I’ve written numerous articles about investigations that you can find at various places on this blog. Nearly all of them are written from the HJ point of view and while I selfishly believe they’re instructive, I’m under the impression they don’t achieve as much as they could. Indeed, like I’ve pointed in this article, there is no good HJ investigation without a great FJ investigation.
This week-end at the WMC, I’ve happened to be on the Floor watching a match, during which a mistake occurred. I’ll walk you through the steps of this call as they happened, rather than through a revamp of the situation so all elements are in place at once.
While this has the drawback of making elements less clear, but also allows me to walk you through the process. Indeed, an investigation is about discovering elements, not just having everything on the table to factually analyzing them.
NAP calls a judge because AP has discarded two cards when resolving Chart a course before playing a land and passing the turn.
Insticntively, this puts us in the realm of GRV being committed. Since the error was discovered fairly soon, it feels easy to correct the error by sending the land back to hand then asking AP to take one of these two cards back to their hand as well.
A quick analysis of the game state
The two discarded cards were God-pharaoh’s Gift and Angel of invention.
These are two cards which are often better in the graveyard than on the battlefield. Indeed, the first one (Gift) gets returned quicker to the battlefield through Refurbish and the second (Angel) gets returned stronger to the battlefield through, well, the first one! This is even more true as AP only controls 4 lands, far from hard-casting the 7-mana artifact.
A quick look at AP’s hand will teach you that they actually have Refurbish to power God-Pharaoh’s Gift on the turn after.
This is an orange flag: This mistake is potentially greatly advantageous to AP. The deck needs these cards in the graveyard, and the player did it despite he wasn’t allowed to do so.
A quick look at life pads reveals this is game 1 and life totals are (AP/NAP) 17 to 20. This doesn’t seem very relevant.
However, NAP’s board at that point is an already 3/3 Longtusk Cub and a Rogue Refiner, along with 2 energies. That’s a threat potential of 7+ points per turn.
On his side, AP has one creature in the graveyard. A Sacred Cat.
After AP passes, NAP will attack for at least 7, putting AP at 10. Then AP will be able to cast Refurbish to bring back God-Pharaoh’s Gift and bring Sacred Cat back. If NAP has a removal, AP isn’t really in a great shape. While if NAP brings back Angel of invention, he also has a 4/4 lifelink along with two other blockers. AP’s position becomes much much stronger.
The error potentially makes a big difference.
Listening to players
Being asked why he did discard two cards, AP mentions that his deck discards sometimes one, sometimes two cards and it can be confusing. This is a reasonable argument since while Chart a course makes you discard one card only, Champion of wits requires to discard 2 and Strategic planning also sends two cards in the graveyard (although this isn’t technically “discarding”, the concept remains the same: You physically have some cards in hand (a set of three) and you’ll send two of them to the graveyard.
NAP indicates that AP discarded two cards, played a land and passed. He feels, I quote, “the mistake is weird” as discard/land/go happened fairly fast.
At this point, and that’s feedback I’ve been given many times, you may think “I’m not able to understand all the implications described here”. This is fine, not all judges should be able to have that level of understanding of a Magic game.
But even without that level of understanding of the technical parts of the match-up, you have something here: NAP feels the mistake is “weird”.
This is a strong statement, an incitation for you to investigate. This is another orange flag that you need to follow-up on: Why does NAP believe that this is “weird”?
And who is the best person to answer this? NAP!
Gather more information
At this point you need to ask NAP (privately) why this is weird. They are the one who understand the best the implications of mistakes in their games.
This needs to happen not in front of the opponent as NAP may need to talk about the inner startegics of the event, which they may not feel free to do in front of the opponent.
Note that while I’d usually recommend to discuss this with NAP at the table with AP away, this being a team event, you do’t want teammates to hear this so, for once, have this discussion with NAP away from the table.
Several paths open here:
1- If NAP can explain clearly the implications of the mistake, that is a confirmation of the orange flag as it means the mistake is really relevant in that match
2- If NAP can’t explain more than “he did a mistake, mistakes are bad/that must be cheating/other generic statements”, there may not be as much as they think (although you shouldn’t discard the thing entirely)
3- And finally there’s the in-between: NAP feeling something is weird but not being overly convincing, etc. This can happen especially when there’s a lot of hidden information that can be relevant.
In this contextual situation, you’ll learn what was described above!
This puts us in situation 1-: NAP really feels this is weird, it’s not just general paranoia.
At that point, you have enough orange flags that you need to involve a Head Judge:
* The mistake is beneficial to its author
* The mistake is potentially game-decisive, as revealed by NAP’s analysis (which may be biased but that requires more investigation.
Also, you have gathered the elements the Head Judge will be able to base their investigation upon:
* Assessment of the situation
* A statement from each player (important as you will be able to assess potential discrepancies in stories later)
Whatever the Head Judge will conclude doesn’t actually matter. There may have been Cheating, there may not have been. As a Floor Judge, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you brought a suspicious situation to the Head Judge. All the rest is contextual.