On the Floor: GP Denver

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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,

Kyle Knudson

Level 2 Judge

Allon3word at

Posted in Feature, Free, Strategy, TimmyTagged ,

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6 thoughts on “On the Floor: GP Denver

  1. First, I'd investigate the Jace player's opponent for cheating. The Jace player, while he could have said: "I draw", has been clear as to what action he is taking. He has removed a loyalty from Jace and then drawn a card himself, while stating what action he is taking. While I have seen Jace's -1 ability used targeting an opponent, it is always (and I mean that literally) been accompanied by "*You* draw". It is uncommon for cards with 'target player draws a card(s)' to be used differently than cards with 'draw a card(s)'. Also, I do not recall an instance of Jace's +2 ability being activated without some sort of accompanying "(We) both draw" statement.

    The delay in the opponent's draw seems suspicious to me – if the opponent had been under the impression that the +2 ability was used, why did he wait? And if he watched his opponent roll the die down to 2, then his opponent's draw makes it apparent who the Jace player wanted to draw. If the opponent somehow got the impression that he was being targeted with the -1 ability, he needed to call a judge when his opponent then drew a card. These factors would lead me to investigate the opponent for cheating.

    If it is determined, that the opponent of the Jace player is not cheating, then the penalty is also clear. The opponent of the Jace player has committed a Game Rule Violation, and we apply the fix described in the article. With the provision that the opponent is not cheating, Drawing Extra Cards does not apply, as a game effect has been resolving, and was resolved incorrectly by the opponent.

    To penalize the Jace player with a Player Communication Violation seems incredibly far-fetched, as the Jace player has been sufficiently clear about his intended game actions. Many players, with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, will go so far as to simply put 3 counters on it, tap the card with their finger, then proceed with resolving the '0' ability. This is sufficiently clear for tournament play. In the situation from the article, the player has done similarly by ticking the Jace die down, and saying 'draw'.

    The final option also seems ill-advised to implement. For a player who has taken sufficient steps to be clear, to then be forced to take a different game action than stated, based on his opponent's mistakes, should be strictly discouraged. To do otherwise would open the door for cheating that is incredibly hard to catch.

    Note that I would tell the Jace player that saying 'I draw' is a clearer way to state his intentions. Doing so does not change that the Jace player was sufficiently clear in the game.

  2. Starwarer is inferring too much from the other player's hesitation, I think. You know what I do if I don't fully understand a situation? I hesitate. (Then I usually ask for clarification, but only if in that intervening moment to think about things I don't come to a conclusion about what I believe the other player meant.)
    Secondly, a die on the table is free information, but it's a lesser authority than what the player who put it there SAID he meant. This is why we don't use dice for life counters at competitive events.

    I would first investigate the player communication violation. 'Draw a card' sounds like the imperative to me, because in English when we omit the subject, that implies 'you.' This sounds pretty similar to "Esper Charm targetting myself." In that case, since the Jace player said "[you] draw" and ticked the die down, then he puts a card back OR we tick the die up to 5. One of those two actions will put the game state into sync with what he communicated. I think the second would be more agreeable, but the first is probably more consistent.

  3. GRV to the Jace player's opponent, put a card back. Advise to the Jace player to be a little more clear to help avoid these situations, and his opponent to clarify before proceeding in the future.

    Personal Analysis:
    The two different draw abilities on Jace allow for some unfortunate ambiguity. Small details could have been included to avoid the problem altogether. Simply adjusting a die is subtle.

    Best suggestions for players to help avoid these cases :
    * Jace player could have stated "I draw?" or more clearly, "Jace's -1 on me?"
    * The opponent could have double checked the die, or clarified with his opponent which ability was utilized.

  4. First thing I want to point out that no one else has really touched upon is the REL of the event. This is a GP people, these people should damn well know what they are doing. So this would be operating under PRO REL I'd be assuming.

    First thing I see is a communication issue. The rolling down of the die from 3 to 2 is a clear selection of the -1 ability. The supporting statement and I quote of "draw a card" is highly ambiguous. Does it mean AP draws or OP draws. From my experiences on the OP side of a similar activation, as a player I must make sure all players are aware of the game state and the targeting choices. AP should have specified target and when he did not, OP should have required specification before resolution. (I play Vintage, I'm finicky about timing/specifications/responses because there are so many ways to interfere with things up more so than in any other format).

    In an ideal world, I would want to take both players aside individually to determine what they thought was happening. My strategy here would be to rule out a PCV. However this IS a PRO REL event, Starwarer's first paragraph pretty much said it. I would be slapping a game loss on OP but I would also be placing a warning on AP for PCV about not being clear. As if i recall correctly, a player receiving multiple warnings for the same offense then can have them upgraded to a game loss.

    I'll say it again. It's a GP, it's not your local FNM, there are arsehole players out there. The IPG is designed to provide a consistent guideline on this sort of thing. There is also a reason why there are various grades of REL. PRO REL means exactly that, serious prizes, serious event, if you are here then you should know how to play, play clearly AND know how to watch your opponent and when to call judge.

    1. Day 1 of a GP is actually run at Competitive REL, Day 2 is Professional.

      I don't necessarily disagree with your thoughts, I just thought I would point this out 🙂

      1. Touché, I was operating there under the understanding that GP & PT titled events were all run at the PRO REL for the entire event unless stated otherwise in the pre-event announcements.

        Cheers for the heads up. 🙂

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