Hello everyone! I thought I’d walk you through some of the fun and logic behind events that went on at the SCG Legacy Open in Indianapolis almost two weeks ago. I’m sure you’ve read or heard a lot already, but there’s one view I guarantee you haven’t heard: me, the head judge.
However, I can’t resist briefly talking about the Open weekend as a whole. In the lead up I definitely felt that the gauntlet had been thrown down by players at Richmond two weeks earlier. Richmond had bust Indy’s previous SCG Standard attendance record of 432 with an incredible 561 players. I thought maybe we could push the bar a bit further and maybe get close to 600, but I don’t think anyone expected us to push that record by an additional 100 players to a whopping 669. Think about that. That’s more people than the GP: Kuala Lumpur attendance for the same weekend — incredible! One thing that does annoy me are people who look at one single stat like this and cry foul because the prize support was not increased for the event. Running an event of this size involves a lot of financial risk: a lot more than just the money being guaranteed for prize. You need to provide hotel rooms and food for over 20 judges for a start, hire a venue, and transport a lot of equipment/people across the country. While I wouldn’t dare claim that the weekend was anything less than a complete success for SCG, I know that they and other tournament organizers have run big money events in the past that have failed to financially balance the books. When things â€˜go south’ for attendance, do tournament organizers ask for an extra $10 or turn it into a $4K event at the last minute? No, and so I don’t think people should be so quick to begrudge somebody reaping the success of their very hard work. I’ve just come back from a two-event tournament in Little Rock, AR where the TO took a major hit because of poor attendance, but he never stopped smiling and joking with the players.
So with Saturday in the bag, the first major hurdle for Sunday was just making it to the venue on time! If there is one thing worse than a long day judging on Saturday, it’s a long day judging on Sunday as well. We also had to deal with daylight savings and the clocks going forward an hour between the two events. This happened to me last year, so why do I never judge on a weekend when the clocks go back? I drove up with Max Knowlan and Riki Hayashi that morning, passing the time by contemplating what would be the most outrageous and contentious post we could make on Facebook or Twitter during the day. Riki suggested posting, “James always chooses the best wines when on the Pro Tour,” while I thought maybe posting “Riki makes the most awesome cookies in the DCI” would cause a similar scandal (and incur the wrath of Sheldon Menery and Ingrid Jahn respectively, the true wine and cookie connoisseurs of the DCI).
While the players started to arrive I had quite a few examples of altered card artwork to judge as tournament legal or not. Tournament Rules section 3.3 states, “Artistic modifications are acceptable, provided that the modifications do not make the card unrecognizable or contain substantial strategic advice.” So while many of these alterations make for cards that are breathtakingly beautiful or funny, they shouldn’t make it difficult for an opponent to interpret the game state. On these grounds I had to say no to players with artwork on cards that made a Twincast look like a Fork; a Sensei’s Divining Top that looked like a Counterbalance; and 4 copies of Force of Will made to look like the 4 members of the rock band Kiss! I also had to consider a player who wanted to use copies of an old misprint called Wald. For those whom are unaware of this card, it’s a German language basic Forest that has the artwork of a Plains on it, and again didn’t make me comfortable that the game state would be clear to the opponent. Finally, I saw more examples of artwork that had been extended to the very edge of the card than in my entire life! The tournament rules don’t address this issue yet, but that might have to be reconsidered. Each head judge has to use his best judgment. The three main concerns for me were whether the card can still be recognized from its art, how much of the card text is obscured and whether the card still looks like any other card when face down on the table, in the library or being held in your hand. On this last point, a yes for any of these things would have made it a marked card for me. If you are intending to use cards with full art in a tournament then let the head judge decide before the event starts and come prepared with normal copies of the card as well – but don’t keep them with your deck or sideboard as a judge may decide you are guilty of a deck/decklist mismatch (IPG 2.2).
So, with 286 players and another SCG attendance record, we embarked on 9 rounds of swiss and finished in about 9 hours and 35 minutes. Some of the more interesting rules questions of the day included —
Some of the early issues of the day were concerning illegal decklists and deck/decklist mismatches (IPG 2.1 and 2.2). We had a decklist which merely stated “Tendrils,” and in this format could have meant Tendrils of Agony or Tendrils of Corruption. Personally, I don’t believe that we’re meant to evaluate on a strategic level how â€˜obvious’ a card choice is for the format. A player using Black mana is equally capable of using Tendrils of Corruption or Tendrils of Agony and we don’t want them to have the opportunity of switching back and forth. However, I think it is obvious that a player with a Mono White deck and “Ajani” on his decklist would be playing Ajani Goldmane and not Ajani Vengeant.
A player had activated his Sensei’s Divining Top to look at the top three cards. The only slight problem with this (*cough*) was that he no longer had the Top on the battlefield and he actually drew the cards into his hand as well. In the past we would have declared this as drawing extra cards and given a game loss. However it’s only the drawing extra cards infraction if the rules told you to draw a certain number of cards and you draw too many (IPG 3.4). While it’s obviously of significant advantage to draw extra cards in a game, drawing them at a time when you’re not expected to be drawing cards is a lot harder to go unnoticed and therefore normally easier to catch. We now handle situations like this as a game rule violation and the player receives a warning (and of course returns the cards back to the top of his library, using random cards if necessary). Although I’ve talked to more than a few players who believe this is too lenient, I would remind them that it’s easy to forget something like a Sensei’s Divining Top that has been destroyed/bounced from the battlefield after many turns of ingrained use. It can often become as much of a reflex action as untapping and drawing a card for the turn. Remember that warnings are tracked and repeated infractions are upgraded on the day and can peak the DCI’s attention over multiple tournaments. Anyway, after a quick chat with the player I was happy that this was truly accidental.
A player had equipped his Mogg Fanatic with a Basilisk Collar and sacrificed the Mogg to deal 1 damage to an opponent’s 3/3 creature. Even though the damage is dealt long after the Mogg has left the battlefield, the game checks to see whether the creature had deathtouch (from the Basilisk Collar) using last known information when the damage is actually dealt (C.R. 702.2d) and therefore the creature does die.
When a Harrow is cast with a Pyromancer Ascension on the battlefield and two or more counters on it, it causes a copy of the spell to be put directly on the stack (C.R. 706.9). The copy is not being cast however, and therefore the additional cost of sacrificing a land for the copy is not required. The steps to cast a spell are only followed if the rules text of the ability specifically tells you to cast a copy (C.R. 706.11.)
Some players were â€˜cascading into spells’ that made them search their library. Remember that you are casting the spell you reveal while you are still resolving the original cascade ability of the spell on the stack. Therefore once the spell revealed is cast, you complete the resolution of the cascade ability by randomizing the cards on the bottom of your library (C.R. 702.82a). Therefore cards uncovered like a Rampant Growth will allow you to search for any lands that were placed on the bottom of your library by cascade.
Reflecting Pool produces a mana of any type that a land you control could produce if it were correctly activated. This includes producing colorless mana, which is a type (C.R. 106.1b). Note that cards like Exotic Orchard don’t produce colorless mana because it specifically creates a color of mana that your opponents land could produce (C.R. 106.1a). Reflecting Pool doesn’t care whether you can pay the cost to activate the ability and therefore can produce a mana of any color even when a land like Vivid Crag doesn’t have any charge counters on it. However, Reflecting Pool does care about replacement effects from mana abilities like Gemstone Cavern. If the Cavern doesn’t have a luck counter on it then it will only produce colorless mana and therefore the Reflecting Pool will only produce colorless mana. Incidentally, the Pool works in the same way with River of Tears and therefore produces Blue or Black mana based on whether a land was played that turn.
After 9 rounds of swiss we cut to the Top 8 and got each of the players to hand in their decks for checking. This is just a courtesy service for all players making it to the Top 8 to try and make sure that everything is correct and nobody has forgotten to de-sideboard from the previous round. Unfortunately one of the Top 8 player’s decklists revealed a mismatch, with a Snow-Covered Island in the actual deck that was not listed in the decklist. This was potentially significant since the deck was using 2 copies of Gifts Ungiven, which would consider the Snow-Covered Island unique compared to the other Islands in his deck. I also needed to talk to the player for a bit as I wanted to find out why this could have happened. Feeling that the player was honest in his mistake the infraction is still a mismatch and therefore a game loss (we also confirmed that he had not been the subject of a deck check in an earlier round).
One last point I’d like to make concerns the timing of the Top 8 itself. Appendix B of the Tournament Rules recommends that the quarter-finals of the single elimination portion of a tournament is still timed. Players are still required to play in a timely manner and having a timed round help keep that fact on people’s minds. Therefore 60 minutes is not unreasonable after 9 rounds of only 50 minutes. We did have issues with slow play in the match that went to time, however the player was encouraged to play quicker as the philosophy for slow play recommends before eventually receiving a warning for slow play (IPG 4.3). I’ve heard some suggestions of stalling, but again I don’t agree. Also keep in mind that the player in question was behind in the match for a lot of the time, having lost the first game.
Okay, that’s your lot. In the next month I’ll be off to GP: Houston and up in St Louis for the Eldrazi prerelease. Actually, this very weekend will see me in St Louis for the PTQ for San Juan. I hope that everyone has a good tournament this weekend, wherever they are and of course may that top deck be lucky.