Usain Ascendancy

You are the head and only judge of a Modern format Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier when two players call you to their table and explain what has happened. Nathan drew his card for turn. With just a Jeskai Ascendancy and lands on the battlefield, Nathan said “Bolt you twice” and put two Lightning Bolts on the table. He then says “Ascendancy”, draws two cards, plays a land from his hand and passes turn while putting the Lightning Bolts into the graveyard. Alice then untapped and drew her card for the turn when she realized that Nathan was supposed to discard for the Jeskai Ascendancy triggers. They then called you over. Nathan currently has one card in his hand. You believe that the mistake was unintentional and Nathan was rushing due to the time left in the round. What do you do?

Judges, discuss this scenario in the Judge Apps Thread!

Thank you everybody for the discussion on this scenario. This is the largest response we’ve ever had for a Knowledge Pool scenario, hitting 100 replies with this post! This is a Gold scenario and long time readers will recognize that often means not only a higher level of difficulty, but also sometimes include situations where multiple infractions may seem to fit. Because of that, there’s a lot of disagreement among KP readers, and it’s quite understandable. Is it a Game Rule Violation (GRV) or Drawing Extra Cards (DEC)?

The philosophy that led to the addition of the “GRV immediately prior = not DEC” phrasing in the IPG was based on the idea that the opponent, if paying attention, had a chance to see something going wrong and stop it before the card was drawn. That’s not the case here, and that’s a critical part of philosophy. A fine technical analysis leads to a conclusion that “something went wrong” when Nathan took his (poorly ordered and resolved) actions, and supports the logic that there is some sort of GRV prior to the 2nd card draw.

However, the opponent isn’t doing a precise analysis of every action; they’re supposed to Maintain the Game State, and that requires them to look for something going wrong. Their first opportunity to notice that something went wrong? When that second card hit the hand.

What about the argument that he was supposed to draw that card, thus it’s not “extra”? The definition of DEC begins “A player illegally puts one or more cards into his or her hand.” At the point where that 2nd card hit Nathan’s hand, it was illegal to draw that card. (Or: don’t let titles lead you astray, always read the Definition and Philosophy!)

So, here’s our conclusion:

Nathan has committed Drawing Extra Cards (DEC) which carries a penalty of Game Loss. The first thing that went wrong is when Nathan drew a card at a point where it was illegal to do so. Since both cards were drawn into an empty hand, and it’s minimal disruption to do so, the Head Judge may elect to downgrade the penalty to a Warning, and put both the land that Nathan played, and the card still in his hand, into the correct zone – the graveyard. Since Alice didn’t point out that error immediately, she will receive Failure to Maintain Game State (FtMGS) and a Warning.