Like many of you, last Friday I was watching the Pro Tour during Round 6 when Patrick Chapin was given a game loss for (ostensibly) placing a Tasigur into his hand prior to revealing it during the resolution of the ability on Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. And like pretty much everyone else on the internet, I have a few things to say about it. Luckily for me, I have something of a soapbox in the form of this blog and the YMTGT podcast, where I read a version of this post for discussion on the latest episode of the podcast (available today if you want to give it a listen). What follows are some of my thoughts regarding the situation. I reserve the right to change my mind; my opinions are not set in stone, and I welcome open discourse on the topic. This post merely represents my current stance on the matter.
1) I don’t agree that cameras shouldn’t be available to judges as a resource.
Currently, using the recorded footage to resolve a judge call is not allowed by rule. The thinking behind this is that since all matches aren’t recorded, it would be unfair for featured matches to have a source of information that is not available for all players in all matches in the tournament. This is awful reasoning. In my opinion, if you have the ability to correct a situation (within reason—see below), you absolutely do it. You use the resources available to make it right.
I’ll admit, a line has to be drawn somewhere. If something happens on camera and then several turns pass before it is noticed, going to the tape is probably excessive. But when caught immediately, and/or when it’s the difference between a warning and a game loss, I absolutely feel that using recorded footage is within reason. If the rule were to change, this line would have to be defined. This should not prevent us from modifying the rule.
Is this an advantage for those featured in camera matches? Maybe. Is it an advantage to know your opponent’s deck ahead of time because he or she was featured on the coverage when you weren’t? Probably. Feature matches are already treated differently than non-feature matches, and there are both advantages and disadvantages to players who are shown on camera. It is impossible to treat them exactly the same because they are not the same. The argument “we can’t do the right thing for YOU because we won’t be able to do it for everyone” is to me a flawed argument. Features are already a different animal.
2) I don’t agree with the upgrade to a game loss but I would have agreed with a warning.
If you go back and watch the footage, the location of the card chosen from Ajani is clear at all times.
Here is the relevant rules text:
2.5. Game Play Error – Game Rule Violation Definition This infraction covers the majority of game situations in which a player makes an error or fails to follow a game procedure correctly… An error that an opponent can’t verify the legality of should have its penalty upgraded. These errors involve misplaying hidden information, such as the morph ability or failing to reveal a card to prove that a choice made was legal. If the information needed to verify the legality was ever in a uniquely identifiable position (such as on top of the library or as the only card in hand) after the infraction was committed, do not upgrade the penalty and reveal the information if possible.
The sequence is as follows (if you’d like to follow along, the video is available at the bottom of this post):
- Chapin places his hand face-down on the table.
- Chapin puts a counter on Ajani, and passes priority (he points to his library asking whether or not the ability resolves).
- Chapin looks at the top four cards of his library (Tasigur, Plains, Plains, Temple of Malady).
- Chapin chooses the only legal card (Tasigur) and places it face-down on top of his hand, which is still where he left it on the table. He does not pick up his hand. The chosen card is touching the cards in his hand, but it is also at a clearly different angle from the rest of the cards in his hand.
- Chapin then places the remaining three cards from Ajani on the bottom of his library.
At this point, it is quite apparent which card he chose with Ajani. It remains the top card on the pile, cocked at an angle to the rest of his hand. To me, this satisfies the condition of being “uniquely identifiable.”
- As Chapin moves to pick up his cards, his opponent says, “he needs to reveal.” Chapin simultaneously lifts the cards from the table with the chosen card still cocked at an angle and responds, “yeah sorry,” while clearly separating the chosen card from the rest and flipping it to reveal Tasigur.
I agree that Chapin’s play was a bit sloppy and deserving of a warning. I do not agree that it should have been upgraded to a game loss, because the chosen card—while admittedly touching the rest of his hand—was still clearly separated.
3) Perception matters a LOT, and many will perceive what happened as undeserved punishment.
All that said—and this is what I believe is the worst thing about all this—no matter how “correct” the ruling may have been by the rules, the perception of the situation, especially to newer players, is that it was extremely unjust. A player was punished arguably for placing a card on the table just an inch or two too far to the right. He didn’t cheat. He wasn’t being shady. He chose a legal card and placed it in a spot where it touched the rest of the cards in his hand.
It’s not clear whether or not Chapin would have remembered to reveal the Tasigur on his own, because his opponent pointed it out as Chapin was finishing the resolution of Ajani’s ability. No further game actions had been taken, so Chapin was not given the opportunity to forget to reveal. Therefore, Chapin wasn’t punished for failure to reveal, he was punished for having the chosen card touching the rest of the cards in his hand.
This is the kind of thing that turns people off. It turns me off, and I’m someone who understands the reasoning behind it. Who knows what it looks like to players who don’t grasp the logic behind the rules.
There’s a lot more to this, namely the treatment of the situation by the coverage, but I think Cedric Phillips has handled that aspect of it quite well already and I don’t need to rehash it. I suggest you read it though, even if I disagree with some of his points.
I don’t know exactly what the solution is, because there’s not an obvious solution, but what happened should absolutely not have happened.