Going Infinite week! When and why you need to make a different choice.

I hope you’re infinitely excited about this new set… I know I am! Today we’re going to look into a different but important combo that teaches us a lesson about going infinite in Magic and why you must make a different choice at some point or the game ends in a draw.

One situation involves two or more Blightsteel Colossus (BSC), Grindstone, and Painter’s Servant. When you activate Grindstone’s ability and there happens to be a Painter’s Servant on the battlefield and there are two or more BSC in the deck you are attempting to mill, the game ends in a draw. Here is the breakdown – BSC has a replacement effect that puts the card back in the library should it ever try to go to the graveyard. Since Grindstone wants to keep going and BSC ‘don’t wanna go,’ the game effectively freezes. Loops must end; they can’t keep going forever. In this case, a draw is the only option.

Now, if there is Rest in Peace on the field in the above situation, the player with BSC in the deck can’t just force a draw by choosing to have BSC shuffled in every time. Since there is another choice that will allow the game to advance (exile BSC instead of shuffling it in), they must eventually make that choice (and lose the game shortly thereafter).

Another situation that has happened in Modern and can now happen in Standard, is something we call “fragmented loops.” This is a situation where both players can go infinite at the same time. For example: I have a Kitchen Finks, Melira, Sylvok Outcast and a Viscera Seer. I can sacrifice my Finks to scry 1. When it persists, it returns to the field without a counter on it (because of Melira). I can then repeat this process ‘infinite’ times until I have ‘infinite’ life because of Finks’ enter the battlefield trigger. My opponent can do something very similar, but instead of Kitchen Finks, they decide to use Murderous Redcap. They perform the same combo, but instead of gaining life, they deal two damage each time. What happens? Who Wins? Because of the game rules, the Active Player (player whose turn it is) will ultimately decide when the loops stops – but it must stop at some point. Since each player can respond to the other by “combo-ing off,” the rules require the Active Player to make a different game choice that will allow the game to move forward. So if the Active Player is the only trying to deal damage, they have to eventually stop, since the Nonactive player can keep responding by gaining life. Once the game moves to the next turn, the player dealing the damage will win because the Active Player is now trying to gain life, and must eventually stop that so the game can move forward (by taking enough damage to die). It makes for a feel-bad situation, but if not for this rule the game would go on until one player ran out of cards and that could take a very long time.

A similar situation can happen in the current standard with each player having their own Brood Monitor, Eldrazi Displacer and Zulaport Cutthroat. At some point, the Active Player will be forced to choose to stop looping if it is possible to do so. With Aether Revolt upon us, we will certainly see some infinite combos going off like Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian, or Wandering Fumarole and Crackdown Construct. Fortunately, neither of these combos forces a loop without decisions, so it won’t result in the game being a draw. Alas, return tomorrow to learn about these awesome and powerful infinite combos!

Today’s Rules/Tournament Tip written by Daniel Clarke

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