The new IPG has been out for a week now, and people seem really happy with the new Hidden Card Error (HCE) infraction. We’ve gotten lots of kudos on how intuitive the infraction is and how easy it’s been to explain to judges.
In particular, by being philosophy-driven, it means that most situations in which it applies should be quite intuitive and, conversely, a situation where HCE seems horribly wrong is a good sign that it probably is! Seriously, if you find yourself in a situation where it looks like applying the HCE remedy would do ridiculous things to the game, issue a GRV and talk about the situation with other judges later.
That being said, there are bits of confusion here and there, and I thought it’d be worth talking about them, both to provide some consistency in how they’re handled and clarity about the infraction and what it means. Understanding these scenarios should help you see the borders of HCE and how it’s intended to work.
Remember that we’re going to descend deep into the corners here. The first few are kind of normal, but it starts to get crazier. That’s OK! Policy always starts by making sure that the common cases are handled well, and we’ll refine it to deal with the corners better as they come up.
Dark Confidant has been a source of pain since it got printed. The Missed Trigger rules reduced the annoyance substantially, but there were still a few corners of pain. That’s why we put a Dark Confidant example into HCE explicitly, because it now handles those corners.
Note that the example refers to “resolving” a Dark Confidant trigger. Simply drawing a card for your turn isn’t resolving Dark Confidant incorrectly; it’s missing Dark Confidant entirely. Resolving Dark Confidant involves something along the lines of announcing “Resolve Bob”, then putting a card straight into your hand, or starting your turn and drawing two cards.
The reason we chose this example was because it’s important to understand that HCE may leave players “down” a card, and this is acceptable due to the nature of their error. If I remember my Dark Confidant trigger and fail to reveal, I lose the card, even though there’s no scenario in which I wasn’t supposed to have that card. Losing the card is the penalty for the error.
People have wrestled with the “If a pending ability on the stack would result in a legal overall outcome” sentence. It’s best not to dive too deeply into what it means to be on the stack versus the general idea that there’s a sequence of related actions going on, and if one of those upcoming actions is going to fix the situation, that’ll do.
So, if I activate a Rummaging Goblin and draw before discarding, there’s clearly a draw action coming up, even if technically all the bits that need to be paid to put it on the stack aren’t there. This part of the rule says that Tap-Draw-Discard instead of Tap-Discard-Draw gets you a warning and we move on. Likewise for Horizon Spellbomb resolved out of order, or Serum Visions done backwards. Think of it as a slight loosening of Out-of-Order Sequencing (which it isn’t quite) to make everything work.
Sensei’s Divining Top
There’s still an example in LEC for a player looking at the top 3 cards of their library for a Sensei’s Divining Top that’s no longer in play. I don’t think it much matters. The result – shuffle those cards into the library – is the same either way.
Fundamentally, HCE is about giving the opponent agency. And in the case of someone looking at the top 3 cards of their library, there’s none to be given – the shuffle itself fixes the infraction. So I don’t think there’s any need to involve the opponent here.
The Forbidden Look
I’ve written about the forbidden look before. A player mulligans, scries, then announces they’re going to mulligan again. The guidance here – they’re going to mulligan down another card, most likely – hasn’t changed, but the path has, technically. Honestly, it’s a bit handwavy, but here’s the process:
The player draw their hand of six. They scry. Then they announce a mulligan and shuffle their hand into their library before anyone can stop them. Maybe they draw a new hand, maybe they don’t.
Looks like the infraction was shuffling cards into their library that they weren’t supposed to! The HCE fix is to show the library to the opponent and let them choose the number of cards that are supposed to be in the hand – in this case, five, since that’s where they’re mulliganning to.
Of course, odds are the opponent will just short circuit that and mulligan to four right away. And that’s fine, since they have that option.
(A strict reading of the infraction might be interpreted as the opponent chooses the six card hand because that’s what got shuffled in. But that doesn’t pass the smell test here, since it would be totally irrelevant.)
Apparently there’s been a rash of situations where a player has put their hand down on a Morph card, and picked it up while doing so. My goodness! Face-down on the battlefield philosophically qualifies as a hidden location.
You reveal the hand to the opponent and they choose a card to put onto the battlefield face-down. It may not have morph, but we never had an assurance it had morph in the first place, and manifest has allowed scenarios where a face-down card without morph is possible. Of course, we’re not going to penalize the player for having a face down card that doesn’t have morph!
It’s worth noting that if this happens with a manifested card, the card that returns to the battlefield should still have a manifest ability attached to it.
Pyxis of Pandemonium
So I just exiled two cards into my Pyxis pile. Whoops.
This is one of those situations where the HCE solution is obviously insane as there’s a philosophy mismatch even while technically meeting the standards. Welcome to deep in the corners! Functionally, all those cards are identical, since nobody has knowledge of them, and there’s no need to mess with that, even though the zone is technically hidden. Just shuffle one back into the library at random.
That’s not a real card.
What? It’s in Gatherer.
People get really upset when I say this, but the truth is that we don’t think about Sylvan Library when we’re writing policy. That card doesn’t work in the framework of real-life Magic, and the best thing to do is just let judges improvise a solution as best they can.
That being said, it turns out that HCE actually provides some help here. If they’ve gotten themselves into a situation where the Sylvan Library cards have ended up mixed in with the rest, ask the player how much life they wish to pay. Then, let the opponent remove whatever extra cards are left and shuffle them back into the library.
Speaking of shuffling cards back in, what’s with not putting them back on top if the cards were known by the player before being drawn?
There’s a certain appeal to being able to make things get back to where they were, and it’s something that we’ll likely explore moving forwards. As with the Dark Confidant question, it’s OK to not restore the game to match exactly. The penalty for making an error of this type is losing a card to your deck, and that’s consistent.