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 Post subject: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-13 12:46 pm 

Joined: 2008-Mar-24 3:27 pm
Age: Drake
Location: UCLA
In a recent game, I was playing Mayael the Anima against a Teneb, the Harvester deck. My opponent managed to assemble Loyal Retainers and Saffi Eriksdotter, and then she unearthed Extractor Demon. Using these three cards, she attempted to empty my library into my graveyard.

Fortunately, I have Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in my deck. So she couldn't completely mill me, as every time she hit the Emrakul, she had to start over.

She wants to mill me until I just 2 cards left in my library, Emrakul, and something else. Theoretically, if she just keeps milling me, eventually Emrakul will get shuffled into the last two cards in the deck, and then she can stop milling me, and force me to kill her in two turns (which might be very interesting, depending on what the other card is).

In the (somewhat obscure) shortcut rules of magic you can only define loops that don't involve conditional actions, and this loop involves a conditional action (loop until I have just two cards left). [See 7.14 in the rules]

So if this were a tournament situation my opponent would be forced to manually mill, then shuffle, then mill, etc, in all likelyhood running out of time before her conditions were reached. Given this is an untimed casual game, this series of actions could take a while. EDH games can go long sometimes, but this is somewhat extreme. [with some napkin math, ~30 minutes of shuffling to have a 50% chance of getting the right result]

However, the shortcut rules also state:
"714.1a 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."

Can we (by the rules of EDH) agree to pick a card at random from my graveyard/deck and Emrakul and put those on the bottom of my deck in a random order?


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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-13 8:08 pm 
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Location: New Hampshire
Yes, you can. Nothing in the rules of EDH stops you from doing this, and there is no real reason not to allow this. I have, in fact, done this very thing with my hippo deck, which uses Intruder Alarm, Drowner of Secrets and Stonybrook Schoolmaster to set up a similar situation.

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-13 10:38 pm 

Joined: 2007-Jun-04 6:34 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Gainsville, FL
This is much the same problem in Vintage, when Worldgorger Dragon goes off against a deck with Gaea's Blessing in it. Since the DCI cares very little for Vintage, to my knowledge, no definitive ruling was ever issued by a real judge. Or lower level judges would bicker over it.

I used to assemble that combo ( minus the black dude) with my Captain Sisay deck. Saffi was pretty hotsauce with Yomiji, Who Bars the Way and yes, I used Loyal Retainers (who sadly isn't a legendary creature I could tutor for with my general. Another combo I'd always get was Myojin of Cleansing Fire, That Which Was Taken, and Saffi to save Yomiji and/ or my general. A repeatable wrath to lock down the table was sick.

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-14 1:10 pm 
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Location: Oakland, CA
billyh wrote:
"714.1a 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."

Can we (by the rules of EDH) agree to pick a card at random from my graveyard/deck and Emrakul and put those on the bottom of my deck in a random order?

Clearly, the rule you quoted shows you can.

Even more, because your graveyard is face up and your opponent can record what cards are or aren't in your library, your opponent could theoretically continue to mill you until Emrakul and a specific card are the only remaining cards in your library, so if she wished to and you agreed, she could choose a card (probably a basic land) rather than pick at random.


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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-14 4:16 pm 

Joined: 2008-Mar-24 3:27 pm
Age: Drake
Location: UCLA
intreped wrote:
Clearly, the rule you quoted shows you can.


My understanding of the current rules of magic is that this is not allowed, despite 714.1a. That is to say, in a tournament you have to use the loop rules (which specifically don't cover this sort of case), so you can't create this shortcut.

I'd be happy to be wrong though... would a judge like to comment?


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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-14 4:31 pm 
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Joined: 2010-Mar-15 2:19 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Denver, CO
billyh wrote:
intreped wrote:
Clearly, the rule you quoted shows you can.


My understanding of the current rules of magic is that this is not allowed, despite 714.1a. That is to say, in a tournament you have to use the loop rules (which specifically don't cover this sort of case), so you can't create this shortcut.

I'd be happy to be wrong though... would a judge like to comment?


This sort of shortcut wouldn't fly at a tournament, but if people want to allow it in casual games that's fine.

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-14 5:05 pm 
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Joined: 2009-Oct-18 8:52 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
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At an actual tournament I'd be asking a Judge for something like a Slow Play ruling. (Yes, they could be taking their actions at a sufficient pace but they are choosing to repeat their action over and over (and over (and over)) and it's been 10 minutes since they started and we're not actually playing Magic any more.)
Unless I was already up 1-0 and then I'd be happy for them to shuffle me into a win. :p

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-14 5:31 pm 

Joined: 2008-Mar-24 3:27 pm
Age: Drake
Location: UCLA
Daf wrote:
At an actual tournament I'd be asking a Judge for something like a Slow Play ruling. (Yes, they could be taking their actions at a sufficient pace but they are choosing to repeat their action over and over (and over (and over)) and it's been 10 minutes since they started and we're not actually playing Magic any more.)
Unless I was already up 1-0 and then I'd be happy for them to shuffle me into a win. :p


Again, my understanding is that this is not "Slow Play" or "Stalling". That is to say, as long as the means and the intent to win is there, and the actions (such as shuffling and milling) are taken at a normal pace, this is not Slow Play. For example, if your opponent was up 1-0 on you, they could do this shuffling until their conditions were met or (much more likely) until time ran out (presumably, time runs out on a turn, and you don't even get extra turns, or the tournament couldn't finish). Again, I'd be happy for clarification on this.

But what I'd really like (and why I'm posting this to the Rules Discussion List) is someone from the rules committee to state their opinion of taking these shortcuts in EDH. To say "if people want to allow it in casual games that's fine" could be construed as similar to one of the following statements:

1) "well, Sway of the Stars is banned, but if your friends are OK with you playing it than go right ahead"
2) "Memnarch isn't legal as a general in EDH but no one will care if you play it."

Possible answers could be:
A) "When playing EDH you can construct shortcuts involving loops that would not be legal in normal Magic tournament play as long as all players agree to the shortcut system"
B) "EDH exactly follows the rules of Magic as far as shortcuts are concerned, and therefore you can't legally make these shortcuts. You are free to break the rules of EDH if you wish, since this is casual format."


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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-14 7:38 pm 
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Joined: 2009-Aug-20 7:49 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Hampshire
billyh wrote:
My understanding of the current rules of magic is that this is not allowed, despite 714.1a. That is to say, in a tournament you have to use the loop rules (which specifically don't cover this sort of case), so you can't create this shortcut.

EDH is not a tournament, hence the DCI floor rules do not apply. Therefore, 714.1a is the only rule that should apply, since it is a rule of the game of magic. Since it pretty much states that the shortcut is OK, it is. Anyone who won't let you do this is either too stupid to understand a pretty simple concept or being a really sore loser about you comboing them out.

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-15 4:25 am 
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I think that EDH shouldn't officially make rules that make unbounded loops more powerful.

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-15 5:49 am 
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Joined: 2009-Aug-20 7:49 pm
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Location: New Hampshire
Shazaam wrote:
I think that EDH shouldn't officially make rules that make unbounded loops more powerful.

The RC doesn't need to make a ruling on this subject at all. Furthermore, I would argue that even if they did endorse a shortcut rule, they would not be making unbounded loops more powerful. Rather, an official rule that stated you could not use shortcuts would make them less powerful, in some cases significantly so.

Here, btw, is a more complete quote from rule 714;
Comp Rules wrote:
714. Taking Shortcuts

714.1. When playing a game, players typically make use of mutually understood shortcuts rather than explicitly identifying each game choice (either taking an action or passing priority) a player makes.

714.1a 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.

714.1b Occasionally the game gets into a state in which a set of actions could be repeated indefinitely (thus creating a “loop”). In that case, the shortcut rules can be used to determine how many times those actions are repeated without having to actually perform them, and how the loop is broken.

714.2. Taking a shortcut follows the following procedure.

714.2a 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 non-repetitive 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.
Example: A player controls a creature enchanted by Presence of Gond, which grants the creature the ability “{T}: Put a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token onto the battlefield,” and another player controls Intruder Alarm, which reads, in part, “Whenever a creature enters the battlefield, untap all creatures.” When the player has priority, he may suggest “I’ll create a million tokens,” indicating the sequence of activating the creature’s ability, all players passing priority, letting the creature’s ability resolve and put a token onto the battlefield (which causes Intruder Alarm’s ability to trigger), Intruder Alarm’s controller putting that triggered ability on the stack, all players passing priority, Intruder Alarm’s triggered ability resolving, all players passing priority until the player proposing the shortcut has priority, and repeating that sequence 999,999 more times, ending just after the last token-creating ability resolves.

714.2b Each other player, in turn order starting after the player who suggested the shortcut, may either accept the proposed sequence, or shorten it by naming a place where he or she will make a game choice that’s different than what’s been proposed. (The player doesn’t need to specify at this time what the new choice will be.) This place becomes the new ending point of the proposed sequence.
Example: The active player draws a card during her draw step, then says, “Go.” The nonactive player is holding Into the Fray (an instant that says “Target creature attacks this turn if able”) and says, “I’d like to cast a spell during your beginning of combat step.” The current proposed shortcut is that all players pass priority at all opportunities during the turn until the nonactive player has priority during the beginning of combat step.

714.2c Once the last player has either accepted or shortened the shortcut proposal, the shortcut is taken. The game advances to the last proposed ending point, with all game choices contained in the shortcut proposal having been taken. If the shortcut was shortened from the original proposal, the player who now has priority must make a different game choice than what was originally proposed for that player.

The upshot of all this, especially those parts that I've bolded, is that the shortcut is perfectly legal within game rules, and I would argue it is even legal in a tournament situation - for example, Kiki-Mite Get There was a deck in extended not too long ago that used the Kiki-Jiki/Pestermite combo. The judges did not force the players to go through all the motions to combo out. Likewise, the "mill you until your re-shuffle effects are all on the bottom" shortcut works, since it has a repeatable sequence of actions, and a definite ending point "I stop when you have 2 cards left in your library and Emrakul has not been put in your graveyard".

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-15 9:45 pm 
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I'd argue that Emmy reshuffling the yard into the library would be included under:
714.2a wrote:
It can't include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes.

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-15 11:52 pm 
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Daf wrote:
I'd argue that Emmy reshuffling the yard into the library would be included under:
714.2a wrote:
It can't include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes.


But the loop (and condition) exists outside of any outside factors. Nothing breaks it other than the controller choosing to stop. Since the loop itself is usable til infinite and that under infinite time it will occur, it's not really a conditional assumed possibility.

Alternatively, you use a much more lax meaning for "conditional". Under a more lax reading, it would mean that loops wouldn't work at all - since every piece offers a conditional action (a number to continue to or to stop on). Interpreting it in this manner is not under the same general direction that most of the rules are given by and I would believe this to be false.

Ultimately, this wording is just quite nebulous however.


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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-16 6:15 am 
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Location: New Hampshire
Daf wrote:
I'd argue that Emmy reshuffling the yard into the library would be included under:
714.2a wrote:
It can't include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes.

There is nothing conditional about that, since Emmy's trigger is mandatory. Yuo could make the case that the loop includes a condition (keep going if Emmy didn't get binned and there are more than 2 cards in the library), but again, anyone with a clear understanding of probability and the effects of infinite repetition on it (i.e. if it can happen, and there are infinite chances for it to happen, then the probability of it happening approaches (but never actually equals) 1.) that won't let you take this shortcut is being a pretty poor sport about you winning.

In my personal case, if someone was being that big a dick about it, I'd tell them "Fine. I perform the milling action 7,000,000,000,000 million times." (no conditional termination point, so they can't argue it). Then I'd insist that they do each mill until they hit Emmy, shuffle adequately, and continue.

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 Post subject: Re: Shortcuts for unbounded but conditional loops in EDH
AgePosted: 2010-Jul-16 11:41 am 
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Age: Elder Dragon
Sid the Chicken wrote:
Daf wrote:
I'd argue that Emmy reshuffling the yard into the library would be included under:
714.2a wrote:
It can't include conditional actions, where the outcome of a game event determines the next action a player takes.

There is nothing conditional about that, since Emmy's trigger is mandatory.


Yes there is. The conditional is that the player wants to stop the loop based on the outcome of the game event. The Magic looping rules do not allow for this to be shortcut.


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