Rule of Law – The Law of Rules


Also known as “My First and Last EDH Article”

The goal of a set of rules is to define the game. What’s the difference between checkers and scrabble? “The Rules” is a complete answer (I include “what pieces you get to play” with in my definition of the rules). What’s the difference between Standard and Elder Dragon Highlander (“EDH”)? “The Rules” is again a complete answer. So long as the rules include the pieces (it isn’t important that you agree with this, it just makes things simpler so we don’t need another word for rules + pieces), the rules are the game.

The next point I’ll try to make piggy-backs on the above idea that the rules ARE the game. It was set forth most brilliantly in David Sirlin’s book “Playing to Win.” If two people are playing with different rules, they are playing different games. Borrowing from Sirlin, if two expert Street Fighter II players are playing under tournament rules (for our purposes, “anything goes”) and two other players have agreed never to use a “throw” move on a blocking opponent, the two groups of players aren’t playing the same game. We don’t need to label the games, but we could; we could call the one Street Fighter II and the other Street Fighter II Without Throws. Why is it important to define “game” such that these are different games? It is important because it helps us understand why these players won’t both have fun when they play someone from the “other” game. The player who is used to a “ban” on throws will get thrown by the other player, a lot, and accuse that other player of being “cheap” or “unskilled” or even “rude.” EDH players, is any of this starting to sound familiar?

EDH and Standard

It is important to understand that not only are EDH and Standard different “games,” as I’ve defined that term, but two groups of EDH players that use different “bans” or frown upon different tactics are also playing different games from each other. One EDH group might embrace “playing to win” and all play degenerate combos that attempt to end the game quickly. Another group might have tabooed all those combo pieces and other annoying cards, such that they mostly play mid-range creature-based strategy. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. But how can they be expected to have fun when they cross-over and play someone from the other group? They might as well try to play checkers against chess; they’re just different games.

The recent #youmightbeanedhdb topic on Twitter (unrelated plug: add me on Twitter at mtg_law_etc) was all about different people’s proposed rules for EDH. Some people would do away with specific cards like Palinchron or Stasis. Others just want you to not take too long of a turn or otherwise slow things down. Still others want creatures to play a significant role in the games. All these people are proposing rules changes, even if they purport to only suggest “frowning upon” the tactic or ganging up on anyone who uses the tactic. These “soft” rules create a lot of confusion. They tend to be unwritten, which makes them hard to keep track of. They’re also created ad hoc, so its hard to predict what new soft rules will pop up tomorrow, or the day after that.

Here’s what EDH needs: a set of rules that is clearly defined and changed infrequently (like what other formats have) that leads to the kind of games EDH players want. Is this going to be one set of rules? It could be, if and only if everyone who plays the format can agree on what type of game is fun. If not, as I suspect is the case, groups of players will have to have their own sets of rules. Isn’t that what happens now? No, because I’m suggesting actually doing these things:
1) writing the rules down,
2) agreeing that the rules will only be modified infrequently, and writing down how that happens,
3) within the rules, whatever those are, anything goes, no moves are “cheap” no strategies are “lame” and no deck is “frowned upon.”

People often say the point of EDH is to have fun, and that’s why the rules are flexible. That’s a good reason to have more than one set of rules, but it isn’t a good reason to have unwritten, extremely flexible rules.

If your group hates combo kills, you can design rules that prevent combo kills. You might ban all the offending cards, or you might create some other rule such as one spell per turn or maximum 15 mana in a mana pool or no ability can be activated more than 5 times in a turn, etc. The possibilities are endless. The key thing is that once the rules are set (and you might want to have a test phase to calibrate the rules), if someone finds a combo, it isn’t their fault, and it shouldn’t be frowned upon. If the rules need to be adjusted to account for that card you forgot to ban, do it according to your rules for modifying the rules. This is how the DCI changes formats like Vintage.

Imagine my group loves huge creatures attacking for the win. That’s what we all agree is fun. Some burn here or there is ok, but we don’t want 40 points of burn or a lethal [card]Stroke of Genius[/card] to decide games. This group might start with the rule “a player does not lose the game until he or she has taken 20 damage from creatures.” Sure, you might need some other rules to prevent someone from making infinite tokens or taking infinite turns or stasis locking everyone, but you start one rule at a time. You approach each thing you want to “soft ban” or “frown upon” and you design a rule that prevents it from happening. Players should also adopt a mindset that if someone finds a loophole in the rules, it isn’t that person’s fault, its everyone’s fault since everyone agreed upon the rules. Let the person have their fun, and then make your rules better at the next opportunity.

Keep in mind that making creative rules is critical. You might have thought to yourself, “well, if card X isn’t banned, but most of us don’t like it, we’ll just attack players with card X first in multiplayer games.” If the group considers this fun, great, allow it. If not, use an attack to the right rule or play teams instead of free for all. There is a set of rules to fit every group.

The benefits of designing such a system are that if a new player or group of players wants to join in, they can get up to speed by reading the rules, rather than having to learn all the unspoken customs. Additionally, a player who invests time building a deck won’t have that deck “frowned upon” as soon as it executed its gameplan. Another benefit is that the rules move in a direction towards fun over time. As you figure out what the group doesn’t like, you remove it, without worrying that some “EDH d-bag” is going to bust it out even though no one else likes it.

There is a special case mentioned in Playing to Win about “soft bans.” In certain Street Fighter games, one or more characters are simply too good and allowing them would mean no other characters would be viable choices. In America, these characters are banned, but in Japan, there is just a taboo or soft ban on these characters. It is within the rules to register for a tournament with these characters, and yet none of the top players do so. This appears to work for two reasons: first, the number and complexity of these soft bans is very small. Second, Japanese people consistently (though not always among weaker players) abide by the social customs in these games. I don’t think either of these two conditions is consistently present in American EDH.

I’ll conclude by again arguing that the rules should clearly define what is accepted and what isn’t. Imagine playing Scrabble without the rule that only words from some identifiable source can be used. Sure, the word XQJGHZA might be “frowned upon,” but it isn’t banned. How is this game better than the one where the list of acceptable words is clearly defined? We should make our EDH leagues more like the latter form of Scrabble and less like the chaotic former version. Set all your rules out in writing, make them subject to change only infrequently, and set out the method of changing the rules in writing as well. Oh, and read Sirlin’s Playing to Win, it might help you understand where us “spikes” are coming from, even if you’ve chosen a different path.

The Esper Charm Controversy

For those who don’t yet know, Cedric Phillips’ opponent recently said “Esper Charm targeting myself” during Cedric’s end step. Should this mean the player has to discard two cards, since the only mode for Esper Charm that can target a player is the discard two mode? At first I thought that isn’t the outcome, or maybe more accurately, I felt that this isn’t the right outcome. After careful thought, I think the player should be forced to discard two cards.

More than one Level 5 judge has come out and said the player should be allowed to choose the “draw two” mode. I respectfully disagree.

1) an empirical fact: players do not announce modes on modal spells where announcing a target makes the mode clear. No one says “Bant Charm, choosing creature on the bottom mode, targeting Baneslayer.” Instead we all just say “Bant Charm targeting Baneslayer” or something very similar. Is this ambiguous? Of course not. Asking “which mode are you choosing, the creature one or the artifact one?” is likely to get a puzzled or frustrated look in response. So why then is “Esper Charm targeting myself” any different? “Well,” you might say, “the player here is trying to draw two cards, but is confused.” This brings us to point two.

2) No one should stop to check player intentions if the game state isn’t ambiguous. When I Bant Charm a Baneslayer, my opponent need not stop and think “Did he really want to Bant Charm this Jitte?” There is no ambiguity, and it’s the other player’s turn to respond to the Charm. If I just put Esper Charm or Bant Charm on the table and say nothing, of course my opponent needs to ask me to clarify what mode I am using, and what targets I wish to select. Where the spell is on the stack, and information given by the casting player is consistent with one mode but no others, we move on. Where the game state is objectively clear, one player’s subjective intent to announce a spell differently than he did is completely irrelevant. A player might honestly have intented to Bant Charm my Jitte, but just slipped up and said Baneslayer. Can he then say “well I never picked a mode” and back up and target Jitte? If you said “yes” what about after I’ve shown my Brave the Elements?

3) Rule 4.2 allows players to use tournament shortcuts. When a player announces his Bant Charm with the words “targeting Baneslayer” he is using a shortcut. The shortcut is “Player indicates which mode he is using by announcing the spell in a manner that is only consistent with one mode.” While not an enumerated shortcut, this is a shortcut players constantly use. “Cryptic Command, targeting your Cruel Ultimatum and your untapped island” need not be accompanied by “choosing the modes counter target spell and return target permanent to its owner’s hand” and indeed, it very rarely is accompanied by this useless addition. Tournament Shortcuts, Rule 4.2, acknowledges and embraces shortcuts that we all use.

On Cedric’s thread, someone responded to my shortcut comment with “Matt, the purpose of shortcuts are to allow the game to progress more quickly and fluidly when both players clearly understand which actions are being omitted. In your bant charm vs. baneslayer example, as long as both players are clear that baneslayer is going to the bottom, it’s not necessary to announce the mode (compare to “bant charm your frogmite,” which requires clarification). However, as soon as Ced’s opponent reaches for his own library, it becomes abundantly clear that both players didn’t have the same understanding of the shortcut; in that case, that shortcut is no good.”

However, imagine the other player trying to respond to the Esper Charm while it’s on the stack, and while it is as clear as a Bant Charm targeting a Baneslayer. He might counter the spell in order to prevent the discard (he might KNOW the opponent’s hand is 2 Iona and 1 Rise From the Grave). In this situation the Esper Charming player has been allowed to “freeroll” Cedric for a counter, since if he counters it, fine, and if he doesn’t, then the spell changes to “draw two” upon calling the judge. The fact that players don’t often choose to make themselves discard two is what makes it “feel” like a bad decision to force them to, but we can’t look use the card Esper Charm and its typical uses as justification for interpreting the rules in a bizarre way (unambiguous game state gets “corrected”).

Here’s an example that is directly analogous that might resonate more on the “fairness” or “intuition” level. The card [card]Dawn Charm[/card] has only 1 targeted mode, but it has two mode that could impact a creature’s survival. Regenerate a creature targets, while prevent all combat damage does not target.

Say I am attacked by a Ball Lightning, and I block with a Hill Giant. I want to use my Dawn Charm to save the Hill Giant. If I choose regeneration, I’ll take three trample damage and save my guy, but if I choose prevent all damage, I’ll take zero and save my guy. I decide to prevent all combat damage, but I say “Dawn Charm targeting Hill Giant” instead, focusing on wanting to save my guy rather than precise technical play. My opponent wants my Hill Giant dead, and he realizes that a spell with only 1 target is countered if that target is gone upon resolution, and he realizes that if the Hill Giant is gone before combat damage is dealt, I’ll take the full 6 from Ball Lightning. Reasonably, he Lightning Bolts my Hill Giant in response to the Dawn Charm. “Fine” I say, still not realizing what is going on, “I take 0 due to Dawn Charm.” Now my opponent calls a judge and tells the judge that I targeted Hill Giant with the Dawn Charm, so it must have fizzled and had no effect after I bolted it. What should the judge do?

This is the same problem as the Esper Charm problem, but it is phrased in a way that makes one outcome “feel” less obviously correct than the other. I think both cases should be ruled in favor of the objective announcement of the spell, rather than allowing a player to back up and declare modes when no one does that in first instance with other modal cards with only one targeted mode. Even if it’s not a shortcut, how do you ever look at a perfectly valid (objectively) game state and make any “correction” to it? There’s nothing to correct.

If you think a player’s unstated subjective misunderstanding about a game state creates an ambiguity in an otherwise unambiguous game state, prepare for some opportunistic subjective understandings. I’ll use a shortcut as an example, the rules say “I’m done” means you wish to pass all the priorities in the turn until your opponent does something with his/her priority, and if none, the turn will end. According the Esper Charm folks, it seems to me, if I say “I’m done” but I meant that i’m done with the first main phase only, there is an ambiguity and my intent will allow us to unwind the shortcut and get back to my main phase rather than my end step, where my opponent thought we were and began to cast a spell.

-Matt Sperling
mtg_law_etc on Twitter.

132 thoughts on “Rule of Law – The Law of Rules”

  1. You are correct regarding the Esper charm incident. Cedric’s call for the judge was permissible, although I can understand why some people think it’s low.

    Players: read the F&$%!$ card.

  2. Completely agree with the Esper Charm thing. What if he had Rise From the Grave and actually wanted to discard reanimation targets. Imagine if this happened:

    “Esper Charm targeting myself”
    You explain to the judge what he just said, and the judge rules “no, no, he meant to draw two cards, right?”

    At this point, your opponent could even change his mind, even if his every intention at first was to discard two. It almost leads to situations where you can cheat the system like that, by announcing one way, seeing the reaction, and deciding the other if you’d like.

    I know I worded this badly, but hopefully someone knows what I’m talking about.

  3. The Dawn Charm is way different than Esper Charm example. Maybe the person playing Dawn Charm doesn’t realize that his Hill Giant will be saved if he uses the first mode, or maybe his opponent has the one card that says, “Damage can’t be prevented this turn” (hopefully I’m not the stupid one, I’m assuming you can still regenerate while damage can’t be prevented).

    I really think your opponent should say the modes of the spell, even if it takes 2 seconds longer than it should, by, say, having to say, “Bant Charm, make your Baneslayer go on the bottom of your library.” Granted, you shouldn’t get a judge warning or anything if you don’t say it and if it is a mutual agreement that the shortcut is acceptable, but you should be thorough, anyways.

    But I’ll agree, his opponent is very stupid for saying, “Esper Charm targeting myself” in the first place.

  4. The opponent was only “stupid” when he failed to realize what was about to happen after Cedric asked him for targeting clarification twice in a row (at least according to Cedric’s written account of the incident). If my opponent looks at me skeptically and asks me to clarify what I am doing, I am going to slow down and check my cards to ensure that I’m not about to punt.

  5. While I feel like there are two legitimate sides to the argument, I find it somewhat upsetting that there isn’t more nods to the spirit of the game. In it, I believe that Cedric could have easily avoided the controversy by simply asking for clarification on the modes he would choose off of Esper Charm even if he said “targeting”. Clearly, by saying “targeting”, it leave just one possible outcome as defined by the cards. I would hope that someone as public and visible like Cedric would give more credit to the spirit of the game as opposed to making the decision to essentially give way to this controversy. I’m not defending what the opposing player said, cause it is by all means his mistake. But I feel like a person who could be an ambassador of the game when given the opportunity to simply ask for clarification (and hopefully, let the player know what could have happened) and move on.

  6. yeah i guess you can rules lawyer esper charm if you want and make up justifications involving scenarios that have nothing to do with the current game, but it makes you a dbag in my eyes.

    instead just pull an ochoa and get your opponent disqualified.

  7. You know what my playgroup’s favorite format is? “Legacy without Mystical Tutor” because we all have a gentleman’s agreement that that card is bonkers and we shouldn’t play with it.

  8. Matt, maybe you can clarify, but my understanding was that they player cast esper charm and was baited by Cedric by him saying “Targeting who?”. At that point the player said “Targeting me”, and then Cedric called the judge. I don’t want to get into the nuance of the rules here, I’m just curious about how the situation occurred.

  9. Technically Dawn Charm has two targeted modes although unless you are being targeted by a spell at the moment, the other one is irrelevant.

  10. Part of my belief structure with regard to magic is that the better player should win significantly more games than the worse. A lot of being the better player is knowing what cards do because without that knowledge it is difficult to know much else. I think that knowledge of card functionality gave Cedric an edge here and I do not think that he did anything morally impermissible. What he did was almost certainly supported by the rules of the game.

  11. If you bothered to read section 4.2 of the MTR, you’re final example is already accounted for:
    “Certain conventional tournament shortcuts used in Magic are detailed below. If a player wishes to deviate from these, he or she should be explicit about doing so. Note that some of these are exceptions to the policy above in that they do cause non-explicit priority passes.
    The statement “Go” (and equivalents such as “Your turn” and “Done”) offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the end step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise.”

    “If the players are confused by the use of a tournament shortcut, they should be backed up to the beginning of the shortcut and no penalty should be issued (though they should be reminded to play more clearly).”
    answers the Esper Charm argument pretty nicely.

  12. Player: Esper Charm targeting myself.
    Cedric: Judge!
    Judge: Player, what do you want your esper charm to do?
    Player: I want to draw 2 cards with it!
    Judge: That mode doesnt have any targets, please read your cards carefully. Warning, something about communication, now draw 2 and keep playing the game the way Richard Garfield intended to.

    Whats the problem with that scenario?

  13. Let us assume your opponent announces casting the spell Esper Charm, and the first thing you do (before your opponent gives any clarification about his/her intent) is calmly ask “Targeting?”, I think a lot of opponents who are actually intending to draw 2 off of Esper Charm will snap react saying “Myself.”

    If you were pretty sure (in that moment) that your opponent wanted to draw 2, then you were probably only asking “Targeting?” in order to call the judge to rules lawyer him. While you would be well within your right to do that, it doesn’t make you a good person. Your intent has everything to do with whether or not you’re a douche.

    I don’t know Cedric’s intent, I don’t know if he is a jerk, but this kind of thing doesn’t usually happen unprovoked in my opinion.

  14. Your examples aren’t relevant. The problem with this situation (and what most likely confused his opponent) was that the cards for drawing cards in magic lack consistency in that some require a target, whereas some do not.

    Cedric’s decision to ask “targeting who?” repeatedly is a rather dick-ish response to his opponent’s spell. He should have asked which mode his opponent was using and left ambiguity out of it. You could make the argument, as many of you have, that because this particular card drawing effect doesn’t allow for targeting means that if he says he is targeting himself, he must be discarding, but if Cedric had asked the correct question, then there would be absolutely no confusion.

  15. I am pretty disappointed that you misunderstood the point of the Twitter EDH discussion. People were not talking about unwritten rules i.e. your main thesis is flawed. They were talking about things that were not fun to them for whatever reason. Alex understood this and he wrote his response on his blog and addressed that point (“why is your idea of fun OK when mine isn’t?”).

    Forget rules for a moment. I hope you will read this next section and give it some serious consideration. Think about strategy in a group.

    Suppose one of your opponents runs some combination of card(s) that are very difficult to defeat. Your first couple of games they pull out their combo and win pretty easily. Isn’t it rational that you will assume that opponent has this inevitability in future games? Why shouldn’t you take the role of beatdown against them and attack them first? Don’t you think the other opponents will come to a similar conclusion that “Mr. Combo” is their primary threat?

  16. I’m just confused. I thought this was pretty well settled on the side of the esper charm not making the player discard. I’m certain this isn’t the first time we’ve had this discussion.

  17. How this would happen at every FNM in America hope fully:

    Timmy: I’ll play Esper Charm targeting myself.

    Spike: Wait, which mode?

    Timmy: The draw two cards thing!

    Spike: Oh ok! You should say ‘Play Esper Charm to draw two cards!’

    In my opinion taking 5 seconds to clarify whats going on is far more sporting and overall better for the game. Magic players need to be able to communicate well with each other, unless they are playing MTGO. I know at competitive events the steaks are raised but every once in a while we need to put our egos aside and ask the age old question of “What are you doing?”

    I think the funniest part of this whole situation is that if the skill level of the players involved was much less there would not have been any judge calling or even a “say what?”, it would have been “What does that card do?”

    I think the judges got it right, so : P

    Now if the game state had advanced as in Cedric plays something in response I think the judges would have had to have ruled in Cedric’s favor.

  18. A few things. First, the esper charm incident occurred not at fnm, but at a real tournament, with a significantly higher REL. At FNM, you’re playing for a (usually) crappy foil, and the intention is to have a good time and introduce players to a tournament setting. At a real tournament like the cash series by SCG, where this happened, the point is to beat the person on the other side of the table and win a bunch of money. Those people that have been mentioning the spirit of the game, or playing the way Garfield intended, etc, may want to keep that in mind.
    Here is a direct quote from Cedric’s article:
    Him: End of your turn, Esper Charm, targeting me.
    Me: [brief pause] Esper Charm, targeting you?
    Him: Yes. Esper Charm, targeting me.
    Me: You’re targeting yourself?
    Him: Yes. I am targeting myself.
    Me: Judge!
    I think that Cedric was more than generous here. He double checked his opponents intentions, and any reasonable person should have been alerted that something was afoot. His opponent was playing at a high level tournament, failed to read/understand his cards, and then was not skilled enough to stop and think when something was clearly amiss. I think its fairly clear that Cedric should maintain his “good-guy” reputation, that the opponent deserved to lose, and that the judges made the correct ruling by forcing him to discard.

  19. Few points.
    I think the aforementioned examples of how Cedric was being a DBag make the argument pretty clear. He was trying to gain an advantage by manipulating the situation, clearly against the spirit of the game. There is a reason he didn’t ask which of the three he was choosing, he asked targeting who to get a triggered response in order to gain an advantage. The judge must have understood this and saw no reason to circumvent the rules.

    Regarding EDH: If you are joining a group of people for a game, it is your responsibility to play in a friendly matter. We don’t have a laid out set of rules because no one wants to take the time to do so and banning or restricting certain playstyles. If you join my game and proceed to storm combo us and kill everyone on turn 4, that is fine. I hope you enjoy finding another game. We are not in the business of telling you what you can and cannot play, there are too many abusive combos and abusive strategies in EDH to sit down and ban them all. It would limit the card pool for people who want to use those cards, but not in a DBag way. Just like I don’t tell you how to play, I expect you don’t tell us how to play. We just will choose not to play with you.
    It’s not that difficult to figure out, if I invite you to my poker game and we sit down and are playing ‘no limit’ and we all have about 5 dollars on the table, but you sit down and want 500 and just proceed to bully the pot. Sure we said it was no limit, but come on.
    Likewise, I played semi professional volleyball, when I play with the guys from work, I could ace every serve, but I don’t. Is it written anywhere that you can’t ace a serve? Nope, but I know if I do that, they probably won’t want to play with me much. That doesn’t mean I don’t drop one every once in a while. But the fun is in the volley, not the “i’m better than you” showing of skill. See, not being a DBag is a life skill.

  20. I will probably be more careful with modal spells in the future as a result of this, so there’s at least some good come of it. I neither appreciate nor despise Cedric’s actions in this instance; when playing in a tournament winning is very important obviously and the player probably ought to have been forced to discard following the course of events and statements. On the other hand, it was disingenuous and abusive for Cedric to impose a mode upon the spell by asking his opponent for the targets (if this happened as some claim). Assuming there were no enchantments in play, asking for the target of the spell was figuratively forcing it into the discard mode. It is not up to the other player to interact with a spell in this way, which is where I think the real wrongdoing occurred. I’m certain that the level of influencing the game perceived here depends on the point of view, but in my mind it was wrong and the correct course of events transpired with the player getting to draw cards, as I’m certain choosing modes of spells you don’t control is some manner of game rules violation.

  21. fadingthought: why not just have the opponent play the game for you then?

    Also your EDH section reads like a ‘I don’t want to explain to you what my fun is, but if you don’t fall under it, fuck off.’

  22. I was at the starcity 5k in st louis this last weekend and happened to be watching a casual game between patrick chapin and craig westcoe, with cedric phillips sitting next to chapin. They were discussing this epser charm situation and it was really interesting to hear pat and cedric discuss the situation. Chapin made remarks about not looking down on cedric for rules lawyering the player, however he did make a point to say that cedric didn’t trick his opponent into saying that he targeted himself by using “any sort of jedi mindtrick”.

    So apparently what I gathered from the discussion was that cedric’s opponent just cast the spell, saying he targeted himself, cedric asked for clarification, then the opponent went to draw and he called the judge…

    I personally feel like he should have at that point asked the player to specifically clarify whether he wanted to draw 2 or discard 2… it would have seemed more gentlemenly…. ( i play this way, sometimes to a fault). But he clearly saw a situation where he could take advantage of the other players “mispeaking” or “misinterpretation” of the card.

    Either way, chapin did say that he would have done the same thing only in a pro tour event where there is a major prize on the line… not at an event like a starcity 5k or lower… I thought that was one of the more interesting things I heard in that discussion.

  23. If you come over to my house and everyone in the house has their shoes off, do you leave yours on and complain there wasn’t a sign?
    I’ll be more than happy to give you examples of what would be a DBag move if you play at our EDH game and you ask me. Am I going to be able to pull every single DBag move in the entire collection of magic cards? Probably not. That’s why when I play a casual game with a new group of people, I play a fun deck that isn’t too powerful or too weak for the first game, then I look to how my hosts are playing to get a feel for the game. I hardly ever win a game of EDH, I could win lots if I tried to, but as I mentioned with my volleyball analogy, the fun isn’t in the winning, it’s in the playing.

    If you need a list of written rules to be able to have fun with a group of people you just started playing with in a casual game, then you are probably a dbag and should start your own group. The world is full of unwritten rules, if you can’t adapt, then you are cast out. Welcome to life.

  24. Generally, when people come over to my house, I ask them to take their shoes off before they enter. It seems that in EDH, it would be polite to extend them the same courtesy, rather than to say ‘It’s fine to combo kill us all in game one, but have fun finding a different group to play with after that.’
    If you don’t like infinite combos, at least take the time to explain what the main taboos are in your playgroup – if the new guy thinks that his deck might have offending cards, he will presumably mention them, and ask if they’re okay.

    I think that Matt was perfectly in the right to say that having a written, established set of rules, bannings, etc. would do well to limit after the fact instances of ‘that was a dick thing to do, don’t play with us anymore.’

    The first time I built an EDH deck, I put Armageddon in, simply because I’d always wanted to play with the card, and I’d never had the chance. In one circle of friends, it was totally okay. In my second EDH game ever (and first multiplayer game ever) I cast it once, and someone jumped down my throat about it, as if I was supposed to know that mass land descruction spells were ‘against the rules’ – despite having explained that this was my first time ever playing multiplayer Magic, and only my second time playing EDH.

    I agree with Matt 100% that play groups should have clearly defined rules and bannings – if you think that’s too troublesome to do, you have no place getting mad at someone else for playing a card or strategy that you deem ‘unfun.’

  25. Fadingthought, do you see the hypocrisy of your argument? You’re saying that you are fine with people playing cut throat in EDH if they want to, but if they do you won’t play with them again. If thats the way you want to be, cool, but it seems like you’re being a jerk if you just shun people without giving them a reason or explanation. If you don’t mention to them after they storm-combo the whole table out on turn four that that isn’t how you guys like to play, but just shun them instead, how are they supposed to know? Sure, they could guess, but they could also think it was any of a dozen other things.

    also, there appears to still be some debate about what happened, so I’ll again post from Cedric’s account:
    Him: End of your turn, Esper Charm, targeting me.
    Me: [brief pause] Esper Charm, targeting you?
    Him: Yes. Esper Charm, targeting me.
    Me: You're targeting yourself?
    Him: Yes. I am targeting myself.
    Me: Judge!
    Cedric double checked, giving his opponent every reasonable chance to catch himself, and he didn’t. If people want to play fun decks or play without really knowing how their cards work, thats fine, but they can’t expect to do that in tournaments that matter and be carried along by their opponents.

  26. Cedric was justified in calling a judge. If a player is unfamiliar with the rules, wordings, deck he is running, etc. that player is at a disadvantage and it is his choice to not do his homework and put in the time necessary to play at a high level. This was a major competitive event but in my opinion it should be this way at FNM’s as well. Why should the guy who reads every article he gets his hands on, playtests constantly, studies how cards interact, etc. concede to buffoonery for “the spirit of the game.” That’s ridiculous. Magic is a game which requires practice and hard work to perform at a high level and those that put the time and work in deserve their rightfully earned advantages over slouches.

  27. Here’s the wonder and joy of EDH: if you want to write out a slew of rules for your group, go right ahead. If you don’t, then don’t. The point of EDH is that it allows an INCREDIBLE amount of variation in an interesting, thought provoking, fun environment.

    One of the reasons that rules for EDH are not made on a combo by combo basis, and are instead left to social methods of enforcement (such as the aforementioned Japan/Streetfighter example) is that some cards in EDH are completely fun and interesting in some circumstances, yet just not fun in others (an example could be Tolarian academy in a deck that does not abuse it). Not to mention different groups of people find different things fun.

    Why should there be a set of rules written down that limit some things that are fun for some groups, yet not fun for others. EDH is an extremely American game: you are free to do whatever you like with your deck, within the basis of the format, with the exception of about 20 cards in all of magic. Everyone else is just as free to want nothing to do with you if it doesn’t fit with what they want.


  28. I think that it is pretty cut and dry, the Esper Charm player announced a legal spell, chose legal targets and the spell should therefor resolve as announced. Magic is not a place for rulings based on intent.

    Here’s a scenario from a PTQ I was at during Time Spiral block constructed: A player had 2 Plains and a Flagstones of Trokair in play. On his fourth turn he played a 2nd copy of Flagstones of Trokair, tapped his lands and announced Calciderm. He cannot do this because his Flagstones are legendary and thus go to the graveyard and find some new, tapped, plains. The players called a Judge and the player said “I meant to play this basic Plains in my hand, not the Flagstones”. To that player I say “I’m sure you meant to, so you should have, but you didn’t.”(the judge ruled that the player could play the plains instead which I think, to this day, is unbelievable.)

  29. I’m under the impression that if you’re going to a big tournament you should fully understand your deck and everything card in it. If you say something wrong. That is entirely your fault and I don’t think it was low or rude of Cedric to call his judge. His opponent made a mistake.

    If someone attacks with a creature, then realizes your creature has first strike. You don’t let them take it back do you? No. You block and kill it. Gerry T just had the situation arise where his opponent didn’t know Inkwell Leviathan had trample a couple 5k’s ago. And he didn’t let him change his play. Seeing as this was a foriegn card and in a different deck than his own it’s much more understandable he didn’t understand the card but it’s still his fault for not getting oracle text on the card.

    The fact is Cedric’s opponent blatantly made a mistake and Cedric appealed it as opposed to letting his opponent get away with loose play.

  30. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet but when you play a card with modes you have to choose the modes before you choose the targets. The judge should have backed the game state up and issues the player a warning for GRV. This type of behaviour is going to encourage more people to try to find underhanded ways to win games.

    I think Cedric was correct to call a judge as his opponant did not make his intentions clear but the ruling was wrong.

  31. @James: Did you read the article?? Shortcuts are perfectly acceptable in Magic and the Esper Charm play was just a shortcut as there is no other mode Ced’s opponent could have chosen than Discard, being that he announced a target, sso the mode is abundantly clear.

  32. @ FritzJaeger

    Social methods of enforcement freaking suck and are likely to cause animosity. Which is why we shouldn’t use them. Make your rules clear, and maybe you’ll have more friends and less people irritated with each other. Notice that Matt specifically mentioned that these rules don’t have to be set for EDH entirely, but can be different among playgroups.

    @ Jason Barnett

    You’re absolutely right when you say the issue is that people have differing ideas of what’s fun and what’s not. The main problem is when someone seems to think their way of fun should be implicitly supported and anyone who does anything against that is a douchebag. In your example, the beatdown players probably see the combo player as being a douchebag for not allowing their creatures to be relevant, while the combo players see the beatdown players as being douchebags for ganging up on him. I think the real problem here isn’t any of the players, but it’s the ambiguous rules of the game being played. Really, it’s much better when people agree on some clearly defined rules as to what’s allowed and what isn’t so everyone can have their own kind of fun within those without anyone seeing someone else as a douchebag.

    This leads into the whole Cedric topic on rules lawyering, where a lot of players see Cedric as a douchebag for not letting his opponent play his spells as he obviously intended to. I think it’s fine to try and get whatever edges you can within the rules when playing in a competitive tournament, but not everyone agrees. Again, I don’t believe Cedric is the problem – it’s the horrible design of Esper Charm and the unwritten social contract of taking shortcuts when choosing modes.

  33. According to Cedric’s FB wall he is a scumbag. Gosh even LSV posted so!

    Does this situation remind anyone of a similar Profane command choosing to dome you and granting fear to all legal targets ;).

    At that level of play players should know what their cards do. Shortcuts are made for reasons as others have said already. Casting a spell that has a single mode with a target(player) really needs no clarification. His opponent declared he was the target of the spell. Ruling by intent is pretty terrible at high level events since players should be expected to know how to play.

  34. @Eric: the Magic Tournament Rules are pretty clear on what is and isn’t an acceptable shortcut. If something produces confusion — as in this case, where each player has a different notion of what’s going on in the game — then the MTR says to back up to the beginning of the shortcut. Then the players are “reminded to play more clearly”, and they go from there, hopefully getting things like announcement of mode choices correct and clear.

  35. completely agree @ esper charm

    too bad magic cares more about random donks not getting scared away than the purity of the game

  36. i think if there is any need for clarification to ask the opponent what he means, mis wording a spell seems lie a really lame reason for a forced misplay. however, i understand that all players agree to play under tournament rules, and if it is deemed a rule has been broken then i guess it is so.

    i think it should just be common courtesy to simply ask your opponent to clarify in these situations and then react according to their clarifications. i dont think using the rules to mise someone into making an unwanted play because of wording is very ethical, but winning a tournament sometimes means you exploit every possible thing. sad but true.

  37. Custom playgroup rules are nice for casual players with no desire to play competitively. They should stay that way. EDH, however, has become a universally accepted format and should abide by a firm set of rules. ‘Soft rules’ as Matt describes them have no point — you’re not going to sign up to an EDH side event at a GP or StarCity Open and expect everyone to abide by these ‘soft rules’, it isn’t enforceable.

    My stance on this whole Esper Charm incident is simple: If I were in a sanctioned game of Magic and I made the same mistake, I would not allow myself to have a take-back. This way, it reminds me that I made a definite mistake by not reading the cards I was playing with and gives me a reason to keep my head up and play better. Even at a Pre-Release or FNM setting, I do not allow myself to take back any play mistakes I made regardless of my opponent’s willingness to let me. I tell them that I personally would probably not have let them take it back either, and would like to own up to my own mistakes.

    If David Ochoa did not call a judge on his opponent for bribery, then one possible thing that could have happened was that a player sitting nearby could have overheard the exchange and called a judge on them which would lead to David’s disqualification as well. I don’t know why you consider this entire scenario nor the Esper Charm incident to be “douchebag rules lawyering”. Rules are there to be enforced, especially in a sanctioned event. One important thing to realize is that these incidents can become lessons that both players can learn from, most importantly learning not to make that mistake again with another player. One thing I notice from casual players is the expectation that all actions in sanctioned games can be taken back without consequence. This definitely doesn’t help improve sloppy play nor bad decision making. When you’re in a tournament setting, I think it’s best if you consider the actions of both your opponent and yourself and whether or not you would expect any other opponent you play later that day to do the same thing for you.

    @Jason Parrish
    When you’re at a high level event playing for money, I don’t think you’re going to want to literally hold your opponent’s hand into winning a game they should have lost.

    I don’t understand how you could take Cedric’s article out of context so much. How is Cedric trying to gain an advantage by manipulating the situation? How is this “clearly against the spirit of the game?” I don’t recall reading any pieces of literature written by Richard Garfield nor any Wizards of the Coast employee regarding a defined “spirit of the game”. Esper Charm has only one mode which targets a player. I don’t think that it requires any more clarification when that happens. If you say “Esper Charm, targeting myself”, the only thing that I can think of is “Esper Charm, choosing myself as the target for the only mode which allows a target”. Think about it.

    Also, your little blurb about your cute little casual playgroup is pretty self-centered. If YOU need to constantly shun other people for having fun the way THEY wish to have fun, then YOU’RE probably a douchebag and should educate yourself. If YOU can’t realize how introverted you are, then you’re ALREADY cast out. Thanks for showing me the door to ‘life’, but you haven’t even stepped in.

  38. @FritzJaeger:
    Your argument is absolutely trivial and pointless. If you’re going to play EDH, then you abide by the rules for EDH. If you’re going to play EDH-with-soft-rules-because-I-don’t-know-how-to-play-actual-Magic, then you should state that your casual playgroup isn’t playing EDH but actually playing a whiner’s variant.

    I absolutely agree that the Judge ruling is incorrect and gave the player who made the mistake a strategical advantage by ruling in his favor.

    I agree. At the Pro Tour – Kuala Lumpur finals, Jon Finkel swung in with a Preeminent Captain and his opponent, who forgot about First Strike, blocked with a creature. Finkel said “Sure, first strike damage?” and his opponent only then realized his mistake. I can’t see anyone being able to justify letting his opponent take back the action because he forgot that Preeminent Captain had first strike =]

    The only problem I see is the expectations of casual players which are quite absurd.

    Sadly Wizards thinks that casuals are the only crowd that gives them money =/

  39. The esper charm thing was low. Deliberate attempt to gain an advantage by abusing the word of the law over the spirit of the law. Just my oppinions, true champs don’t have to resort to that kind of thing.

  40. The esper charm thing is a joke, just like ced intentions in this particular case.
    Al people that think what if the other guy had iona and rise are retarded also.. u can just ask the damn opponent the damn mode other than put yourself of a weird situation. ced was not afraid of iona, rise or anything. he just wanted to take advantage of a stupid “misplay”, if u can call what his opponent did a misplay. we all KNOW what his opponent intended to do and we all know that he actually made a minor mistake in his actions. still cedric did what he did not to prevent himself from being “cheated” or anything, he did what is did cause he is a douchebag.
    Also to all these random -3 lvl pros that complain about the casuals attitude towards this kind of situations that hurts the “purity of the game”, i just wanna say that you are even worse than cedric, cause 99% of the times you will be at the other side of the table, since even though you want to, you cant be as douchebag as he is and you wont notice such situations.
    sorry for my poor english

  41. All that needed to happen was for Cedric to ask which mode the guy was choosing. His intention was clearly to Draw 2 (as he went to draw 2 when it was resolving). Draw 2 and Discard 2 are pretty similar effects and it’s not unreasonable for someone in a tournament setting to forget that one targets and the other does not. One chooses modes before targets, so the targetting information was not needed. The judge needed to be called but you force the player to rewind and choose a mode then carry on with the game, it’s a pretty simple ruling that I believe this judge got wrong – I’m firmly on the customer service side of judging.

  42. If you actually say “target myself”, then that’s final. You chose ‘I discard two’. If this was a casual game with no stakes I’d just wave it off.

    If it’s a tournament, however, I fully expect him to discard two. If he starts to draw, I’m going to JUDGE! his ass off. Heck, if you have an Elvish Visionary and a Baneslayer Angel on the board and your opponent plays Doom Blade, saying “Doom blade, target visionary” and I go “OK”, then no, you’re not allowed a take-back either. Why would you?

    If you don’t like playing by the rules, don’t play in tournaments.

  43. Oh, nice

    Let me change the quote a bit:

    Him: My main phase, Time Warp, targeting you
    Me: [brief pause] Time Warp, targeting me?
    Him: Yes. Time Warp, targeting you.
    Me: You're targeting me?
    Him: Yes. I am targeting you.
    Me: Judge!

    In this situation, would you allow a takeback? Heck no. Why would you then allow a takeback with Esper Charm?

  44. Sorry about multiple posts, just thought to mention that if Cedric had wanted to rules lawyer his opponent to death, he could’ve just waited until he drew 2, then JUDGE!’d and hello gameloss for drawing extra cards.

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  46. Spirit of the game wise I think a perfect example would be in Yugioh, way back in the way back when there was a card Victory Dragon which stated if you won the game by dealing damage with him you win the entire match. Of course you can scoop any time but in Japanese tournaments it was considered bad form to concede and go to game 2 so the players just accepted the loss…

    I’d scoop the shiz out of it tho!!! 🙂

  47. I can understand wanting any variation of the rules to be written down so new players know the limitations of the format right away. Unfortunately that involves extensive work and will likely end up producing a document several pages long. Since I only get to play once a week and get perhaps a couple of hours each week to build new decks, spending time on a comprehensive document covering exactly what we allow is not feasible.

    When my playgroup adds a new member, I let them know ahead of time the average size of the card pool of the players already there, our format, and that we prefer that you not run quick kill combos. Should someone run a combo like that, we have generally applauded them in finding a new combo, then let them know we’d prefer not to have the games wrap up so suddenly.

    So far we’ve been fairly successful with this approach.

  48. A person that calls himself a “pro” (Cedric in this case, others in the past — Pat Chapin– and surely others in the future), shouldn’t need to do JERK tricks like that to win.

  49. This is getting pretty absurd. High level tournament or FNM, the crutch of the argument is completely based on the words chosen for an action. All that needs to happen is for clarity. ANYTHING else, anything, is simply a way to try to mise a win. Go ahead and bring up whatever situations you can think of to justify a different response, but all that needed to happen was to ask for clarification.

    Seriously, if you’re defending anything else you’re one of those players. They exist in every walk of life; my foot wasn’t on the line in football, I didn’t touch the ball as it went out of bounds in basketball, I fall down and fake an injury to get a call in soccer, they all are a dishonest way of playing in order to gain an advantage.

    If this is how you want to live life, win at all costs, rules lawyer the crap out of a card, then by all means go for it. It still makes you a db. Arguing anything different just confirms it.

  50. The Bant Charm situation and the Esper Charm situation are not comparable. The Esper Charm situation contains an illegal announcement (Esper Charm, draw cards mode, targeting a player, is illegal). “Bant Charm your Baneslayer” is not an illegal announcement. Both players were insufficiently clear on gamestate, but the rules regarding illegal announcements are clear.

    A more comparable situation would be “Bant Charm, targeting your Oblivion Ring.” The correct resolution of that situation is self-evident. Likewise, the correct resolution of the Esper Charm situation is fairly simple, even if you don’t care for it. The L5s are correct.

  51. A lot of you are talking like you’re training for the Olympics here; “Magic is a challenging game that requires extensive time, effort, and practice and I will not tolerate sloppy play, etc…” Get over yourselves. Rules lawyering, no matter what game you’re playing or at what level, is low. The judge made the correct decision.

  52. I understand and agree with the call on Esper Charm; the card is unambiguous about which modes are targetted and which aren’t, and if you don’t know how to play then you shouldn’t be playing, but your examples are faulty:

    1) If you say “Bant Charm targetting Baneslayer” and really mean “Bant Charm, targetting Jitte”, you have made 2 mistakes: First you have mistaken the mode of the spell, and you have mistaken the target of the spell. If you say “Esper Charm targetting myself”, you have mistaken only 1 choice, the mode of the spell (since the mode you really mean has no targets). This is important because a compound mistake is generally more difficult to make than a singular mistake.

    2) “Dawn Charm targetting Hill Giant” means unequivocally that you regenerate the Hill Giant. The idea here is that, if you prevent all damage, you prevent all damage both to you and to the Hill Giant, hence the spell “effectively” has 2 targets (I would consider “Dawn Charm, targetting me and Hill Giant” to be a correct, if overcomplicated, statement of the mode “prevent all damage”). Instead you are announcing only 1 target, so you choose the mode that has only 1 target.

    Personally, I feel that modal spells should have a “default mode”. That is to say, if I say “Esper Charm”, for example, that means “Draw 2 cards”, but if I say “Esper Charm, targetting you” that means you discard 2 cards, or something like that. It would make these discussions far less complicated. That’s not the world we live in, though, which is why these things happen.

    I personally announce all modes of all spells I play. If I play Cryptic Command, I will say “Modes are: Counter your Cruel Ultimatum and bounce your Island”, in those words. I tend not to use the word “target”, but I would say “Esper Charm, I’ll draw 2”, or “Esper Charm, I’ll pitch 2”. I think this is the best way of doing things.

    Honestly, though, unless it was game 3 in an in-or-win situation, I generally let things like this slide, and I tend to warn my opponent about making mistakes like this in the future. In fact this exact situation happened to me at Regionals, where my opponent said “Esper Charm, targetting me”, and for a moment I debated calling the judge. However, since the Brilliant Control vs. Naya Allies matchup is hugely in Allies favor, I decided not to bother with it, and instead gave my opponent a warning not to do that again. I’d prefer to win in a gentlemanly style, and not feel like a rules douche after I play.

  53. Based on the scenario Cedric described, the correct ruling is that the player did not specify a mode and made an illegal play. This has been confirmed by Sheldon in the SCG thread. This is not meant as an evaluation of the actual floor judge’s ruling, as we are going by a recollection of the incident which may be incomplete. The idea that this ruling (that implicit mode choice is an unofficial shortcut and therefore a judge should confirm or negate it when there is a dispute) is going to break Dawn Charm, Bant Charm, Cryptic Command, Legacy and Magic: the Gathering is still a slippery slope argument and IMO not worth getting concerned about. Earlier poster was correct that saying “I’m done” without specifying up front that you are deviating from the standard shortcut means unequivocally that your opponent has priority during your end step. Lastly Cedric was absolutely correct to call a judge, as ruling on situations like that is the reason the judges are there.

  54. “However, as soon as Ced's opponent reaches for his own library, it becomes abundantly clear that both players didn't have the same understanding of the shortcut”


    Both players were perfectly aware that the intention was to draw 2 cards. There was no ambiguity.

  55. Magic, like all games, consists only of its rules. If you don’t play by the rules, then there is no point in playing the game. When I play Magic I play Magic. I don’t play “Magic with takebacks when I make a stupid play”.
    The player should have read the card and, even more importantly, should have announced the spell in a non-stupid way. He could have just said “I draw 2”. It has fewer syllables than “Targeting myself”, is actually what he wanted to do, and a better way to cast a modal spell.
    As it is the judge upheld the only legal play and I don’t get all the bitching about it. As a lot of people have said, it is perfectly reasonable that we would want to discard for the sake of reanimation, and the judge should in no way be expected to determine the player’s intent. For example, in the June 14 2010 Cranial insertion there is the question “Can I name (insert card here) with Pithing Needle?”. The answer is as long as that is a card name in the game of Magic, yes, yes you can. The judge should not say “Well given that your opponent is playing super friends you probably want to name Ajani Vengeant, not Ajani Goldmane.” The player is allowed to screw up at his or her own discretion.

  56. Mr. Aaron illustrates my position pretty well on his post on tweeter:


    @Nickwithans Of course it’s different. One is a bad play, the other is a subtle word choice that people are trying to turn into a bad play. ”

    read: ced sucks.

  57. @Lorgalis: You’d think that “pro’s” like chapin wouldn’t have to be rules lawyers… but you’d be wrong.

    Didn’t read the GP coverage where chapin talked a table judge into not letting some poor sap counterbalance b/c he wasn’t explicit enough?

    Thankfully, justice was served and chapin lost the match, but once the HJ caught wind he went to chapin and tore him a new a$$h for it.

    Some pro’s just want to win at all costs, including rules lawyering.

    I long for the days when we can have competitive yet fair tourneys. Anyone else play on the VS pro circuit? Man it was great, the lvl 5 judges would get on the mic and broadcast to the whole pro tour(pro circuit): “Don’t be a dick! If you make a mistake, be a man and accept it, don’t make my judges make you accept it. If your opponent hasn’t done anything illegal, don’t fish for stupid penalties”.

  58. @MH: Thank you for the clear explanation.

    @Everyone who thinks Cedric was wrong: Read MH. There is really no question here.

  59. Because the shortcut guidelines do not go over modal spells, this is really in a judges hands. A judge could determine that the mode was chosen based on targeting, or he could back up the gamestate.

    I understand that the communication rules try to balance common sense, accepted shortcuts, and preventing disambiguity leading to an advantage. On one hand, I reccomend that players understand all these rules when trying to play competitive events. On the other hand, I wish that players didn’t have to worry about communication play on top of stragetic play.

    I think that the player in this situation was pretty dense. Your opponent asks you TWICE for clarification on a modal spell, you should probably state your mode. I don’t like that rules lawyering might get you an advantage in this situation, but if its allowed, be prepared to face it, and if you don’t use it, be prepared to not do as well.

  60. hamiltonianurst

    To all those who are saying that ‘real’ champs don’t have to resort to these kinds of things, I’m glad that the possibility of me being a champion does not depend on your arbitrary sense of honor.

    Also, no _true_ Scotsman would ever do this.

  61. NastySasquatch

    I personally might be more inclined to feel bad for mr. phillips not just trying to be a pro getting over on his opponent if not for the fact that in the middle of last year there was an article published somewhere by an established magic author covering this EXACT topic with esper charm.

    In the case previously covered the judge ruled the same as here. I would probably have to look quite a bit; but part of me feels like it might have been on THIS site. In fact someone should ask Riki Hayashi, because i think it may have been him.

  62. First, I’d like to point out that I feel lied to. You said on facebook that this article wasn’t about Esper Charm. Yet, at least part of it is clearly about Esper Charm.

    However, I think that part is actually a very interesting addendum to your main article. You assert that (EDH) groups should provide explicit rules by which they expect all comers to play. As it happens, the DCI publishes just such a set of explicit rules governing Magic tournaments called the Magic Tournament Rules. Just as you would have it, the rules are unequivocal on this specific situation; they absolutely do not support your assertion that the player should be forced to discard 2 (they in fact, as has been pointed out earlier, instruct play to be backed up to the point of confusion). It is not that making the player discard 2 would be “frowned upon,” it is perfectly clear what should happen.

    Although you don’t spell this out in your article, I imagine that you advocate explicit rulesets for EDH groups so that players may decide, based on the rules within, whether or not playing in that group sufficiently suits their preferred playstyle to justify playing with that group. The DCI has such a ruleset for playing in official tournaments. It is obvious that you and others would prefer to play a different way, and that is fine for you to do when playing with groups with rulesets that support it.

  63. Food for thought: player A says player says “Bant Charm your Baneslayer” but they honestly meant “Bant Charm your Bonesplitter” (different mode but similar name, easy mistake). I have both in play. He admits he clearly said Baneslayer, by mistake. Can he back up and choose artifact mode to get the ‘splitter?

  64. Just thought I would say that you seem like a terrible person Matt that I would never like to meet. The more I read things that you say on message boards or in articles, the more I’m convinced that you are a complete dbag.

  65. I’d be interested to hear what the player who made the mistake actually thinks about the whole event.

    While I would probably allowed the player to use the charm as he intended if it we me, I don’t begrudge anyone for calling a judge as make he or she discard two cards either.


  66. I think that before people go rattling off random examples that may or may not have anything to do with the Esper Charm debacle, they should read Riki’s article on the subject. After all, which would you trust: A bunch of players with questionable examples or Riki who discusses the exact situation?

    Props to NastySasquatch for pointing the article out!

  67. A couple of things. If CP wanted to be a dbag he could have let his opponent draw the 2 cards THEN call the judge. That would have been the total dbag thing to do.

    The other thing where people say the intent is to draw two cards then why didn’t his opponent just say so? Is it’s CP’s fault his opponent doesn’t know how his cards work? No. Is it CP’s fault that his opponent didn’t realize he was doing something wrong when CP asked for clarification that he was “Targeting himself”? No.

    How many times have you missed triggers or forgotten something? When you have 1 land and 3 Land Tax in play while your opponent has 10 land in play and you draw your card for the turn… wait I want to go back I intended to use my Land Taxes.

    …wait I meant to play for my Pact of Negation
    …wait I meant to return Nether Spirit to play
    …wait I meant to Force of Will that

    It doesn’t matter what he intended to do it’s what he stated. What he stated (per CP’s telling of the events) is that his opponent said “Esper Charm targeting myself”.

    Calling a judge was correct. Anytime there is a dispute you should let the judges decide on the ruling. That is what they are there for. Now if the whole thing would have gone down differently say his opponent was allowed to draw 2 cards and CP made a big stink about it and appealed to judge after judge to the head judge then it’s clearly a dbag thing. He would be clearly trying to get an unfavorable ruling into his favor.

    For those that drink… if you’re going out for a night of partying with friends and hit the bar order a drink and they ask for your ID and you don’t have it. Who’s fault is that? The bartenders? I’m sure you intended to bring your ID but you didn’t. Do you go off and call the bartender a dbag because he’s enforcing the law?

    If you want to see a clear dbag cheater look no further then Germany’s goal keeper in the WC. He took the ball OUT of the goal and threw it down field. He purposefully cheated and mislead to get the result he wanted. Yet no one is calling for his head.

  68. the situation with Cedric is not about right or wrong. it was a high REL event and the judge made the correct technical ruling in Cedric’s favor.

    this is just about honor and personal conduct. Cedric thought it was worth it. thats the problem. thats what makes him a scumbag. he thought it was worth it. he wanted a win on the technicality, not a win on merit. it doesn’t matter what your opinion of the judge’s ruling is. its clear what Cedric wanted and he got what he wanted. thats why he’s scum.

  69. Matt — Normally when I read your articles and think they are terrible, I will say as such. It would be wrong of me to say otherwise when your article is at least fairly well written, well organized and your point comes across clearly (though with fairly muddled analogies). Good article, thank you.

    Re: Cedric — I agree that, based on the Riki Rules article, had the situation gone:
    Opp: Esper Charm. Target myself.
    CP: Okay.
    Opp: -Draws two cards-
    CP: Judge!
    Cedric would be incorrect; it is apparent from the player’s actions that there was ambiguity in the announcement of the mode of the spell based on chosen shortcuts and what the player ultimately did, but this is clarified by the player not discarding Iona and another card — that is fine and good.

    Based on the situation, as read in CP’s article, which is currently the only “official” documentation we have on the issue, the shortcut announced — which is the point on ambiguity — that the player was targeting himself. Cedric repeated back to the player the announcement of his opponent as the target for the Esper Charm, which the opponent repeated his intention of targeting himself with the spell. This clearly identifies the mode, even if the player’s intention was otherwise, and there is now no need for further clarity needed for Cedric — the situation is unambiguous.

    What’s more, a judge was available at the time of the announcement of the spell. The judge clearly heard the target announced on the spell, a spell which has multiple modes, but only one of which targets players. When the player then goes to draw cards, he is no longer upholding the announced and clarified mode of the spell, he is now playing a different spell. I believe this is -specifically- different from the first case and the one make in Riki’s “Charm School” article, as the mode is unambiguous to those listening carefully to the wording that player chose to represent his spell with. What if he DID have Iona in hand and wanted to pitch it, but, seeing no fear in those eyes of Cedric’s, choose instead to draw the cards? What if that was his intent? You cannot know, you can only judge based on facts presented.

    Cedric’s opponent messed up. We all do it. That doesn’t make him -zomg the worst, fucking casuals trying to ruin our Very Serious Professional Game with fantasy elves and chicks with flaming boobs- but it also doesn’t make Cedric a monster for not asking the specific question required to get his opponent to make the optimal play.

    Cedric’s question, “Targeting yourself?” clarifies the mode. His opponent not then pointing out, “Yes, so I draw two” but instead repeating, “Targeting myself” is how he chose to represent his card — with the single mode that can target a player. That’s a mistake. His bad. However, given that they were not at a kitchen table but competing for actual money, he paid for the mistake by having the judge uphold how he represented the situation and then chose to clarify the situation further.

    I would not hold it against a judge for backing up the game state to a point where the opponent must clearly announce which mode of the three on Esper Charm he’s choosing, but that’s neither here nor there because the judge did not do that.

    I don’t think it’s fair to pass judgment on any person in this situation, save for the judge if the official word on the situation is to back the game state up to the point where all ambiguity can be ironed out. Cedric allowed his opponent to make a -PERFECTLY LEGAL- mistake that was made because his opponent was not aware of what his own card did.

  70. There’s a reason that EDH is considered a social format. If your playgroup seem unamused by your Anowon no-one-has-creatures-but-me the Ruin Sage deck, then you probably shouldn’t play it because your playgroup’s goal in the game is to have fun.

    Also, the Esper Charm player should be discarding. It sucks, but that’s the only way you can approach this, especially since Ruling By Intent doesn’t exist anymore.

  71. Byron the Long-Winded

    Preface: I am not a lawyer. I am also not a good Magic player. I go to the local shop for FNM and am content to win half my games. All my good performances have been mostly luck, I make both tactical and technical miscues frequently, and I don’t see myself even going to a PTQ any time soon. And I understand that you’re a very smart person, and you’ve thought about what you’re saying, and you’ve probably already heard most of the relevant arguments. So feel free to ignore this comment as the words of the incompetent.

    But I really have to ask, because I don’t understand: Why rules lawyer in a situation which could have been resolved to a point of definite unambiguity by asking the simple question “What mode?” and then, depending on the answer, either letting the opponent discard two as intended or reminding him that the draw mode doesn’t target (or, although this is highly unlikely, that he is not a legal target enchantment)?

    Certainly, you’ve presented a thought-out argument in a manner that some observers have found persuasive, but even if one were to accept your claim that the choice of modes is implicit (which I do not), there are two things about this situation that ring unsportsmanlike at best to me.

    1: The fact that you are arguing that intent is irrelevant suggests that you are arguing contrary to the spirit of the rules in your interpretation of the letter. Yes, there are situations where an opponent may intend to do something and make an error in judgment, but there is a gulf of difference between mis-timing an intended action and somehow performing an entirely different one. If I were to make the described misplay on MTGO, it would require my actually declaring the intent to use the discard mode; likewise, if I were to say “discard mode targeting myself” then I would certainly be bound to my words, foolish as they were, as rarely does a man say “I discard two cards” when he means to draw two. If I announce myself the target, you immediately proceed to claim that this implicitly declares me to have selected the discard mode, and I fervently dispute this and declare explicitly my intention to use the mode which allows me to draw two cards, this explicit intention must be seen as overriding any presumed implicit intent on my part; my intent is evident in this scenario, and to argue otherwise is fishing unsportingly for an advantage.

    Absolutely, to declare a target that only exists in a different mode than my intent is poor communication at best on my part, for I should know my cards better than that, and you should certainly call a judge to the table if I attempt to draw cards on resolution without having indicated that as the intended mode at any point in the process of casting and resolving the spell — but in this situation, the damage done by my improper play if you intended any different response to the draw mode than the resolution of the spell can be reversed or near enough by judge intervention rather simply in all but the most extreme cases, so why bother to demand satisfaction in the form of netting 4 card advantage in the face of clear intention? Do you mistrust your typical opponent so much that you fear being rooked into allowing a draw-2 to resolve in the service of his crooked schemes and masterplan? I should hope not, or you are a more paranoid person than even myself! If the mode that resolves is different than that you believe your opponent selected, then do not hesitate to point this out to the judge and ask that he rewind in order to give you an appropriate opportunity to respond to an unambiguous and truthful mode selection. There is no honor in beating an opponent when you don’t let him play his cards as he intends.

    2: More seriously, the suggestion seems to be made here that rules lawyering is somehow preferable to clear communication. The means to ensure an unambiguous game state are obvious, to simply ask the player explicitly what mode he is using, but you opt instead to argue that no ambiguity exists because of an “empirical fact”.

    (For the remainder of this argument, set aside my counterclaim that this “fact” is an unrealistic generalization of the playing habits of thousands of people based on an insufficient sample (how many international players, for instance, have tried to draw 2 with Esper Charm — yes, specifically that, because it is not ‘just like other charms’ due to the counterintuitive asymmetry of two similar modes — against you? Can you truthfully claim this ’empirical fact’ can be applied universally, as good rulings would require?). I’m just making this point here because it didn’t fit anywhere else.)

    Even if you believe targeting to include an implicit declaration of mode, it is still your responsibility as a player to maintain an unambiguous game state, and if your opponent believes they are performing a specific action and you believe they are performing a different one, then the state by definition cannot be unambiguous. If you recognize there may exist an ambiguity between what action each of you believe is being performed, then it is your duty to straighten it out; if you allow the ambiguity to persist in the hopes of gaining advantage from it as you do here, then you are not playing in good faith. Shortcuts don’t work if both players think something different is happening, and if your opponent isn’t planning on discarding, that’s the case here. If you have any doubt of your opponent’s intent, you must act to establish the intent explicitly. If nothing else, the Charles Gindy incident at Worlds should give you pause about assuming that an opponent took an action implicitly.

    To actually obtain this advantage over an opponent who did not intend to discard two cards requires the very ambiguity which you claim does not exist, as were there no ambiguity over what action is being taken, your opponent would gladly discard two cards. Thus, you must be misrepresenting the ambiguity of the game state to make this claim profitably, and while this misrepresentation may not amount to cheating by the IPG, it certainly sounds like cheating to me, made worse by the fact that in this situation, you would have had the chance to avoid the mess entirely with two words and opted not to. I respect your arguments, and certainly it is possible that a judge might agree with you (although neither Sheldon Menery nor PV did) but there is no way in which I can respect the end to which they would be applied — the deliberate intent to use misrepresentation to prevent an opponent from performing the action they intend to perform in the context of the game.

    In conclusion, the Law of Rules is quite simple: Spirit > Letter. You are violating the spirit of the rules and thus breaking the law, but I’ll let you off with a warning: Magic isn’t just a venue for you to show other people that you’re smarter than they are, it’s also a venue in which to win friends and influence people. And when you’re trying to eke out an advantage on a technicality based on your own interpretation of the rules, the guy on the other side of the table is going to reconsider whether he even wants to play your stupid games any more. You need to keep in mind your role as an ambassador for the game, because its health depends on the thousands of foolish people like me who could easily forget that the draw mode doesn’t work the same as the discard mode.

    That, or you could make this sort of rule-manipulating your gimmick and perhaps one day become the ‘bad boy of Magic’, a sort of Paladin Mike Long. If that’s your plan, then again, feel free to ignore this comment, or better yet, go to additional lengths to antagonize it in your response.

  72. I think to many people are giving cedric the benefit of the doubt here. He obv. knows that the guy is wanting to draw 2 cards but taking advantage of his opp. mis-speaking. You can tell by the intent of calling a judge right when he reached for his deck. I do agree that in some situations top level pros will try to lure out extra information but they will not do so in the manner that happen in this case. For example, tap a swamp > A duress here would be good > Opp. starts to lay down his hand. He never said he was casting a duress, etc. Many cases can arise. Cedric is a d-bag and I have no sympathy for people giving him a hard time.

  73. Matt-excellent article. Great way to spark, if not open discussion, then at least opinions are in the open.

  74. Byron the Less Long-Winded

    I actually don’t hold the play against Cedric much, because even though I just expressed my opinion that pursuing the play using Matt’s justification is ultimately a form of cheating, I can understand why he did it in the moment.

    While making someone discard 2 when they wanted to draw 2 is intuitively a scumbag move, in a tournament situation the inherent pressure of wanting to win can make you willing to pursue advantages you wouldn’t normally pursue. There’s a cutthroat mentality at the higher levels of any activity, and I’ve ridden the line between good and competitive myself in other arenas. When an opportunity like that presents itself, you’re going to want to make the play that seems competitively appropriate even at the risk of feeling like a scumbag later, as long as you believe it’s legal within the rules of the game. Cedric did what he thought was competitively appropriate, and while I don’t consider it a legitimate action to take, he didn’t have the benefit of time with which to resolve the internal debate over whether it was ethical, so I’m not going to condemn him for making that decision.

  75. Implying the mode of a spell by choosing a target is not a legal shortcut and is not mentioned in the rules. You say that having written rules is important and that those are the rules which should be followed and not soft rules or rules of social convention. Then, you contradict yourself by saying that even though it is not an enumerated shortcut, players constantly use it, so it should be treated like a rule.

  76. I am always puzzled that anyone finds the situation controversial. Heck, I would have been OK with Ced asking the opponent the target and trying to get him to make a mistake.

    The fact that other people can be so adamant the other way (“Dbag,” “rules lawyer,” etc.) really does mean that people have a fundamentally different belief system about the game, and there are a lot of those people out there.

    So, each group (rules vs. spirit) is going to face each other forever. No rules changes can solve this. Can we find a way to interact that does not make the game horrible for one or both groups?

    I will tell you, I feel TERRIBLE when I am called a “rules lawyer” but not about holding people to the rules, rather for having made somebody so angry. I don’t want people to have a bad time, and I own up to the rules when they are against me with little remorse. More than once I have called the judge on myself for a SB card that somehow made it into my deck. Spirit of the game would let me put the card back into my board, draw another, and move on. I “rules lawyer” myself all the time.

    I have really, REALLY pissed off nice “spirit” people over the years. I really need to find a way to stop doing this, but I do want to win, so . . .

  77. @ Mat H

    The written rules say “Certain conventional shortcuts” not “All conventional shortcuts”

    Ergo, there can be others and he’s arguing that it is a common tournament shortcut to have mode implied by targets. kk, thanks for reading the rules before commenting.

  78. Oh man… this again 😛

    You people are all missing the point. The point is not whether you should be a gentleman and let your opponent take it back – the point is that what happened is not correct as far as the rules of magic go.

    First of all, stop saying intent. This is not ruling by intent. AFAIK, that doesn’t even exist anymore.

    The main problem here is that a shortcut is being used, but a shortcut that is not understood the same way by both players. When I Bant Charm a Baneslayer, both players understand the shortcut that I am choosing “bottom” mode, which is why it is a valid shortcut on the first place. If there is any doubt whatsoever, then you should ask the mode.

    With Esper Charm, once the opponent reaches for his deck, it is obvious that he is casting the draw two mode. That is inconsistent with the target he chose – there is a violation and the game is backed up if necessary. In this occasion, the shortcut is not being understood the same by both players, so it is not good. If the opponent wants to know what is going on, he has only to ask the mode.

    The other point is that you all seem to think target implies mode. It does not. Modes come before target, and you cannot use the choice of target to lock your opponent into a mode. You do it as a shortcut when both players are OK with it; In this case, obviously both players are not OK with it, so it cannot be used.

    You people have decided, arbitrarily, that the choice of target implies mode, but that is simply not how the rules in the game work. Could they possibly work like this? yes, they could – it is a different approach. Do they currently work like this? No, they don’t. Why? Because the people who make the rules tell you that mode is chosen before targets and the choice of target does not necessarily imply a mode, and this way makes the game work the way they want it to work. Maybe in the future they will decide to change the way modal spells work, and the rule will be that you choose targets first, and that target implies mode.

    You might not like this rule and think it should change – that is a completely different matter, and not what is being discussed here. Is the play legal as of now? NO, THE PLAY IS NOT LEGAL. Did the judge rule correctly? HE DID NOT. What happens then? THE PLAYER DRAWS TWO CARDS (and perhaps get a penalty for GRV.)

    This is how it should be, and this is how the game currently works. It does not matter what you think. Dura lex, sed lex 😉

  79. I don’t see why this is even a debate, if you announce yourself as a target with esper charm, there is only one mode that is legal discard 2 cards. Thus, the character has to discard 2, end of story. Cedric should have appealed to the head judge.

  80. Good thing cedric doesn’t win anything, because taking advantage of an opponents mispeak is pretty lame, even if he didn’t specifically “bait” him after hearing the words “target”. I think the judge should have asked the player to read his card carefully and explain his intentions.

  81. The day I’m expected to correct all my opponent’s play mistakes in order to make the game “fair” is the day I quit mtg. If you’re playing in a high level tourney, know your damn cards and know the rules, if you can’t do these basic things, you don’t deserve to win. The handholding has to stop at some point, if not, bad players will never improve, they will have no incentive to, they will feel entitled to be coddled by better players. This is bad for the game.

  82. I am a newer player who has also been “rules lawyered” by Cedric. It happened a couple months back at a Midwest Masters tourney. I played a Kazandu Blademaster and did not announce the +1 +1 counter going on it when it entered the battlefield before casting another spell. When I went to put a counter on Cedric told me we were past that point and that I could not add the counter. In that case as in this case he is correct, I misplayed in a similar fashion to the opponent in this scenario. I don’t hold any ill will toward Cedric, nor would I call him a Dbag over it. The only person to be blamed is the person that was not clear with their own card.

  83. I have a short question about this Esper Charm situation. What deck was Cedric playing? How much mana did he have open at the time? These seem like inane questions, and to a certain extent (according to the rules regarding shortcuts) are not relevant, BUT… they do put a different spin on the situation in the game. i.e. If Cedric was tapped with no cards in hand, and no available effects on the board, then he was clearly attempting to manipulate a confused opponent into a worse situation.

    As an aside, let me give you another situation. Suppose Cedric had the game locked up. There were no 3 cards in Magic that could possibly have saved his opponent from death on the subsequent turn. Do you suppose we would be having this conversation? Of course not.


  84. You are actually wrong if you disagree with anything in this article; I think that’s about the highest praise I can give. Great clarification on both counts, Sperling.

    To everyone who thinks the judge should’ve asked or tried to figure out “what the player wanted to do,” THINK about what you’re saying. Do you really need a judge to play Magic FOR you?

    If so, then by all means, ship him $30 and swap shirts.

  85. “EDH players, is any of this starting to sound familiar?”

    Only from when Sirlin tried to apply the logic to WoW PvP and failed miserably.

    Seriously, stop taking the #youmightbeanedhdbif hashtag so personally.

  86. NastySasquatch

    and to note this is why when i use modal cards i clearly state the mode. in the case of esper charm (which i play very often at tournaments because i like to lose to rogue decks but beat the top decks) ” cast esper charm to draw two” “cast esper charm you/I discard two”. Most players i have played against over 18 years of magic are not smart enough to even pronounce their card names correctly let alone understand the difference between cards that target vs dont target. Even guys i know that are very close to making the tour mess this up all the time. It is my personal estimation that most people do not understand that cards that just say to do something dont target. I do not know what event this was because i have not yet read cedric’s article but i would bet his opponent was pretty new to that level of competition.

  87. I believe the late Herbert Spencer (a philosopher from England) said it best: ‘The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools’

    This ‘shielding’ is fine for FNM, but I think it’s disappointing to see cases at higher-level events where a judge (correctly under the current system) rewindes a game and lets a player make the right play (draw two, for example) when the player has clearly and unmistakably made the wrong play.

  88. @Greg Unless there was significant delay between casting your two spells, that falls under Out of order sequencing, and you would get to add your counter. In this case he would be wrong, and just tricked you (I’d assume unintentionally… since no one seems to know about out or order sequencing…) into not doing it.

    Should have called a judge/

  89. Man, good effort PV, but as demonstrated by the comment literally right after yours, Zombie Argument Will Not Die even when addressed directly by an L1, L2, L3 (a year in advance, no less!) two L5s, the current pro tour champ, and a former L4 (…Mark Rosewater).

  90. NastySasquatch

    @ whatisfgh

    i am no judge but i would only agree with that if he had multiple allies on the field already. I mean tumbling over several dice could concievably be put off until after finishing the phase im in if it is not immediately relevant to play and would speed up the game. However, 1 single ally you should have a die ready when you play it. I have seen many courteous ally players tick up dice during attack declaration or as he ends his turn as a point of quicker play because it can be alot of manipulation sometimes.

  91. @PV

    Your targets implied mode logic is flawed. Modes are selected, and then targets are chosen. I agree. This is the order. Only one of these facts was clearly stated publicly to the other player; that does not mean it is determining the other.

    Effects can be used to infer information about causes. We do this all the time, in both life and in magic. The fact that target selection happens after modal selection is actually stronger evidence that he chose to discard two, as the thought process would be:

    1. What mode do I want?
    2. Do I need to pick targets? OK, I pick my targets.

    When only one possible cause can lead to the resultant effect, the game and the rules should absolutely infer the cause.


  92. And for the record, I think the kid should absolutely be allowed to draw 2 cards and not be made to discard. That said, I have a hard time identifying a clear rule that permits this case but catches other cases where I think intent should be ignored. And I think it is essential to have a bright line rule that differentiates these situations so players can predict judge rulings.

  93. Agree with PV above. The point is they both used shortcuts. The first was Esper Charm targeting myself. The second was, the question of “targeting yourself”? Both are shortcutting though the choice of modes, and doing it differently, which means that the shortcut is not mutual understood and the game should be rewound and the point clarified.

  94. Pfft People and this stupid notion of “what mode” Go eff yourself if you hink i am going to ask you what “mode” you are using.
    no one ever goes “hey, I cast Esper mode 3… You dumb fukin bastard all HE had to do was go “Esper draw 2”

  95. The question that matters is: Can modes be declared implicitly or must they be declared explicitly? In practice, modes are declared implicitly all the time.

    When you cast an instant and I say “Bant charm it” I am IMPLICITLY selecting a mode. And no one questions it. In cases where the implicit mode is unambiguous, we have no reason to overturn the precedent of enforcing it.

  96. Technically all he had to do was put Esper Charm on the table, tap the mana, and draw two cards. As the ability to communicate via the same language is not a requirement for magic play, although clear communication is, just not verbal. Many of us have played against those from different nationalities who do not share a common language and the correct play of the game was not affected.

  97. Re TomM:

    I agree with your question but not the conclusion. The game clearly states what to do when a implicit choice is misunderstood by one of the parties.

  98. I used to run a shop that held tournaments, and this type of behavior was exactly what kept people away from the game. Cedric CLEARLY understood his opponants intention, however instead of asking for clarification, he simply asked him to repeat himself. That is pure bad sportsmanship. Should you correct your opponants every misplay? Of course not. However if the problem is purely intention, then you should make every effort to clarify intent. Rules Lawyering doesn’t drive players away, it’s the all around bad sportsmanship of many competitive players. This type of behavior doesn’t encourage tight play, it discourages play all together. The goal is to win the event, not to see how long you can stand sitting across a table from an asshole.

  99. On Magic online you would first need to pick which 1 of 3 effects of the charm you were using, then pick a target. You can’t just target yourself, and have Magic Online put its rules hat on, figure out you HAD to have meant the only one were you could be a legal target, and make you discard 2 cards. As some have already pointed out, you have to chose the effect before you can pick targets.

  100. @Jasinviso

    You are 100% right. Skipping mode declaration is not an acceptable shortcut. However this statement doesn’t matter at all. The “magic elite” have spoken and something as simple as game rules cannot sway them. In this scenario, they get to feel superior to the player who misspoke because “they know how targeting works”, and he doesn’t, therefore they are right. There is no way the rules are taking that away from them.

  101. You’re not ‘scum’ for demanding someone to play technically correctly at a high REL event. You wouldnt let your opponent ‘take back’ a spell or do any of the other nonsense we all allow at prereleases. The onus is on his opponent to know how his cards work and play correctly. I would do the exact same thing in Cedric’s shoes and wouldnt feel the least bit bad about it.

  102. I would like to note that that the argument about modal choice makes no assumption about the moral, social or even “correctness” of CP’s play. The onus is on the judge to correct the situation. In fact, I would agree with CP’s line of play including calling the judge. Judges are not something to be feared (usually, they are human and make mistakes that is what the HJ is for) but they are there to enforce the game’s rules.

  103. If he was really interested in his opponent playing correctly, he would have told his opponent or a judge he couldn’t target ANYTHING without first picking a mode, and make him pick one, straight by the rules.

  104. @ David and Venkarel
    Both of you miss the point. In getting all high and mighty on “technical rules”, CP missed a much larger rule himself. It’s not about him choosing targets incorrectly, it’s about the fact that he shouldn’t have been able to choose targets because no mode was chosen. This should have been a simple GRV.

  105. @Steven

    I totally agree with you, been sorta my point all along, the judge should have corrected the situation.

  106. To start this rather long post, I have seen a lot of opinions on the Cedric situation without anyone actually trying to refer to the rules. Here are some relevant sections of the CR, MTR and MIPG:

    From the CR:
    601.2a The player announces that he or she is casting the spell. That card (or that copy of a card) moves from where it is to the stack. It becomes the topmost object on the stack. It has all the characteristics of the card (or the copy of a card) associated with it, and that player becomes its controller. The spell remains on the stack until it’s countered, it resolves, or an effect moves it elsewhere.

    601.2b If the spell is modal the player announces the mode choice (see rule 700.2). If the player wishes to splice any cards onto the spell (see rule 702.44), he or she reveals those cards in his or her hand. If the spell has alternative or additional costs that will be paid as it’s being cast such as buyback, kicker, or convoke costs (see rules 116.8 and 116.9), the player announces his or her intentions to pay any or all of those costs (see rule 601.2e). A player can’t apply two alternative methods of casting or two alternative costs to a single spell. If the spell has a variable cost that will be paid as it’s being cast (such as an {X} in its mana cost; see rule 107.3), the player announces the value of that variable. If a cost that will be paid as the spell is being cast includes hybrid mana symbols, the player announces the nonhybrid equivalent cost he or she intends to pay. Previously made choices (such as choosing to cast a spell with flashback from a graveyard or choosing to cast a creature with morph face down) may restrict the player’s options when making these choices.

    601.2c The player announces his or her choice of an appropriate player, object, or zone for each target the spell requires. A spell may require some targets only if an alternative or additional cost (such as a buyback or kicker cost), or a particular mode, was chosen for it; otherwise, the spell is cast as though it did not require those targets. If the spell has a variable number of targets, the player announces how many targets he or she will choose before he or she announces those targets. The same target can’t be chosen multiple times for any one instance of the word “target” on the spell. However, if the spell uses the word “target” in multiple places, the same object, player, or zone can be chosen once for each instance of the word “target” (as long as it fits the targeting criteria). If any effects say that an object or player must be chosen as a target, the player chooses targets so that he or she obeys the maximum possible number of such effects without violating any rules or effects that say that an object or player can’t be chosen as a target. The chosen players, objects, and/or zones each become a target of that spell. (Any abilities that trigger when those players, objects, and/or zones become the target of a spell trigger at this point; they’ll wait to be put on the stack until the spell has finished being cast.)

    The opponent missed a step in the casting of this spell, which is a simple game rule violation and can be fixed by backing up the game to the point at which the spell was cast to have a clear game state which both players understand and is legal. People have been suggesting a whole lot of rules lawyering using the player communication policy, which, in reality, does not affect this situation at all. There is no shortcut here, just an ambiguous game state.

    The phrase “ruling by intent” has gotten a few people here confused. This article should clear it up for everyone:

  107. I think it is one mindset or the other. Either you have the balls to use the rules, what your opponent says and does, card interactions and everything else you intimately know about the game to your advantage or you don’t and are a pussy.

    To some of you people who are saying “true champions aren’t dicks” and “spirit of the law”, you just don’t get it and you are delusional.

    Good players (pros?) call judges all of the time when their opponent tries to take something back, or does something illegal; they all do! If you think otherwise then you are talking out of your ass.

    I let stuff go at FNMs and other casual tournaments but the kindness really takes a toll on me when I have to be the man at a big event, its hard to do.


    At GP DC, round 2, I played against an African American 40-ish year old man from Arizona. We talked before the round and he said how no one would come with him and he was representing Arizona and all his friends and how his wife was here etc.. An extremely nice guy.

    I win game 1 and I get him to 1 life in game 2 (He was playing TurboLand – pre LSV etc) and he grabs his fetchland and says “i’ll fetch” – moves it towards his graveyard then says “oh wait, I can’t”.

    I couldn’t muster up the balls to say “JUDGE!” and 30 thoughts ran through my head in about 4 seconds on how nice he was, how I was probably going to win anyway, I’d be a dick for calling him on it…

    He wins game 2…

    I barely win game 3.

    FNM I don’t call him on it (though I’m starting to think I should to train my brain to follow the rules and maybe deviate afterwards to show deliberation).

    Grand Prix DC I’m a ^%$^% idiot if I don’t.

    For any of you casual pansy nice guys who think calling a judge is “rude”, you have the wrong mindset if you want to win a tournament. This game is based on rules and intentions and you and your opponent should follow them.

    I commend Cedric for calling a judge and every time a “better player” calls a judge for something stupid his opponent did that he could easily correct by babying him, I commend him too and know it makes us all better.

    I remember at the TCG Player 5k in Philly in December, my first round boss naya opponent mulled to 5 in game 3 and looked at his 6th on accident. I honestly didn’t know what to do and he didn’t either and we were afraid of doing the wrong thing so we called a judge.. He ended up having to randomly shuffle 2 out of the 6 back into his deck and start with 4 and mulligan from there. I felt really bad but we both knew we did what was right. I am so glad I called a judge because now I know the exact rules, how important it is to not snag 2 cards on accident and I will never do it unless my deck finds a Honey Pot. I ended up placing 12th at that 5k.. (I was the 4 harrow 4 swerve and 1 island Jund sideboard guy who wrote an article on the aforementioned site about it). If I told my opponent to just put the card back, I might have lost by NOT following the rules. What a travesty that would have been.

    The firmer grip you have on the rules and your willingness to follow them is a characteristic that every good magic player has and every magic player needs.

  108. @ Kijin

    I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you. In both situations the player casting Esper Charm implied that they chose the draw two cards mode by either reaching to draw cards or actually drawing the cards. The ambiguity of the choice of mode most certainly existed in both cases, as Cedric believed that the choice of a target implies the discard two mode while the player casting the spell believed he was choosing another mode.

    Your statement “…the mode is unambiguous to those listening carefully to the wording that player chose to represent his spell with” is incorrect. The judge was in error (as are you) by assuming that the choice of target implies a choice of mode. As PV said, the rules don’t work like that. It was a bad shortcut, and the game-state should have been backed up to the point where there was agreement, with appropriate warnings distributed.

  109. Perhaps the simple answer is this: if you mess up, it’s your own damn fault. Hey, problem solved!

  110. I haven’t read all of the responses, but up till a certain point, it was clear that people were really not looking at what happened clearly. Cedric was not being a D-bag. He was being competitive, which is generally a selfish mode of being (i am using selfish here as term devoid of judgment, meaning “interested only in the benefits to one’s self, which is the foundation of all competition, without which competition can not exist). Cedric probably suspected that his opponent meant to draw two cards and had his intention not been competitive in nature, he would have sought what was best for everyone, which would have been proper and explicit clarification of intention because what is best for everyone in that situation is the removal of the ambiguity so that the game can progress with everyone on the same page. Instead of this, he was lead to act by what he perceived as an opportunity to gain advantage, to do what would have been best for himself, which in this case, was to perceive almost entirely the possibility that his opponent wished to destroy his own hand. Doing so doesn’t make him a bad person, it just means that he was conforming to the ideals of competition, which might not be the highest of ideals to begin with.

  111. Chris Henderson

    I disagree with you about the Esper Charm incident. While you make several valid points, I think that if it is unclear what a player means by a certain statement, then you should just ask him to clarify and move on with the game. I think Mark Rosewater said it best: Magic should not be “I know what you mean & you know what you mean but you said it technically inaccurately so you’re screwed.” When it comes down to it, most of us still play Magic because it’s fun, and I don’t think it’s fun or fair to punish someone for such a trivial technicality.

  112. This kind of article always makes me roll my eyes.

    “Playing to Win” discusses the idea that if one is truly trying to win a game, they should not limit their tactics. Truly “playing to win” involves embracing the most effective tactics within the game, whether or not other people consider them unfair or cheap. That’s all fine and dandy, IF THE END GOAL IS TO WIN.

    In EDH as it is “intended” (and in any casual game, really) the goal is not to win. The goal is for everyone to have fun. There is a level of competition because everyone trying to win is part of what makes the game fun, but it is means rather than an end.

    Let’s say I play my deck perfectly and win in a landslide, but my opponent has a terrible time and leaves. At a tournament, this is a successful outcome, as you have secured victory in the hopes of winning fabulous prizes. In a casual game, this is an abject failure, as you have failed to make the experience fun for everyone involved.

  113. @NastySasquatch

    I’m not a judge either, but i know how to read. As written a contiguous set of actions that in an improper order, that arrive at a legal gamestate, is a legal thing to do.

    (the opponent can ask you to do it in the correct order though, so it’s not like someone can just fake a combo by doing it wrong)

    Section 4.3 for more details.

  114. It’s ridiculous how much insight into a bad statement is made. Bottom line: If you announce the mode with it these confusions don’t happen. It’s a matter of laziness.

    The example in the article cited “Bant Charm, targeting Baneslayer.” This is a pretty horrible example, since only one mode can affect a creature. To stretch it, let’s say you target someone’s Wall of Omens with a Chaos Charm. You say “Chaos Charm, targeting Wall of Omens.” This is not enough, as there are two effects that can target the wall. Somehow, this type of announcement is acceptable for something that can affect the caster two ways, just because one mode lacks the word target.

    Ambiguity and laziness is becoming an ugly thing in tournament Magic, and I’m very sickened by it. A statement of, “draw two, targetting myself” wouldn’t even be such a stink as this very shady play. I understand the concept of “Take any advantage you can” but there’s some points where I wonder how guilty some “pro’s” feel at the end of the day. There’s a difference between “I won because I played better,” and “I won because I knew of the lack of a word on a card.”

    Two things to take away from this matter:
    A) Announce your *modes* instead of being being lazy
    B) If you don’t expect attempts to be rules lawyered into oblivion

  115. I think the Esper Charm announcement, as made, was a perfectly fine shortcut. If their really was any doubt as to what was meant, you ask for the mode first. But we all know their wasn’t any doubt. Just an attempt to gain an unfair advantage.

    They should errata Esper Charm. The draw mode should be reworded to say: Target player, who must be the caster of this spell, draws two cards. Put a stop to at least this one particular form of dooshyness.

  116. i agree with the poster above who said sperling seems like a know it all douche pirate

  117. Regarding the “rules are the game” section: I’m not sure who Sperling is defending here… people who can’t find a playgroup that will accept them? As if such people need or want a neatly formatted list of reasons why they aren’t wanted? Perhaps this section is a ploy: codifying a playgroup’s preferences into additional rules on the scale suggested is a complex, unrewarding, and ultimately hopeless task. It is an unreasonable demand whose only intelligent purpose would be to see it unfulfilled, thereby pressuring a playgroup to soften their social bans as compensation for failing to produce written rules.

    The rules are not the game. The rules are the limit of the game, the same way laws are merely the limit of an acceptable life. Most of life is exceptions that are best managed by individual judgment, not law. EDH players deserve the same freedom, and the same good judgment should be expected of them.

  118. I guess the issue is more urgent among people who regularly play against strangers. In those cases, I don’t sympathize with soft bans. If you game against people you don’t know, be ready for shenanigans and bring your own. The disagreements should take care of themselves soon, though. As the format ages, the community will self-select into people who have roughly the same expectations. If other formats are any indication, the rules-as-written camp should gain the upper hand.

  119. Too all those arguing that ruling should never be based off player intent, you are simply incorrect. The old way of handling this was specifically called “Ruling By Intent” (http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=judge/article/20041111bA), and stayed in place for a good long time. It was eventually superceded by PG52 – Out of Order Sequencing, when it was decided that the philosophy of Ruling By Intent needed to be codified.

    The first thing stated under PG52 is the following: At Regular and Competitive REL, it is acceptable for players to engage in a block of actions that, while technically in an incorrect order, arrive at a legal and clearly understood game state once they are complete.

    At the most basic level, “clearly understood” means that there is no ambiguity, and all parties involved are on the same page. The fact that Cedric asked for clarification at all indicates that things were not “clearly understood”. His choice of question was unfortunately vague, and obviously still failed to get both players to a mutual understanding. That said, Cedric presumably phrased it as he did to avoid giving away unnecessary information, which is perfectly reasonable.

    At the end of the day though, any competitive player needs to learn to state things clearly. I don’t recall having heard what the REL of the event was, but at Professional level, PG52 doesn’t apply anyway. You have to do everything by the book.

  120. I really like to play being clear with phases, steps and targets, most of the time it takes no extra time to be clear. I agree with you about the esper charm.

    I’d play Esper Charm and say I Draw 2, OK?

    and with the Bant Charm I’d play it putting it on the baneslayer and saying “Baneslayer to the bottom” while pointing the charm to my opponent’s library.

    Easy and simple.

  121. Why can people not seperate their feelings from things/events/etc?

    We cannot arive at a game played by intention. If you breeze past a may trigger, we should not rewind the game to allow you not learn to play the game correctly.

    If there is a miscommunication between players we shouldn’t allow the intention of the words out of your mouth to be how the game is played.

    When teaching someone Magic you allow them to understand their mistakes. At higher more competitive events, if you don’t know the rules, don’t play.

  122. You are the worst kind of magic player – the kind you doesnt want to have fun and cant win on the merits.

    Of course any reasonable person thinks that esper charm on me means that he will draw two unless he says otherwise. This is not magic online – there are no miss clicks, only misplays. Take the MTGO example, if you really want to say that he is forced to discard. If that were the case, he would have to expressly say what mode is being used, before targets. What that to happen in every game?

    Also, stay out of EDH, as a favour to the players who play the format.

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