There are many things that make Japan special. One of them is the unique challenge it brings when you do not share either a common language or even alphabet. I was about to expand a little bit on this topic but it turns out QJ Wong wrote an extensive article which I can’t recommend enough!
A Rules Question
Avacyn Archangel and Dragonlord Silumgar
AP controls a Dragonlord Silumgar which took control of NAP’s Archangel Avacyn. NAP casts a removal spell on Silumgar, which dies. What happens?
Avacyn’s ability will trigger. Indeed:
- For Avacyn’s ability to trigger, another creature needs to die. This means that at the moment Silumgar dies, its control-changing effect is still happening. Therefore Avacyn sees Silumgar dying, which has two consequences: Avacyn’s control is given back to NAP and her triggered ability’s condition is met.
- Even if AP controls the triggered ability and Avacyn is now under NAP’s control, it is still possible for Avacyn to transform. Unlike sacrificing, there is no rule preventing you from transforming a permanent you do not control.
Should you intervene?
Warning: To better appreciate this situation, you need to keep in mind that AP and NAP do not share a common language and they therefore do not communicate verbally.
NAP looks confused and points at the Pacifist. AP looks at his Pacifist, realizes it hasn’t been transformed, apologizes and untaps it.
That’s a tough call. Because of the non-verbal communication, the judge first needs to make assumptions as to what NAP meant: Does he imply that Pacifist is an illegal attacker? Does he imply something else (which would need to be determined)?
Then, another question arises: Should the judge intervene?
First, AP’s reaction certainly implies that he believes NAP is saying that the Pacifist is an illegal attacker. From an outside perspective, since I was watching the game at that moment, this is also what it seemed to be. Finally, Jeff Morrow also turned to me to say “Wait, what is he doing?”. All these elements converge to a unique conclusion: The message NAP conveys is “Pacifist can’t attack”
The answer to the second question derives from the first conclusion: If NAP points out that the creature can’t attack, this is a wrong statement. NAP cannot state this since he’d be misrepresenting a derived information incorrectly, which falls under Communication Procedure Violation.
Therefore, if a player makes a wrong statement, unless it is about hidden information or a future game state, you need to step in to correct it. Be careful to not intervene if the statement is true but incomplete, since this is legal.
There has been little investigation for Cheating since, when we reminded NAP of the presence of Avacyn, which had been put slightly aside of the other creatures, NAP’s body language let us feel about an honest mistake.
Would you backup?
AP is at 10. NAP is at 18.
AP casts a Thraben Inspector, sacrifices the clue to draw a card, thinks for a while, simulating attacks and blocks since both players respectively control nine and seven creatures. After some time, he declares his nine humans attacking, including the newly cast Inspector.
While AP is putting one +1/+1 counter on all his creatures, NAP realizes the Investigator was cast this turn and could not attack.
There is definitely a Game Rule Violation. But the interesting part is: Would you backup?
Looking at the IPG, this situation is not covered in the list of allowed partial fixes. Therefore, you either need to leave the situation as it is, namely allowing that summoning sick Investigator to keep attacking, or to backup to declaring attackers.
The default solution being to leave the situation as it is, let’s evaluate how safe backing up the situation is.
- All +1/+1 counters are removed.
- Thalia’s Lieutenant goes back to the graveyard.
- Ojutai’s Command and Archangel Avacyn go back to their owners’ hand.
- Attackers are untapped.
AP needs to declare a new legal set of attackers.
As I state regularly in this blog, a good backup leaves the game very close to what you would have achieved by partial fixing it. Here, this is not the case at all.
NAP has revealed he has Archangel Avacyn, which AP did not know. AP has revealed he has Ojutai’s Command and the full extent of what it implies.
By backing up here, it’s not unreasonable to see NAP not casting Avacyn Archangel so that AP would need to cast Ojutai’s Command first if he wants to pump his creatures. Knowledge of the Command/Lieutenant interaction is also a strong hint for NAP to declare blockers in a way that takes it into account.
It is true that AP is the one committing the infraction here and leaving the situation as is can indeed be perceived as giving AP an undue advantage. However, NAP also had plenty of time to realize.
Backing is really unsafe here. Two contextually game-decisive spells have been revealed and putting them back to their owner’s hand can radically modify the game.
Backups should never radically modify game states. If you feel that a backup would do so, then you should leave the situation as it is.
GRV or HCE?
AP casts Declaration in Stone targeting a token. NAP claims he put a die on the battlefield, then taps two mana and removes the die immediately to draw a card and untaps, at which point AP calls the judge.
Assessing the correct infraction
Whether this is HCE or GRV depends on whether there has been an infraction happening prior to the draw or permission from the opponent.
This is general fairly straightforward to determine, but this situation made it trickier:
First, both players agreed that the card was drawn without permission from AP, which eliminated one of the scenarios.
Then, a player doesn’t investigate with Declaration in Stone if a token is exiled. It is clear that NAP did not realize that. Since AP controls the spell and NAP executes the instruction, if NAP puts a clue on the battlefield, both players committed GRV, and this would exclude HCE in this case.
However, there is a disagreement as to whether the token was represented. If it wasn’t, then there is no way for the opponent to realize a GRV has been committed, and therefore this would be HCE.
A discrepancy in stories
NAP claims he placed a die on the battlefield, which AP can’t confirm. Since Declaration in stone doesn’t allow NAP to investigate, AP can’t realize anything unless NAP actively represent the token.
Obviously, AP not knowing whether a die was placed or not is convenient.
However, while it might be possible that AP lies about this, we have no evidence of it and this doesn’t seem illogical since NAP indicates he sacrificed the clue right away to draw a card.
Let’s say that NAP actually put the die. How clear is it that it represents a clue? A die in the middle of the table could be many things. It can be a forgotten item from a past permanent, but it’s not uncommon that players use one to remember which creature got -2/-0 from Jace.
All these considerations led me to conclude that there wasn’t any point where we could legitimately believe the clue was put on the battlefield, in a way that AP had a real chance to understand that was it.
The whole situation having been hasty, I concluded that NAP had committed HCE, and I made him reveal his hand to AP so AP removes a card for NAP to reshuffle in his deck.
Had I concluded that it was GRV, I’d have taken a card at random and put it back on the top of the library.
It is interesting to note that since NAP untapped immediately, he had no spell to cast, therefore it is tempting to think “well, he just shortcut his draw”. Very tempting but plain wrong. Rulings can’t be different whether the player cast an instant or a creature with flash or not. That’s why determining HCE or GRV is utterly relevant here.
The most important thing is to assess the correct infraction, not guess the best/easiest/insertyourfavoriteadjective solution based on context.