Last week, I wrote about triggers and the response I received was incredible! It was by a huge margin the most popular article I have ever written, and it created some great discussion. Some of the responses I saw were very negative, and I felt like I left a lot out of the article, almost too much. So this week I’m just going to mention some of the things I missed, or things I’ve realized since.
I am a professional Magic player ,and with that I accept all the glory, fame, prestige, stigma, and ridicule associated with it. I've played Magic since I was 13 or 14 years old—at this point, I am endlessly passionate about it. When I go to any Magic tournament, I want to win for a million different reasons.
I want to win to prove that I am talented at this game. I want to win because of the short term financial gain involved—it's one of my main sources of income, after all. I want to win so I can get more Pro points and try to make Platinum again next year. I want to win so I can get a few inches closer to playing in the Players Championship again. I want to win because I am a competitive person. I want to win because losing sucks.
At any tournament, I'm emotionally invested in doing well for all the reasons I just listed. I've spent countless minutes, hours, days, weeks trying to prepare for it, and probably 6-10 hours sitting in an airport or on an airplane trying to get there. I also spent money out of my own pocket to pay for that airplane ticket, because despite what people might think, there isn’t a single professional player who doesn’t have to pay out of his own pocket to attend Grand Prix. None of this is a hardship—but hopefully gives you an idea of how much work and time I put into the game.
Now fast forward to an in-game decision where an opponent has missed a trigger and I now have to make a choice. Do I call my opponent on his missed trigger, causing a very awkward moment for both of us, or do I allow the trigger to happen and risk losing a game I know I could have won had I called my opponent on the trigger?
No matter the result, I’m going to leave that match with a sour taste in my mouth. Losing feels awful no matter how it happened, at least for me. Assuming I don’t call my opponent on his missed trigger, I’m going to lose and regret it because it could have so easily become a win. I regret it the same way I regret any other in-game decision and think to myself, “if I just called a judge I would have won,” just like, “if I just saved that Lightning Bolt,” or, “I really shouldn’t have kept that hand.”
It just feels like poor strategy when it’s as simple as call a judge and win or say nothing and lose. On the flip side, you end up in a situation like I described last week where I DO call the judge and I DO get the win—and end up with a bulls-eye on my back, with some going as far as to call it cheating.
Now don’t get me wrong, I give no credence to the people who think what I did was cheating. Clearly it's not cheating—the floor judge was the one who did not rule in my favor, and the level 5 head judge defended my actions and clarified that it was my opponent's responsibility to mind his triggers. I do dislike, however, that the rules are now set up so that, to amateur players and the untrained eye, it appears to be really unethical or just downright cheating. I wish it was more intuitive. One thing people don’t seem to remember though is that if these rules seem a bit off to new players, that’s because they are. These rules DO NOT APPLY to people playing in their local sanctioned drafts or Friday Night Magic.
It makes some sense—when I play in low-level sanctioned tournaments, it’s because I do so for fun and not just to win. The prizes for these tournaments are completely irrelevant to my life, I couldn’t possibly care less about winning some booster packs or taking home that foil Savage Lands, those tournaments are not meant for me.
When I do find myself playing in them with friends or to just burn up a Friday afternoon, I enjoy myself and I do so because I’m not trying to shark my opponent at every opportunity. When I play these tournaments I point out every single trigger my opponent misses, even the may triggers, I even tell my opponents when they make mistakes and allow take-backs.
Last time I played an event at my local store, I was reminding my opponents to attack me because I have no creatures in play, and I also tell people not to attack me because I can just block with a first strike creature. I get some flak from my friends, sure: “oh the big pro went 2-2!” But in the end, the top prize of booster packs is meaningless to me and I would rather help out a random new player than to sour their experience.
I don’t tell these stories to make me out to be the good guy (actually I do, because I am), but I do it to demonstrate that in different environments a person’s behavior can and should change. When I play in a sanctioned store draft I point out my opponents' triggers because that’s what the rules dictate, and at a professional REL Grand Prix, I do not point out my opponents missed triggers. If you miss that trigger against me it doesn’t happen, sorry. If you want it to happen then you have to announce it. Let's review what really could be cheating:
Assume your opponent attacks you with a Memnite and a Signal Pest, but says nothing. You play the good guy role and take 2 damage, both of you agree without saying anything by marking it on your life pads. A couple turns later they attack with a Signal Pest and four Memnites and again say nothing, you are not allowed to now block them all with 2/2s and say your opponent missed the trigger because they said nothing.
This is cheating.
By allowing the trigger to resolve the first time you have now agreed to a shortcut that simply attacking with the Signal Pest is acknowledgement enough that you would like the trigger to happen. He would argue that he wouldn't attack with a 0 power creature for any other reason. If you call him on it the first time, then surely a judge will rule in your favor because he did actually fail to announce the trigger. You can’t just let things happen a certain way for a couple turns, and then when it is relevant try to get them on a missed trigger.
Here is another hypothetical situation: your opponent attacks you with a Pyreheart Wolf and a 3/3 creature and says nothing, while you control a 1/3 and a 4/4. In your hand you have a lethal Fireball, and all you need to do is untap to win the game. Assuming you are at no danger of losing the game no matter what happens, what do you do?
Do you tell your opponent he missed his Pyreheart Wolf trigger and then block the 1/3 on the Wolf and the 4/4 on the 3/3 as would be strategically correct? Or do you double-block the Pyreheart Wolf with both the 4/4 and the 1/3 because it is irrelevant to the game? Do you double-block because you assume the opponent resolved the trigger?
Do you double-block because you want to give the appearance to your opponent that you place a high value on the Wolf and would like it to die even assuming he has a piece of creature removal in hand and can remove one of the blockers before damage? Do you double-block because you want to trick your opponent into having them believe their trigger resolved when in actuality it did not and will not because he said nothing, lulling them into possibly taking the exact same actions in a future game allowing you to call them on the missed trigger then?
In the last example we are getting very close to doing something illegal. If my opponent plays a Thragtusk and says nothing and doesn’t adjust his life total, then that’s a missed trigger and it's well within the rules, actively encouraged, and considered proper strategy for me to say nothing. If my opponent attacks with a Signal Pest and says nothing, but we both adjust the life, then that non-visible trigger has resolved and neither player has done anything wrong, the player with the Signal Pest now believes that he can say nothing and that will be acceptable for future play in that game (and he’s right).
If my opponent attacks me with a Pyreheart Wolf and both players say nothing, I move to double-block for any of the reasons I listed above, did the trigger happen? He firmly believes the answer is yes, and I firmly believe the answer is no. With the Thragtusk trigger both players know it did not happen, and with the Signal Pest both players know that it did happen. In all three examples no words are exchanged.
I love that fact that my last article was so widely discussed, and I really appreciate everyone participating. While I haven’t really offered up a valid solution to the problems I’ve encountered with the rules, I still think it is very helpful for the judges to see where I am coming from.
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