Effective immediately, failing to reveal your morph is now a Warning. A non-morph played as a morph, unless it’s caught by the player almost immediately, remains a Game Loss.
That’s it. Fuller explanation below.
Boy, this one was unexpectedly complicated.
The no-reveal problem took us by surprise. A lot of us were judging in the Onslaught era, and people not revealing their morphs hadn’t been a big problem. We fixed the game-loss-after-losing feel-bad, and expected things to be reasonably smooth.
Theories abound as to why there seems to be so much failing to reveal – there was no common bounce spell in Onslaught, the unmorph costs are higher in Khans, social media brings the issue to the forefront. None of them are all that satisfying, but it’s something of a combination of all of them. Another major factor is just the sheer number of games being played. We’re seeing a pretty consistent failure rate of of about 0.2%. For a 100-player PTQ (pretty good in the Onslaught days), that’s one game loss a tournament, which is nothing remarkable. For a 2,500-player GP, happening every weekend, that’s 30-something game losses, which is just a lot more notable.
From a pure EV standpoint, cheating with illegal morphs is terrible. The benefit of a 2/2 is usually small, odds of being discovered are high (any time the creature dies, or if the opponent stops you before it goes somewhere unrecoverable, the jig is up), and when it is discovered, it’s a suspicious situation that’ll often trigger an investigation. So, given that it was clear that the current situation was resulting in more game losses than we were comfortable with, making the change made sense. Simple, right?
Well, no. People kept telling us “just remove the morph rule”. Problem is, there isn’t a morph rule. What we have instead is a philosophical expression: game play errors that your opponent can’t catch should have their penalty upgraded. That seems like a pretty reasonable thing – people need to be more careful when only they can be responsible for keeping a legal game state – and the rule applies in other situations, notably keeping every conditional tutor from turning into a Demonic one. Even the most ardent proponents of making failure to reveal a morph a warning didn’t want to do the same thing for Merchant Scroll, though they’re structurally similar.
Now, we can technically write anything we want. And there were folks who argued that we could simply add “this rule doesn’t apply to morph”. to the current upgrade. We really don’t like to do this sort of thing, though. Part of what makes the IPG effective is that it strives to keep philosophical exceptions to a minimum, and usually only on ways that make intuitive sense. If we start adding all sorts of clauses to handle specific mechanics, we end up with a document that’s harder to remember and apply. Plus, going from morph being the example for a rule to morph being an exception to a rule without any philosophical change feels incredibly arbitrary.
We dug into the exact mechanics. Why was this different from the tutor situation? This led us to some… interesting… places. We messed with the end-of-game procedures. What if we extended the GL offset philosophy such that a GL that happened simultaneously with a win just negated each other? That had round-time implications, and didn’t address bounced morphs. What if the upgrade only applied when you moved something from one hidden zone to another? Now having a morph in play was also not upgraded. Each string we pulled had problematic consequences.
What ultimately worked was turning it all around and asking why we wanted to make the change in the first place. Penalties are designed to incentivize correct behavior, and the real issue here was opponents consciously avoiding morph checks because the value of an opponent missing was so high. Stories of PTQ players seeking to distract their opponents at the end of the game were the real motivation to make a change. There is a clause in the rule that says to downgrade if the information was ever in a unique position after the error. That doesn’t quite get there (since the error destroys the information.) But, it gave us a window.
When you think about the player actions surrounding the times at which morphs don’t get revealed, who controls the flow of the game? At the end of the game, it’s the loser – they are the one who acknowledges the game ending first: “yep, you got me”. It’s also the same for bouncing a morph – the opponent is initiating the action (there’s a corner where you’re bouncing your own morph, but that’s unusual enough that it’s going to draw everyone’s attention). Since the opponent controls the flow of the game at the time, it seems reasonable to put some burden on them as well. Thus, we’re going to update the appropriate Game Rule Violation paragraph in the IPG to read:
An error that an opponent can’t verify the legality of should have its penalty upgraded. These errors involve hidden information, such as misplaying the morph ability or failing to reveal a card to prove that a choice made was a legal one. If the information was ever in a position where opponents had the opportunity to verify the legality (such as on top of the library, as the only card in hand, or on the battlefield at the end of the game), do not upgrade the penalty and reveal the information if possible.
This goes into effect immediately, and will be published in the Fate Reforged IPG.
So, yeah, that’s a long explanation as to why sometimes the simplest things are incredibly hard to change if they have the philosophy pulling in other directions. We’re always looking for ways to make things better, but it has to be done in a consistent, coherent way, even if doing so presents a challenge. Hopefully this will cut down on the feel-bads at Competitive events, without opening much of an opportunity for abuse of the morph hidden information.