Policy Changes for Aether Revolt

The New Docs


Down with rules!

Wait, no, that’s not right. The citizens of Kaladesh may be revolting, but it’s business as usual for the Consulate’s policy team, ready with a shiny new downgrade, more changes to shuffling, and a few tweaks and clarifications.

There’s a lot of words here, but most of the changes are for clarity, not changes in direction. As the Oracle Update Bulletin puts it, we have nonfunctional changes. As the Consulate values the time of its citizens, we’re going to adopt a system of color codes to guide you in your reading decisions. Red sections represent important changes. Blue sections are small tweaks, or changes that will not impact most judges. Black sections are nonfunctional improvements for clarity or correctness, or things you almost certainly thought were already in there.

What to Read




This Update is a Pile

The change that will have the biggest impact on tournaments is half a line in the MTR: pile shuffling is now restricted to once at the start of the game. We cut it back somewhat in the last update to see how it would go. The change was popular, so we’re expanding it further.

Remember, if a player pile shuffles at the wrong time, there’s no infraction associated with it. Just remind them that it’s not allowed and is wasting time. Be understanding – habits can be hard to break!

A Kinder, Gentler Deck Error Authority

Failure to Desideboard has, for years, been a frustrating infraction for players and judges. They call you over and sheepishly admit that they’ve just drawn a sideboard card. There’s clearly no malicious intent or advantage, but the game ends. That’s a disproportionate response for something that hasn’t impacted game play.

Historically, we have had a solution when the game begins. We fix the deck and make them mulligan. What if we could take that solution and make it more generic? It turns out that in many situations, we can! Now, when they call you over in the middle of the game, having just drawn or scried, or whatever else they did to discover the sideboard card, that card ceases to exist. We remove any other sideboard cards from the deck, then shuffle any missing cards back into the random portion. The penalty becomes loss of that card, and is in proportion to how disruptive discovering it was – if you realize during a search that you have a sideboard card, fixing that is minimally problematic. Scrying one fewer card, or drawing one fewer card scale up as appropriate.

Obviously, if your opponent points this out, or it’s found during a deckcheck, or a player suddenly “realizes” that they have a sideboard card just as they’re targeted with Thoughtseize, the downgrade doesn’t apply and you give the game loss as normal (well, possibly more in that last one!) And we can’t fix all situations this way. If the error put more copies of a main deck card in, that’s problematic, so it remains a game loss. But, this downgrade gives an honest player an opportunity to fix the situation before it becomes problematic, and that’s something we should be encouraging.

While we’re tuning up the deck problem rules, we took the opportunity to close an odd hole. We’ve presented decks, and while shuffling yours, I discover one of my cards in it. Obviously, we toss that card back into my deck and are good to go, right? Well… that was technically incorrect. My deck was short cards. Your deck had too many, but we ignore it because of the different sleeve. And we’re in the window where discovering problems is a Game Loss. That’s obviously not where we want to be – the easy cheat is obvious – so that loophole is closed. If my card is in your deck, we always fix it.

Libraries are for All Citizens

Bomat Courier came up a lot in the early days of Kaladesh and it highlighted that our Looking at Extra Cards rules were very library-centric. Those problems have quieted down as people get used to playing with the card, but the infraction needed some work. After hacking at it for a while, we have a new definition for Looking at Extra Cards that’s cleaner and easier to read… and no longer arguably covers Bomat Courier. That’s a Game Rule Violation (with not much remedy) and Looking at Extra Cards only covers situations where you see something you shouldn’t that’s in the deck.

We also took this opportunity to do put some more definition around the LEC/HCE border. The key is to look at whether the opponent intended (mistakenly or not) to pick up that many cards, or if they were trying to pick up the correct number and failed to do so thanks to bad dexterity (as opposed to bad counting!)

Speaking of libraries, you’ll see a lot more references to them in the document. Once pregame procedures have been completed the deck becomes the library, and we’re now using that term in those situations. For references to the deck prior to that time, or for situations where it might be either (notably somewhere like Insufficient Shuffling), “deck” is used.

In a similar vein, the inconsistent use of “events” versus “tournaments” has been cleaned up through the IPG and MTR.

A Set of Policies

One of the side-effects of Hidden Card Error was that it introduced the judge community to the concept of sets of cards. This has proved to be a powerful tool, and it’s popping up more and more in the IPG. To reflect the increasing importance, and save us having to repeat the definition over and over, there’s now a new section in General Philosophy defining them in some more detail.

Back when HCE was first defined, we didn’t have any of the set technology, and our handling of the errors was somewhat blunt. To ensure that a player couldn’t benefit from the error, we instructed the judge to not let them repeat the action. For example, if I cast Sylvan Scrying and put a card in my hand without revealing it, we originally allowed the opponent to choose a card to be shuffled back in, and that was it.

Now that we have more elegant fixes, that blunt approach isn’t needed, so we’ve dropped the “don’t repeat the action” line. If I put that card in my hand now, the hand is revealed and the opponent selects a card. If it’s a land, we’re all done. If it isn’t, that card gets shuffled in… and I do the search again, hopefully properly this time.

Markings are the Work of Rebellion

Marked Cards and its associated upgrade got a little work this update, though perhaps not as much as some folks would like. It’s an infraction that asks for (and accepts) a lot of judgment from judges, and adding hard-and-fast rules doesn’t help because there are so many confounding factors. In many ways, the Philosophy section is the most important part of the infraction. However, the definition and the upgrade description were too close to each other, so they’ve been rewritten to be a bit clearer, while still leaving judges with a lot of discretion.

Brief Notes from the Director-General

  • We have new draft review periods! It’s now 60 seconds after the first pack and 90 seconds after the second.
  • Feature matches running on the same clock as the main tournament get at least three minutes additional time to compensate for having to change locations and get set up.
  • Masterpiece cards are legal to be played in the appropriate limited format.
  • As part of backing up, cards that subsequently become known to both players can be shuffled in, as they can be fully identified. Only cards that one player knows the identity of (usually because they drew them) are returned to the original location.
  • The line in Deck/Decklist Error about differently-colored sleeved, tokens, etc. only applies to the deck. This was true before, but we’ve added a reminder that it doesn’t apply to the sideboard. The documents treat those as separate items.

Our Workmanship is Uncompromising

As always, the Consulate is thankful for the contributions of its many members who have worked with us for a more glorious future. Special thanks go out to Abe Corson, Kaja Pękala, Dan Collins, Kevin Desprez, Lyle Waldman, David de la Iglesia, Scott Marshall, Joseph Steet, Kush Singhal, Filipe Fernandes, Simon Ahrens, Jacopo Strati, Julio Sosa, Toby Hazes, and Théo Cheng for their contributions. Once the revolution has been crushed, your services will be glorified.

Please pay no attention to that dragon behind the curtain.

37 thoughts on “Policy Changes for Aether Revolt

  1. Since the beginning if time, the MTR has had the Table of Contents link to the appropriate section. Any chance the IPG can receive the same treatment next update? I’ve been frustrated with this for years. XD

    1. Hmm, neither one links in my copies. Weird.

      I would be happy to do it, but I have no idea how! Will need to research.

    2. This has bothered me for the longest time too! Also the fact that the ToC and the Introduction are in opposite orders between the two documents.

  2. The HCE Fix isnt clear when reading the IPG. Since before the line “do not repeat the action” made it clear that we don’t repeat the action(obviously), now it opens a loophole for discussion with the opponent if the AP searches a nonland card for Scrying for example.

    1. What loophole? You reveal your hand. The opponent chooses a card and says “that’s what you grabbed with Sylvan Scrying”. If it’s a land, we’re done. If it’s not, put that card back in and get a correct card instead.

      1. Well, this is not really a loophole, but the previous iteration had clearly written :

        “The player does not repeat the instruction or partial instruction (if any) that caused the infraction.”

        Yes, now that we do know that this sentence is no longer here, that seems ok to assume that we perform the action for a legal result. However this is not intuitive and for an IPG first time reader, it do not think that performing the action with a legal result is the thing that comes to mind when reading this paragraph.
        If I follow thouroughly the IPG I can read

        If the error involves one or more cards that were supposed to be revealed, the player reveals the set of cards that contains the unrevealed cards and his or her opponent chooses that many previously-unknown cards. Treat those as the unrevealed cards for any required actions. If the cards chosen would not legally be in the set as a result, they are treated as excess cards.

        Now if I read excess cards part :

        Excess cards are returned to the correct location. If that location is the library, they should be shuffled into the random portion unless the owner previously knew the identity of the card/cards illegally moved; that many cards, chosen by the opponent, are returned to the top of the library instead. For example, if a player playing with Sphinx of Jwar Isle illegally draws a card, that card should be returned to the top of the library.

        Nowhere I can read that some addictional searching should be done for the scrying. I really think that writting “And then instruct the player to perform the action again with a legal outcome” or something like that has at least as much value as the previous “The player does not repeat the instruction or partial instruction (if any) that caused the infraction.” It only costs a sentence and it will reward you by peace instead of relentless questions about this part.

  3. “Pile shuffling is now restricted to once at the start of the game” does it mean each small game or once per match?

  4. Can we change the colour scheme away from red text? For colourblind people, the black and red text look very similar. Alternately, use orange, bold, or some combination?

    1. Hmm, good point. Do you have any suggestions for colors that would work and not look hideous (so, no orange 🙂 )?

      1. I am colourblind on the Indigo and Blue spectrum thus Orange and Brown are great colours for me. I believe Yellow is good so long you do not mix it with Green.

      2. I enjoy the important/non-functional breakdown, but I don’t think color-coding is what works best. I am not color-blind but still feel there are too many colors in this article 🙂

        Perhaps just adding “IMPORTANT”, “TWEAK” etc. before the beginning of each paragraph.

      3. Adding flags looks kind of horrible. I’m hoping someone will tell me what the best colors to use is.

        Honestly, if someone has to read the whole article, it’s not the end of the world 🙂

      4. I would also like to chime in and suggest avoiding red, and other bright color that makes large texts unreadable. I would recommend more dark colors. On the other side, thank you(you= the whole team) for all your hard work.

  5. Have you considered using “mainboard” to refer to the non-sideboard cards? Given the current update I’m sure this terminology has already had some discussion, but I still find “deck” confusing. In every context other than the IPG, I expect “deck” to mean everything that goes on the decklist (hence the name).

    1. “Mainboard” is not a thing that I’ve ever heard. The terms used on decklists are “Main Deck” and “Sideboard”. The CR uses “deck” in the same way we do, and that’s ideally what we want to match.

  6. The current IPG has this under UC Minor as an example:

    F. A player fails to follow the request of a tournament official, such as being asked to leave the play area

    The new one uses this wording:

    F. A player fails to follow the request of a tournament official to leave the play area

    The older wording opened an opportunity for judges to penalize behaviour that goes against the MTR but is not specified in the IPG. Now under the current wording there is no such possibility. Am i missing something here? Why this change?

    1. The examples are supposed to be specific examples, not general guidelines. They do not set policy.

      So, the example just got rewritten to be an actual example. There’s no change here.

      Also, I’m a little alarmed by “penalize behavior that goes against the MTR but is not in the IPG”. UC-Minor isn’t a catch-all for MTR violations.

  7. In case a player dredge one (or more) extra card it would be handled as GPE-GRV? The set of cards left the library so it shouldn’t be GPE-LEC anymore but as the cards are put at graveyard at same same time, although is easy knowing which card is the extra card, technically we would back up the situation? If we restore the situation shuffling the only the last card is not extrapolable as it should be applying IPG but if we shuffle all the set is really abusable in dredge decks.

    Thank you!

    1. Cards going to a public zone are considered to go one at a time, so backing up the last one is just fine. May be worth adding that to the discussion of sets.

  8. HI Toby.

    What if a player, after drawing his beginning hand (7cards), mulligan, draw 6. Then, he suddenly relealised, he got 16 cards in his sideboard, which means only 59 cards in his main.


  9. For D/DLP: If I understand correctly, if we discover that a card is missing in between presenting and beginning to draw, we can only downgrade if the card is in the current opponent’s deck, but if it’s discovered any time after beginning to draw it can be downgraded regardless of where it is found. What is the reasoning behind this?

    1. That’s correct. It gives the opponent an opportunity to identify a problem and reduces incentive for a player to try to take advantage of the policy.

  10. “Pile shuffling alone is not sufficiently random and may not be performed other
    than once at the beginning of a game to count the cards in the deck.”

    Am I still allowed to use pile shuffling to count the cards in my opponent’s deck, after they presented it?

    Philosophically, I want to count, and it is at the beginning of the game, so I think I should be allowed to, but from the phrasing there seems to be only one deck, and I’m therefore interpreting that as each player’s own deck.

  11. I have a question about the remedy for DDLP discovered during the game for failure to desideboard :

    Do not apply this downgrade if the error resulted in more copies of a main deck card being played than were registered. For example if the decklist has two copies of Shock in the main deck and two in the sideboard, but there are three copies of Shock in the library, the penalty is not downgraded.

    Maybe it is my not-native-english but if I have a question, I might not be the only one.
    I am not sure about the clause here. I have2 points:

    1/ Does it apply if I have at least one copy of a card in my MD and others in my SB or in all the case starting from 0 cards? Strictly speaking, having 0 in my listed MD and actually having 1 now also ” resulted in more copies of a main deck card being played than were registered”. Maybe it is only me but this is not obvious as I read it, litterally.

    2/ While I understand why having more copies of an already played card in the main deck (which is probably what we are talking about here), because we cannot be sure that the one(s) you discovered is supposed to be in the deck or not, I believe that is the kind of explanation that people who read this update are expecting.


    1. It’s for situations where you increase the chances of drawing a card already in your deck. Having zero does not represent more copies of a main deck card, as there were no copies to begin with, so it wasn’t a main deck card.

  12. Hello, thank you for the article explaining the updates!

    If a player were to discover 2 sideboard cards in his/her opening 7 card hand in G1 and we apply the downgrade and fix, the player should now have 5 cards in hand. What happens if they then choose to mulligan? My hope is that we allow them to mulligan to 6 cards but reading CR103.4 might suggest that we have them mulligan to 4 cards: “To take a mulligan, a player shuffles his or her hand back into his or her library, then draws a new hand of one fewer cards than he or she had before.” Do we treat the opening hand as a 7 card hand that is missing 2 cards, or treat it as a 5 card hand?

  13. Hi Toby
    After a discussion of a situation where you search for a creature and put it on top of your library, but forgetting to reveal, I was told it was HCE. After reading the IPG and seeing the philosophy part I started to disagree because of these parts:
    Though the game state cannot be reversed to the ‘correct’ state, this error can be mitigated by giving the opponent sufficient knowledge and ability to offset the error so that it is less likely to generate advantage.

    If cards are placed into a public zone, then their order is known and the infraction can be handled as a Game Rule Violation. Order cannot be determined from card faces only visible to one player unless the card is in a uniquely identifiable position (such as on top of the library, or as the only card in hand.)

    The first part is that it can easily be verified to be the correct state. The second paragraph made me wonder if it had to be in a public zone or order was enough. As order is known if the cards are placed into a public zone, I can’t understand why you would mention order in this paragraph if it’s not enough to change it to GRV. Is there something I’m missing?


    1. For situations on top of the library, you are correct – it’s possible to immediately and completely correct the game state by revealing at that point, so it’s not HCE.

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