FINAL JUDGEMENT: Not For The Faint Of Heart

Unfortunately, last week’s ruling on the Sap Burst trick made Sheldon kind of a Sap… but those are the dangers you face when you take upon the power of Judging.

There come times in our lives when no matter how high we’ve ridden, we get to see the low side. Judging or refereeing any sport is, as the title says, not for the faint of heart. Writing a Magic column about Judging is even less so and even less forgiving. My mistakes are not tucked in the corner of some 8k tournament in East Peoria; they’re laid out bare for all to see. I know how Don Denkinger* feels. At least I have new material for a column.

It all spun off of nothing more than a sidenote in last week’s column about Saproling Burst. I chatted online with a few other Judges and felt confident that even though the ruling didn’t feel right, it was. Boy was I wrong, and I have the ego bruises to prove it. Regardless of who I talked to, I was the one who chose to print it, so I take full responsibility. Mea culpa.

To set the record straight, the Saproling Burst trick doesn’t work. When I reported it, I was drawing heavily on the Tangle Wire ruling (the aforementioned A.4.6), but I neglected the fact that the Burst (a permanent) creates a continuous effect on the tokens it produces. Ergo, by D’Angelo’s T.8.7:

"A continuous effect generated by a static ability of a permanent does not ‘lock in’ any variables. All variables are continuously recalculated."

Continuous effects don’t use Last Known Information. You still get tokens-they’re just 0/0, and die as a State-Based Effect. Thanks to Paul Barclay, the new Magic Rules Manager, for finally completely clarifying things and thanks to all the kind folks who emailed me (mostly for simply saying, "I think you’re wrong" and not "What rock did you crawl out from under, loser?")

While I’m on the subject of clarifying things, a few folks have asked me about changing colors of spells on the stack (my column "True Colors" of 11/30/00). It may seem that I intimated that the color-changing ability of Blind Seer was permanent. This isn’t the case; I merely referenced Blind Seer as a card that could change colors. The rest of the article references "Blind Seer-like abilities," although I do say that "Changing the color of a spell that’s going to become a permanent has… permanent effect." Before you think I’m protesting too much, I’ll state categorically that an effect that edits the characteristics of a spell that becomes a permanent lasts for the duration of the effect.** That means if you use Blind Seer on a Whirling Dervish, it stays the new color until end of turn, then reverts back to green. If you use a -Lace, it’s the new color permanently (meaning until something else changes it). If I led any of you down the wrong path, I apologize.

As I started to say above, Judging and writing about Judging are not for the squeamish. Each of us that works the floor at any level knows going in that we’re human, and the possibility for making mistakes exists. Your confidence must carry you through. Once you lose it, you’re done. A Judge constantly second-guessing himself is no good to anyone. Not only must they have it, but Judges must inspire it in players. They trust us to be at the top of our games ALL THE TIME – whether that’s on the floor at a Grand Prix, writing on Star City, or Head Judging the Pro Tour.*** Fortunately, we have a pretty good support group in each other; at an event, a Judge should never be operating alone.

All we can do is continue to improve. As for me, I’m not shaken, but I’m stirred. I know that I’ve learned more from the mistakes I’ve made (in life as well as Magic) than from the mistakes I haven’t. I endeavour to make the lessons fewer and farther between.

And that’s my Final Judgement.

Sheldon K. Menery

* – For you non-Americans or non-fans of baseball, Don was a baseball umpire who blew an easy call during the 1985 World Series and effectively cost Kansas City a championship.

** – Comprehensive Rules, 415.3

*** – Note to Alongi: all commas present and accounted for.