There’s a lot of changes in this IPG. It’s not as scary as it looks. Heck, if we can survive Vegas/Utrecht/Chiba, this should be cake.
There’s one major policy change, a reflowing of the whole guide to focus on infraction identification, and then the usual miscellaneous tweaks and clarifications. Don’t panic!
Rethinking Drawing Extra Cards
Here’s the big one. Traditionally, Drawing Extra Cards has been a pain point. Because of the hidden information involved, it’s hard to notice, hard to preempt, and hard to fix afterwards. As such, as long as there’s been guidelines, drawing an extra card has been a game loss, even though that penalty is out of proportion to the actual impact of the error on the game. Over the years, we’ve tried various definitions to try to mitigate the worst situations, but all efforts have either been such that it never gets applied, is difficult to understand, or produced results that seem too harsh. Now, we’re going to try something different. Drawing Extra Cards is a Warning, accompanied by revealing your hand and having the opponent choose the excess cards to shuffle back into the library
Some people see this as a philosophy change, because we have traditionally shunned “in-game fixes”. That’s not quite the case. What we want to avoid is penalties that have unpredicatable in-game impact. For example, we could add a rule that said “GRVs come with a 2 life penalty”. In some situations that’s irrelevant and, for others, it might as well be a Game Loss. That sort of inconsistency is to be avoided.
But, for Drawing Extra Cards, a couple of factors mitigate these concerns. The first is that it has traditionally been a Game Loss. No matter how painful the new remedy is for the player, it’s guaranteed to be less harsh than the current approach. The other is that the remedy is guaranteed to mitigate the advantage that can be gained from the error (except for the unusual case where the problem isn’t detected for a few turns). By allowing the opponent to choose, the judge does not have to make a strategic assessment, which is an important requirement for any penalty, as it protects the judge from accusations of bias.
Only infractions that would previously have been a game loss employ the new remedy, with a minor tweak. We’ve extended the “objects on the stack out of order” downgrade clause from the old definition to also apply to reversing instructions on a card. It reflects the idea that there’s a card waiting to be drawn, even if done with imprecision, and that’s a small disruption that doesn’t require a punitive fix.
And yes, a player can concede before revealing their hand (though they still get the Warning).
A Focus on Infraction Identification
If you look at all the changes in the document, the majority of them fall into this bucket. The good news is that they don’t represent policy change, just a streamlining. The introduction to the IPG has always been a bit all over the place – a little bit of philosophy, some encouragement, some technical details, some narrative, all blended together. That’s OK for rambling blog posts (not that I’d know anything about that), but a document about infraction identification and resolution should probably focus the opening sections on identifying infractions and providing tools for their resolution. Now, the introduction does that, focusing on when to intervene, when to deviate, and explanations of various terms that will be used in the IPG (penalty types, backups, shuffling).
As a sidenote, there is no longer a formal Caution. We haven’t used the Caution for years, and it’s arcana that’s not needed in a judge toolbox. Judges just need to understand that sometimes it’s OK to tell someone they need to stop doing something without further penalty.
We also wanted to make it clearer when upgrades or downgrades were available for an infraction. In the past, those might have been mentioned in the philosophy section, or in a random sentence in the middle of the remedy. Now, if an upgrade or downgrade is a possibility, it’s explicitly highlighted in its own section of the remedy. A judge can turn to the IPG, find an infraction that matches, and see clearly conditions that might modify the base penalty.
- The last remaining references to multiplayer formats have been removed. Don’t run multiplayer events at Competitive REL, m’kay?
- The IPG is designed for use at Competitive and Professional REL. It doesn’t make much sense to have all the REL definitions in it, so those have been shifted to the MTR.
- Speaking of the MTR, one change to highlight in there: what’s in your mana pool is free information.
- Missed Triggers get a few clarifications, mostly around expectations for triggers with no visible effect, and triggers that happen on your opponent’s turn.
- Going down a card for Improper Drawing at Start of Game counts as a mulligan.
- Tardiness gets a clearer definition, though that shouldn’t change anything.
- If a decklist is altered with basic lands because a player loses some cards, the change can be reverted without penalty at a later point. The player still needs to alert the judge that the change has been reverted.
Thanks to everyone who sent in problems, questions and suggestions for improvement. The IPG is ever-evolving and improving due to your efforts, and I hope the trend continues with this version. Special shout-outs this time to Brian Schenck and Matthew Johnson for their efforts and suggestions. They had a lot of impact on the changes you see here.