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According to Magic the Gathering Tournament Rules

If spectators believe they have observed a rules or policy violation, they are encouraged to alert a judge as soon as possible. At Regular or Competitive Rules Enforcement Level, spectators are permitted to ask the players to pause the match while they alert a judge.

Player A attacks with Pyreheart Wolf into Player B's creatureless battlefield, and does not acknowledge its triggered ability. Player B casts Psionic Snoop and connives during the Declare Attackers Step, and then declares it as a blocker. At this point, Spectator C steps in and asks the players to pause the match while they alert a judge.

Just to make sure we're all on the same page, there is nothing wrong with the game state thus far. Player A will have missed Pyreheart Wolf's triggered ability only if they do not stop Player B from blocking with Psionic Snoop, and Player B is perfectly within their rights to proceed with this line of play until Player A does so. Indeed, a judge would be unlikely to intervene in this situation even if play proceeded and they observed the triggered ability being missed. However, Spectator C believes that Player B has done something illegal by blocking with a single creature, and takes action accordingly.

Player B immediately recognizes what is going on, and asks whether Player A has any further plays during the Declare Blockers Step. Player A asks if they should wait for a judge to arrive, but Player B points out that Spectator C is not a tournament official, that therefore the players are under no obligation to follow their request to pause the match, and that they should continue play unless and until a tournament official pauses the match because time in the match is running down and a time extension would only reflect the duration of an actual judge interaction. The real reason Player B wishes to move forward is that even an unwarranted judge intervention at this point would likely result in Player A noticing Pyreheart Wolf's triggered ability before policy considers it missed. The players continue, and Player A does not stop Player B from blocking with Psionic Snoop. Several game actions later, a judge arrives and pauses the match.

Obviously the judge should issue a Game Player Error - Missed Trigger infraction with no penalty to Player A for missing Pyreheart Wolf's triggered ability, unless it somehow turns into an Unsporting Conduct - Cheating infraction. Should the judge issue any further infractions/penalties/additional remedies? Was Player B's assertion that players are under no obligation to follow the request of a spectator to pause the match correct, so long as the players do not believe that a policy violation really is occurring (or to cover Player B's case, a policy violation which that player is obligated to acknowledge, opponent's missed triggers wouldn't count), or is a spectator request of this sort as binding to the players as the request of a tournament official?

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    I'll be honest, every time I see one of these questions about the edge cases and specific wording in the tournament rules, my first thought is that someone is trying to angle shoot. The purpose of the comprehensive rules is to rigorously define the procedure for playing the game. The purpose of the tournament rules, on the other hand, is to address the realities of humans implementing that procedure imperfectly or dishonestly while introducing minimal unfairness. It's not going to be rigorous or exact because human interaction isn't rigorous or exact.
    – murgatroid99
    Oct 20, 2022 at 7:25
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    My personal opinion: when player B blocks with full knowledge that the triggered ability should prevent them from doing so, they are already angle shooting. And when they resist waiting for a judge, providing a justification that conceals their true motivation in order to trick their opponent into continuing to miss their trigger, they are straight-up cheating. More generally, any attempt to resist calling a judge should be viewed with suspicion, and taking advantage of a less-experienced player's ignorance of this fact to successfully avoid judge intervention is angle shooting.
    – murgatroid99
    Oct 20, 2022 at 7:37
  • @murgatroid99 I guess the more normative accusations of angle shooting deserve their own discussion, so I'll withhold comment on those claims to keep this question focused on policy enforcement. If the judge asks, we can assume Player B simply says that they are angle shooting (I can also imagine a Player B whose stated behaviors are of a more defensive nature, but that probably won't hold if you already categorize plays that may or may not be legal depending on whether an opponent’s uncommunicated trigger has been remembered as angle shooting).
    – user10478
    Oct 20, 2022 at 23:19
  • The possibility you've raised that this counts as Player B tricking Player A into prematurely advancing the game certainly is relevant to a judge call, and could well lead to a Cheating investigation, the word "prematurely" presumably being the point of contention. It seems fairly clear that if this scenario happened at Professional REL, then Player B would not have committed an infraction, because it would not have been legal for Spectator C to issue their request, and it could thus be ignored.
    – user10478
    Oct 20, 2022 at 23:19
  • What's less clear to me is whether a good faith yet erroneously grounded spectator request at Competitive REL must be acknowledged and followed by the players until a judge arrives. If so, then I can see how this could count as causing a player to miss a trigger.
    – user10478
    Oct 20, 2022 at 23:20

1 Answer 1

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It is fairly obvious to me that in this instance the match should have been paused. The way the rule on spectators requesting pauses is written means the players must listen to the spectator and pause the match to wait for the judge. The players cannot ignore the request from the spectator - that request is allowed according to the rules.

If I was the judge in this instance, I would rewind and fix the illegal blocker, and I would seriously consider giving a warning to player B for the unsportsmanlike conduct/cheating. Performing an illegal play is one thing, but then rushing through it and ignoring a legal request to pause the match to wait for a judge is too much. Anybody can make a mistake - it's the coverup that gets you.

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  • I will add that while the question leads us to believe that Player B acted in their own interest, knowingly ignoring a tournament rule (likely for the point of illustration in this case), it is perfectly possible that players simply want to play at a reasonable pace and aren't aware of this rule. Of course that doesn't mean that the described behavior would be alright - but it should also not be the default assumption that someone who acted against the tournament rules did so knowingly, intentionally, and maliciously. Jun 20, 2023 at 16:27
  • You're right that they could be simply ignorant about the rule allowing spectators to call for a judge - it's more so the "Player B immediately recognizes what is going on, and asks whether Player A has any further plays during the Declare Blockers Step." piece that I take issue with. Recognizing you are making an illegal play and trying to play through it to your opponent's detriment is unsportsmanlike.
    – Sebastian
    Jul 5, 2023 at 15:11
  • Of course, if you're somehow able to determine that that's the case (for example because the player admits to it), then I completely agree with your point. Until then, I think innocent until proven guilty is the go-to way to handle these things, because otherwise, worst case, you have a whole lot of judges chasing ghosts. Jul 6, 2023 at 0:07

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