The Justice League – MMS in Indianapolis

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Wednesday, January 20th – Q: Player calls you over and says he’s in his post combat main phase and has only just remembered his Eldrazi Monument trigger. He has two 1/1 saproling tokens and a Vampire Nighthawk that he just cast this turn. What do you do?

9.00 a.m. on Saturday morning in Indianapolis. The weather may have swept in snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures, but it couldn’t chill the hearts of Magic players. From across the Midwest they came: over 200 players to play in the first Midwest Master Series event. Actually, so did the judges! We had a much bigger staff turnout than normal and even one judge coming all the way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! I travelled to Indianapolis the night before by way of Kentucky to catch up with Brennan Moody and get my first look at his new venture into being a gaming store owner in Louisville. This new arm of his Bluegrass Magic empire should be open in just a few weeks. I stayed with fellow judge Emanuel Palmeri the night before, and had quite a heightened sense of anticipation for the event for a couple of reasons.

First, because it still feels a bit like coming home when I judge in Indianapolis, since I took my first judge questions right here during the Saviors of Kamigawa prerelease about 5 years ago. Second, because I also love working under Scott Lelivelt from Chicago: he was also the Head Judge for that first prerelease I did in Indy, and is still one of the best judges I’ve ever worked with. Scott oozes serenity on the floor and was a big factor in me coming back to judge more in those early days. Third, my wife didn’t want to look at me for 24 hours, and Indianapolis was a welcome escape (I’m always learning new things about being married, and this week’s lesson was — never give your wife a ‘wet willy’ in the ear when she’s trying to get to sleep).

Through 8 rounds of swiss they did battle, and as usual there were a few questions that needed answering —

Q: Player A has a Sprouting Thrinax and his opponent, player B, casts Slave of Bolas targeting the Thrinax. At the end of turn, when player B sacrifices the Thrinax, who gets the saproling tokens?
A: The Thrinax triggered ability triggers specifically on the creature being put into the graveyard from the battlefield. When the Thrinax was last in player it was controlled by the opponent, player B (C.R. 603.3a). Therefore B gets the saproling tokens.

Q: Player calls you over and says he’s in his post combat main phase and has only just remembered his Eldrazi Monument trigger. He has two 1/1 saproling tokens and a Vampire Nighthawk that he just cast this turn. What do you do?
A: The missed trigger has been caught within a turn cycle (from the point of the relevant step or phase to the end of his next example identical step or phase). The trigger requires a choice but it is not an example of a default action (these normally say in part, “If you don’t …” or “… unless”). The forgotten ability is put on the stack and players get priority- the game is not backed up. When it resolves the player can choose to sacrifice either of the saproling tokens, but he can’t choose to sacrifice the Vampire Nighthawk or the Eldrazi Monument itself. The wording of the Monument makes it clear that you sacrifice it only when you can’t sacrifice a creature and the Infraction Procedure Guide (IPG 3.1) makes it clear that you can’t choose an object that wasn’t in the zone when the ability originally triggered.

And so finally we arrived at a Top 8, including Kentucky DCI judge Daniel Neeley. Dan made it to the semi-finals before running out of steam, and suddenly eight became just two: Neil Michalares and David Gleicher.

As often happens in these big money events, the difference between first and second place was a lot of money: $ 1,000 to be precise. This naturally leads to the players in the final turning to their friendly neighborhood judge for some advice on what can and cannot be legally done with such large sums of money. So what could go wrong with two players and a large sum of cash you might ask? — well, quite a lot, actually! Remember that the tournament is one of skill that gives an equal chance to all players in their quest to succeed. Any ability of a player to use something other than skill to win not only affects the integrity of that match, but also the tournament and the wider Magic community as a whole. The Magic: the Gathering tournament rules has a lot to say on collusion and bribery (section 5.2).

Basically, the outcome of a match should not be influenced by the offer of some kind of reward or incentive like cash. We want people to win because their Bituminous Blast cascaded into a Bloodbraid Elf and then into a Lightning Bolt. We don’t want people to win because they had an extra couple of booster packs in their pocket, or a spare foil Baneslayer Angel in their trade folder.

Never agree to any kind of change to the natural conclusion of a match for any kind of incentive — large or small. And it’s not just conceding to an opponent that can get you into trouble; agreeing to a draw for booster packs is just as bad. Remember, you and your opponent are not the only two people at the event. Agreeing to a draw for an incentive can have a dramatic effect on someone else’s tournament chances that day. If you think someone has just suggested something illegal then call a judge immediately. A failure to do so can result in you being in trouble too during a subsequent investigation.

However, in the final elimination portion of the tournament, there are some things that are legal. Assuming that there is only cash or unopened boosters in the Top 8 prize pool, the players can agree to split the prizes evenly (with the Tournament organizers blessing). However, this needs everyone to agree. If such an agreement is reached, the tournament will either stop there or continue only match rating points at stake.

Furthermore, in the final, the two remaining players can agree to any sort of prize split. Keep in mind that they can only talk about a prize split from what’s on offer for that final, and cannot bring any other kind of incentive into the discussion e.g. door prize they received during the first round or booster packs won during an earlier draft at the same event cannot be included for the prize split. If an agreement is reached where each player receives a specific piece of the prizes, then one of the two players must drop prior to the finals so that no ratings points are exchanged. However, if the players agree to modify the prize structure for the winner and loser of the match, they may proceed with playing out the finals. Essentially if it’s “you get this, and I get that,” then someone has to drop. If it’s “winner gets X and loser gets Y,” then fight on! An even split leaves both options open, as you can treat it either way: “I get half and you get half” or “winner gets half and loser gets half.”

On this particular day, the players agreed to an even prize split and decided to play out the final for honor and ranking points. At this point I was sitting at the table to help out the two finalists during their epic struggle, but it was important to point out to them both that I was not ‘table judging’ for them. Even in a final, the two players are still responsible for the game state and must do everything in their power to keep it legal. I was of course ready to help and answer any questions, but the players police themselves also. I usually like to have a pen and paper ready and take notes during a final anyway, just in case some misunderstanding does occur. Seeing as how the Rashad ‘lovesexy’ Miller and his team were not at the event, I thought readers might like to read a more organized form of my notes from the final that ensued.

Game 1

Neil Michalares wins the roll and goes first, but mulligans down to six cards while David Gleicher keeps. After a few turns, Neil casts a Vampire Nighthawk, but David is ready with a Lightning Bolt for it. Next turn, David casts a Blightning and Neil throws two Eldrazi Monument into the graveyard, which he still doesn’t have the mana for anyway. Neil casts a Sprouting Thrinax and passes the turn. David casts Sign in Blood and unsurprisingly targets himself. On resolution, he casts a Putrid Leech and passes the turn. On the play again, Neil casts a Bloodbraid Elf and cascades into a Terminate, which brings a quick end to the Putrid Leech. Neil swings with the Thrinax and the Elf. Next David gets a Vampire Nighthawk of his own, and is ready with a Lightning Bolt for Neil’s Thrinax when he attacks next turn.

At this stage it’s 16-10 in Neil’s favor, and he has a Bloodbraid Elf and three saproling tokens facing off against David’s Nighthawk.

Next, Neil casts a Blightning of his own at David, who casts Maelstrom Pulse to mop up the three saproling tokens. Neil casts another Sprouting Thrinax, and on the next turn David casts a Bloodbraid Elf which cascades into a Blightning. On Neil’s next attack the Bloodbraid Elf’s kill each other in combat, to leave the scores at 9-5 in Neil’s favor. A Lightning Bolt from Neil to David’s head and an attack with his Thrinax finishes the first game.

Game 2

David is on the play, but his deck seems to hate him and he’s forced to mulligan down to 5 cards. There’s no early plays from either player, but it’s notable that David misses his land drop on turn 3. On turn 4 Neil gets a Goblin Ruinblaster with kicker paid, and destroys a Kazandu Refuge. David doesn’t have to wait too long before he can cast a Sprouting Thrinax. On his turn, Neil hits back with a Master of the Wild Hunt, but David is ready with a Lightning Bolt. David’s Thrinax attacks next turn and then gets some support with a Vampire Nighthawk before he passes the turn. The score is now 21-16 in David’s favor.

Neil successfully casts his second Goblin Ruinblaster with kicker and destroys a Dragonskull Summit. On his next turn David plays a Verdant Catacombs and immediately activates it to search for a basic land. He now has a swamp, mountain and forest which should help him stabilize against any extra Ruinblasters of Neil’s. David attacks with the Nighthawk and Thrinax and Neil double blocks the Thrinax with his two Ruinblasters. Next David throws a Blightning at Neil and he discards Siege Gang Commander and Great Sable Stag. Neil casts a Bloodbraid Elf and cascades into Terminate, and has no trouble in choosing David’s Vampire Nighthawk for the target. David casts his own Bloodbraid Elf and gets a Duress from the cascade, which forces a Maelstrom Pulse from Neil’s hand. The Bloodbraid Elf doesn’t last long and is killed by Neil, courtesy of a Lightning Bolt. The scores are now 22-10 in David’s favor.

On the play once more, David casts a Putrid Leech and Goblin Ruinblaster in short order and attacks next turn with these and his saproling tokens. The Leech dies to Neil’s Bloodbraid Elf on the attack to leave the score 22-5 in David’s favor. Just when it looks like we’ll be heading for game 3 in the near future, Neil manages to find another Master of the Wild Hunt, and puts a counter on it from Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. Undaunted, David swings with the Goblin Ruinblaster and his three Thrinax tokens, but Neil kills the Ruinblaster with a Lightning Bolt and blocks one of the tokens with the Master of the Hunt. The scores now stand at 21-3 in David’s favor still.

However, Neil gets a wolf token in his upkeep, and then casts a Putrid Leech before using Oran-Rief, the Vastwood again to put +1/+1 counters on both. He then uses the Master of the Wild Hunt ability to kill a second token. David gets nothing useful on his next turn, and when it goes back to Neil he has a Terminate ready for the third saproling, token and swings with the Leech, Master of the Hunt and wolf token to claw the score back to 3-10 against him. On the next turn, David again draws nothing he can use and concedes immediately!

Congratulations to Neil. We’ll be seeing him and his shiny 4 day pass at Gencon!

That’s about it for this month. Don’t forget that it’s the Bluegrass Magic PTQ for San Juan in Lexington, KY this weekend. This event is going to be so good, a lot of the Star City Games crew will be there having fun. If you can beat a member of the Star City Games team during the day, you’ll even win an extra booster pack from them!

Most Valuable Judge (MVJ) of the month has to be John Alderfer, ‘our man in Pittsburgh.’ He’s an excellent judge and leader (even with the scary beard).