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.