Saturday, May 16, 2015

Good Practices #5 - I Find You Appealing

This one comes from Jason Lems (Level 5, Madison), by which I mean that he was the first person that I saw do it, and as always the possibility exists that he cribbed this practice from someone else. That's part of the beauty of the Judge Program. As Jeff Morrow says, "At every event your goal should be to steal an idea from someone else."

It's very common for the Head Judge of an event to tell his or her staff the following:
"If you have an appeal, come find me and tell me that you have an appeal. That should be the first thing out of your mouth. Interrupt what I am doing unless it looks like another appeal or investigation."

Appeals are a natural bottleneck in the system and it's important to clear them as soon as they arise. However, that bottleneck can get complicated when you get this type of appeal.

"I have an appeal. So Active Player cast a morph. It was a Den Protector by the way. Non-Active Player cast Dig Through Time in response. He didn't find a counterspell or anything, so the morph resolved. AP immediately flipped his Den Protector and returned 2 Deathmist Raptors to the battlefield. NAP cast Bile Blight on the Den Protector. AP said ok and put the Den Protector in the graveyard, then returned another Den Protector to his hand for the first one's regrowth ability. I ruled Drawing Extra Cards - Game Loss, and the player is appealing that."

Note how this story takes a while to reach the actual ruling that is being appealed. The original morph and Dig Through Time plays are irrelevant to the ruling, but judges often relay this kind of information to the Head Judge because the players told them this whole story, and they don't want to leave anything out.

Jason's addendum is to follow up "I have an appeal" with a brief explanation of the ruling. Examples of this could be:
* It's a rules question involving an exploit trigger.
* It's a life total dispute.
* It's a Game Loss for Deck/Decklist Problem.

Explaining this up front puts the Head Judge in the right mindset and let's him or her focus on the relevant parts of the story.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is It Missed #5 - Surrak, the Hunt Caller

You missed your trigger, so call me maybe.

Over the past few months, I've had growing concerns about Citadel Siege's beginning of combat targeted trigger. The only reason I didn't write about it in this space was because Citadel Siege was a rare, so showed up rarely in Limited, and wasn't a big enough player in Constructed to warrant writing about.

As it turns out, Citadel Siege is beginning to see some fringe play, and will likely continue to build up steam in Constructed, but it has been completely usurped by Surrak, the Hunt Caller. This guy is the real deal, unlike his alternate timeline self. (Weird how many of the former Khans became better cards in the new timeline.)

Let's say you control a Polukranos, World Eater, a 5-power creature, and cast Surrak, the Hunt Caller. This gives you the 8 power you need for formidable. You turn both of your creatures sideways and say "Attack for 10." Your opponent calls over a judge expressing concern about the Surrak trigger. Is it missed?

Surrak has a targeted trigger, so the rules require you to choose a target before you pass priority next. However, what's going on here is that you're executing a shortcut. As it is illegal for the Surrak to attack the turn you cast it, it seems clear that the shortcut is "move to combat, target Surrak with his own trigger, declare Surrak and Polukranos as attackers, deal 10 to you."

The problem is that's a lot to cram into the shortcut "attack for 10" and the less you say explicitly about what you are doing, the more chances you take that you could be missing something in the sequence, and you are leaving your actions open to interpretation. The trigger rules state that "the controller must announce those choices" not "the controller must heavily imply through their actions."

One case when the rules are clear that the trigger is missed is when a player uses a typical combat shortcut. "I'm ready to go to combat" and "declare attacks?" are two common examples of these. These shortcuts " offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the beginning of combat step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise." Combined with the missed trigger rules that state that you must announce targets when the ability is put on the stack, the use of this shortcut means that you are passing priority in the beginning of combat step when the trigger should already be on the stack (and thus have a target declared). In order to not miss the trigger here you need to make it a part of your shortcut. "Go to combat. Surrak targeting himself" or some variation of that.

As with all "Is It Missed?" entries, this policy applies at Competitive REL. Let me know if you want me to write about missed trigger philosophy at Regular REL as well.