Tournament Tuesday: Redefinition of USC Major

Some of you who keep a closer ear to the tournament scene might have heard about a change to Unsporting Conduct – Major. Among other things, we’ve upgraded this penalty from a Game Loss to a Match Loss, and now focuses on players who make a toxic or unwelcome environment.

To start off with, let’s take a look at the definition from the Infraction Procedure Guide:

A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked. This may include insults based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.

So why this change? When playing in a Magic event, we want players to feel welcome and safe. And the actions and words of a player can potentially be harmful to them. Even if that player says or does something without the intent to harm them, we still need to step in and investigate. Sometimes, someone doesn’t want to speak up, but we still want to step in and curb this bad habit before it does harm someone. Judges should also take some time to educate the player about their behavior and why it is bad. Hopefully, the player will understand why what they did was inappropriate.

And why the penalty was upgraded to a match loss? Two reasons. Before, you could sit down for your match, make a derogatory comment to your opponent, get the USC – Major penalty of Game Loss, then your opponent still has to sit there and play you for a game or two. This makes it very uncomfortable for the opponent. The other reason why it was changed to a match loss is that it gives the some time to cool off, rather than have things escalated beyond control.

I feel like I could go into more detail, but it’s already been done by someone else. I’d like to link to two articles written by Level 4 Judge Sean Catanese. This first article is a more general article about the change, while this article addresses some of the more common questions that have popped up.

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Nathan Long

Posted in Tournament Rules | Comments Off

Elesh Norn vs. Sakura-Tribe Elder, et. al.

Although Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite hasn’t been seen in a while, her image has been showing up all over Magic recently, from Conspiracy’s reprint of Rout to the head-crest on Soul of New Phyrexia. One thing Elesh is excellent at is brutally shutting down small utility creatures. Because the -2/-2 ability is a static effect, any creature that tries to enter the battlefield on an opponent’s side will immediately have its power and toughness reduced – sometimes going straight to the graveyard before its controller can even do anything with it! For example, Sakura-Tribe Elder is a 1/1 that can sacrifice itself to fetch a basic land from the library. Against Elesh Norn, it’ll enter as a -1/-1. Because state-based actions (like creature death) are checked before a player would ever receive priority, by the time its controller would be legally allowed to sacrifice the Tribe-Elder, Elesh will have already daintily swept it into the bin. At least triggered abilities will still work, like with Shriekmaw!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Characteristics, State-Based Actions, Static Abilities | Comments Off

What “attacks if able” really means.

As of the time of this writing, the full set of Magic 2015 has been spoiled, including a blast from the past: the implacable Juggernaut! This creature has the ability to “attack each turn if able.” So what does “if able” really mean? First off, if there’s an effect that says it can’t attack at all, it can’t attack — so no circumventing summoning sickness and Pacifism. The next thing to note is that if an effect like Sphere of Safety says that it can’t attack unless you pay a cost, you’re allowed to attack, but you don’t have to — even if you could pay the cost, you’re not required to; and if you don’t pay the cost, Juggernaut isn’t able to attack.

Things get a bit more complicated once you throw other creatures into the mix. Let’s say you control Loyal Pegasus, who can’t attack or block alone, and a Traveling Philosopher. If Shipwreck Siren uses its ability to force Loyal Pegasus to attack, you’re required to attack with the Philosopher as well, since sending additional creatures into combat isn’t a cost that disqualifies the phrase “if able.” On the other hand, suppose you’re drafting Conspiracy and you’ve somehow picked up two Cogwork Trackers, but one of your opponents has a Silent Arbiter. In this case, you can’t fulfill both requirements at once, so you pick one and ignore the other. If both of your Trackers are required to attack different players, you’ll get to pick which opponent you’re required to attack this turn.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Combat Phase, Static Abilities | Comments Off

Notion Thief and Dredge

The dredge ability seems a lot like a trigger, but it’s not — it’s a replacement effect that modifies the event of drawing a card. Which means it’s probably not a good idea to try to use other replacement effects to stop your opponent from dredging. For example, if you control a Notion Thief, don’t expect to be drawing any cards soon. When your opponent tries to resolve an effect that would let her draw a card, such as Cephalid Coliseum, both replacement effects jump in and say “pick one!” to your opponent (the affected player). Your opponent will probably choose the dredge effect, which means there’s no longer any draw for Notion Thief to replace.

Perhaps you can stop your opponent from drawing entirely? Spirit of the Labyrinth, for example, prevents your opponent from drawing any cards at all after the first card each turn. This is great if you can somehow trick your Dredge opponent into drawing a card. However, if she replaces each of her draws with dredges, the Spirit never sees that she actually drew a card — and therefore won’t stop her from replacing her prospective card draws with further dredges. Of course, if she draws her first card normally under Spirit of the Labyrinth, then tries to dredge from a later draw, that won’t work because the second draw effect won’t be possible.

If you want to shut off dredging entirely, you’ll need an effect that says players “can’t draw cards,” like Maralen of the Mornsong or Omen Machine. On second thought… you could just play cards that exile their graveyard instead, like Tormod’s Crypt.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Prevention and Replacement Effects | Tagged | Comments Off

You can’t “miss” True-Name Nemesis’s “as this enters…” ability.

Contrary to what its flavor would indicate, True-Name Nemesis doesn’t require you to actually know your opponent’s name in order to gain protection from that player. In order to “choose a player,” you just need to give some indication of the choice you’re making as the Nemesis enters the battlefield — a simple gesture toward your opponent or verbal “You” will suffice.

But what happens if you forget?

Is it just assumed you chose your opponent? No… because True-Name Nemesis doesn’t instruct you to choose an opponent, but a player. And a legal choice for a player is yourself. While you might think it makes no strategic sense outside of a few extremely corner-case scenarios, judges can’t be in the business of assuming that players always make the most strategically sensible choices.

So is the ability just missed? No again! While players who miss triggers will often not receive the benefit of the ability, True-Name Nemesis’s first ability is not a trigger, but rather a replacement effect upon entering the battlefield. Which means that not only can you not forget about it, but your opponent must call attention to it if he or she notices it at the time. If both players have legitimately forgotten, call a judge, who will ask you to make a choice right then and there. (And since we’re allowed to give strategic advice on this blog: Don’t choose yourself!)

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Jen Wong

Posted in Prevention and Replacement Effects, Static Abilities | Tagged | Comments Off

Gargoyle Sentinel can dodge Clear a Path.

Today’s lesson starts with effects checking to see if their targets are still legal before resolving. In order to stay relevant, we’ll use two cards that are in M15 – Gargoyle Sentinel and Clear a Path. Let’s begin with a story:

So here is your gargoyle. Pretty sweet gargoyle, I must say. He prefers to stay back and defend most of the time and occasionally swoops in for a Bolt’s worth of damage. Well, during your opponent’s turn he decides that gargoyle has gotta go. “It attracts pigeons and it’s an eyesore, so I’m going to send it packin’ with this Clear a Path,” he grumbles. So your opponent announces his spell, puts it on the stack, chooses its target (the awesome gargoyle you have just perched there looking cool), and pays for it with a single red mana. “Not my Gargoyle,” you exclaim. Fortunately for you, your opponent doesn’t read the rules tips blog and had no idea that once your gargoyle loses defender, it is no longer a legal target. You pay the three mana and BOOM, no more defender. This means that your opponent not only wasted a card and the mana, he also doesn’t get to destroy your super sweet gargoyle this time – And so the day was saved. Dang, what a great gargoyle that is.

Remember, even though when Clear a Path was cast the gargoyle was a legal target, it has to remain a legal target for the spell to resolve. If it does not remain a legal target, the spell is countered on resolution. Not back to your hand, not rewound – IT IS COUNTERED.

Got 3 mana sitting around? Looks like Clear a Path isn’t getting much work done today.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Activated Abilities, Casting / playing a spell or ability, Resolving spells and abilities | Tagged , | Comments Off

Casting Ajani’s Pridemate while you have Staff of the Sun Magus – No counter for you!

I love counters on my creatures. I love them even more when they are given to my creatures and I get to gain life. That’s why so many players might get excited when they see this cool combo. There is a catch, however! Casting Pridemate while having a Staff of the Sun Magus will give you the extra life, but it won’t get the counter in response to itself hitting the battlefield. The staff’s triggered ability triggers from *casting* a spell, so it resolves before the Pridemate enters the battlefield as a creature.

Let’s break this down:

  • You cast Ajani’s Pridemate
  • The Staff triggers and the ability goes on the stack
  • The stack resolves top down (last on the stack happens first); you gain one life
  • Ajani’s Pridemate resolves without a counter

But hey! Just cause it didn’t work this time doesn’t mean it’s not going to work when you cast your next white spell! Talk about 3 for 1 – your spell, life and a counter! That’s a combo that wins games, especially in limited formats!

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Casting / playing a spell or ability, Resolving spells and abilities, Triggered Abilities | Tagged , | Comments Off

Resolute Archangel vs. Erebos

Resolute Archangel isn’t life gain… or is it?’ The wording of Resolute Archangel probably seems straightforward: It enters the battlefield, checks your life, and if it’s less than your starting life total it becomes your starting life total. It doesn’t say anything about gaining life, right? Take that, Erebos, God of the Dead! But oh no! What’s this?! It turns out any time your life total increases, that’s gaining life! Sure, the card does not mention the words “gain life,” but the action of gaining life occurs. Plainly written: If your life total increases, you have gained life. As cool as Resolute Archangel is, she is no match for a god.

Where else might this apply?

Opponent trying to land an Arbiter of Knollridge in a game of commander while you have Erebos down? Looks like they got an Arbiter of Noperidge instead, as no life totals, except maybe yours, will increase.

When playing Modern, Erebos laughs at your opponent’s Lich’s Mirror, as even when they lose due to life loss, they can’t go back up to 20. GG.

So remember! When Erebos is around, no opponent’s life can go up; only down – no matter how the additional life is worded.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Continuous Effects, Triggered Abilities | Tagged , | Comments Off

Don’t distract players mid-match.

‘Hey whatcha doing there? Mind if I give your opponent some advice while you’re mid-match? I see all the play mistakes he’s making – thought I would help him out.’

Unfortunately, overstepping your role as a spectator or even a judge is never this obvious. Remember one thing while watching a game – phantasmal duct tape. Imaginary duct tape should be over your mouth at all times. Want to talk about the match? Too bad, zip it up and wait ’til it’s over. See a rules violation? Politely ask the players to pause the match and get a judge (unless you’re at a professional event; then keep the duct tape on while you find a judge.)

Let’s test what you’ve learned today:

Which of the following is correct?
A. You: Hey bro! Cast that Giant Growth now and get that heroic trigger on the stack!
B. You: Aw man, great play but I would have activated the Mutavault earlier.
C. You:

Offering advice during matches or even distracting the players is never a wise choice – Don’t do it.
Correct Answer – C.

Please don’t actually put duct tape on your face. Do refrain from commenting during the game, especially at competitive and higher level events.

Today’s Tournament Tip written by Daniel Clarke

Posted in Communication Policy, Tournament Rules | Comments Off

Bestow cards are not auras in your library.

Aura you hungry?” How many times have you walked to your fridge knowing what you wanted right up to the moment you opened the door, and then poof – Blank stare into ham heaven. That’s how some of you will feel when you cast Heliod’s Pilgrim or Boonweaver Giant for the first time after M15 is finally released. You’ll probably be at a tournament sifting through your deck looking for an Eldrazi Conscription when you pass by that Chromanticore you splashed for. “Wow,” you’ll think. “That’s an aura… kinda.” Sure, why not?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. A creature with bestow is not an Aura while it is in your library or even your hand. It becomes an Aura when you cast it by paying its alternate “bestow” cost and have a legal target for it. It remains an Aura until it “falls off” or no longer can legally enchant what it’s attached to. At that point, it returns to being an enchantment creature – just as it is in every other zone in the game. So next time you’re having the pilgrim and giant over for dinner, choose the Feast of the Unicorn and leave the Nighthowler pie for another day.

Today’s Rules Tip written by Daniel Clarke, L1 from Kaneohe, Hawaii

Posted in Characteristics, Type & Subtypes, Zones | Tagged , | Comments Off