The Justice League – To Waikiki and Back

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Thursday, June 25th – Hello everyone! The day my last article came out I was getting ready to start an epic journey. A tale that would take in four tournaments, in four weeks, and in four different states – Washington, Hawaii, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Hello everyone! The day my last article came out I was getting ready to start an epic journey. A tale that would take in four tournaments, in four weeks, and in four different states — Washington, Hawaii, Missouri, and Arkansas.

The trip started with a race to St Louis to catch my flight for Grand Prix: Seattle. I arrived on the Pacific coast around midday and would have become lost almost immediately if not for the familiar sight of Magic players making a bee line for the bus stop outside the airport. However, I made the foolish mistake of asking a local where the convention center was on arrival in Tacoma, and had been walking for about twenty minutes in the wrong direction before I realized my error. Luckily for me, I was rescued by a young man named Brian Liebricht who was similarly lost, albeit he had his car at his (and now my) disposal. Does this mean I’m famous when I’m stopped by a passerby on the street in states I’ve never visited before? I don’t know, but I used this and a young lady Magic autograph hunter as proof to Eric Levine that I was more powerful than him. He hotly disputes this ‘alleged autograph hunter’ as he puts it, but it’s true, dear reader.

It seems like the lure of Standard and the then fast approaching Pro Tour: Honolulu worked its spell on the North American player base, as the end of registration on Saturday morning brought an impressive total of 1127 players, making GP: Seattle the second highest attended GP in North America (beating Indianapolis by 3, but behind Chicago). From a judge perspective, GP events represent the best opportunities to learn and grow at an accelerated rate. The number of judge calls you’ll take in a day is impressive, but the sheer range of ability goes all the way from kitchen table Magic to PT Top 8. And that last sentiment leads very nicely into some rules questions!

Using the activated ability of a Mutavault on the turn it’s played (to turn it into a creature) will render it incapable of tapping for mana because of ‘summoning sickness.’

A Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender can indeed be sacked to prevent damage from Seismic Assault as outlined by legal choices in C.R. 419.8a. However, the C.R. 419.8b make it clear that the source color is rechecked when the damage would be dealt, therefore if the Seismic Assault has been changed in color, the shield will not be used and the damage won’t be prevented.

Windbrisk Heights checks how many creatures you declared as attackers during the declaration of attackers step. It will not count creatures which were put into play attacking after the initial declaration of attackers. The Hideaway ability and the second activated ability of Windbrisk Heights are linked abilities. If the second activated ability of Heights is used and the land is destroyed by some effect before the ability resolves, the card removed by Hideaway can still be played (assuming of course the player attacked with three creatures). Any player that has controlled the Heights can look at the face-down card. You can still look at the card if the Heights leaves play (something that the original FAQ I believe used to say ‘no looking’). If the removed card is a land, you can’t play it if you’ve already played your land for the turn. If the removed card needs a target and there isn’t a legal one, then the card remains removed from the game and you can attempt to play it again later by activating the Heights ability again.

When a card like Cryptic Command with multiple modes resolves, the modes are carried out sequentially in the order written. This can be important for cards like Wheel of Sun and Moon. If a spell is countered and the wheel is bounced back to your hand, the countered spell will be put on the bottom of your library. However with a Disenchant or Naturalize the spell destroying the Wheel goes to the graveyard as the last part of the resolution (after Wheel hits the graveyard), and therefore goes to the graveyard as normal.

Mirrorweave copies the printed values of the target card. If the target card is already a copy of something else then it will copy that card. Mirrorweave does not copy counters or effects that are already applying to that card e.g. a player uses Mirrorweave to target a Figure of Destiny that has had its first and second activated ability used. The other creatures in play will become merely 1/1 Figures of Destiny until the end of turn.

Continuing with Mirrorweave, if there are effects already being applied to the creature that is about to become a copy they will still apply e.g. a player targets a Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender with Mirrorweave. If one of the creatures copying Forge-Tender is a Figure of Destiny with its first two abilities already activated, it will become a 4/4 Kithkin Spirit Warrior called Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender with protection from Red and the activated ability to sacrifice it and prevent damage from a Red source of your choice.

On a related note, things get interesting when an animated Mutavault is the target of a Mirrorweave. The creatures copying Mutavault will become unanimated Mutavaults that still have the ability to animate. If this is done during combat, the newly copied Mutavaults will be removed from combat. If one of the creatures being copied into a Mutavault was originally a Figure of Destiny with its first and second abilities activated already, once Mirrorweave resolves, subsequent activation of the copied Mutavault will turn it into a 2/2 creature with all types named Mutavault because of the way the layers apply. We apply copy effects first (layer 1), so the Figure of Destiny becomes a Mutavault. We then apply type changing effects in timestamp order (layer 4), so the creature is all types because of the later timestamp of the Mutavault activation compared to the earlier activation when the creature was still a Figure of Destiny. Likewise in layer 6b the Mutavault ability has a later timestamp and makes the creature a 2/2 and not a 4/4.

Players keep forgetting this, but you are allowed to look at your sideboards during a match. However, it must remain separate from your hand. If your sideboard and hand should come together it would be considered a Deck/Decklist Mismatch, and unfortunately a Game Loss at Competitive and Professional level.

The introduction of an X-2 record being enough to qualify for Day 2 of GPs this year certainly has had an effect on the number of players still involved in round 9 on Saturday night. One look at the standings showed that from 65th place to 222nd place we had people trying to grind out one more win and make the cut. I can’t remember the exact figure that made it, but I think it was around 140.

So how was GP: Seattle for me? Well, I have to admit that it was less than spectacular. This wasn’t because of any lack of interaction or fun being had over the three days in Tacoma, but rather a mediocre performance by myself on Sunday while team leading during the second day of the GP. I had a very experienced team with me that morning and I trusted to that a little too much and left people to ‘get on with things.’ It’s not that anyone didn’t do their job – far from it – but I was grateful for some feedback from members of the team later on that they felt a little ‘unloved’ as the day went on. Looking after your team and making sure that you are the catalyst for their interaction during the day is important, and I was definitely failing in my duties. I also have a bad habit of trying to do too many of the tasks myself, when I should be delegating to the team. This is an old habit from a life of seeing things fall apart if I didn’t take action. Hearing about my less than ‘shining’ performance was painful, but absolutely necessary. And I’m grateful to people like Riki Hayashi, Charles Reinman, Daniel Kitachewsky and Kevin Desprez for being willing to offer it. People who offer advice and submit reviews are not trying to tear you down — they’re trying to build you up! I only wish I judged with these guys more often. As I write this I’m already signed up for GP: Boston in August, and boy, am I motivated to turn in a sterling performance that weekend!

It takes a delicate set of negotiations to convince a significant other in your life that a trip to Hawaii for 7 days should not include them. I’ll just say that tickets for musicals at the Fox Theater in St Louis and flying lessons at the local airport were involved in the contractual bargaining that went into this trip. Most of the judges (like me) were able to fly straight from Seattle, and therefore had the heavy burden of filling 4 days with things to do before the PT was set into motion on Friday. A great many of us went on an island tour on Wednesday; others, like Jared Sylva and Mike Zimmerman, went snorkeling; Gavin Duggan commanded a team of judges on a parachute jump above the skies of Hawaii; I myself managed an afternoon at the local Sea World and went swimming with dolphins. I should point out that the week wasn’t without its problems either. I myself found it very difficult to sleep when having so much fun, and there were times when the pineapple juice threatened to run out. I was deeply worried about what would become of Shawn Doherty if this threat was ever realized.

Judging in Hawaii

The Friday morning kicked off with 392 competitors in Honolulu. I was part of Ingrid Lind-Jahn’s video team, and spent the day switching between deck checks on the main event and little video exercises that were being filmed to try and provide more teaching tools for the penalty guidelines. As often happens on the Pro Tour, the day can pass rather quietly for a judge, but Carlos Ho, Ingrid, and Peter Jahn had prepared test questions about the rules and about other judges to keep everyone on the floor involved. Different judges had different questions, and there were prizes to those who were quickest to round up all the right answers. To this end, one of my new best friends, David de la Iglesia, proved to be a ‘Jedi-master’ powerhouse at these kinds of competitions.

On Saturday the teams were mixed up, as is customary, and I ended up on the feature match team. It’s a great privilege to be ringside for some of these incredible match ups and PT Honolulu was no exception. Kazuya Mitamura gave us a taste of what was to come on Sunday by quickly slaying several opponents in the feature match area, but for me the most interesting match-up of the day was Gabriel Nassif against Tomoharu Saito. Game 1 got bogged down with sizeable creatures on both sides and ran long. However before Nassif eventually won it, Saito realized too late that he had been presented with a potentially quick kill route if he had equipped his Behemoth Sledge on his Valeron Outlander (pro Black being the crucial point to driving home the win). I can’t imagine anybody being not being vexed by this as they went into game 2.

Game 2 and 3 had similar opportunities for getting bogged down as both players swung back and forth with creatures that had access to lifelink in some way or another. At some point as time rolled on, I became aware that Nassif had picked up the pace of his play during the latest comparative stalemate. Saito’s pace seemed about the same, but Nassif seemed to be getting agitated at the time Saito was taking, and obviously felt that he was at the very least guilty of slow play. My initial gut feeling about this was somewhat impaired, as I had to keep ducking back and forth to update scores (although I wasn’t the only judge watching the match at this stage either). Let me just say that Saito isn’t obliged to play as quickly as his opponent, but at the same time I don’t think he was playing particularly quickly either, but was it actually slow play? Ask ten different judges how they would define slow play and you’ll get ten different answers. It doesn’t help that the penalty guidelines are somewhat vague as well. However, this is the way it has to be, since to put a time limit on game actions could easily see players trying to abuse that limit by just staying ‘inside the line’ on each move. I think most judges would say that once they think it’s slow play, they add some small, extra amount of time in their head to satisfy themselves that player is ‘completely over the line.’ Saito’s turn time wasn’t particularly excessive. True, with the game state being established over many turns and almost nothing new being added with each turn he shouldn’t need much time to appraise the situation anyway. However, this doesn’t mean he should ‘dive in’ to untap, draw, attack and pass the turn all in one breath. I think it’s reasonable for players to use up a few seconds at a time in order to bluff their opponent into thinking their holding ‘the bomb.’ So over several turns I’d say that Saito was in my imagined grey area of kind of, but not quite ‘slam dunk’ playing slow. Eventually I did call Saito on slow play, but having talked to Seamus Campbell about it later that night, I now feel that I should have pulled the trigger on that one much quicker. The one detail I wasn’t aware of at the time was that the Thornling ability to pump wasn’t a +1/+1 but in fact a +1/-1. A pattern in Saito’s attack developed where he would make the Thornling indestructible and pump before attacking. He seemed to give it some thought each turn as to how much pump the Thornling should be given. Had I realized that the Thornling could only be pumped so far before it was reduced to zero toughness, I wouldn’t have been so charitable with this show of thinking when he announced his attack each turn. I think the pattern of attack became so monotonous that I should have given him a warning quicker. Bear in mind that he was behind for much of the match and perhaps troubled by his error in game 1 — not that either fact is an excuse for playing slowly of course, but it’s a stretch to say it’s deliberate when he’s 0-1 down in the match.

Thankfully, the match came to a natural end, but I could have helped assure that a bit more with faster action. I know afterwards Tom LaPille tried to tell me he thought there might have been stalling involved, but I didn’t see anything to convince me of that. I also think it would have taken a massive amount of guts for anyone to try that in front of the feature match crowd, although admittedly I haven’t yet caught up with Tom to really talk to him about his feelings on the matter.

And then it happened… Sunday, my last day in beautiful Hawaii and a last tournament of Magic to help run in the morning on side events. I was sought out by Mark Brown during the day for a chat and he gave me some ideas for things I can be up to in the months to come! There were about six of us that had to leave paradise before the official judge dinner, but Simon Cooper persuaded John Carter to help us throw a little judge dinner of our own at the airport (Carter always takes care of us). The company also included Nick Fang, Mike “The big Zee” Zimmerman, Aaron Rubinstein and Ed “Zee-Man” Zhang. We made our farewells and headed back to the real world.

Since Hawaii, I’ve already HJ a PTQ in St Louis that saw the mighty George Blankenship triumph with his Reveillark deck. In fact, in game 1 of the final he had used Reveillark to bring back several Mulldrifter cards for a massive card advantage. I seem to recall he even had all 4 Meddling Mages in play when the game finished! Game 2 was cruel to Hunter Delf, as he had to mull down to 5 and got stuck on 1 land. The following weekend saw a small trip (?) down to Little Rock, Arkansas and witness the mighty David Glore storm the field with a elemental deck that was based around Horde of Notions to bring back all kinds of fun from the graveyard — Shriekmaw, Reveillark, Mulldrifter, Fulminator Mage, and Cloudthresher to name but a few.

So I made it – four tournaments in four weeks. Congratulations to Robert Forest as he became Arkansas’ newest level 1 judge over the weekend. Most valuable judge, MVJ goes to Ingrid Lind-Jahn for this month. Ingrid has made a habit this past year on the GP/PT circuit of engaging the judge zebra masses with bingo competitions based on the magic rules. Ingrid is one of the cornerstone judges of high level tournament play in North America and is loved by all.

As you read this, I should be pounding the floor of the Columbus convention center in Ohio, judging Origins with PES. If you’re anywhere near Columbus this weekend I strongly urge you to sample the fest of Magic that PES will be offering, including a PTQ Austin on Saturday.

If that doesn’t whet your appetite, then how about the StarCityGames.com $5000 standard Open in Minneapolis this Saturday? Eric Shukan is HJ for the event and will guarantee that everyone has a good time. Three weeks later on July 18th Bluegrass Magic will be running their $5000 Kentucky Open event with SCG’s Jared Sylva as HJ. The Kentucky Open should be interesting as it represents the first big money event with the new rules changes introduced with the prerelease of M10.

Speaking of which, I don’t want to bore everyone with another full length article, but I will say I think that between them Peter Jahn and Patrick Chapin articles last Thursday on SCG, really did a great job of summing up that it’s not the doom and gloom some people have been crying about. Sure, just like everyone else I was taken aback to hear that combat damage won’t be put on the stack. However, nobody bats an eye at FNM for putting damage on the stack and sacking a Mogg Fanatic or Sakura-Tribe Elder anymore — it’s hardly Magic’s equivalent of rocket science, even to a newbie. Now with the M10 changes, you really do have to think about strategy, as has been pointed out with Mogg and the Elder. Deciding whether to sac or deal combat damage actually involves some thought! I’m just asking people to give these changes a chance, and by that I mean more than 5 minutes of wanting to hate it. Magic has a great core base, as GP: Chicago and GP: Seattle showed this year, but we need new blood to come in all the time. The boys at Wizards are trying to protect the game you love with careful changes to make things more intuitive! Make a commitment to go to an M10 prerelease and bring along someone who has never held a Magic card in his hands before. If we really love the game as much as the people who have made these changes, you’ll go into your local store with an open mind on July 11th.

And may your top deck be lucky on July 11th!

James Elliott