27 February 2018

Follow Up to The Worst Rule in Magic Today

There was great response and discussion to my previous article about the current penalty for Drawing Extra Cards. Much was expected, some was unexpected, but most all of it was quality. I want to address two common misunderstandings about what I said in this follow up (the urge to respond to all the comments is strong, but I don't have the time or patience to attempt such a fruitless task).

Follow Up #1 - About my Proposal

I want to clarify that the suggestion I made on how to improve the rule is just that, a suggestion. Maybe I wasn't clear by putting it under the heading "My Suggestion", but the main point of the article was to illuminate the flaws with the current situation, not to delve deep into the many facets of possible solutions. I'll reiterate here that my issue is the current rule is extremely exploitable and serves to aid cheaters while doing little to protect the innocent players because innocent players rarely find themselves in Example D.

As for the critiques on different angles that could exist using my suggestion, I think if the alternative would be perfect they would have already implemented it. There is a tradeoff in how these penalties are written in all situations, and to accept the status quo as being perfect or good enough is a disservice to the community. We should always be striving to do better, and I believe those that write these penalties agree, otherwise we would not have reached this point.

A common critique of my suggestion goes like this: If player A draws an extra card and player B notices, player B will now have an incentive to wait until its too hard to determine the source of the extra card in order to get a game loss penalty for player A. I agree this incentive would exist, but I do not think it would be as common as those who mention it think, nor do I think it makes my proposal automatically invalid. To explain, I'll actually have to go to Uncle Ty's Old Timey Magic Stories.

Prior to the implementation of the "Thoughtseize Solution", game loss was the standard penalty for drawing extra cards. This often led to "feel bad" moments when a player would draw two cards with sleeves stuck together or similar dexterity error. In a somewhat notable event, Patrick Chapin activated Ajani, Mentor of Heroes on camera at a Pro Tour and put the card into his hand without revealing it. While it was caught immediately, there was no path available for the judges to downgrade the penalty from a game loss to a warning. These kinds of incidents will still be warnings under my system.

My experience through 15 years of play has been when the count is off someone was very likely cheating, and the "feel bad" game losses occurred when the player caught it but it was too late because the card had hit the hand already. That's why i think it's a big difference in situations and one size fits all isn't working. Maybe this isn't the common experience everyone has, but this is where my suggestion is coming from. 

Follow Up #2 - About the judge call

Some have suggested I'm only upset because I lost the match and that's why I have an issue with this rule. While I am upset that I lost the match, this is not the only reason, nor even the major reason. It was perhaps a catalyst to finally write the thoughts I've been developing over the last two and half years. I didn't just come up with all of the previous post overnight. I'm on record on Twitter (@ceciliajupe) criticizing the change when it happened in 2015.

I am aware that despite saying "they would be mostly powerless to do anything" they still had the power to disqualify the player if they thought he was cheating. Disqualification is always an option, I didn't think I needed to say that. I think that judges at the higher levels like GPs and PTs are more likely to do the things needed to make the current rules work. At lower levels like PPTQs, the weaker judges will struggle to make the best decisions. If you think a different judge (maybe you) would have made a different ruling in this situation, I'm glad to know that but I think most judges would not. We can write the rules to protect weak judges from hurting innocent people who make mistakes, or we can write them to protect them from being exploited by dishonest players. I am not a judge and I do not know which way should be preferred.

Since writing the article I learned that the player's previous disqualification was for a similar situation where he was found with extra cards. Perhaps the Head Judge of that tournament was more thorough than the judge at the Hunter Burton event. Perhaps the player had learned through experience what not to say when trying to explain away his cheating. Perhaps the system failed to have a proper penalty to lower the incentive to cheat. What's done is done, I can't change the past. I just want to ensure this doesn't happen in the future.

So yes, I was upset because I lost, but I lose all the time. I was more upset because I got cheated. I was more upset because a cheater was allowed to continue and do well in an event that so many people love. I was more upset because we had caught a known cheater red handed and couldn't bring him to justice. 

The discussion doesn't end here

I want to thank everyone for reading the previous article, and especially thank those who engaged in discussion about it. I also want to thank the great people that put on the Hunter Burton Memorial Open. I hope none of my anger perceived as directed at them; it was a fantastic event overall. Unfortunately, I don't think as many people will read this post as the previous one.


26 February 2018

The Worst Rule in Magic Today - and How to Fix It

This past Sunday, I played the Hunter Burton Memorial Open. I was looking forward to playing this wonderful event for quite some time. The recent unbannings of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf added to the anticipation. Despite playing ten rounds of a fresh Modern format, hanging out with friends all day, and winning $100, I came away with a bad taste in my mouth. Unlike other times I’ve been cheated in the past, the sting isn’t dissipating as time goes on. The more I think on it, the angrier I’m getting.

What Happened

After I won game one against Human Aggro, my opponent started game two with Unclaimed Territory into Aether Vial. His turn two play was Seachrome Coast, Vial in Champion of the Parish, cast Kitesail Freebooter. His turn three play was to deploy two Meddling Mage naming the cards he saw in my hand with Freebooter. At this point I noticed he had three cards in hand, along with seven permanents in play. Ten total cards on turn three, having played first. So an extra card appeared somewhere in three turns. Either he started with eight, drew an additional on turn two or three, or had an Aether Vial in his lap or something.

My opponent was a player who I know has been disqualified in the past. When I called a judge to ask a question away from the table, the first thing I told the judge was “My opponent has a history of being disqualified, I think my opponent is cheating, he has an extra card in his hand.” The details of the rest of the investigation don’t really matter to this because I knew despite my best effort to clue the judges in and actually catching him in the act of cheating, they would be mostly powerless to do anything.

By the end of the judge call, the head judge had determined that there was indeed an extra card in his hand, and no one could explain how it got there. The remedy was to have me look at his hand and shuffle a card back into his deck (I will call this the “Thoughtseize Solution” for the rest of the article). I chose a card, he shuffled it into his library. I continued the game but being unable to play the spells in my hand, I was dead in another turn.

The Worst Rule in Magic Today

The current penalty for drawing extra cards is covered in the Magic IPG under Hidden Card Error. The penalty is a Warning with an additional remedy that “If a set affected by the error contains more cards than it is supposed to contain, the player reveals the set of cards that contains the excess and his or her opponent chooses a number of previously-unknown cards sufficient to reduce the set to the correct size. These excess cards are returned to the correct location.” I believe in most cases this remedy is simple enough and corrective enough to be fine. The Hidden Card Error lists six examples:

A. A player draws four cards after casting Ancestral Recall.
B. A player scries two cards when he should only have scried one.
C. A player resolves a Dark Confidant trigger, but forgets to reveal the card before putting it into her hand.
D. A player has more cards in his hand than can be accounted for.
E. A player casts Anticipate and picks up the top four cards of her library.
F. A player, going first, draws for his turn.

One of these things is not like the others. Examples A,B,C,E,F are things that can happen due to brain farts, dexterity errors, or sticky sleeves. Option D by comparison is much more suspicious. We don’t know where this card came from, but we are okay with that? All my opponent had to say to avoid further penalty was “I don’t know how this got here.”

Without getting too much into Uncle Ty’s Old Timey Magic Stories, this penalty wasn’t always this way. The “Thoughtseize Solution” was only implemented in 2015. Prior to that, Drawing Extra Cards had its own entry in the IPG with a penalty of Game Loss (with some situations for downgrades).

The powers that be do a great job writing the IPG and keeping it up to date for an ever evolving game. They have priorities of ensuring a fun experience for everyone that plays. As a competitive player, I understand that my focus (or paranoia) about cheaters is not shared by those at the DCI, so we may disagree fundamentally about the philosophy behind this penalty. Still, I think with regards to example D, they are way off base.

A Confusing and Contradictory Philosophy

The IPG exists to provide a reliable consistent response to common situations. When you implement the “Thoughtseize Solution”, it is anything but reliable or consistent. At one extreme, the removal of a key card can make a game lost on the spot. In other situations, the card removed might not matter at all (as in my situation). And when it comes to Example D, we can’t even be certain the extra card is in the zone  we think it is.

The philosophy behind this remedy says “Though the game state cannot be reversed to the ‘correct’ state, this error can be mitigated by giving the opponent sufficient knowledge and ability to offset the error so that it is less likely to generate advantage” (my bold for emphasis). They are acknowledging the rule can generate an advantage, and they seem to be okay with that. They know they can write the IPG to prevent advantage generation (because it worked this way before), but they choose not to. They are okay with you getting a “feel bad” when you get cheated if that means you don’t get a “feel bad” when you make a mistake.

An Oversight of Incentives

As the rule is currently written, the player has no incentive to report a discovery of a mysterious extra card. The penalty will be a “Thoughtseize” the turn he catches it, and it will still be a “Thoughtseize” five turns later when the opponent happens to catch it. Obviously, knowingly hiding it is cheating, but as you can see by now this is next to impossible to prove, or even consider it possible. Good Magic players will know the advantage of waiting as long as possible to get the best option.

Through all those years and events, I’ve accidentally drawn seven cards after a mulligan, I’ve had sleeves stick together when casting Ponder, and I’ve eagerly untapped and drawn a card when I thought my opponent had said “Go” when really nothing had been said at all. But I’ve never had a situation where I had a mysterious card appear in the count on my side of the board. The current penalty does nothing except protect cheaters.

My Suggestion

I think the rule should be changed to have a separate penalty when there is no known source of the extra card. Example D should have a penalty of a Game Loss, with a possibility to downgrade if self-reported.

Let’s Discuss 

At the event, I had a conversation with a level three judge whom I respect a great deal about my concerns, including much of what I've said here. He dealt with my frustration at the time (which has only increased in the past twenty-four hours) and heard me out. He too had an experience similar to mine that had him questioning the way the penalty was written. If you are also concerned with not being cheated at your next event, share this post and have these conversations with other players and judges in your community.

Thanks for reading,

22 February 2018

Quick thoughts on RG eldrazi in modern


cards that were great: bbe, stirrings, TKS, reshaper
rest of the deck medium to below average i think
really missed not playing any dismember
domri was sweet but not sure you want more than 2 at most
obligator was underwhelming, but maybe just because i kept sideboarding it out
probably a good g1 card
nest invader is a neat idea but in practice not worth it
you want the recurring mana ramp of mindstone/talisman/ or even birds
also getting really close (maybe already there) to not enough colorless cards for stirrings
played llanowar elves to have cavern on elf for BBE, but cavern not really the issue in this deck
aslo nest invader real bad with kozileks return sb plan
fulminator was great after board (bbe into fulminator, what a great idea!)
endbringer def overperformed
3-1, beat goblins spirits jund, lost to GW coco
not sure i missed having noble hieararch but didn't attack with llanowar elves much
don't think i activated kessig more than once
could maybe get by trimming caverns if you wanted but cavern smasher the appeal of the deck to me

13 February 2018

PT Rivals of Ixalan Report

I played at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan in Bilbao Spain last weekend. I had a great time in the tournament and exploring the town.

Preparation and Expactations

This PT was my 7th time competing on this level. While my past results haven't been anything notable, I was uncharacteristically optimistic about this PT. The format was Modern and I really like the deck I have been having success with to get to this point. I didn't have a ton of experience with the draft format, but it didn't seem overly complicated or with many cards that varied wildly in how valuable they were. I didn't prepare nearly as much as I have done for other tournaments, but this was an event where that wasn't as big of an issue.

The goal for the tournament is simple: win. To do that you can break it up in steps, like make the top 8, or go at least 5-1 in draft, etc. The easiest way for me to look at it was I needed 12 wins. The sooner I get to 12 the better, but 12 is the minimum. I figured 8 win in modern and 4 wins in draft were doable, but didn't want to lock in to any particular format goal to avoid disappointment or overexcitement when I inevitably fall short or exceed.


Without the crazy number of drafts others had under their belt, I wanted to have some certain preferences. These would be archetypes I felt comfortable with to minimize the tough "in archetype" picks. The questions of which colors are open are always hard, but knowing which creature is better in your Pirate deck between Fathom Fleet Boarder and Grasping Scoundrel can easily be figured out before you have to make the decision. My preferences were BW, BR, BU, RW, UW, GW, preferring aggressive strategies in these colors. I never got any UG deck to come together, and UR required too much finesse for my limited preparation. The other two green combinations would likely require me opening a green card I found powerful enough to overcome the aversion to the color.

My first draft I opened Ghalta, Primal Hunger in a pack where the only playables were green except Deadeye Rig-Hauler. I took the Ghalta, and then was passed several solid black spells including two Moment of Craving and an Impale. The signal was easy to read, I just needed to solidify a second color. I ended up with a very solid black base and options to either play red for Reckless Rage and Unfriendly Fire or blue for some evasive creatures. I decided to play the red in the maindeck and board into the blue cards if necessary.

Round 1 My opponent and I traded mulligans to 5 in the first two games. I lost the first one to his Soul of the Rapids and Squires Devotion. Game 3 he had turn 3 Soul, but nothing to put on it and he flooded out so I won the match.

Round 2 Game 1 I have double Moment on turn 4 with Fathom Fleet Boarder in play vs his Sleek Schooner and 2/2. It was a blowout. Game 2 he has turn 5 9/9 dinosaur but I impale it and sneak through enough damage to finish him off with Unfriendly Fire.

Round 3 Game 1 I'm very fast and win. Game 2 he has 2 Needletooth Raptor and 2 Raging Regisaur. I board in a Lurking Chupacabra and Queen's Agent to help control the Raptors and I draw both to win a close game 3.

The draft on day 2 was much more difficult. A 4th pick Luminous Bonds and 6th pick Exultant Skymarch showed me white was open, but once again struggled to find a second color. I entertained GW for a bit since I had first picked Tindershoot Dryan, but also had some blue cards. None of the mana fixing was available after I took premium removal in the second pack, and I ended up with the following deck that didn't have a real identity

Round 9 I stole a game when my opponent missed his 3rd land drop on turn 3 and 4, but games 2 and 3 his Ghalta and Rekindling Phoenix were too much for me after I used my Bonds and Waterknots just trying to stabilize.

Round 10 I lost games 1 and 3 to his very very very aggressive pirate draw involving multiple one drops and Fell Flagship.

Round 11 I had to play vs a BG deck that was a tough matchup where I didn't have a way to beat his Thundering Spineback. I also played terribly when I didn't know Captain's Hook gave menace.

3-3 in Draft, but obviously disappointed after the conclusion of the second draft. Strange how if it had been reversed I might feel slightly better about my performance. This was the first time I 0-3 a draft at the PT.


This is the deck I played.

I had more to say about what was good and bad about this going forward, but then they unbanned Jace and Bloodbraid Elf so it doesn't matter. Maindeck was great, SB was probably a bit off, especially the Mindcensors I got tricked into playing.

I went 5-5 in matches, I'll try to recap them now:

R4 vs Valakut of some kind - Win game 1 when he draws 2 Pia and no Scapeshift or Titan. Lost the next two games to some topdecks when things were looking okay, but wasn't super far ahead so didn't feel that bad.

R5 vs UR Kikijiki
Game 1 I tutor for Dunes when he Pestermites my Knight, and the 3 Voice I drew killed him. Game 2 I punted after he played Blood Moon while I had Path and Command in hand, but failed to cast either and then never had white mana again after he Anger away my Birds of Paradise. I win game 3 fairly straightforward.

R6 vs Affinity
Game 1 I have active Knight and already GQ two of his Inkmoth. Because I drew Breeding Pool, I think he thought I was on different list and tried to Ravager a 3rd Nexus but of course I fetched up 3rd GQ and he had no board. Game 2 I had Stony Silence

R7 vs Humans
Game 1 he had Noble into double Reflector Mage so my first 3 turns accomplished nothing. Game 2 I cast collected Company on turn 3 and only found a Birds of Paradise.

R8 vs Abzan Coco
Game 1 I drew enough Path to not be losing, and then able to GQ him off of white mana. He had quite a few scrys with Viscera Seer and then two searches with Duskwatch Recruiter but never found another Vizier. Game 2 I kept 0 lander on 6 with Mindcensor Path 2 Birds and some others, didn't hit forest until turn 2 and just got attacked to death. Game 3 his start very slow where he doesn't play anything on turn 1 or 2 except Path on my Courser, allowing me to Azusa and Excavator early and easily win.

R12 vs Burn
Game 1 I probably punt by not attacking with a Voice one turn, or attacking with it the turn before. Both plays give me much better chance to win then the line I took that left me two points short against opponent stuck on 3 land with a bunch of 2cc spells in hand. I win game 2 vs his two Ensnaring Bridge by destroying all his lands with Courser in play. Game 3 he had Guide into 2x Swiftspear and I couldn't catch up.

R13 vs Grixis
Game 1 he suspends Ancestral, I play Noble Hierarch, his turn 2 he Serum Visions plays Creeping Tar Pit then puts die on his library because he forgot to remove suspend counter. He never finds 3rd land before he's dead and Ancestral has 1 counter on it. Game 2 more lengthy, he has early Tasigur that attacks me down to 8 before I stabilize with two Knight of the Reliquary that are 5/5s and I kill him.

R14 vs UW Control
Not much to say here, game 1 he cast Supreme Verdict 4x. Game 2 I tried to be aggressive with Horizon Canopy and Exacator but didn't have another green source and took too much pain so died after he Verdict then attack me with Gideon.

R15 vs Dredge
On the draw game 1 I was just not fast enough. Game 2 I had GQ loop but he had Lightning Axe to break it up and also had basic forest in his deck to recast Life from the Loam.

R16 vs Jeskai
Both games he flooded and didn't seem into it since we weren't playing for anything just 8-8 record.


 I had a great time exploring Bilbao and the surrounding areas. The highlights of the trip for me were the Guggenheim Museum, Gaztelugatxe, and the Vizcaya Bridge. Even better was spending the trip with my wife Beth. I've been fortunate to travel to many places to play various Pro Tours over the years, but this was the first time she was able to come along. It was a vastly superior experience going to see the sights with her than trying to do it with other Magic players or alone.  She refused to let me hole up in the hotel room with the post-tournament blues. We even braved nearly freezing rain to get to the top of the Vizcaya Bridge. I've met a lot of great people playing Magic including some of my closest friends, but this was a new juxtaposition to see how much more I like Beth. I don't tell her nearly often enough but I'm very grateful she's in my life.

So.... Now What?

After the failure at the main event, this was the first time it didn't inspire me to come back for more. My mindset going in was kind of a "last hurrah". I'd still love to play more PTs, I'm just not sure how committed to the qualifying process I am. Fortunately I do not have to play PPTQs or I would seriously be retired. After the RPTQ in April and the Team RPTQ in the summer (I'm certain some Bronze pro will be dragging me to that) who knows what my status will be. I finally finished my set of power so I'll be trying my hand at Vintage in real life. I've also rediscovered my love for limited so maybe I'll be drafting more on MTGO. Modern will be in chaos with the unbannings, but will still have my attention. I have two semi-major events coming up to play Modern in - the Hunter Burton Memorial and a SCG Open. I'll probably have Jace in my deck.

So ends another one of these recaps. I had wanted to write more but it's already been almost two weeks since the PT. Until next time.