Better late than never

Abel is playing in a Standard PTQ. He controls a Pain Seer, which he untaps at start of his turn. He then immediately draws a card for his turn. He pauses for a second, says, “Oh!” points to his Pain Seer, then reveals the top card of his library, which is a Swamp. He says “Swamp. Lose zero,” and puts it in his hand. At this point, his opponent Nancy calls for a judge.

What do you do?

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

Hello, judges! Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion this week. As is the case with many of our Gold scenarios, this was an extremely nuanced scenario. (In fact, the internal discussion among the Knowledge Pool team has included even more posts than the public discussion!)

In order to determine the most correct infraction, penalty, and fix to apply in this situation, we must logically walk through each game action that went wrong. The first problem we encounter this turn is a Missed Trigger from Pain Seer during Abel’s upkeep. However, this is not a generally detrimental trigger. There is no infraction to worry about there. However, this will come up when it comes time to apply fixes.

Next, we have announcement of the Pain Seer trigger that doesn’t exist. This was only “Oh!” and pointing to a card, but that would certainly constitute announcing the trigger had it happened before he drew for the turn. Some have made the argument that announcing a trigger that doesn’t exist itself constitutes a prior GRV. However, we should treat an improperly announced trigger according to the consequences of resolving that trigger. Simply put, we don’t give players the option to “remember” a non-existent trigger in order to avoid a DEC or similar infraction. Whatever infraction results from resolving the trigger is the infraction that should be applied.

Now we get to the resolution of the trigger and the game actions that were taken illegally as a result. The first wrong game is Looking at Extra Cards when he reveals the Swamp for a trigger that doesn’t exist.

This is followed by announcing the loss of zero life. Even though no physical action is required to record a loss of zero life, this is a game action. We can easily understand this by examining the situation where a player is legally resolving a Pain Seer trigger and reveals a Pack Rat but fails to lose 2 life. We would treat this as a Game Rules Violation and rewind to exactly the point of losing life in the middle of the resolution of the ability if the error is caught within a reasonable time frame. This error is the key to this scenario because it does two things:

First, it tells us that LEC stops applying. Per IPG 2.2, “if a player takes a game action after removing the card from the library, the offense is no longer Looking at Extra Cards.”

Second, when the player puts the card in his hand, it tells us that this is not Drawing Extra Cards. Per IPG 2.3, an infraction can only be Drawing Extra Cards if “at the moment before he or she began the instruction or action that put a card into his or her hand, no other Game Play Error or Communication Policy Violation had been committed.” So, even though an extra card is put into the player’s hand, Drawing Extra Cards does not apply.

In combination, these two elements give us the infraction and the penalty. It’s not LEC anymore. It’s not DEC. It’s definitely a Game Play Error, and so must be a generic Game Rules Violation with a Warning to go with it.

Now we have to fix the situation. The first step is to rewind to the point of the first Game Play Error that occurs as part of this GRV. That GPE is Abel revealing the top card of his library. Fortunately, we know it was a Swamp and no life was lost, so it’s a very simple rewind to put the Swamp back on top. Then, because that Game Play Error resulted in an extra card being seen, we apply the LEC fix of shuffling the random portion of the library, even though we are not assigning a Warning for that exact infraction.

Now we have the final step of asking Nancy if she would like Abel to place that trigger on the stack, since a Missed Trigger has also been caught within a turn of when it should have happened. It is somewhat unlikely that Nancy will want the trigger placed on the stack, but we are still required to ask.

Given the highly technical nature of this answer, we would also like to briefly mention that while applying LEC or downgrading DEC are not perfectly correct, very little harm would come of assigning this Warning in a different category or even neglecting to shuffle the library. Gold scenarios are meant to push toward a highly detailed analysis of policy, and the practical differences among these solutions are relatively minor. If such a complex scenario were to arise in a real event, getting the Swamp out of the player’s hand, assigning a Warning, and efficiently getting the game moving again are more important than nailing down exactly what the infraction is and why. (Exploring the minutiae of the ruling is great thing to do with other judges during the remainder of the event. Then submit it to us!)