Miscommunication (yes, again)

Welcome back to What’s Up Docs?!


As you may have read in this announcement, one of the reasons I’ve resigned from being a Program Coordinator was that I could not find the time to enjoy talking about tournaments and policy situations on What’s Up Docs. It took me some time to Restore Balance in my life but, well, the fact I’m actually writing this while making a pause from dismantling my furniture before permanently moving to Paris tomorrow seems a good sign.

So what exciting has happened at my GPs in the past months? Miscommunication



Way too similar names


I’ve talked about this topic several times already but this situation was one of the touchiest I’ve had to deal with.



The Situation


AP casts Path to Exile targeting Vizier of Remedies, not physically displaying the target NAP responds by sacrificing Viscera Seer to scry. AP then passes the turn, NAP untaps and draws a card.

At that point, AP asks why NAP’s Vizier of Remedies is still on the battlefield. They call a judge



The Investigation


I asked NAP why he believed that AP targeted Viscera Seer. He told me that AP didn’t physically demonstrate the target and that he heard “Seer” (which is not so far from the second syllable of “Vizier”). I was puzzled by the statement as I felt that players usually target the Vizier and asked why NAP felt this play would make any sense. NAP said that he plays only one Seer in his deck and that, while killing the Vizier would indeed prevent him from making infinite mana (he also has Devoted Druid on the battlefield that he just cast), he has nothing great to do with the mana and he already has 7 mana sources, which means he doesn’t really need the mana, he needs to have access to the Scry. I argued that he plays some Eternal Witnesses, which he agreed with, yet he indicated he has more Viziers than Witnesses left in the deck, hence the good play from his opponent was to make him sacrifice the Viscera Seer.

While most of the reasoning displayed here is very contextual and potentially not accessible to AP, that at least felt like a good explanation as to why NAP would think he’d target Viscera Seer.


AP, on his side, confirmed that he only verbally announced the target. He also indicated that, against these decks, he knows they should always target the Vizier. I asked him how he didn’t notice until NAP had untapped and drawn that the Vizier was still there. He said he didn’t pay much attention.


Overall, NAP displayed a much larger understanding of the game state and I could double check his statements versus his actual deck content. Also, the strategic reasoning made sense. It might not have been optimal (I can’t safely evaluate that) but I couldn’t find a significant flaw in them, therefore I concluded NAP didn’t cheat.



The decision


Since I excluded Cheating, I needed to know how to make that game resume. Partial fixing is not supported and backing up was really touchy since NAP had 4 or 5 cards in hand and a fetchland on the battlefield. Had I backed up, I might have allowed NAP to mini-brainstorm.

But outside of these considerations, I tried to evaluate who was the most responsible for this situation:

  • NAP did not perform AP’s instruction correctly
  • AP verbally communicated, but it was an incomplete card name
  • AP didn’t point the target physically
  • AP didn’t notice anything until NAP performed successively:
    • Scrying
    • untapping
    • drawing

While I agreed that NAP didn’t perform the expected action, I felt that AP did not do any effort to double check what was happening in the match. Considering I hadn’t determined NAP had committed Cheating, then I felt that AP was more responsible for the game state and chose to let the situation as it is: By not speaking up until it was very late and considering there was a legitimate unclarity, AP kind of implicitly agreed that Viscera Seer was the target. He never explicitly did but he totally failed to not make the game look as if he did.





No afterthoughts really. I feel confident in the decision. Under slightly different circumstances, I could have backed up, even though the presence of fetchland was very likely to undermine the possibility (but I don’t want to say it was a total blocker either)






Starting one’s turn (way) too early



Another miscommunication situation, which is very interesting because, for once, I chose to backup as a default, which is something I usually recommend avoiding.



The Situation


During their upkeep, AP resolves Lifecrafter’s Bestiary’s scry and says something.

NAP activates Shielded Aether Thief, draws a card then takes another card from the top of their library. At this moment, AP stops NAP, asking why NAP is drawing an additional card. NAP indicates they’re drawing for their turn and they call a judge.



The Investigation


I first took a look at the board. It is stalled and I can see that AP has 9 lands and 7 cards in hand. This made me wonder why NAP thought AP could be passing the turn without casting anything.

I decided to clear this up with NAP first. NAP said that they heard “Go” and it didn’t seem unreasonable based on what happened in the previous turns: Sometimes they play creatures, sometimes they passed and relied on spells. NAP expects AP to hold many instants. Both players haven’t been attacking much, and life pads confirm this.

AP, on their side, reported that they said “Draw”, which, based on the board state and the fact they just resolved an upkeep trigger, seems reasonable. I asked why it didn’t ring a bell that the Thief was used in their upkeep while it was one of the reasons AP had a hard time attacking this game. I can’t remember the answer exactly but it wasn’t super convincing, as if AP was happy that NAP would misplay.



The decision


I felt that it was reasonable for AP to ask if they could draw after they scried. I was less confident in the legitimacy of AP not confirming that NAP activated the Thief in their upkeep, although they certainly don’t [i]need[/i] to call attention to it as it is not an infraction, but this should have rang a bell and most of the time leads to questions like “in my upkeep?”

I felt that it was not unreasonable for NAP to believe that AP said go based on the previous turns’ descriptions both players agreed on. I was a bit puzzled by the fact AP hadn’t drawn their card for the turn but NAP said they didn’t pay attention and just heard “go”.

I couldn’t really be convinced that any of the players was Cheating here and I doubted that one player was more responsible than the other for the mistake. Also, had AP wanted to push the mistake to try to get a more severe penalty for their opponent, they could have waited for the second card to be drawn, maybe hoping to get HCE (or a GL if they’re outdated). The fact they drew attention before the second card was drawn doesn’t align with this.

In the end, I backed up to the point of the mistake, which means to AP’s upkeep. I cancelled the activation of the Thief, making NAP put a card at random back to the top of their library and made AP resumed their turn.





It’s one of these situations where none of the players actually made a mistake and, unlike some others situations I’ve talked about, nobody is really responsible for the mistake. While I’ve said multiple times that backing up is often equivalent to favoring one player, this is one of the situations where it isn’t really. Of course NAP did a small brainstorm but, in fairness, that brainstorm was diluted in an already full hand so it was less of an issue.

Note that in this case, NAP was stopped before drawing the second card, but even if NAP had drawn that second card, I still wouldn’t have ruled HCE if they had. Indeed, they’re drawing a legitimate card: Their Draw Step, which is where they genuinely believe they are. Indeed, if they weren’t genuinely believing this, then the appropriate penalty wouldn’t be HCE but USC-Cheating.



Kevin Desprez.