After I returned from GP San Antonio, I stumbled upon a post on Reddit—and I was not very happy with what I read. The post was about my first round of Day Two, and my opponent's side of the story is posted here.
I'm playing my Bant deck that I’ve written about over the past two weeks, and he is playing mono-red. It's game two, and I’m up a game. He attacks me with a Pyreheart Wolf and an Ash Zealot, and I wait a moment and block his Pyreheart Wolf with my Augur of Bolas.
My opponent either entirely missed or at least failed to announce his Wolf trigger, and so under the new trigger rules that means it didn’t happen. He tells me I can’t single block, and before trying to argue with him or complicate things I call a judge. The judge comes over and my opponent and I agree on exactly the events that happened—he attacked, did not announce his Wolf trigger, and I went to block. The judges went away from the table and talked it over for a while before coming back and ruling that since no other actions had taken place, they were going to back up the game and put the trigger on the stack, at which point I appealed.
I appealed because the ruling went against me when I think it shouldn’t have. The original judge didn’t really ask any important questions or hear what happened aside the obvious facts, and I think he had made up his mind when it appeared to him that it was “a pro trying to pull a fast one.”
The head judge Jason Lems comes over, and starts from the top. My opponent tells his side of the story truthfully, admitting that he made no verbal acknowledgement of the trigger. I explain how I viewed it, saying he attacking me and said nothing and I “waited thirty seconds” before declaring blocks.
Immediately as I said these words, my opponent and the head judge scoffed—the head judge even said, “thirty seconds is bullshit.” At which point I agreed and explained that it wasn’t literally thirty seconds, but that I wanted to convey that my opponent attacked me and I waited a long enough period of time for it to be obvious that my opponent was waiting on me to take an action, and that I did not block so fast that he did not have time to announce the trigger.
It was foolish for me to say what I said without thinking about it, but I’m a Magic player and sometimes prone to hyperbole to get my point across. When I told the head judge he knew exactly what I meant, and ultimately ruled in my favor, I believe for that exact reason.
This was Day Two of a Grand Prix, at professional rules enforcement level, and when the head judge made his ruling he explained to my opponent the he had made an announcement over the loudspeaker that all players are expected to announce all triggered abilities if they want them to happen. Now, I don’t think this should matter at all, but the trigger was very relevant to the game state and did end up deciding who won the game—though not immediately, and both players can say, “I would have played differently if I knew that.”
The fact is, I did nothing wrong and simply followed the rules and employed proper strategy. If I failed to announce a trigger and my opponent called me on it, I wouldn’t think any less of him and I certainly wouldn’t be angry at him—if anything I would be upset with myself for allowing it to happen. I have said many times that I dislike the new rules. I don’t like having to look for ways my opponent could misspeak or not announce certain things, and then have to consider how the game will play out if such mistakes happen.
At the same time, I think it is very important to play by the rules, no matter what they are or what I think of them. Should I be exempt from having to announce my triggers because I think it’s obvious or that it’s stupid? The rules only work if everyone follows them, and that is the only way to keep things fair.
When they changed the damage on the stack rules, I’m sure people messed up at first and felt frustrated by it. The new rules stood in such stark contrast to what players were used to, but that doesn’t matter—eventually we all just grew accustomed to it, and now that same person who was angry would be looked at as foolish. I plan on being meticulous with my triggers and announcing them all, and looking for times where my opponents do not announce theirs. I really dislike this, but until the rule is changed or until we all get used to it, that’s just the way it’s going to be. If everyone just properly announces all their triggers, then the game state is clear, and nobody has a thing to worry about.
Sometimes the rules are good, like when you play against someone who understands the risks involved. When they forget a trigger like putting a Soldier token into play or adding a counter to their Shrine of Burning Rage, they just slump in their chair and realize they messed up and should have said something. I think the rules work exactly as intended in cases like those, but when an opponent attacks with a Pyreheart Wolf and it’s in your best interest for them to not understand that it’s a trigger or forget about it entirely, it makes things awkward for both players. I hate how there is no distinction between the two, and that it is basically impossible to create rules where a distinction can be made, the game is just too complex.
At the Pro Tour, in round three, my opponent forgot to reveal his card for Dark Confidant. He called a judge, and the judge asked me if I wanted to place his trigger on the stack now after it had been missed—I said no and he left. I thought this was very strange. When I appealed, the head judge basically said the same thing, that Dark Confidant was a beneficial trigger because, “who in their right mind would put a 2/1 for 1B in their deck if they didn’t want his benefit?”
I found this very disconcerting—how can you say Dark Confidant is a beneficial trigger? It probably is if you’re at 15, but what if you have Emrakul in your deck and lethal on the table? Bob is likely a beneficial trigger when you’re at 20 and definitely not if you’re at 1, but what if you’re at 8? Who decides that?
I also don’t like that my opponent didn’t get a warning for this, not because I’m some kind of rules lawyer who wants all his opponents to rack up warnings, but rather because if you are going to say that Confidant is a beneficial trigger and not give a warning for his missed trigger, then if I have Confidant in my deck and I’m at 1, I should just ignore the trigger every turn.
There will be no written record of how many times I missed it, and if my opponent forgets too then it’s a freeroll. The judge said you can’t purposefully forget the trigger because that is cheating, but how can you know someone is cheating and not just forgetful if you have no way of knowing how many times it’s happened? This is the very reason warnings exist in Magic. Under these rules, if you’re the guy with the Confidant, you should just always forget when you’re at 1 life unless you have gotten called on it before in the tournament or you think people are wise to your antics. This clearly can't be the intended effect of the rule.
Now I don’t have a plan to fix these rules, and I understand exactly why they were changed in the first place—to eliminate the feel-bad associated with having to remind your opponent to kill you. I had this happen to me at multiple tournaments most, notably at an Innistrad Sealed GP where I had to remind my opponent to mill someone with Selhoff Occultist, and every time he would say, “oops! Um, I guess I'll mill you.” Well, you guessed it, that happened 20 times and I died to deckin—he was just senselessly making plays at random, and with my help he beat me.
The other time my opponent would forget to put counters on his Shrine of Loyal Legions and it eventually popped for 13, which would have been 5 if I hadn’t been bound by the rules to remind him. I like that I don’t have to do that any more, but I don’t like it when Dark Confidant is viewed as a beneficial trigger when it very clearly isn’t, and when things happen in the game that legally should never happen.
At GP Chicago in 2009, Brian Kowal made Top 8 and got a game loss in game three when he was winning, because he had forgotten too many Dark Confidant triggers, which is such a poor way for someone’s tournament to end. When judges have to step in and administer a punishment for forgetting how your cards work and not for malicious cheating, no one is happy.
If any of the judges who have clout with how the rules are made read this, then hopefully it will be helpful for them to see what experienced tournament players think of the rules, and why some parts of the rules are good and why some are bad.
I encourage you to share your views on the subject in the comments, and tell me if you agree with me or if you think I’m wrong. I would love to hold a civil discussion on the topic, and see if perhaps there are some good alternatives out there.
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