Backup to the Future

Whew, what a weekend!

Grand Prix Las Vegas was an incredible experience. I’m currently still processing everything I learned from the event. While I’ll be continuing with the second part of someday soon, that day is not today.

Today’s post, instead, is about something that you’re more likely to encounter than a many-thousand player Grand Prix. You could encounter it at your local store’s next PPTQ, or even at FNM.

Today’s post is about backups.

At GP Vegas, I was involved in a few situations where a backup could be considered as a fix, or where I was consulted to approve one. Here are a couple of them! What would you do in these situations? Let us know in the comments!

As usual for these sorts of scenarios, you may assume that no one is cheating, but feel free to draw attention to any situations that seem especially suspicious. Further, you may assume these scenarios are at Competitive REL, and that you have the ability to conduct backups.

Service with a Guile

Annie controls Guile, Hearthfire Hobgoblin, and Ethercaste Knight. Nunu controls a Tumble Magnet with three charge counters and a Runed Servitor. Annie says “Combat?” Nunu says, “Sure.” Annie attacks with all her creatures, and Nunu blocks Guile with the Runed Servitor. Annie says, “OK, take 5.” Nunu replies, “Yes, and we both draw a card.” Both players mark the damage and draw a card from the Servitor’s trigger; Annie now has four cards in hand. In her postcombat main phase, Annie plays a Blood Ogre and puts a counter on it from bloodthirst, then passes the turn. Then Annie realizes that Runed Servitor shouldn’t have been able to block Guile, and calls for a judge. Do you rewind? How far? What factors influence your decision?

What’s Black and Blue and Sorcery Speed Only?

Lumiel is playing against Belial. On her turn, Lumiel casts Dimir Guildmage and passes the turn. Belial untaps, draws, and says, “Go.” Lumiel taps eight mana and says, “On your end step, Dimir Guildmage, targeting you twice, discard two cards.” Belial discards two cards. Shiva the spectator interrupts and asks the players to call a judge. Do you rewind? Why or why not? What if Belial had done something on his turn?

Sweet Oracle O’ Mine

Axl is fighting Noel. Axl has just cast Etched Oracle with sunburst of four, leaving him with no cards in hand. At her first opportunity, Noel casts Smash to Smithereens targeting Axl’s Oracle. Axl says, “In response, I’ll activate Etched Oracle’s ability and draw.” Axl picks up four cards from his library, and Noel calls for a judge. What do you do?

Bless You!

Aladdin attacks Nala with a 2/2 Stormblood Berserker. Nala’s only creatures are Dimir Guildmage and Spikeshot Elder. Nala blocks the Berserker with both of her creatures, stacking them on top of each other so the Guildmage is closer to the Berserker. Aladdin passes priority. Nala then casts Apostle’s Blessing targeting her Dimir Guildmage, and names red. Aladdin passes and lets Nala’s Blessing resolve, then casts a Blessing of his own. When it resolves, Aladdin names black, and moves Nala’s creatures so that the Spikeshot Elder is closer to his Berseker. Nala calls for a judge. What do you do? Does your response change at all if the Berserker is a 1/1 or a 3/3?


In Atom’s draw step, Nebula casts Vendilion Clique and announces she’s targeting Atom with the trigger. Atom reveals his hand, and Nebula selects Chimeric Mass. Atom puts Chimeric Mass into his graveyard, and neglects to draw a card. Nebula then Lightning Bolts Atom’s Court Homunculus. When Atom puts Court Homunculus into his graveyard on top of Chimeric Mass, the players realize Atom’s mistake, and call for a judge. What do you do?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on any or all of these scenarios! Don’t be afraid of “being wrong”: asking questions is how we learn! Besides (spoiler alert), these scenarios may not always have one right answer. Check back next week, where I’ll share some thoughts on these scenarios, as well as recap any discussions from the comments.

15 thoughts on “Backup to the Future

  1. Based on the newest change of the IPG, I feel its worth making a mention of case number 3 with the oracle and the 4 cards drawn by Axl.

    It is a drawing extra cards violation, but now the penalty is only a warning and the fix is for Axl to reveal his hand and Noel picks one to be shuffled into the random portion of Axl’s deck.

  2. 1: Both players drew a card and a spell has resolved. Too much has happened to rewind the game state. Issue a warning to both players (Annie: GRV, Nunu: FTMGS)

    2: Easy fix, GRV-W for Lumiel and FTMGS-W for Belial and put the cards back in Belial’s hand and undo the mana abilities used to activate it.

    3: I would be inclined to issue a warning and downgrade to LEC because the 4 cards were drawn into an empty hand. Shuffle extra cards into the randomized portion of the deck. I could see the argument for a game loss though.

    4: This seems like a miscommunication issue. It seems like Nala was trying to influence Aladdin’s assignment order, but my understanding would be that all of these events are happening during the “declare blockers” step, before damage should be assigned (as damage assignment doesn’t use the stack and can’t be responded to). Aladdin moved to assign damage order after both players finished performing combat tricks. No back up or warnings necessary. P/T doesn’t influence my decision. I’m curious why so many want to issue warnings on this situation?

    5: GRV-W to Nebula, FTGMS-W for Atom. The fact that a spell was resolved makes this a bit sketchier. I would apply the partial fix of correcting the card’s location (putting it to the bottom of the library) and allowing Atom to draw a card. I wouldn’t rewind, but I could see a case for it; Nebula casting the lightning bolt would likely not be affected by the card drawn by Atom (because he would have anyways due to her effect), but his decision to let it resolve might be different based on what he draws. I wouldn’t be comfortable rewinding to the casting of the lightning bolt, so I would apply the partial fix and continue the game with the lightning bolt resolved and tell them to be more careful in the future.

    1. 3: Minor comment – if we downgrade, the infraction is still the same (DEC, not LEC); what is being downgraded is the penalty associated with that infraction (W instead of GL).

      4: You’re right that assignment of combat damage hasn’t happened yet, but the order of blockers should have been declared before they started casting spells. Other commenters are issuing GRV-Ws here because Aladdin hasn’t ordered blockers yet, and that is supposed to happen immediately after Nala assigns blockers (i.e. still in the beginning of the Declare Blockers step, before any player has priority). This is why the P/T might matter – if a 3/3 is blocked by a 1/1 and a 2/2, then the order of those two blockers matters less. When a 2/2 is blocked by a 1/1 and a 2/2, though, the blocker order is essentially going to communicate which of the two creatures Aladdin is going to want to kill when he moves onto the combat damage step.

      1. Ok, I didn’t see 509.2 when I was looking through the rules on that issue. I had assumed order was determined at damage assignment instead of declare blockers step. That makes sense then.

  3. 1- This situation is definitely a little suspicious, on both players part – either of them could “conveniently forget” about Guile’s blocking restriction when they realize they get to draw a card out of it. Investigation not withstanding, I probably wouldn’t back up here. It’s not so much the card draw that spooks me, but the Blood Ogre played after it. Having to rewind through that play AND the card draw means that Annie’s course of play could end up being radically different afterwards – they may have well attacked with all creatures knowing they had a Blood Ogre and definitely wanted to hit Bloodthirst. (My initial instinct is to ask questions of Annie about this, but I think that ventures too far into considering the game state for applying a fix.) GRV-W for Nunu, FTMGS-W for Annie.

    2- I would back up here 99% of the time, even if Belial had taken an action. Discarding two cards is a huge card advantage swing, and while it’s unfortunate that Lumiel will now know two of Belial’s cards, I think that is less awful than leaving Belial with two fewer cards in their hand. GRV-W for Lumiel, FTMGS-W for Belial.

    3- This is definitely suspicious, though also an easy mistake to make; thinking you remove 4 to draw 4 is a pretty common parity of thought. Fixing after investigation, I don’t believe there is strictly a backup to be performed here by IPG definition, as no GRV or CPV has occurred – but there is a potential for a DEC downgrade accompanied by returning the additional card to the correct zone, because Axel’s hand was empty at the start of the action. I’m personally in favor of the downgrade, because there is clear evidence that all of the cards in Axel’s hand currently were obtained from a single game action; we return one at random to the library and perform the “LEC fix” of properly re-randomizing the library, because Axel has seen a card that they weren’t entitled to. DEC-W (downgrade) for Axel.

    4- Aladdin has failed to declare a damage assignment order for the blocking creatures. Some questions might be asked to try and determine if there is a pattern in how these players have been communicating in the match, but likely we need to do that. Since it is one of the approved partial fixes, Aladdin does it now; no backup required. GRV-W for Aladdin, FTMGS-W for Nala. I don’t think my answer would change any if the Berserker was a 1/1 or a 3/3.

    5- This draws suspicion on Nebula’s part, particularly because of Atom not drawing a card. That aside, two things have gone “wrong” here; a card went to the graveyard instead of the bottom of the library, and a card wasn’t drawn as part of a game instruction. Both of these things have applicable partial fixes – we can easily return the Chimeric Mass to the bottom of Atom’s library, and since they were instructed to draw a card and have not done so, they can simply do it now. GRV-W for both players (Nebula controlled the effect that caused Atom to commit the errors). No backups required.

    Interesting situations! That Etched Oracle one in particular seems like a good one for discussion.

  4. Service with a Guile – GPE-GRV for Nunu, and GPE-FtMGS for Annie. It’s Nunu’s responsibility to block legally, but it’s also Annie’s responsibility to catch any errors that Nunu makes when blocking ASAP.

    We’re given the option to rewind, which I would *not* do here. The major deterring factor is that both players drew a card into (presumably) nonempty hands – rewinding would require those draws to be undone, and it’s definitely possible for Nunu to decide to not block with the Runed Servitor at all after the rewind, meaning those cards would be stuck on top of each player’s libraries until they got drawn off… no. Just no. Rewinding, in my opinion, is more damaging than leaving the game state as is, so I’m going to just tell both players to play more carefully and continue play from this point.

    What’s Black and Blue and Sorcery Speed Only? – GPE-GRV for Lumiel, and GPE-FtMGS for Belial. It’s Lumiel’s responsibility to do stuff legally, but it’s also Belial’s responsibility to make sure their opponent doesn’t break the rules, or if they do to catch them before things like this happen.

    We’re given the option to rewind, which I *would* do here. Leaving the gamestate as is is very damaging – Belial’s out two cards that they should definitely have in their hand – and rewinding is very simple since Shiva caught this so quickly (thank you Shiva!). To rewind, put the discarded cards back into Belial’s hand, and rewind any mana abilities that Lumiel used to activate Dimir Guildmage. (If these mana abilities involved drawing cards (I’m looking at you, Chromatic Sphere), this might get more complex, but I’d still push for the rewind, especially if only one card was drawn – that card is about to be drawn back into hand by Lumiel’s draw step, which will put things back to normal pretty quickly.)

    Sweet Oracle O’ Mine – Sadly, this isn’t a GRV. This is GPE-Drawing Extra Cards. The downgrade for this does *not* apply, because card draws happen one at a time – the first three draws were legal, but the 4th one was wrong. Since the identity of that 4th card was not known to both players, and it was not put into an empty hand (the hand had 3 legally drawn cards at that point!), this cannot be downgraded, and as such carries the penalty of a Game Loss.

    Bless You! – Yet another GRV/FtMGS, insert spiel from above about it being both player’s responsibilities.

    We’re given the option here to either perform a “very simple” backup, or perform the partial fix listed in the IPG of “If you haven’t ordered blockers yet, do that.”. I think this one is the biggest toss-up. The backup here is rather simple – rewinding a Blessing isn’t hard to do, so rewinding through both to the point of error isn’t out of the question. Doing the partial fix of ordering blockers now does give some feel-bads though, since essentially Nala got cheated out of using the Blessing to the best of their ability.

    Let’s look at all the P/T options here – when Stormblood Berserker is a:

    3/3 – The order of blockers actually doesn’t matter in this case. Whichever creature isn’t protected will die, so declaring the block order now is by far the less disruptive option.

    2/2 – The order of blockers here matters quite a bit, and so does who gets protected. If the creature at the front of the block order is protected, none of the defending creatures will die. This, to me, makes me feel inclined to perform the backup, as the damage to the gamestate is significantly worse by applying the partial fix than it is by performing the backup. Also, the line of play after backing up is probably going to be identical, so a rewind sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

    1/1 – There is only a subtle difference between this case and the 2/2 case – the fact that Stormblood is going to die now. This might impact Aladdin’s decision to cast the Blessing in the first place, because he might have realized by now that death is inevitable at this point, and therefore not cast his Blessing. This makes the rewind more complex, because the lines of play might change; however, it’s obviously apparent that this was the case before any spells were cast the first time, so it’s not like Aladdin’s been given information to change his line of play. Given all that, I probably would go for the rewind – this does give Aladdin a chance to correct his misplay, but it’s a slightly better fix in my opinion than applying the partial fix.

    Mis-Clique – yada yada GRV, yada yada FtMGS, yada yada both players’ responsibility to resolve abilities correctly.

    We have the option to rewind here, and I would rewind this. Atom drawing a card from Clique shouldn’t impact Nebula’s decision to cast Lightning Bolt. Since the line of play should be nearly identical after the rewind, I would do so by putting Court Homunculus back onto the battlefield, undoing any mana abilities Nebula used to pay for Bolt (again, if these mana abilities involved drawing cards this might get more complex, but given how the line of play is expected to be the same, I’d still probably continue with the rewind), putting Bolt back in Nebula’s hand, and having Atom draw the card from Clique. I would thoroughly expect Nebula to re-cast Bolt immediately, targeting Court Homunculus again, since nothing much has really changed in the board state.

    Thoughts? 😀

  5. This is a fun one.

    1 – Service with a Guile:
    I wouldn’t back up. (GRV for Nunu; FTMGS for Annie.) The question here is whether or not to back up to the beginning of the Declare Blockers step, since that’s when the illegal action occurred. However, since then, both players have drawn a card, and one player has cast a spell after drawing a card – backing this up seems likely to be disruptive. Also, if Nunu blocks a different creature with Runed Servitor, that could drastically change the course of the next few actions (e.g. blocking the Hearthfire Hobgoblin means both players drawing a card before other creatures deal combat damage; blocking the Ethercaste Knight means players don’t draw a card, etc.), so I’m even more disinclined to back up here.

    2 – What’s Black and Blue and Sorcery Speed Only?
    I would back up. (GRV for Lumiel; no infraction for Belial.) As Pi Fisher said, leaving the cards in the graveyard is more disruptive than simply putting them back where they should be. Charles Featherer notes that Lumiel might now take a different action, but that’s unavoidable, since the action that they intended to take was not legal. No other actions have been taken after the illegal activation & resolution of Dimir Guildmage’s ability, so I’m not worried about altering the course of the game with this back-up – the only things that are actually altered are the illegal plays. I wouldn’t give Belial any penalty because Shiva stepped in immediately – in other words, I feel the error was caught close enough to “immediately” that I wouldn’t assess an FTMGS penalty.

    3 – Sweet Oracle O’ Mine
    I wouldn’t back up – this is not a GRV, and the game is likely over. (DEC for Axl; no penalty for Noel.) This is textbook Drawing Extra Cards, to me – and it very closely resembles one of the examples in the IPG, to boot (drawing 4 cards instead of 3 for Ancestral Recall). While Axl’s hand was empty when he began the action, it wasn’t empty when he drew the extra card (i.e. the 4th card), so I think the potential for abuse is still there and I don’t feel like we have a clear enough reason to downgrade the penalty from the normal game loss here. I could be persuaded otherwise. Whether or not the penalty is downgraded, however, this is not a GRV, so we don’t have the option to back up as an additional remedy – at most, we have the option to return a drawn card to the library (and shuffle the random portion of the library).

    4 – Bless You!
    I wouldn’t back up. (GRV for Aladdin; FTMGS for Nala.) This falls under one of the partial fixes stated in the IPG section for GRVs: Aladdin didn’t state the order of blockers. The IPG tells us to apply these partial fixes “unless backing up is very simple”. Backing up through not one, but two combat tricks is not very simple, in my eyes, so I would apply the partial fix (have Aladdin declare the order of blockers right now – after both Apostle’s Blessings have resolved), and then instruct the players to continue playing (after assessing the appropriate warnings). This ruling isn’t affected by whether Stormblood Berserker is a 1/1, 2/2, or 3/3 – though I might ask the players different questions if Stormblood Berserker is a 1/1 (e.g. “Nala, did you really think that Aladdin was going to deal 1 damage to your 2/2 blocker instead of your 1/1 blocker?”) or a 3/3.

    5 – Mis-Clique
    I wouldn’t back up. (GRV for Atom; GRV for Nebula.) As with scenario 4, we have partial fixes to apply here – two of them: An object changing zones was put into the wrong zone (Chimeric Mass was put into the graveyard instead of the library), and a player forgot to draw a card. Once again, the question is whether or not it is “very simple” to back up here. In this case, if we back up, then Atom might draw a card that allows him to interact with Nebula’s next play (Lightning Bolt targeting Court Homunculus). For me, that’s enough to say that the back-up isn’t “very simple”, as so I again say to just apply the partial fixes: Move Chimeric Mass to the bottom of Atom’s library, have Atom draw a card, and instruct Atom and Nebula to continue playing. Note that both players get a GRV here, rather than one player getting an FTMGS – as the IPG states at the end of the section on GRVs: “If a player takes an action called for by an effect controlled by his or her opponent, but does so incorrectly, both players receive a Game Play Error – Game Rule Violation.” This is precisely what has happened here.

  6. After thinking about it some more and consulting the IPG, I think it would be better to issue a double GRV. I know that is rarer, but both players made an error and failed to follow game rules following the declaration of the Guildmage activation. I just want to get that out there – I stand behind not backing up and a double GRV.


  7. I will leave the first one to last, because is the trickier one.

    2. Backup; I would expect any judge to back up this. There has almost nothing happened and the game state is clearly better by backing up.

    3. I strongly disagree with Pi Fisher. Playing in a hurry is normally not sanctioned (specially if the oponent doesn’t want to respond), and I’m pretty sure Noel is calling us for drawing 4 cards, not because she wants to respond. Anyway, IPG states “If the identity of the card was known to all players before being placed into the hand, or was placed into an empty hand, and the card can be returned to the correct zone with minimal disruption”. Drawing 4 cards is actually drawing 1 card 4 times, so you could only downgrade if the first card was illegal, which is not the case (note that the use of the word “card” in this phrase is singular). So, DEC-GL.

    4. Assuming no player is trying to take advantage by knowingly doing something illegal (which I defintely would investigate), the evidence show that Active Player has not ordered the blocking creatures. So, he commits a GRV (and the opponent a Ftmgs). Both player get warnings. Sadly for NAP, IPG (GPE-GRV) says “• If attacker or blocker order has not been declared, the appropriate player orders them” as a partial fix. Therefore, we allow the attacking player to order the blocking creatures as he wish.

    5. This is a GRV, not a MT (just resolve them wrongly). The exceptional backups of GRV command us to perform the backup (“If a player forgot to draw cards, discard cards, or return cards from their hand to another zone, that player does so”)

    1. So, this is the real fishy one. I would like to compare both outcomes:
    a) No Backup: NAP illegaly have “won” up to 6 lifes. Both player have illegaly drawn a card. A creature have been played after combat, which could (or could not) have been drawn illegally.
    b) Backup: NAP will legally lose more lifes (the exact number depends if he blocks, but most likely 2). His decision of blocking could change depending of the card he drew (here we have a potential different decision tree). If he blocks, AP will most likely play the same creature. If he doesn’t, there is a chance that the ogre was put in top of the library (that’s not a decision tree, because she can’t make a choice to play something that she doesn’t have. It could be although a disruption to the way they played, depending if the card drawn by mistake was the ogre).
    So, I can’t make a decision with this information. I think is quite relevant the number of mana available and the number of cards in hand of both players before the artifact died. Otherwise, I can’t acuratelly evaluate the change of decision tress. With no mana available to NAP, and a few cards in AP hand, I think there is a strong case for backing up, cause the decision trees won’t change much, and the game state would be significanltly better than No backup options. If we rewind, we rewind exactly where the opponent made the decision to block, at the beggining of the blockers step (no tumble magnet sheanigans here).

  8. 1) no backup. Both players drew and then a card was played; backing up is seriously disruptive.

    2) Back up. Nothing has happened since the error, backing up causes way less damage to the game state than two disallowed discards.

    3) Drawing Extra Cards into an empty hand; downgrade to Warning and apply partial fix.

    4) Way too complicated to judge from the example. I have quite a few questions for both players to figure out why blockers were never ordered. Both players were playing fast and loose, with Aladdin failing to declare blocker order, and Nala dropping her creatures in a certain order and trying to “Jedi” Aladdin into a certain choice. I’d need to rule out funny business on both sides. However, it’s unlikely that I would back up, since just declaring blocker order at the current phase is an IPG-supported partial fix.

    5) Once again, no backup is necessary. A player forgot to draw cards, and a card was moved into the wrong zone. Both of these have partial fixes in the IPG, so we hand out warnings, fix it, and move on.

  9. I don’t disagree with anyone’s answers except for ‘What’s Black and Blue’. On that situation, I don’t think I’d rush to back up. My logic for that is simple. I don’t know if the now revealed hidden information (the two cards discarded by Belial) will lead to Lumiel making a different choice. Perhaps Lumiel has an instant speed in hand that would affect the board positively for him – and was worried that Belial would counter it? After seeing discards, Lumiel may have enough information to determine that the spell would be a better option than the Guildmage effect. If you backed up, he could easily choose to do that instead. Belial performing some other ‘unknown’ action doesn’t change my answer. I’d issue a GRV and a FtMGS and not allow the backup – but I’d consult with a more experienced Judge first.

  10. 1- Too much has happened, but mainly that both players have drawn a card from the servitor. Warnings to both. Maybe ask Nunu some questions to see if there was any foul play.
    2- Seems like a pretty easy backup, just put both discarded cards back from graveyard to hand. Can probably do the same even if actions were taken. Warning to NP for improperly using the ability.
    3- Feels like a pretty straight forward GL for drawing extra cards, even if it is just an honest mistake.
    4- We would have to discern if there was a communication error as to where in combat we are. Because AP did not act first with regards to the blessing’s, it can probably be ascertained that damage order has yet to be assigned. Would need to speak to players to better get a grasp of what’s going on. A bit fishy if either player was trying to mislead the other, hence why we’d need to discuss with the players (individually, away from table). Answer is the same regardless of the size of the Beserker (it has to be no?).
    5- Just rewinding to correctly resolve the Clique trigger seems reasonable. The Bolt makes things more complicated I feel, but maybe I’m overthinking it. Warnings to both.

    1. why are we game-lossing in scenario 3? The cards were drawn into an empty hand, which is explicitly a case where downgrading is encouraged, and since no other game actions were taken, the fix is very simple to make.

  11. 1) Would not back up, to many game actions have occurred.

    2) Would back up, simply untap the mana spent to activate the Guildmage, return cards that were discarded.

    3) Sounds like a downgrade-able Drawing Extra Cards, return a random card from her hand to the top of the library.

  12. Service with a Guile:
    I do not backup here. Both players have drawn an extra card, and a decision has been made based on those extra cards. I’m wary of backups, especially when there are draws involved. I feel as though a double GRV might apply, since Annie’s effect (blocking restriction) is being broken by Nunu. I’m interested to see what infractions were assessed here.

    What’s Black and Blue and Sorcery Speed Only?:
    Here I feel comfortable backing up. While there’s an argument to be made that the gamestate is disturbed by two cards from Belial’s hand being known, I’d say that’s more disruptive that the two cards being in the graveyard. I would back up to the first point during the end step when Lumiel has priority. Put the two cards from the graveyard into the hand and untap the 8 mana. My decision is not impacted by whether or not Belial did anything. GRV to Lumiel and FtMGS to Belial.

    Sweet Oracle O’ Mine:
    The only problem I see here is not giving Noel a chance to respond. Also, I think that Noel’s Oracle is actually Axl’s Oracle. I ask Noel away from the table if he intended to respond to the activation. If not, I don’t perform a backup, but I do give a Warning. Otherwise, I shuffle four cards chosen at random from Axl’s hand (which happens to be all of them) into Axl’s library, preserving any ordering that was already known. I’m tempted to treat this as DEC, because of how easily it could be abused if he had two lands in hand before activating, but the GRV is not giving time to respond. I give a Warning.

    Bless You!:
    A turn-based action of choosing an order for blockers was skipped. GRV to Aladdin for passing priority without doing that, and FtMGS to Nala for not catching it. After both players have cast a spell, I don’t want to backup. I let Aladdin pick the order for blockers, because that choice has to be made and hasn’t yet been made. My decision is not influenced by the P/T of the Berserker.

    GRV to Nebula for failure to properly resolve her ability. FtMGS to Atom for not catching it. Apply the partial fix of having Atom draw a card.

Comments are closed.