Stalling?

  • #1
    I recieved a warning email from Wizards of the Coast for Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Stalling on Magic Online. Here is what happened:

    I am playing in a two ticket two man queue. My opponent is playing a storm combo deck, and wins the first game taking about 10 minutes, and I win the second game. Game three begins with about 11 minutes left on his or her clock and 19 on mine. The third game is looking to be in my favor as the opponent is almost out of resources, and if I can attack two times I can win. With about a minute left on the clock, my opponent starts chaining cantrips and draw spells off the top. I think I'm favored for him or her to fizzle, but that's not a guarantee. With one of his or her spells on the stack and 30 seconds left on his or her clock, I begin to activate a 0 cost ability to force him or her out of the game. I also activated this ability three other times randomly during the final minute of his or her clock. The opponent chose not to F6 then quickly F3 in an attempt to get the spell to resolve, and times out.

    Even considering that his or her deck requires careful attention to sequencing spells, this opponent took a lot of time making each decision. I made the plays necessary to win the match. I feel like time management is one of my outs when playing against certain control/combo decks that fail to get the early lock/kill. If I can activate abilities in game to win a match, why shouldn't I? I haven't found any rules about activating 0 cost abilities in game, I would have thought stalling applied to people who time out on purpose when facing lethal damage or something. I feel people who take their whole time for the match or multi-queing are the ones stalling and making the MTGO enviroment less enjoyable.

    I don't want to risk my account, so I won't be doing this exact manuver again, but I'm certainly not going to give up any matches where time is on my side. Thoughts? Am I a giant scumbag that ruins everyones MTGO experience?
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  • #2
    Taking advantage of the clock to win (or tie) a tournament game is the definition of stalling.
  • #3
    Sounds fine to me so far, but what was the 0: ability you were using? How would you activating that ability 4 times in the last minute equal that other player losing? Seems like such a small contributing factor.
  • #4
    They should have just auto-yielded to the ability.....
  • #5
    How long was the clock? Something is up with them if they're burning 50 minutes anyway (I'll admit, I've exploited the clock, but only by fast playing). But what 0 cost abilities are you using that forces them to hit "cancel?"


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  • #6
    On Magic Online each player has a time bank of 25 minutes for the entire match. Each player's clock ticks down when they have priority or are resolving a spells/abilities.

    The card was Crypt Rats.
    Quote from ishtaruku
    Siege-Gang Commander is a piece of **** now.
    **** !!!

    Quote from Tanion
    Holy hell... the arts look TERRIBLE! Venser is holding two sperm and Koth is going to fall off a cliff. Good job guys Rofl
  • #7
    It doesn't matter if it takes him 3:00 or 24:50 to win a game. Both players have their 25 minutes. You've just stolen his time. When I was playing my first mtgo draft with my also unexperienced friend we were winning 1-0 and slowly winning second game too. Clock was low on our side and opp began to act like you. We lost to time. That was terrible experience. You deserve a suspension and in paper Magic you would have been suspended. Consider yourself lucky getting only a warning and never do it again.
  • #8
    I'm kind of split on this because I think what you did was perfectly legal, moral and within the realms of online play, yet if you tried this in paper you would most certainly be punished for stalling ("Activate Crypt Rats for 0, any responses? Activate Crypt Rats for 0, any responses? ... ") Sheldama's right in that he should've just autoyielded to the ability. Though I think you're fine here, given that WotC seems to disagree I wouldn't recommend you trying it again... :S
  • #9
    Anyone with actual experience or knowledge of the terms of service care to say something about this? There will always be a group of players who dislike clock management and a group of players who enjoy it as another way to outskill your opponent. I'd like to know what exactly you were warned for.

    The only thing I would consider stalling on modo would be to take an action, wait 5 minutes, take an action, wait 5 minutes, just to annoy your opponent (at the cost of your clock), hoping his internet gets disrupted in that time.
  • #10
    The action you did had no impact on the game. It served only to force the opponent to spend time. That is not allowed, and will lead to warnings. It's also a pretty low thing to do, in my opinion.
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  • #11
    Yes, that's stalling.

    I do criticise the opponent for first of all playing the most time intensive type of deck in the format (pauper storm I assume) and second for a lack of proportion reporting your offense in a very low stakes event.
  • #12
    Here is the Magic Online Code of Conduct: http://wizards.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1928/~/magic-online-code-of-conduct

    Unfortunately it is quite vague. All they do is drop the word "stalling" without defining it. It seems that you're at the mercy of whoever is reviewing your report.

    If anyone has ever asked an ORC to clarify, please share their answer.
  • #13
    In a Paper tournament, you would have received a DQ - Cheating - Stalling, if you indicated to me, what you indicated here.

    The penalty you received on MTGO was lenient.
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  • #14
    Quote from el_pato
    Here is the Magic Online Code of Conduct: http://wizards.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1928/~/magic-online-code-of-conduct

    Unfortunately it is quite vague. All they do is drop the word "stalling" without defining it. It seems that you're at the mercy of whoever is reviewing your report.

    If anyone has ever asked an ORC to clarify, please share their answer.
    Stalling is defined in Magic tournament rules. They don't need to redefine it in MTGO code of conduct.
  • #15
    I agree that playing the ability for 0 was pretty low, though I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be tempted to do the same. I mean, we can both see the clocks and they start flashing red and I start thinking I'm going to win I'm going to win and then I realize I might not win and...

    I've lost a few game 3 tournament matches within the last minute and it is never a good feeling, especially when you've already psychologically started to count on the win. Like another poster said, the only thing really to do is to play quickly so they can't think on your turn.


    Edit: I think also there is another element present, that only applies to MTGO. Some people play multiple tournaments at the same time, or, don't show up for their matches on time (because they are putting the dog out between games or whatever), and it's very rude to the opponent. When I wait 15 minutes at the beginning of a match for them to do whatever it is that's so important and then finally lose game 3 when they have 10 seconds left on their clock, I feel like it is somehow cheap, that they should be punished for disrespecting the time I had to spend waiting for them. But I guess there is no way to prove that someone is there at the start of the game, or doesn't leave the table in the middle.
    Last edited by subnaut: 8/12/2011 6:09:21 PM
  • #16
    I tried to plead my case in a polite way, just to see what they'd say, and they pointed me towards rule 13.

    I don't want to take it any further than that with Wizards, because I am glad they didn't take a harsher action. I wish I wouldn't have wasted my "one time" on a two man queue though. Now I won't be activating my Crimson Mage multiple times on a clogged board against the guy that's multi-queueing, taking 30 second upkeeps, etc. =( I like the way el_pato phrased it: "There will always be a group of players who dislike clock management and a group of players who enjoy it as another way to outskill your opponent."

    One thing I'm glad for though is that Wizards was prompt in taking action. I played someone a few months ago who was completely out of line in the chat box, and I didn't bother reporting. In the future I will be reporting people who straight up harass me in the chat box.
    Quote from ishtaruku
    Siege-Gang Commander is a piece of **** now.
    **** !!!

    Quote from Tanion
    Holy hell... the arts look TERRIBLE! Venser is holding two sperm and Koth is going to fall off a cliff. Good job guys Rofl
  • #17
    I must say I'm sympathizing with Saito a lot more now that I think about it. I would never stall in real life or spam someone with data packets like they did in starcraft, but I will do my best to time out my opponent when my actions are defensible.

    Here's the problem: stalling is defined by intent, not by actions. You can't read someone's mind for intent, so as long as what they're doing is a reasonable play, there's no warrant for an accusation of stalling.

    It's pretty clear that spamming Cryptic Rats repeatedly on the same turn is stalling. There's no reason why you'd do that other than to stall. However, there are plenty of plays you can make that advance your opponents clock that have relevant uses in the game, so you can't be called out for using them once every turn.

    Example 1: You have a couple equipments. You opponent has a creature or effect that can tap down one creature before you attack. For whatever reason (imagine a suitable board state on your own), it's beneficial for you to have a particular creature equipped before declare attackers. Perhaps because if it is not equipped, it won't be tapped as a threat. However, before the end of your turn, your defense is stronger when you move the equipment back to an untapped creature. So, each turn you make four equip activations, which drain your opponents clock a bit. But because it may be relevant to the board, regardless of what your intentions are, making the four equips is not a culpable act of stalling. You could be disadvantaged in game if you did not make the plays.

    Example 2: This one is more devious, but still fair game in the world of mtgo. Say you have Crypt Rats, or any sort of effect you can pay that "does nothing". It's not stalling to activate this ability once per turn. Why? Because it gives you information about whether your opponent is going to respond to it. Say your opponent has an Elixir of Immortality, and you have a Cudgel Troll on board and a Naturalize in your hand. It is not stalling to activate the regeneration of the Cudgel Troll for "no reason". If you activate it and clearly your opponent has F6'd, you are probably safe to Naturalize the Elixir without him responding by sacrificing it. Maybe he did not F6, and you learn this when you activate the Cudgel Troll. But you want to test the waters once per turn or some other reasonable frequency, just to look for an opportunity. (Note: use this strategy at your own risk, because the player may just not respond to the particular ability, so he may still get priority when you Naturalize. In corollary, if your opponent yields to Crypt Rats for zero, maybe it's a good time to Crypt Rats for 10.)

    Example 3: You're playing against infect. You have a Golden Urn and a Contagion Clasp in play, and a lot of mana. You don't expect your opponent to kill you with regular damage, but you never know. So at the ends of your opponent's turns, you proliferate an extra counter onto the Urn, just in case you're able to deal with the infect and he drops a giant green dinosaur. You can't accuse someone of stalling for playing optimally.

    Example 4: You're down on tempo and probably going to lose this game. Judging by the cards in your hand you're probably going to die in 2-3 turns. But instead of conceding, you let your opponent kill you, which naturally takes some time from his clock. This is not stalling because it is possible that you draw into something, like a Wrath effect. Even if you don't have a card in your deck that can save you, it is not stalling, because you are representing to your opponent that you have an out, and that is important for the next games. You are also giving your opponent the opportunity to show you more information about his deck.

    The bottom line is that stalling is a messy thing to differentiate. Many plays exist that both have a potential to increase your chances of winning the game, and also tend to advance your opponents clock. However, their in-game effect does not always manifest, which can make it appear like stalling when it's just a really fringe play. Unsportsman-like players will take advantage of this gray area, and if they cross some line (like repeatedly spamming Crypt Rats), they should be punished. On the other hand, good players should never be afraid of making such plays because they are worried they will be accused of stalling, when in reality they are looking for a longshot way to win or are representing something.

    Personally, I would call myself an unsportsmanlike player, because I do intend to take advantage of these gray areas. But I'm not defending unsportsmanlike players, I'm defending the idea that there's more going on in the game than people often realize, and there are many plays that produce a clock advantage that are not pure stalling plays.
    Last edited by el_pato: 8/14/2011 8:45:48 AM
  • #18
    Quote from el_pato
    Anyone with actual experience or knowledge of the terms of service care to say something about this? There will always be a group of players who dislike clock management and a group of players who enjoy it as another way to outskill your opponent. I'd like to know what exactly you were warned for.

    The only thing I would consider stalling on modo would be to take an action, wait 5 minutes, take an action, wait 5 minutes, just to annoy your opponent (at the cost of your clock), hoping his internet gets disrupted in that time.


    There's a massive difference between "clock management" and what you're doing.

    Clock management involves good use of stops, and pacing your yturns at a rate that you will be able to finish the game. In short, you are maximizing the amount of actions you can do in 25 minutes.

    What you're doing is trying to disrupt your opponent's use of the clock.
  • #19
    i think the op did nothing wrong. his opponent should have learned how to play his deck better/picked a different deck alltogether.
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  • #20
    And it's stories like this that make me glad Wizards does something about these things.

    What you did is just...sad.
  • #21
    Quote from randallross420
    i think the op did nothing wrong. his opponent should have learned how to play his deck better/picked a different deck alltogether.


    No, what the OP was, by intent, against the rules, and Wizards agree's. Blaming the other deck makes zero sense.
  • #22
    i think the op did nothing wrong. his opponent should have learned how to play his deck better/picked a different deck alltogether.
    In a paper magic tournament, if I heard a sequence of events similar to what was described in this thread, I would have DQ'd the OP without hesitation, and so would many other judges that I know.

    el_pato's second example makes me glad I stick with paper magic exclusively.
    Level 1 Judge
  • #23
    i'm not ok with spamming an ability that costs 0. i am, however, ok with spamming an ability that costs any nonzero amount.
    does that make me a hypocrite? probably, but i think in a real magic game, if there's 30 seconds left until it goes to time, and i want to make sure i'm turn one, that if i have 12 untapped mountains, i can go, ok i'm gonna target crimson mage with its ability, ok i'm gonna do that again, ok i'm gonna do that again, etc.
    it's my mana, it's my ability, it moves the gamestate forward, each time i activate it there's a different gamestate, and this is a SUPER corner case. but if i have mana and i want to activate an ability, i have the right to, intentions be damned.
    there's a reason chess has a three-repeat draw system to avoid this kind of crap. if there isn't a repeat, and the gamestate keeps changing, i have no problem with it.
    but spamming crypt rats for 0 over and over would have certainly merited a DQ and/or suspension, in my opinion, if this had been any kind of high REL match. In a two-man pauper queue, you shrug and move on. Maybe you compensate the guy who was playing storm. In a ptq, you DQ and suspend and move on.
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  • #24
    Here's an interesting one. Pauper tournament match, game 3, I have a 1-0-1 lead (having forced a draw in game two thanks to, of all things, Crypt Rats).

    I'm playing a mono-black deck against my opponent's mono-white, and he drops a Circle of Protection: Black. I know for a fact that there is absolutely no way I can win once this is in play, barring my opponent doing something really stupid and tapping all of his mana on his turn. I can't win, but I'm still trying to play out the game, forcing him to burn time activating his CoP 2-3 times every turn while I just play a land, swing with my dudes, and F6, waiting for him to come up with some actual method of killing me.

    Is there anything wrong with this?

    (Endnote: I did lose that game, but won game 4 and the match without the clock becoming a huge factor for either of us.)
  • #25
    Quote from Armadillo King
    Here's an interesting one. Pauper tournament match, game 3, I have a 1-0-1 lead (having forced a draw in game two thanks to, of all things, Crypt Rats).

    I'm playing a mono-black deck against my opponent's mono-white, and he drops a Circle of Protection: Black. I know for a fact that there is absolutely no way I can win once this is in play, barring my opponent doing something really stupid and tapping all of his mana on his turn. I can't win, but I'm still trying to play out the game, forcing him to burn time activating his CoP 2-3 times every turn while I just play a land, swing with my dudes, and F6, waiting for him to come up with some actual method of killing me.

    Is there anything wrong with this?

    (Endnote: I did lose that game, but won game 4 and the match without the clock becoming a huge factor for either of us.)


    I'd say from your viewpoint, if you believe there's no way to win, you're behaving in an unsportsmanlike manner. But without perfect information, you're just representing for game 4 that you have some way to win past the CoP. Plus you never know if your opponent will make a risky play that leaves too few mana up.

    Quote from mchainmail

    Clock management involves good use of stops, and pacing your turns at a rate that you will be able to finish the game. In short, you are maximizing the amount of actions you can do in 25 minutes.

    What you're doing is trying to disrupt your opponent's use of the clock.


    This brings up a whole other point that obfuscates the diagnosis of stalling even more on modo. What does it mean to have good clock management? It means to make plays quickly enough so that you don't burn excess time off your clock. Not that you can tie that intention into it - maybe you're trying to keep your clock high, or maybe you just want the match to end soon so you can go out with your friends. It's the same way you don't know whether a person is burning an opponent's clock or playing optimally.

    But if the definition of stalling is to make a play with the intention of winning through clock manipulation, does that not mean playing fast can be an offense of stalling?

    Usually fast play does not result in a win via time. You are conserving your own clock time; this is not a zero sum game. However, in long matches, it does approach a zero sum game. Your playing fast creates a difference between your times, and your opponent loses because you had more time to burn while he did not. "Spamming" your opponent and playing fast yourself then have the same end: winning a game through means that, when intentional, are considered unsportsmanlike.

    Of course, they are functionally different. Spamming is saying, "I am removing time from my opponent's clock. If he doesn't kill me before his time runs out, and my clock is higher, I will win the game. Fast play is saying "My opponent must kill me before his time runs out. I am making it certain that I am not the one who will lose if the game goes too long." Different methods, same final cause: you win when the game cannot be completed on time.
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