The Tasigur Seen ‘Round the World – My Thoughts on #PTDTK Round 6

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.

Why I’m excited for Venser (and you should be too).

I mean, first of all, it’s freaking Venser.

Remember how good the original Venser was a few years back? Of course, the new Venser has little to do with his previous Legendary incarnation, aside from representing the same character. However, this version may have even more of an impact on Standard than the Shaper Savant.

Venser, the Sojourner was the first major card spoiled from Scars of Mirrodin. Being a huge fan of the first Venser (shocking, I know), I was super excited to see what his planeswalker self would be capable of. However, to be honest, I was sort of let down at first.

A Sorcery-speed Momentary Blink? Hm, okay, what else?

Make my creatures unblockable? What creatures? Baneslayer? Celestial Colonnade? They don’t really need it, being that they have Flying.

What’s his ultimate? Exile stuff. Seems spicy, but so does every other planeswalker’s ultimate ability. To be playable, his non-ultimate abilities need to have an impact in case he never reaches his ultimate.

So, with my initial impression out of the way (“he’s okay, but really needs to be built around to be any good”), I moved on to other Scars of Mirrodin spoilers, which were pouring forth at an alarming rate. Elspeth Tirel, Koth (KOTH!), Mox Opalman, Elspeth seems so good!Geez, how am I gonna deal with this Koth guy? Should I just play red?

But when I stopped for a little while, for whatever reason, Venser kept scratching around on the inside of my skull.

So I took a (figurative) page out of Patrick Chapin’s book (Next Level Magic, which you can buy here!) and took another look at Venser from a different perspective: What would make this card good?

I sketched out a list based on an amalgamation of Next Level Bant and U/W Sun Titan Control, trying to get the most possible advantage out of Venser while not relying too much on him. (Looking back, I was definitely overcompensating for Memoricide and therefore wanted to diversify my threats.)

2 Preordain
2 Condemn
4 Mana Leak
1 Journey to Nowhere
4 Wall Omens
4 Sea Gate Oracle
3 Jace Beleren
2 Tumble Magnet
3 Day of Judgment
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Sphinx of Lost Truths
3 Venser, the Sojourner
1 Elspeth Tirel
1 Baneslayer Angel
2 Sun Titan

4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Island
5 Plains
1 Arid Mesa
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Tectonic Edge

Here is the (entirely unedited) e-mail I sent to Bigheadjoe (my co-host on my podcast, Yo! MTG Taps!—but you knew that already, right?) in the wee hours of the morning on September 10:

○ Condemn, Mana Leak, DoJ, Journey, Tumble Magnet – disruption
○ Preordain – card quality + cantrip
○ Wall, Oracle, Beleren – cantrips, blink targets
○ Sun Titan – gets back all the cantrip permanents, also gets back Journey and Tumble Magnet (if destroyed or discarded to SoLT or something). Sick blink target.
○ Sphinx of Lost Truths – can throw just about any of that stuff into the ‘yard & then I can just get it back w/ Sun Titan. Another blink target.
○ Venser – can blink almost everything to good effect (Wall, Oracle, Sphinx); resets Beleren and Magnet too.
○ Elspeth T. & JTMS – to assist & be alternate win conditions (considering how many cards I’m drawing, I’ll see them fairly often, but don’t need them to win)
○ BSA – because the only relevant ability she lacks is vigilance, and with Venser in play, she has it 🙂 Another win condition.

The interesting thing is I built the deck around Venser, but he’s not the win condition, so the deck is inherently strong against Memoricide (a lot of diversity).

There are a whopping 14 win conditions!:
Titan x2
Sphinx x2
Venser x3
Elspeth x1
BSA x1
Colonnade x4

Tumble Magnet + Walls and Oracles force over-extension into DoJ or Elspeth’s ultimate. I can DoJ on turn 4, then on 5 do any number of things: SoLT, BSA, Elspeth; with a Condemn in hand, I can play Venser, blink-untap a land, and if a haste creature tries to attack the unprotected Venser, I have mana up for Condemn. Turn 6 a Sun Titan starts bringing back whatever creatures of mine that I may have wrathed away on turn 4.

Venser can also move the Journey to more relevant creatures if I want, and can blink himself to dodge Elspeth’s ultimate. Tirel also destroys Journey and Magnet, but Titan brings them both back. With a Venser in play, on turn 6 I can play Titan, get back a Wall or an oracle, blink the Titan, get back another Wall or Oracle. Plenty of protection for Venser and meanwhile filling my hand with spells for if/when I can use his ultimate. Tectonic Edge w/ Sun Titan & Venser is just sickening. Kill 2 nonbasics a turn. Then start exiling lands with Venser’s ultimate.

I’ve got a confession to make: I have yet to actually try this list, although I still feel it may have potential (I think it’s at least worth trying). Side note: If anyone actually does give this a try, I’d really love to hear your feedback.

So, that was 3 weeks ago, and since then I’ve come to the realization that Venser doesn’t actually need to be built around. Sure, you want to have targets for his blink ability, but the great thing about Venser is how well he already fits into the synergies of U/W Control! The most recent iterations of classic U/W are already playing cards that have a natural affinity for Venser’s blink ability: Wall of Omens; Sun Titan. Give your Baneslayer (or Wurmcoil Engine) faux-Vigilance, or save it from the Day of Judgment you’re about to cast. Move your Journey to Nowhere onto a more relevant target. Untap a land to keep counter-magic or removal mana open.

It only takes three activations to put him on his ultimate. Forget about the minus ability (although it’s there if you can capitalize on it). If you can protect Venser for just three of your opponent’s turns—not such a tall order if you consider the type of cards you’re likely already playing—you’ll be exiling permanents every time you cast a spell (whether that spell resolves or not).

Here’s a rough list, which I’ll be testing a bit this weekend:

2 Condemn
4 Preordain

3 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Wall of Omens

1 Negate
4 Mana Leak
1 Deprive
1 Stoic Rebuttal
2 Journey to Nowhere

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Day of Judgment
2 Venser, the Sojourner

2 Sun Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine

4 Tectonic Edge
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
6 Plains
8 Island

No sideboard as of yet, but I’d expect to play the usual suspects: some number of Flashfreeze and/or Celestial Purge, and possibly Oust (for Fauna Shaman and other problem creatures that don’t tend to attack and thus are not susceptible to Condemn).

Other cards to consider (main or side, probably main) are Into the Roil and Ratchet Bomb. Into the Roil seems like it would be particularly strong in an unknown metagame as a nice catch-all. Ratchet Bomb is retrievable with Sun Titan and seems like just the type of card that you might want to reuse.

Whether you like Venser or not, Scars of Mirrodin has brought with it a TON of options, in addition to pushing some huge players out of the format (remember Bloodbraid Elf?). Now is a great time to not only look at the new cards but to also take a look back at the cards that might not have been as practical in a format like AlaraM10Zendikar Standard. There may be some hidden gems amongst the cards we all passed over while trying to fight against a turn-two Putrid Leech. I know a certain Dragonmaster who’s been eyeballing a modern-day Ophidian for its new-Standard potential…

On Deprive

If you haven’t yet heard, the following is a card rumored to be in Rise of the Eldrazi (unconfirmed; rarity unknown):

EDIT: Confirmed.

Initial thoughts:

What makes this better than Cancel?

1) You can play it on turn 2.
2) You can play it late-game effectively as “Counterspell.”

In the first example, playing it on turn 2, you’re now behind; yes, you traded with their 2- or 3-drop, but now on turn 3 you need another counter to deal with their 3- or 4-drop, which is likely better than whatever card they played on turn 2. So do you play ANOTHER Deprive (assuming you have it)?

Honestly, I don’t even think this is worth playing on turn 2.

Let’s say you don’t play it on turn 2, but you hit your first three land drops and then want to counter something. What’s better in this situation? Cancel or Deprive? Cancel, obviously. Deprive leaves you with 1 mana open which will likely go unused. In the meantime, now you’re set back a turn and you’ve likely wasted any advantage that Deprive provided you.

So, okay, late game then. This is where Deprive is at its strongest. But when is it really going to be that much better than Cancel? Really only when you’re returning something like Halimar Depths, as far as I can tell. It allows you to tap all but 2 land, unlike Cancel, but is that really such a huge deal?

For the moment, I’m going to predict that if Deprive sees play in Standard decks akin to UW Chapin Control, it’s going to be in numbers less than 4, as its early game drawback just seems like too much for a deck whose strengths lie in getting to Stage 3. However, I can see it being a possible staple in some sort of UG deck that can recover from the tempo loss using the myriad of mana accelerants available in Standard.

On Bloodbraid Elf. (Yes, I’m going there.)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the (unlikely) banning of Bloodbraid Elf from Standard. While I don’t think I need to explain the perspective of those calling for said banning, those opposed seem to collectively feel that the card “is not too strong,” is “beatable,” and that “if you don’t play the card, you don’t get a vote” (that last part can be attributed to Patrick Chapin).

As you may be aware, Bigheadjoe and I have mentioned a petition to ban BBE on our podcast, Yo! MTG Taps! However, despite our annoyance at the prevalence of Jund decks, this petition was created as a combination joke-meets-social-experiment; we weren’t actually serious, nor did we expect it to get anywhere.

Nevertheless, I do have something to say on the subject.

Primarily, what does it mean to say a card is “too strong?” Does “too strong” = “unbeatable”? “Extremely difficult to beat?” If so, I do not feel that BBE is too strong.

But if “too strong” means “clearly the best single card in the format, to the point where it is the centerpiece of over 30% of tournament decks,” then yes, absolutely, Bloodbraid Elf is too strong. (and don’t tell me it’s not the centerpiece to the Jund deck, because if you feel that way, you’re fooling yourself.)

The problem with Bloodbraid Elf is not that it is unbeatable. The problem is, anything that reduces variety in the game to this degree makes the game much less fun. I don’t know if that qualifies Bloodbraid Elf as “ban-worthy,” but there is clearly a problem with the presence of this card in the format. Personally, I just don’t think the problem is big enough for Wizards to do anything about it (beyond possible cascade hosers in Rise of the Eldrazi or M11; see also: Great Sable Stag > Faeries/5CC).

I’d like to close with some quotes by LSV on today’s MagicTV, which is what inspired this post:

I think the biggest mistakes are cards that, overall, make less fun than they create.” (2m10s)

Bloodbraid Elf has certainly lessened my enjoyment of the game, and many other players too that I’ve talked to…I wish they hadn’t printed Bloodbraid Elf.” (3m06s)

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 15 – Now Available!

Yo! MTG Taps! Episode 15 – Shot Down is now available for download!

Check it out over on MTGCast!

Joey & Bigheadjoe go over some of the recent news regarding the Reserved List, Rise of the Eldrazi spoilers, and both GP Kuala Lumpur & GP Yokohama.

Legacy, Reprints, & the Reserved List

GP Kuala Lumpur – Standard – “Ding, Dong, Jund Is Dead In Kuala Lumpur”

GP Yokohama – Extended
Clash of the titans – Katsuhiro Mori (Thopter Depths) vs Masashiro Kuroda (Hypergenesis)

Masashiro Kuroda’s PT Kobe ’04 win.

Mythic – Zvi’s Deck Tech from PT San Diego

Rise of the Eldrazi pooled spoilers

$35, or $27 if you bought the e-book last summer.

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