“United Sanctuary. Dragon Empire. Dark Zone. Magallanica. Star Gate. Zoo. Long ago the six nations lived together with the players in harmony. Then, everything changed when the rulesharks attacked. Only the judges, masters of all the rulings could stop them, but when the world needed them most, they vanished. A hundred seconds have passed, and a new group of judges have come to be. Thought their skills are great, the players distrust them, and all have a lot to learn. But I believe, the judges can bring order to the game.”
Ever since I was a kid I have played different trading card games, I started with Pokémon, fell in love with Magic and Yugioh, eventually I came to vanguard after I won a deck from an ARG contest, and I played most card games in between. One of the things that I always found most fun, especially as a kid, was finding ways to work rules to my advantage, I always enjoyed finding the kinks that led to unique rulings to benefit me, it went along with my general control based play style, and this interest always led to me being quite interested in learning the rules of any given game to the letter. Not only that, but I always got interested in learning why the rules existed, what the reasoning behind them where, the idea, and how they were formed, what history may have existed or what story. After a while, I became comfortable with the rules, for yugioh, for magic (although, I will profess that I still am learning for Magic), and eventually for Vanguard. The one thing I saw as a common thing in every game however, was a lack of understanding in the rules by the players, which led to many misunderstandings, misconstructions, followed by rumors and malice with little basis that was caused by simple confusions and half stories. Vanguard is without a doubt, no exception, and it has led to an unhealthy attitude surrounding how the game works, with very few people learning of the few simple issues, and how to avoid them. Sadly, this has resulted in many unnecessary game losses, and many unfounded and spiteful comments against the judges for these game losses.
The outstanding issues and drawing your own conclusion
I will admit, I have a big addiction to this game, and somehow that addiction led to a situation where I became pretty connected to the community. Somehow I ended up an admin on the largest facebook group for the game, friends with judges, and I travel a good bit with friends from my local shop to different locations for bigger tournaments whenever I can. Because of this, I have heard a lot of the horror stories, and there is one phrase that most players have heard discussed, at every level as the malicious and vile act by the judges that cost someone a shot at the top, “They got a game loss because they stood before they drew”
It is without a doubt the most controversial and least understood situation in the game. Almost every regional in this recent tournament season had a game loss in the top 8 due to this situation, and almost every time someone asked a simple question, “They forgot one time, why do they get a game loss for that?”
For an answer to this, let’s look at the Bushiroad comprehensive floor rules, 302.1 , “Minor infractions, Ex. Entered the draw Phase without standing his or her units…If the infraction does not affect the current game, rewind the game to the point just before the infraction had happened. If the game had advanced to the point it cannot be rewound, it will fall under a moderate infraction.
Default penalty: Caution”
Now, the big question is what does this mean? The first part is easier, if the game can be rewound to fix the game state, it is put back to that point. In this case it does not mean that the player cannot stand his units, which is a stark contrast to the common story heard. This division between what happens and the stories heard comes from the fact that in Japan the original ruling was that the units remained rested.
With the second part and the third part things become tricky, and require an understanding of the three most common penalties. A “caution” is a slap on the wrist, and is just a simple caution as it states, alone these rarely matter, however if the same mistake that is a “caution” penalty is repeated, then it is upgraded to a “Warning”. A warning is more severe than caution, but it is quicker to compound and affect you, and like a caution, multiple warnings lead to the most severe of the three most common penalties: Game loss, which is self-explanatory.
How this works is that if you stand before drawing, but it severly affects the game state to the point it cant be rewound, such as the next turn started, this results in a warning. If this happens a single time, nothing will come of it. However, two or three will result in an upgrade to game loss. The same applies for receiving a caution instead of warning, except it takes three to five times usually. It is important to note, the amount of times depends on the level of tournament, the span between infractions, and situation. It could be more or less depending on the factors before upgrading the penalty.
This is where the missing link is to every horror story I have heard comes from, in the tale of how unfair it was that a player in the top two lost a regional because he forgot to stand before drawing, it is rarely mentioned that the infraction happened three or four times. The story of how this cost a player a game in the top eight? It happened two times in one game, within a few turns of the previous infraction.
In the end, however, this only explains how it works, not the most important question, “Why?” for that answer we must look at an idea called “open design”. Open design is an idea used whenever creating something, be it a story, or a game, or rules, in that you leave as many open spots as possible to avoid issues in the future. We see this in older vanguard cards that specify “Grade 3 or higher vanguard”, for the longest time this seemed pointless since there was only grade 3 vanguards, but with the release of the new grade 4 Kagero unit in Japan, this makes all past cards able to be used in conjunction with it and any future grade 4, without confliction wordings, rules, or issues. The idea of open design is also the reason behind standing before drawing, currently it is not something that matters very much, there is little issues that come from it, however they are entirely separate phases which could matter in the future. It is possible we could see a card that has an effect “retire a resting unit during your draw phase” in the future, which would make the two phases distinctly important. By enforcing the rule now it leads to players breaking the habit much more efficiently, so that the only punishment currently is a few cautions that rarely affect a player, rather than later when one mishap of this effect could lead to an irreversible game state and a game loss.
Don’t get too defensive
Now while the primary issue that has caused rifts in the community is the standing and drawing, another common tale of game troubles resides with improper guarding. When you declare guardians, place all chosen guardians into the circle at once, don’t place them then suddenly decide “Oh wait!” this has caused many issues, leading to early drive checks and leading to a nearly impossible situation to resolve where warnings are given that are entirely avoidable. Also, when you guard with a perfect guard make sure to place the unit on the guardian circle, declare your intent to perfect, and announce what unit you are discarding, then most importantly discard the unit. If you do not announce the effect, and you place the second unit on the guardian circle and allow the opponent to proceed with their drive checks it is considered using the perfect guard as a 0 shield, and the second unit as a guardian too, instead of using the perfect shield ability.
Now while I haven’t gone over every different penalty, and instead focused on the complexity behind standing and drawing, there is a single thing that is at the heart of nearly every single issue that ever occurs. Due to a lack of communication between players there are always rule issues and penalties that have to be given. Properly communicate and follow procedures that are outlined in the comprehensive rules and floor rules. It is easy to avoid troubles that way. When you do checks set them in the trigger zone, state what unit it is, if it is a trigger state clearly where you will put the effects, and then repeat if it is a twin drive. If you attack clearly state its power, state what unit is attacking and what unit you are attacking, while pointing at each. Clearly talk to your opponent every step of the way for every little action, what cards are being used, where they are being used, and every little thing. It sounds obnoxious, but it prevents mix ups and misunderstandings, and it will keep you from getting called.
Don’t judge others
Remember, most importantly, beyond everything else though, that what you are playing is a game. The thing that attracts so many to this game is that the community is pretty laid back and open minded, and the players pretty accepting. Keep up a fun attitude, and don’t get too concerned on whether you win or lose, don’t let pressure get to you. Just have fun and don’t get personal, remember everyone has a story, and you don’t know it. A good attitude will take you far.
Respect not only your fellow players, but also the judges and organizers. Despite what many say, the judges are not judging for free stuff (the amount they get as thanks are pretty paltry), almost every judge across every game does it because they genuinely love the game, and the people. They want to help any way they can, and they are doing their best to make it run smooth. It is a thankless and hard job, and it means a ton to them to hear something as simple as a thank you. Talking from experience, I can tell you if you talk to the judges, and keep good tabs with you then they will be glad for it, and you can make some great friends, and they will especially watch your back. I had my stuff stolen at a regional, and they were invaluable in helping me find it, figure out details, and retrieving it. Even if there are a few rotten eggs (which every group has, and I can tell you there are very few in the judge community), they are above all there to help you.
In the end though, help yourself avoid ever needing a judge. A simple read through of floor rules and the comprehensive rules will answer problems you get almost every time, and following procedure without skipping and taking shortcuts will cut down trouble in the long run, and make your gameplay much smoother and entertaining. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it does nothing but help.
Overall, play hard, and have fun. This is a hobby we can all enjoy for a game we all love. Sometime, if you ever do get the chance though, I wholly suggest you give up a day or two of playing to judge. It is an unforgettable and worthwhile experience that offers a whole new variety, and rewards you a ton. Not to mention you get to meet a ton of fantastic players and staff.
That is what I plan to do for as many of the Vanguard circuit tournaments hosted by ARG as I can, to travel and judge, and I hope to meet as many of you guys as possible.