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Shatterskull Smashing

With the Neon Dynasty Championship Looming, An Arena Bug Could Affect Popular Decks

Recently discovered bugs affecting interactions with Shatterskull Smashing and Magma Opus will not be fixed in time for this weekend's Neon Dynasty Championship.

In this article: Recently discovered bugs affecting interactions with Shatterskull Smashing and Magma Opus will not be fixed in time for this weekend’s Neon Dynasty Championship.

We’re coming right up on the Neon Dynasty Championship, the first pro-level Magic tournament since the Innistrad Championship back in December of last year. Yet with the tournament set to get underway tomorrow, Friday March 11, Wizards of the Coast has confirmed that a gameplay-affecting bug will not be fixed before competition begins.

On the same morning when Wizards published the metagame previews for both the Alchemy and Historic portions of the Championship, they apparently also posted a message to a Discord for event participants detailing a bug that can sometimes cause the cards Shatterskull Smashing and Magma Opus to “incorrectly fail to do damage.” A screenshot of the announcement became widely shared on MTG social media this afternoon as players reacted to the news:

According to the original explanation, both cards would fail to deal any damage to any of their targets if one of them became an illegal target before the spell resolved. Normally, one of the targets becoming illegal either because it was removed or gained an ability like Hexproof, say, through a Snakeskin Veil or something similar, the rest of the spell’s damage would still be applied normally.

The message, which appears to have been written by Wizards’ Game Systems Administrator Tony Mayer, states that Wizards only caught wind of the bug after the deck submission deadline had already come and gone. It also says that as Wizards has no fix available for the bugged interaction, the official ruling will go along with how the Arena client interprets it.

Although we don’t have access to the decklists yet (check back for those tomorrow), both Smashing and Opus are likely to appear in decks at the Championship. Just as an example, there are nine players who have submitted Jeskai Hinata for their Alchemy portion of the tournament – an archetype that is typically centered around the interaction between Opus and Hinata, Dawn-Crowned.

This would have been a significant bug that would be likely to come up in the course of normal matches where either of these cards are played. However, Wizards apparently did some “additional review and testing” on the bug, and discovered that the range of interactions where the bugged interaction occurs is much more narrow than they originally believed:

Transcribed from screenshot, Discord message from WotC_Tony:

-Smashing and Opus work as expected to remaining targets in the normal case where one or more of that spell’s targets are made illegal via hexproof/sacrifice/protection (and one or more legal targets remain)

The bug has been clarified:
Smashing/Opus will not do damage only when something above it on the stack has a target that fizzles.

Example: Showdown of the Skalds Chapter 2 or 3:
Say the Smashing player controls Showdown, and they cast Smashing. Showdown triggers and targets one of the Smashing player’s creatures with +1/+1. If that target is made illegal in response, only then will Smashing deal no damage.

The actual bug is even more convoluted, although thankfully, much less likely to come about naturally in play. Bugs are nothing new to Arena or any other online card game or any other computer program in general, for that matter. Nevertheless, some players in the community were upset that the bugged interaction didn’t come to light until after the deck submission deadline had already come and gone.

While it is certainly true that the actual bug is significantly narrower in scope, it’s possible that, with players now being aware of the issue, it could be intentionally exploited. It seems like causing another spell or ability to be fizzled on the stack ahead of your opponent’s Smashing or Opus would likely be highly inefficient in some way unless the opponent was being careless with their own triggers on the stack.

Using Opus as an example, assuming there was no other spells on the stack at that time, the other player would have to cast one spell or activate an ability of some kind, and then use another spell or ability to make the target of the first illegal in order to prevent the damage.

With that being said, if that twisted play prevents the opponent’s Magma Opus from dealing 4 damage to your face when you’re at 3 life, that’s obviously a huge deal. Conversely, although double-spelling to fizzle your own spell is clearly not efficient, it is still game winning if it prevents your opponent’s Shatterskull Smashing from removing your two on-board lethal threats.

If a player at the Neon Dynasty Championship were to intentionally leverage this bug to win a game and/or match, it would almost certainly be seen by some as poor sportsmanship. However, when real, significant cash prizes are on the line (the tournament has a prize pool of $450,000), would it even be fair to blame them? All players involved should now be aware of the interaction, and on the lookout for it in relevant matchups. The ruling from WotC officials states that the games will play out as Arena interprets them, so there would be little ground to argue that they cheated.

The situation described above is not something that will necessarily come up in the course of play this weekend anyways – even if a player had it in mind to intentionally abuse the bug, they would still have to have the right cards at the right time to make it happen, and it would have to happen in a game and match that were close enough for it to matter. Hopefully, the situations under which the bug can occur are narrow enough to avoid controversy for any of the Championship’s competitors.

Regardless, the Neon Dynasty Championship will be getting kicked off tomorrow, with live coverage available from Wizards at starting at 9:00am PST. Bug or no bug, it’s guaranteed to be some intense and exciting play as members of the Magic Pro League, Rivals League, and other qualified players compete for prizes, notoriety, and invitations to World Championship XXVIII.

We’ll be watching it all unfold ourselves and presenting summary coverage of each of the Neon Dynasty Championship’s three days of competition. We hope to see you there!

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Dude from Vermont who likes to play Magic and Escape from Tarkov. Musician, writer, and gamer. Submit feedback or corrections to @Paul on the Discord.

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