There have been a few topics swirling around the community this week that I wanted to take some time to address: namely the From the Vault Dryad Arbor and the Slow Play discussions emerging around pro player Gabriel Nassif and a controversial Reddit post (shocking) about Lantern Control.

FTV Dryad Arbor

If you want to get caught up on the story here, start with this episode of MTG Breakdown with Marshal Sutcliffe (co-host of Limited Resources). I disagree wth Marshal about banning the card. I would leave it in the format. However, I would change the tournament rules so that at a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour you have to play with your creatures above your lands and lands that are also creatures count as creatures for placement purposes.

If you’re one of those players who likes to put their shit all over the place and have lands in front and creatures in back and artifacts on the toilet tank cover or wherever then fine, do whatever the hell you want, in your own home. When you’re at a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour you play by a set of standard rules and one of those rules should be about where objects get placed on the play area.

Why? Because of garbage like this and people like Thomas Langlotz who think they’re so bloody clever for putting their Dryad Arbor in the row with their lands and their creatures in the row above. Get that shit out of competitive Magic and get it out today. It’s embarrassing gamesmanship and it’s literally the border of “technically legal” but “ethically a dumpster fire.”

You know what fans of any competition hate? Things that are “technically legal” but “ethically a dumpster fire.” If you want a good example go look up the Sean Avery rule in the NHL. Anything that allows players to be assholes but also allows them to gain a competitive advantage is going to result in precisely one thing: attracting assholes to your competitive environment.

Lantern Control

Which brings us to Lantern Control. Decks like this, known as Prison decks, are no longer part of the new world of Magic design but they still exist and they run rampant in Legacy where there are plenty of answers to the problem but in Modern the Lantern Control deck has carved itself a nice niche for people who want to be assholes.

Enter this guy on Reddit who wrote five thousand words (not an exaggeration) on how to stall the game so that you could win your match 1-0. Again, welcome to the world of “technically legal” but “ethically a dumpster fire.”

There was a time in Magic’s past when cheating ran rampant. It began sometime in 1994 and continued until roughly whenever you’re reading this article. This is a natural result of combining competitive advantage with people who think they’re so clever that they won’t get caught.

Perhaps Lantern Control should have been banned not for being horrible to watch on camera and not for making matches run to time but for attracting the kind of assholes to competitive Magic who would write five thousand words on how to basically cheat by doing something “technically legal” by exploiting the way the slow play rules are written.

Slow play is somehow a very grey area of the tournament floor rules because there’s no specific time limit on any action. It just says players can’t take longer than “reasonably required.” That’s a massive problem and I’ll tell you why: Judges are not as good at Magic as competitive players. That’s the bottom line. So what’s “reasonably required” for a Judge could be much longer than it is for a pro.

Gabriel Nassif

Which brings us back to that match involving Dryad Arbor and Gabriel Nassif. Another post to the glorious pool of wisdom that is Reddit (/s) pointed out a couple fun facts about the match, which was on-camera, that don’t involve Dryad Arbor:

  • In game one Nassif spends 3m10s resolving Faithless Looting
  • Before attacking into that Dryad Arbor, Nassif spent just under five minutes thinking about it

Ha ha ha that’s 8 minutes of a 50-minute match to make two decisions. Seems like the “reasonably required” amount of time right? Nassif eventually got a warning for slow play in that match but like, too little too late right?

Judges need to be much more aggressive about calling slow play because its awful for coverage and if its awful for coverage its awful for the long-term prospects of competitive Magic as a form of entertainment. Wizards of the Coast needs to be growing their audience not pandering to the cries of pro players who need more time to make decisions.

Which brings us to my closing thoughts: I have no sympathy for pro players but we need to make sure the fan experience is always positive. I don’t care that Nassif attacked into Dryad Arbor like he’d never heard of or seen the card before in his life. I don’t care that he needs extra time to contemplate his decisions. Cry me a river.

What matters is that the viewer had to sit through that garbage and watch Nassif waste all of that time in our lives making those decisions just to walk into that stupid Dryad Arbor. Both players should have been given game losses for turning that match into a dumpster fire for the coverage team.

This is why legitimate sports leagues have unions and representatives to negotiate between the players, the league, and the judges/referees. Everyone needs to work together to make the product better for the fans without pissing off too many players, judges, or Wizards employees. Without those structures in place, all of the pressure is on Wizards to make everyone happy. Here’s a guess at how that’s going to continue to work out: not so well.

Dear Wizards: fix your sport. Call slow play penalties like you actually care about the product you’re marketing.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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