The Riki Rules:Call a Judge


First off, apologies to all of our international readers who were unable to view the “Riki vs LSV” chess clock video last week. Of course, the “unable to view due to copyright laws” should have tipped you off that something was amiss. For the rest of you who did get to see the video, I guess apologies are also in order for the “Rikiroll.” In fact, there is no video of me playing against LSV with chess clocks. (Luis himself didn’t realize this until he clicked on the link.) Maybe someday we will get around to recording something like this though.

As I’ve stated in this space previously, I don’t play in PTQs to win. The Blue Envelope is about as relevant to my life as a literal blue envelope. Hey, here is this envelope. Too bad everyone uses e-mail and no one sends paper letters anymore. I have, however, fantasized about what might happen if I were to win a PTQ. Most likely I would take the flight and just go Judge the event. What an addict I am.

When the time came to sleeve up a Standard deck for my one PTQ break per season, I decided that I wanted to use this opportunity to do a little research and run an experiment. It’s like the beginning of a new comedy routine. You might be a blackshirt if, you play in events just to do research on judging issues.

My experiment for this PTQ was to call a Judge every time an infraction was committed, a rules question came up, or any other general judicial concerns. I played a stock [card]Time Sieve[/card] deck, which is notorious for its missed Howling Mine triggers.

Round 1 – Tristan 5cc

Things started out like clockwork as I called for a Judge before the round even started. The issue was my opponent’s sleeves. He was using Street Fighter brand sleeves–either Chun Li or Ryu, I can’t remember which–where the character is throwing a fireball straight out of the sleeve. It’s a very bright and reflective fireball, and I asked the responding Judge to take a look at the sleeves. He double checked with the Head Judge (who is the final authority on this and pretty much any matter at any given tournament), and the sleeves came back clean.

Sleeves are a touchy issue. It’s probably about time I addressed the topic, but I don’t feel like I have enough information on them at the moment. What I need to do is try out a bunch of different sleeves and do a comprehensive study on all the brands. I will say that my favorite brand, the Magic card-backed Ultra Pros, have been very subpar as of late. Sleeves in the same package seem to be coming off of different cutting presses, so that half have slightly worn white edges while the other half has the normal black edge.

The second call this round was for a Game Rule Violation. My opponent made a Beast token with Garruk using the last loyalty counter, then played a second Garruk, untapped two lands, and attacked with his team, including the most recently created 3/3 Beast. I called the Judge, my opponent received his GRV, and we went about our merry way. I think I played Pollen Lullaby that turn and proceeded to go off.

It’s easy to see why my opponent attacked with the new Beast. When he played his second Garruk and untapped his lands, the creation of the Beast token got relegated to “last turn” in his mind because that’s how things usually go with Planeswalkers–once per turn.

This is definitely the kind of thing that most people do not call a Judge on. It’s usually:
“Hey, that guy can’t attack. He is summoning sick.”
“Oh, sorry.”

The problem is that this is a very easy way for people to cheat. (Aside: I have no reason whatsoever to suspect that this was anything but an honest mistake on Tristan’s part. The following discussion of cheating is purely hypothetical.) Play a creature (or make a token), do some other stuff to pass the time, then attack with your sick creature hoping that your opponent doesn’t notice. If you get away with it, that’s some free “hasty” damage for you. If not, your opponent will most likely just point it out and you Maze of Ith your extra attacker.

This is a good reason to get your friendly neighborhood Judge involved in things. Your opponent will collect his GRV Warning, which on the surface doesn’t seem that much harsher than you pointing it out; a Warning is just that, and it takes a third offense for a GRV to be upgraded to a Game Loss.

That’s a concern I’ve heard players express about the upgrade path for penalties, that they are too lenient. I mean, cheaters can cheat twice before they have to start worrying about things. Maybe. Kind of. If a Judge determines that a player is actually cheating–intentionally attacking with a summoning sick creature, for example–it is one and done. Meet me at the DQ.

But you see, that’s why it is so important to report these sorts of violations. If we don’t hear about it, we’ll never have that extra background information to make that determination. On the other hand, if someone is consistently showing up on our radar as “that guy who attacks with summoning sick creatures” it might throw up a red flag. I’ve heard of cheaters past and present who go for these small edges–attacking with a sick creature, playing a spell with the wrong mana–because they know their opponent will not call a Judge and simply go for the home remedy, deftly keeping them under the radar.

Round 2 – Sam playing the red burn’em ups

While we were shuffling, my opponent expressed some concern about his own sleeves. This might seem like the perfect opportunity for some more Judge call-age, but I declined. His concern was over some chicken scratches on the back. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t make out anything on the backs of the sleeves. They were opaque blacks. I suppose they were scratched up, but not any more than any other sleeves that have been shuffled more than once.

Our first actual call came when I played a Japanese [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card], and Sam wanted to know what it did specifically. We called a Judge and we were about to ask for the Oracle text when our neighbor offered up his sideboard Canonist to look at. I would have done the same with my sideboard Canonist, except that I am leery of giving away free information like “I have more of these useless dorks in my sideboard.”

The next call was for my opponent untapping two creatures that were frozen by [card]Pollen Lullaby[/card]. It was actually a player in the next match over (the opponent of Canonist guy), finished with his match and watching ours, who caught the mistake. I probably would have caught it myself, but the spectator jumped in before I could process everything. I told the spectator the proper way to go about fixing a problem (ask the players to stop and call a Judge). You might be a blackshirt if”¦ you spend time during your match to educate spectators on the proper way to interrupt your match.

The Pollen Lullaby thing bought me a turn in which I did nothing and I died one turn later.

Round 3 – Derek playing some kind of Jund concoction

In the third round, I got to make my first Howling Mine call. To be fair, I didn’t actually cast too many Howling Mines in the first two rounds. In round one, I landed a Mine but my opponent didn’t get a turn with it. In round two, I might not have played any Mines, which would explain why I lost. Throughout the day, in fact, I kept keeping loose hands without Howling Mine, despite knowing from playtesting that such hands tended to run out of steam and do nothing. The Judge call was pretty straightforward. Howling Mine has a triggered ability. Derek missed it. GPE – Missed Trigger. The infraction names make so much more sense nowadays.

I actually had to appeal this ruling because the Floor Judge tried to give me a Failure to Maintain Game State. That infraction is for players who fail to notice that their opponent did something wrong until later. The problem is that I caught Derek as soon as it was reasonable for me to know. After he drew one card, I waited and watched him. He didn’t play a land (probably because he didn’t draw one) and moved into his combat phase. That was my first indication that we had moved beyond the draw step and he had officially missed the trigger. FtMGS (the most awkwardly acronymed infraction since Hidden Information Violation) should only be given to a player who doesn’t catch an opponent’s infraction at the soonest opportunity.

Due to the appeal–fetching the HJ, two Judges conferring, HJ making his own ruling–this was the only Judge call of the day that required a time extension. We got four minutes added onto our match, which we did not need, but it did provide a nice cushion when we went to game three.

After the call, Derek became noticeably tighter with his play, announcing both his regular draw and the Howling Mine draw, and clearly announcing his intent to enter combat. Derek is a very experienced PTQ player, so he is used to Judge calls. Whereas this might have rattled a lesser opponent, it clearly focused him on the task at hand (beating the crap out of me with double Putrid Leeches).

Round 4 – Craig playing some crazy 5cc deck with a bunch of Planeswalkers including Jace Beleren, Sarkhan Vol, and Ajani Vengeant

I only had to call a Judge once this round and it was to watch for the every-hard-to-tackle Slow Play. Craig was looking at his hand and his lands for a long time, doing some complex calculations when he said, “I’m gonna Cruel Ultimatum you and I need to figure out the mana.” He had several Vivids, a Reflecting Pool, and one land enchanted with Fertile Ground (oh, because he had Garruk Wildspeaker in his deck too). As soon as he told me his intention to take some time (on top of the time he had already taken before making his declaration), I called for a Judge.

This was still game one, and we were only about fifteen minutes into the game, but I felt that his pace had already been deliberate, and basically saying “Imma gonna take alotta time,” makes the Mario music in my head go into speed mode. Craig took some more time getting his mana sorted out in his head, then he went about actually tapping the mana.

Had I been on this call from the other side, I might have given Craig the infraction at this point. There’s no reason to figure out the mana in your head, then essentially figure it out again as you are tapping your lands. Unfortunately, the Judge kept getting called away to nearby tables and never got to watch our match continuously for long enough to make the call. Them’s the breaks sometimes.

Round 5 – Mark playing 5cc with Sen Triplets

Yes, those Sen Triplets. From a game play standpoint, this lead to the most exciting part of my day. Mark landed his Triplets while I had four mana sources in play and two Time Warps in hand. I went to great lengths to stop the stealing of my turns, Silencing him in response to the Triplets ability one turn, and using Time Sieve to gain another draw step. To no anvil. Mark took two extra turns with my Time Warps and then stole the game.

However, Mark also missed two Howling Mine triggers over the course of the match. As I alluded to earlier, a second Game Play Error (of which a Missed Trigger falls under) is a second Warning with the third infraction being upgraded to a Game Loss. To be fair, these weren’t just run of the mill Missed Triggers. In both cases, we got into counter wars during his upkeep over things like Silence and Cryptic Command in land bounce mode. In the second case, Mark actually forgot both the Howling Mine and his regular draw.

If Mark had missed another Mine trigger, would I have called in a Judge for the Game Loss. Yes, if for no other reason than to see if the Judge would correctly apply the upgrade. To his credit, finding out that a third infraction would be a big GL forced Mark to really tighten up his game with regards to remembering the triggers. Every turn he would very carefully draw one, then draw the second (and eventually third). Did this cause him to later lose his concentration on his actual game play and make an error that opened the door for me to combo off and win? That’s impossible to guess, but it’s possible. To be fair, I doubt he expected the third Negate of the game to win the crucial counter war over Cruel Ultimatum on his turn, opening the door for me to Open the Vaults.

Round 6 – Benjamin 5cc

Benjamin won the award for “round with no infractions.” We played some good clean Magic, and there was much rejoicing (from the Judges). Yay. Wave those little flags and banners, you minstrels.

Round 7 – Dylan with Kithkin, err Soldiers

There was only one Judge call this round. Dylan played a Soldier Banneret fellow, then tried to play a Preeminent Captain for just W, thinking that the Banneret would help out his buddy for being both a Soldier and a Kithkin. That’s not how it works. For reference, check out the Nightscape Familiar cycle for an example of a card with two separate abilities that does reduce a card’s cost twice over. [Or check out [card]Grand Arbiter Augustin IV[/card] for the actual card that does this. -Riki, who has bad card memory]

Unfortunately for the experiment, Dylan came out of the gates with an Elite Vanguard on turn one both games. I think one of the games even featured some ridiculous “Captain of the Watch off of Windbrisk“ action. Such short games don’t lead to a lot of calls. And that’s where I ended my day. I dropped after round 7 because Butler, the camera guy showed up and Luis wanted to record an episode of Magic TV (*cough* LSTV) with me as the guest. Look for that video sometime next week as I sit on the left instead of Mashi and we yap about Harm’s Way.

Last week, I set the over/under at three calls per round, and everyone I know took the over. I don’t know if that is a condemnation of the play skill of the average PTQer or an acknowledgment that I can be an album cover. Counting the appeal as a separate call, there were ten Judge calls in seven rounds. That’s certainly a lot more calls than the average player will make over the course of a tournament. It’s also a lot more than we want people to make.

Therein lies the rub. If every player at the PTQ played with the same “call a Judge for everything” mentality, the tournament would have come to a screeching halt of time extensions and appeals. The four valiant Judges fighting against the entropy of 177 players would have fallen like the 300 at Thermopylae. Staffing levels would have to be increased two or three-fold to deal with such a player base.

After the match when I caught Mark on two Missed Trigger infractions, the HJ pulled me aside and basically said, “What the hey diddle diddle are you doing?” He may have even used the term “rules lawyer,” which I have never liked, at least not in the jerkwad context. I consider myself to be a “rules lawyer” in that I play the game by the rules. Why should I feel like a jerk for following the rules as they are spelled out? It’s not like I was doing other, more jerky things like the “he put his card into the graveyard. That means he forgot to search for something, right?” trick (which no competent Judge should let you get away with anymore. See Out-of-Order Sequencing in the MTR for more info).

It would certainly be sporting for me to say, “Go. Don’t forget Howling Mine,” or to simply remind my opponent when he does forget without getting a Judge involved. I guess the HJ objected to the fact that I was basically waiting to pounce on my opponent for the Mine trigger. But it is a player’s responsibility to maintain the correct game state, not to play for his opponent.

I talked about the “hasty attacker” scenario earlier, and how cunning cheaters can use people’s reluctance to call a Judge to sneak in some extra damage. In that case, the mistake, either innocent or malicious, can lead to a significant advantage. From that perspective, it is important to track such occurrences and make sure that players are not gaining such an advantage on a consistent basis due to sloppiness or cheating.

Howling Mine would seem to fall under a different category. There isn’t an advantage to my opponent missing the Mine trigger. I suppose there are corner cases with milling, Sudden Impact, and possibly Megrim. But in general, it’s safe to say that an opponent would not intentionally miss a Mine trigger. In such cases, if you’re comfortable resolving the issue (“Hey, don’t forget the Mine.”) without getting a Judge involved, by all means please do so. Madness? Maybe this is just Sparta.

Until next Saturday, when I will follow up on the Harm’s Way stuff from my Magic TV segment, “Bore.”

55 thoughts on “The Riki Rules:Call a Judge”

  1. ‘I consider myself to be a "rules lawyer" in that I play the game by the rules.’

    This is not a rules lawyer, in common parlance 🙂

  2. The Nightscape Familiar cycle only gives a single discount for double qualification (just like the Bannerets).

    The ‘double discounter’ you’re thinking of is Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. The reductions are on entirely different lines, which is why he will discount a blue and white spell by 2.

  3. You didn’t tell Jeff about the experiment in advance?

    I ended up with one GRV from this PTQ, called on myself about half a turn after I realized I’d cast two non-artifact spells in the same turn under my own Canonist. Interestingly, my opponent in that round picked up a second Warning in the same game (the first being for Game State from missing my goof) on the turn he was swinging for the win in game three.

    My judge call tally for the day was three calls across five rounds, one by me (the GRV on myself), one by a bystander, one by a very hopeful opponent who wanted to not die with his Kitchen Finks’ persist trigger on the stack.

    On this topic, one player in a match next to me wanted to ask if he could do a beginning-of-round restroom break but said he was, basically, too shy to call the judge. So his opponent did it for him.

    I do feel like NorCal is pretty good about players telling those who have questions to “just call a judge.”

  4. I definitely suggest nearby tables call a judge whenever I hear any kind of disagreement or discussion going on. Unfortunately, that was not good enough at the PTQ that I attended this weekend. The table next to me had a guy with Vivid Crag and Reflecting Pool in play. His Crag no longer had any counters on it, and there was some discussion going on as to what colors of mana the Reflecting Pool could produce. I suggested that they call a judge, and thusly was a judge called. I then continued on with my match(5cc does require some attention to play).

    I felt bad for the guy with the Pool when I found out that the judge made the incorrect call and that he did not appeal to the HJ. The HJ ended up coming by a few minutes later to explain how the interaction works, at which point I found out about the missed call. At least the judge and two players got to learn some from the experience.

  5. I think your article produces a very good point, but unfortunately you haven’t really given this point the limelight it deserves:

    It is important to call a judge when your opponent could have probably benefitted from the mistake. Otherwise you might just remind him to play correctly and continue to play without involving a judge. When in doubt call a judge!

    To be fair you mention this a few times in the article and even close to the end. In my opinion this should be the main conclusion of the experiment, though. Thus you should have it at the very end to wrap up the article. It is the best rule of thumb in this context I’ve heard of so far. While in hindsight this appears to be an obvious rule of thumb I haven’t read about it like this before and I think it is a great contribution that would have deserved to be the quintessence of the article.

  6. In my opinion people should call judges more than they currently do. But most people are just afraid of being seen as a jerk by their peers.

    For myself, i call judges a lot. Not just to get my opponents a GL but a lot of the time for myself, because i tend to sloppy play and forgetfullness. As i am not allowed to rewind anything and am not a judge myself I think i should do this, as should others.

    Great article btw.

  7. Riki-

    Thanks for an excellent article–I did have a question for you that occured during a recent PTQ. I was in the final round playing against merfolk and a player that had played against next to me earlier that had received a procedural warning for misrepresenting the game state to the head judge. During our first game the player received two procedural errors–one for casting a creature without the mana to do so, and one for not drawing off a silvergill adept and moving into combat. I appealed the ruling of a double-warning (and no game loss) to the head judge because I was aware of prior misrepresentations. The ruling judge told me that I could not appeal. What would your response be to this, were you in the situation?


  8. @Joe: I guess what I am trying to say is that I feel that the common parlance is misusing the term, and that lawyers get a bad rap in general.
    @starwarer: You got me! I was thinking about Arbiter and did a compete retcon of my memory to the Familiar cycle.
    @Gifts Ungiven: I was telling a lot of people, so Jeff (the HJ) got left out simply by accident.
    @Garthok: There is a learning curve for players in terms of “right to appeal.” Those two got the lesson. I try to spread the word whenever I can.
    @Thomas David Baker: Of course, I was aware of the connotations, which is why I used it in the same context as the slightly offensive “redneck.” I would not recommend popularizing either term outside of jokes. Although because of said jokes of Jeff Foxworthy, I think redneck has become a “softer” term in recent times. Maybe the same could work, or maybe not.
    @OdinFK: Good point. I definitely saw that was where this idea was going. Unfortunately, the way this was written (tournament report first) and time constraints prevented me from bringing this to the logical conclusion.
    @kenshin: I was not so much camera shy as camera inexperienced. As has been noted eslewhere, Luis cut me off because of time issues.
    @drtednelson: You can always appeal. Luis is fond of saying that the only “ruling” he has had to appeal is a judge telling him that he cannot go to the bathroom. I can’t really say for certain why the judge didn’t let you appeal. Have a talk with him and ask why at a future event.

  9. 2 worthless articles in a row whats up with you man noone wants to read riki goes to a ptq and calls the judge cause hes lonley seriously dude you need a wife or a girlfriend or someone to do to realize stress other than going to ptqs and calling a judge on people who are x-2 at ptqs who just dont care about playing 100% perfect every single second cause his opponent is a guy with no life

  10. I like this experiment, as it can even help “judges” to make correct rulings, as they get more “practice” using them.

    In the end the world has 2 types of judges.
    The hardcare rulez judges , and the judges which are more “fair” in my books, like this Howling Mine triggers thing, which you clearly stated isnt an advantage at all to miss, so it should not be “bad” for you, thats something that can be solved so much easier.

    Ofcourse you “can” abuse such things, like the thing with your “hasty” Attacker, but in the end its the mentality of your players base, nobody should intentionally “cheat” , i would even go and say 99% of the problems are never intentional , and just because its still a “game” in the end to have fun , nobody really wants to study magic just to play it and get punished for making mistakes which is just natural.

    But its right that the rulez can’t be good enough to cover the “good guy” and the “bad guy” in a perfect balance, even the “good guy” gets punished to “learn due pain” (which can work ofcourse, or remove a part of fun from an event).

    Overall, i would like to read more of this little tests , its allways fun as the rulez questions come directly from a source that more or less knows the answer allready and its different from the normal tournament articles.

    Nice work, hope for more.

  11. Who actually controls the Howling Mine trigger? The player whose turn it is or the owner of the Howling Mine? I’m pretty sure that it’s the controller of the Howling Mine. I’d say then that if the opponent doesn’t draw a card it is the owner of the Howling Mine who missed a trigger, not the opponent.

  12. Experiment or not, this seems like a mildly dickish thing to do to the people in the x-2 bracket. How many of those folks do you think went home saying to themselves, “Wow, I stuck around to play some fun games after I was knocked out of contention, but the guy I played against ruined any fun in it.”?

  13. Going to a tournament with the sole purpose of punishing everyone for every little mistake they made, purposeful or otherwise, is not cool. I bet that guy with the SF sleeves was not the most competitive in MtG and Im sure that calling a judge on him left a bad impression.

    There are far more than enough serious MtG players out there who have terrible reputations for being insufferable a-holes. I feel that some of the articles on this website encourage being a jerk in order to get a slight advantage over the opponent. Does calling someone for a minor infraction actually give you a better chance of winning the game? No. It means that theyre just going to play tighter, and hate you while they do it.

    In my opinion, it is borderline unsportsmanlike to call a judge on every little mistake an opponent makes. It makes you look like a d-bag, it does not encourage new players to take a step towards competitive play and it DOES NOT MAKE YOU ANY BETTER AT THE GAME.

    Channelfireball is my favourite serious MtG website, but y’all need to consider the example you are setting.

  14. riki stated in his article.. early and often.. he isn’t playing to win… it was an experiment… perhaps the people who are getting angry should re-read the article with a new lens…

  15. I think Riki was perfectly fine in calling a judge on paper, but in practice there are some connotations around calling a judge that, unfortunately, are present. It makes your opponent think that you believe he is trying to cheat (even when you don’t believe that to be the case), and it does bring with it some level of stress for the opponent who isn’t used to that sort of treatment.
    Although I really love the experiment and think that it was a very interesting read (as are most of Riki’s articles), I do wish he would have told his opponents after each match what he was doing. In psychology experiments a debriefing is given to participants after the research with the participant is done, and I think that it would have resulted in less of a backlash in the comments section. It still would have resulted in some stress upon the player during the match when they are uninformed, but afterwards I believe that most of your opponents would see the curiousness of the experiment.

  16. “It makes your opponent think that you believe he is trying to cheat (even when you don't believe that to be the case), and it does bring with it some level of stress for the opponent who isn't used to that sort of treatment.”

    Controversial opinion ahoy: If you aren’t okay with people worrying about you cheating or having to deal with tournament officials, perhaps competitive gaming is not for you? Your opponent is not there to provide customer service to you; they are there to win at a PTQ.

  17. “Controversial opinion ahoy: If you aren't okay with people worrying about you cheating or having to deal with tournament officials, perhaps competitive gaming is not for you? Your opponent is not there to provide customer service to you; they are there to win at a PTQ.”

    They may very well be, but many players may not. Indeed, one may enter the PTQ with the full expectation that one will not qualify, but it may be the biggest Magic event in one’s area and one wants to attend simply in the interest of having fun (with perhaps the secondary objective of accruing more player rewards or participating in any side events). Given that, and given that most people, and hence most Magic players, are honest, it does not behoove the average player to have his playing experience marred by repeat judge calls, which serve only to increase his stress level and, as another pointed out, to imply that his opponent thinks he is cheating, even when both players know or believe the contrary. Thus, especially with regards to players who continue playing even after their win-loss record has locked them out of contention for the top spot (and who thus are in the game exclusively for the fun of it), it seems objectively sub-optimal, and at the very least inconsiderate, to conduct such an experiment with such players, for it compromises a valuable objective (i.e. having fun), in favour of an irrelevant one (i.e. accuracy/precision of play–which may be in the player’s long term best interests, but which is immaterial to the player’s immediate success at the PTQ and which can always be developed over time).

  18. Counterargument: PTQ is run at competitive REL and is not designed for casual fun. People who want to play for fun can do so without entering a PTQ. People who want to play for the blue envelope have very few other options. (GP top 16, rating) Agree/disagree?

    By the way, none of this is my actual opinion. I like arguing devil’s advocate to get interesting answers out of people.

    I also am routinely capable of calling judges on things like sleeves without making my opponent think I think they’re cheating. It’s all a matter of tone and how you say things. These blanket statements get on my nerves.

  19. Also, saying accuracy/precision of play is irrelevant is ridiculous. You say it can be learned later. Who better to learn it from than a DCI judge?

  20. Everything floor rules (hence pretty much every Riki article) reminds me why I never enjoyed competitive Magic. It’s not fun to have to call the judge. It’s not fun that incidental mistakes can’t easily be fixed. And it’s really not fun having to watch every twitch your opponent makes with the paradigm that it could be part of a grand cheating plan.

    It’s lose/lose. I’m not saying judge rules should be written differently, but no matter how good I am or want to be, I cannot have fun when I’m being forced to shuffle my opponent’s deck, count each of his draws, and watch his mana tapping like a hawk. And I personally have always been very good about anoucing steps and triggers and mana colors, because I like clarity. But I’m not a fan of forcing things on people.

  21. pretty much this just proves to me something i already knew…..people become judges because they are bitter about not being good enough at magic to actually win games so they have to use thier “vast knowledge” of the rules to lord over the newer players to make themselves feel better judges are the worst part about magic they are biased and take personal interest in games and peoples magics carreers. at the world baseball classic this past year umpires from every country that played were used do u think the US umps were at the team USA games to cheer on thier team when they were umping. NOOOOOOOOOO they werent cause that is umprofessional just like having judge write magic articles for your site or going to watch the finals of the pro tour and cheer on luis. what happens with LSV is in a tough match at aGP or PT and someone calls a judge on himand over walks RIKI do u think riki is biased no obvy not LSV is his friend and co worker on this site he is 100% biased towards him clearly his mind is not correct for being a judge and he should look into this because i feel like thier is a clear moral ground that judges in magic avoid. they ride in cars to the tournament with thier friends they spend between rounds hanging out and talking with players. how do u think people at a minor league baseball would feel if the umps showed up on the team bus of 1 team and no the other? who has the advantage thier? you can lie all you want by human nature is what it is and people will always side with thier friends. ive been saying this for years, the judging system in magic is majorly flawed.

  22. Riki: I’ve been playing Time sieve at events recently. My attidude is that if either I or my opponent misses any trigger I’ll call a judge.
    I’ve missed triggers and had my opponent say “don’t worry”, I still call a judge. This way I guarantee that my matches are all fair.
    In yesterday’s PTQ my quarter-finals opponent (whose merfolk deck had beaten me easily in the swiss) missed 3 howling mine triggers over the course of perhaps 4 turns. He did get a game loss, and as a result I won the match.
    It’s not “nice” but in a situation with a real prize on the line I can’t bring myself to help my opponent beat me if I don’t have to.

    Also, missed howling mine triggers definitely affect the game: When the non sieve player draws counterspell / lightning bolt type cards; OR theoretically when killing with Jace not Tez- you might only need to use one ultimate to kill them, not the usual two.

  23. “PTQ is run at competitive REL and is not designed for casual fun. People who want to play for fun can do so without entering a PTQ. People who want to play for the blue envelope have very few other options.”

    I am of two minds on this point. I agree that people who voluntarily enter an event with competitive REL must have accepted the possibility that their every play would be closely scrutinised by cutthroat opponents eager to take the top spot. I disagree, however, with your implied assertion that people seeking “casual fun” should or would stay out of such events. As I said, because the opportunity to qualify is far slimmer than the number of people who show up, a reasonable number of these people must realise that they stand little to no chance of qualifying. These are the people who are essentially seeking fun–whether casual or otherwise–and not fortune. (Incidentally, these are also likely to be the people who continue to play after having been locked out of contention for material rewards). Thus, while I think you make a fair point–i.e. that players must always accept the possibility of rigorous judge-calling–I think that, in many cases, that does not reflect the reality of people’s expectations. They are willing to accept the possibility of strict enforcement as the price for having fun, but that does not make the reality less irksome to them, and while of course they have no right to complain, it does not mean that it is either optimal or considerate of their opponents to conduct such experiments as Riki did (though I don’t get the impression from his article that anyone he played was substantially negatively affected).

    “I also am routinely capable of calling judges on things like sleeves without making my opponent think I think they're cheating. It's all a matter of tone and how you say things. These blanket statements get on my nerves.”

    If this is true, then more power to you, but I doubt that you would always be able to detect what effect your judge call has on your opponent. They may very well feel slighted or at the least annoyed, without communicating that to you. Again, if you play to win, then such considerations are irrelevant to you, but if (as Riki stated of himself) you do not, and you have reasonable grounds to believe your opponent does not either, then your ability to make unthreatening judge calls, while admirable, still does not guarantee the optimal outcome (see below).

    “Also, saying accuracy/precision of play is irrelevant is ridiculous. You say it can be learned later. Who better to learn it from than a DCI judge?”

    I conceded that accuracy/precision was not irrelevant in the long term, and for those who aspire to the Pro Tour, I fully agree that it would be a privilege to have one’s play corrected by a judge of Riki’s stature. My point was that in assessing the “for fun” player’s short term priorities, accuracy/precision is irrelevant in comparison to having fun. This does not mean that he won’t play accurately most of the time, (as Riki noted, many of his opponents required very few judge calls), but it means that his priority–i.e. his definition of optimal play–is no longer strictly geared toward winning; his aim is to have fun, and winning is icing on the cake. Thus, strict judge calling in this situation is not optimal, for it solves the wrong problem. It corrects accuracy/precision of play, which is no longer optimal, at the cost (potentially, though as you pointed out, not always) of having fun, which is optimal.

    @someone: your ad hominem attacks are ridiculous, unsubstantiated (at best you use a false analogy with baseball), unproductive, and not worth discussing at length.

  24. Reading all these comments where people state that “calling a judge is not fun”, “only a jerk calls a judge” and foremost “judges are bad players that are just bitter and need to boss around poor players” just makes me want to vomit.

    First of all talk like that makes me believe you are either enjoying being cheated, are ignorant or you got some interest in it (e.g. you are a cheater yourself). While i do believe most magic players are honest i do believe that even hontes people can and will cheat from time to time. If i think about the numerous times i saw people actually cheat when i walked across PTQs when i finished my round early makes me sick. And what makes me even sicker is the fact that i did NOT call a judge on them. Like the guy that obviously placed a Tormods Crypt on top of his deck while fetching a land against dredge. He was even playing a gaisnt a friend of mine. But i waited for my friend to cut the deck and then held my tongue. Basicly i encouraged this cheater to do it again!

    Who are you to judge if a mistake like tapping the wrong lands is an honest one or just a try to cheat you? In my whole magic career i have NEVER tapped the wrong lands. Its actually pretty hard to do so because, well, you should at least pay attention to what YOU YOURSELF are doing.

    Next thing is: you accuse people of calling a judge because they want to have the tinyes edges. Just for your interest, people who cheat and abuse minor mistakes are actually doing just the same and they are doing it with just that intention all the time while a person calling a judge most of the times only wants to clarify things without any bad intention.

    On judges being biased: Just appeal to the head judge if you think that the ruling is wrong. He most likely is NOT biased… case closed, stupid reasoning ended… Stuff like that MAY happen on a local scale but at least at a PTQ i doubt any judge willing to advance in level and expierience (which is why they are head judging this) will be biased in any way.

    Competitive Magic is about precision and tight play. And it is about money and fame. So people will cheat. Saying that there should be no judges and rules is the same as accepting doping in sports. Then it would just get crazy. If you want to see judges as a bad thing, at least accept it as the lesser of two evils.

    I am totally comfortable with my opponent calling a judge because i do not feel that i have anything to fear. I never understood how the judge call got such a bad reputation but maybe its just the below average players and the casual players (and of course the cheaters) that have a problem with this. If you do not like judges, then do not attend bigger tournaments. Its your loss.

  25. With fame i do not neccesarily mean fame as in “LSV is a famous magic player”. Fame is getting better known in your area or making a name of yourself as a good PTQ player. And yes, i think that at least some people at the PTQ level are actually playing this because they want to win the slot and have a shot at the big money… I do not see whats so funny or absurd about that.

  26. I liked this article. Good lessons, good storytelling. 10 judge calls in 7 rounds is nowhere near jerk level, and you’ve taught me that some unessesary calls are actually important, like not-haste.

  27. There is a difference between calling a mistake which would have a substantial effect on the game (such as an opponent drawing an extra card) and one which, once rectified, will not have a major effect on the game (such as an opponent failing to draw off of a howling mine trigger). Where the former gives the opponent extra information which is unfair, but for the latter mistake the opponent would be in a better position. You are in no worse a position by correcting the latter mistake simply by reminding your opponent.

  28. Awesome article!! made 100% full of epic win!

    Oh so glad to see that someone else has called a judge on a judges decission. LULz

    and while the HJ seemed to “pull you aside” he did agree that cheaters use often a series of small mistakes to ammount ot an unfair win. I personally just mention the fact that i have a criminal record for violent crimes, and being diagnosed with type 2 personality disorder (boderline PD), makes me emotionally volatile and unaccountable for violent actions. that and that i have gone out of my way to introduce myself to EVERY judge in the local scene, has ment that i have had a lot less of oppnents cheating.

    but it brings me to tears when i hear of a freind or player getting eliminated from the top8 because of someting like an Opp hiding a Mutavault under 5 mountains to attack for the final 2 damage, when personally i group lands by color, not hiding manlands under 5 basics. or misreprentaion of a game state, i dont know how many times i have said to Opp, your creatures do too to Volcanic Fallout (or similar).

    Please Please do annother article on Judging the Judges, it was rewarding to read an article on what i find to be a unique subject. :V

  29. I think Jordy’s response really nailed the problem here — after the game, tell your opponents that you were calling a judge over the slightest problems as an experiment. That’s a lot better than leaving x-2 players that are out of contention wondering why you called a judge over a missed Mine trigger that would in no way benefit them.

  30. @Jordy, Owen, etc: In fact, I either told my opponent before the match started or when I made the fist judge call, depending on the context. For example, one opponent recognized me and said “Hey, why aren’t you judging?” and I said, “Well, I get to play every once in a while,” and I also explained that I would be calling a judge for every infraction committed.
    In general, I do not believe that any of my opponents thought I was a jerk/Satan/needed to get laid. They saw a judge playing who was playing by the rules. I was never apologetic about it (“Sorry, I have to call a judge”) because that sends the wrong message. Instead, I just went about it matter-of-factly, and while I agree that in many cases it made them tighten up their play, I don’t know that any of them “had less fun.”

  31. Someone, i’m glad your vocal about your opinion but i have an opinion i want to be vocal about myself.

    Don’t waste time with negative comments. do you think

  32. I would actually have guessed that Riki is recognizable enough in his area as a judge that his PTQ opponents would not be surprised when he called a judge after a rules infraction occurred (a possible systematic error in his experiment). I also don’t understand all the negativity. Only one of the judge calls even resulted in a time extension and none of Riki’s matches went to extra turns (from what he wrote). Assuming Riki was polite and clear in his judge calls, he might actually have shown some of his opponents and neighbors how easily a judge call can go for them in the future.

  33. Someone needs to take a remedial English class. Everyone else: If you don’t “aspire to the Pro Tour”, WHY are you playing in a Pro Tour Qualifier?
    You can play in many casual tournaments where judge calls are rare. For example, FNM. If you are going to play in a competitive tournament like a PTQ, you agree that you have read and will abide by the tournament floor rules for the game. Whose fault is it if you didn’t read or don’t wish to abide by those rules? Your opponent? The judge? Grow up. You’re like a prosecutor whining that a defense attorney objected and was sustained. If you do not want to get called on breaking the rules, don’t break them. That is entirely under your control. If you choose not to call judges on others who break the rules, that is entirely under your control as well. However, you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors if you do that in a real tournament.

  34. Calling a judge at every possible opportunity comes with its own dangers. If I see the same person making calls for judge multiple times every round, what am I most likely to conclude?

    “This person is making these calls in an effort to rattle his opponents into making game-loss mistakes,” which is certainly unsportsmanlike conduct*. Legal or not (I’m not a judge and I don’t actually know if the rules would permit this), I consider it the equivalent of distracting the opponent with a penlight or noisemaker. Or possibly worse, since it attempts to abuse the tournament structure itself as a weapon against your opponent.

    It is not difficult to imagine cutthroat players adopting this technique as a way to gain an edge (efficacious or not), and I think (hope) we can all agree that wouldn’t be conducive to a positive gaming experience for anyone, competitive or casual.

    *I am NOT saying this is what Riki did. It’s clear from his writings that he intended nothing of the sort, but if I didn’t know who Riki was and he didn’t inform me beforehand of his experiment, it would be a very reasonable conclusion to draw.

  35. Riki, what is leaving the sour taste in people’s mouths is that your experiment, while benign in intent, was from the outside indistinguishable from rules lawyering: using the tournament itself as a method to defeat your opponent. It’s a true “meta-game” (in the original sense, of a game-outside-of-the-game), but a very pernicious one if left unchecked.

    For example, you mentioned how, should every player call a judge at every opportunity, the staff would be quickly swamped. This could actually be used as a tactic by an ethically-challenged team: enroll a sufficient number of tournament entrants, and have some portion of them use up all of the judging staff’s time, leaving the other entrants free to bend and break the rules without repercussion.

    I admit, this is not a very likely event NOW, but it’s illustrative of one of the cans of worms that too-rigorous judge calling can open. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be coordinated: if someone independently noticed that the judges were all tied up, that person could easily use that fact to his or her benefit.

  36. “Riki, what is leaving the sour taste in people's mouths is that your experiment, while benign in intent, was from the outside indistinguishable from rules lawyering: using the tournament itself as a method to defeat your opponent.”

    I’ll argue that it wasn’t rules lawyering. Riki was being precise, but he didn’t call with intent to eke out game wins or put his opponents on tilt. It’s understandable to react as if that were his goal, as many people feel that any judge call represents unnecessarily confrontational behavior. I disagree, but I do see where that feeling is coming from.

    Let me compare. At the most recent GP: Seattle, Noah Weil called a judge on Stan Bessy to complain that Stan was playing slowly. The ostensible reason was Stan’s practice of saying, “Go to combat?” instead of simply shoving his dudes into the red zone. Really (and Noah copped to this in his tournament report) Noah just wanted to call a judge on Stan to rattle him. At the end of the day, it didn’t rattle Stan so much as piss him off, and I think it represents poor sportsmanship on Noah’s part, which is too bad, since I enjoy his writing and liked talking with him at GP: Seattle.

    Now, part of the difference here boils down to intent, but I’d argue that the intent is visible in the actual judge call. When Riki calls on a missed trigger, then while it might be nice of him not to, that’s an actual game play error. In contrast, when Noah called the judge to complain of “slow play,” there was no clear error and Stan felt (correctly) that he wasn’t playing slowly. It was more visibly a spurious call.

    I could distinguish Riki’s experiment from the outside from the simple fact that the intent is actually visible in the call made.

    Incidentally, I’d be curious to see how many players out there have made a judge call knowing they’re likely to be game-lossing an opponent. I’ve done it exactly once (not counting late opponents, which has come up twice), when I played Head Games and, on looking through my opponent’s deck, realized they had some cards that had rotated out of Standard one week earlier. Although I wasn’t fishing for a win, the right thing to do was to call a judge and point out the potential issue to them.

    I’ve noticed that in addition to the occasional game play error I or my opponent commits, I often (far more often than for errors) end up calling a judge to ask them to explain a rules situation to my opponent, so I don’t force the other player into the position of having to take my word for it when they’re not comfortable. I think that being more comfortable calling judges in general helps in this situations, since instead of having awkward interactions (that can lead to game play issues) you can just say, “It’s cool, let’s call a judge” and be done with it.

    Really, it’s not a big deal. On MTGO, the game rules simply won’t let you do stuff wrong. In real life, call a judge.

  37. I applaud this experiment by Riki, and I’d like to make an observation. Riki went in with the intent of calling a judge at every opportunity. He also played in the lower brackets of the tournament, where opponents tend to be less skilled, and therefore make more mistakes. Even so, no opponent ever received a Game Loss throughout the entire experiment. If nothing else, this should be some anecdotal evidence that there’s really nothing to fear when you call a judge or have a judge called on you.

  38. Good stuff. I definitely used to have a problem with not calling the judge enough. I do a lot more often now, but still not quite every time. If I think someone’s being shady, I will. At Worlds in Memphis someone tried to cycle a Resounding Wave for 7 mana, for example. Sadly, only a warning is the correct ruling, which basically makes attempting such cheats +EV. Remember when Rumbling Slum was cast off of double Boros Garrison? I wish people were good by nature so I didn’t have to constantly be worrying and watching. I think I’m going to go out of my way to remind myself to call judges in Austin and see how it affects my tournament.

    Anyway, keep writing.

  39. Great article, good job (don’t confuse me w someone).

    Whoever doesn’t like following the rules, being competitive etc… G T F O OF THE PTQs / GPs / etc.


    There’s plenty of prereleases, FMNs, Game day and kitchen counter games awaiting your “oh crap i forgot, that’s ok just go back” plays.

    Competitive play = play by all the rules. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean we’ll change them…

  40. Good article and case study Riki, valid points Mr. Crummington, and a solid meh to the folks who aren’t happy if they can’t complain about something.

  41. Interesting concept, but what I learned from the article was:

    1. A new way to cheat! (Never heard the “Play a creature, do some stuff, then attack with the creature with no real risk” cheat. I’m not going to use it, but now more people know about it to victimize noobs. Way to spread the message.)

    2. Paper tournaments are not sufficiently staffed to maintain the rules to the letter. That’s an incentive to come up with a playbook of minor cheats that most players just let you rewind, and then subtly mix them into your game, maybe once per opponent at an opportune time.

    And in my opinion, that’s another reason to play online where the computer has plenty of resources to enforce all of the rules all of the time, compared to Paper where judges could not realistically prevent subtle attempts at cheating if it became rampant.

  42. @ Riki: I’m glad you did tell your opponents! I have no reservations regarding this interesting experiment as long as your participants got a heads up.
    This is one of the few magic articles I will probably read again.

  43. Good and interesting article, Riki. You’ve got me thinking about my own play and my judge calling in the future.

  44. Some of these people are being a bit melodramatic. PTQs aren’t for the casual players and for those who don’t know the rules. If some random person shows up and misses a bunch of triggers and never wants to come back because a judge was called on him and he got warnings then he probably wasn’t aware of the differences between ptq and fnm. Also, the fact that Riki told his opponents his little experiment of the day was an efficient enough debriefing in the same way psychologists do in experiments. Explaining to the opponents before or after shouldn’t make them angry, but understand more that it was all with reasonable intent.

  45. Very interesting read. To be perfectly honest, I think people call judges too infrequently. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about at a FNM, but a PTQ is, in fact, a “Pro Tour Qualifier”. The Pro tour is a money game, ultimately and teh rules need to maintained. After all a game is nothing more than an artificial situation maintained by and agreement to the rules.

    I am surprised by the reactions. Many people complain and refrain from paper tournaments due to the perception that cheating is common and then people complain about calling the judges to keep things straight. How do we keep the game clean if we don’t call the judges?

    Furthermore, all competitive sports play under the constant supervision of judges, why should a PTQ be any different?

    When in doubt…call the judge.

  46. Excellent experiment. I wish I called the judges more myself. I also agree that calling the judge is important not only for getting the call right but also for people to learn. A lot of people dont know what they did wrong and why it cant just be fixed by the players themselves. judges are there to enforce and also teach. players should use the judges to learn from their mistakes so that they dont happen again. ill bet a lot of Riki’s opponents that day will be much better about missing their triggers in the future

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