Careful Consideration – National Tragedy


Worlds in Rome kicked off with a shocker when National champion Charles Gindy was disqualified from the tournament without prize for fraud.

Usually we don’t really hear about what’s going on with disqualifications, but we had a rare statement from Head Judge Sheldon Menery on what happened:

(taken from DailyMTG.com):

Gindy controlled a Master of the Wild Hunt, along with a pair of Wolf tokens, one a 2/2, and the other a 3/3 thanks to a counter from Oran-Rief the Vastwood.

Gindy activated his Master of the Wild Hunt, targeting one of his opponent’s creatures, in order to kill it. His Wolves were tapped, and his opponent’s creature was killed by the 5 damage from Master of the Wild Hunt’s ability, but the opponent did not assign damage back to either Wolf.

At the end of the match, Gindy asked why his opponent had not assigned damage to kill one of Gindy’s Wolf tokens when Master of the Wild Hunt’s ability resolved. This made it clear that Gindy knew that one of his Wolf tokens should have been assigned damage, but had chosen not to say anything at the appropriate time.

It is mandatory that the ability of Master of the Wild Hunt be completed in full, and by intentionally allowing the card to be misplayed, Gindy committed fraud as defined in the Infraction Procedure Guide. With Master of the Wild Hunt, a clear assignment of damage must be made for the ability to have fully resolved. It is not an option to see an opponent making a play outside the rules and allow it to happen.

Communication is one of the areas of the rules that is occasionally unclear in how it works, even to top players of the game. In this instance there was no ambiguity. It is the responsibility of both players to maintain the game state, and when they see that there is a problem, they must communicate it to their opponent.

The simple example that Sheldon used to illustrate was as follows. If you attack with a Silvercoat Lion, and your opponent blocks with a Glory Seeker that should not die in the combat due to Veteran Armorsmith that is on your opponent’s side of the battlefield, you have a responsibility to let your opponent know–if they try to put their creature in the graveyard–that it has not taken lethal damage. Willfully failing to do so is Fraud, and will result in the same penalty that Gindy received: Disqualification.

This ruling has implications for the Team Competition, where Gindy, as U.S. National Champion, was due to play alongside Adam Yurchick and Todd Anderson. His disqualification from the main event means that the U.S. team is ineligible. The use of the team alternate is not permitted in these circumstances.

Both Yurchick and Anderson will receive their prize money for the team competition, but will take no further part in team play at the World Championships this year.

The statement is pretty damning and makes Gindy seem shady, but several accounts from witnesses in Rome have said that the situation was different.

Allegedly Gindy’s board was:

* Master of the Wild Hunt
* Some number of 2/2s, not summoning sick
* A summoning sick 2/2 Wolf that came into play that turn from Master of the Wild Hunt
* An Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
* Other lands and possibly other irrelevant things (creatures, whatever).

His opponent’s board was:
* A 2/2 creature of some sort
* Lands and possibly other irrelevant things.

Gindy pumped the summoning sick Wolf to become a 3/3 via Oran-Rief, then attacked with the 2/2s. Before blockers, he activated the ability of Master of the Wild Hunt, killing the 2/2 with the 3/3 Wolf.

All of this is legal so far, since Master of the Wild Hunt says, “Tap all untapped Wolf creatures you control. Each Wolf tapped this way deals damage”¦” So if all the 2/2s were attacking, then the only Wolf eligible to deal/receive damage was the 3/3.

The game played on, and from this account of events, the game state was never illegal.

However, Gindy allegedly thought that Master of the Wild Hunt used the Arena ability for all Wolves, so thought one of his attacking 2/2s should have died in the process. So after the match he asked his opponent why he didn’t kill one of the attacking 2/2s. His opponent, Antoine Menard, called a judge over at that point.

If the situation was as Menery described, then Gindy was incorrect for not saying anything about the damage done to the Wolves and let his untapped 2/2 Wolf live, so there are grounds for Fraud.

If the situation was as described by others, however, then the game state was fine and the answer to Gindy’s question of why an attacking 2/2 Wolf didn’t die is simply “it couldn’t.”

Which account is correct? What really happened?

It doesn’t matter.

What is consistent with the accounts is that Gindy believed that his opponent could have killed a 2/2 Wolf with Master of the Wild Hunt’s ability and violated the communication guidelines by creating ambiguity about the game state. His actions after the match indicated that he did so knowingly, and in the judge’s opinion that was grounds for Disqualification.

It’s like if I have a Paladin en-Vec, I attack you with it and you block with your Grey Ogre, then put the Grey Ogre in the graveyard, all is well. But let’s say I don’t understand the wording on Paladin en-Vec (maybe mine’s in Russian or something) and I believe that the Paladin should have died, but I casually let it live, then I have cheated. If afterwards I say, “My Paladin en-Vec should have died, but I didn’t say anything,” then that would be Fraud even if everything I did was legal, since I expressed my intent to cheat.

From the above announcement:

“It is mandatory that the ability of Master of the Wild Hunt be completed in full, and by intentionally allowing the card to be misplayed, Gindy committed fraud as defined in the Infraction Procedure Guide. With Master of the Wild Hunt, a clear assignment of damage must be made for the ability to have fully resolved. It is not an option to see an opponent making a play outside the rules and allow it to happen.” (emphasis mine)

So the question of whether or not Gindy had an untapped 2/2 is largely irrelevant. Gindy’s actions allegedly indicated that he had thought he allowed a “fast one” to slip through, and that resulted in the DQ.

Contrast that to Brian Kibler’s situation, where a match-altering Angel of Despair trigger was missed in the quarterfinals match of Pro Tour: Austin, but Kibler says that he thought the trigger was a “may,” so when his opponent didn’t destroy anything with the Angel trigger (which would have won the game and match for his opponent), Kibler said nothing. It was obvious that Kibler knew about the Angel trigger and he even said so, but nothing happened to Brian. Why not?

The answer is simply a matter of intent. Maybe Kibler did know that the trigger was mandatory and is lying, but we have no way of knowing that (and his explanation is plausible; he hadn’t played against a Hypergenesis deck all tournament and he wasn’t playing Magic when Angel of Despair was printed and being played in Standard). “May” triggers don’t have the requirements in the communication guidelines, and failing to draw attention to a missed “may” trigger is both legal and strategically correct.

While it may seem ridiculous that the DCI is trying to get inside the heads of people and then rule based on what they intended, there can really be no other way to rule. For example, let’s say Player A has a Doran in play and is at 7 life. Player B has a Chameleon Colossus and plays Tower Above on his Colossus, making Doran block the Colossus. Doran blocks the Colossus as required by Tower Above, and Doran’s five toughness absorbs enough trample damage for Player A to live another day.

If neither player realizes that since Chameleon Colossus has protection from black, the “target creature blocks it this turn if able” clause in Tower Above means that Doran can’t block the Colossus anyway. The intent was not to cheat on Player A’s part, so Disqualification is way out of line, and instead both players receive a warning and nobody’s removed from any tournaments.

But if Player A realizes that he’s actually dead on board but allows the block to happen anyway? Damn skippy he should be disqualified; he’s cheating, and the harsh penalties should be applied appropriately.

Similarly, when comparing the Gindy versus Kibler situations, in the former it appears the intent was to cheat when game state was possibly completely legal, and in the latter it appears the intent was not to cheat when the game state was not legal. The intent to cheat (or not to cheat) is the important thing here, and the penalties were applied appropriately.

Gindy’s thing is Gindy’s thing and he will suffer whatever financial and personal costs from his transgressions. The real victims here are Todd Anderson and Adam Yurchick, his teammates on the United States National Team. Anderson and Yurchick themselves were not disqualified, but will not be permitted to play in the team competition. It’s pretty horrible for them and I can only imagine the disappointment they must be feeling right now.

A question is why can’t Brad Nelson, the alternate, participate in Gindy’s place and allow the United States team to continue? I don’t know the exact reasons for the policy, but I think it’s better that way. If three people on a team wanted to cheat, then you can just try to slip by the cheats and know that even if someone gets disqualified, you have a backup to fill in and allow the team to continue play despite having a member of the team disqualified. It’s essentially a “cheater’s mulligan.”

The bottom line is that I have a hard time thinking that the DCI committed an egregious error regardless of what the game state was or whether or not it was violated. If Gindy thought he cheated and his actions make it clear that he thought he cheated, then I applaud the DCI for treating him like a cheater.

Yours unintentionally,

zaiemb at gmail dot com
zbeg on Twitter


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