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PTQ Houston - Harrisburg, PA (8.11.02)

Dave Taylor, Kendall Redburn, and Dorian Anders

This report is a collaborative effort. One of the hardest things about constructing a report for the judge's site is the time involved. We decided to open up a word document on one of our extra computers and write a report as the tournament was going on. Dave Taylor was the primary author with Kendall and Dorian both taking turns adding information.

(From left to right) Dave Taylor, Kendall Redburn, and Dorian Anders have a good time judging
General Information:
One of the first qualifiers for PT Houston drew 151 players. For Harrisburg, this is a fairly substantial increase in numbers; usually we draw 100-120 players. As this was also a Sunday during GenCon, we were pleasantly surprised.

Our judging staff consisted of Dorian Anders (L3), head judge, Kendall Redburn (L2), and Dave Taylor (L2). This was the first event run by Gray Matter's new Tournament Manager, Michael Errante, and things ran smoothly all day. He came prepared with plenty of supplies, had everything setup when we arrived, and even had booster draft boxes prepared for the side events.

Dorian decided during tournament registration that we would make an effort to verify players' decklists before the start of round 1. This proved fairly successful and resulted in 5-8 players' incorrect decklists being fixed before the first round began. Though we were unable to check all of them before starting round 1, we were still able to have all decklist errors corrected without penalty.

Round 1

The event was scheduled to begin at 10 AM and we were able to get round 1 started around 10:15 AM. The first issue that was brought to our attention was a player who was unsure of whether or not he had drawn a card yet for his turn. To solve the problem, we accounted for all cards in play (some had been drawn due to Skeletal Scrying and others moved due to Haunting Echoes) and counted, determining that he had not yet drawn (no mulligans, etc).

The next question dealt with madness and how timing works. The opponent of a player (Player A) played Mutilate, Player B, in response, discarded Arrogant Wurm and another card to activate Anurid Brushhopper's ability, allowed the ability to resolve, and allowed Mutilate to resolve. The question was whether Player A can activate the madness for the Arrogant Wurm.

Relevant texts:

Mutilate (2BB, Sorcery, TO) - All creatures get -1/-1 until end of turn for each swamp you control.

Arrogant Wurm: (3GG, Creature - Wurm, 4/4, TO) - Trample. Madness: 2G.

Anurid Brushhopper: (1GW, Creature - Beast, 3/4, JU) - Discard two cards from your hand: Remove Anurid Brushhopper from the game. Return it to play under its owner's control at end of turn.

The answer? No. We explained the procedure for madness, so that the player realized that madness must be announced when the card is discarded, and must activate and pay the madness cost before priority is passed after the first madness trigger resolves. This would have the Wurm resolve before Anurid Brushhopper is removed from the game and Mutilate resolves.

One more rules question from this round: Player A plays Haunting Echoes and has a Mirari in play. He decides to pay the 3 to get a copy of Haunting Echoes, targeting himself. Player A tells his opponent, Player B, that Player A does not have to remove the appropriate cards from Player A's library. Player B calls a judge and is unhappy about the ruling that Player A does indeed not have to remove the cards. This was amicably resolved by showing Player B the glossary entry for "Search."

Search: "If you're required to search a zone not revealed to all players for cards matching some criteria, you aren't required to find those cards, even if they're present..."

Another interesting issue presented itself midway through round 1. A player came up to our station and gave us his decklist. He mentioned that he had not heard our repeated announcements about handing your decklist in before playing round 1. His excuse was that he was busy completing his decklist and did not hear the announcement. He also said that he saw several other players who also had not given us their decklist. After verifying that all other decklists were in, we felt that a game loss was in order given that the event is REL3 and the potential for abuse (changing decks). This was applied at the start of round 2.

After seeing only a few matches going over the 50 minutes for round 1, we decided to watch these players during round 2 for possible slow play. We did not see any.

Round 2

While short of interesting rules questions, save madness interactions, this round did present one interesting issue.

A player (Player A) came up to us and told at the end of the round that his opponent for that round was playing "Walds" in his deck. These happened to be misprints in that the picture was a Plains but the card text had the Forest mana symbol. Player A noted that the opponent had put these lands in his Plains pile. We decided to "watch" this player during the next round. While we did not see foul play, we did feel that the potential for abuse was extremely high since he was playing a white and green deck. We instructed the player to replace these to regular basic lands. This was after the player received a game loss during round 3 for presenting a 58-card deck to his opponent. When the player demanded to see this in print, we weren't able to find current rules supporting this, but recalled a recent post by Rune Horvik on the DCIJUDGE list. Dorian was also able to find an example in the 2000-2001 tournament rules.

Round 3

We did not have any notes from this round, but we will take this opportunity to discuss a recent trend that we've noticed.

It seems that players are now counting their opponent's deck in between all games. I personally noticed that last weekend at my own local event in Harrisburg, PA, and we have given at least two game losses through this round for 58-card decks at the start of games 2 or 3. I would highly suggest counting your opponent's deck at the start of each game (in addition to shuffling it thoroughly), as the rash of presenting illegal decks seems to have escalated recently. Another trend noted here is for players to check the condition of their opponent's sleeves - once again looking for marked cards etc.

Another quick madness question asked by a player: "My opponent cast Faceless Butcher targeting my Wild Mongrel. I discard Fiery Temper to Wild Mongrel, using madness and then let Faceless Butcher come into play, taking my Wild Mongrel. I want to target the Faceless Butcher with the Fiery Temper. I get my Wild Mongrel back, right?"

First, the relevant texts:

Faceless Butcher: (2BB, Creature - Nightmare Horror, 2/3, TO) - When Faceless Butcher comes into play, remove target creature other than Faceless Butcher from the game. When Faceless Butcher leaves play, return the removed card to play under its owner's control.

Wild Mongrel: (1G, Creature - Hound, 2/2, OD) - Discard a card from your hand: Wild Mongrel gets +1/+1 and becomes the color of your choice until end of turn.

Fiery Temper: (1RR, Instant, TO) - Fiery Temper deals 3 damage to target creature or player. Madness: 1R.

Is the player right? No. First, if the player lets Faceless Butcher come into play, he can't cast the Fiery Temper as he had to pass priority at some point, ending the window of opportunity to use the Fiery Temper. If he wanted to play Fiery Temper targeting the Faceless Butcher, he'd have to wait until the Faceless Butcher enters play, and then discard Fiery Temper to the Wild Mongrel in response the Faceless Butcher's comes-into-play ability. However, much to the player's dismay, this results in a permanently removed Wild Mongrel.

Round 4

At this time we were running fairly well on schedule, pairing round 4 at 1:31 PM. Our first question for this round concerned Anurid Brushhopper. If its ability is used during the End of Turn step, will it return that turn?

The text again for reference:

Anurid Brushhopper: (1GW, Creature - Beast, 3/4, JU) - Discard two cards from your hand: Remove Anurid Brushhopper from the game. Return it to play under its owner's control at end of turn.

The answer is no. When the ability resolves, it is removed from the game and a delayed triggered ability is set up that will trigger at the next End of Turn Step's beginning. Since this End of Turn Step's beginning had already passed, it will not return until the next player's End of Turn Step.

The other interesting question concerned Aether Burst. What happens if there is an Aether Burst in Player A's graveyard, he plays another Aether Burst targeting two targets, and his opponent removes the other Aether Burst from the graveyard in response.

First, try answering the question without reading the card. Does X change and is there now a problem with too many targets? When does the X get locked in? Fortunately, the relevant text is on the card:

Aether Burst: (1U, Instant, OD) - Return up to X target creatures to their owner's hands, where X is one plus the number of cards named Aether Burst in all graveyards as you play Aether Burst.

This shows how many people fail to read the cards and why it is always a good idea to check the card texts when making a ruling. Don't let an opponent's request for a quick yes or no answer stop you from doing this important step.

Round 5

As round 5 began, we loved the speed at which the event was running. However, midway through the round, we encountered more madness questions, this one taking a large amount of time to gather the appropriate research materials.

The questions: Player A plays Breakthrough for 2. In response, Player B discards a Living Wish to his Aquamoeba. Without passing priority, Player B discards a Circular Logic to his Aquamoeba without invoking madness. Next, without passing priority, Player B also discards another Circular Logic to his Aquamoeba, this time invoking madness, putting the Circular Logic into the removed from game zone. First, is madness required? Second, can he play the Circular Logic without needing the stack to empty?

Again, we'll provide the card texts:

Breakthrough: (XU, Sorcery, TO) - Draw four cards, and then choose X cards in your hand and discard the rest from it.

Aquamoeba: (1U, Creature - Beast, 1/3, TO) - Discard a card from your hand: Switch Aquamoeba's power and toughness until end of turn.

Circular Logic: (2U, Instant, TO) - Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each card in your graveyard. Madness: U.

This example only goes to show that madness seems to be one of the most confusing abilities for the players. First, discarding to the removed from game zone for madness is not required, as the replacement ability defined in its rules text says "may." Second, the Circular Logic can be played any time after its first triggered ability resolves at instant speed until the player passes.

The next question involved Haunting Echoes and Solitary Confinement. Player B had a Solitary Confinement in play and Player A wanted to play Haunting Echoes on Player B. His argument was that Haunting Echoes targeted the actual graveyard, not the player.

Haunting Echoes does not target the graveyard. It targets the player. For it to target a graveyard, it would need to say "target graveyard.
Another general note for this round. It seems that Magic players lately have become sloppier in their play. We had a player who accidentally flipped one of his opponent's cards over during shuffling. Normally we would enter this as a Procedural Error - Major at this level, with a warning as the penalty. However, this player had also received a Procedural Error - Major during an earlier round and was also being watched for slow play. We upgraded the penalty to a game loss based on this information.

The lesson here is that a player's prior penalties are relevant in issuing future penalties. In this scenario we did feel that a game loss on its own for this penalty was too severe, but that a warning was probably too lenient. By checking the history, we were able to feel confident that, overall, the player was penalized appropriately. Be sure to check the histories of your players when issuing penalties!

Round 6

The madness questions from the previous round caused this round to be delayed by about 15 minutes. Up to this point, the speed of the event pleased us all, so we weren't bothered too much by the delay. In fact, few players complained about the delay as well.

There weren't too many questions this round except for the usual madness questions. The first question that we recall was whether someone could regenerate from Mutilate.

The text:

Mutilate (2BB, Sorcery, TO) - All creatures get -1/-1 until end of turn for each swamp you control.

The quick answer is no. Regeneration only replaces destruction and will only remove damage. The long answer is that the player can create as many regeneration shields as he or she pleases, but since the creature is being put into the graveyard as a state-based effect and is not destroyed, the replacement "shield" of regeneration will not kick in.

The other question of note was whether Catalyst Stone's ability is optional.

Card text:

Catalyst Stone: (2, Artifact, OD) - Flashback costs you up to 2 less to play. Flashback costs your opponent's 2 more to play.

Its ability is not optional. By "up to 2," the text means that it has a continuous ability that will try to remove 2 from the flashback cost, but might not be able to if the flashback cost is 1G (and 3 life) with Acorn Harvest. In this case, the player would pay G and 3 life. Catalyst Stone could only reduce the cost by 1. The player that asked us this question was quite surprised at the answer - and pointed out that quite a number of people had been playing this incorrectly.

Round 7

During this round, we decided to adjust our deck checking procedure by checking sideboards of random players in addition to checking full decks. We found no errors among the sideboards we checked.

This was the first time we've actually seen the Faceless Butcher infinite loop in play.
About halfway through the round, we had a Faceless Butcher loop. Here's what happened. Player A asked us "if I cast Faceless Butcher and target the Faceless Butcher in play, will I get my Faceless Butcher back (which was removed by the in-play Faceless Butcher)?" At the time, Player B had a Faceless Butcher and a token creature in play. We responded that, yes, when Player B's Faceless Butcher left play, Player A would get his own back. Player A proceeded to cast Innocent Blood and Player B sacrificed the token creature. Player A then cast his Faceless Butcher, creating an infinite loop (see Torment FAQ).

As usual, the number of requests for judges to watch for slow play started increasing. Slow play is usually hard to notice, as the players tend to play with increased speed when a judge is nearby. We didn't see or give any penalties for slow play.

Round 8

Not much happened in round 8, it was a quiet round. At this point the on-site report stops.

In recap we would like to recommend to other judges the construction of tournament reports "as it is happening". We were able to capture many more of the questions we were asked and it gave us something fun to work on when everything was quiet. The number of questions we were asked was much greater than usual - perhaps because it is the start of the Odyssey Block Constructed season.

Send your judge reports to Dorian Anders, doriananders@comcast.net.

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