6

I control Wirefly Hive, Filigree Sages, Darksteel Forge, and some means of making an arbitrarily large amount of mana. My opponent is at two million life, and there are ten minutes remaining on the clock.

  • I activate Wirefly Hive's regular ability
  • The ability resolves and I flip a coin
    • If I win, I get a Wirefly
  • I activate Filigree Sage's ability targeting Wirefly Hive
  • The ability resolves and Wirefly Hive untaps

I demonstrate my ability to make an arbitrarily large number of Wireflies. I also demonstrate my ability to make an arbitrarily large amount of mana. My opponent understands, but we call a judge anyway to ask if shortcut is legal.

Does the judge allow me to shortcut making a million Wireflies?


716.1a says that as long as both players understand the intent, I can use any "shortcut system" I want. My opponent understands my intent (to keep flipping coins until I make a million Wireflies), and so the shortcut is acceptable.

The rules for taking shortcuts are largely unformalized. As long as each player in the game understands the intent of each other player, any shortcut system they use is acceptable.

716.2a says that I cannot shortcut a loop with "unpredictable results" or "conditional actions". My loop contains conditional actions, so I cannot shortcut it.

At any point in the game, the player with priority may suggest a shortcut by describing a sequence of game choices, for all players, that may be legally taken based on the current game state and the predictable results of the sequence of choices. This sequence may be a nonrepetitive series of choices, a loop that repeats a specified number of times, multiple loops, or nested loops, and may even cross multiple turns. It can’t include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes. The ending point of this sequence must be a place where a player has priority, though it need not be the player proposing the shortcut.

  • I edited to Filigree Sages, which is a simple fix. – murgatroid99 May 19 '15 at 19:32
  • Would recommend reading about the four horsemen deck, as it's a similar, although significantly less complex case to that deck's issues. – Waterseas May 19 '15 at 20:56
  • @Waterseas: Watch out for that comparison, as there was not a simple set of actions to follow with four horseman. You needed to make complex decisions with every shuffle. Much more importantly the deck could not guarantee that it would actually go off. In theory it was possible to whiff before you killed your opponent if my memory serves correctly. – Guvante May 19 '15 at 21:00
  • I think the question is worth considering without Darksteel Forge in play also. In this case, to get to a million Wireflies, you need some insanely huge number of iterations (some number with a few hundred thousand digits in it approximately). But given infinite time; you could still do it. – GendoIkari May 19 '15 at 21:09
  • 1
    As for why a restriction like this makes sense: in this case it's pretty easy to demonstrate the behavior (probability -> 1 as n -> infinity) but things can get pretty complex (apparently you can even build a Turing machine), so by (over-)restricting to no conditional actions, you hopefully avoid all the icky situations. – Cascabel May 19 '15 at 22:47
4

This loop definitely includes conditional actions, because when you have 999,999 Wireflies, when activate the ability and it resolves, you make the following choice:

  • If the ability created a Wirefly, you stop
  • Otherwise, you flip again

Rule 101.2 says

When a rule or effect allows or directs something to happen, and another effect states that it can't happen, the "can't" effect takes precedence.

Therefore, the restriction in 716.2a overrides the allowance in 716.1a.

In addition, if you assume that 716.1a effectively allows any shortcut that both players agree to, then the restrictions in 716.2a don't really make sense.

  • "Conditional actions" seems to be defined by the next few words: "where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes. " In this case, the outcome of the game event does NOT determine the next action a player takes. – GendoIkari May 19 '15 at 19:25
  • That is a reasonable argument for the other conclusion: this loop is in fact predictable and unconditional (overall), so the restrictions in 716.2a don't apply. On the other hand, the fact is that after n flips, the number of tokens is anywhere between 0 and n, so it's arguably still unpredictable. – murgatroid99 May 19 '15 at 19:29
  • @GendoIkari I addressed your comment in the answer. – murgatroid99 May 19 '15 at 19:41
  • @murgatroid99: You may want to instead focus on counting, as the reason that is usually used is counting requires a deterministic set of actions. You can say "I do this till I have four million life" because you are really saying "I do this thing that gives me four life one million times" just indirectly. – Guvante May 19 '15 at 21:25
  • If you want to make that argument in your own answer, you can, but I'm not actually convinced that it's directly relevant to this situation. – murgatroid99 May 19 '15 at 21:27
2

I believe the answer depends on a few things. First is how technical the judge wants to be with the rules. As you cited above:

... It can’t include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes. ...

The coin flip is a conditional action. You win, you get a Wirefly. You lose, you don't. That also determines, to some degree, how many iterations the loop takes to get to a million Wireflies. For some people, that may be one million iterations, for others, around two million. For people with luck like mine, the loop may never terminate. In any case, we can safely say that once this loop of all legal actions terminates, the board state will be that everything is as it was when you started plus one million Wireflies for you. If the judge wants to be hyper-technical, you cannot do this, because of the conditional action. If he wants to follow the spirit of the rule, I believe this is fine.

However, what if your loop has side effects? Consider the scenario where you control a fictitious card that has the following effect:

Whenever an artifact you control is untapped, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control.

How many +1/+1 counters does your Filigree Sages have on it? Unless you can specify exactly how many times the loop executes for you to get to a million Wireflies you cannot accurately tell me what the board state will be when the shortcut is over. At this point the shortcut is illegal because you don't know what the game is like when you are done.

(I realize the card I used in the example is made up, but any side effect that causes an unknowable board state could cause this. For example, if your mana engine has a side effect every time it runs, what is the board state at the end of the shortcut?)

  • @Guvante, Note that the OP specifies Darksteel Forge in play to avoid this issue. However, I believe that the answer should be the same either way; it's just the difference between needing about 2 million flips, and needing somewhere around 2^1000000 flips. – GendoIkari May 19 '15 at 22:15
0

The judge will not allow you to do this for 3 reasons.

  1. When one rule says you can do something and another says you can the can't rule wins.

101.2. When a rule or effect allows or directs something to happen, and another effect states that it can’t happen, the “can’t” effect takes precedence.

  1. Starting a loop requires "predictable results of the sequence of choices." since you have no way of stating how many iteration of the loop it will take to get your desired result, or what the game state will be after N iterations (you could have anywhere from 0 to N tokens) it is not predictable.
  2. Related to #2, according to the MTR you need to be clear about what the board state will be after any number of priority passes. You don't know what the game state will be like after any number of priority passes.

MTR 4.2 Most tournament shortcuts involve skipping one or more priority passes to the mutual understanding of all players; if a player wishes to demonstrate or use a new tournament shortcut entailing any number of priority passes, he or she must be clear where the game state will end up as part of the request.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.