The Justice League – A Roving Report From U.S. Nationals, Grand Prix: Boston, and GenCon

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Friday, August 28th – U.S. Nationals marked a year since my first attempt at Chicago to rise to Level 3 in the judge program. And in the last couple of months I’ve been asked by a lot of people whether I was going to try again anytime soon. To be honest I’m been seeking an all too elusive ‘quiet couple of months’ in which I could polish up on a few things before then setting my sights on a date.

Hello everyone! It has been quite a long summer of Magic for me already: 11 tournaments in 12 weeks to be exact. However, my Magic calendar is going to be mostly empty for the next month until I get going again with the release of Zendikar (this is only week 1 of my month of rest from Magic, and my wife has already found a disturbingly high number of cleaning jobs for me to do around the house).

When my last article appeared I was already in Kansas City for this year’s U.S. Nationals. I drove up from southern Illinois the night before and had made good progress, until I-70 mysteriously split in two different directions when I came into the city center. I pretty much instinctively turned the wrong way and spent the better part of the midnight hour circling around, trying to get back onto the right road. I couldn’t really describe accurately how I managed to untangle myself from this mess, other than to say I just kept driving round and around until I built up to escape velocity and came flying off at a tangent. Despite arriving after midnight, I was still able to catch my roommates (Eric Levine and Damion Guy) up playing EDH to the wee hours of the morning. U.S. Nationals had a record attendance of 229 players this year of which only 14 were converts from YuGiOh. As usual, things were a bit of a blur with slightly less sleep than I’d like each night, but the event was a blast as always. With three of us sharing two beds, we were forced to take it in turns to get a bed to ourselves over the three nights. It did, however, give me the idea of starting a new tradition with some new beast tokens I’d picked up a week earlier, and presented a signed token to both Eric and Damion to mark their ‘night with the beast.’

While I remember, my last article left you with a question that I didn’t get the chance to reply to on the forums —

Jared has three Boartusk Liege on the battlefield. His opponent Nicholas has a Goblin King equipped with Magebane Armor. Jared targets the first one of his Boartusk’s with Soul’s Might and it resolves. Nicholas brings Sower of Temptation onto the battlefield and takes control of the Boartusk that Jared targeted with Soul’s Might. Nicholas then uses Snakeform to target Jared’s second Boartusk (Jared is unimpressed by this). Finally, Jared targets the Boartusk that Nicholas stole with Glamerdye and changes Red to Blue. So how does each of the creatures finish?

Okay, so let’s walk through this.

Boartusk Liege No 1. Each of the other two Boartusk Liege creatures is giving it +2/+2 and the Goblin King gives it +1/+1 and Mountainwalk. The creature therefore starts as an 8/9 power/toughness. When the Soul’s Might resolves the first Boartusk gets eight +1/+1 counters to make a 16/17 creature. When Sower of Temptation changes control of the Boartusk it loses the +4/+4 from the other two Boartusk Liege to become a 12/13. The Snakeform (targeting the 2nd Boartusk) has no effect on the first since it has a different controller. The Boartusk’s bonus doesn’t apply to itself and is therefore unconcerned by Glamerdye. It finishes as a 12/13 Red-Green Goblin Knight with Trample and Mountainwalk.

Boartusk Liege No 2. Starting as an 8/9, the control switch from Sower of Temptation robs it of +2/+2 and makes it a 6/7 (still receiving +2/+2 from the last Boartusk and +1/+1 from the Goblin King). When Snakeform resolves it has its creature type changed to Snake in Layer 4 (and therefore won’t get +1/+1 and Mountainwalk from the Goblin King). It becomes Green in layer 5. It becomes a 1/1 in layer 7b, and then in 7c only gets +1/+1 from the third Boartusk since it is merely Green. The creature finishes as a 2/2 green snake with no abilities.

Boartusk Liege No 3. The first Boartusk has switched sides and the second has lost its abilities. Therefore the third Boartusk only gets +1/+1 from the Goblin King and becomes a 4/5 Goblin Knight with trample and Mountainwalk.

Goblin King. He doesn’t receive a bonus from the stolen Boartusk because of the color change to Blue and just gets +2/+4 from the Magebane Armor to become a 4/6 creature.

Sower of Temptation gets a +1/+1 bonus from the stolen Boartusk that has been targeted by the Glamerdye to make it a 3/3 creature.

U.S. Nationals marked a year since my first attempt at Chicago to rise to Level 3 in the judge program. And in the last couple of months I’ve been asked by a lot of people whether I was going to try again anytime soon. To be honest I’m been seeking an all too elusive ‘quiet couple of months’ in which I could polish up on a few things before then setting my sights on a date. At least things in the next month as I build up to PT: Austin will be quiet, so I’ve decided to take the plunge. Level 3 is still the standard for supreme rules knowledge, but goes beyond that and signifies an evolution of the candidate into a walking, breathing extension of the game philosophy. Level 3 judges lead and actively grow their community by educating and encouraging those around them to put more back into the game. Level 3 is an acceptance of a leadership role in your wider community, as everything you say and do will be given much more weight than ever before! I think most judges would admit that they harbor a secret desire to attain Level 3 eventually, but don’t stop to ask themselves why? Level 3 is not an ego trip or a form of merit badge to boast about. It’s a calling for those who want to see their community develop into something bigger and better.

For my own personal goals, I want to be able to strengthen the judge program in the Midwest. If you play a lot in the Midwest, you might have noticed that there aren’t many Level 3 judges around, but more alarming than this, there really aren’t a great number of Level 2 judges either! I’ve been working on trying to build up the number of Level 1’s (six new one’s this past year) and want to be able to continue to develop at least some of them into Level 2 judges eventually. Ironic as it may be for a college instructor to admit, I’ve not always been the greatest at taking tests. I tend to get too worked up and nervous, plus I can get bogged down on a question, even when I’ve got the right answer quickly, I keep running it round in my head and using up precious time. On the floor of an event I’ve also been too much of a ‘hands on guy’, trying to do way too much myself. As a leader, be it team lead or head judge you have to delegate out and be ready for new problems as they arise. I had this lesson hammered into me at GP: Seattle and although I’ve found it hard, I’ve slowly been suppressing my own instincts to leap into the problem and assign tasks to other people. By the time you read this I should hopefully be on a program of studying at least 3 hours a day, every day and will give everyone a progress report with my next article in September.

I’d barely managed to catch up on sleep from Nationals before it was time to jump in the car again and head for the airport to catch my flight to Boston. When buying tickets online, I’ve never understood why it’s normally so easy to buy tickets for the exit rows. Think about it. For a start, you have far more leg room than any other part of the plane and, more importantly, if there is going to be a line of 200 people trying to get out that way quickly, you better believe I want to make sure that I’m at the head of that line buddy! Once I arrived I had a bit of a scare trying to find a hotel room, but finally got to bed around 11pm. I spent the Friday afternoon and evening working the grinders, and initial news about registration seemed to be a bit disappointing with less than 500 signed up as the night wore on. However, the momentum appears to have picked up while I was working my shift, since news the following morning reached me that we had smashed through the previous attendance record of North America that was set this year in Chicago (1230 players) and come up with an unbelievable 1503 players by the close of registration! Certainly the location was good for a big event, and maybe some underestimated love for M10 can also be attributed to the turnout. It also marked the first North American GP to be split into two halves, with two head judges to match. I think splitting the GP into the two halves also produced some friendly competition between the two sets of judges to wrap up each round the fastest. We finished on time and Frank Wareman, John Carter, and the TO Rob Dougherty all deserve immense credit for making something like this run so smoothly! Let’s look at some rulings I was involved with at U.S. Nationals and GP: Boston.

Harm’s Way seems to be the one card in M10 causing people the most headaches! Remember that you choose the target that the damage is going to be redirected to when the spell goes on the stack. The actual source of damage isn’t chosen until the spell is resolving. The source of damage can be any permanent on the battlefield, even a land that would normally be incapable of dealing damage. It can also be a spell on the stack, like a creature spell that is waiting to resolve (C.R. 608.7a).

If you win the clash from a Pollen Lullaby, an attacking Multavault will still untap because it’s not a creature when the next untap step comes around. On a related theme, but with a different outcome, spells like Sleep lock in the creatures that won’t untap when it resolves, including any animated lands like Mutavault even though it will no longer be a creature during the untap step.

If a player attempts to phase out a creature that has been brought onto the battlefield from the graveyard using an Unearth ability, the phasing is not treated as a zone change and will not cause the creature to be exiled (C.R. 702.23d). If the phased out creature doesn’t phase in before the end of turn it will not be removed from the game since it will effectively be ‘invisible’ to the delayed trigger ability of unearth (C.R. 702.23b) — Okay, so not related to anything played at Nationals or GP Boston, but it was a genuine question a player came up to ask me.

Sticking with Unearth, if an unearthed creature is chosen on the resolution of a Champion ability to be exiled (C.R. 702.69a), then it will return to play when the champion creature eventually leaves play. This is because Unearth only cares about cards leaving the battlefield which are going anywhere except to the exile zone (C.R. 702.81a), but since the Champion ability is moving the creature to the exile zone anyway, it’s unconcerned. The returning creature enters the battlefield as a new permanent and remembers nothing of its previous Unearth existence.

Tendrils of Corruption will be countered if the target is gone when the spell resolves. However, you will still gain X life if the damage is prevented. However, the life gain from a Corrupt is linked to the damage being dealt and therefore preventing damage will prevent life gain from Corrupt.

Player calls me over to say that his opponent played Duress with Red mana. The spell had resolved and a copy of Overrun had been discarded when I arrived. The infraction is a game rule violation (IPG 3.9) and was simple enough to just back up and rewind the spell and return the Overrun to the player’s hand. While it’s unfortunate that the spell had resolved and the opponent’s hand had been revealed, we don’t assess advantage when applying the penalty and fix (IPG 1.3). A little later in the round a nearby table called me over for a Progenitus that had been discarded but the player had forgotten to shuffle it into his library. By the time I was called over they had taken at least an extra 5 or 6 turns. While it is tempting to just shuffle the Progenitus into the library, a rewind fix has to be all or nothing. I decided that too much had happened and therefore left the Progenitus in the graveyard and had them continue. I gave a warning for the player with Progenitus, but also a warning for the opponent for failure to maintain the game state.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of team leading on the main event, and worked hard to crack the whip and delegate more. I also got to call the first draft of the day, and enjoyed it once I got over some initial nerves. It went better than my previous effort at GP: Kansas City, where I started calling the first Sunday draft by welcoming everyone to Day 2 of GP: Denver… yikes!

Once the GP reached its climax on Sunday, I was pretty much spent. I retired to the hotel room with some pizza and a copy of the Watchmen DVD to play on my computer, and that was that. I got back home around midday the next day, fed the cats, and checked that the wife was still alive before starting preparations for GenCon.

I think GenCon is still my favorite time of the year, maybe in part because I make sure I only work a maximum of three of the four days so that I can have some fun myself. I played a 2HG with fellow judge Tiffany Young in the early afternoon (although the outrageous time it took the GenCon staff to distribute event tickets nearly KO’d that plan), and then managed to fit in three drafts in the evening. A simple strategy of drafting Blue and ‘something else’ brought two quick victories in two pods before I felt I had drafted my strongest pool of the day in the third draft: 2 Sleep, 1 Overrun, and 2 Mind Control seemed pretty good. However, they’re only good if you actually draw them! I got squashed by my friend Greg Leonard in round 2 after he managed to get out a Dread Warlock equipped with two Unholy Strength, and things deteriorated very quickly for me.

I had an afternoon start for my shift on Friday, so I managed to take a look around the dealer hall and pick up a few signed prints from some of the artists, including a copy of the new art for Akroma, Angel of Wrath and the From the Vault: Exiled new art for Balance (probably a bad idea as I’m running out of space to hang things up). Back in the trading card hall I was in charge of the PTQ for the day and we managed to get a very respectable 170 players. Most of the day went smoothly, although some of the deck checks ran long due to some of the judges being inexperienced at this level (a good check should have everything back to the players with 43 minutes remaining on the clock). We finished 8 rounds of swiss in about 9 hours and 15 minutes. Not bad considering some early problems caused by lack of space and having the event briefly split into two separate sections of the room. Some interesting rulings for the day included —

The activated ability of Horde of Notions allows you to play a creature spell during the resolution of the ability. The spell being played can ignore the timing rules normally associated with playing creature spells (empty stack and during your main phase). Oh yeah, and thanks to AJ Sacher on this one, as I was wobbling a bit from lack of sleep at this point! However, ten minutes off my feet and three Mountain Dews later, I was ready to go again.

Nettle Sentinel’s second ability triggers when you complete the steps for casting a spell (C.R. in 601.2a —601.2g). However, at this point you have already passed the step for paying additional costs like Conspire (C.R. 601.2e). So you can’t untap a Nettle Sentinel and use it to pay for a Conspire cost. Any Conspire costs that are legally paid will trigger and will be a legal target for spells like Stifle.

When targeted by Thought Hemorrhage you do not have to find and exile any copies of the named spell in the player’s library since this is a hidden zone. The player is not obliged to tell you how many copies of the card are in his deck either. Note that until recently, the player’s hand being revealed meant that when you looked for the named card in their hand, you couldn’t fail to find. However, the rules now state (C.R. 400.2) that even when a hand is revealed, it’s still a hidden zone, so you don’t have to find the cards in the player’s hand (I can’t think of a reason why you would let him/her keep it).

If a Champion creature like Mistbind Clique is destroyed while its champion ability is still on the stack, on resolution you can still choose to exile another faerie creature. However, it won’t trigger the ability to tap all lands since the Mistbind Clique has already left the battlefield when you Champion said faerie.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning we got to the final and had an interesting situation in game 3. Zohar Bhagat attacked with a number of creatures and passed priority. He activated the second ability of a Windbrisk Heights to play an Overrun hidden underneath. Matt Tremblay started putting up blockers, changed his mind in one instance, and then after a pause brought a Mutavault into the equation and tried to activate and block with it as well. While out of order sequencing (MTR 4.3) in the Magic Tournament rules allows for “a block of actions that, while technically in an incorrect order, arrive at a legal and clearly understood game state once they are complete,” this is meant for a single and continuous set of actions. Out of order sequencing goes on to clarify that, “any substantial pause is an indication that all actions have been taken, the sequence is complete and the game has moved to the appropriate point at the end of the sequence.” I therefore ruled that he had clearly moved into the blockers step and had missed his opportunity to block with the Mutavault. The game ended fairly quickly after that, and congratulations to the Zohar Bhagat (Don’t mess with the Zohar).

We had quite a lot of 2HG going on at GenCon, so I thought I’d try and hammer out some myths that still seem to catch people out —

Initial life total is 30 points each team.
Each player in the team going firsts decides on taking mulligans, then the players on the second team decide, and all mulligans are done together (C.R. 103.4c).
Both players in the team going first skips their draw step (C.R. 103.6b).
All talk is allowed between players.
The primary player sits on the right, but you can switch seats from one match to the next.
The end of round procedure is 3 additional turns only.
Exalted Extra! Since you share an attack phase, Exalted will only trigger if a single creature attacks for both of you combined. Furthermore, it only triggers for exalted cards you own if the lone creature attacking is one that you control. Therefore, a sole attacker controlled by your other head will not cause your exalted creatures to trigger!

That’s about it for this month. Finally I’d like to thank Toby Elliott and Sheldon Menery for their advice during the past month, and to Eli Shiffrin for his usual expert scrutiny of this article. Any Magic players in the southern Illinois area are recommended to check out the Magic events at the Little Egypt Wars in Carbondale on September 5th at the Carbondale Civic Center! Doors open at 8am, and the Standard tournament start at 9am. Come down and play local legends like Ron “Power 9” Zaragossa. This is James saying, “May your top deck be lucky.”