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Judge’s Corner: Missed Triggers

            As most people know, Magic the Gathering is a fairly complex game. There are rules that are on top of other rules that are on top of, you guessed it, more rules. There have been many instances where these rules have created a stir within the competitive and non-competitive players of the game and recently, we had a major one. Back in November, Twitter and other social media outlets in the Magic the Gathering community debated over a match that happened at NRG Chicago.

Izzet Phoenix Versus Rakdos Midrange (Pioneer) Judge Call

During round 6 of NRG Chicago, we have a match up between Izzet Phoenix and Rakdos Midrange. The Rakdos player has a Sheoldred, the Apocalypse in play and has been announcing the triggers associated with the card. During the Izzet player’s turn, they went to 7 life after their initial draw due to Sheoldred and enter their first Main Phase. They open up with a Consider and the Izzet player places the card they surveilled into the graveyard and drew a card. The opponent does not announce the Sheoldred trigger. The Izzet player then casts Opt, which they scry the top card to the bottom of their library then drew a card. After drawing for the Opt, the Rakdos player says, “So you have drawn two cards and lose four life.” The Izzet player states that they have missed the triggers and because of that, they do not lose the life. The Rakdos player calls a judge to resolve this issue.

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse – Dominaria United

The Ruling

The floor judge who responded to the call comes over and ends up ruling in favor of the Rakdos player. The Izzet player appeals, and the head judge upholds the ruling from the floor judge. The floor judge stated that the Izzet player should ask “Is the stack empty?” in order to avoid this issue in the future.

            The Izzet player wrote about this on Twitter and people were quick to agree or disagree with the ruling. Obviously, the Izzet player did not agree with the ruling because it ultimately cost them the game but, they bring up a good point of debate: Who is responsible for whose triggers? Let’s look at both sides.

Your Card, Your Trigger, Your Responsibility

The Izzet player and many others believe that the owner of the card should be responsible for calling out the triggers and effects of their cards and if they do not, it is a missed trigger on their part. In addition, they also believe that this ruling needs to be changed because it gives cheaters and “angle shooters” an advantage when it comes to this specific ruling. This argument has some good points. When you build a deck, you should know how it functions and what you need to look out for. You will probably still make mistakes (everyone does) but, you still know what you’re doing with the deck. That means if you are playing a deck that has cards like Sheoldred in it, you know that those triggers need to be called out every time they happen. As for the advantage to cheaters and angle shooters, it creates an advantage and claim that it is not a “may” ability so it must happen, no matter how late it is called.

Everyone Is Responsible for the State of the Game

The counter to the above argument is that everyone involved in the game has to be responsible of the state of the game. In the Judge Rules Resources for Magic the Gathering, there is an infraction known as Game Play Error – Failure to Maintain Game State. The definition of the infraction is “A player allows another player in the game to commit a Game Play Error and does not point it out immediately.” Basically, it is stating that both players need to be responsible if an illegal play has been made. This has been the argument for this side but, it doesn’t help in this situation. Where we need to look at is the Missed Triggers rulings. These sets of rules clearly explain how missed triggers should be handled and the appropriate penalty, if needed. They do also state that everyone is responsible for their own triggers however, it doesn’t mean that you can intentionally miss triggers to gain an advantage.

Who Is Right?

With any debate or opinion, it can be difficult to say which side is right or wrong. The best anyone can really do is use the knowledge of the situation at hand and form an opinion based on that. In this case, I have to side with the Izzet player both from a player and judge perspective. I will admit that before this, I was on the side of the Rakdos player and the judges handling the event due to my knowledge of the rules and being a judge myself. After talking with some local competitive players and diving deeper into the rules and judge resources, I feel that the Rakdos player did this intentionally to gain an advantage, based off the evidence that has been presented. I will say that it would be a lot more helpful to hear the Rakdos player’s side of the situation, as well as the floor judge and head judge of the NRG Chicago event.

Should There Be a Change to the Rules?

In my opinion, I feel a change should be made to make the responsibility of triggers fall on the owner of the card. When a person signs up to play in a competitive REL event, that person is confident in their knowledge of the game, and it is assumed that they understand the consequences of missing triggers or making mistakes in a match. There is no easy way to fix this or to demand a change. I do hope that this situation is brought up with the rules committee and hopefully, we will see a positive change in order to keep this from happening again.

Further Reading

Twitter Post Source: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1ss6i5m

Judge Rules Source – Missed Trigger: https://blogs.magicjudges.org/rules/ipg2-1/

Judge Rules Source – Game Play Error – Failure to Maintain Game State: https://blogs.magicjudges.org/rules/ipg2-6/

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