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.


  1. I would think "I'm ready for combat" and "Declare attackers?" would be two different shortcuts. The first one implies that you are ready to leave Main Phase 1 to move into combat. Obviously this is needed to combat things like Goblin Rabblemaster's trigger. The second of "Declare Attackers?" I personally feel would imply you are not only passing Main Phase 1, but also, assuming your opponent doesn't do something during MP1, passing at the beginning of combat step. The former, IMO, would allow you to get to a state where you could then use Surrak to target itself. The latter, though, pushes you though beginning of combat, not only not getting to use Surrak's ability (provided of course the opponent chooses to not put it on the stack on a judge call), but actually committing a GRV by not choosing a target when choosing one is required.


    1. Wait which is worse a missed trigger or telling your blind a oppenent that you don't have to tell him what lands you played? Or was firing your employee on the spot for ruling against you worse?

    2. If you're ready for combat, wouldn't you try to put your Surrak and Rabblemaster triggers on the stack? If your answer is no, why not?

      Also you example at the end is not a GRV, since it's covered by the Missed Trigger infraction.

  2. I think the judges and/or WotC employees who wrote the MTR should really take another look at it and maybe change some of the specifics in the Tournament Shortcut section.

    I think that punishing a player who is logically thinking "go to combat" means "go to the beginning of combat step" isn't a good thing whatsoever. In most people's minds, "Declare attackers" and "Go to combat" are two COMPLETELY different things.

    I think that because of this ambiguity, we really should be looking at changing some things in the MTR since the "At the beginning of combat step" trigger is becoming more and more frequent in printing for these most recent sets (Surrak, the Hunt Caller, Citadel Siege, Goblin Rabblemaster... all cards seen in constructed formats).

    As a judge who is consistently judging Competitive REL events, and as a player who frequently plays in Competitive REL events, I think that this shortcut is very misleading and isn't an accurate shortcut whatsoever.

    So if the judges and/or WotC employees maybe look into that... I think it'll save a lot of heartache from both players and judges while also being a more conducive to them as well. I think the rules should reflect something logical, not an ambiguity.

    Just my two cents! :)

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  4. Your "Attack for 10" example seems like textbook Out of Order Sequencing. I wouldn't think twice about ruling it as NOT missed.

  5. I would love to see how you would approach this at regular REL.