Tonight on Twitter, I had an conversation tonight about the recent discussions on angle-shooting with some people that I talk to quite a bit. Twitter is not a very good place to have discussions, especially for me when I try to be as clear as possible and use proper punctuation, so I decided to get my thoughts down on paper so to speak. For context, this discussion and many others got started by an incident this weekend by Kent Ketter in round 10 of the SCG Modern Open. The clip is here for reference. Keep in mind that I am not a judge in any capacity for the DCI. I was a Rules Advisor last year, but that holds no power and is irrelevant.
I want to get my opinion on that incident out of the way first then go into my overreaching point. The judge call as was reported on the /r/magictcg thread about the situation was handled as best as it could be. Neither player brought up the fact that Kent physically moved his graveyard that could easily be interpreted as exiling it. There's nothing the judge could've done in that situation. They can't read minds. Was it arguably scummy? Sure it was, but I won't fault anyone that uses the rules as they currently stand to their advantage when a significant amount of money is on the line. There's a fine edge there though.
There's been a long history of angle-shooting and feel-bads throughout the history of competitive Magic. A game as complex as this can't possibly eliminate all the corner cases and feel-bad situations. The rules attempt to be consistent across all cases. The current trigger rules are that triggers can be missed and the opponent is under no obligation to point them out for you. They haven't always been that way though. The rules used to be that all triggers must be pointed out either by the person who "owns" the trigger or the opponent. These led to arguably more feel-bad scenarios. It also lead to more suspicions of cheating and it's hard to determine intent versus they just forgot that it was a mandatory trigger. The rules now are much more sensible and reasonable I will focus on competitive rules enforcement level and not regular rules enforcement level in my arguments.
Why should a player be forced to essentially "help" their opponent remember their own triggers in a competitive game? They have to waste brainpower making sure their opponent is using their cards to it's fullest potential while still ensuring that they are playing by the rules and also at a high strategic level. What is the difference between an opponent missing a trigger, and forgetting to activate an ability? Should we remind our opponents of what their cards do? Where's the line there? Should we force to ask our opponent if they wanted to do a "may" trigger when they didn't acknowledge it?
One "feature" people have is that we are really good at pointing out problems, but we are terrible at pointing out reasonable solutions. Are the current rules perfect? Of course not, but I think these are as close as we can get to emulating realistic human behavior and intuition. It just doesn't make any sense logically to force players to basically help their opponents with their cards in a competitive event. Forcing people to do so is way worse than any angle-shoot or feel-bads that can happen. It's unreasonable to enforce "feelings" or ethics in the rules of such a complex game Magic is. Magic has millions of players all with different views on different topics. It's entirely subjective, and subjective-ness should not be a feature of the rules of a game. Things need to be consistent and be intuitive and work naturally and they do as they currently stand.
Now, with that being said, I don't want angle-shooting to be a part of the game, but that's why I got out of competitive Magic. I recognized that it was unreasonable to ask that of other people especially in a competitive scene with real value on the line. Not everybody will have the same sense of ethics as each other. That's why they have no place in actual rules. It inevitably leads to more situations like the one that spurred this conversation in the first place. Not everybody will agree on what's right or wrong ethically. I want to focus more on legality than if something is proper to most people's ethical code. The rules are this way for a reason, they've changed over the history of the game. These rules work intuitively and don't force unreasonable expectations on both players.