When in Doubt…
As they say, Magic is a fairly simple game to learn, but really difficult to master. Interactions and game phases can be very tricky to understand, and the more you begin to understand certain rules, the more questions you might have about different interactions.
That said, you’re not going to know everything about the game when you play in an event. This will be the case for at least your first year of playing, if not longer.
So what happens when your opponent makes a play that you don’t think is legal?
You have two options:
A) Take your opponent’s word for it that the play is legal
B) Hear it from a judge
Maybe you’re playing against someone who seems to be more experienced than you and you don’t feel comfortable questioning them. Or perhaps you just want to keep the game moving along.
But no matter how skilled of a player your opponent might be, the fact of the matter is this: as far as you should be concerned, there’s only a 50% chance that they’re actually right, and you should always be sure that they are.
This is when it’s good to be distrustful.
The last thing you want is to lose a game or a match because your opponent: 1) Was incorrect on the rule in that scenario, or 2) Lied about the rule in order to ensure that the play worked out in their favor (a.k.a. cheating).
Scenario #1 is more likely than #2, but it’s important to remember that the people who cheat do so because other players and judges allow them to get away with it. Don’t be the player that lets a cheater get away with it.
As trite as this point may be, when in doubt, always call a judge.
Over the course of my time playing competitive Magic, I’ve encountered numerous situations when my opponents have made questionable plays, or I’ve made plays that my opponents didn’t believe were legal.
In fact, just the other night my opponent made a play that didn’t seem right and I insisted on questioning him. We discussed the play for a couple moments before I finally said, “I understand, but I just want to be sure.”
When I’m on the other side of it and my opponent questions me, I always explain why a certain play is legal and finish by saying, “But you’re more than welcome to ask a judge.”
And yeah, there have definitely been a few times when my opponents tried to convince me that a rule was a certain way, only to have the judge rule against them.
Never, ever, ever make the mistake of not asking for clarification on a questionable ruling or line of play. You literally have nothing to lose by asking a judge for clarification, but you have everything to lose by not asking.
Additionally, if you walk away from a game without understanding why a certain line of play is legal, you’re limiting your growth as a player. Each question you ask is an opportunity to level up.
Always be sure, and never be afraid to ask questions. Even the best Magic players in the world aren’t infallible.
What are some iffy lines of play you’ve encountered that demanded some insight from a judge? Tell us all about it by replying below or posting it on the MTG Pro Tutor Facebook page.
Thanks for reading!
– Jeff Sheerin, MTG Pro Tutor Scribe
Become a Pro Tutor Prodigy and Qualify for the Pro Tour!
Receive an invitation to our private Facebook group and get my best tips delivered straight to your inbox once a week.