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Back in Japan (Once Again)


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 Championships 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

Back in Japan (Once Again)

Hello everybody!

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.

Happy reading.

Reader Questions

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 tweak.

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 untapped?

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 token…

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 2012

Responsibility for an Infraction

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 next time.

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 problem”.

Stern Judge
Torment (Foil)

Let’s see how the rules and the philosophy behind them work, so that we understand the choices of the judges better.

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 player
  • 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 similar situations:

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.

High Tide

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!)
  • Try 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 “extreme situations”).

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 choice.

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)…

James Mackay

… 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.


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