The Justice League – Goodbye Extended, Hello Standard

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Friday, May 21st – If you’re like me, you’ve been drafting Rise of Eldrazi like there’s no tomorrow, or at least picking over the set for cards to give your Standard deck more umph! I’ve head judged a couple of Standard tournaments already and have seen some situations that are very likely to become staple judge calls for the summer.

Hello everyone! Like a lot of you, I’m just finishing up another semester of college life and getting ready for a summer of Magic, albeit my semester was spent writing exams, rather than taking them. I teach organic chemistry at a college in southern Illinois and apparently strike fear into the hearts of freshmen students everywhere in Carbondale (or so I’m led to believe from an alarming number of Facebook updates by students). We’ve had a long qualifying season of the Extended format, but we can now look forward to a long summer of Standard with the qualifying season for PT: Amsterdam well underway. Heck, this very weekend brings us GP: Washington DC just around the corner, and I think it’s going to be big. So I thought this might be a good time to remind people of some good intel before you grab your deck and head for a tournament big or small.

Rules Knowledge

If you’re like me, you’ve been drafting Rise of Eldrazi like there’s no tomorrow, or at least picking over the set for cards to give your Standard deck more umph! I’ve head judged a couple of Standard tournaments already and have seen some situations that are very likely to become staple judge calls for the summer.

Trample versus Deathtouch. Most players know by now that the rules are different for creatures with Deathtouch. Any creatures with damage from a creature with Deathtouch will be destroyed the next time state based actions are checked (C.R. 702.2c). In combat a creature with Deathtouch can ignore the normal rules for damage assignment order (C.R. 509.2.). Since M10 last year an attacking creature blocked by multiple blockers must have the order of blockers chosen by the active player. You assign lethal damage to each blocker in the sequence chosen. So normally you can’t deal damage to a blocking creature unless all creatures ahead of it in the blocking order have already been assigned lethal damage. Creatures with Deathtouch can ignore this rule and assign damage to blockers even if creatures ahead of it in the sequence have not been assigned lethal damage.

For example, if you attack with a 3/3 creature with Deathtouch and its blocked by three identical creatures with 2/2 power and toughness, the attacking creature can use Deathtouch to assign just one point of damage to each blocker instead of dealing two points of damage to the first and then one point to the second (which is the normal rule for creatures without Deathtouch). Okay, so far, so good.

However, some players have been trying to apply this logic to creatures with Trample that have also acquired Deathtouch by some fashion e.g. a Deathtouch creature enchanted with Eldrazi Conscription, or a Trample creature equipped with Basilisk Collar. The rules for Trample require each blocking creature to be assigned lethal damage before trample damage can be dealt to the defending player or the planeswalker being attacked (C.R. 702.17b). Deathtouch does not change the definition of lethal damage as damage equal to, or greater than, a creature’s toughness.

For example, if you attack with a creature with Deathtouch and Trample and it’s blocked by three identical creatures with 2/2 power and toughness, the attacker would have to be capable of dealing 7 damage in order to get a single point to trample over to the defending player (assuming there is no damage already marked on the creature and it’s not taking damage at the same time from another source).

Realms Uncharted. Since you’re searching for cards with a specific quality, in this case the land type, you can fail to find and choose any number of cards between 0 and 4 (C.R. 701.14b). If you only choose two cards, then both of them will go into the graveyard. This works just like Gifts Ungiven used to in Champions of Kamigawa (many used Gifts in reanimator decks to throw two creatures directly into the graveyard).

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Emrakul can still be targeted with a counterspell, but it just won’t have the desired effect. If the counterspell would do other things on resolution then they will still happen.

A spell is an object on the stack and does not include permanents on the battlefield. Incidentally, the most repeated question I’ve seen about this particular point so far is involves Oblivion Ring. O-Ring resolves, and it’s the triggered ability on entering the battlefield that exiles a target non-land permanent. Therefore, Emrakul can be targeted by the triggered ability of Oblivion Ring.
An aura spell on the stack does indeed target and therefore can’t target Emrakul. However, once on the battlefield, it can be moved onto Emrakul by abilities like the second one on Simic Guildmage.

Gideon Jura. Using the first ability makes all creatures that could attack next turn do so. The set of creatures to attack is not worked out until the declaration of attackers next turn. Therefore, it could mean creatures that were not on the battlefield when the first ability of Gideon resolved will have to attack. However, if the creature has summoning sickness or is tapped, it doesn’t attack. Also, creatures with an additional cost involved to attack, like say from a Ghostly Prison on the battlefield, mean that the creature doesn’t have to attack (although you can still pay the cost and attack if you want).

If the second ability is used it will be countered on resolution if the creature is no longer tapped. A creature enchanted with a totem aura will destroy the aura on resolution instead.

If the third ability is used, you can declare Gideon as an attacker as long as it fits for the normal rules for a creature in combat. It can’t attack if it has summoning sickness. It can be declared as an attacker against an opponent’s planeswalker, just like any other attacking creature.

Effects that cause unpreventable damage (Banefire, Unstable Footing) will overrule the damage prevention portion of Gideon Jura’s third effect. If Gideon would be dealt X damage while he is a creature, and that damage cannot be prevented, then Gideon will take X damage and lose X counters.


Anyway, let’s move on because rules questions are easy. Heck, even cards like Humility are a cake walk with the revisions made to the layers in the last couple of years (ppssst… Besides, Life and Limb is the new Humility). The more interesting questions tend to involve a breakdown in communications. These are often the hardest to answer, as you rely on the testimony of players to a situation you didn’t actually witness. Even with the best and honest intentions of a player to tell the judge accurately and completely what happened things can get confusing. The problem lies in part because sometimes players skip certain steps, phases, and priority points in the turn without actually announcing them. This might be because they don’t have anything to do at that point in the turn, they’re trying to play quicker to compensate for the fast approaching end of round, or specifically want to do something later in the turn and become impatient to implement it, e.g. jump into their attack phase for a lethal swing or activate something at the end of their opponent’s turn. So the players become impatient and start to take short cuts. That’s okay, right? Well, yes, as long as your opponent understands and knows at what point the game state ends up at when the short cut is complete — simple, right? Mawhahahahaha!

Let me tell you a story. I used to play in a shop where the players prided themselves on casting creature spells in the post combat main phase only. They didn’t want to tip their hand or use up mana resources before going into the combat phase. So when they talked about “going into their main phase,” for some it implied declaring “no attacks” and skipping to that post combat phase. A lot of the local players understood what this meant, but I’m sure you won’t be shocked when I tell you that this far from being universally understood. So the MTG tournament rules (TR 4.2) has set in place some accepted interpretations of common player statements in terms of where the game state will be when the short cut is finished. I don’t want to bore you with them all, but here are some examples which have been at the heart of rulings I’ve made —

A player is assumed to have assigned all combat damage possible to the defending player or planeswalker from an attacking creature with trample unless stated otherwise. This came up because of a ‘leveled up’ Hedron-Field Purists. I used the short cuts policy to rule that the attacking player had only assigned 4 damage to the Makindi Griffin that blocked an attacking Khalni Hydra.

A player is assumed to be attacking another player and not any planeswalkers that player may control unless the attacking player specifies otherwise. You have to declare your intent to attack a planeswalker when you originally announce your set of attacking creatures (C.R. 508.1b). Therefore, if spells are cast after attackers are declared, or after blockers, you’ll have a lot to explain if you think I’m going to presume you were attacking a Planeswalker.

A statement such as “I’m ready for combat” or “Declare attackers?” offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the beginning of combat step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise. This came up in the semi-final of the PTQ on Sunday at GP: Houston. The active player had two Mutavaults on the battlefield and declared he was “going to attacks,” paused for a bit and then tried to activate his two Mutavaults and attack with them. I decided it wasn’t out of order sequencing and ruled he had indeed missed his chance to declare the Mutavaults as attackers.

If a player casts a spell or activates an ability and announces choices for it that are not normally made until resolution, the player must adhere to those choices unless an opponent responds to that spell or ability. If an opponent inquires about choices made during resolution, that player is assumed to be passing priority and allowing that spell or ability to resolve. Think of something like Persecute. The color isn’t normally chosen until resolution of the spell. I’ve had calls where I’ve ruled that the spell was resolving because the targeted player asked for the color, and because the player casting the spell announced the color.

The full list of accepted shortcuts can be read in the communications policy of the tournament rules, here.

These short cuts have been put in place to provide clarity to player communication and allow players to interpret the meaning of common statements. Basically we want the game to flow as quickly as possible, but without sacrificing player understanding of the game state. I feel that this policy is one of the most important additions to the Magic tournament rules in many a year, and I strongly advise every player to be familiar with them. Some additional rules also apply when using short cuts. Players are not allowed to deviate from a short cut without explaining where the short cut will take the game state to. If a player is confused by the use of a short cut, the game should be wound back to the point at which the game state was clear to all players. Players can modify the use of a short cut, but must announce and explain the modification.

Lastly, I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about becoming a judge and how they can take their first steps. One question I’m often asked is why I judge so much? In the past, I’ve talked about how many of my best friendships have been forged through judging. It’s also opened up opportunities to me to go places and see things I’d never dreamed I’d do (drinking my morning tea as I watch the sunrise in Hawaii springs to mind). However, I now realize how cool it is to be a judge. There’s an MTGO Sealed tournament in June for judges, with sponsorship to a Pro Tour up for grabs, which I’m certainly looking forward to, but the thing that really makes me tingle at the moment is currently hanging on the wall in my house. After PT: San Diego, the DCI sent a selected group of judges their own foil uncut sheets of either Zendikar or Worldwake as an acknowledgement of their hard work over the past few years. As word spread from a small but excited group of judges around the internet, I suddenly remembered an unopened tubular package that my wife Michelle had mentioned had arrived while I was away at a PTQ the previous week. Feeling it was finally time to investigate, I was absolutely astounded to find a foil uncut sheet of Zendikar in my hands! This just goes beyond cool and leaves me feeling very humbled. Should my house burn to the ground, I’ll be making sure to grab my uncut Zendikar sheet (along with the cats, my complete collection of vinyl Yes albums, and my wife Michelle).

MVJ – most valuable judge of the month? Without a doubt, this goes to Riki Hayashi. You see, Riki received a foil uncut sheet of Worldwake, and I’m sure it meant as much to him as my Zendikar sheet meant to me. However, Riki didn’t hesitate to donate his uncut sheet to his local shop as a prize for a tournament they were running. The man is a saint and a great ambassador for Magic. Until next time, may your top deck be a lucky one.