Ask A Judge: Tom Davis

Oath of the Gatewatch has colorless cards with colors in their mana cost. It has Reflector Mage messing with morph creatures. It has…well…it has a lot going on. Paul Baranay and Tom Davis stop in to sort out the latest in Magic’s crazy rulebook!

The StarCityGames.com Regional Championships, February 6!

It’s nearly time for #SCGRegionals! While many of you will be sleeving up Glistener Elves and Eldrazi Temples to battle, I’ll be heading up to Syracuse to Head Judge the Regional Championship organized by Kirwan’s Game Store. While running big events like #SCGRegionals is no easy feat, I’m fortunate to both work with a great TO and have some phenomenal judges backing me up.

Guest Judge Tom Davis

And one of those judges is this article’s special guest! Tom Davis has been a fixture of The SCG Tour® and other large events throughout the Eastern Seaboard. Although he lived in Virginia for several years, he moved up to Rochester, New York last May and has certainly established himself in the Northeast. Tom is no stranger to large events and has had the honor of head judging two StarCityGames.com Classics. He’s very active on Reddit, where he moderates the /r/spikes subreddit. And of course, in addition to judging, Tom really enjoys playing in big events — especially when the tournament is Modern, his favorite format!

I’m very excited to be working with Tom this weekend at #SCGRegionals and even more excited to have Tom as my latest special guest. With introductions out of the way, let’s get to the questions!

Reflector Mage

Reflector Mage is an awesome new card from Oath of the Gatewatch that’s been taking the Standard scene by storm. But our latest Man-o’-War variant also has some interesting interactions that you might not expect. Let’s break them down!

I animate Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and attack with him. My opponent plays Collected Company, finds Reflector Mage, and bounces Gideon. Can I replay Gideon in my postcombat main phase?

(Bearz) No, you cannot. Reflectors Mage is a bit confusing here, as the card forbids you from “casting spells with the same name as that creature.” However, the phrase “that creature” really just means “the card that was bounced.”

Same scenario, but instead of attacking with Gideon, I attack with a flipped Delver of Secrets, which gets Reflected. Can I recast Delver?

(Tom) Yes! Double-faced cards have different names for the front and back faces. The back face of Delver is actually named Insectile Aberration, and that’s the name of the card forbidden by Reflector Mage. Casting Delver of Secrets is totally okay. (No one ever said Reflector Mage was very smart…)

How about if I animate Shambling Vent, attack with it, and (you guessed it) it gets bounced with Reflector Mage?

(Bearz) You can play Shambling Vent. This is because Reflector Mage only stops spells from being cast, and lands are never “cast,” they’re simply “played” from your hand.

I attack with a face-down Den Protector and it gets bounced. Can I cast Den Protector face-up? Face-down?

(Bearz) You can cast Den Protector face-up or face-down. Apart from being 2/2, morphs have no characteristics — not even a name. Reflector Mage doesn’t know anything about the front face of that morph it bounced, so the Mage tries to forbid you from casting cards that share a name with no name. And as far as Magic is concerned, nameless objects don’t share a name with anything, so two morphs never have the same name.

More Questions About Devoid and Wastes

I control Wastes, plus the other five basic lands (Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest). Can I cast Tribal Flames to deal six damage for the low, low price of two mana?
(Tom) No, because Wastes do not have a basic land type. Wastes are not the master of your domain.

Can I find a devoid creature like World Breaker with Green Sun’s Zenith?

(Tom) No — even though the creature card has {G} in its mana cost, devoid takes precedence. The card lacks color, so it’s not green.

“Devoid” says that a card doesn’t have a color. Does that mean I can use Corrupted Crossroads’s second ability to cast my Etched Champion?

(Tom) No. Devoid cards are always colorless; colorless cards aren’t always devoid.

I really don’t want to let my opponent’s Kozilek’s Return resolve! Can I Flashfreeze it?

(Tom) Sadly, no. Kozilek’s Return is devoid, meaning it’s not red. This is not the counterspell you’re looking for…

Other Oath of the Gatewatch Questions

Can I have multiple Oaths on the battlefield at one time? I really like Planeswalkers!

(Tom) Yes! You can have as many Oaths of different names on the battlefield as you want. You can even cast a second copy of the same Oath to get another instance of the card’s enters-the-battlefield effect. Oaths are sacred, though — don’t take an oath you can’t live up to!

If I control Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and activate its last ability, but my opponent does something to reduce my life total in response, what happens?

(Tom) Exile away! Ayli only cares about your life total when you’re in the process of activating her ability. Once the ability is on the stack, Ayli no longer cares about your life total. (No need to thank her for her generosity. That’s just the way she is.)

Can I activate Chandra, Flamecaller’s [0] ability even if I don’t have any cards in hand?

(Tom) Yes! It may not be the best Wheel of Fortune ever, but you would be able to draw one card.

If I cast Goblin Dark-Dwellers and it resolves, can I cast Chord of Calling using Goblin Dark Dweller’s triggered ability?

(Tom) You can cast Chord of Calling, but it probably won’t do what you want it to. Should you choose to cast Chord in this manner, X must be 0. Dryad Arbor sends its regards!

Hidden Card Error

I heard there’s a new penalty called Hidden Card Error. As a player, what do I need to know? I don’t want to get a Game Loss!

(Tom & Bearz) Great question! Hidden Card Error has cleaned up a few earlier policies and replaced them with a single, far more elegant infraction and fix.

Hidden Card Error handles any situation where a player screws up and the error can’t be corrected using publicly known information. This includes situations where a player draws two cards when they were supposed to draw one, drawing too many cards for your opening hand, scrying 2 when you were supposed to scry 1, and more.

Overall, you shouldn’t have to worry about this too much. In the past, some of these situations were fixed with a Game Loss; now, almost all of them are given Warnings instead. In addition to the Warning, you’re required to reveal all cards from the hidden zone that now contains the cards/information that should have been revealed. Your opponent then selects a number of excess cards or unverifiable cards, and those cards are returned to the proper zone. (If that proper zone is the library, the selected cards are shuffled back in.)

Concrete examples:

? You draw eight cards for your initial hand. You reveal your hand, your opponent shuffles one card back into your library, and then you continue with your mulligan decision.

? You pick up eight cards from your library when casting Dig Through Time (but haven’t added any to your hand yet). You reveal those eight cards (not your hand), and your opponent selects one to be shuffled back into the library. You then select two cards from the remaining seven and add them to your hand. Your opponent doesn’t get to know which specific two you picked.

? You +1 Domri Rade and put the top card of your library into your hand without revealing it. This is an “unverifiable” card, so you reveal your hand, your opponent selects one, and you shuffle that one back into the library. You don’t get to repeat Domri’s ability.

The only way that this new infraction is upgraded to a Game Loss is if it’s discovered that a face-down card cast using a morph ability doesn’t have a morph ability. So if you don’t want a game loss, don’t cast a morph that isn’t a morph — it’s really that easy.

But Tom, I don’t want my opponent to see all of these cards – what can I do?

(Tom) If revealing the cards to your opponent isn’t something you want to do, you can concede the game to avoid revealing that information. (If it happens while drawing opening hands, you can snap-mulligan instead.)

I have feedback on this policy!

(Bearz) Great! On the one hand (heh), Hidden Card Error is mostly an extension of the recent changes to Drawing Extra Cards; on the other, it also represents some new and exciting ground. The judge program is always open to feedback, and we’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to answer your questions, and forward any suggestions to the appropriate people.

Questions for Tom

You’re well-known in the judge community for your love of French cards. How did that come about?

In short, I wanted to be unique. I have a modest knowledge of the French language from high school, and when I didn’t get a chance to take any foreign language courses in college, I wanted a way to keep up with French while melding it with my hobbies. Magic fit the bill perfectly.

Not many Magic players are particularly attached to French cards, which allowed me the “uniqueness” aspect of my collection. I know a lot of players who love having Russian, Japanese, and Korean cards, but not many – if any – who prefer le Français. You’ll often see me going through binders, not for chase rares and mythics, but for anything French I can find.

Also, having the knowledge of Magic terminology in the French language will likely serve me well when the day comes for me to judge a Grand Prix in Quebec, Belgium, or France!

I had recently completed transitioning my Modern deck (Grixis Twin) to all French cards when factors outside of my control occurred…

What was your reaction to the Twin banning? What’s next?

It was awful. Many of my friends actually reached out to me to extend condolences, knowing how much time I’d put into ‘Frenching’ out Grixis Twin. I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Twin players suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

I’m still not in favor of the bannings, but I’ve accepted why the decision was made.

It felt good to play Modern at my LGS the night before the bannings went into effect and go undefeated – it was a fond adieu to Jumeau par scissions, Exarque forbe, and Harceleuse. Au revoir, mes amis.

Now that Twin and friends have been forced to wave the white flag in Modern, I chose to keep the Grixis colors in my 75 and am now playing Faeries. I also have a Kiki Chord deck sleeved up if I want to take a trip to Value Town. Where will I choose to go from there? Only time will tell.

What’s your favorite format?

Modern, and it’s not close (even with the Twin banning…RIP).

Favorite Oath of the Gatewatch card?

It depends on the format. In Standard, I would have to say Goblin Dark Dwellers gets the nod. I’m a man who loves value, and Goblin Dark Dwellers delivers: re-casting Kozilek’s Return, Kolaghan’s Command or Crackling Doom for free just feels so, so good.

In Modern, Kozilek’s Return by far. Having a way to destroy Etched Champion is fantastic – that card has been a thorn in my side ever since I started playing the format.

Honorable Mention: Wandering Fumarole – in French, the card translates to Fumerolle vagabonde, and that’s just awesome.

Favorite judging moment?

There’s something very special about Head Judging your first large event. Stepping on stage in SCG’s red Head Judge shirt in Baltimore in 2014 to judge the first-ever SCG Premier IQ was amazing. My staff made sure my day went as smoothly as possible, even though we had a new challenge with the updated Sunday structure of two concurrent tournaments debuting there. Plus, Bearz was a head judge alongside me – what’s not to love? The mix of nerves, excitement, and accomplishment is something I’ll never forget.

Favorite moment playing in an event?

Just two weeks before my favorite judging moment came my favorite playing moment. At #SCGWOR in 2014, I was 2-0-1 in the Legacy Open, and my Round 4 pairing pitted me against the great Reid Duke. Reid was on Miracles, and I was on Jeskai Delver (a deck that he had just defeated on camera the round prior). We played a very grindy three-game set, but in the end, Reid couldn’t find a way to get rid of my True-Name Nemesis with a Sword of Fire and Ice until far too late in the match, and I was able to move to 3-0-1 with the victory. I would later get knocked out of Top 8 contention by two consecutive Lands matchups, but the sheer joy of knowing that I had what it took to keep pace with top-level Magic players was both humbling and exciting.

Wrapping Up

Thanks, Tom! It was awesome to have you.

As always, feel free to send me your questions, your hopes, your dreams at [email protected]. And to everyone battling in #SCGRegionals, best of luck! If you’re in Syracuse, come say hi! I’d love to meet you!

The StarCityGames.com Regional Championships, February 6!