Grand Prix Washington DC HJ Report


Team Trios events are very specific and it would be a mistake to approach them without the appropriate prism.

The most obvious change from Individual to Team formats is Communication with the teammates. This is by the way what makes team events more appealing to a more casual audience (in these days of Pre-releases, think about the profile of the players who you only see at to your 2HG pre-releases)



Team communication: What does that change?


Many more judges in the room!

If a player has a rules question, (s)he will likely ask a teammate first. Fewer rules questions are actually asked to a certified judge. This isn’t not a mark of defiance to judges, but simply a reflect of a more causal audience that will ask friends first.


More challenging investigations


However, when it comes to assessing a disagreement between players, this is both an advantage and a drawback.


One of the key features of a good investigation (for which you can find tips here) is to be able to talk to the players alone so as to understand better what has really happened (as opposed to what the player believes has happened or worse, would like you to believe has happened).

When you reach a table with 4 overly interested in the outcome of the ruling teammates, this becomes complicated to achieve, especially if one of the teammates makes a point in constantly intervening.


I usually recommend to talk to each player separately while remaining at the table so as to be able to request miming or to talk more freely about potential strategic implications. In a team tournament, when the other 4 players are finished, you can ask them to all move away from the table.

However, that cannot work when at least another match is still playing. In such a case, moving both players away from the table (so they can’t communicate with their teammates) and speaking to them one after the other is your best, although not optimal, option. Here is an interesting situation:



The Situation


AP has declared three creatures as attackers. NAP is moving two of his three creatures back and forth and at some point removes his hands from the red zone to talk to his teammate, leaving two creatures in front of two of the three attacking creatures.  After conferring and before AP did anything, NAP takes his third creature and moves it in front of AP’s last creature.


At that point, AP’s teammate calls the judge to claim that blocks were finished and the third creature is unblocked. The judge asks a few questions and rules that NAP was not finished declaring blockers, which AP’s teammate appeals.



The Investigation


As I arrive at the table and before I actually had a chance to ask either players directly involved in the match, AP’s teammate steps in. I tell him I’ll happily listen to him later but for now, I’d like to understand exactly what happened. He starts explaining his view of the situation. That’s when I decided to bring both AP and NAP away from the table to actually ask questions.

NAP admits he removed his hands from the creature but he was at the same time turned towards his teammate to take advice. In his mind, he wasn’t finished blocking at all.

The discussion with AP was more interesting. I asked him to explain the situation and he says that he was perfectly fine with the FJ’s ruling. It wasn’t even him to called for the judge because it’s clear to him that NAP wasn’t done yet. It’s his teammate who jumped in the whole time. A bit surprised, I asked him whether he has any concerns with me upholding the ruling. Not that I really want to make a ruling he would be fine with, more that I wanted to confirm that I had understood correctly.


In the end, NAP got to finish declaring blockers, and AP’s teammate received a Warning for UC – Minor, since he appealed the ruling before the Floor Judge was even finished delivering it (even more deserved as it was certainly not done in a respectful way)





In this situation, things would likely have been more blurred, had players still be at the table. I’m pretty sure that AP didn’t feel confident telling his teammate he was wrong, since his teammate was nervous and agitated. It’s only by the moment he was away from the table that AP started talking, while hadn’t said a word before, and his body language was very closed (looking at the table, remaining silent, etc.)


The upsides


If teammates can sometimes make a judge’s life harder, they can also facilitate it, especially when trying to understand what happened. By talking to a player and his teammate one after the other, you will immediately detect any discrepancy in the story: It’s very hard to say the same thing as somebody else without having prepared. Therefore, if both players’ version of facts is very similar, then it means they’re saying the truth.

I did not need to take advantage of this in DC so I do not have a good situation to relate.




Differentiating a teammate from a spectator


Let’s start with an MTR quote

4.5 Team/Two-Headed Giant Communication


However, team members that have an opportunity to acquire hidden information (e.g. by speaking to spectators following their own match while a teammate is still playing), are restricted from communicating with teammates for the duration of that match.


This paragraphs highlights very well the intent of the rule. We want to protect the privacy of opponents’ hidden zones. Therefore, we will deny communication to players who may have accessed to information they should not have.


Moving a chair


Moving a chair to sit behind both teammates is acceptable as long as (1) aisles are big enough that this doesn’t cause congestion and judges can still freely move and (2) players put chairs back once the match is over. Interestingly, the latter one is likely the main stretch.



Standing up


By standing up, a player could see an opponent’s hand. That’s why we do not want players standing behind their teammates. If there is not enough room to move a chair, they need to knee or to stay in their original seat.

A player who briefly stood up has had little chance to gain extra information. Favor education, unless you believe he had a real chance to see an opponent’s hand (which can happen accidentally as well). If you have a doubt, place yourself on the safe side and disallow further communication.



Going away from the table


If a player asks you for a bathroom break, he should be allowed to do so and return as a teammate. So as to achieve the goals of this rule, make sure to indicate him a path he should follow so he can’t access any hidden information.

If a player asks for you to answer a question away from the table, make sure to go far enough that he can’t get access to extra information.



Shuffling an opponent’s deck towards a teammate


This is strictly prohibited. Players cannot reveal hidden information to their teammates in an effort to learn what the opponents are playing. This should be investigated to determine whether this is USC – Cheating or not. Make sure to differentiate a bad shuffling habit from a technique that aims at having a teammate’s looking before telling the player what he has seen.





Would you back-up?


Rewinding a game state after a GRV can be complex. As stated in this article, backing up is about restoring the game state to an as-close-as-possible-to-reality version by cancelling each and every of the actions (no Partial fixing). DC gave me another example of a seemingly ambitious but overall doable back-up.


The situation

In second Main phase, AP cast Fall of the Titans targeting NAP’s Valakut Invoker and Sylvan Advocate. NAP sends both to the graveyard, forgetting it’s now a 4/5 since she controls six lands.

NAP untaps, plays a land and passes the turn.

AP untaps, plays a land to bring back Akoum Firebird from his graveyard. At that point it is realized Sylvan Advocate should not be dead.


Here’s a picture of the game state at the moment players called the judge. The Sylvan advocate is in the middle of the table to show that it should not be dead.

Would you back up? Think before scrolling down!

2016-03-13 15.22.33

The Ruling


The Floor Judge initially ruled to leave the situation as it is, on the grounds that cancelling two draw steps isn’t safe. Although this statement generally makes sense, I disagreed in this particular case for the following reasons:


First, AP had already attacked and was tapped out when he cast Falls of the Titans, therefore he would not do anything else during his turn or NAP’s turn after we backup.
Therefore, cancelling AP’s draw step is completely transparent. He cannot gain more play options.


Then, NAP did nothing but play a land during her turn. This likely reveals her hand is weak but, anyway, AP can’t use that information during his turn since he’s tapped out.
It’s technically concerning that she may have drawn an instant, which she can now technically cast at the end of AP’s turn (NAP wasn’t tapped out at that moment). This would not make the game exactly similar but, realistically, this is functionally equivalent to casting it during her Main Phase or during the next attack step, since she likely has zero other options (or she would have already elected to cast these other options)
Overall, even if this is less certain than for AP, backing up through NAP’s draw step is very likely transparent.

As a reminder, the procedure for cancelling draws when performing a backup is to put a random card back to the top of a player’s library


Overall, I backed up to the point Fall of the Titans resolves, which let Sylvan Advocate alive. AP passed the turn, NAP drew, attacked (which she should have had the right to do anyway) and passed the turn. AP played a land, brought back the Firebird and attacked for 6.

In a word, a fairly organic situation extremely close to the sequence of actions that happened previously!




A Stalling investigation


The Situation


NAP is at 22, has 3 cards in her library, controls, 8 flyers and 4 non-flying creatures, amongst which a 4/4.

AP is at 8, has 4 flyers and 10 non-flying creatures


AP passes the turn. NAP takes some time before untapping, which means that she will end up taking additional turn 1, rather than turn 0. AP calls the judge, accusing NAP of Stalling by purposely waiting for the end of round announcement to untap.


The Investigation


First, let’s highlight this is a legit and serious concern.

By pausing before taking her turn, NAP has turn#1 instead of turn#0, which means that she will take turn#5, therefore denying AP a final turn. There is a huge potential for abuse here.

When I reached the table, I immediately noticed the following:

  • Board is quite stalled and during the couple previous turns, AP could not even attack.
  • Life totals are in favor of NAP.

Therefore, AP seems on the defensive side this game. Looking further, he actually just topdecked Isolation Zone to get rid of the Deepfathom Skulker that was until then game decisive.


The main thing that delaying additional turn #1 achieves is to deny the opponent to take additional turn#5. A paced pause can save you one turn, and one turn can be game decisive.


However, this only works when the player needs that final turn to attack for the win, which was not the case in this situation. Indeed, AP was claiming that NAP did this on purpose to not get decked, which is actually a flawed reasoning:

No matter if she takes additional turn 1 or not, she will only be drawing three cards in total, Either during turns 0, 2 and 4 or 1, 3 and 5.


This strongly hints that NAP did not try to stall. However, it’s possible that NAP did not get the full extent of this reasoning, so I asked her few questions as to why NAP was thinking at the end of AP’s turn rather than during her turn.


NAP stated that the loss of her Deepfathom Skulker radically modified the game state. She now needed to evaluate the consequences of attacking with everything, how many creatures she would lose and how many points she would take the turn after. In the end, she decided attacking wasn’t a safe option.

Since I’ve been able to remove all the other players from the table as everybody was finished, I could make a simulation of attacks and blocks and her conclusion seemed solid enough for me to believe it.

As to why this happened, during AP’s turn rather than during her turn, she indicated they started discussing it when Isolation Zone resolved and followed up until time was called and AP called for a judge again, which made sense.


Overall, I could not identify Stalling, one of the main reasons being that NAP would not lose by being decked, no matter what. Had that been a matter of life totals and an extra combat phase, that may have been another matter.




A few Rules question


If an Undergrowth Champion gets double blocked, it loses only one counter, since damage is prevented once only, despite several creatures are dealing damage.


You cannot use Cultivator Drone to pay for the extra 4 Spell Shrive requires. Indeed, this cost doesn’t explicitly contain {C}.


Unless a State-Based Action has happened or a trigger is awaiting to be put on the stack, you don’t have priority to use a permanent your opponent gave you back after he stole it with Eldrazi Obligator.




Kevin Desprez