During the casting of Shattering Spree with Replicate you can pay the additional cost. Let’s say that you’ve chosen to pay {RR}, so the total casting cost of Shattering Spree is {RRR} and Trinisphere is satisfied with that.

What’s next? Next, the ability that creates 2 copies of Shattering Spree triggers. On resolution of that ability you put them on the stack without casting, so Trinishpere doesn’t care about them.

Can I refuse to pay when I have to, but really don’t want to? In the following case you can:

Greater Gargadon

On resolution of the Suspend trigger you have to cast the spell if you can. But Trinisphere insists that you pay {3}. Nobody and nothing can make you activate the mana abilities to actually get those 3 mana. So, if on resolution of the trigger you don’t have 3 mana in your mana pool, you can’t cast the spell. It remains exiled.

If you do have 3 mana in your mana pool, you’ll have to pay them and cast the suspended spell.

Also, sometimes you don’t have to pay the additional mana for Trinisphere. That’s when it is tapped! You forgot that, didn’t you?

Shared Discovery Trinisphere Tezzeret the Seeker

You’ve activated Tezzereth’s ultimate* ability and turned all your artifacts including Trinisphere into creatures. Let’s assume you’ve got exactly 4 untapped creatures and now you are trying to cast Shared Discovery by tapping them all for its additional cost. Will you have to pay additional mana because of Trinisphere?

Solution:

The answer is yes. Let’s see. During casting of the spell we define its total casting cost which is tap of 4 creatures and {U} in our case. After that we apply the Trinisphere’s effect that lusts for blood two more mana. So, we get the cost: {2U} + tap of 4 untapped creatures. It is then fixed. Only after that we get to activate the mana abilities and then pay the cost. This is exactly when we are tapping Trinisphere. But the cost has been fixed already and the game doesn’t care now that the Trinisphere is tapped.

Fun for the dessert:

Dryad Arbor Show and Tell Simian Spirit Guide

Does one need to pay {3} while casting Dryad Arbor?

Of course, not! It isn’t even a spell. It is even printed on it!

Does one need to pay mana for the permanent put on the battlefield with Show and Tell?

No. No spells – no payments.

How much would it cost to get {R} from the Guide?

It would cost: exile Simian Spirit Guide from the hand. This is activation of ability, not casting of a spell. Trinisphere doesn’t care.


* Ultimate ability is a common slang name for the last ability listed on a Planeswalker.



Irina Samonova © 1999-2017

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