The Riki Rules – Click, Clique, DQ?

 

A player reveals his hand to Vendilion Clique without a target being named every five minutes.

Ok. Perhaps it isn’t that frequent. But based on tournament reports, it sure does seem to crop up a lot in Extended. Even though the season is now winding down to its finale, Vendilion Clique is a card that may see some play in Standard before it rotates and it will certainly have a return engagement in Extended. It’s even possible that we are looking at a potential player in Legacy and Vintage. I’ve heard people talking about Clique as a possible “best creature of all time.” This means we’ll be seeing a lot of the Clique (and its Faerie kin) in the future, and it is imperative that we understand how the card works and how to communicate properly when using it.

Take this example from Adrian Sullivan’s PTQ tournament report very early in the season. He is playing in the finals of the PTQ against Owen Turtenwald.

“An early Vendilion Clique is the key moment, here. He casts it, and I just flop my hand on the table like an amateur. He hadn’t mentioned targeting, he hadn’t baited me, everything he did was clean. I just handed him some information, and he said, “Um, I haven’t targeted anyone yet.’

“Now knowing that I don’t have a land to play, Owen targets himself with the Clique, getting rid of a Jitte, leaving him with only one potential draw in his deck that could rationally be hit by my Smash to Smithereens in hand. I knock him down to 1, but he takes the game.”

According to remarks from Owen, Adrian, and HJ Jason Lems, this was a very quick sequence of events. But the fact is that Owen did look at Adrian’s hand long enough to see that Adrian did not have a land. Based on that information, he determined that the best course of action would be to target himself with the Clique’s ability, denying Adrian the chance to draw a land off of the redraw. Also, seeing the Smash the Smithereens in Adrian’s hand, Owen put an Umezawa’s Jitte, the only available target for the Smash, on the bottom of the his library.

The first question is “Was this illegal?” Simply, no. We’ve been over this territory before with Olivier Ruel, sunglasses, and a partridge in a pear tree. A player is free to reveal information, like say his own hand, to his opponent. It is legal to look when your opponent reveals said information. You can even gain this type of information when your opponent reveals it accidentally. The most common occurrence of this is during shuffling. Many players riffle shuffle in a way that reveals the bottom of their library to their opponent, giving a free preview of two or more cards.

Although you are free to take advantage of your opponent’s carelessness, you are not allowed to go to “excessive lengths” to seek hidden information like the contents of their library or hand. “Excessive lengths” isn’t spelled out explicitly; it is left up to individual Judge’s discretion. Basically, it means that you shouldn’t be doing anything out of the ordinary like standing up, intentionally knocking something off the table to lean over, or having your friend stand behind your opponent with a large mirror.

Owen’s Play

Did Owen Turtenwald go to excessive lengths? Certainly not. He played a Vendilion Clique and Adrian Sullivan dropped his hand. He took a quick look at the free information, and quickly clarified the situation, explaining that he had not chosen targets yet. Using the new information, it is likely that he changed his mind about who to target. However, since no target had been chosen, it was his right to choose himself based on the new information.

Now we come to the second question: “Was this action shady or unsporting?” In the follow up discussion, a lot of players commented on “intent” insofar as it being clear that a Vendilion Clique played on an opponent’s draw step is clearly meant to target them to take advantage of maximum information. If your intent is to target yourself to get rid of a useless card, you would much rather flash the Clique out in their end of turn step. And sometimes you flash during combat to surprise block a troublesome Gaddock Teeg.

Intent is a funny thing is Magic. The players have a pretty clear opinion of what the intent is based on the timing of the Clique. However, as has been said in this space before, Judges must have a different standard of intent based upon visible and audible cues, not upon the strategic value and correctness of the play.

Such cues might include:

Saying “Clique you.”

Pointing the Vendilion Clique at your opponent.

Saying “So what do you have?”

Do you notice what I didn’t include on that list? Playing Vendilion Clique during your opponent’s draw step. From a Judge’s perspective, this is a strategic decision and we should not make assumptions about why a player played something at a particular time. Let’s say for example that a player intends to play Clique and target himself with the ability. The opportune time for this might be the opponent’s end of turn step. However, he can choose to play it during the opponent’s draw step due to a) wanting to bait out a removal spell to tap out the opponent, or b) a simple misplay/brainfart. Misplays happen in Magic. If the opponent were to drop their hand at that point, should we hold the player to Cliquing the opponent because “the intent is clear based on the timing”?

The shadiness of Owen possibly changing his mind about targets is up to each individual person to determine for themselves. Different people play Magic for different reasons and draw their own moral lines on what they would and would not do. According to the rules, what he did was legal and he was in fact sporting about it by reminding Adrian that he had not chosen targets. He got a free Peek, but how many players would turn away or cover their face as soon as they saw Adrian dropping his hand and say “Whoa! I haven’t targeted. Don’t show me your hand”?

On the shadiness scale, there was a discussion that went one further on the Judge mailing list. It was a similar situation to the above one. The player plays Vendilion Clique and asks if it resolves. The opponent drops his hand. The Clique player looks at the hand and jots down all of the cards on his notepad. Then, he informs his opponent that if he letting Clique resolve, he will target himself with the ability.

The taking down of the notes one-ups just looking at the hand on the shadiness scale. But again, if your opponent were to drop their hand at any other time during the match for no reason, you would be allowed to take notes. The issue becomes whether there is any misrepresentation of what is going on. As described, this is not the case. The Clique player asks if the spell resolves. The opponent drops his hand.

A more sporting player would certainly not take notes at this point. A more sporting player would tell his opponent to pick up his hand. The most sporting player would look away immediately and try to do a “Dollhouse” mind wipe of what little he had seen of his opponent’s hand. However, this does not make the act of taking advantage of the situation to jot down a few card names unsporting (or Unsporting, as in Conduct that would result in a penalty).

The spectrum of sporting to unsporting may confuse some people, so let me make a quick sports analogy. Let’s say you get into some of sort of tangle with an opposing player in your favorite team sport (soccer, football, basketball). You accidentally knock your opponent to the ground. Extending your hand and helping him up is the sporting thing to do. Kicking him while he is down would be the unsporting thing to do. Turing around and not helping him up is neither. As your opponent, you feel that you are not obligated to help them out. The same applies to Magic. You aren’t obligated to help your opponent play optimally.

Juza’s Play

What then of Martin Juza? The noted European Pro was Disqualified from GP Singapore in a situation that seems rather close to these Clique-uations (I approve of this pun – LSV). Here is an excerpt from AJ Sacher’s article on what happened:

“Enter god-like spellslinger Martin Juza. At the recent GP in Singapore, he had a bit of a judge issue. Twice in the match, he would cast Vendilion Clique, and the opponent would immediately reveal his hand, only to be reminded that targets need to be declared first. Juza then plays a Vendilion Clique on his opponent’s draw step.. He immediately slams Path to Exile on it. Then, again, the opponent quickly reveals his hand. Granted, playing it in their draw step usually implies that you are targeting them, but implication is not a declaration. Juza, tired of having to play both sides of his match because the other guy can’t figure out how the cards work, writes down some notes about his opponent’s hand, and announces he is targeting himself. Guy calls a judge, stuff, appeal, blah blah blah, DQ.”

What makes this situation different from what we’ve discussed so far? Why did Martin get DQ’d? The answer to the latter question is between Martin and the Judges. We’ve been over the fact that we cannot talk about the inner workings of a DQ investigation. But it should be noted that they are not quick and easy affairs. We want to get all the information we can to make sure that we are getting the call right. People get interviewed, facts are collected, and Judges will pow wow about the correct course of action. Glossing over all of this legwork as “blah blah blah” shows disrespect and/or a lack of understanding of the procedure behind a DQ on the part of AJ.

The first question about what makes this situation different comes up with one important distinction: Path to Exile. Martin’s opponent played Path on the Clique then dropped his hand. The Path creates a problem here because it can only be played on the Clique after it has resolved and is a creature in play. The Clique’s triggered ability happens as soon as it comes into play and a target must be chosen when the ability is put on the stack. Only then, with the ability on the stack and the target chosen, would players get priority to play spells and abilities like Path to Exile.

From there, things get murky. You have the Vendilion Clique’s ability on the stack beneath the Path to Exile with no target named while the opponent is revealing his hand. Martin notes down the cards in hand. It isn’t clear whether the Path is resolved at any point here; it would need to be in order to properly clear the stack in order. Then Martin declares that he is targeting himself. The problem is that this target needed to be declared a long time ago, before Path resolved (if it ever did), and certainly before Path was ever even played.

In the first two scenarios, we have players showing their hands before a target is chosen, indeed before a target needs be chosen. In the case of Martin’s opponent, we have a triggered ability on the stack with no target named and a spell sitting on the stack above it. This is different from jumping the gun before the trigger goes on the stack.

Without delving too deeply into the matter of the DQ investigation, I’m guessing that this is what things centered upon, the matter of the illegal triggered ability on the stack. Martin allowed that illegal situation to persist while his opponent revealed his hand and he jotted down the cards. Then he tried to change targets, or name himself as the target. If he knew that he was supposed to name targets as soon as the triggered ability went on the stack (before Path to Exile was played) and allowed the illegal game state to continue in order to gain the advantage of seeing his opponent’s hand, then that’s certainly a problem worthy of investigation. Although we’ve established that players are free to reveal their hand, the circumstances change when there is an illegal game state that is directly responsible for a misconception that leads directly to the hand dropping.

What’s interesting to me is that minus the illegal game state, Martin’s actions were legal and not unsporting, as per scenario two. However, had he done the sporting thing and told his opponent to immediately pick up his hand because he had not declared targets, he could have avoided a lot of heartache. I think there is a lesson in there somewhere, but I’ll leave it you to decide what it is.

Until next time this is Riki Hayashi telling you to call a Judge.

Rikipedia at Gmail dot clique

Risky on efnet and most major Magic forums

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