Normally, judges are discouraged from commenting on DQs for a few reasons. It can affect an ongoing investigation, and we don’t have a lot of interest in escalating what may be a he-said-she-said situation. In this situation, though, the investigation has concluded, and we can talk about it based entirely on what Jackie wrote in her article. This makes it a good opportunity for education, especially since there’s some confusion and misinterpretation in the comments (and a little in the article, which is understandable).
First, some disclaimers. I was at the event. I was present for some parts of the investigation and consulted before the decision was made. I was not there for large chunks of it because, inevitably, every player in the room decided it was time to appeal and I was pulled away to do appeal triage.
The DQ is much simpler than people think. We have an infraction – Fraud – that basically boils down to “you broke a rule, and you knew you were breaking it”. The rule in this case, and the only relevant rule, is MTR 2.14:
If a player notices a discrepancy in a recorded or announced life total, he or she is expected to point it out as soon as the discrepancy is noticed. Failure to do so will be considered a Cheating – Fraud penalty.
This rule is very simple. It doesn’t care about why the life totals are different. It doesn’t care who the difference favors. It doesn’t care whether or not you know the underlying cause. It just asks that when you see there’s a discrepancy in life totals, which are part of the game state, you point it out, either to your opponent or by calling a judge. Not doing so is akin to not calling attention to the fact that no, that creature you just put in the graveyard doesn’t have lethal damage on it.
Everything else that has come up is simply extra data that doesn’t factor into the ruling. Confusion over application of the new trigger rules or whether the opponent had indicated awareness of the trigger were not relevant to the situation. What the opponent did or didn’t say had no impact (once it was determined that they had not been aware of the discrepancy), because the question was not whether or not the trigger had been missed.
Finally, I’d like to thank Jackie and everyone involved in the DQ and the aftermath for handling it with grace and calm. DQing someone is never pleasant – contrary to what some people say, it’s not something that we like to do. She did everything correctly; she was honest and forthright during the investigation, took the result well and has chosen to embrace it as a teachable moment for the community. I certainly bear no ill will towards her. She did something wrong and was penalized for it, but that’s the end of it. Good luck to her in the Community Cup.
An FAQ on some of the other issues raised in the article and its comments
Why was Jackie not suspended?
Suspension is very unusual for a first-time DQ offense. In a situation like this, where the player is honest during the investigation and it’s clearly not something that was planned in advance, it’s highly unlikely to happen.
The rules are changing too often
That’s not a question, but it’s true. While I wish it were otherwise, we’re dealing with a game that radically changes 4 times a year. We try to write the rules to accommodate this – they’ll usually protect people who are less likely to be informed, and we try to follow the grandma test (“would your grandma think this was OK”) to make it intuitive.
The life total rule got added six months ago, giving it the same requirements as the rest of the game state. We’re making extra efforts to communicate the changes. This blog, for example, and the link from it during the last rules change announcements. I expect these efforts to continue and would love to hear other suggestions.
Doesn’t the opponent get penalized for not verbalizing the change?
Setting aside what actually happened, if a player unintentionally fails to verbalize a life total change, they’ve committed a Tournament Error (a violation of the MTR). Since it does not fall under any of the infractions listed under Tournament Error, it isn’t an infraction, per se. The judge is expected to remind the person of the rule and hopefully it won’t come up again.
If they’re intentionally not verbalizing so as to avoid calling attention to it and know they’re supposed to, we’re right back into Fraud.
Why don’t we require verbal acknowledgement of triggers? Why aren’t the rules for “demonstrate awareness” more defined?
Ultimately, there has to be some judgement here. Some games of Magic are played perfectly clearly with minimal verbal communication. If I attack with a Geist of St Traft and put an Angel token into play tapped and attacking, is it really realistic to claim a) that you failed to announce the trigger going on the stack and b) you made no verbal announcement?
Magic is an imperfect game played by imperfect people. We don’t want prison-rules being used here, and writing definitive rules allows for exploitation that no sane person would think was reasonable. On the whole, feedback from both players and judges has been that the new policy is a huge improvement.
So, did he miss the trigger?
It’s impossible to tell without an investigation, and with more serious questions here that’s not something that ended up being pursued. This is also one of these situations where two players may be telling the truth and not have stories match up. The opponent may have believed they said something; it’s quite possible it was a mumble that Jackie didn’t hear.
That being said, writing down a life total change is a pretty good sign. I need to write a post in more detail about it at some point, but one of the heuristics I’m finding useful in making determinations like this is to ask the other player “did you really think he’d forgotten the trigger”. If they have to fall back on technical parsing to justify their argument, it’s a bad sign.
Doesn’t this just incentivize players to lie to the judges?
Almost all of these types of infractions do. You can claim ignorance and hope that the judge believes you, and you might even get away with it on occasion. However, judges, especially at the PT level, are pretty good at figuring out when players are lying, and the odds of the punishment being more severe (in terms of post-DQ action) go up. Plus, on more than one occasion, a player has managed to turn what would have been a minor penalty into a DQ by lying about the situation.