The Justice League – A Tale of Haggling, Triggers, and Crime Fighting

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Thursday, March 12th – A couple of rounds into the day, it was brought to my attention by TO Alan Hochman that one or two spectators at the GP had been described as acting suspiciously. The people in question were pointed out to me and I was asked, along with other judges, to be extra vigilant, as more bags had already been reported missing that morning. I spotted one of these individuals watching Ben Wienberg’s match while I was walking around…

It’s been over a month since my first article, and I’ve travelled far and wide over that time. My latest set of adventures started with a trip down to Nashville, TN to judge the prerelease. Of all the formats in Magic, I always find it toughest to judge and sacrifice quality time when I could be playing sealed or booster draft. However, I did make it to a couple of local events around St. Louis and Carbondale for the release seven days later. I survived Larry Waymon’s attempt to get me into trouble in front of my wife: apparently I gave the impression in my article last month that I value my cats more than her. I didn’t survive facing my wife in the semi finals of one of the release events, and was quickly beaten down with an Ethersworn Adjudicator in both games!

I’ve also been down to Little Rock, AR for a PTQ (an event that produced enough high jinks for an article of its own… maybe another time) and one of my own events, with my TO hat on, back in my old haunt of Rolla, MO. I moved away from Rolla over 5 years ago, but I still go back and try and run bigger events now and again. This time I was pleasantly surprised to see some Pro Tour blood show up in the form of John Penick and Gerry Thompson. Both players are great sports and helped create a friendly atmosphere down amongst us “mere mortals.” Although the tournament had a modest 32 players for a $400 prize pool, there were some interesting rules questions —

If you play a Mutavault and animate it on the same turn, you can’t tap it for mana anymore since the Mutavault creature has “summoning sickness” (Rule 212.3f.).

Pithing Needle can affect activated abilities on cards in your graveyard (or even your hand); however, retrace is not an activated ability, but rather an additional cost involved to playing the card from your graveyard. Playing a spell, even from the graveyard, moves the physical card to the stack and therefore instants or activated abilities that remove cards from graveyards cannot touch a retrace spell that’s on the stack. When the spell resolves, the retrace card moves back to the graveyard and becomes the top card of your graveyard (Rule 409.1a. and 502.81a).

Also, quite a lot of questions came up concerning a relatively new topic in the penalty guidelines: out of order sequencing (PG 52). This section covers sloppy play for technically legal actions that have been carried out in an illegal order, but ultimately results in a clear and legal game state when the player is finished. The most frequent example of this I’ve seen this month is with Mutavault, i.e. the Mutavault should be activated before the player declares attackers and swings. However, many players, even at professional level events, will declare attackers and then tap mana to activate Mutavault in one combined motion: this is a sequence of events being carried out in the wrong order. For a while, out of order sequencing was not tolerated at the professional level since we try and hold these players to a higher standard, but the sheer number of judge calls at Pro Tour: Berlin caused a change of heart and the last sentence of PG 52 to be removed. Opponents may ask the player to carry out the sequence in the correct order to allow them to respond to some earlier part of the sequence. If they do, any actions still pending can be changed or completely ignored, e.g. If you attack with two Mutavaults (and only tap the mana to activate after declaring attackers) and the opponent rewinds things to Path to Exile one of the newly animated lands before you declare attackers, you are no longer obliged to attack with the sole remaining Mutavault.

If a player announces attacks on a player and he then Ninjitsus in an attacking creature for one that wasn’t blocked, the new attacker has to attack the same target as the previous creature. You can’t switch the Ninjitsu creature to suddenly attack say a Planeswalker. The rules for Ninjitsu have been updated for this.

So, wind forward to last Tuesday and I start my preparation for GP: Chicago. First off, I have to say kudos to Mike Zimmerman, Arick Dickerman, and Kevin Binswanger for making an information sheet for the GP: Chicago crew. Their hard work produced a package that outlined the common decks in Legacy and some common problems players are having with card interactions. Back at my day job teaching chemistry, my students were absolutely crushed when I told them they had Friday off, so I took advantage of the extra time and travelled up to Chicago on Thursday night.

One piece of advice I can give to weary travelers on the long haul to big events is to haggle with your hotel clerk when you arrive at a random location to stop for the night. Whatever price they offer, say $70 with Tax, I’ll always automatically say something like, “Hmm, could you do it for $60 with tax instead?” Let me tell you, in two years of travelling in my car to Magic tournaments, I’ve NEVER been told, “No.” Furthermore, if I make the extra effort and keep driving until midnight, I can often get away with a $20 drop in the price. I have sometimes been told ‘no’ at this point, but I get back in the car and drive across the street and try again. Nobody is expecting a rush of guests after midnight, so most hotels are open to a bigger drop in price at this point. I guarantee you’ll be able to at least ‘haggle down’ the price sufficiently to afford your lunch during the event the next day!

I arrive at the GP venue and things are already taking shape. It’s an exciting time for me as I get my hands on one of the new judge shirts for the first time. For those of you that are unaware, the traditional football styled zebra stripes are on the way out, and a mono-black shirt is going to filter down to judges from the Pro Tour and GP events over the next year. You’ll still see judges in stripes for a long time, but the herd will steadily diminish. Part of the plan was to make a shirt that was easier to wear casually, away from the event. On this level the new shirts are sexy and do work (black is the new black). However, I am concerned about how easily the players will be able to see us when looking for a judge. Anyway, with my judge shirt acquired, I head off to the airport and pick up Charles Reinman. Shortly thereafter I head back for Edwin Zhang, but before I spot Edwin I get a call from Hector Fuentes to tell me that he is at terminal 5 and ready to be rescued. After dropping Hector and Edwin off, I finally get onto the floor and start taking player questions. I’m not on the floor for very long when I get my first complaint from a player that his bag has been stolen.

Unfortunately, his tale is not an entirely isolated case today. There are very few things in life that feel worse than being the victim of theft. As a rule while I walk around an event, I always pick up bags that ‘look’ like their owner has gone AWOL. And let me tell you that I find a great many bags that seem to be lying around without an owner. By the time I look at my watch again, it’s time to pick up some more stranded judges at the airport (this time I come back after snagging Shawn Doherty, Kevin Binswanger, and Ryan Stapleton). I finish my shift at around 11pm and head across town to a restaurant with John Alderfer and a few others for something to eat. I’ve sworn to the wife that I’ll go completely cold turkey and not drink any more Mountain Dew, but this is an emergency and I need some energy stored for tomorrow since the preregistration has gone over 800. As long as she doesn’t read this article or talk to Larry Waymon, I should be safe!

Next day we start the day at 8.30 with a talk from Jason Ness. Jason is a L4 judge from Calgary, and quite simply a fantastic guy to work for. I’ve been assigned to Hector Fuentes team and we have to deal primarily with the pairings and match slips for 1230 players! This is just fantastic! To beat the north American GP record is one thing, but to do it with a Legacy format is quite stunning to me (I’ll puff out my chest a bit and point out that the previous record was another Pastimes event, GP: Indianapolis last year with 1124 players).

A couple of rounds into the day, it was brought to my attention by TO Alan Hochman that one or two spectators at the GP had been described as acting suspiciously. The people in question were pointed out to me and I was asked, along with other judges, to be extra vigilant, as more bags had already been reported missing that morning. I spotted one of these individuals watching Ben Wienberg’s match while I was walking around. While I don’t want to go into details about what happened next, I will say that it was very interesting to witness how subtle and staged the alleged theft of property can be. I can say that after about 10 minutes, I witnessed the alleged thief walking away from Ben’s table with a bag that may or may not have been his. I walked as quickly as I could to try and get a better view of his movements from the side of the hall, but by the time I got there he had changed direction and I almost ran straight into him. I thrust my arm into the air and staring bellowing, “Judge, Judge!” For this I was given the great reward of seeing his smug face dissolve into the first tendrils of panic as he asked what I was doing. I was quickly joined by Adam Shaw and Chris Goff, at which point the adrenalin seemed to kick in for the alleged thief and he tried to burst through Adam Shaw and knock him to the ground.

Now, for those of you who don’t know Adam, let me tell you that nobody goes through Adam Shaw. They might be quick enough to go around Adam, or they might even be ‘vertically challenged’ sufficiently to crawl underneath him, but nobody goes through Adam “Captain Justice” Shaw. I think Chris grabbed his flailing arms, Adam applied reasonable pressure to push him to the ground, and I made a grab for his legs, which were kicking in Adam’s direction. My definitive memory as all four of us hit the ground was me yelling, “You’re going downtown!” – I’ve always wanted to say that. It felt like the planets had come into alignment in the skies over our heads.

Hanson circa 2028

If anyone took photos of the confrontation with the alleged thief, please pass them onto me at [email protected], so that I can pass them on to the police as evidence.

The alleged thief agreed to walk with us to the judge area, where he was detained until hotel security and the police arrived. At this time we were trying to be careful not to infringe his rights, so the bag in his possession was untouched and we felt honor-bound to let him keep his cell phone and talk to some mystery person. It has been alleged that the suspect actually phoned the hotel at some point, claimed to have been in an accident, and asked if the hotel would arrange for his room contents to be shipped back to his home address. If indeed such a call was made, I believe this call was unfortunately made at this time. However, I have also heard it alleged that when hotel staff went to his room, there were more Magic bags and rucksacks found than could be conceivably carried by two or three people staying for a weekend. Remember that this young man has not been found guilty of anything, but his day in court is coming, ladies and gentlemen. Incidentally, this is one instance where the new judge shirts might have been an advantage as we tracked the spectator’s movements

The only other thing I want to say is that the events that occurred could not have happened without the help of some players. We all have to stick together, judges and players, when such unsavory behavior threatens to take hold in the Magic community. Magic is a fantastic game and I believe that 99% of people at our events are honest, but we have to work together to keep things that way. There are other games which have serious problems with theft and violence, so let’s not allow Magic to go down that unfortunate path. Tell staff when you see something suspicious, tell us what you hear, and never trade for or accept cards which you suspect might be stolen. Stallone said it best, “You’re either part of the problem or part of the cure.”

Some other questions during the day included.

Stifle can target the trigger to remove a counter from a suspended creature and also the trigger to play the spell when the last counter is taken off. However, it can’t target the suspending of a card itself, since suspend is a special game action and the opponent doesn’t get priority at this time.

If you use the alternative cost for a Force of Will with a Trinisphere in play, you will have to pay three extra mana to play it (and the one life). Alternative costs, cost increases, cost decreases are all calculated first before Trinisphere applies.

If you play a morph creature face down with Trinisphere in play, the converted mana cost of the morph is zero, but you have paid three mana to achieve this and so you don’t have to pay any more.

If you play a spell with replicate, the mana you spend on replicate is an additional cost which is included when Trinisphere checks for how much you paid. Therefore, a Shattering Spree with replicate paid twice will not cause you to pay any extra mana.

You can’t use Recoup to give Ancestral Vision flashback since it has no mana cost. It’s illegal to pay an undefined cost. You can, however, use Mind’s Desire to play an Ancestral Vision because it specifically tells you to play it without paying its mana cost (it is not illegal to play a spell with an undefined cost).

Playing a second Flagstones of Trokair when Blood Moon is in play does not stop a state based effects check from putting them both into the graveyard because of the legendary rule (changing a sub-type does not affect super-types). However, because the leaves play trigger actually triggers from play, the Blood Moon has wiped the text of these legendary Mountains, and you won’t get to fetch any land from your library.

If someone plays Tarmogoyf with a Counterbalance in play, the revealing of a split card gives two answers. If either half of the split card is equal to a converted mana cost of 2, the Tarmogoyf is countered. You don’t add the two halves together and get 4 (note: this is contrary to how Dark Confidant works, which does take the combined mana cost).

On Day 2 I was team leading as I fought against some nasty bouts of back pain, and only managed to get a seat when I sat down mid way through the quarter final match between Brian Kowal and James Mink. I want to just mention this and clear up a tiny error in the event coverage. Brian had Dark Confidant and Sensei’s Divining Top working in tandem so that he could stack the Confidant trigger during his upkeep and look at the top three cards. On one occasion he missed the trigger and put the first card straight into his hand. This is not a failure to reveal (which is a game loss at professional), but a complete miss of the trigger, since it is a very natural thing to draw a card at the start of his turn. A missed trigger is just a warning, and we put the trigger on the stack if it’s caught within a turn cycle (a turn cycle is from the relevant phase/step to the end of the next identical phase/step during the same player’s next turn). A little later in the game, Brian’s engine was really starting to pump as he put a second Confidant into play and passed the turn. Unfortunately, Brian fell victim to a second missed trigger during a turn a little later, but let me tell you exactly what happened.

He put the two Dark Confidant triggers on the stack during his upkeep, and then used the Top to look at the three cards. He then allowed the first trigger to resolve, revealed a land, and then used the Top again to check out his new options. After Topping again he gave the board a quick scan, and then drew another card. Try and remember that he’s gotten used to revealing one card and then drawing for the turn for several turns. And although he had used the Top a second time moments before, we don’t use previous game actions, even game actions immediately before the infraction, to determine what the infraction is: we just determine the actual event. People forget things in the blink of an eye, and from the look on Brain’s face (since some in the crowd had forgotten themselves and gasped when he drew the card), I was convinced that he had indeed forgotten (life happens). However, the rules for game play errors and the upgrade path is warning, warning, game loss. I consulted with Jason Ness, and we quickly realized that this was Brian’s third missed trigger for the weekend. It’s a shame when matches come to an end like this, but it just goes to prove that we are all human.

So my weekend was almost done at this point. I’m afraid my feet and back were just aching way too much to do anything other than crash in the hotel room, but I’ve already started to think about the weeks ahead. The next big event on my radar is a PTQ in St. Louis on March 21st, but the week after is the really whopping big one! StarCityGames.com are running a $5000 Standard Open event in Indianapolis on March 28th (with a PTQ by Pastimes on the Sunday), and I think this could be a really, REALLY massive event. The Midwest is Magic crazy, and I see no reason why we can’t shatter the Richmond record and get even more people. I’ll be joining the StarCityGames.com crew and working for the rules guru of rules gurus, L3 head judge Gavin Duggan. I think the Midwest players are going to be very impressed with the management skills of Captain Duggan. If you see me, then feel free to ask any questions or raise any topics with me.

Thanks to Owen Turtenwald who prevented me from creating a minor diplomatic incident and get name tags for the Top 8 mixed up. I promised to mention Terry Richardson, and now I have.

This is James signing off, and wishing everyone a lucky top deck.