one million words's picture
By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Feb 10 2017 2:00pm
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State of the Program for February 10th 2017
In the News
Paper Event Changes: National Championships are returning, as are the PTQs on day two of GPs. The PTQs will be capped at 225 players, which means eight rounds, cut to Top 8. PTQs at GPs were eliminated, in part, because they ran way too long. They were replaced with the Sunday Super Series, but that got almost as popular as PTQs, so that was cut as well. Capping the PTQ at 8 rounds should help. I remember judging old-style GP PTQs, and having the event end after midnight on Sunday (at which point we judges had to then tear down the venue.) Eight rounds is better. The Wizards article is here.   
Sets to Release Faster Online: (From last week) Beginning with Amonkhet and going forward from there, Wizards plans to release sets online the Monday after the paper prerelease. This means the cards will be available on MTGO before you can buy the paper product.   
Magic Online Championships Coverage: Wizards has announced that it has hired the VSL crew to broadcast the Magic Online Champs. For those of you who don’t watch VSL, the system they use shows the battlefield, as usual, plus both players hands and the two announcers. The VSL system works pretty well, except when some of the players’ Internet connection gets wonky. The line-up of announcers is also great. Details here.
Hasbro Earnings Announcement:  Hasbro issued its quarterly earnings report, and mentioned that we will see the first public appearance of parts of the Magic Digital Next initiative later this year. Earnings are good. Magic and MTGO were only mentioned in passing.  The report is here.
The Timeline
This is a list of things we have been promised, or we just want to see coming back.   Another good source for dates and times is the calendar and the weekly blog, while the best source for known bugs is the bug blog which appears sporadically on Most of the major upcoming events we know of are listed.  Not listed, but important: Wizards offers either one or two online PTQs each weekend, with qualifiers running the three days prior to the PTQ.
Recurring Events
Power Nine Challenge
Last Saturday of the month, 11am Pacific
Legacy Challenge
Second Saturday of the month, 11am Pacific
No Downtime
March 1st  and 15th
Extended Downtime
(none announced)
Magic Online Championships
March 3-5, on
Standard MOCS
Saturday, Feb 11th
Aether Revolt Limited Championship Qualifiers
February 15th - 21st
Aether Revolt Standard Championship Qualifiers
February 22nd - 28th
Aether Revolt Limited Championship
Saturday, February 25th
Aether Revolt Standard Championship
Sunday, March 5th
Current Leagues End
May 2, 2017
May 2, 2017 MTGO release
Hour of Devastation
July, 2017
Modern Masters 2017 Edition
March 23rd on MTGO
Next B&R Announcement
March 13, 2017
KTK and FRF Redemption Ends
May 31, 2017
DTK, ORI, BFZ and OGW Redemptions Closes
November 2, 2017
SOI and EMN Redemption Closes
April 28, 2018
KLD and AER Redemption Ends
June 7, 2017 (yes, 4 months from now)
Flashback, Throwback Standard and CUBE for 2017
Wizards will be offering either a flashback draft league, a flashback Standard gauntlet, a CUBE league or prerelease / Release events each week.  Here’s the schedule so far.
Flashback and Such Rotation
Dead spot (was to be prerelease/ release events)
January 25th
February 22nd
Throwback Standard Gauntlet (1994?)
February 22nd
March 1st
Invasion/Planeshift/Apocalypse Draft
March 1st
March 8th
Cube Draft (Cube format TBD)
March 8th
March 22nd
Modern Masters 2017 Leagues
March 22nd
April 12th
The new Flashback Leagues are still draft, and still you-keep-the-cards. They are 12 TIX / product plus 2 TIX / 120 Play Points. However, they are no longer single elimination. Now you play until you have three wins or two losses. Prizes are 150 play points for three wins and 70 Play points for 2 wins. The leagues run one week.
The Throwback Standard Gauntlet events provide a random choice of prebuilt decks from a past standard environment. These will function like the Pro Tour Gauntlets – you won’t need to own the cards. The entry fee is 10 TIX or 100 Play Points. Prizes are in Play Points: 150 for 3-0, 100 for 2-1, 40 for 1-2 and 10 play points as a bad beats award. 
Opinion Section:  The Ruling
At the Pro Tour last weekend, a ruling during a feature match created a lot of controversy. The video is here.  The play that resulted in the judge call starts about 5 minutes into the video. After the ruling, Head Judge Toby Elliot explains the ruling on the stream at about 21:3-. Wizards’ statement on the ruling is here.
During the match, the active player said “combat,” waited for his opponent to respond, then tried to resolve a beginning of combat trigger and crew a vehicle.   His opponent, the non-active player, knew the game had just passed to the declare attackers step, but the active player was trying to resolve triggers and abilities form a previous step. The opponent did exactly the right thing when he realized that one of them was confused about the game state: he called a judge.   If you ever have that sort of disagreement, call a judge. Judges get paid to sort out exactly that sort of misunderstanding. 
The turn cycle is really clear. Here are the steps of the turn, copied directly from the Magic Comprehensive Rules which can be found here.
500. General
501. Beginning Phase
502. Untap Step
503. Upkeep Step
504. Draw Step
505. Main Phase
506. Combat Phase
507. Beginning of Combat Step
508. Declare Attackers Step
509. Declare Blockers Step
510. Combat Damage Step
511. End of Combat Step
512. Ending Phase
513. End Step
514. Cleanup Step 
You can crew vehicles during the first main phase, and during the beginning of combat phase. Technically, you could also crew during the declare attackers phase, but only after attackers are declared. The very first thing that happens in the declare attackers phase is that the active player declares which, if any, of his or her creatures are attacking. If they have not been crewed prior to that point in time, vehicles are not creatures and cannot be declared as blockers.
So how long has this been a thing?  Well, this issue first came up with creature lands, which had to be activated before they could attack. We are talking Mishra’s Factory, from Antiquities. Now the rules were a bit different back then, but that turn structure was certainly in place when Sixth Edition rules came out. That was late last century. Literally – the Sixth Edition rules came out in spring, 1999.
Was there any uncertainty in where the players were in the turn? No. Players were clearly in the declare attackers step. The active player had offered to yield to that point in the turn, and the opponent had also passed priority. 
Some people have argued that the active player hadn’t intended to pass priority.   That’s wrong. The active player had clearly said “combat,” then waited for his opponent to respond. The opponent indicated that he had no responses. That is a clearly both players passing on an open stack, which means that you start the next step.
The word “combat” is not ambiguous in any way.   The Magic Tournament Rules are clear that “A statement such as "I'm ready for combat" or "Declare attackers?" offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the Beginning of Combat step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise.”  This is the second most important shortcut in the MTF. (The first is that the word “Go” means an offer to pass priority to end of turn.) 
Once again, this is not new stuff. I have a copy of the 2009 Magic Tournament Rules, and that shortcut was not only in that version, it was there verbatim. This is not a new rule, and after a decade, professional players should know it. 
Ingrid (my wife and former level four judge) pointed out that players used to say things like “do you have effects during declare attackers” at the beginning of combat, and if the opponent said “no,” the player would claim that the opponent had moved past the declare attackers step. That worked, for a while, but Wizards quickly issued changes to the Magic Tournament Rules and Comp Rules that stopped that sort of rule lawyering. She also pointed out that this all happened over a decade ago. 
The concept, though, is as old as Magic. Turns have a specific sequence, and you are not allowed to advance the turn as a test, to see what the opponent would do, then go back and make changes based on that information.  You have to make your choices as you go. You don’t get take backs – certainly not at the Pro Tour. And the active player makes their choices first, then the non-active player.   It is how the game is played, and always has been. 
This is not a new issue. Kamigawa block, which came out over a decade ago, introduced Ninjas. (i.e. Ninja of the Deep Hours)  The Ninja rules let you “upgrade” attackers that were not blocked.  This meant that a lot of players, who failed to block or kill a small attacker suddenly realized their mistake when the attacker was replaced by a much more dangerous Ninja. A lot of players tried to back the game up by claiming it was still the declare attackers step, but a good judge would say no to such shenanigans.  In the Lorwyn era, Cryptic Command spawned similar issues, and players back then also learned, sometime to their dismay, how the timing rules actually worked.
This is also not a hard rule to understand. More important, if you just clearly state what you are doing, you won’t have any trouble. Don’t try to be ambiguous in an attempt to trick your opponent. Fifteen years ago, that might have worked, but that was then. Today, the rules are written to give specific meanings to most ambiguous terms. “Go” has a specific meaning in the rules, as do questions like “combat?’ and “damage?” and “does this resolve?” So don’t be ambiguous. If it is important to be specific about what is happening when, then clearly state what is happening when. If you want to advance to the beginning of combat, say “Beginning of combat?” or even “go to beginning of combat?” Better yet, say “I have [triggers/effects/both] at beginning of combat.”  That makes it clear that you are offering to pass priority to the beginning of combat step, and that you have not forgotten your triggers. 
I have been judging at high level events for a long time. I have played Magic at competitive rules enforcement level events, and watched a lot more. I have made a lot of rulings, and talked to judges and players about a lot more. I can clearly say, and this is backed by 15 years of experience, that being ambiguous about the game state is far more likely to trip you up than your opponent.   
Let’s go back to the feature match ruling.  I have heard several commenters say “it was clear what the player intended.” No, it was not clear. The correct play is clear: the player should put his trigger on the stack and activate the vehicle during beginning of combat step. It is also clear that, by the time the opponent called missed trigger, the active player had figured it out.  However, it was not clear that the player knew that before he passed to declare attackers. Since judges cannot travel back in time to read players’ minds, they have to rule based on what was actually said and done, not what should have been said or done. 
I have seen players miss a bazillion triggers over the years, and watched countless more make bad attacks and blocks. I have seen them waste removal on the wrong thing, including a lot of damage spells that did too little damage. In many cases, they call a judge, hoping they can back up to before they made their mistakes. However, judges are not there to fix player mistakes. Judges are there to enforce the rules.
I have also heard people say that this is just a case of “out of order sequencing,” so the play should have been okay.   Out of order sequencing is a thing, and is spelled out in § 4.3 of the MTR. It does not apply here. Out of order sequencing means engaging in a block of actions that end up with a clear and legal game state, but where the actions are not technically in the right order. For example, if I push my vehicle and another creature into the red zone with one hand while picking up a creature, tapping the vehicle with it and setting it down outside the red zone, it is clear that I am crewing and attacking. In effect, I am performing a physical shortcut, which is clear to both players. I am doing this as one continuous action, which is important. I’m not pausing to see if my opponent has a response, or otherwise fishing for information.  A caveat – what I just said is an example and summary of out of order sequencing. You should read the entire section if you want to understand it, and especially if you want to argue about it.
In feature match in question, the active player offered to pass priority, waited for a response from his opponent, then tried to back up. The section on out of order sequencing (OoOS) clearly says that OoOS cannot be used to retroactively take a missed action, and that any substantive pause means the batch or sequence has ended. The section on OoOS also says that players cannot use it to gain any information on what the opponent may do. For all of these reasons and more, this situation is not out of order sequencing.
Let’s look at what was involved, and what should have happened.   The active player had a Weldfast Engineer, a vehicle (Heart of Kiran) and two Scrapheap Scroungers in play. The Weldfast Engineer has a triggered ability which reads “at the beginning of combat, target artifact creature you control gets +2/+0 until end of turn.”
The Weldfast Engineer’s trigger goes on the stack at the beginning of combat, before either player gets an opportunity to play instants or abilities. The target for the ability has to be chosen when the ability goes on the stack. That means that the Heart of Kirin needs to be a creature before the beginning of combat step if it is going to get buffed by the Engineer. (This is equally true on MTGO.)
So what should the player have done? He should have crewed the Heart of Kirin during first main phase. He then should have said something like “Beginning of combat?” or “Combat: Engineer trigger targets Heart of Kirin.” For that matter, he could have tapped one of the Scroungers and pointed at the Heart of Kirin, paused, then said “trigger” and pointed at the Weldfast Engineer, then at the Heart of Kirin.   So long as it was clear that he was crewing the Heart first, and putting the trigger on the stack afterwards, no one would have argued that he was in the wrong phase. 
My recommendation, though, is to err on the side of being to verbose. Announce your triggers (at least the ones that need to be announced) clearly. Announce steps changes and actions whenever there is any possibility of confusion. Sure, playing a land and saying “go” is perfectly fine for turn one, but when things get complex, announce anything relevant. If you listen, you will hear a lot of the really good players announcing things like “draw for turn?”  That is not because they like to hear their own voices, it is because it prevents bad outcomes.
Also, if you plan on playing serious paper Magic, read the section on communications and shortcuts in the Magic Tournament Rules. They are one page each, and the list of standard shortcuts is only a dozen or so long, but they ae important. Knowing the shortcuts is something you need to do to play high level Magic. It’s the paper equivalent of knowing what stops to set or what the F# keys do on MTGO -  it is technically not required, but you are going to have a lot less trouble if you do. 
Cutting Edge Tech
Standard: We had a Pro Tour coming up. It was NOT dominated by Saheeli Rai and the Copy Cat deck. In fact, only one copy of that deck made the top 16, finishing in 16th place.   The deck that dominated the PT? Mardu Vehicles. We saw six Mardu Vehicles decks in the Top 8, and they immediately dispatched the two other archetypes. The final rounds were all mirror matches.  
Modern: I looked through a lot of Modern decks this week, for reasons that will become apparent next week. I decided to feature this one for two reasons. First, I had thought the loss of Gitaxion Probe would have hurt this archetype, but apparently it has survived. More importantly, this list (copied off the Wizards website and I double checked it several times) runs Tarfire over Lightning Bolt.  Why? Pretty sure you can’t get Tarfire with K Command. (More importantly, neither does Matt Tabak.)       
Death's Shadow Aggro
Ghash77 Competitive Modern League 5-0 - 73 Cards Total
4 Death's Shadow
4 Street Wraith
4 Tarmogoyf
12 cards

1 Abrupt Decay
3 Kolaghan's Command
4 Tarfire
8 cards
2 Collective Brutality
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Thoughtseize
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
14 cards

4 Mishra's Bauble
4 cards
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 cards

2 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
1 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Wooded Foothills
18 cards

2 Anger of the Gods
4 Fatal Push
3 Fulminator Mage
4 Lingering Souls
2 Surgical Extraction
15 cards
Legacy: I keep thinking about getting Leovolds, in paper and online. He’s managed to squeeze himself into yet another archetype.
Vintage: The Vintage Super League has resumed. In the first week of play, we only saw one deck featuring cards from Aether Revolt, but that deck did stock a four-of.
Card Prices
Note: all my prices come from the fine folks at These are retail prices, and generally the price of the lowest priced, actively traded version. (Prices for some rare promo versions are not updated when not in stock, so I skip those.)   You can get these cards at web store, or from their bots: MTGOTradersBot(#) (they have bots 1-10), CardCaddy and CardWareHouse, or sell cards to MTGOTradersBuyBot(#) (they have buybots 1-4). I have bought cards from MTGOTraders for over a decade now, and have never been overcharged or disappointed.
Standard staples: The Pro Tour shook up Standard prices. We knew Saheeli was going to drop – she was either going to be weak or banned – but Nahiri took the biggest hit.   

Standard Cards
Last Week
% Change

Modern staples:  Modern prices were a bit mixed, but nothing unusual. The price of lands is slowly falling.        

Modern Cards
Last Week
% Change

Legacy and Vintage: Legacy and Vintage are quiet this week. A few small changes, but nothing significant. 

Legacy / Vintage Cards
Last Week
% Change

Set Redemption: You can redeem complete sets on MTGO. You need to purchase a redemption voucher from the store for $25. During the next downtime, Wizards removes a complete set from your account and sends you the same set in paper.  Treasure Chests and the current booster packs are here because they don’t really fit anywhere else. 

Complete Set
Last Week
% Change
Aether Revolt
Battle for Zendikar
Eldritch Moon
Oath of the Gatewatch
Shadows over Innistrad
Treasure Chest
Aether Revolt Booster
Kaladesh Booster

The Good Stuff
The following is a list of all the non-promo, non-foil cards on MTGO that retail for more than $25 per card. These are the big ticket items in the world of MTGO. Still a shade over sixty cards on the list, and Black Lotus is still a tick above Liliana. Ancestral Recall, in the paper world the second most valuable Alpha card, fell off the list.  

Rishadan Port
 $   170.88
Liliana of the Veil
Mythic Rare
 $     77.39
Black Lotus
 $     76.46
Ensnaring Bridge
 $     64.20
Engineered Explosives
 $     61.60
Mythic Rare
 $     58.00
Show and Tell
 $     56.06
 $     55.57
 $     52.09
True-Name Nemesis
Mythic Rare
 $     51.35
Chalice of the Void
 $     50.50
 $     50.28
Ensnaring Bridge
 $     47.87
Ensnaring Bridge
 $     47.75
Mythic Rare
 $     46.79
 $     46.49
Ensnaring Bridge
 $     46.21
Mythic Rare
 $     44.69
 $     43.65
 $     43.41
True-Name Nemesis
 $     42.54
Oblivion Stone
 $     42.20
Mox Opal
 $     41.97
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $     41.07
Food Chain
 $     40.23
Mox Opal
Mythic Rare
 $     39.27
Back to Basics
 $     38.95
Engineered Explosives
 $     37.31
Engineered Explosives
 $     36.74
From the Ashes
 $     36.39
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Mythic Rare
 $     35.94
 $     35.78
Gaea's Cradle
 $     35.28
Force of Will
 $     34.70
Ancestral Vision
 $     34.52
Blood Moon
 $     34.12
Chalice of the Void
 $     33.32
Ancestral Vision
 $     33.30
Mythic Rare
 $     33.16
Scalding Tarn
Mythic Rare
 $     33.09
Chalice of the Void
 $     32.98
Containment Priest
 $     32.85
Blood Moon
 $     32.65
Mox Sapphire
 $     32.06
Karn Liberated
Mythic Rare
 $     31.54
Mythic Rare
 $     31.41
Karn Liberated
Mythic Rare
 $     31.35
Containment Priest
 $     30.97
Infernal Tutor
 $     30.73
Mythic Rare
 $     30.72
Liliana, the Last Hope
Mythic Rare
 $     29.96
Tangle Wire
 $     29.87
Blood Moon
 $     29.69
Meren of Clan Nel Toth
 $     29.13
Voice of Resurgence
Mythic Rare
 $     28.01
Force of Will
 $     27.75
Force of Will
Mythic Rare
 $     27.62
 $     27.51
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Mythic Rare
 $     26.36
Grim Flayer
Mythic Rare
 $     26.28
Horizon Canopy
Mythic Rare
 $     25.72
Gideon& Ally of Zendikar
Mythic Rare
 $     25.55

The big number is the retail price of a playset (4 copies) of every card available on MTGO. Assuming you bought the least expensive versions available, the cost of owning a playset of every card on MTGO is $ 23,745. That is down $315 from last week.
Weekly Highlights
Two things:  Guild Wars 2 released a big expansion, and I seem unable to win matches, much less drafts, in revolting Kaladesh.  You can guess which one is eating most of my time.
“One Million Words” and “3MWords” on MTGO
This series is an ongoing tribute to Erik “Hamtastic” Friborg.
HammyBot Super Sale: HammyBot was set up to sell off Erik Friborg’s collection, with all proceeds going to his wife and son. So far, HammyBot has raised over $8,000, but there are a lot of cards left in the collection. Those cards are being sold at MTGOTrader’s Buy Price.  


"Players were clearly in the by ricklongo at Fri, 02/10/2017 - 15:51
ricklongo's picture

"Players were clearly in the declare attackers step. The active player had offered to yield to that point in the turn"

Actually, by saying "combat", can't it be implied that the active player was yielding until, well, Combat? That is, the beginning of the combat step?

I still strongly disagree with the ruling, especially since English was clearly not the player's first language, and this sort of thing HAS to be taken into consideration in an international tournament such as the Pro Tour.

one million words's picture

You can parse English in a number of different ways. However, we don't have to parse language here, because the rules say that when a word or phrase like "combat" is used in the context of a Magic game, it means an offer to pass priority to the end of the beginning of combat. At that point, if the opponent also passes, the game moves on to declare attackers.

You could also argue that saying "go" could just mean that the player wanted to go to the next step, and not to the end of turn. However, the Magic Tournament Rules clearly state if you use the word "go" as a shortcut, it means passing until end of turn.

Remember, you do not have to use a shortcut, but if you choose to use one, both your opponent and any judges that might get involved will interpret the shortcut to mean what the Magic rules say it means. If you want to mean something else, then say something else.

The problem here is that the by ricklongo at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 11:34
ricklongo's picture

The problem here is that the rules are in English, for English-speakers. The rules say "combat" is a shortcut to declare attackers... in English.

Someone without a good grasp of the English language might know the word "combat", and use that to convey going into the combat step when he may not know enough to structure a sentence. I've found that English speakers have a hard time getting to grasps with this but using "keywords" (such as combat) is extremely common when trying to communicate in a foreign language you don't speak fluently.

Holding non-English-speaking players to the same standards for English-language shortcuts is completely unfair in an international setting such as the Pro Tour. No, they won't know the details of the (English language) rulebook, as they, well, don't know English.

re by Hearts at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 11:46
Hearts's picture

The problem is that they take a common non shortcut word and define it as a shortcut when it isn't and have never been a shortcut.

As for Tarfire over Bolt, it by ricklongo at Fri, 02/10/2017 - 15:56
ricklongo's picture

As for Tarfire over Bolt, it probably has to do with reaching delirium and pumping Tarmogoyf.

Please note this is no by xger at Fri, 02/10/2017 - 21:25
xger's picture

Please note this is no offense to you, but a disagreement with the rules. You state that the player should have said "beginning of combat." However, the rules indicate that that means go to attackers. You have to explicitly acknowledge your trigger that happens in the beginning of combat. You cannot stop in that phase unless you have a trigger, and you have to acknowledge it.

There was also a language barrier issue here. If the player's community would indicate a beginning of combat trigger by saying something close to combat in Spanish, then the translation suddenly causes issues.

In the end, it does not matter the rule has existed for years. What matters is that the rule is bad.

It also really screws up MTGO based players. When saying "go to beginning of combat" means I go all the way to attackers, instead of the "Beginning of Combat" phase, there is something wrong.

Ruling by MichelleWong at Fri, 02/10/2017 - 22:21
MichelleWong's picture

Hi Pete, nice article as usual.

You said: "Some people have argued that the active player hadn’t intended to pass priority. That’s wrong. The active player had clearly said “combat,” then waited for his opponent to respond. The opponent indicated that he had no responses. That is a clearly both players passing on an open stack, which means that you start the next step."

Respectfully, I doubt this is correct. I would be very surprised that by saying "Combat", he intended to pass priority until Declare Attackers phase. I acknowledge that the player had probably not appreciated or remembered all the details of the Shortcut section of the MTR, which mentions the shortcut phrase "Ready for Combat" to mean pass priority until Declare Attackers. As others have pointed out, this is such a stupid shortcut given that it is so easily misinterpreted or misunderstood.

But this is more than just a case of a judge slavishly following a stupid ruling, as if his hands were tied. What makes the judge's ruling most reprehensible is that the player did not even say "Ready for Combat", but instead he said "Combat". Now whilst you may argue that there is not much difference between these two words/phrases, take into account that the judge is the one who is throwing the book at someone with chapter and verse, so if the judge wants to be strict, then he should be strict on himself too, not just on some foreign player who did NOT even use the shortcut mentioned in the MTR.

In my opinion, in light of such an ambiguous shortcut (and yes it was ambiguous because he didn't even use the exact shortcut phrase in the MTR), the judge should have actually investigated what was the actual intention of the foreign player. And I would bet my house that he did not intend to pass priority during Beginning of Combat step.

I disagree by one million words at Fri, 02/10/2017 - 23:09
one million words's picture

Years ago, Magic judges did interpret what was said according to their own ideas of what was meant, what was right, and how badly the error affected the game. The result was that different judges would, given the exact same circumstances, make radically different rulings. It was literally possible for one judge to give a warning for the exact same infraction that another judge would give a game loss for. I am not kidding; I have seen exactly that happen, and listened the other judges debate which ruling was correct.

For those wondering about this, look up the infraction Procedural Error Minor, Major and Severe, IIRC. Not sure whether "severe" is the right term.

Having rulings vary judge by judge is bad, so Wizards changed the policy so every judge gives the same ruling in the same circumstances. This means that the rules define the policy and how it is applied. Yes, judges "slavishly" follow this policy, but we tried the alternative. It was not better.

But that still doesn't by Paul Leicht at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 08:17
Paul Leicht's picture

But that still doesn't address what Michelle brings up. Is "Combat" really only meaning "Attackers"? or is it somewhat more intuitively maybe also meaning "Go to the beginning of Combat step where I may have triggers"? Because to my mind that is a really important distinction being glossed over here. If it is the former, that needs to be changed imho.

Disagree by MichelleWong at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 11:00
MichelleWong's picture

Thanks Pete for your response.

I see your point, but I don't buy it and here's why. The MTR uses the phrase "such as" when talking about the Shortcut phrase "Ready for Combat". As a result, Wizards have failed to even clearly specify what the acceptable shortcuts are to pass priority in Declare Attackers phase. "Such as" is often a very useful phrase if you want to give someone a rough idea of what you're talking about, but it's a terrible phrase to use if it's trying to provide a prescriptive rule for all judges to follow. Can you honestly say that all judges would interpret the concept of "such as..." in the same way?

I am confident that I could come up with 20 or more phrases which are somewhat similar to the "such as" shortcuts in the MRT (some more dissimilar than others), then propose those same 20 phrases to a handful of different judges, and there will be some variance between whether the judge thinks the phrases used were inside or outside the bounds of the shortcut. So your goal of achieving consistency between all judges is not realised, and this is all because the MTR wording itself is so sloppy.

re by Hearts at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 03:28
Hearts's picture

"Combat ?" or "Attack ?" is not a shortcut, it is the simplest advancement from one phase to another. Pete Jahn and PT-judges are wrong.

:"Combat ?" or "Attack ?"is by longtimegone at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 14:44
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:"Combat ?" or "Attack ?"is not a shortcut

The rules explicitly say otherwise.

More to the point, they do so for a very specific reason.

This was done to prevent players from obtaining information they had no right to have by misrepresenting the state of the game. The most common example of this was to attempt to see if the opponent had any responses to you going to the declare attackers step while technically not yet actually being at that step.

The fix was making any attempt to say combat or attack move you directly to the declare attackers step.

This has been an explicit part of the tournament rules for years, the fact that you don't know the rules doesn't mean the judges are wrong.

re by Hearts at Sun, 02/12/2017 - 10:36
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"4.2 Tournament Shortcuts
A tournament shortcut is an action taken by players to skip parts of the technical play sequence without explicitly
announcing them."

"Combat ?" or "Attack ?" does not suggest to skip one or more parts of the turn ergo it isnt a shortcut.

No one has obtained information they have not right to have with this and no game states have been misrepresented with this through the years - all that must be in your head.

re by Hearts at Sun, 02/12/2017 - 15:46
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My friends tell me I am quite daft, so you longtimegone is the explanaation why daft people win in magic, because you are dafter than people like me.

I think, you should all watch by ML_Berlin at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 14:28
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I think, you should all watch the video on youtube!
There may be situations, when your argumentation makes sense, Pete. Complicated combat situations..
BUT, here it is totally clear! The defending player was completely tapped out, there was nothing he could do!
Why the hell should the attacking player pass and NOT attack ( or activate vehicles)?!?
Even a piece of wood would have. Calling a judge, and claiming 'combat' means, 'I don't want to attack, is definitely cheesy. Glad to play without judges in MTGO.

:Glad to play without judges by longtimegone at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 14:48
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:Glad to play without judges in MTGO.

So you find it more satisfying when your opponent mistakenly passes priority to the declare attackers step and is sitting there for 30 seconds trying to figure out why MTGO will not let him crew his vehicle?

MTGO is not one bit more forgiving in this area, hell, it won't even tell you what you did wrong, just sit there mutely until you figure out why it won't do what you are telling it to.

People make mistakes in paper or MTGO, it seems pretty silly to say the paper judge should have let it slide then compare it to MTGO where it could never be let slide.

You ask, "Why the hell should by Javasci at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 03:02
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You ask, "Why the hell should the attacking player pass and NOT attack (or activate vehicles)?!?"

Well clearly Cesar wanted to attack, and he got to. But why the hell did he pass and not activate vehicles? If he knew Thien had no effects, why didn't he just say, "I crew Heart of Kiran, go to combat phase, Weldfast Engineer triggers to give it +2/+0, I attack."? That's the simple thing.

Since he didn't say the simple way of the simple thing, it's reasonable to conclude he wanted to do something else. And in a tournament of a card game, it's reasonable to have a rule that stops him from pretending to do one thing and, after his opponent gives him information, claiming he wanted to do something else. He had a clear way to do the "obvious" thing, and didn't.

re by Hearts at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 11:38
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Disagree, disagree, disagree.

MTGO has other issues. There by ML_Berlin at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 14:56
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MTGO has other issues.
There are lot of bugs. And yes it's true, I 'F6'-ed myself several times. BUT nobody can come 'explaining' to me that MY intention was to pass this step!

Confusing rules by Felorin at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 15:33
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I missed an opportunity to use my Pacification Array to tap an attacker because of a judge ruling similar to this one, at Grand Prix San Jose. Of course I accepted the judge ruling and played on, and after the resulting attack dropped me to 1 life, I barely managed to win anyway. But I don't agree with the rule.

We were in Main Phase. My opponent said 'Combat?" or "Go to Combat?" and I said ok, indicating in my mind 'I don't want to do one last thing in Main Phase before we go to Beginning of Combat Step". But as soon as I said "Ok" he started to tap attackers and declare them, and I said no wait, I wanted to do something in Beginning of Combat Step, and we called a judge, who said I couldn't.

I'm sorry, but when you're in Main Phase, the next Phase to happen in your list is 506, Combat Phase, whose first part is Beginning of Combat Step. The next STEP to happen is 507, Beginning of Combat Step. Declare Attackers is another step that happens AFTER that one, and neither has the word "Combat" in it itself, nor is it the first thing to happen in the Combat Phase.

If my opponent says "Go to Declare Attackers?" and I say "Ok", my expectation is he's asking if we both agree to skip ahead to 508, Declare Attackers Step, and I will miss any chance to do something in Beginning of Combat Step if I say ok. But he did NOT say that, nor did he say "Advance to Combat phase? And the SECOND step therein?" The ruling makes zero sense to me.

Nor did he say "Advance to Beginning of Combat Step and then pass my priority and do nothing, so if you say yes or ok, I'll assume you're passing your priority within that step as well and we proceed to Declare Attackers". I get priority at the end of his Main Step when he wants to be done with it. And I take saying "Combat?" as meaning "Ok I don't have a damn thing left that I'm doing during my Main Step. Do you want to do one last activated ability or spell or randomly float mana at the end of my Main Phase? Or do we successfully get into Combat Phase as I have requested to move to, and I can now do a Beginning of Combat Step action like maybe I'll crew a vehicle then?" I'll note that many of my opponents have said "Go to Declare Attackers Step?" when they know I have a tapping effect on-board, and I'll say "No, first I'll tap your Dudezor". And slightly more polite ones say "Go to Beginning of Combat step?" knowing that I am going to tap one of their guys then just about every turn. I say the same against opponents with on-board tappers.

Frankly, I often say "Ok, tap that guy". On this particular day, I was a little fatigued from so much Magic, and I would have gone "Ok." then paused a couple seconds. Then said "Tap that dude." before anything else happened, as he had no vehicles in play nor any other "do this in Beginning of Combat Step" on-board abilities. But he tapped his shit SO FAST once the word Ok was out of my mouth, that it came before the next sentence I would have said.

Sounds more like a trap to me than a good policy. Apparently "Combat?" Meant "Pass MY priority in Main phase, assume you have passed YOUR priority in Main phase if you don't disagree, then got to Begin Combat Phase AND PASS MY PRIORITY AGAIN and it's now YOUR priority in the second part of Begin Combat Phase, the defender's priority, if you agree... AND IF YOU JUST SAY YES OR OK, AND DON'T SAY SOMETHING ELSE ALSO VERY QUICKLY, assume you also pass priority a second time!!!"

So "Combat?" "Ok" is assumed to mean TWO priority passes by each player, taking you not "just barely into the Combat Phase" or "Into the first step with the word combat in the name" but "into the second step of the combat phase for some reason rather than the first".

Clear as fucking mud, Pete. I can't say I agree with that as "the best policy choice to avoid miscommunication".

I will continue saying "Go to Beginning of Combat Step" when it's me deciding what to say, especially since I know now that the official rules make it WAY too easy to vaporize that important step with neither player getting the chance to do shit during it, with just two total words spoken between both players. Yikes.

I should note too, that my by Felorin at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 15:40
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I should note too, that my intention to wait a few seconds during my priority in Beginning of Combat Step wasn't just due to tiredness. I had a legitimate uncertainty in my mind about whether I wanted to tap his biggest guy, or keep the mana open for some other ability or instant I had. I figured ok, let's see if he does anything else in Main Phase first that affects my decision. Then I'll finish making that decision based on my preliminary thoughts plus the knowledge of what he did or didn't do in Main Phase, once I'm in Beginning of Combat Step. I think this was a reasonable line of thought for me as someone seeking to maximize information and quality of my gameplay, given the slight possibility of him doing something that would impact my decision. (Haste creature, enchanting a creature or running out an equipment and putting it on, etc.)

But apparently I was only in Beginning of Combat Step for like a nanosecond or something. Sheesh.

Excellent points. by Paul Leicht at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 19:01
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Excellent points.

The shortcut is the way it is by Javasci at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 03:11
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The shortcut is the way it is because it's pretty rare that the active player wants to do anything in their own beginning of combat step (instead of their own main phase), and it's similarly rare that the non-active player wants to do anything in their opponent's main phase (instead of their beginning of combat step); to be fair, a "beginning of combat" trigger is one of the potential exceptions to both of these. So to avoid making people explicitly pass priority in the step they almost never use, the active player is assumed to pass in beginning of combat, and the non-active player is assumed to pass in their opponent's main, unless the appropriate player explicitly says otherwise. I definitely don't agree with expecting people to say, "Go to combat," "OK," "pass beginning of combat," "OK," " attack," when practically every time they could just say, "go to combat," "OK," " attack." That said, it is somewhat confusing - the alternate form of the shortcut, "declare [my] attack[ers]", is much clearer. (Hopefully if you say this, it means you think the next thing that should be happening is you declare attackers.)

Additional Curiosity by Felorin at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 15:49
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By the way, in the example you give, where you'll miss the Weldfast Engineer bonus to your Heart of Kiran bonus if you crew it during Beginning of Combat Step rather than Main Step... Am I correct in believing you could still get the bonus if Weldfast Engineer had its ability templated as an "intervening if" type of ability, rather than the way it actually is (not an "intervening if"?) Because then you could respond to the intervening if trigger going on the stack by crewing up.

I think because of cases like this, the "intervening if" - much as I personally enjoy it - is probably a bad idea, as it makes important gameplay hinge on a minor nuance of wording and triggering rules that most players do NOT know to that level of accuracy.

Do you know whether Wizards has made it a policy not to use intervening if on templating of new cards any more, leaving it just as something you have to know to play older cards? If they have, I think that's probably the right decision. Though it'd make Weldfast Engineer a little more "player mistake resilient".

Hmmm, just read Weldfast Engineer again, never mind. That doesn't work, does it? It needs to target an artifact creature, and the Heart is NOT a valid target at the time the intervening if trigger would go on the stack, and you have to declare targets when placing even an intervening if trigger on the stack. Well, that much less value to be lost here if Wizards is no longer manufacturing new intervening if triggers. (Now if it said "when this, if that, all artifact creatures get +2/+0...)

If I understand your question by xger at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 18:35
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If I understand your question correctly, you still would not be able to target Heart of Kiran if it is not crewed in main phase. Once the ability is on the stack, regardless of an 'if', you have to select the target from the available legal targets.

Trap by MichelleWong at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 19:45
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Felorin, I like your comment when you say "Sounds more like a trap to me than a good policy."

This is one of the problems of the current situation with the shortcut. To watch Nguyen call the judge with that smug look on his face was cringe worthy. This sort of thing will encourage other foxy sharks to seek "Gotcha! You said Combat! Eat shit and die!" moments rather than a reflection of the real intention of his opponent.

And whilst there might not be many such incidents on the Pro Tour, at the GP level there will be so many players who will get caught out on this silly shortcut.

The problem is that with the by Cheater Hater at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 21:35
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The problem is that with the advent of beginning of combat triggers (especially in constructed), having a "magic word" that skips that step isn't good. Beginning of combat triggers almost never existed prior to the last couple of years (looking at Modern, only Battle-Rattle Shaman and Sentry Oak come up, which weren't even great in limited), but now they're commonplace, along with cards that require targets (and thus are easier to miss compared to something like Toolcraft Exemplar).

Sounds like there are two by Bazaar of Baghdad at Sat, 02/11/2017 - 22:57
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Sounds like there are two good words that can mean two different things. Combat vs. Attack - no reason not to take advantage of this in a future rules update.

Combat by thewoof2 at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 19:01
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No where in the rules did you show us it says the word combat is a shortcut used to skip directly to the declare attacker phase from what I can see. You say other words such as Declare Attackers? and others but not just Combat. If you show that Combat is shortcut for goto declare attackers in the rules I will agree with you, if not then it isn't in the rules and ambiguous.

Ready for Combat by MichelleWong at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 20:37
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We can't deny that the rules say that phrases such as "I'm ready for combat" is a shortcut to pass to Declare Attackers. This much is very clear.

thewoof, do you think that the single word "combat" from a non-native English speaker falls inside the term "phrases such as I'm ready for combat"? My opinion is no, some others on this forum also say no, Pete says all judges would say yes and that it's not ambiguous (which I question and which I think this forum has already proven that it's ambiguous).

I think if Magic is going to by thewoof2 at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 21:33
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I think if Magic is going to be played/judged to this level of precision then the rules need to be at that same level of precision. I look at this in a purely binary sense. I DO deny that it is very clear that "combat" is a shortcut to pass to Declare Attackers. Why? Because I see no rules that state this. Show me a rule that states if a player states "combat" during a game then it is to be considered a shortcut to declare attackers phase. Do not show me a rule that says if the player says "I'm ready for combat" and say that is the same as "combat" unless the rules identify it as such.

Overall whether the person is English speaking or not is irrelevant, if the rules stated these shortcuts and the game is being played/judged to this level of precision then everything is clear. That said, I think Magic should not be played to this level of precision so that a game can't be won on such small technicalities. Takes the fun out of the game and goes against the spirit of a "game" in my opinion.

I'd like to read the rule by thewoof2 at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 21:53
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I'd like to read the rule exactly by the way, anyone have the exact text?

re by Hearts at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 22:48
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Yes it is in the rules, not exact phrasing, but that cant be reasonably discussed/opposed.

What CAN be discussed is this;
The problem with the whole "combat(-phase) ?" / "attack(-phase) ?" judgewotcery is that it never was a shortcut in the first place. They took the simplest advancement of gameplay(one that NEVER skipped any step) and CONJURED it into a shortcut.

The only way to hold priority in beginning of combat is to reveal what you want to do before the game is at that step(in first main phase), and that is stupidnonsensery.

This has no paralell in the rules/game, never ever have you had to tell in advance what to do.

If we saw the actual rule we by thewoof2 at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 23:03
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If we saw the actual rule we could all play judge to its accuracy in enforcement. Without the rule text we are all just speculating.

The exact rule can be seen by MichelleWong at Mon, 02/13/2017 - 23:29
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The exact rule can be seen here:

Download Official Tournament Rules here:

Go to Section 4.2 (Tournament Shortcuts)

re by Hearts at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 00:28
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Like MichelleWong referred to, but thewoof2 is right in this angle;

That the rules state that the active player gains priority at the beginning of each step and phase, with exception for Untap and End phase. The rules that say this do not make an exception for Beginning of Combat, so the rules as they are today are in conflict with itself (the mtr is in conflict with cr).

Comprehensive Rules;
"116.3a The active player receives priority at the beginning of most steps and phases, after any turn-based actions (such as drawing a card during the draw step; see rule 703) have been dealt with and abilities that trigger at the beginning of that phase or step have been put on the stack. No player receives priority during the untap step. Players usually don’t get priority during the cleanup step (see rule 514.3)."

So this is the exact text "• by thewoof2 at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 00:08
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So this is the exact text "• A statement such as "I'm ready for combat" or "Declare attackers?" offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the beginning of combat step. Opponents are assumed to be acting
then unless they specify otherwise. "

This does not equate to saying "combat" moves you directly to declare attackers from my perspective.

OK, let's apply that by Javasci at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 02:56
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OK, let's apply that rule.

Cesar says "combat"; let's assume that counts as invoking this rule (if you don't agree with this, say so).
Thien doesn't object; according to the shortcut, it is now Cesar's beginning of combat step, and Thien has priority. (Implicitly, since Cesar gets priority in each step before Thien, Cesar has passed priority in the same step. As the trigger should have already triggered but was Cesar's responsibility, it is missed. If you don't agree with any of this, say so - I admit I'm not sure on the missed trigger rules.)
Thien passes priority. Since both players passed priority, the game proceeds to the next step, which Cesar's declare attackers step. Cesar must declare attackers immediately (nobody has priority); since the vehicle is not a creature, it cannot attack.
Does all of this sound right?

For what it's worth, in Cesar's place if I have a beginning of combat trigger what I would've said is, "pass priority in main phase" to go to the point where it triggers. I do think that it's easy to confuse "go to combat" (the shortcut) with "go to my beginning of combat step" (literal description, go to the trigger), especially for a non-native English speaker. So maybe the rules should have some provision to deal with partial language barriers, and maybe this particular shortcut shouldn't allow phrasings ("combat") that can be so easily confused with other intended actions, but with the rules as they are I think the ruling at the time was correct.

That said, this is only excusable on Cesar's part if his intent was to first stack the +2/+0 trigger targeting a Scrapheap Scrounger, and second either crew the Heart of Kiran and attack or attack without crewing it. If his intent was to crew the Heart of Kiran and give it +2/+0, the last chance to crew it is during his main phase, since if he goes to "combat" (beginning or declare attackers, shortcut or no) with Heart not a creature, it's not a legal target for Weldfast Engineer. In that case, passing priority in any way and giving Thien a chance to respond gives up that chance if Thien doesn't respond; at best this is a (game, not tournament) rules misunderstanding on Cesar's part; at worst, it's "Do you have any fast effects?" repeated, trying to bait out instant-speed effects from Thien and if he says no, playing something you should've passed your chance to play.

The rule is ambiguous and by thewoof2 at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 10:56
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The rule is ambiguous and therefore hard to decipher any reasonable conclusion. That said, going by the rule one could interpret saying "combat" be invoking a shortcut. The only reasonable assumption to me on the rule would be this shortcut would bring you to the beginning of combat. So someone would be within their right to say "combat" and then crew and then go to declare attackers going by the rule as written.

Hi Pete Jahn, In light of by MichelleWong at Tue, 02/14/2017 - 21:12
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The Woof: Agreed. That's how I see it too.