This story comes from last year’s Modern GP in Minneapolis. I was playing against a high-profile player who I had just attacked down to three life. I had a Lightning Bolt in my graveyard and I showed my opponent the Snapcaster Mage in my hand and said the words, “Snapcaster Bolt?” My opponent told me to actually go through the motions, and that’s when I remembered what the Burrenton Forge-Tender that he had in play did.
I hadn’t tapped any mana for the Snapcaster Mage or even moved it out of my hand at his point, and I asked my opponent if I had to make that play. Neither of us had any idea, so we called a judge. The first judge to show up made it pretty clear that he wasn’t able to make a definitive ruling, but held me to making the play that I suggested. I appealed and the head judge explained that there wasn’t a hard rule for situations like this, and said that he was going to rule my communication as a shortcut and hold me to my actions, but he allowed me to make my case.
I argued that my actions were more akin to flashing a counterspell and asking my opponent if me having that card in my hand left them dead. As I hadn’t tapped any mana or done anything with the battlefield, I contended that I hadn’t actually made a game action.
My opponent made the point that if he had not made me go through the motions I would have just played into the Forge-Tender. This is an interesting point, and while it was true of this situation it could also have been true that I was only flashing him the Snapcaster in the hopes that he would forget about his Forge-Tender and scoop.
More importantly, this argument was not relevant in the judge’s ultimate ruling. Whether making me actually commit the actions impacted my thinking doesn’t have any impact on the matter of my communication being counted as a shortcut.
The head judge wasn’t convinced of my argument and ruled that my actions would be considered a shortcut. What call would you make if you were the head judge in this scenario?