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The Challenges of GP Moscow and Life from the Loam


About Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori
Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori is a level 5 judge from Italy (and former Pro Player ^__^); he judged a hundred professional events, headjudged 15 Grand Prix events in Europe, the United States and Asia and has been headjudging Pro Tours and World Champinships since 2009:

  • Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • Pro Tour Austin 2009
  • Worlds Chiba 2010
  • Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011
  • Pro Tour Barcelona 2012
  • World Magic Cup Indianapolis 2012

The Challenges of GP Moscow and Life from the Loam

Hello everybody!

Return to Ravnica is about to be released (all the cards are now known, don’t forget to take a look at the singles preorders here on Blackborder!) and this is the last article with an event report of a Grand Prix with M13: GP Moscow!

Let’s first warm up with our five questions of the week, and then read all about the card of the month for September: Life from the Loam.

Happy reading.

Questions of the Week

Q: I control a Mosswort Bridge and I have enough creatures to activate its ability and cast the card underneath it; my opponent controls a Trinisphere. Should I pay the three extra mana?

A: Yes. Mosswort Bridge’s ability allows you to cast the card without paying its mana cost, which is the cost printed in the upper right corner. Trinisphere is the only card that checks for the final cost you have to pay for any spell; independently of how you cast the spell or of any additional costs or cost reductions, Trinisphere will make you pay three mana to cast the spell (in this case, three mana in addition to any cost you paid to activate the Mosswort Bridge’s ability).

Q: I cast a Clone and I choose to copy an Insectile Aberration. Will I get a 1/1 Delver of Secrets or a 3/2 Insectile Aberration?

A: You will get a 3/2 Insectile Aberration with flying. When Delver of Secrets transforms, its characteristics change and it has only the “night” characteristics. Your Clone will be able to only see the “night” characteristics.

Q: I cast a Duplicant and I choose to exile and copy an Insectile Aberration. Will I get a 1/1 Delver of Secrets or a 3/2 Insectile Aberration?

A: In this case you will get a 1/1. Duplicant exiles a creature and then it sets its own power and toughness to the values of the exiled creature card. Delver of Secrets can become an Insectile Aberration only on the battlefield, but it will be a simple 1/1 in any other zone.

Q: I cast Devastating Dreams by discarding 3 lands to kill my opponent’s creatures; will my Countryside Crusher be killed too?

A: No. When you cast Devastating Dreams, you need to discard the lands to put the spell on the stack; doing this, you are triggering the Countryside Crusher’s ability that will put +1/+1 counters on it before your Devastating Dreams resolves. Therefore, at the moment Devastating Dreams resolves, your Countryside Crusher will have three +1/+1 counters that will save it.

Q: My opponent controls a Howlpack Alpha and I want to bounce it with a Repeal. How much mana should I pay?

A: One blue mana. The converted mana cost is the sum of all costs in the upper right corner; all “night” versions have no mana cost, which is therefore zero; it’s not important what the cost of the “day” version is, because a transformed card on the battlefield has only the “night” characteristics.

Card of the Month – Life from the Loam

In a couple of weeks Return to Ravnica will be released. The expectations are very high, because the original Ravnica block was great and the first spoilers already showed that it will be a great set, for both Constructed and especially Limited. I am also sure that you are happy to see that the shocklands have been reprinted. ^__^

Life from the Loam is a card from Ravnica (and today’s card of the month is a tribute to Ravnica) that has been used since its first appearance in competitive tournament play; it is still played in both Modern and Legacy.

Life from the Loam allows getting three lands back from our graveyard. This way, we get raw card advantage; with some deckbuilding skills we can turn this raw card advantage into real card advantage.

The possibilities are seemingly endless: Wasteland, Ghost Quarter, lands to discard to a Seismic Assault, spells to cast again with the Retrace ability; all these are examples of how a single Life from the Loam can generate several effects.

Let’s now refresh our memory about how Life from the Loam works, and in general about Dredge.

The effect of Life from the Loam is to return “up to three” land cards from your graveyard to your hand.

Let’s see what choosing “up to X targets” means:

  • Zero is a valid choice. It is legal to cast Life from the Loam without valid targets in your graveyard. Casting Life from the Loam without indicating the targets is NOT equivalent to casting it with zero targets; if your opponent casts Life from the Loam without declaring any targets and you just say “ok, it resolves”, he will be able to choose his targets; because the declaration of the spell wasn’t complete, the judge would rewind the game to the declaration and would ask to your opponent to declare the targets, and then you would be able to respond.
  • If you choose one target, Life from the Loam is actually a “spell with a single target” and it will be possible to respond with a spell like Shunt.
  • If you choose more than one target and one target becomes illegal on resolution, you will return the other targeted land cards to your hand; the spell is countered on resolution only if all targets have become illegal.

About Dredge, it is important to remember the following:

“Dredge X” means that you must have at least X cards in your deck to use the ability, otherwise you won’t be able to dredge.

If you dredge Life from the Loam, it isn’t considered drawn. Life from the Loam is “put into your hand”, not drawn; abilities like the one on Consecrated Sphinx will not trigger.

Dredging is a replacement effect that doesn’t use the stack and it cannot be responded to. Every time you are about to draw a card, you decide if you want to draw or dredge, and your opponent doesn’t receive priority after you declare that you want to dredge (he has priority just before you are about to draw, though).

For example, your opponent controls Tormod's Crypt; it’s your turn, you untap and…

Situation a)

You say “I would like to draw”.

Your opponent replies “OK”.

You declared that you want to enter your draw step and your opponent declared that he doesn’t want to respond.

At this moment you can draw or replace the draw with dredge; your opponent will have no opportunity to “sacrifice the Tormod's Crypt in response to dredge”.

Situation b)

You say “I would like to draw”.

Your opponent replies “In response, I sacrifice my Crypt”.

Technically, your opponent cannot sacrifice the crypt “in response”; because this action is technically unclear, the judge (if called) would rewind the game to the upkeep and would try to make you communicate a little better, paying attention not to give any advice to your opponent (he has to say that he sacrifices the Crypt before you draw, otherwise you will be allowed to dredge).

Situation c)

You say “I would like to draw”.

Your opponent replies “In your upkeep, I sacrifice my Tormod's Crypt”.

Saying “I would like to draw” you are declaring that you don’t want to perform any other action in your upkeep; now, your opponent receives priority (still in the upkeep step) and may choose to activate the Tormod's Crypt ability.

If you have no cards in the graveyard, you won’t be able to dredge and you will draw a card from your library; if, after the Crypt has exiled your graveyard, you manage to put a card with dredge in your graveyard again before drawing, you will be allowed to say again “I would like to draw” (and then hopefully dredge).

Dredge is a replacement effect that replaces the action of drawing a card. If there are several effects trying to replace the action of drawing a card, you (the one who would draw) choose the order.

If you control a Possessed Portal and you have a Life from the Loam in the graveyard, you either choose to replace the action of drawing a card with nothing (Possessed Portal) or with dredging.

The interaction with Zur's Weirding is interesting:

  • You can apply dredge first, and Zur's Weirding will be ignored
  • You can apply Zur's Weirding first and reveal. If no player chooses to pay 2 life points, you will have the possibility to draw; at this moment, you can still apply dredge.

Finally, let’s note the difference between a replacement effect that replaces the action of drawing a card with nothing and an effect (that is not a replacement effect) that says that you cannot draw any cards, like Maralen of the Mornsong.

In the first case, you can choose which action you want to take.

In the second case, because the effect to be replaced is not going to happen, you won’t have the possibility to replace it with another effect; Maralen prevents you from both drawing and dredging.

Event Report – GP Moscow

Moscow, the very famous Russian capital that I only knew from books.

Moscow, where a special invitational tournament took place to celebrate the translation of Magic into Russian; was it Ninth Edition, or Tenth Edition? Too far in the past to remember.

Moscow, a city where I thought no GP had taken place so far (I didn’t know that there had been a GP in 2001, since I wasn’t “born” yet).

Moscow, the name that attracted me the most the first time I saw the GP schedule (sorry GP Costa Rica, you are exotic, but reading “Moscow” was even more exiting).

And finally the big day arrived, GP Moscow 2012, 866 participants and 34 judges to help make it a great weekend.

This time, instead of talking about rules (Return to Ravnica will be released in a couple of weeks) and policy (the new policy document that will become effective in October has just been published), I would like to give you some information about some small challenges that we sometimes need to face at our Magic Grand Prix (at least, the challenges that are not confidential ^__^)

Challenge 1: Get a Visa

Yes, correct, I needed a visa to go to Russia (and I guess that most of the foreigners who came to Moscow needed one… and all the Russians who travel to other GPs might need one every time).

What’s the difficulty in getting a visa? You just need to go to a travel agency and pay them, right?

“Sure, we will take care of everything; your passport will be ready in 20 days”

“What? I need to give you my passport for three weeks?!?”

When was the last time I spent three weeks in a row at home? Oh, yes, it was at the beginning of June, when I gave my passport to the Chinese consulate to get the visa for GP Shanghai.

When was the previous time? It was April, when I probably didn’t know about GP Moscow.

So I came back from the World Magic Cup and had a little more than three weeks… for the next GP seasons I will surely look for the list of countries that require me to get a visa… or we create a Magic-worldwide-visa!! ^__^

Challenge 2: Online Registration

Great news, we have online registration!

Dazzle Events, organizer of half of the European GPs built a system to register online, and the first event to use the new system was GP Moscow, and I’m sure that we will be able to register online for all their future GPs, avoiding the queue on Friday afternoon or, even worse, Saturday morning; I’m expecting many other GP organizers to follow this example.

But what was exactly the challenge for us judges?

Actually, the only change from the previous GPs is that we had to assist all the players to fill the “consent and release form” all together, just before registering the card pool and building the deck; fast distribution, clear instructions in both English and Russian, fast collection… and, accordingly to my notes, after just five minutes we were already distributing decklists and boosters (I still believe that my notes are wrong, since I expected this to take much longer; in any case, thank you to all the players and judges for getting this done so efficiently!).

Challenge 3: Sleep-in

The sleep-in option has been used at many GPs in the United States in the last year, and will probably be used at GPs on all other continents; it’s an extra service (for a little extra cost of more or less 10 dollars/euros) that the organizer offers to players with byes who want to sleep more and get to the tournament just before the actual beginning of their tournament.

I have to say that we didn’t have this option at GP Moscow, but we were ready to make it happen, and I believe that it will be appreciated; think about it: wouldn’t you pay a few euros to be able to sleep until 10AM, have a long breakfast, walk to the tournament site for noon, build your deck and then immediately start round 4; if I could always pay to sleep three hours more, I would be very very happy!

Some technical aspects about the sleep-in option:

  • You are responsible for asking your friends about any special announcement that might have been made during the player meeting at the beginning of the day (ok, you have three byes, I count that you won’t have anything unexpected happening to you at the GP ^__^)
  • If it’s a constructed GP, you have to give your decklist to the judges before the beginning of round 1; you can do it by sending an mail to the organizer or to the head judge (you must receive a reply, otherwise you can’t be sure that he received it!), or one of your friends may give it at the moment he registers or during the players’ meeting.
  • If it’s a limited GP, you have to arrive at the beginning of round X (with X being the number of byes you have minus one) and you will register, swap and build with all the other players with your number of byes who chose to use the sleep-in option.
  • You can expect that the players’ meeting will start at 9:30 in Europe (30 minutes after the official end of Saturday morning registration) (please check with the organizer and the head judge for the normal times on the other continents), registration-swap-construction will take 1 hour, and each round will last a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Judges will therefore manage four different shifts of deck registration and construction at limited GPs, which looks indeed like a small challenge.

Challenge 4: Two Languages

GP Moscow was the third time I judged a limited GP where we offered product in two languages (the others were GP Shanghai 2011 and GP Shanghai 2012; you can read about how it went in 2011 here).

This time, it was a little more interesting, because we didn’t ask the 170 players who registered online if they wanted to play with Russian or English product; ok, ok, it’s unfair not to ask, we will solve it!

“Whoever is in the Russian section and wants to play with English cards please stand up…. and follow me to the end of the English section!”, just a couple of minutes of extra patience and we will start ^__^

Challenge 5: Language Barriers

This was the difficulty I was concerned about the most, but it ended up being a very smooth day, with only a couple of situations where the two competitors disagreed on what happened:

I control Odric (who has an ability that triggers if he attacks with three other creatures), two soldiers and a Serra Angel (who has vigilance).

I attack, I tap Odric and the two soldiers (I don’t tap the Angel), and I say that my opponent cannot block (thanks to Odric’s ability); my opponent claims that I didn’t attack with my Serra Angel, while I claim that I did but he didn’t see me indicating it.

In this situation the judge ruled that Odric’s ability couldn’t have triggered if I hadn’t attacked with the Angel too; by declaring that I’m using Odric’s ability, I am confirming that I am attacking with the Angel.

In general, many thanks to the Russian players for making the effort of communicating very clearly about their actions, preventing miscommunications (and very long and annoying conversations with me ^__^)

A Tournament Dedicated to… Alfonso Bueno

Alfonso is a very expert L3 judge from Spain, where he has the role of Regional Coordinator (for Spain and Portugal), very skilled in rules and tournament logistics and always of great company during the evenings…

… and this is my final ruling!

Don’t forget to submit all your rules questions for the next installment of Ask the Judge:

Ask the Judge Now!


You have the unique opportunity to ask Level 5 judge Riccardo Tessitori all the questions you want to!

You can ask him questions concerning rules problems, the life of a level 5 judge, DCI policies, interesting tournament situations and anything else you want to ask him!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article and I’m looking forward to reading any comments.

In the next article we will analyze the October IPG (Infraction procedure Guide), with all the news about lapsing abilities that we recently discussed; you can already take a look at the document, which is scheduled to be published on September the 20th, which is…. today!


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