Judgebreaker

A couple weeks ago I went to Grand Prix Atlanta, in order to play in the side events (also so I could meet Sean Catanese, Riki Hayashi, and Jess Dunks, because I’m a total JudgeCast fangirl). The Commander pods had a cool thing where each player was given 10 Prize Wall tickets, and instructed to give them to the player who caused them to have the most fun. I’d just sleeved up my brand-new Judgebreaker deck, and decided to play that and see what kind of shenanigans I could cause, which went over really well with the players, and frustrated the judges to no end. I had judge calls almost every game, and the final game had three judge calls, during the last of which, the judge had to go find back-up, and then upon consulting with a third judge after having made the call, came back and told us he’d been wrong in his ruling; then CJ Shrader, one of the hosts of JudgeCast (whom I met at the SCG Open last month), got involved, wanting to know why I’d done such a thing, to which my response was, “Because I could.”

(And then the intro teaser to the latest JudgeCast episode was Bryan Prillaman saying, “Let’s not talk about what Caged Sun does when you make it a land.”)

We’ll start with that call and work backwards. I’d played a Caged Sun, naming green. Then I played a Xenograft, naming Saproling. Several turns later, I had both Life and Limb and March of the Machines in hand, and played them both.

So. Let’s run through the layers. In Layer 4, the type-changing layer (see Rule 613.1d), March of the Machines says Caged Sun is now an artifact creature. Because it’s a creature, Xenograft applies, saying it’s a Saproling in addition to its other creature types (of which it has none). Because it’s a Saproling, Life and Limb applies, saying it’s also a Forest. So we have an Artifact Land Creature—Forest Saproling. In Layer 5, which deals with color (see 613.1e), Life and Limb sets its color to green. Then we skip to Layer 7, which deals with power and toughness. In Layer 7b (613.3b), Life and Limb wants it to be a 1/1, while March of the Machines wants it to be a 6/6. In this case, we apply timestamps (613.6). If Life and Limb was played last, the bast power and toughness is 1/1; if March of the Machines was played last, base power and toughness is 6/6. Then, because its color is green, Caged Sun’s own ability applies in Layer 7c, giving it +1/+1.

Got it? Good. That was the easy part.

Caged Sun reads, “Whenever a land’s ability adds one or more mana of the chosen color to your mana pool, add one additional mana of that color to your mana pool.” Seems easy enough. But it’s important to note that because Caged Sun is itself a land, that ability is a land’s ability. Therefore when it triggers, possibly from tapping the Caged Sun for a green, and adds the extra mana to my pool, the act of adding the extra green to my pool triggers it again, and again, ad infinitum. Because it’s not a “may” ability, there’s no way to exit the loop, and the game is a draw.

But wait! What if someone has a response? Maybe the Daretti player has a Lightning Bolt. If the Caged Sun is a 2/2, Lightning Bolt will deal lethal damage, and state-based actions will put it in the graveyard. Except it’s an ability that’s adding mana to my pool, and Rule 605.4a says that triggered mana abilities don’t use the stack. So no one gets a chance to respond. Right?

Not quite. An activated mana ability (605.1a) is an ability that does not target, could add mana to your pool, and is not a loyalty ability. A triggered mana ability (605.1b) is an ability that does not target, triggers from the resolution of an activated mana ability, and could add mana to your pool. So the first Caged Sun trigger is a triggered mana ability. Subsequent triggers do not meet these requirements, because they are triggering off triggered, not activated, abilities. I get the first two mana immediately; the rest use the stack. Instant-speed removal can interrupt the process at any point.

In this particular case, no one had any responses, and the game should have been a draw. The judge who took the call ruled differently, saying I got an arbitrarily large amount of green mana which I could then use; I didn’t press the issue, because I’d only done it in the first place for the lulz, and I still had a two and a half hour drive ahead of me and wanted to get out of there within a reasonable amount of time. Plus I’d been such a troll to the judge, and he’d been such a good sport about it, I didn’t want to go, “No, you’re wrong, I want a second opinion.”

Moving backward, earlier in that same game we’d had another judge call. The judge who answered had already taken one of my calls in a previous game, and was like, “Oh, it’s you again. What did you do this time?” He also told me I should become a judge, and was quite happy to hear that I already was one. The board state at this point was, in addition to the Caged Sun and Xenograft that were just kind of hanging out doing nothing, I had a Parallel Lives, and had cast an Opalescence, so that Parallel Lives was now a creature. I then cast Progenitor Mimic, copying my Parallel Lives.

Now, assuming no one did anything to stop it, the next turn Progenitor Mimic would trigger, putting a Parallel Lives token onto the battlefield, but because of Parallel Lives’ ability, and the fact that Progenitor Mimic is also a Parallel Lives, instead of one token, I’d get four. The next turn, I’d have six copies of Parallel Lives when Progenitor Mimic triggered (the original, the Mimic, and four tokens), so I’d get 26, or 64 tokens. Add that to the six already there, and the turn after I’d get 270 tokens.

If I’d actually been angling to win, I probably would have here, because I had a Grip of Chaos down, but it was a creature due to Opalescence, and I decided the game would be more fun if it was gone and swung it into lethal blockers, because it had been a long day and I wasn’t thinking straight.

My opponents were having none of this, and decided to Do Something. So the guy across from me cast Golgari Charm, choosing the mode that destroys target artifact or enchantment. And that’s when we called over a judge.

First question: Is the Progenitor Mimic an enchantment? Answer: Because it’s copying Parallel Lives, and Opalescence says “in addition to its other types,” yes, it is an enchantment, and thus is a legal target for Golgari Charm.

Second question: If the Golgari Charm gets rid of the Opalescence, will the Progenitor Mimic become a 0/0 creature and die as a state-based action? Answer: No, it will cease to be a creature and just be an enchantment, so it will stay on the battlefield, creating exponentially increasing numbers of tokens. Those tokens will not be creatures.

In the end, he targeted the Opalescence, but later on was able to get rid of the Progenitor Mimic as well, before I got to get any tokens.

Now let’s dive down a rabbit hole of hypotheticals. What if I hadn’t attacked with my Grip of Chaos? Well then Golgari Charm would have destroyed something at random, probably not the Opalescence. It would have been much more difficult to get rid of the Mimic as well. Let’s say the Parallel Lives was a Doubling Season instead—I didn’t actually have a Doubling Season in the deck, because that card is expensive and I didn’t want to shell out the money. (I have since remedied this grave oversight.)

At this point, I had Assemble the Legion and Cathars’ Crusade in hand. Let’s pretend I cast them this turn—I didn’t actually have the mana to do so, but we’ll pretend I did, because the math is simpler that way. When my next turn rolls around, I’ll have two triggers: Assemble the Legion and Progenitor Mimic. Since I control both of them, I can put them on the stack in whatever order I want. I choose to put Assemble the Legion on the stack first, so it will resolve last.

So. Progenitor Mimic’s trigger resolves, putting four Doubling Season creature tokens into play. I now have four triggers for Cathar’s Crusade, which go on the stack above the Assemble the Legion trigger. Since I now have six Doubling Seasons, each Cathar’s Crusade trigger gives me 26 +1/+1 counters on each of my creatures, for a total of 64 times 4, which is 256. Since the Doubling Season tokens all entered the battlefield at the same time, each of them gets 256 counters.

Now Assemble the Legion’s trigger goes to resolve. First I put a muster counter on Assemble the Legion—but Doubling Season doubles all counters, so instead of one, I get 64. Then for each muster counter I get 64 hasty 1/1 soldier tokens, for a total of 4096.

Then, because I had more creatures enter the battlefield, Cathar’s Crusade triggers again. This time, I had 4096 creatures enter the battlefield, so I get 64 counters on each creature for each of those triggers, for a total of 262,144 on each soldier and 262,400 on everything else.

This is manageable. And since my soldiers have haste, I can go ahead and attack for the win.

Unless one of my opponents has Ensnaring Bridge, in which case I probably shouldn’t have cast that Cathar’s Crusade (or maybe he played it last turn). Or maybe one of my opponents thinks he can kill me with deathtouch-trample-infect damage if only he can live until his turn, and casts a Fog.

We’ll assume the Ensnaring Bridge scenario, so I don’t have to calculate how many of my enchantments would die to keep me from dying from poison counters. Either way, I get another turn.

So what happens now? Well, first, I get 64 Doubling Season tokens, which triggers Cathar’s Crusade, putting 64 x 270 +1/+1 counters on each creature I control. So I simplify that to 276, enter it into my calculator (in order to add it to the 262,144 or 262,400 counters already on my other creatures), and…

My calculator has a panic attack and starts crying for its mommy.

Well, I can still represent it mathematically, so I’ll just do that. Except it’s a little awkward representing 276 + 262,400 counters. And then Assemble the Legion triggers, which adds 270 muster counters, and puts ( 270 + 64) times 270 soldiers onto the battlefield, and then all my creatures get that many times 270 +1/+1 counters. My calculator is currently cowering in a corner, dialing 9-1-1 to report me for domestic abuse.

Now it’s my draw step. I draw Warp World. During my main phase, I cast it. Well, now I need to count up all the permanents I own. Uh…more than a hundred, so I’m going to be putting all of my permanents into play.

Well. So glad that’s over…wait a minute. I forgot what deck I was playing. There’s now a Knowledge Pool, Hive Mind, Possibility Storm, and Eye of the Storm on the battlefield. Also Timesifter, which I’ve copied using Copy Artifact. (I actually did copy a Timesifter with both a Phyrexian Metamortph and a Sculpting Steel during one game at the GP; this did not require a judge call to resolve, since I simply started recording the players who had extra turns waiting to resolve, and if the game hadn’t ended we simply would have resolved them in reverse order.)

Archangel of Thune triggers ten times from the ETB effects of the Khans-block life-gain lands. Knowledge Pool triggers, putting its exile-the-top-three-cards ability on the stack. Between March of the Machines and Opalescence, all of my permanents (with the exception of non-Forest lands) are creatures. Congratulations, I have just created a board state in which the Humility-Opalescence combo actually simplifies the situation. (You might be wondering why Archangel and Knowledge Pool could trigger when they have no abilities; but due to the wording of Warp World, the Archangel of Thune, Knowledge Pool, and life-gain lands all enter the battlefield before Humility, so their trigger events happen and those triggers do go on the stack.)

So let’s take this opportunity to go over what happens when Humility and Opalescence are both on the battlefield. Opalescence turns Humility into a creature, so doesn’t Humility take away its own ability to take away abilities? Not exactly. According to rule 613.5, if an effect starts to apply in one layer, it continues to apply in all subsequent layers, even if the ability itself is removed. So even though Humility removes its own ability, it continues to apply, and tries to make everything a 1/1. Meanwhile Opalescence is trying to set power and toughness equal to CMC. So which one wins?

Once again, we apply timestamps. But both enchantments entered the battlefield at the same time. So what do we do now? According to rule 613.6j, I, as active player, get to decide what their timestamp order is. So I say Humility entered first, making Opalescence have the most recent timestamp. All my other enchantments are creatures with no abilities and power and toughness equal to their CMC.

But I’m a troll, and I don’t want an easy board state. So I cast Chaos Warp on my Humility; in response, before targets become random again, my opponent casts Golgari Charm on my Grip of Chaos.

With the Grip of Chaos gone, my opponent decides he wants to get rid of Assemble the Legion, because that thing has to go. So he casts Golgari Charm.

At this point, Hive Mind, Knowledge Pool, Eye of the Storm, and Possibility Storm all trigger. Because I control all of them, I get to put the triggers on the stack in whatever order I choose. I choose to exile the card with Eye of the Storm, so that my opponent won’t get to cast one of the cards already exiled with Knowledge Pool. (According to one of the Gatherer rulings on Knowledge Pool, if the card doesn’t get exiled with Knowledge Pool, the player doesn’t get to cast one of the spells already exiled this way.) I want Hive Mind’s trigger on top of the stack, with Possibility Storm directly underneath it; so my other two opponents get to destroy an artifact or enchantment, then I get to destroy an artifact or enchantment, then the opponent who originally cast the Golgari Charm exiles cards from the top of his library until he hits an instant, which he can then cast for free if he so chooses, then he gets to destroy an artifact or enchantment (presumably the Assemble the Legion, if it’s still around). And then the judge who’s been sitting on this match for the past two and a half days demands to know why my opponents haven’t killed me already. (I actually did Warp World into Possibility Storm and Eye of the Storm; the ruling of the judge who answered the call was, “She’s at three life, kill her before I have to answer this question.”)

So there it is. I broke the judges. And all without assembling my Ink-Treader NephilimArchangel of ThuneBrightflame combo.