Monday, September 29, 2014

A Personal Anecdote on Slow Play from SCG Indianapolis

This weekend at #SCGINDY I was watching a match and a player took a long time to take his turn. He had a Xenagos and a handful of creatures. His opponent had Elspeth and his own army. It wasn't a full board stall, and the player was trying to get through some damage to Elspeth while keeping up enough defenses to keep Xenagos around. I asked him to make a decision and he did. The next few turns had similar board states, and he took a similar amount of time. I felt that this was Slow Play because he hadn't really picked up the pace with what was essentially the same board situation as last turn. There were several points where he started to tap lands, then untapped them, then tapped them again. The same with attacking creatures. Classic (potential) indicators of Slow Play. Eventually, he won with back-to-back Stormbreath Dragons.

Normally, you are supposed to give the player the Warning during the game when you reach your "This is too much" threshold. Standard courtesy is to wait for the player to take an action so that you don't disrupt their train of thought. In this case, rather than interrupt the match further, I waited until that game ended to issue a Warning for Slow Play. This was something I've never done before, and it largely stemmed from my fear that stepping in during the game to give a Warning would take up more time than I was "saving," and the match was one of the farthest from the stage, making for a long and time-consuming walk if the ruling got appealed. I have no problem making such a walk, but it would just eat time from the entire tournament. I guess my gut just felt that he was less likely to appeal once the game had finished. I explained to the player that due to the length of time he took on those turns, I was issuing a Slow Play Warning along with the 2 extra turns, which seemed like they would come into play as they were shuffling for game 3 with about 6 or 7 minutes left in the round. I had been called back to the stage for something, so I asked John Temple to swing by that table and make sure they understood the +2 turns. According to John, the player who got the Warning ended up winning on turn 7 of extra turns.

It's hard to say that I'm happy to give out Warnings because that seems a bit harsh, but I am glad that my intervention allowed the match to come to a natural conclusion, as ultimately that is our goal in issuing Slow Play. It was probably also relevant that I chose to wait for the game to finish before speaking to him. Taking the time to explain this took 20-30 seconds, something that I wouldn't normally issue a time extension for, but it happened while the players were shuffling, already "dead" time. Had I paused game 2 to do this, it's entirely possible that "turn 7" would have been a turn or 2 earlier in game 3. It isn't always possible to wait for a game to end before giving Slow Play. In fact, it is often the case that Slow Play is happening because there is a board stall and no chance of a game ending soon.

Waiting until the conclusion of the game isn't without its downsides. If the player had lost, he might have felt like I was piling it on by giving him the Warning. "Oh, I played slow and still made the wrong decisions to lose that game?" There's also the potential for you to "lose the evidence" if the pace of play picks up. When you interrupt the game, you can point directly to how long it has taken for them to make their most recent decision. That has some power. The lack of evidence might be even more relevant if the ruling gets appealed. You have no game state to refer the Head Judge to look at. I don't think I will be changing my normal style of giving Slow Play Warnings, but it is an interesting variant to consider and keep in your repertoire.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is It Missed? #3 - Meandering Towershell

Earlier today, I Tweeted about Meandering Towershell, the card that is probably my favorite flavor card in the set. It's... a... slow... turle...

I got a few replies, a lot of them wondering about the details of this Missed Trigger interaction. I did my best to field questions, but Twitter has its limitations. Here then, hopefully, is the bigger picture on this card.

It attacks one turn, then gets lost in the woods only to complete its epic attacking journey on the following turn. This is all fun and games, but it accomplishes this through the use of a very awkward delayed trigger "Return it to the battlefield under your control tapped and attacking at the beginning of the declare attackers step on your next turn." (Trigger condition italicized for emphasis.) As we saw the last few years with Jace, Architect of Thought, remembering triggered abilities across multiple turns is probably one of the hardest memory aspects of the game. This is why so many players use a counter on top of their deck to remind them of upkeep triggers, so that they handle them before they draw a card and nullify the trigger. It's harder to set a reminder like this for a combat trigger, especially on your opponent's turn, which is what made Jace so easy to miss.

Meandering Towershell is possibly a little easier to remember because it is your own combat phase. You could just place the counter on your library anyway to remind you at the beginning of your turn, draw your card, and move straight into combat with Slow Turtle leading the charge.

So what happens when you miss the return trigger? Simply put, you're going to get a tapped Turtle that missed its chance to get in for damage. (As always, this series presumes Competitive REL under the auspices of the IPG.) Zone-change triggers fall under a special class of trigger (often called "Obzedat triggers" because that was the card most popular at the time) that are dealt with thusly:

"If the triggered ability is a delayed triggered ability that changes the zone of an object, resolve it. For these two types of abilities, the opponent chooses whether to resolve the ability the next time a player would get priority or when a player would get priority at the start of the next phase. These abilities do not expire and should be remedied no matter how much time has passed since they should have triggered."

First off, let's clarify when the return ability triggers and when it's missed. It happens "at the beginning of the declare attackers step." This is after you declare the rest of your attackers, which is a turn-based action that happens as the first part of the declare attackers step before either player gains priority (which is when triggers go on the stack). This means that if you let your opponent declare blockers without having returned the Turtle, you've missed the trigger.

Once it has been missed, we deal with it as above, which means that your opponent could choose to have the trigger resolve now, or at the beginning of the next phase. Let's say that you remember as soon as your opponent declares their blocks. They could let the Towershell return now, during declare blockers, which would be mighty generous of them... or they could have it return at the beginning of the post-combat main phase... tapped and attacking, which mostly just means tapped because attacking creatures can't exist outside of combat. Remembering at other times doesn't help you much. On your opponent's turn, you'll just have a tapped Towershell (you can't have an attacking creature during their combat phase). If you remember on a subsequent turn of yours in the pre-combat main phase, your opponent will likely choose to give you a tapped pre-combat Towershell.

Note that unlike other triggers, which often disappear into the aether forever, if this one is discovered later in the game, you always follow the prescribed remedy. "Hey, this Towershell was exiled 10 turns ago!" It still comes back tapped and probably not attacking. As the opponent, you still have no obligation to point out the trigger for your opponent, although you are welcome to do so if you would like them to have a tapped 5/9 for some reason.

One final note for you to sink your rules knowledge into, yes, taking this card with Act of Treason does make it return to you (the Act player) permanently. Fun!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1000 Miles - Week 35-37 Update

Week 35
Thursday: 9.5 miles
Friday: 3.1 miles
Tuesday: 3.3 miles
Wednesday: 6.4 miles
Week Total: 22.3 miles
Year Total: 722.5 miles

Week 36
Friday: 6.6 miles
Saturday: 3.6 miles
Sunday: 3.8 miles
Tuesday: 6.5 miles
Week Total: 20.5 miles
Year Total: 743.0 miles

Week 37
Thursday: 3.1 miles
Saturday: 6.2 miles (10k race 49:09)
Tuesday: 6.5 miles
Wednesday: 6.6 miles
Week Total: 22.4 miles
Year Total: 765.4 miles

Thursday, September 4, 2014

1000 Miles - Week 32-34 Update

Week 32
Thursday: 7.0 miles
Sunday: 7.0 miles
Tuesday: 8.0 miles
Week Total: 22.0 miles
Year Total: 647.2 miles

Week 33
Thursday: 6.2 miles
Saturday: 6.2 miles
Sunday: 6.2 miles
Monday: 6.2 miles
Wednesday: 6.2 miles
Week Total: 31.0 miles
Year Total: 678.2 miles

Week 34
Thursday: 7.0 miles
Tuesday: 7.0 miles
Wednesday: 8.0 miles
Week Total: 22.0 miles
Year Total: 700.2 miles