"infinite turns" and the game clock



  • I saw a situation on cockatrice the other day that got me thinking about the use of various resources in game and sportsmanship issues. I was spectating the game when this happened:

    • Player 2 had a voltaic key in play and tinkered in time vault with 1 mana open. Player 1 said, "gg" and left the game. I noticed however that the clock running was at 47:30. Typically a round of magic in tournaments is 50 minutes meaning player 2 would have had 2 1/2 mins +5 turns to get the win. Now obviously this is cockatrice - not a tournament. Player 1 who created the game could have sat for 10 mins waiting for an opponent blah blah blah.

    But I've always said the clock is one of the most under-used resources in Magic - specifically vintage. I see it used in limited often and don't really play other formats. I think a big part of this is a perceived sportsmanship issue (which I think is a good thing) as most vintage players view our tournaments as a community of friends and colleagues. Very few of us want to be known as bad sports or jerk players. We do use some clock management - for example if tinker/vault is shown in game 1 or 2 you just scoop and get ready for the next game. Players may allow both to search for fetches at the same time to save time etc. Little things like that which help preserve time. Its a slightly used resource, but a resource nonetheless.

    So here is my question - assume the scenario above was a tournament. Game 3, 47:30 in, so 2 1/2 mins left. Early in the game so lots of library to go thru. Do you scoop or do you make your opponent play it out? Do you honestly give it any thought or is the scoop so ingrained that it just happens?

    If you make your opponent play it out, what do you feel is the break point for when you do and don't? If you saw somebody do this under these circumstances would you think they are a poor sport or a savvy player?

    I've always found the sportsmanship aspect of our community to be fascinating (in a great way). And I think most will agree that forcing somebody to play out say game 2 after vault/key hits the board is poor form (or at least inefficient).



  • you're walking a very thin line here. obviously it's fine to let your opponent show you a victory condition in the vault/key scenario. that's actually correct, I'd hardly ever scoop without that, although I might ask my opponent to just pick up his library and show me what he'll win with. but 'using' the clock as in thinking, using a fetchland, thinking some more in a very bad looking position is just simply cheating.

    as an example the explanation of the head judge of GP florence, where Saito was DQed (and subsequently suspended, losing his Hall of Fame induction, this happened after he got voted in but before he was inducted):

    "We disqualified this player for Stalling, after it was observed that his play speed seemed to change based on his observation of the clock. It was observed by a high-level judge that twice in the round he appeared to change his play speed based on considerations that were outside the game. Consulting among the senior judges we decided that, on the basis of what we had observed, we had no choice but to disqualify the player."



  • @Kai said:

    you're walking a very thin line here. obviously it's fine to let your opponent show you a victory condition in the vault/key scenario. that's actually correct, I'd hardly ever scoop without that, although I might ask my opponent to just pick up his library and show me what he'll win with. but 'using' the clock as in thinking, using a fetchland, thinking some more in a very bad looking position is just simply cheating.

    Agreed 100%. I've had tinker/key played against me and just did what you said - asked my opponent to show me the win con, even if it means digging thru his library to pull it out. Another example is salvagers - you don't make your opponent go thru every step of pulling the lotus from the graveyard, announce it, resolve it, sac it repeat. We all know whats happening and are fine with those short cuts.

    as an example the explanation of the head judge of GP florence, where Saito was DQed (and subsequently suspended, losing his Hall of Fame induction, this happened after he got voted in but before he was inducted):

    "We disqualified this player for Stalling, after it was observed that his play speed seemed to change based on his observation of the clock. It was observed by a high-level judge that twice in the round he appeared to change his play speed based on considerations that were outside the game. Consulting among the senior judges we decided that, on the basis of what we had observed, we had no choice but to disqualify the player."

    This is something different from what I'm talking about. In this scenario there is somebody actively slow playing. I'm talking about a scenario where 1 player has won. But instead of scooping or letting him do a short cut, because of the time on the clock, you as the opposing player insist he 'play it out.' He's got 2 1/2 mins + 5 turns to untap, draw, announce any spells and either end his turn or find his win con. Its game 3, there are 2 1/2 mins left and your opponent has an infinite turn combo. Its not slow play to ask him to play it out. But is it poor sportsmanship under these circumstances? Or are you referring to 'considerations outside the game' and thinking a judge could call you for that if you would normally scoop but refuse to because of the clock?


  • Administrators

    But the scenario you suggested has a serious risk of slow play too ... think about it.

    There are 2.5 minutes left on the clock, and your opponent has infinite turns. Assume you have one card in hand that can interact with him, even in a very minor way, a Swords to Plowshares, a Mental Misstep, an untapped Wasteland.

    When he taps a key to untap vault and passes priority to you, what do you do? How much time do you spend thinking? Technically, if you spend any more time than you would if you didn't know what time it was, you're cheating. In this scenario, you know that stalling for even seconds improves your chance of winning significantly. Do you really trust yourself to think the appropriate amount of time? Does a judge trust you to do that? What if you DON'T have a card in your hand that can interact with him, but you have cards in hand, and with infinite time you would be bluffing action?

    Clock management is a dangerous game.


  • TMD Supporter

    This is why I absolutely LOVE the clocks in MTGO. It's almost a totally different game. If you want to sit there and do a 10min brainstorm, go for it! If your opponent is taking forever, it only hurts him. I think this is the true advantage of MTGO over paper. In paper, even if you've used less than 10% of the time your opponent has, if time is running out, you'll get a steely glare every time you go "into the tank." I know there is no reasonable way to implement a clock in paper, but it would be so great if they could. I love the subtle difference between "having to beat an opponent" in a certain amount of time, versus a timed match.

    It's a tough situation. "Clock inequality" during a paper match becomes totally irrelevant towards the end, and I always feel like it puts one player at a major disadvantage, as previous clock usage is easily forgotten.



  • I am not familiar with the ruling in GP Florence, but short of the player asking "how much time is left" how do you objectively judge a person slow playing based on time left in the game? I am assuming the question was asked in Florence, but now that has set a precedent. You can "know" how much time is left by glancing at your wristwatch without anyone being able to concretely say "you acknowledged the clock and changed your style of play". Certainly your opponent is within their rights to call a judge on slow play, but to suddenly accuse the slow player of cheating vs slow playing in a critical situation because there is a certain amount of time left seems very subjective to me.

    Vault-Key is NOT a win condition, it grants you infinite turns. I have been on both sides of an assembled vault key late in G3 headed toward turns. In a large event you need only glance around the room to observe how few games are left going on to know you are near turns. I am NOT advocating intentional exaggerated slow play, but I see no reason to scoop in this situation either.



  • i once saw an infinate turn game played out because there were only a couple minutes on the clock. it was really interesting the vault key player simply set his cards face up and drew from his deck announced time walk and discarded the card he drew. this let him burn through turns as fast as he could draw cards. he found jace shortly and added "+2 jace leave it" to his statement. opp has 3 cards in hand when jace ultimated and under a minute on the clock so the game ended on turn 5 because opp would not concede and he had turn 0 and drew his his first card before turns.

    can't really blame him for trying to get the draw using the clock. but at any point if he had simply asked to wait for a moment while he "tanked" with no action in his hand he could have forced the draw. and i have lost games because people have asked me to wait on my end step for 10 seconds and did nothing so they were turn 1 insted of turn 0

    personally i only ask for the show me a wincon so i have valid reason to scoop



  • @p3temangus Many judge rulings on cheating are subjective as the judge has to gauge a player's intent. In Saito's case, it was pretty obvious as the actions he took to stall weren't instances of him thinking more in a critical moment: he was taking longer to shuffle his opponent's deck and asking to read his opponent's cards, including JTMS, which was ubiquitous at the time and frankly not a card a pro should have to read. If the cheating was more nuanced, you would look for a pattern of behavior over multiple rounds or multiple events. I believe that was part of Alex Bertoncini's multiple suspensions - he had multiple minor gameplay errors that always seemed to benefit him.



  • @Brass-Man said:

    But the scenario you suggested has a serious risk of slow play too ... think about it.

    There are 2.5 minutes left on the clock, and your opponent has infinite turns. Assume you have one card in hand that can interact with him, even in a very minor way, a Swords to Plowshares, a Mental Misstep, an untapped Wasteland.

    When he taps a key to untap vault and passes priority to you, what do you do? How much time do you spend thinking? Technically, if you spend any more time than you would if you didn't know what time it was, you're cheating. In this scenario, you know that stalling for even seconds improves your chance of winning significantly. Do you really trust yourself to think the appropriate amount of time? Does a judge trust you to do that? What if you DON'T have a card in your hand that can interact with him, but you have cards in hand, and with infinite time you would be bluffing action?

    Clock management is a dangerous game.

    clock management is a dangerous game. But I'm not really approaching this as a traditional 'slow play' scenario. Though I see from Kai there is a precedent case which could be applied here. I think its a rare case and not quite a straight parallel. Lets assume for the sake of the presented scenario that there is no slow play. You know the clock is down. You can scoop and lose or force your opponent to play it out and possibly draw. Assume your opponent is playing quickly and you state something along the lines of, 'assume I pass priority unless I speak up.'

    As for some of your questions - really what is wrong with bluffing action? You can bluff action without slow play and if it were game 1 or 2 or if it were game 3 but you weren't playing for a draw it would be perfectly acceptable. I said it was early in the game so assume you have 4 or 5 cards in hand. Action or not I'm not slow playing but showing a handful and my opponent knows I'm on u/w. Perhaps he assume I have a STPS and some counter back up. So he decides, "ok, not only do I need to get my tinker bot online, but I need to get counter back up first." You don't slow play. He doesn't slow play. But that bluff and HIS decision to sculpt his hand runs the clock out. Nothing illegal. But is it something you would consider unsportsmanlike or smart/savvy gameplay?

    Or you have no cards in hand and just say, "go, take your turns 1 at a time, no shortcuts." Hoping he just runs out of time before he draws his win condition.


  • Administrators

    I know you're trying to avoid talking about slow play, but I really think that's the entire issue here. Yes, you could say "I pass priority on everything, no shortcuts." There would still be a slow play issue because you're at minute 50 of the match. If you spent an extra minute thinking about a play back in game one, it's still slow play, and it's slow play that directly resulted in you winning the match. It's just slow play that is impossible for a judge or opponent to catch.

    That's what's tricky about it. In the scenario that you describe, you can be 100% certain that you didn't cheat ... but ONLY you can. Nobody outside of your head has any idea. If this happens to you consistently, even if you have never intentionally slow played in your life, it's going to look like you have.

    Personally, I don't think there's anything unsportsmanlike about using the clock in a legal way, as you describe. The problem is, it's so hard for an outside observer to figure out if you're using the clock legally or not, it makes a lot of sense to just scoop the game, sportsmanlike or otherwise.

    Even if you would never ever use the clock to cheat, people scooping early is part of a social contract that makes it harder for people with less integrity to get away with cheating. Personally I think that's the strongest argument for not going for those kinds of wins, even when they're legal.

    In any case, I wouldn't begrudge my opponent if they did that to me. I expect people to do what they think they need to to win.



  • @ChubbyRain Appreciate the clarification. Clearly that is an extreme example that warranted the punishment received based on your description.

    I have personally not participated in a high REL sanctioned magic event since GP Philly over 10 years ago, so the intricacies of how events and situations are handled by judges in these cases has almost always been something I have read about 3rd hand. My point here, which I may not have been totally clear on, what is the precedent set by this ruling (or does magic not work like that..)?

    Again, I am playing Devils Advocate here. The line between Gamesmanship and cheating can sometimes be very blurry. As rules, technology and people evolve the lines blur more and more. One players gamesmanship 10-15 years ago is cheating today because we are able to go back to the video and review their actions in slow motion.



  • @p3temangus said:

    Again, I am playing Devils Advocate here. The line between Gamesmanship and cheating can sometimes be very blurry. As rules, technology and people evolve the lines blur more and more. One players gamesmanship 10-15 years ago is cheating today because we are able to go back to the video and review their actions in slow motion.

    Is this Paul Mastriano's second account? You seem to be suggesting that sleight-of-hand techniques and blatantly lying to judges (the only instances I can think of off the top of my head where going back to the video would actually matter) were ever considered not cheating...

    Let's just say that if you are at the point where what you are doing is at that line where "gamesmanship" and cheating gets "very blurry", you should probably back up.

    Edit: @p3temangus messaged me and clarified that this was a more general reference to the use of replay in sports and not Magic. As for precedence on the ruling, I think the rules as they are written are necessarily vague, leaving it to a judge's discretion. Thank you to @varal for digging up the actual language.



  • The clock, slow play and stalling is the worst aspect of the game. Slow plays and stalling are two different things but they might look the same to an observer. Even the player committing it might not know which one they're doing and if they do.

    Here's the definition of Tournament Error Slow Play:

    A player takes longer than is reasonably required to complete game actions. If a judge believes a player is intentionally playing slowly to take advantage of a time limit, the infraction is Unsporting Conduct — Stalling.
    It is also slow play if a player continues to execute a loop without being able to provide an exact number of iterations and the expected resulting game state.

    and Unsporting Conduct Stalling:

    A player intentionally plays slowly in order to take advantage of the time limit. If the slow play is not intentional, please refer to Tournament Error — Slow Play instead.

    Those definitions are vague, judges are often overwhelmed by other judging duties in big tournaments or working/playing in smaller tournaments. What is reasonably required to take an action is highly subjective and will vary wildly from judges to judges. Those infractions are rarely given at lower level tournaments with lower level judges. Catching those infractions is really time intensive because judges need to watch big length of matches to notice slow play and even more to differentiate slow play and stalling. Judges often give verbal advertisement to play faster or extra turns depending on what they saw but they can't do much about the 3 minutes the opponent sideboarded/shuffled before you called a judge or the first minute of an extra long brainstorm. It's hard to punish dozens of short 5 seconds slow play sprinkled over a match.

    I don't think this problem can be solved without clearer guidelines, strong intent to reduce slow play from the judge program and more judges to check tournaments. I don't think this last point could ever be solved except possibly for professional tournaments.

    If you have infinite turns, nothing prevent you from creating multiple turns shortcuts to breeze through your library or a Jace activation. I don't know what's the reasonable amount of time you have to draw a card and pass because you can't do anything but I don't think it should be much more than 1 second. Judges can disagreed on that. I've seen situations where a player was given time to think when the only decision he had was to discard Progenitus to not die, turn after turn.



  • I don't think there is a line, I think there are shades of grey in this issue. I have seen people assemble key vault before and not have a way to win left available, so it really becomes a question of how far in the game you ask them to play it out. Think about all these various scenarios this exact issue could be applied to.

    • Your are in turn 0 of time, your opponent assembles key/vault. Most players would make them play it out because there are a finite number of turns but is that any less clock management?
    • There is 1 minute left before time and your opponent assembles vault. Do you make them play it out? Do you let them shortcut?
    • It is mid event and you won game 1. Your opponent is playing a slower deck and manages to sneak key/vault out. If you make them play it out you are likely not going to have a game 3 and will draw. Your deck is not super fast so you are likely not to win game 3. Do you scoop or accept the fact that he played a slow deck knowing the downsides to it?
    • Same scenario as above, except you know that a draw here will qualify you for top slots, where as a loss will knock you out.

    Personally I think clock management, so long as it is within the defined rules of the game, is perfectly acceptable. Every professional sport has a level of this to it, it is just the nature of the beast. I think the issue is more so the slow play aspect, since it does not have hard and fast rules to it and it is all subjective. I wish things like side boarding have a set amount of time so we could reduce the variance and subjectivity of it all.



  • I think there is a like, but 95% of the time you can see if the player is doing real thinking or just cheating. You can ask a slow control player to go quick in the last 3 minutes of the match, but if he plays as he had during the previous 47, it's not cheating. Or if he has a full hand and is winning 1-0, he had to take care that the game is not getting out of control. Some years ago, it always happened against me (I wasn't playing control back in the day). Nowadays it can happen in both ways.

    However, in the initial scenario, when resolving infinite turns, it's more clear. You have the answer, or you have not. If you have it, even if it's remote, you have your right to defend it. But if you don't have any and you are playing slow, and going into turns, I expect I can go for the judge and tell him that I missed some precious turns just because your attitude.



  • a question i want to ask is if they have a mana crypt do you make them play it out?



  • @letseeker Of course i'd make them play it out! i think you'd be ridiculous to not do it.

    If they're at 3 life and assemble the vault and key with a crypt in play, would you concede?



  • @letseeker said:

    a question i want to ask is if they have a mana crypt do you make them play it out?

    i have seen rich shay not get a turn and win the game thanks to an opposing mana crypt. it was astonishing. its somewhere i his stream archive im sure. never ever concede a game where the opp has mana crypt.



  • @Protoaddct it's never a problem to tell them to actually win. you aren't required to play hyper fast either. the problem is only if you deliberately slow down after realizing it comes down to clock issues. if you play your turns in a reasonable time frame, your opponent can't complain.

    If someone plays a super defensive control deck with vault/key as 'win conditions' with something like a single copy of jace and tinker/colossus to win with, he knows what he's in for. he's not entitled to more then half of the round's clock time and if he can't win in time, he can't win.

    The problem with 'clock management' is when you start adjusting your play speed towards the slow end because you realize that either a draw is good for you or there's a scenario where you know your opponent can't win, but you can win in a single attack/turn. Forcing someone to actually play it out and win the game.

    all your scenarios are not at all in the grey area. you can always make your opponent play it out. and in the last scenario I definitely let them, if I want the draw. You just have to play at a reasonable pace - and that doesn't mean you have to play ultra fast turns either. Although that also depends on game 1. If I am playing storm combo, game 1 took 25 minutes and I used up a good 15-20 min of that going through a long combo, then that changes things and I will either play super fast or just concede the game. But if both players used a similar amount of the clock, there's absolutely nothing wrong with 'punishing' your opponent for having slow win conditions in this deck. that's his choice.


  • TMD Supporter

    I feel like for the most part since vintage is generally played un-sanctioned where 95% of the people know each other in paper, people scoop. That being said, it doesn't always happen, and you shouldn't be mad if it doesn't happen, but I think, at least around here (midwest) since all our tournaments you are playing against the same people, folks scoop.

    I wouldn't expect the scoop from anyone at champs however.



  • @Kai I'm not sure it is so cut and dry to be honest, since we are measuring both players and judges subjective rulings and perceptions.

    Just out of curiosity, what is the stance of players and the WOTC about playing to tie and sportsmanship? If I bring a deck to a tournament that is purely defensive options and have no real win condition (it's virtually impossible not to have any to be truthful) is that in violation of any rules? What if at moments where I can win in a match choose not to and instead choose to let the game continue? Is that considered stalling in a non loop situation to try to make games go longer to eat the clock? I'm not talking about looking at options for 5 min before playing a land and passing turn, I mean moreso playing at a normal speed but just not declaring a lethal attack and such.

    Extrapolate this out a bit. You have a big playgroup of players and want to push a teammate to the top brackets without it being strictly against the rules. So everyone in the playgroup/team brings a deck just designed to draw out games (maybe a endless worldgorger loop or something like that) so you act as spoilers for the whole event. You try to draw out as many players early on so other players have to get paired down later, etc, and throw the numbers all out of wack.

    All of these things are petty subjective right? I mean that is why we have judges. To judge subjectivity. If there was no subjectivity we would not be having this conversation.


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to The Mana Drain was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.