The Riki Rules – All’s Well That Inkwells

Hello. There I go stealing PV’s intro again. I’m back from an exciting weekend at the SCG event in Atlanta. It was quite the experience for me as I was recruited to be the Scorekeeper for the Standard Open on Saturday. At 479 players, it was the largest tournament I’ve ever been the Scorekeeper for. I’m pretty sure I leveled up or became an Eldrazi.

On Sunday, I was back to just being a Floor Judge, the Team Lead (and the only member) on the Logistics Team. As I’ve alluded to in the past, Logistics is the catch-all team and there isn’t much to do at Constructed events. There was even less to do on Day 2 of a two-day weekend when everything was set up on Saturday. Must be nice to be an L3, right?

The Inkwell Incident

Except that I had plenty to do that wasn’t on the menu. With what few L2+s we had left on staff occupied with more serious matters like deck checks, it fell to me to administer the day’s judge exams, two candidates for L1. After I was done with those, I had the pleasure of sitting down to watch some Top 8 Magic, Gerry Thompson versus David Price. No, not that David Price. It was Reanimator versus Bant Counterbalance respectively. During game one, there was a notable incident. As Detective Monk would say, “Here’s what happened.”

After fighting a counter war over Entomb for Inkwell Leviathan, Gerry Exhumed the monster and islandwalked all over David’s Tropical Island. The critical turn came after a second swing put David at 3 life. He untapped with a 3/4 Tarmogoyf and a Knight of the Reliquary in play along with three lands, a Wasteland, the Inkwell-enabling Tropical Island, and some non-Island white source. David tapped his two colored mana sources to cast a second Tarmogoyf, leaving the Wasteland untapped. That gave him two ways to bin the offending Tropical Island, the other way being to sacrifice it to Knight of the Reliquary.

Wasteland was the preferred choice, since that would pump the Knight up to a 5/5, which could combine with the two 3/4 Goyfs to threaten to take down the Inkwell. Using the Knight to sacrifice the Tropical would tap it down before blockers, meaning David would have to double block with the Goyfs to prevent lethal trample damage, although that would result in one of the Tarmogoyfs surviving the combat.

I don’t know if Gerry was looking ahead at the potential triple block scenario (he probably was), but Gerry chose to Daze the second Goyf and David dutifully tapped his Wasteland to pay the 1, taking the triple block option away from him. This play is actually missing from the coverage, which has David lamenting his misplay and commenting like he could have triple blocked. However, after the match I spoke ever so briefly with David–I didn’t want to be too nosy after such a tough loss–and he confirmed that the Wasteland had been tapped to pay for the Daze.

But I’m getting too far ahead of myself. After resolving the second Goyf, David turned the first one sideways and attacked Gerry for three. Suddenly, he was dead on the board to the Inkwell Leviathan. David obviously didn’t see his misplay. I didn’t see his misplay. I don’t think Bill Stark saw his misplay. Gerry may have seen the misplay, but didn’t believe it. When he untapped for the turn, Gerry thought about his next play for some time, perhaps trying to figure out if “It’s a trap!”

Deciding that it wasn’t a trap, or that he had no choice but to walk into it, Gerry attacked. David tapped the Knight to sacrifice Tropical, fetching up a basic Forest. Goyf blocked the non-landwalking Inkwell, and when it came time to deal damage Gerry said, “Okay. Trample for three.”

Realization hit David like that ton of bricks you so often hear about. “That thing tramples.” It was a question, a statement, and a curse. He then made a comment a comment about hating foreign cards. You see, Gerry’s Inkwell was Japanese.

That brings us to the end of the game and the story. David mumbled some more about foreign cards and the misplay he made as a result of not being able to read Gerry’s card. Like the true gentleman and scholar that he is, Gerry flipped through his entire deck and commented that it was the only Japanese card in his deck.

So what can we take away from this incident? First off, Gerry had no obligation to tell David what his cards did. When’s the last time you sat there and read off the full text of every card you play to your opponent? Maybe at a Prerelease when most of the cards are unfamiliar to both players. Even then, I usually just flip the card and let them read it themselves, and that’s only if they ask. The general rule of thumb is to assume your opponent knows what a card does unless they ask.

And I think David knew what Inkwell Leviathan did, although maybe he didn’t KNOW-know, you know? By his own admission, David was primarily a Legacy player and Inkwell is one of those staple boom-booms in Reanimator. The problem for him was that the trample wasn’t a highlighted relevant ability. Islandwalk mattered because he had to find a way to rid himself of the Tropical in order to block. Shroud mattered because Swords to Plowshares and/or Path to Exile weren’t outs. But trample? When does Inkwell’s trample ever come into play? Most of the time when you Reanimate one, it is because your opponent is blue and you plan on walking all over their Islands. Trample doesn’t matter if it is unblockable.

The trample did not register to David as an important ability to remember, and since the card was Japanese, he couldn’t get a visual clue of the forgotten ability by looking at it. So what if David had asked Gerry what Inkwell did? The Oracle text of any card is derived information: “information to which all players are entitled access, but opponents are not obliged to assist in determining and may require some skill or calculation to determine.” (MTR 4.1) Faced with a question like “What does Inkwell do?” you are allowed to give the full text, give a partial answer, or say nothing (usually “I can’t answer that” rather than just a stone silent stare). What you cannot do regarding derived information is bold-faced lie. You can’t say that Inkwell Leviathan is a 1/1 flying creature with lifelink.

You’ll notice that among the legal options was a partial answer. That means that had David asked, it would have been legal for Gerry to say, “It’s a 7/11 with shroud and islandwalk” omitting the key trample ability. This leads to a simple rule regarding derived information: when it doubt, ask a judge. You see, the Oracle text of a card is exactly the kind of information that a judge is allowed to assist you with. Usually you see players ask about a card that they think their opponent might have. Perhaps you are trying to play around a Counterspell that you think your opponent has, but you can’t remember the exact cost of the spell. Ask a judge for the Oracle text and you can know if your opponent has the appropriate mana up.

If David had asked the closest judge (me) for the Oracle text on Inkwell Leviathan, I could have given it to him. Since I read Japanese, I could have read it right off the card. Or if he preferred, I could have printed him out the Oracle text from Gatherer. But as I said earlier, David thought he knew what Inkwell did, at least the parts that were relevant to him at the time. Given his preconceptions about the card it’s possible that he might have made the same mistake with an English card.

Did Gerry intentionally use a Japanese card in order to obscure the trample ability and steal a win? Um, not unless he is from the future, a robot, and a mindreader. As a matter of fact, I highly doubt that the deck was entirely his. It was probably either a fully borrowed deck, or cobbled together from various donors and the Japanese Inkwell was just the card that happened to be handy. Otherwise, why not just run with a fully foreign deck. That way your opponent can’t read any of your cards. Or there is an even more extreme solution; erase the text altogether. The key identifying factor for cards is their artwork. We have to go by this standard because there are a bunch of different languages of cards and it is impossible to expect everyone at a Pro Tour to be able to read each other’s cards. But an experienced Magic player can identify a Rhox War Monk by the funky-looking pancake flipper guy regardless of what language the text is in.

Similarly, there are textless promo cards. Those are a clear indication that card text is not a defining factor in what makes a card identifiable. As an aside, I hate that Cryptic Command is a textless promo. People can hardly figure out how to use it with the text. If your goal is to obscure your cards and hope your opponent makes a misplay because they cannot get visual clues from your cards’ text, go ahead and blank all of your cards into textless cards. And when I say “go ahead,” I mean “don’t be that guy.” Will you get a very slight edge in some fraction of your games? Possibly. Will your opponents need to call over judges to get Oracle text? Yes, making more work for me, you jerk. Would the time it takes to de-text your cards be better spent just playtesting more? Yes. Some things just aren’t worth “the edge.”

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65 thoughts on “The Riki Rules – All’s Well That Inkwells”

  1. You can erase the text on your cards?

    Man, I’m totally bringing some whited out quest for for the goblin lords to my next FNM.

    I’m not even going to read it before blanking it out and sleeving it up. We’ll find out round one, when was ask a judge together.

  2. Hmm, sounds like a lapse in judgement. Actually, sounds like a mistake I would make. And repeat. Yep, I’m a bad magic player!

  3. ravenousratsftw

    I play textless Cryptic Command because it is one of the three that I traded for. One is damaged, one is textless-foil and the third is NM. I can’t afford to drop 40 dollars on a play set of some high value cards. Some people can’t afford to have NM English copies of any given card. It’s part of the game… call a judge.

    Also, can I play my Garruk from the Garruk Vs. Liliana set in a DCI sanctioned tournament?
    Thanks for a very helpful article.

  4. @jack: What part of “don’t be that guy” didn’t make sense. Remember that the Head Judge is always the final authority on acceptable cards for a tournament, and if you brought cards like that just be a bag (“I have no idea what my own card does. Please tell me.” being a strong hint), I would most likely ask you to get some new ones. We’re here to help you; don’t abuse us.

    @Per Jensen: Given the number of times I’ve misplayed into English cards sitting right in front of me, I certainly can’t–well, you know–judge David.

    @ravenousratsftw: Yes, that Garruk is fine, as is Xbox Garruk. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of the last promo card they released that is not tournament legal.

  5. Yeah, you can play the Garruk from the Garruk vs. Liliana duel deck in sanctioned events.

    And I agree with the guy who said that’s the kind of mistake he’d make- I would too. All aboard the fail boat! Toot toot!

  6. My life consists of me living on a fail boat floating down the Sockittome River.

  7. holy crap my add was killing me. add some pictures or something to this wall of text.

    was an awesome article but legitimately caused my eyes to hurt while reading.

  8. Riki, I have a big question that doesn’t relate to this article, however being a L3 judge I figured I would post the question. First off, great article, I do enjoy reading your articles and am glad you are writing again. Now onto the question, it is regarding Oblivion ring and Malakir Bloodwitch. We all know how Oblivion Ring can target Emrakul which is fine, however my question is, can I target Malakir Bloodwitch with my Oblivion ring. I asked the judge last week at my local FNM and he wasn’t sure and said he would look into it, but I doubt he would of remembered. I don’t think the oblivion ring would be able to target the bloodwitch based on the emarkul rule because oblivion ring would become a white permanent and the bloodwitch has protection from white. Anyway, thank you in advance and I look forward to your ‘ruling’

  9. Textless Blightning seems to be a big problem in tournaments I’ve been in. A lot of people who don’t play Jund seem to forget to take the 3 damage and then when their opponent checks up on life it’s always “Did you take Blightning damage?”.

    And for the above poster, Oblivion Ring is a white permanent so protection from white makes it so you can’t target the bloodwitch. Emrakul can be targeted by O-Ring because it’s a permanent, not a spell but still a white permanent.

  10. ORing can’t target the bloodwitch. Protection from white makes a creature untargetable by white spells OR abilities, while emrakul specifically says it has protection from white spells, but says nothing about activated or triggered abilities. Since the part of the ORing that gets you is the triggered ability of the card when it comes into play the bloodwitch dodges the bullet while emrakul gets owned.

  11. @Frank

    You’re exactly right, Since Malakir Bloodwitch has protection from white, not protection from white spells, it has protection from Oblivion Rings since the trigger comes from a white source.

  12. @Frank: “The Emrakul rule?” Emrakul has protection from colored _spells_. Malakir Bloodwitch has protection from _white_. Oblivion Ring is not a spell, but it is indeed white. So no, you can’t target Malakir Bloodwitch with an O-Ring

  13. It’s not because blightning is textless that people forget. I honestly don’t think most players familiar with standard have read blightning in the last 15 months. It’s because blightning’s damage is so incidental (as are fetch lands, probably the biggest cause of life total confusion). I would assume that anyone who obscures card text to gain an advantage is not going to be allowed by any judge even if people who like extended art (on a few cards) are allowed to.

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  15. Erik Hallgren

    Regarding frank’s post about oblivion ring and Malakir Bloodwitch:

    …So… if a judge isn’t sure about that question, that probably means i should have what it takes to be a level higher than him/her?

  16. That should be a rule preventing some cards to go textless, like blightning or cryptic command.

    Very nice reading, Ryu!

  17. It definitely seems shady, that you can explain part of a card and not the whole card.

    If someone asks what does hypergenesis do, it feels weird that I can legally respond. It lets me put into play all my creatures, etc… Ignoring the symmetry of the card.

    If I ask “What exactly does Inkwell Leviathan do?” is he allowed omit trample.

  18. What about all the sick altered cards on ebay that i see all the time without text? Are they legal?

  19. @ robert

    I am pretty sure they are.

    edit: THERE should be some kind of rule preventing some cards to be textless. I know it must be very hard, though.

  20. The legality of altered cards is at the discretion of the head judge. If the alteration is done in a way that makes the card noticeably thicker or stiffer (paint, white-out) then they will probably not allow it as those cards could be considered “marked” (even in sleeves).

  21. @Robert – Some of them are legal, and you always want to run altered cards by a judge before playing them at an event.

  22. You know to be honest, reading this article was the first I’d realized that Inkwell DIDN’T have flying :<

  23. ..in even more rarely relevant Leviathan news: dies to Pulverize for zero mana.

  24. @MH: So Oblivion Ring isn’t a spell… that means I can’t use Deprive, or even Counterspell to counter it… :S

  25. @fmira: Oblivion Ring is a spell like anything else; you can counter it. Oblivion Ring’s effect is a triggered ability, and you can also counter that with various Stifle-like effects. As far as I know, Emrakul is the only card with Protection From White Spells, so you won’t see this distinction often.

  26. ravenousratsftw


    Oblivion Ring is a spell if it is in your hand. It can be the target of Counterspell. When you cast Oblivion ring you target a permanent; however, that permanent isn’t “removed from the game” until O ring “come’s into play,” or more correctly “as it comes into play.” So it isn’t the spell that is exiling any given target but the ability from a Permanent/enchantment, Oblivion ring. So… Emrakul is totally screwed…

  27. Ravenousratsftw: if that were so then you *wouldn’t* be able to O-ring Emrakul because you wouldn’t be able to target him when you cast the Ring. Oblivion Ring *doesn’t* have any targets when cast; it’s a ‘global’ enchantment that has a triggered ability when it enters play. This occasionally lead to surprising blowouts where one player would play O-ring to remove their opponent’s only non-land permanent and that opponent would bounce the permanent (or sometimes Path it) with Ring (the spell) on the stack, forcing the person casting Ring to choose one of their own permanents when O-Ring resolved and the CIP ability went on the stack.

  28. I remember the trample b/c of Vintage. If Inky didn’t trample, it probably would have never been considered as a replacement Tinker bot.

  29. Aren’t all cards considered to have their Oracle text printed on them? Why is that derived information rather than free?

  30. I remember when Kenji got told by the head judge that he couldn’t play his foil garruk, because in generating full art, aleksi briclot had obscured most of the text.

    poor Kenji.

  31. Thanks guys for reassuring me that I was right about Oblivion ring not being able target bloodwitch. It always seemed like no one really wondered about it at my store until Emrakul, but I think everyone just forgot to read the cards and read the ruling about emrakul and oblivion ring and journy to nowhere, I think most of them thought the reason you could use an oblivion ring on emrakul was because it become colorless (I have no idea why they would think this) instead of understanding that the oblivion ring is still white in color, it just becomes a permanent which is the real reason it owns emrakul.

    @Erik Hallgren, when I asked him he really didn’t put much thought into it, other than saying “hmm, I’d have to look into that, seems like a good question” but it wasn’t during a match or even with the bloodwitch in front of him, it was more of a casual conversation between rounds, so If it came up during a match scenario, he would of taken the time to clearly see that the bloodwitch states, “protection from white” and would have made the correct ruling of “no, your oblivion ring can’t target that 4/4 flier sitting across the board, but why not ignore that and take away his 15/15 flying annihilator 6 creature that is going to kill you next turn” Ok, so he wouldn’t of said the last bit of that of course, but he would of made the correct ruling.

    Anyway, thanks again everyone for the answers, love channel fireball and all of its viewers/readers, you guys are very helpful as well.

  32. This was a great read, thanks.

    I am inclined to believe Gerry T is a robot, a mindreader, and possibly from the future if not another planet.

  33. Hypothetical question:

    if aphotic wisps (et al) could target Oblivion Ring could you cast it, let it resolve, then before it enters the battlefield cast a Wisp on it to change it’s color to black and then target the witch?

    I guess this boils down to is there anyway you could target the permanent after it resolves but as it is entering the battlefield?

  34. @ArtB if aphotic wisps could target enchantments, you could definitely do this, as long as you stacked everything properly. You would cast the Oblivion Ring, and place it’s etb trigger onto the stack. You would then respond to the trigger by playing the wisps changing the oblivion ring’s color to black. After the wisps resolves, you would then choose your now black Oblivion ring target.

  35. @ Steven: Really? I thought O-Ring had to target something when the ability triggered, and a pro white critter is not a legal target.

    For example, If you cast Brave The Elements naming white with an opponent’s O-Ring on the stack, leaving you with no legal targets, he’ll still have to choose a legal target (one of his permanents, tee hee). However, if the O-Ring’s ability is already on the stack, the same BTE would just make the ability fizzle, leading me to believe the target is chosen when the ability stacks.

  36. People seem to have the same confusion about partial answering when I played Living End during Extended season. More than once people would say something like “it puts all your creatures into play, right?” and I would respond “yes.” Then after they let it resolve, they are surprised theirs die. This was more of an issue at the beginning of the season, and I felt a bit guilty not explaining it to them, but I don’t expect players at a PTQ or higher level to understand what cards do.

    On a side note – I hope that Todd Anderson’s posting on here means he’s gonna come write for CF! It’s better than the “other” site Anderson writes for (though that site is very good as well).

  37. @Caleb

    Yeah, you’re right. I guess I kind of went on autopilot when I answered that.

  38. @Jim Storrie and ravenousratsftw
    I was being sarcastic, because MH said “Oblivion Ring is not a spell”, but hey, thanks anyway, though ravenousratsftw’s answer was a little… wrong?

  39. I haven’t played with textless promos in sanctioned events since someone accused me of lying about what Damnation did in a GPT some years ago, nor do I play foreign cards unless I have an English one to hand or the spell is quite well-known. This excellent article is another example why to not play with foreign cards if you can avoid it.

  40. I didnt see it mentioned but a minor correction

    They are cards in your hand not spells
    They are only spells when they are on the stack.

    OTB they are Permanents
    On the Stack they are Spells
    In all other zones they are Cards.
    A spell doesnt leave the stack till it is resolved.
    I dont think there is anything that “interrupts” the resolution of a spell. Often the resolution of the spell generates a number of triggered effects.
    These effects are not in and of themselves spells.

    When a spell is put on the stack and a target is requred the target must be legal or else you would be able to play a spell without a legal target.
    I do not know if a triggered effect requires the targets to be chosen when its put on the stack because its a triggered effect. So changing the color of the O’ring may get around it.

    Im not sure what would happen if you changed the color of the O’ring while on the stack when it became a permanent.

  41. also a spell can leave the stack by being countered the stack emptied or simply removed by another spell/effect. In addition to it resolving.

  42. Foreign cards = necessary evil, for those of us who are monolingual. I once played in a match against Raven’s Crime.dec and my opponent threw out a Japanese River Kelpie. Unsure of the wording, I called a judge and he spent 15+ minutes printing out the oracle text. I told them i had one in my binder, as i considered it a crap rare, which my binder was full of at the time, but i wasn’t allowed to fish it out. I won the match, but we had so much added time that everyone else finished and go to watch us.
    But without foreign cards, MTG wouldn’t be the powerhouse it is today.
    Point is, if there’s a foreign card and you aren’t 100% sure, call a judge. That’s what they’re there for. Don’t rely on your opponent – they have this weird desire for you to lose, and it can color their judgments.

  43. This whole ruling is starting not to make sense.

    If someone asks me what browbeat does, can I say “I draw 3 cards”.

  44. @above

    More or less. The point is that if you want to be absolutely certain you know what the card does, be familiar enough with the format to know key cards and look up their oracle text. If you don’t for whatever reason recognize the card, as the judge for the oracle text as they offer this service to you.

    Its just like any other aspect of the game. If you aren’t sure about the legality of something, ask the judge. The player does not have your best interests in mind. It’d be great if they did, but to be safe, ask the judge. They’ll print the info up if they are unsure.

  45. Something I’ve wondered related to this…

    I have played vintage landstill and legacy merfolk a decent amount recently, and, because they were the cheapest available when I was buying them, I was playing a set of Simplified Chinese Standstills. In the two formats across about 4 events (an admittedly small sample size, sadly), I’ve had 2 people make misplays with Stifle into my Standstills, and have had to remind them how the card works and how they chose to blow themselves out. In the process of foiling out merfolk I acquired a set of English foil Standstills recently, and look forward to seeing if I run into the same sort of misplays… if people just neglect to read the card because they’re lazy and thus play awfully, or if they only play awfully because they can’t read the card.

  46. on the Oblivion Ring and aphotic wisps:

    I think this doesn’t work. Let me explain: When you cast a Terminate, part of announcing that spell is ginving it a legal target and paying the cost (BR). If there’s no legal target for Terminate, you cannot even cast it without “cheating”. Would this happen, a judge will usually rule that the casting of terminate will be rewinded, as it never could have been cast in the first place.

    Ok, now consider O-ring: While it’s on the stack, it’s a spell and not a permanent, so the permanent “O-ring” cannot be targeted by a color changing spell (assuming it’s one that targets a permanent). Now when the O-Ring ETB, his ETB triggered ability triggers. I think that at this very moment, as a part of putting the triggered ability on the stack you have to announce a legal target (much like casting the terminate above), which Bloodwitch is not. Once the triggered ability is put on the stack, both players get priority before it resolves, but it’s too late by then to change O-rings target to Bloodwitch (since the target was announced already).

    Ofcourse, this would work if you first changed the color, and then with some other trick changed the target of the triggered ability (there must be something that does just that I guess).

    Please tell me if I’m wrong on this.

  47. ^^
    One more thing on what I said above:

    If you’ve got a trick that can change the color of a spell instead of a permanent, then it’s much easier: With the spell O-ring on the stack you change it’s color, which it will keep as it becomes a permanent (much like a Grizzly bears is a colored spell when on the stack, and a colored permanent once it entered the battlefield). So when O-ring enters the battlefield it’s a non-white object, which is perfectly fine to target Bloodwitch with.

    Again, correct me if I’m wrong somewhere.

  48. @ wout
    You are correct that you must choose a target when it’s abilitiy triggers and it is not possible to get a spell in after it ETB, but before it’s ability triggers.
    Changing the color of O-ring when it is in the stack, but before it ETB can protect it from things like Stormgald Cabal, but it reverts to a colored permanant when it is in play.
    The only way for O-ring to target a pro white creature would be to use an Alter Reality type spell on the Bloodwitch changing it to protection from green.

  49. The Japanese Inkwell is only foreign to David because he can’t read Japanese. It looks absolutely native to me and all those who understand Japanese.

    Sometime we forgot that English is not the only language people use.

  50. Kyle, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about the second half of your statement; if the O-ring becomes e.g. blue on the stack, then it will remain blue once it ETB, and the triggered ability will be ‘blue’. The magic is in rule 111.4:

    111.4. If an effect changes any characteristics of a permanent spell, the effect continues to apply to the permanent when the spell resolves. See rule 400.7.
    Example: If an effect changes a black creature spell to white, the creature is white when it enters the battlefield and remains white for the duration of the effect changing its color.

  51. This question is more of a rules curiosity than anything else, but suppose someone had a painter’s servant in play, naming white, along with an Emrakul. If the opponent casts an Ulamog (which is white now) could he target Emrakul with the destroy target permanent ability? I would say no, because Emrakul has protection from that ability’s source: the white Ulamog that’s still on the stack (and thus a spell). Also, would a purelace in response to Ulamog’s ability cause it to be countered?


  52. ravenousratsftw

    “Oblivion Ring is a spell if it is in your hand. It can be the target of Counterspell. When you cast Oblivion ring you target a permanent; however, that permanent isn't "removed from the game" until O ring "come's into play," or more correctly "as it comes into play." So it isn't the spell that is exiling any given target but the ability from a Permanent/enchantment, Oblivion ring. So"¦ Emrakul is totally screwed"¦”

    Yes, that was wrong… you wouldn’t target a permanent until oblivion ring comes into play, not as you cast it. And, the triggered ability from the enchant would go on the stack. Anyway, O ring can be the target of counter magic obviously.

  53. You could also kill the bloodwitch with an O-ring by having Mycosynth Lattice in play first. Hey, I’m just sayin’!

  54. “Some things just aren't worth "the edge."



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