We’ve got a new infraction that changes almost nothing, and a two-word change with deep implications. We’ve got wholesale revision to the most commonly-invoked shortcut, and a new type of relatively rare unmissable trigger. We’ve got new rules for identifying cards, and old rules about not helping others do so. More HCE! More about sets! It’s an Elder Dragon sized update!
The Big Split
Let’s start with the most changed text, which is a reversion of sorts. Back in the mists of time all of Section 2 of the IPG was dedicated to Deck/Warband Errors (cue a bunch of people saying “What’s a warband?”). There were four separate sub-infractions. It was a lot, and as part of the great streamlining of 2010 – an update that reduced the size of the IPG by seven pages – everything got reduced down to a single infraction: Deck/Decklist Mismatch. All was good.
But, part of the reason it was good was that the various aspects of the infraction were united. That worked well up until the change in philosophy for illegal decks. In recent updates, the infraction has become too complicated, needing multiple downgrade paths with their own subclauses, and a whole lot of exceptions. Those papered over a fundamental split; how we handled Decklist problems and how we handled Deck problems were now very different. So, now we have two separate penalties: Decklist Problems and Deck Problems, and they’re much more straightforward. It’s an indication of how far the two have diverged that the former defaults to a Game Loss and the latter to a Warning.
For all the change, though, if you understood the policy before, you’re on solid footing now. Only one piece of policy changed: discovering sideboard cards in your opening hand is an automatic mulligan rather than removal of the cards. Removing multiple cards from the opening hand was too punitive, so this ensures the same remedy no matter how many cards are discovered before the game begins.
Until WLTR and WER update, report both under the old infraction. Also, Insufficient Shuffling moves to later in the document to make room. No other changes there.
Elsewhere, we have significant changes that required a lot less text…
Some of you may recall some controversy over the combat shortcut at PT Dublin. It was a textbook ruling (well, there were multiple problems there, but “too late to Crew” was straightforward), but it engendered some controversy. I got some… colorful mail from chunks of the internet.
Ironically, I’d been talking with R&D a month before that about the Combat shortcut, because it had problems. Just not the ones that people were up in arms over. After all, the shortcut has been doing good work for ten years now. Why was it suddenly an issue, and why were people noticing now?
The combat shortcut works horribly with beginning of combat triggers. It didn’t matter, though, as it wasn’t design space being explored. Then Goblin Rabblemaster came along and we had to handwave a lot. At least that one didn’t target. Then Surrak came along. At least that one was only fringe-tournament-playable. More handwaving, since saying “Move to Combat” meaning you missed your trigger was a bit awful! And then the dam broke and there were a whole bunch of them.
So, my question to R&D was: is this coincidence, or is this design space that needs to be accounted for. And the answer was the latter, which meant we were going to be revisiting the shortcut.
Unfortunately, you just can’t have everything. Among the things you’d ideally like to accommodate:
- It needs to be friendly to non-native English speakers. Having to parse the difference between “I pass priority in Combat” and “I pass priority into Combat” is not something we want in a global game.
- It needs to prevent players taking advantage of ambiguity to be able to claim that they’re still in their main phase after the non-active player’s action has been resolved.
- It needs to prevent the active player from forcing the non-active player to act first when they shouldn’t have to (relevant for Mutavault/Cryptic Command scenarios)
- It needs to accommodate the non-active player having floating mana.
- It needs to let the active player crew or activate creature-lands at the intuitive time.
- It shouldn’t be too punitive on missing beginning of combat triggers unless the player really had gone past that point.
- It needs to reflect that non-active players may want to remove the source of triggers before combat.
- It needs to avoid “Combat”, “pass”, “declare attacks”, “wait, I want to do something first”
- It should be short to express and intuitive to understand.
That’s a lot! Several of them are in conflict with each other. So we talked with R&D about relative priorities. And we have a solution which, while not elegant, gets much of the job done.
If the active player passes priority during their first main phase, the non-active player is assumed to be acting in beginning of combat unless they are affecting how or whether a beginning of combat ability triggers. However, if the non-active player takes no action, the active player has priority at the beginning of combat. Beginning of combat triggered abilities (even ones that target) may be announced after any non-active player action has resolved.
What this does, in a bunch of words, is set the default case so that the active player moving to combat (usually) means that the non-active player is acting in beginning of combat, but the active player’s role there only happens after that. They haven’t missed triggers, and they can still crew. But, by offering to pass priority into combat, they can no longer claim to be in main phase for non-instant spells afterwards unless the non-active player took an action to prevent the trigger.
This gets us everything above except for #3 (you can bait priority now, though not if the non-active player is very careful), #8 (the double pass can, and technically always does, happen) and it’s arguable whether we achieved shortness. It’s not the cleanest approach, but it’s compatible with how people actually play the game and minimizes the gotchas. Wordy but invisible is an acceptable outcome!
As it was doing similar things, the end-of-turn shortcut got reworded to be similar. The differences are reflective of what normally happens afterwards. We would expect someone passing the turn to also announce an end-of-turn trigger target at that point.
While we were in the shortcuts section, we tuned up a couple of others. The planeswalker redirection rule got tweaked to account for cards that might split damage, but is otherwise unchanged. The Counterspell target rule got tweaked slightly because of Disallow – if a spell had triggered something, you might suddenly find yourself targetting the trigger, which seemed less likely to be the desired target, so now unless you call it out, you’re targetting the top spell.
There’s a change to the Communication rules, too. It’s tiny but has an outsize impact. What a counter is has always been free information, but now the number of them is also free.
We’ve all encountered the situations – this nickel is three +1/+1 counters, and the penny is a charge counter. That’s my pile of energy counters. I’m tracking experience in my head. There’s a lot of counters in the game, and their representation may not be intuitive, so we’re putting a higher communication burden there – you have to be forthright about the information. It also means we no longer need to call out poison counters as special in various places.
Even More Communication
Since we were talking to R&D about the Combat shortcut, they also raised one particular pain point for them: they were unhappy about how cards like Malfunction were interacting with the trigger rules and asked us if there was something we could do about that.
The concern is understandable. There’s a certain immediacy to that part of the Aura that makes it feel more like a spell resolving. There are some taboos around touching other player’s cards, which means that people are more comfortable with the opponent taking the action, and it can be hard to register that it didn’t happen, even if you were assuming that it did. It renders the rest of the card irrelevant if you were hoping to remove a blocker.
We’ve kept the change narrow; it only affects the Auras that tap on resolution, and three other (not-played) cards whose identity will be left for the reader to discover. For those cards, when the missed trigger is discovered, we’ll tap the creature then.
Even Even More Communication
How do you name a card?
That seems like an straightforward question, but there’s nothing in the documents talking about it. Traditionally, we’ve used the standard described in how to get access to Oracle text, and that worked well enough to not really worry about it.
I wasn’t planning on changing this as nobody was being forced to name Humpus Wumpus. But, part of consolidating information about sideboards meant a chunk of the section went away. Since we’re here, why not fix card naming to be more widely defined? Since we’re fixing that, why not just put the Shackles/Vedalken Shackles debate to bed for good?
So now, any time a player names a card during a game, for whatever reason, they need to describe a card unambiguously, and if anyone knows that they haven’t done so, they need to seek greater clarification. A name isn’t necessary, as long as there’s a single card that everyone is on the same page about.
This Part Is Technically Communication, Too
Remember last update, when we removed the bit from HCE about not repeating the action? That worked OK, but the problem was that it was accomplished by removing the line that said not to do it, and didn’t leave anything behind that said you should. You couldn’t necessarily intuit that from the remedy.
It turns out that the only action that ever needs repeating is when someone fails to reveal a card. So now that section has an explanation of what to do when it happens. You take the card(s) chosen by the opponent and put them back with the old set (which may involve recreating the old set) and do it again. So, if I activate Duskwatch Recruiter and put a card into my hand, I reveal my hand. You choose a card to be the selected card, we grab the other two from the bottom of the deck and I do it again, revealing a card this time.
Sometimes a set can’t be recreated. Sure, the library is always available as a set, but maybe someone cracked a fetch after their Duskwatch Recruiter activation. At that point, we just leave things as is. The opponent had plenty of time to point out that the card hadn’t been revealed, so they’ve acquiesced to you grabbing a legal card.
Quick Hits (Some Involving Communication, Probably)
- There’s a common-sense update to how to think about sets. When you move cards face-down away from a set, they are still part of the old set until you’ve seen them. If I count out 8 cards face down for Dig Through Time, that’s not a problem yet.
- The MTR talked about players who were made offers around Bribery and die rolling as complicit unless they called a judge. The IPG never mentioned that as part of the infraction definitions. It does now.
- The MTR section on DCI numbers now reflects how you get a DCI number in our modern world.
- Teammates are required to point out errors they notice in their teammate’s games. This was referenced elsewhere, but is now explicitly part of the player section. Note that teammate in this context refers to team events, not the team sponsorship associated with the Pro Tour. Expect some work on that divide in a future update.
- Invocations are now legal Magic cards. Before anyone freaks out, there are no gold-bordered cards that don’t already fall afoul of one of the other rules.
- Speaking of that, judges now have the latitude to allow obvious things like legal Invocations during the prerelease, even if an official update hasn’t happened yet.
- The section on replacing a card during play moved into Authorized Cards rather than Marked Cards, as it applies to a lot of situations other than when a card has become marked.
- The MTR has a new section on Outside Assistance. While we had penalties for it in the IPG, none of the player-targeted documents talked about it. So now we tell them not to and nothing really changes.
- The sideboard rules got consolidated. You can find all the details in 3.15 now and lines from around the document have been moved to there. Since we removed all the sideboard rules from 7.3, it’s now explicitly about Continuous Construction.
- If a player has to stop drafting (whether or not they plan to eventually play), they are skipped instead of having a judge pick randomly for them. This should be a small improvement for the players remaining in the pod.
- The number-of-rounds chart has been updated for 4-7 teams in case you’re planning a small 2HG evening.
- DQ’d players have never received Planeswalker points for the event, and now it’s explicitly mentioned.
- The “object in incorrect zone” fix only considers the current level of disruption, not whether it’s been doing things in the interim.
There’s a bunch of other tweaks that are there to make current policies easier to understand and changes that make things work like people already thought they worked, but they’re not worth calling out here. Check out the changelog.
That’s it! Lots to chew on this time around, but hopefully it’s all pretty intuitive. There’s a ton of thanks to be handed out to folks who worked on this update: Isaac King, Joseph Steet, Alexey Chernyshov, Bryan Prillaman, Steven Zwanger, Filipe Fernandes, Federico Verdini, Julio Sosa, Joshua Hudson, David de la Iglesia, Jeff Morrow, Jess Dunks, Abe Corson, Dan Collins, Kevin Desprez, Kaja Pekala, Daniel Kitachewsky, Eli Shiffrin, and Scott Larabee. Some of those folks may not even have been expecting recognition here, but its your conversations and idle suggestions that often form the basis of new policies. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.
Finally, a special thanks to Scott Marshall, who spends so much time patiently explaining the crazier parts on the forums. We couldn’t do it without his patience.