I am the Mouth of Saur…err, Ronom!

In a Modern Grand Prix Trial where you are the head (and only) judge, Alex calls you over to his match. He explains that during his turn, he had attacked with a Celestial Colonnade. Nathan responded by activating a Mouth of Ronom targeting the Celestial Colonnade. Alex responded by casting a Sphinx’s Revelation for 4. He gains 4 life and draws 4 cards. After considering his options, he picked up the Celestial Colonnade and moved it to the graveyard. Alex then played an Island and passed the turn. Nathan has just drawn his card for the turn when Alex noticed that Nathan did not put the Mouth of Ronom into his graveyard. You determine that Nathan forgot he needed to sacrifice it because of Alex’s immediate response with the Sphinx’s Revelation.

What, if any, infraction, penalty and fix is appropriate to the situation?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario on Judge Apps!

Good work everybody! Let’s get the easy part out of the way first. Nathan will receive a Warning for Game Rule Violation and Alex will receive a Warning for Failure to Maintain Game State. The fix comes down to if you as the head judge feel that you can back-up to the point of the error or not.

If you decide to back-up, you will be putting a card at random from Nathan’s hand back on top of his library. Return Celestial Colonnade to the battlefield. Put 4 cards at random from Alex’s hand back on top of his library. Reduce Alex’s life total by 4. Untap the lands used to cast Sphinx’s Revelation. Return the Sphinx’s Revelation to Alex’s hand. Then complete the activation of Mouth of Ronom by having Nathan sacrifice it. Then the players may carry on.

If you decide NOT to back-up, then you will be leaving the game state as-is. The partial fix in the IPG is specifically worded for cards that do move zones, but just go to the wrong zone. Good examples of this would be a card that is supposed to be Exiled going to the graveyard or a card being bounced to the hand is put on top of the library. This is not for objects that were supposed to move and did not move.

Some of you gave some good reasons for backing up; for example, one person suggested that if Sphinx’s Revelation had been the only card in Nathan’s hand when he cast it it would be ok to back-up. I would also be closer to allowing a rewind for this in a format where there is not much in the way of library manipulation.

Some of you also gave some good reasons for not backing up. This is a lot that has happened. Alex has drawn 4 cards, he then made decisions based on the game state afterwards. He took the actions of resolving the Mouth of Ronom and then passed the turn. Nathan has untapped and drawn a card. One thing to also consider in such a scenario is that in Modern there are a lot of fetch lands. That could prove to be especially disruptive if we were to rewind the Sphinx’s Revelation allowing Alex to potentially shuffle away cards that have been put back or making him choose to not use a fetch because of cards he knows are coming up.

There was also some discussion this week about the value that Nathan gains by leaving the Mouth of Ronom and about “expected game state” of the players. These are not exceptional or unusual reasons that would allow us to deviate from written policy. There is often a feeling of trying to do something that in your mind is “fair.” However, what you think is fair, might not be what others think is fair in every situation. You have more leeway to do so at an FNM, but it’s important that you follow the IPG and MTR and the philosophies laid out in those documents when you are judging a Competitive REL event. This allows for consistent rulings around the world and more confidence in judges from the players.

In Knowledge Pool’s collective opinion, we would not back up this board state. Too many actions have happened, particularly the card draws of Sphinx’s Revelation. Coupled with the other considerations about the format in general, we feel that it would be too disruptive to back up and would leave the game state as-is. The partial fix also would not apply to this situation because the Mouth of Ronom didn’t move at all.