The Riki Rules – 4 Versus 273 at California States

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Tuesday, November 25th – At Thermopylae, 300 Spartans stood their ground against 200,000 invading Persians. At California States, 4 Judges stood their ground against nearly 300 invading players. It was 273 to be exact, and it blew most estimates by a hundred…

At Thermopylae, 300 Spartans stood their ground against 200,000 invading Persians. (Although the film “300” doesn’t give proper credit to the thousands of other Greek soldiers present at the battle, or the role of the Athenian navy in keeping the Persians from passing through the Straits of Artemisium.)

At California States, 4 Judges stood their ground against nearly 300 invading players. It was 273 to be exact, and it blew most estimates by a hundred.

I don’t know if I’ve experienced three weeks quite like the last three. PT: Berlin was epic. Jet lag plus 30 miles of Judging in four days. While I managed to not get sick on the trip, when I got home, it seemed like everyone around me was coughing. I overmedicated myself to stop anything before it started and I was still running a slight fever at States. Then I got healthy just in time to go the GP: Atlanta, which I will chronicle next week.

We started well over an hour after our scheduled start time because so many people showed up. Eric Levine and the Superstars employees hustled to find extra tables and chairs. I’ve heard a few grumblings about the delay and the generally cramped conditions of Superstars. Here in Northern California, Conan used to run his events out of the San Jose or Santa Clara Convention Center, making for spacious and somewhat Grand Prix-like conditions at PTQs, States, and Regionals. With the death of the Large Prerelease, Conan has been forced to change things a bit to make ends meet, since Convention Center PTQs were never mega profit makers.

Once we finally got things going, I decided to keep track of all the rules based Judge calls I got throughout the day (as opposed to penalty based, which might also have been useful information to have, but more for us Judges than you). States has always been a hybrid tournament that crosses the streams between casual and competitive. For many FNMers, States is their first experience of a large event, so I was curious as to what types of questions would get asked as a result. As the Scorekeeper, I usually spend a lot of time sitting behind the computer, but with such a limited staff I had to stay on the floor as long as possible before switching to results entry mode. Here, in Ask the Judge style are the questions I got while I was out there.

Q: Can Cloak and Dagger attach itself to a Deft Duelist when the Human Rogue comes into play?

A: This is a basic question about shroud versus the C&D’s auto-attach to Rogues ability. There is no interaction here since the Cloak reads “Whenever a Rogue comes into play, you may attach Cloak and Dagger to it.” It isn’t a targeted ability so it gets around shroud.

I think that perhaps players get this issue confused because they aren’t sure about the distinction between “attach” and “equip.” Equip is a keyword ability that means “Attach this equipment to target creature you control. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.” So buried within the equip keyword, which is targeted, is the term attach, like some kind of pirate treasure. Other abilities like on Cranial Plating can attach an equipment to a target creature, further mixing things up.

Q: There is a Godhead of Awe in play making all other creatures 1/1s. What happens when you Giant Growth one of those creatures?

A: Ah, layers. After Lorwyn and Shadowmoor this is a walk in the park for any semi-experienced Judge. Both Godhead of Awe’s ability and Giant Growth take effect in layer 6b. That means you use timestamps to determine the order of the effects. In this case, Giant Growth has the later timestamp, so the creature is a 1/1 then you give it +3/+3 to get the end result of 4/4.

I actually use real timestamps at work. It’s fun to slam one down on a piece of paper. Timestamps in Magic don’t really convey that sense of fun.

Q: For my notes, I have to take shorthand, abbreviating as much as possible. When I’m trying to decipher my notes later, I sometimes run into problems reading my scribbling handwriting or figuring out what an abbreviation stands for. This question is such a case as it says, verbatim, “Ajani V. Helix legal target CoR.”

A: I have no idea what that CoR could stand for. I can talk very briefly about Ajani Vengeant’s Lightning Helix ability. You must have a legal target in order to play it, and if the ability is countered due to having an illegal target upon resolution, the entire ability is countered and you gain no life.

Q: What happens when you Sculpting Steel a Sculpting Steel that is a copy of something else?

A: When you copy something, it basically becomes a copy of the physical card. The exception is that it does copy any other copy effects. Thus, the second Sculpting Steel will ultimately become a copy of the something else as well here.

Q: Doran, the Siege Tower; Shield of the Oversoul; and Snakeform. What happens?

A: The end result is a 2/2 indestructible creature. The hows and whys have been covered by many writers.

Q: Can Stonehewer Giant fetch an equipment onto a creature with shroud?

A: Variations on a theme. Yes. I did have to read the card on this one because I was not familiar with the intricacies of Stonehewer Giant. I remember thinking it was a pretty neat card when it first came out. I like these White creatures with vigilance and a tap ability like the Giant and Godsire. “It allows you to attack and block” has always been a very weak rationale for vigilance, but attacking and using an activated tap ability is much better because it isn’t dependant on your opponent attacking you or wanting to attack you.

Q: If a trample creature attacks a Planeswalker, can the trample damage be dealt to the player?

A: No. But good question. Trample only applies to dealing damage over creatures onto players and Planeswalkers. Garruk and his pals have done a lot of wonky things to the combat step. For example, if you attack your opponent’s Planeswalker and they choose not to block, you can ninjutsu a Ninja into play and choose to have it attacking the player instead. Now that’s one sneak Ninja!

Q: Can you respond to a Planeswalker getting a counter when its ability is played?

A: This is a typical scenario where a player plays a Planeswalker and immediately activates its +1 ability. The opponent, a burn player, wants to kill it before its loyalty gets out of hand. This is not possible. Adding the loyalty counter is a cost of the ability and happens before the opponent gains priority. This question is a new variation on trying to kill a creature like Mogg Fanatic in response to them sacrificing it. If you’re a Judge, get used to this type of Planeswalker question for the next generation.

Q: Is equip an activated ability?

A: Yes, it is. I don’t remember why this question came up, but it did, and it’s the consequence of R&D removing the nifty reminder text about what equip does from equipment. Thanks to that, I also get at least one question per tournament about whether you can equip anytime you could play an instant. No, not unless that Wizened Cenn is secretly Leonin Shikari.

Q: Can you “use up” a Planeswalker, then play another copy of the same Planeswalker and use an ability on it?

A: Yes, you can. This question comes up because players think the once per turn rule for Planeswalkers applies to each card or to each Planeswalker (read: all Garruks). In fact, the GP: Okayama coverage has a story of one player “living the dream” by using Sarkhan Vol’s ultimate to make Dragons, then playing another Vol and using the ability to give them haste. This was in Draft.

Q: Player A has a Necroskitter in play and uses Incremental Blight to kill his opponent’s Silvergill Adept. Does Player A draw a card for Adept coming into play?

A: This is another one of those questions that I’m unsure of the confusion, but the basic answer is yes, Player A gets to draw a card. Is there confusion over whether the creature dies with -1/-1 counters on it or goes directly to the graveyard without having counters put on it from Blight? Does the player think that he has to reveal a Merfolk to draw the card, or even get the Adept in the first place? Sometimes as a Judge, I wish that I could conduct some follow up interviews on why players ask the questions they do.

Q: If a card is bounced at the end of turn and the player now has eight cards in hand, does he have to discard?

A: He sure does. The cleanup step (when you discard) in one of those unavoidable things that always happens, like growing old or another season of American Idol. When you do stuff “at the end of turn,” that happens in the end of turn step, which comes before the cleanup step.

Q: Snakeform on a creature equipped with Loxodon Warhammer… is it the end of the world?

A: It’s not the end of the world, although I did have to look up Warhammer in the Oracle to see the Tenth Edition text just to be sure. The lifelink and trample go away, wiped out by the ability removing portion. The creature will end up being of 4/1 size because the power bonus from Warhammer is granted in layer 6d. And we all know when Snakeform makes a creature a 1/1, right? (Layer 6b.)

Q: Can you activate a Fulminator Mage with a Mannequin counter on it in response to the sacrifice trigger if someone targets it?

A: Yes, the triggered ability goes on the stack just like any other trigger and you can sacrifice the Mage to destroy a land before the trigger resolves. I’m certain that questions like come up because you cannot respond to sacrificing as part of a cost and people confuse this with not being able to respond to any sacrifice.

Q: Does Story Circle protect a Planeswalker?

A: No.

There is a “however,” though. If your opponent attacks your Planeswalker with creatures, there is nothing you can do to help with your Story Circle. However, if they try to burn you with a spell or ability and redirect it to your Planeswalker, you can use Story Circle to prevent that damage, giving them nothing to redirect.

Q: If a Snakeform is played in response to Sower of Temptation’s triggered ability, does it still take the creature?

A: Yes, it does. This is the old hand grenade analogy. Once an ability is put on the stack, it is independent of the source and will blow up no matter what.

Q: Which player decides what to do with their clash card first for Broken Ambitions?

A: This applies to all clash cards, but currently I think that Broken Ambitions is the only one that is seeing any sort of play in Standard. Maybe Lash Out. When you clash, the active player decides whether to keep the clash card on the top or ship it to the bottom of the library.

Q: Can a cycled Resounding Wave bounce an Oversoul of Dusk?

A: No, I don’t know why someone playing Resounding Wave in a Standard event. And no, you can’t do that. When you cycle a card and it has a trigger, the source of the trigger is still the original card, and it will have the characteristic of “Blue” that will prevent it from targeting Oversoul of Dusk.

Q: Does Counterbore remove the spell it counters from the game?

A: I mean, it doesn’t say that it removes the countered spell, right? Ah, but if you read the sequence of events closely, it counters the spell, then you search their graveyard, library, and hand for all cards with the same name. To counter a spell is to remove it from the stack and put it into the graveyard, where Counterbore will find it during the search and remove portion.

And that was all the rules based questions I answered over the course of the day. There were probably a dozen other Judge calls that had to do with penalties, and of course the infinite tardies and no shows. After nine grueling rounds of Swiss, we cut to the Top 8. You can find the decklists in Josh Silvestri article. Roger Fondren emerged victorious with his Faeries deck, and he became the only man to stop Luis Scott-Vargas in a single elimination round in the past month, dismissing LSV’s Merfolk in the Semifinals. Roger is an L1 Judge from Bakersfield, so between him and Luis, a Judge has won the last three tournaments I’ve been at. And you thought we couldn’t play Magic well.

Until next time, this is Riki Hayashi telling you to call a Judge.

Rikipedia at Gmail dot Spartan
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P.S. An article on spectator responsibilities in a tournament is forthcoming, but I wanted to stay on schedule before the stories about these events get old. Plus, I didn’t want to debut such an important discussion in this Thanksgiving shortened week.