• Level Up: Concerning Rulings

    Wizkids has provided judge guidance so that those running events understand how to make a ruling on the spot when they may not have all of the resources that they'd like to have. It also helps players understand how and why something might be ruled a specific way when they're working on their own. Applied correctly, this is all very useful. Applied incorrectly, it can lead to confusion and hurt feelings.

    Today, rather than talk about some broad concept about improving your skill and equity within gameplay, I'm going to talk about judge guidance, how it can impact you, and maybe even how you can run through things in your head while trying to really dig deep into how a specific card interaction works.

    First, let's point out the two important parts for this conversation - The "Weaker Option" and the "Rule of Reasonableness." Here's what Wizkids has to say on the matter:

    Quote Originally Posted by WizKids Judge Guidance
    When In Doubt, Choose the "Weaker" Option
    Sometimes there will be card text or interactions that could reasonably be interpreted in one or two ways. A random sample of players asked might get split down the middle on how it plays out. We’d encourage judges to rule that the weaker interpretation is the correct one. For example, if an effect might reroll a single character die, or every copy of that character die, but is unclear, a judge using this guidance would rule that only a single die is rerolled.

    Rule of Reasonableness
    Sometimes there will be card text or interactions that could be stretched to be interpreted one way on a technicality, but probably works another way. If 100 players were asked, about 95 would probably agree, while 2-3 wouldn’t be sure, and 2-3 would try to stretch the rules for their own advantage. In cases like these, judges should feel comfortable siding with the more reasonable interpretation that would be shared by the overwhelming majority of players.
    Both of these concepts are important, and there is no hierarchy between them - "weaker" doesn't come first because it was listed first, and you don't only move on to "reasonableness" when you've exhausted possibilities under "weakest." They're both meant to be examined equally.

    Unfortunately, many people ignore reasonableness in favor of the "weaker option".

    [top]Weaker Option


    I think that one thing leading to this is the idea put forward in guidance about "100 players" being asked. The players at your store aren't an adequate sample size and are going to have varying skill levels at the game. It's not about a vote, it's about what is actually unclear or what is actually reasonable. Let's start with the "weaker option" part of the discussion.

    "Weaker Option" shouldn't have anything to do with what interaction is trying to take place. It isn't about how the user is trying to use it, it's about what is weaker on an island, separate from everything else.

    For example, let's look at the basic action Fireball. You can see the text to the right. A discussion could be had about whether the bolts that you pay for the part of the ability in section two is (1) a part of fireball and done in a lump sum or if (2) it is several separate instances of one damage. So, what is the weaker option? It depends! If someone were trying to use this card with Super Rare Jocasta, pumping up Fireball to do a ton of damage to her that would instead go to the other player's face, then option (2) is weaker; the bolt-pumped Fireball would do several instances of one damage to her, preventing her from sending more than a couple of damage to a new target.

    That's fine and taken on its own seems fine. But what if that wasn't the interaction? What if the interaction was Rare Nova and you were using Fireball on him in the attack step? What if it was common Kingpin? Clearly it would be weaker to have Fireball do it's damage as a lump sum rather than multiple instances of one damage.

    So is the above card unclear? Maybe. That's not my point, it's just an example; this isn't a rules article, it's a judge guidance article. The key part is that there isn't a clear-cut weaker option. The ruling shouldn't be based upon how the card is used in a specific interaction; it should be based on the card itself. Here we have two possible uses of Fireball, each yielding the opposite ruling. If going with the weaker option is the path that you need to take, it's important that "weaker" isn't circumstantial - it should be actually weaker.

    [top]Rule of Reasonableness


    I talked about the "100 players" problem from guidance. That shouldn't be taken literally. It is to prove a point. Yes, some cards could be stretched. I could make very well-reasoned arguments as to why seemingly clear and specifically ruled cards don't work the way that we know them to and should be weaker. I might even convince others, perhaps even a majority at my game store. Especially if I'm the lead organizer! Now the whole store thinks it works one way. Take a poll, they say it's reasonable - or maybe even that it's the weaker option! - and we move on. Right? Nope. It's not about what most people would think. It's about what most people with a good working knowledge of the rules would think.

    Let's talk about Ronin: "Between Employers." We're in the attack step and I'm the attacking player. I have swung with a bruiser that has Overcrush and my opponent has a sidekick and a Ronin die in the field. The sidekick is blocking and when damage is resolved, he uses Ronin's ability to absorb the damage, knocking out Ronin. If I wanted to, I could argue vociferously that since the Overcrushing die knocked out the victim - in this case Ronin - the remaining damage ought to spill over to the defending player.

    I would be wrong, but I could still argue it. That's how Overcrush works, right? Combat damage done in excess of the defender's defense hits the other player. Redirected combat damage is still combat damage, Ronin is KO'd, that's it, end of story, it's done. Take your damage, it's your turn.

    Well, that's not true and takes liberties with how Overcrush actually functions. The blocking die was not KO'd, and that's a requirement for the ability. Ronin only takes on the damage, he's not a replacement blocker. Still, unless someone references the lexicon for how Overcrush works, they may be persuaded otherwise. It sounds logical enough, and Overcrush is such a basic concept (How many of us have described it to others as "it's basically trample"?) that one might not even think to look it up.

    So the rule of reasonableness has to be applied based upon what the card actually says and what it's abilities actually are, not what we construe them to be.

    [top]Judge Guidance and Deck Building


    People build decks and immediately want to know if a combo works the way that they think it does. Sometimes the answer given is "ask your TO" when brewing a team for an event. This is a good answer and is usually correct; how will they rule it? You don't know until you ask! And on less clear interactions, they are likely to use one or both of the above guidelines. This does not mean that you should go in unprepared.

    Your best bet is to have an argument where a ruling that goes the "other way" due to something being weaker is how that so-called "weaker" stance benefits another card in a very strong way. If it comes down to an interpretive issue, ensure that you definitely and clearly understand the card text as it is, and try to use elements of other rulings to support your case.

    And finally, as judges (or in some cases, player/judges), we must be careful not to confuse circumstances where the wrong aspect of judge guidance is being considered.
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. cycoconutz's Avatar
      cycoconutz -
      Great article with great examples. Thank you.
    1. JustK's Avatar
      JustK -
      I do like the article. The rule of reasonableness.

      My question with Ronin. If you are going to take the damage anyhow, Why not just let it thru? Then it goes to used after AND you don't have to worry about Overcrush because it was not blocked. I know that you were trying to make the point but I could not get past the stupidity of blocking an overcrush character even if you take all the damage so the blocking character was not KOed.

      Perhaps I am over thinking. I do that sometimes.
    1. Dave's Avatar
      Dave -
      Quote Originally Posted by JustK View Post
      I do like the article. The rule of reasonableness.

      My question with Ronin. If you are going to take the damage anyhow, Why not just let it thru? Then it goes to used after AND you don't have to worry about Overcrush because it was not blocked. I know that you were trying to make the point but I could not get past the stupidity of blocking an overcrush character even if you take all the damage so the blocking character was not KOed.

      Perhaps I am over thinking. I do that sometimes.
      No one said our guy was smart. Maybe instead of a sidekick, it was something with a useful "when blocking" ability.