What is a REL
REL or Rules Enforcement Level is, literally, the level of application of the rules. What does it mean? Magic is a very broad game with both new players at their first deck and old experienced players that travel all around the world looking for GPs and other tournaments where they can face other player seeking imperishable fame in the Hall of Fame.
This tool called REL is nothing other than a method to handle all the rules of Magic: the Gathering based on the event type. Magic tournaments can be run at Regular, Competitive or Professional REL. Relations between judges and players change according to REL.
Regular events are FNMs, Game Days and all other events where no decklist is required. The aim of these events is, first of all, the opportunity of interaction and fun for new players. Judges here may assist players in order to master the game’s mechanics.
The judge who runs a Regular REL event should educate players trying to be lenient and trying to keep a calm and relaxed behaviour. However, this does not absolutely mean that acts of fraud, violence or aggressive behavior will not be punished. For these kind of behaviors a disqualification must always be issued, regardless of the REL.
It is essential and indispensable to highlight that Magic is a complicated game, so it is important that judges help players understanding and following the rules rather than punish them for mistakes that happen in their game. This is the aim of Regular-REL events. It must be a moment of communication, contact and growth for both the players community and the judges community.
Because of the educational nature of the Regular REL, exchange of information between players should be as cordial and relaxed as possible. To the question “What is your hand size?”, the player must answer honestly, with the number of cards they have,, as well as for the number of cards in his graveyard, etc. A player will still be free to lie about private information, such as the number of copies of a certain card in his deck.
Grand Prix Trial (GPT), Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier (pPTQ), Regional Pro Tour Qualifier (RPTQ), Grand Prix (GP) Day 1 and World Magic Cup Qualifiers (WMCQ) are events where Competitive REL is applied.
At these events, where very big prizes are awarded, the first notable difference is undoubtedly the atmosphere. While, during Regular REL events, the atmosphere is cordial and, sometimes, light-hearted. At Competitive REL the atmosphere is more serious, can be tense, less relaxed and players may to try to confuse their opponents with words, staying within the rules but being “very competitive”. Judges themselves slightly adjust their behaviour depending on the event in progress. While at Regular REL judges try to educate players as much as possible and try to fix problems and solve everything with a verbal caution and a pat on the back, at Competitive REL, instead, judges are required to ensure the integrity of the tournament and – only where it is possible- to rewind the game until before the first infraction.
Information exchange between players is fundamental at any REL, but at Competitive and Professional REL this has very strong implications. Some choices will not be taken again if the game will be rewound, because it’s not possible to erase from the player’s mind what has been seen and has been learned.
It’s important to notice that at Competitive and Professional REL the Infraction Procedure Guide (IPG) is applied. This tool serves the judges to solve game situations where one or both players made a mistake, and it is through IPG that judges assign penalties. This guide, as stated in the first guidelines, “exists to protect players from potential misconduct and to protect the integrity of the tournament itself” and the penalties are then assigned to enforce the rules themselves, as well as to educate players, and balance eventual advantage gained through errors. The main purpose of judges at Competitive REL is therefore to ensure the integrity of the tournament and to enforce consistency among tournaments. Penalties should hence not be seen by players as draconian punishments addressed to blast judge’s fury upon them, something really far from reality. Players should consider judges as guide designed to help them during tournaments when some situation need to be solved logically and congruent with the game’s rules, and not like three headed Cerberus ready to rebuke them at every smallest mistake. Similarly, the penalty issued by judges at Competitive REL, should be seen as instruments to pledge and bolster the integrity of the tournament. The environment should therefore always be correct and sportsmanlike, which is also what players expect attending a Competitive event.
The exchange of information at Competitive REL is different than at Regular REL. When a player asks a question about information available only through a certain operation, like “How many card types are in your graveyard?”, the opponent does not have to answer, but if he does, he’s obliged to do it properly. This difference reflects the fact that at Competitive REL players should have more freedom to bluff, however without cheating, helped by a well defined communication rules. Remember that a judge must always be answered properly and comprehensively.
Players, at Competitive REL, should become familiar with other differences, both in the relationship with other players and with the tournament itself. They should carefully list their decks and expect deck checks. These procedures are useful and necessary, to maintain the integrity and fairness of the tournament, and are carried out as fast as possible by judges to defend players from potential mistakes/cheats of their opponents and not to put them under pressure.
It is the highest REL, distinguishing those very particular events where players can participate only by invitation or merits previously acquired, as being member of the Pro Player Club, having won a PTQ or having achieved a significant result at a GP.
It is interesting to note how spectators have to behave during such events. While at Regular and Competitive REL spectators can suspend a game to call a judge when they see a mistake or a foul play, at Professional REL they must remain silent and can not stop the game directly. They must instead search for a judge and warn him/her if they deem irregularities.