Communication between players is essential to the successful play of any game that involves virtual objects or hidden information. While bluffing may be an aspect of games, there need to be clear lines as to what is, and is not, acceptable for players to say or otherwise represent. This will confirm expectations of both sporting and competitive players during a game.
A player should have an advantage due to better understanding of the options provided by the rules of the game, greater awareness of the interactions in the current game state, and superior tactical planning.
Players are under no obligation to assist their opponents in playing the game. Regardless of anything else, players are expected to treat opponents politely and with respect. Failure to do so may lead to Unsporting Conduct penalties.
There are four categories of information: status, free, derived and private.
Status information is information that must be announced upon change and physically tracked by the affected player. Methods for tracking must be visible to both players during the match. A shared method is acceptable as long as all players in the match have access to it. At Competitive and Professional REL, methods that can easily be accidentally changed (such as dice) may not be used. Status information consists of:
- Life totals.
- Counters a player has attached to them.
- Continuous effects with no defined expiration within the game that apply to that player, such as Monarch or City’s Blessing
- Unspent mana in a player’s mana pool.
- Location in a dungeon
These types of information need to be immediately pointed out when the change occurs.
A very common method of tracking life or counters on a player is with pencil/paper.
Free information is information to which all players are entitled access without contamination or omissions made by their opponents. If a player is ever unable or unwilling to provide free information to an opponent that has requested it, they should call a judge and explain the situation.
Free information consists of:
- Details of current game actions and past game actions that still affect the game state.
- The name of any visible object.
- The number and type of any counter that isn’t defined as status information.
- The state (whether it’s tapped, attached to another permanent, face down, etc.) and current zone of any object or player.
- The game score of the current match.
- The current step and/or phase and which player(s) are active.
Derived information is information to which all players are entitled access, but opponents are not obliged to assist in determining and may require some skill or calculation to determine. Derived information consists of:
- The number of any type of objects present in any game zone that are not defined as free information.
- All characteristics of objects in public zones that are not defined as free or status information.
- Game Rules, Tournament Policy, Oracle content and any other official information pertaining to the current tournament. Cards are considered to have their Oracle text printed on them.
Private information is information to which players have access only if they are able to determine it from the current visual game state or their own record of previous game actions.
- Any information that is not free or derived is automatically private information.
The following rules govern player communication:
- Players must announce any changes to status information about themselves and must represent it with a physical designation.
- If a player notices a discrepancy in recorded or announced status information, they are expected to point it out as soon as the discrepancy is noticed.
- Players must answer all questions asked of them by a judge completely and honestly, regardless of the type of information requested. Players may request to do so away from the match.
- Players may not represent derived, free, or status information incorrectly.
- Players must answer completely and honestly any specific questions pertaining to free information.
- At Regular Rules Enforcement Level, all derived information is instead considered free.
Judges are encouraged to help players in determining free and status information, but must avoid assisting players with derived information about the game state.