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 Championships since 2009:
Tour Kyoto 2009
- Pro Tour Austin 2009
- Worlds Chiba 2010
- Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011
- Pro Tour Barcelona 2012
- World Magic Cup Indianapolis 2012
Back in Japan (Once Again)
The year 2012 is finished,
I am finally back home, and I have no more travel plans coming up… for an
incredibly long period of…. FOUR WEEKS!
This last trip was, once
again, to my beloved East; this time to Japan and, no wonders, we had another
“biggest GP of Japan”! In the GP report section, instead of giving just general
information about the nice GP, I will be happy to give you some information and
opinions on two episodes that are about Tournament Management and Policy; two
corner cases for sure, two controversial situations for sure, which means that
they are good opportunities for discussion.
The last “Card of the
Month” for this year is one of the cards that are considered to be among the
strongest in Return to Ravnica sealed: Pack Rat; I have to say that I didn’t
like it very much until today; I thought it said “Discard a creature card” and
it didn’t look anything special to me, until today, when I actually noticed that
it says “Discard a card”; now I know what to do with all the extra lands!
As always, let’s warm up
with some rules questions before going to the most difficult sections.
Q: Hi, I got a question
about the new triggers rules with a situation that happened in a non-sanctioned
tournament I played some days ago. The situation is the following: I was
playing against a Jund deck and my opponent had a Dark Confidant and he forgot
to reveal the card; he just drew the card in his draw step. I realized it at
that point and promptly called his attention; he said that, due to the new
triggers rules and that being a beneficiary trigger to him, he is the one who
chooses if the ability triggers or not. Of course that's not how it works but
due to the new ruling how does it really work?
A: Your opponent
misunderstood how the current triggers rule works. YOU can choose if he will
reveal a card and lose life points (if he’s at 1, I am sure that you will
choose that HIS Dark Confidant ability will trigger). Every time a triggered
ability is missed (because the controller of the ability performed another
action), the opponent (who has no obligation to point out the missed trigger)
can choose if the triggered ability will be put on the stack or not. The last
article of this year, which will be published between Christmas and New Year’s
Eve, will have a section dedicated to Missed Triggers, with an analysis of how
the rule evolved during 2012 and some personal comments about the few
tournament situations that will need some attention and maybe another small
Questions of the Week
Q: I cast Duplicant and
exile a Tarmogoyf; how big will my Duplicant be?
A: BIG! The Tarmogoyf isn’t
just a 0/1, because its power and toughness will be defined by the
“characteristic-defining ability” in all zones, not only when he’s on the
battlefield. Count the different types of cards in the graveyard and you will
calculate how big your Duplicant is.
Q: My opponent controls Blood Moon and I play a Darksteel Citadel. What do I get?
A: Your Darksteel Citadel
is a non-basic land, and it will be affected by Blood Moon. Its land type will
be Mountain and all abilities will be removed, to be substituted by the ability
that produces red. Its card types will not be affected, and it will remain an
artifact land. You get an Artifact Land – Mountain that can be destroyed.
Q: OK, my opponent still
has that annoying Blood Moon and I play a shockland. What do I get? Tapped or
A: Although your shockland
lists two basic land types, it’s not a basic land (basic lands are just those
cards with a big mana symbol ^__^), it will be affected by Blood Moon, it will
be “just a Mountain” and it will produce only red mana. The ability that would
make the land enter the battlefield tapped unless you pay 2 life applies before
it enters the battlefield, which means “before Blood Moon removes the ability”;
if you want your Mountain to enter the battlefield untapped, you still have to
pay 2 life points.
Q: I cast Chord of Calling
and I use its Convoke ability and my three Nettle Sentinels to reduce the cost
I have to pay to cast it. Will the Sentinels untap?
A: Yes. You tap your Nettle Sentinels during the announcement of Chord of Calling. Chord of Calling becomes
played, and the Sentinel’s abilities trigger. The abilities are put on the
stack (above Chord of Calling) and will untap the Sentinels when they resolve.
Then, Chord of Calling will resolve.
Q: I attack with two Tandem Lookout, with Soulbond. How many cards will I draw, if they aren’t blocked?
A: Four. Soulbond works
well; each Tandem Lookout will create a triggered ability on both creatures,
for a total of four different abilities. Extra: Nearheath Pilgrim works
differently, because giving Lifelink to a creature two times doesn’t make you
gain life twice (Lifelink is not a triggered ability any more).
Card of the Month – Pack Rat
I haven’t seen such a great
rat since the era of Ink-Eyes!
In the past, the idea that
a swarm of rats can be even more powerful than any other huge creature was
represented by Relentless Rats, which was clearly a fun card; can
you imagine a deck with 20 Swamps and 40 Relentless Rats?
Pack Rat is the new, more
efficient, king of rats; it can create rats from any card in our hand.
In Limited, if we control a
single Pack Rat and we have three mana, we can start our unstoppable invasion
of rats! Well, not really unstoppable, but still very difficult to deal with.
If our opponent casts a
removal spell on our original Pack Rat and we activate its ability in response,
the ability resolves before the original Pack Rat is killed, and we get an
exact copy of Pack Rat, because the copy has the same ability of the original
that allows us to create even more rats.
If we activate the ability
and our opponent casts a removal spell on our original Pack Rat in response,
the original Pack Rat is killed first but its ability will still resolve; when
the ability resolves, it uses the “last know information” of the original Pack Rat at the moment it left the battlefield; again, we get an exact copy of a Pack Rat that will be able to create more rats.
If our opponent casts a
card like Ovinize, nothing changes.
If our opponent casts Ovinize first, we will respond by activating the ability and we will create the
copy before Ovinize resolves.
If our opponent casts Ovinize in response to us activating the ability, Ovinize will resolve first
and will transform our original Pack Rat into a 0/1 with no abilities; when the
ability on the stack will resolve, it will create a copy of the original Pack Rat taking into account the “copiable values” of the original Pack Rat, which
are not affected by Ovinize.
When we cast our original Pack Rat, we get priority at the moment the spell resolves and it enters the
battlefield; we can immediately activate the ability, in case we believe that
our opponent has a very dangerous spell like Sudden Shock (Sudden Shock has
split second, and we wouldn’t be allowed to activate the ability in response to Sudden Shock).
OK, you got it; a single
removal spell cannot stop the rat invasion! Our opponent would need to cast a mass
removal spell like Supreme Verdict.
But here we have something
interesting; there are some mass removal spells that cannot kill our rats. If
our opponent uses cards that check the converted mana cost (like Ratchet Bomb
or Pernicious Deed), he should know that the Pack Rat tokens have a converted
mana cost equal to the original card, which is two.
Most tokens have a
converted mana cost of zero, because they are put on the battlefield by a spell
that doesn’t specify anything; a few tokens have a different mana cost, because
the spell or ability that creates them specifies that they are “a copy of”;
don’t forget this difference.
If the spell or ability
that creates the token doesn’t specify its name, the name will be equal to the
creature type; for example, Siege-Gang Commander creates tokens that have no
mana cost and that are called Goblin.
If the spell or ability
specifies that the token is a copy, the name will be equal to the name of the
creature it is copying; for example, Pack Rat creates tokens that have a mana
cost of 1B and that are called Pack Rat. This works also if the token is a copy
of another token that is a copy of another token that is a copy of another
The first ability of Pack Rat sets power and toughness, and it counts the number of rats we control (not
just the cards named Pack Rat). This ability works in every zone. If we have
three rats on the battlefield and a Pack Rat in the graveyard, we cannot choose
to return the Pack Rat from the graveyard to our hand with a Reveillark.
Event Report – GP Nagoya
Here is an interesting
situation about the balance between a player’s responsibility for an infraction
and a judge’s responsibility when correcting the mistake.
It’s the beginning of the
tournament, and a judge comes to me saying that he needs to check the content
of my deck; the reason is that I listed “Jace”, but I didn’t indicate if it was
the Jace from M13 or the Jace from Return to Ravnica; in this case, the rules
are very clear: I made a mistake because I wrote the name of a card that can
represent two cards (actually, there would be many cards that contain the word
Jace, but in this case there is a rule that says that, if I write the name of a
storyline character, it’s considered that I am playing that legendary creature
or that planeswalker and not one of the many cards that are associated with
him); my mistake, I have to accept the Game Loss penalty, I will know better
Then, during round 4, my
table is selected at random for a deckcheck; the judge comes back to me and
says that I listed 3 Dissipate and 4 Syncopate, but my deck has 4 Dissipate and
3 Syncopate; in this case again, the rules are very clear: I made a mistake
because the content of my deck doesn’t match what I wrote on my decklist; my
mistake, I have to accept the Game Loss penalty, I will know better next time.
And here is where it all
gets interesting: these two situations are somehow linked, because the two
infractions belong to the same category, that is called “deck/decklist
Let’s see how the rules and
the philosophy behind them work, so that we understand the choices of the
In this scenario, the judge
has three options:
- Assign a second Game Loss penalty; the infraction is indeed real, and the
appropriate penalty is a Game Loss; the entire responsibility belongs to the
- Assign no penalty at all; because the judge should have checked the content of
the entire deck, it’s only the judge’s responsibility, and the player should
not receive any penalty
- Downgrade the penalty to a Warning, with the reason that the judge was somehow
involved in the situation, because he could have prevented this second
infraction from happening while correcting the first mistake
My personal choice is the
third one: downgrade to Warning.
Why is it still an
infraction? An infraction happens when a player makes a mistake; the mistake
was made by the player who failed to register the correct number of Dissipate
and Syncopate; the judge has no responsibility for this mistake.
Why do we downgrade? I
strongly believe that judges are not “evil policemen who only wait for a
mistake to be made, so that they can give tickets”, not at all! Judges are a
service to the players, to the tournament, and they must be a fundamental tool
to help everybody have a great day. The perfect solution to the Jace situation
would have been to ask the player to verify that the rest of the decklist was
legal (either by doing it himself or, much better in my opinion, by saying to
the player “here you have your decklist, in case you want to spend some minutes checking that everything else is correct”); with this additional procedure, the
judge would have had no responsibility for the second infraction, because he
would have given the player the opportunity to check for other mistakes (I
believe this is called “release of liability” or some similar expression that
you can usually find at the end of documents, written with extremely small fonts
^__^). The lack of “perfect service” to the player in the Jace situation is in
my opinion a good reason to consider a downgrade to a Warning.
A quick Q&A to cover
What if the second mistake
was similar to the first, like writing Garruk without specifying which Garruk?
Same solution; Game Loss in
the first situation, downgrade to Warning in the second; indeed, if the judge
discovered both mistakes immediately, he would have given only one Game Loss.
What about giving no
penalty at all? In the end, it was the judge’s fault!
No, the mistake was made by
the player writing the decklist; we can say that the judge was involved in the
first situation and both mistakes should have been corrected immediately, but
we cannot say that the judge was responsible for the mistake.
What if the first mistake
was about Ajani and the format was Standard?
There is only one Ajani in
the format; the first penalty would not have been a Game Loss; the second
mistake would have caused a Game Loss; from my point of view, this is a very
different situation, and the downgrade to a Warning when the second mistake is
discovered doesn’t apply. If both mistakes were discovered immediately, the
penalty would have been a single Game Loss; because it wasn’t applied
immediately (when Ajani was discovered), it has to be applied when the second
mistake is discovered.
What if the second mistake
is discovered very late in the day? Or even during the Top8!
The situation doesn’t
change. There is no rule that says “all decklist problems must be handled
before the beginning of round X”; usually judges solve all the decklist
problems at the beginning of round 2, but there might be valid reasons that
would cause a mistake to be discovered only during a later deckcheck; let’s
find a very easy example: “an Italian judge called Riccardo is judging at GP
Nagoya, counting decklists, and he doesn’t realize that a player wrote 4 Geralf's Messenger twice, because the decklist was in Japanese”!
Let’s Speed it Up!
In the next chapter, we are
going to talk about a tournament procedure that is not at all recommended, but
that might be a solution for extreme situations.
Let’s find an “extreme
situation” first: you are judging a huge Legacy event, a High Tide player just
started his combo when time is called and it’s the only match remaining, and
the Tournament Organizer comes to you saying “This room is booked until
midnight; if we are still in this room one minute after midnight, the building
management will make me pay ten thousand dollars extra”.
You MUST do something.
“They are playing their
match, I can’t do anything” is not the best thing to say, believe me.
Banning High Tide from that
moment is not a wise solution; surely funny to tell, but please don’t do it.
Inventing creative rules
like “since the five-turns rule doesn’t work well, here you have the brand new
five-minutes rule” is again funny to tell, but only as a joke, don’t do it.
Seriously, you can work on
a few different levels:
- Consider alternative options to allow the tournament to continue after 11PM;
one of the local stores, a restaurant nearby, somebody’s kitchen (yes, I
actually played some Top8s in my kitchen; some years ago, I was living in the
block next to the local games store and, when the store had to close, we were
finishing our tournaments in my kitchen; Top8 and dinner, double win!)
to adjust tournament procedures to make the tournament faster; adjust the
position of the pairing boards to make the flow of the players be faster, get
the judges prepared to post the pairings in the blink of an eye, track tables
with additional time, look for tables that are still playing game 1 after 20
minutes, or game 2 after 40 minutes, communicate the results of the table at
the end of the room to the scorekeeper by phone or any other fast method (big
signs with “1” or “2” to indicate if the winner is player 1 or player 2 on the
result slip), or anything else that comes to your mind.
- Speaking about the last table and about High Tide, during GP Indianapolis (yes,
Legacy, yes, High Tide) we were about to apply a method to speed up the
tournament that would have saved us up to 15 minutes per round (it was nine
rounds… well, do your math, and see how a tournament can be A LOT faster or
slower depending on the High Tide decks around you and how you manage these
This is the scenario where
this method applies best:
There is only one table
remaining, the match is 1-1, and one of the players has just started his combo;
either he wins this turn or he loses the next turn; this looks like a normal
situation, with the difference that the current turn may take up to 20 minutes
(who said “EGG deck”?), because there is no guarantee that the combo will
succeed, and the opponent surely doesn’t want to concede.
At the end, you can be sure
that the match will finish 2-1; one player will earn three points, and the
other will earn zero points.
Basic procedure: enter 2-1
in the computer, pair the next round, print the pairings, post the pairings,
start the round!
Extra procedure: take note
of the names of the two players, look for them in the pairings of the next
round, take note of their tables (table A and table B); now send a judge to
table A and table B to say “your opponent will arrive soon, thank you for your
patience, you will have extra time”; then send a judge to the High Tide match
to say “the winner goes to table A, the other goes to table B” (earlier you had
to tell them “we are going to post the pairings for the next round, don’t
worry, you can finish your game, we are just seating all the others and we will
tell you where to find your table for the next round, take your time”).
If you guessed correctly,
you will have nothing to change in the computer, and the pairings were “just as
they were supposed to be”.
If you guessed wrong, you
just need to change the result of the previous round in the computer, and you
need to re-pair only two tables switching the two players so that “the one with
X points goes to table A and plays with another player with X points, and the
one with Y points goes to table B and plays with another player with Y points”;
if you have to re-pair these two matches, just check that they haven’t played against each other previously in the event, and everything is ok (and you might have
saved a significant amount of time, that might mean that you allowed hundreds
of people to go get dinner much earlier… you defeated High Tide!).
A quick Q&A to
understand why this method may be appropriate:
Can I apply this method at
the end of round 1? Sure; one of the players will have 3 points (like half of
the total) and the other will have 0 points (like the other half of the total).
Can I apply this method at
the end of round 7, at table 400? Sure; both players will have few points and
there will be many other players with the same number of points; I prefer this
method than having a judge say “can you play faster?” while hundreds of
people are wondering why they have been waiting for 20 minutes; allowing them
to finish their game while serving all the others looks to me like a much
better service for the entire tournament.
Can I apply this method at
the end of round 7, at table 4? DON’T; at the end of the Swiss rounds, the top
tables are playing for Top8, there might be very few players with the same number of points as the two people who are still playing their match, and
repairing matches in case “we guessed wrong” is to be avoided.
Are there any difficulties
with the software used to run the tournament? Not at all.
Is the “integrity of the
tournament” compromised? No.
If I am not so sure that
this method is safe, should I use it? No; use it only when strictly necessary
for external reasons and only if you feel 100% comfortable that it’s the right
A Tournament Dedicated
to… James Mackay
James is a level 4 judge
from Australia, who has been travelling to judge on all continents, being the
Regional Coordinator for Australia and being the leading judge for the
documents and education about Regular REL events.
In addition to this, James
is now developing the game of Magic by organizing tons of tournaments in his
Games Laboratory and by having fun whenever
possible (see photo)…
… and this is my final
Don’t forget to submit all
your rules questions for the next installment of Ask the Judge:
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!
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