I was at Grand Prix Denver a few weeks ago, and GPs are a lot of fun for Judges. Not only do we get to travel, but we get to meet new people and see others we probably haven’t seen in weeks or months. There is usually a lot of Judges at an event like this, in our case there was at least 50 different Judges from all over the world who came together to make this event happen. There are a lot of interesting and fun things that happen when you get that many Judges together.
Besides the huge amount of EDH (and/or Commander) that is played and drafting that is done after the GP is finished, there is a opportunity for great discussions and ideas to be shared. We all had assigned tasks during the GP, but those tasks usually took up about 10-15 minutes of a 50 minute round. The rest of the time we would be patrolling the floor waiting for Judge calls. When you get that many Judges together, with that much down time, strange or tricky interactions usually become the topic of conversation.
There will be a question that floats around the hall for a few rounds, getting the opinion of how to resolve the situation from as many Judges as possible. In a perfect world, everyone would give the same response. We all are working off the same policy documents, right? Well, questions that had easy answers wouldn’t be very fun to talk about. This is one of the things that was discussed for a few rounds at GP Denver.
“JUDGE! I have a question. I played Jace Beleren. I put him in play with a die set to 3 on him. I rolled it down to 2, and said ‘draw a card.’ I drew a card, and a second later, my opponent drew a card. What do we do?”
This seems pretty straightforward. The opponent of the Jace player obviously thinks that the +2 ability was used, and each player should draw a card. The Jace player could have been more clear about what he was saying. The ability he used does say “Target player draws a card,” but can we really think that he would target his opponent with this? Let’s break down what the resolution can potentially be.
There are three things that come to my mind right away. Each of those things has pros and cons, but remember, finding the one that best fits the current policy is what is important. It might not feel right for whatever reason, but as Judges we need to be consistent and enforce the policy as written. If there is an issue, there are outlets that we can use to discuss it with those who write the policy to see things change.
Option 1: Jace player’s opponent gets a Game Loss for Drawing Extra Cards.
This seems pretty harsh to me. One Judge at the GP made the argument that “Jace is good enough on his own, he doesn’t need to be handing out Game Losses all by himself.” While I don’t disagree with that statement, it isn’t really a good argument against this ruling. What exactly needs to happen to issue this penalty?
“This infraction is committed when a player illegally puts one or more cards into their hand and, at the moment before they did so, no other Game Play Error or Player Communication Violation had been committed.”
So right there we can see that if we can’t make a good argument for either Game Play Error or Player Communication Violation that this poor player has probably lost this game. It feels like this player just didn’t understand what was going on, or was just used to people using the other ability on Jace, but if neither of the other Penalties fit, we will have our answer.
Option 2: Jace player gets a Warning for a Player Communication Violation. Place a card at random on from his opponent’s hand on top of their library.
This option punishes the Jace player for not being clear about what he is doing, and doesn’t cause that much disruption to the game. Putting a card at random back on top of the deck is an accepted solution for when you draw and extra card and don’t get a Game Loss. Many people say that a player could get an advantage by having a card they shouldn’t have in their hand, and the card they should on top of their deck. While I don’t disagree with them necessarily, this is what the policy says we should do. The next time that player draws a card legally everything will be back where it belongs.
Player Communication Violation penalties have very specific rules for when they can be applied. It can’t just be handed out because two players don’t agree on what is happening in a game. While that might be poor communication, PCVs have to violate specific rules.
Players may not represent derived or free information incorrectly and players must answer completely and honestly any specific questions pertaining to free information. If they have unintentionally done any of those things, than a Player Communication Violation has occurred and we need to fix the problem. So is the ability that was used free or derived information? The target of the ability is free information, but was that incorrectly represented? Was it represented at all? Does that matter? Hmm… Lots of things to think about. let’s move on to our next option.
Option 3: Warning for a Game Rule Violation. Put a card at random from non-Jace player’s had on top of their library.
So, this brings up an interesting question right away, which player should get this warning? What Game Rule was Violated? One player drew a card when they shouldn’t have, did he just fail to resolve Jace properly? Did the Jace player not properly play his ability by not announcing specifically what ability he wanted to use, or by not specifically choosing a target? Maybe they both get a warning?
Is there another option?
Option 4: Issue no penalty. Turn the die on Jace Beleren up to 5.
Could an argument be made that this Jace player was too ambiguous with his ability? This solution makes what the players did legal and corrects any potential miscommunication. Should we really be fixing things like this for players though? This one would require talking to each player but would probably not end up being what happens. But who knows?
So this week, rather than tell you guys the solution, I want to know what you think. Comment on this article with which option is the "correct" option? Is there something that I forgot about? Feel free to discuss it and I will chime in every so often and next week I will cover what is supposed to happen.
If you’re interested you can click here to find the PDF of the Infraction Procedure Guide.
As always, Keeping it Fun,
Level 2 Judge
Allon3word at gmail.com