BFZ Policy Changes

The New Docs


The Battle for Zendikar has been unleashed on us, and that means it’s time for an Eldrazi-sized policy update! Just kidding; it’s not as big as the last one, but there are still a few things to… process. Ahem.

When we released the Origins update, we had the big change to Drawing Extra Cards policy. At the time, we didn’t know how it would be received by the players, so we were conservative about what it applied to. After seeing it in action for a few months and talking to players about it, I’m happy to say it’s been received well and we’re expanding Drawing Extra Cards in several interesting ways.

DEC now applies to situations in which a player put a card in their hand that they were supposed to first reveal in order to prove that putting it there was legal. That one is straightforward. The player reveals their hand and the opponent chooses a card to be shuffled back into the library. Note that in this, and all other situations where this correction is used, the action that led to the problem is not repeated. So, if I activate Domri Rade, look at the top card and put it into my hand, a card from my hand goes back into the library, but I don’t get to try again with the next card. Moving this to DEC also means that the can’t-verify-legality upgrade in GRV becomes explicitly about how to handle illegally-played morphs.

DEC now also covers situations where a player is instructed to do something with the top N cards of their library and does it for too many. So, for example, I cast Dig Through Time and take 8 cards off the top of my library. We apply the DEC fix, but we apply it to that set of cards! So, you reveal the 8, your opponent selects one of them to be shuffled back in, and you continue resolving Dig Through Time as normal.

Be a little careful in situations where a dexterity error leads to a card being knocked off the top of the library at the end, but not added to the set of cards under consideration. That’s still Looking at Extra Cards. It’s most likely to come up with scry. Pulling the top card off for a Scry 1 and knocking the next one over is not the same as accidentally Scrying 2.

Finally, there was a lot of confusion over which GRV-style errors fell under DEC and which fell under GRV. If I cast a Mulldrifer for 4R and drew two cards, where did it fall? Honestly, it wasn’t that important, since the remedy was the same in both locations, but we’ve cleaned that up. Now, any GRV that directly leads to a card draw is treated as Drawing Extra Cards, with the traditional back-up-or-leave-as-is remedy. We think it’ll be helpful to track players who make a series of errors that are leading to them drawing extra cards, even if the error was not the card draw itself.

Phew, that’s a big change. Good thing that’s all we need to handle this… wait, did somebody say Scry?

So, as of Origins, Scry is evergreen. That means it’ll show up in most sets, along with our brand new shiny mulligan that everyone got to use over the weekend. But, that’s not the only effect that Scry becoming evergreen has. It also means that the barrier for making official shortcuts is lowered a bit, and so we’ve added one that essentially make Scry optional. If you don’t do it, we assume you did and left things as is. This applies to mulligans and scrying in the game. To not take up too much of your headspace, we removed a shortcut to compensate, and the winner there was the “no attacks” shortcut which… didn’t really do anything. It was just there as a standardized interpretation of a phrase that wasn’t causing any confusion. That’s not enough in this scion eat scion shortcut world.

Beyond that, there’s the usual grammar cleanup and rephrasing things to make them clearer, especially for non-native English speakers. And then there’s a few quick tweaks. Highlights:

  • It’s no longer legal to bribe a judge. Bet you hadn’t realized it was previously, in which case carry on. It’s also no longer legal to offer your opponent $20 to not block.
  • The Head Judge now has the option to ignore incorrect basic lands on a limited decklist where the intent is obvious. This pretty much exclusively applies to something like a player marking “8 swamps, 9 islands” in a U/W deck. You now have the ability to say “well, that should obviously be 8 plains” and let it go. If there’s any chance of ambiguity (say 8 swamps, 9 islands, 1 plains in a UWb deck), you should apply the penalty as normal.
  • If you back up a Communication Policy Violation, just back it up to the point at which the bad information was acted upon, not all the way back to the original question.
  • Thanks to the many, many people who wrote in to point out that we had inconsistent rules for replacing lost cards and replacing marked cards. We no longer do. Similarly, thanks to the other legion who wrote in about “simple backups” versus “small backups”.

  • We all spent the weekend gleefully violating the MTR, which told us that we were not allowed to use Zendikar Expeditions during the prerelease. That’s all covered now. Speaking of gleefully violating things, the existence of all the prerelease promos technically meant you could run the new Ulamog in Legacy last weekend (but only the promo version!) We’ve revamped the criteria for Legacy and Vintage to avoid such silliness in the future. Being a promo makes no difference any more; Vintage and Legacy cards are now defined by their existence in a released set… plus the book promos. The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice two tremendously important things: that Mana Crypt is double-banned in Legacy (it remains on the banlist to be clear, even though the card is not legal in the format) and that the 1996 World Champion card is now banned in Vintage. We felt that was a better solution than power-level errata.
  • The appendix covering the Rules Enforcement Level of various programs is now in the MTR. Which is really where it should have been all along.

And that’s a wrap! It’s a lot to ingest, but if you go study the new DEC rules, you’ll be covered for most of what you need to know this time around. Thanks to everyone who sent in ideas and suggestions. We couldn’t do it without all of you, but shout-outs to Matthew Johnson, Sean Hunt, Antonio Jose Rodriguez Jimenez, Jeff Morrow, Matteo Callegari, Daniel Kitachewsky, Will Anderson and Bryan Prillaman. Especially Bryan, whose Annotated IPG team has to put up with all these shenanigans.

I look forward to hearing how these changes work in practice and hopefully the Oath of the Gatewatch policy update will involve a minimum of swearing.

39 thoughts on “BFZ Policy Changes

  1. How does the new Scry shortcut interact with the remedy for Looking at Extra Cards? If a player fails to scry and is deemed by the shortcut to have left the cards in their original order, is he also deemed to have looked at them? If he subsequently commits LEC, are they considered to be “known” for the purpose of randomising the unknown portion of the library?

  2. I’m wondering if there’s an allowable exception to the Domri Rade category of DEC… If the card wasn’t revealed, but it turns out that the hand is composed entirely of cards that are legal for the effect (so, all creature cards in a Domri example), would a card still be shuffled in? Or is this an allowable exception?

      1. Well, if one player activates Domri, fails to show the card as he does and is then forced to reveal a hand of all creatures, does he still lose one of them or would there be room for the judge to downgrade?

        What if the top card was previously revealed or otherwise verifiable, for example if the player in question had a Courser of Kruphix on the battle earlier in the turn or was duressed the turn before? Would it make a difference if the duressing opponent wrote down the hand?

      2. Previously revealed is covered by the infraction, as the card was known. All-matching isn’t a distinction that is worth making extra rules for.

  3. I find it strange that you didn’t add the Improper Draw at Start of Game in there as well. As it is now, a player will lose 2 cards (randomly) if he calls a judge at the beginning of the game, but only one (chosen by the player) if he calls the judge after he plays his first land for example. Given that particular starting hands will get hurt more from the number of cards removed, than the choice of one, why are we giving the players the dilemma of abuse? In my opinion Improper Draw at Start of Game never deserved a special category on its own, and now I think it’s the best time to merge it with the new Drawing Extra Cards infraction.

    1. The fix for Improper Draw is better at the time than the generic fix for DEC. Forced mulligan makes more sense.

      1. I think that’s because Improper Draw is less severe fix then new DEC fix. Losing two cards is better than your opponent knowing your opening hand and then picking one card out. (It can be your only out, only sideboard card, only win condition etc.) If it’s random there is chance that you’ll keep that.

  4. “The Head Judge now has the option to ignore incorrect basic lands on a limited decklist where the intent is obvious.”

    Out of curiosity … why doesn’t this apply to Constructed also?

    1. Because limited formats have a box to fill out, and people occasionally mark it wrongly. Constructed formats have you writing down your lands directly.

  5. Could you explain the philosophy behind this: “If there’s any chance of ambiguity (say 8 swamps, 9 islands, 1 plains in a UWb deck), you should apply the penalty as normal.”?
    If, for example, the player plays just 2 black cards and a big amount of white cards, so the error is still pretty obvious, why couldn’t we downgrade?

    1. Can you definitively state what they’re playing here? If so, you have some flexibility. I’d be pretty worried about what got swapped around here, though.

      1. If “8 swamps, 8 islands, 1 plains”, and UWb deck, I would ignore.
        If “8 swamps, 9 islands, 1 plains”, and UWb deck, I would need to figure out if the player intended “8 plains, 9 islands, 1 swamp” or “9 plains, 8 islands, 1 swamp”. I would NOT ignore.

        Is it correct?

  6. … ummmm…. why did you specifically call out Mana Crypt in your article? You said that the early book promos are ok. And even the rules documents linked said that Mana Crypt would be legal in Legacy if it wasn’t banned. Just confused.

    1. I pointed out that Mana Crypt is banned even though the rules don’t make it a legal card in the format. We’re just making sure nobody gets the idea that they might be able to play it.

      1. Why is it not considered legal anymore? Book promos are legal (assuming it wasn’t banned) and Mana Crypt is such… isn’t it?

      2. That’s not what it says.

        “Legacy decks may consist of cards from all Magic card sets, plus the following cards: Sewers of Estark,
        Windseeker Cantaur, and Nalathni Dragon (Mana Crypt would also be included were it not currently banned – see

        So if for some reason Legacy decides to unban Mana Crypt it’d become legal again, correct?

      3. If, for some reason, all of R&D collectively lost their minds and unbanned Mana Crypt, we would put Mana Crypt back on the list. That’s just there so that there isn’t confusion.

  7. So is the Timeshifted sheet now considered part of the Time Spiral set? It’s not listed separately on the list of allowed sets in modern.

    For legacy purposes, why don’t Unglued and Unhinged count as “Magic sets”?

    1. Timeshifted cards have always been part of the Time Spiral set. They have the same expansion symbol.

      Unglued and Unhinged fall afoul of the “black border” part of a legal card definition.

  8. Are preview cards in Duel Decks/FTV and the like still legal on the supplemental products’ release date in legacy/vintage or are those also “promos”?

  9. If a player forgets to scry after he mulligans, is the opponent supposed to remind him, or is the do we treat it as though he opts not to scry?

  10. Someone asked what happens in the Domri Rade situation, when the player reveals only creatures in hand. I ask the opposite, what if he reveals no creatures. What’s the rulling?

  11. “If a face-down card cast using a morph ability is discovered during the game to not have a morph ability, the penalty is a Game Loss. If the player has a card with a morph ability in hand, has not added cards to his or her hand since casting the card found in violation, and has discovered the error themselves, the upgrade does not apply and the card may be swapped for the one in hand.”

    What if the player has *two* or more cards with morph in hand?
    If the upgrade doesn’t apply, we are allowing to choose which morph, potentially after extra information was gained.

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