Rulings of note
A double HCE
NAP activates Merchant’s Dockhand and tape three other artifacts. He announces “for four” while he takes the top 4 cards, from which he quickly selects one that’s added to his hand.
Meanwhile, AP takes the Merchant’s Dockhand to read it. When he intervenes to point out the mistake, the selected card has already been added to NAP’s hand.
Considering the mistake was not unreasonable, that it was the first time the card was activated in this match, that NAP clearly stated “for four” and that this was a spot where AP was tapped out, I ruled out Cheating. I could have asked a few more questions but this really felt, and for the opponent alike, a genuine mistake.
Since this is potentially an HCE issue, I needed to make sure whether HCE was the correct category or whether this could have been GRV or CPE. I cleared with both players that AP never confirmed that NAP could take the whole four cards. Both players indicated that things went pretty fast and NAP performed the actions while AP was reading the card, hence this was clearly HCE.
However, the game was stopped one action later than usually: One extra card had moved to a set (the theoretically three cards to be looked at), then into another (the hand). Therefore, I decided to perform two successive HCE fix as a remedy:
- NAP revealed his hand and AP selected one card from it. Meanwhile, I took back from the bottom of the library the three other cards. The combination of both made me recreate the erroneous set of four cards.
- I (only at that moment) revealed those four cards to AP, from which he selected one to reshuffle in the random portion of the library.
Once the set was down to the organic three cards it should have initially been, NAP was able to select a new card from it to add to their hand.
Handling Damage assignment order confusion
AP attacks with one creature. NAP double blocks as shown on the picture (which was not taken at the event, hence the cards are not the correct ones). AP points his finger towards both creatures in a lateral movement saying “yes, like this”, without actually touching them.
NAP then casts a boost spell onto the closest-to-AP’s creature (the red one on the picture).
Then they resolve damage, at which point AP indicates that the creature that’s on top of the other (the white one on the picture) is dead.
NAP is confused and they call the judge.
Both players agree on the situation.
I asked AP why he believes that the first creature to die should be the top one. AP replied that this is the way it works on MODO. Later in the discussion, he indicated he almost never plays in real life.
Since Damage Assignment Order had been declared as both players acknowledged it, there is no infraction involved and it’s therefore a classic example of miscommunication: everybody fulfilled their obligations but this failed to work nevertheless.
Backing up feels the easiest solution but, following the precepts of dealing with miscommunication I exposed some time ago, this needs to be considered with caution. Indeed, in such a case, NAP has revealed a combat trick from his hand, therefore a default “backup until the last point they agree” may give a big advantage to AP since he would now know part of NAP’s hand.
Ultimately, I felt that AP had not been 100% clear in his communication: He certainly said “like this” but this is non-specific. I believe that the vast majority of players, in absence of verbal communication, place the creature they want to deal damage first closer than the others to the attacking creature. AP thought in a non-conventional way, which is fine until you start miscommunicating. Therefore I ruled that the actual Damage Assignment Order was the one NAP believed it was. I did not back up since this would have allowed AP to make a choice with the extra knowledge of a combat trick in NAP’s hand.
While I did understand that the player was genuinely confused because of how this section is behaving on MODO, I only took this into account to exclude Cheating. It did not affect the ruling.
Handling Damage assignment order confusion
AP, in a single motion, casts Aetherstream Leopard, attacks with another creature and takes her pen to track the damage. On the turn after, she attacks with the Leopard and takes her pen to scratch her life pad and announce she spends the energy to boost.
NAP calls the judge, indicating that AP forgot about the energy trigger since she didn’t announce it.
Both players agreed on the description of the situation. It therefore boiled down to “when did the energy got tracked?”. Indeed, NAP clearly expressed doubts that AP did not track the Energy until the turn after — in which case this would be Cheating.
I took a look at AP’s life pad and it did not seem unreasonable that her story was true. Unfortunately, she was not storing her previous life pad sheets, therefore I could not compare this with how she tracked Energy in the previous rounds. I noted that she did own dice but it’s possible they’re primarily used for +1/+1 counters or Servos.
AP felt embarrassed she didn’t communicate better but I was not under the impression she was lying.
Cheating having been excluded, I needed to clear whether the trigger had been missed or whether this situation was the consequence of miscommunication.
Energy counters, since we allow players to track them on paper, need to be handled like life totals. However, where we require players to verbalize any changes in life totals, we do not require the same thing for Energy counters, which pushes the IPG to some limits. Considering this, the fact the energy counter was not announced but written doesn’t constitute a proof it was missed.
Going back to the situation, the way the situation was described by both players made the whole sequence a single block of actions and therefore, OoOS could apply (MTR 4.3). The concept is taken to an extreme of course since the block of actions is dense but it could apply.
NAP was extremely displeased by my decision as he pointed out that AP may simply have written the bar representing the energy counter at the same time AP crossed it when she attacked the turn after. While this made sense on a theoretical level, I had no evidence of this.
A dexterity error
AP casts a Kujar Seedsculptor and puts two counters on it. NAP points out there should only be one counter. AP says: “Oops I thought this was the one that comes with two counters (Scrounging Bandar)… Targeting that 1/3 then”. NAP calls the judge claiming that AP implicitly targeted the Seedsculptor.
NAP agreed that AP didn’t say a word and took the die to immediately put a 2 on the Seedsculptor. It therefore felt unlikely to me that AP knew he was playing a Seedsculptor. I excluded Cheating. I did not check in the player’s hand or library whether he actually had that 0/0 in his hand or deck, as I didn’t want to give extra information to the opponent and I anyway didn’t feel like he was cheating. Indeed, even if he didn’t have one, he could have been confused since deckbuilding as we were not that far into the event.
Since AP never declared any target and put the incorrect number of counters on the creature and considering I am convinced that he was confused with another creature, I ruled that the ability had never been put on the stack but that the player was still on time to do so. He also received a W for GRV since, after all, he didn’t resolve the correct ability.
Judges of note
Getting feedback is the only way to improve. In San Jose, we ran a build-as-you-come system for the Sleep-in Special players. Due to spacing restraints, we had to go through some challenges which we resolved fairly well. Nevertheless, two judges kept on thinking on the process as it was run and how it could have been better. Thanks a lot Bryan Spellman and John Brian McCarthy