Policy Changes for Amonkhet

The New Docs


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. It needs to accommodate the non-active player having floating mana.
  5. It needs to let the active player crew or activate creature-lands at the intuitive time.
  6. It shouldn’t be too punitive on missing beginning of combat triggers unless the player really had gone past that point.
  7. It needs to reflect that non-active players may want to remove the source of triggers before combat.
  8. It needs to avoid “Combat”, “pass”, “declare attacks”, “wait, I want to do something first”
  9. 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.

More Communication

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.

Final Communication

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.

133 thoughts on “Policy Changes for Amonkhet

  1. “If a player is unable or unwilling to continue drafting, but wishes to remain in the tournament, he or she is suspended from drafting and must construct a deck from whatever cards he or she has drafted thus far. For the remainder of the draft, their picks are skipped and the draft continues with one fewer player.”

    To be clear, what happens if this happens while a player is making a pick?
    While a player is not making a pick, but has a pack that they could pick up?
    While a player is not making a pick, but doesn’t have a pack they could pick up?

    Clearly if we allow them to “drop from the draft” any cards we allow them to keep aren’t part of their pool, but are there any cards they can keep?

    1. If they haven’t made a selection when they have to leave, it just passes to the next person.

      Note that this is not applicable if they are dropping from the draft. This is for when they want to play in the swiss, or continue in a multiple format tournament (such as a PT) but are called away for an emergency.

      1. So they own the cards they have drafted, but all 8 packs remain in the draft?

        For subsequent packs, what happens to the unopened boosters that would have been opened by the player that left?

      2. In the middle of pack two, after having drafted 20 cards, I’m called away for an emergency. The remaining 8 cards are drafted by the other players. My third unopened booster is temporarily collected by a Judge, while the other 7 players open their third booster and finish drafting. I manage to come back with 10 minutes left in Deck Construction.

        1) Can I still register a deck with those 20 cards, and 20 basics?
        2) Can I get back, and keep, my third booster?
        3) Can I get back, and add to my pool, the contents of the third booster, and then build and register a deck?

    2. It sounds cheesy, but is Preparing or Posturing an acceptable shortcut for going to beginning of combat? It sounds intuitive, is probably friendly to non-native English speakers, and it works in terms of flavor of the flow of steps.

      I’d personally like to say prepping as jargon as it’s clear that you’d like to hold priority before moving to combat, and it logically flows into combat as the currently accepted combat shortcut so players don’t have a difficult time digesting changes.

      1. So, are you proposing two different shortcuts, one to the beginning of combat and the other to declare attackers? I’m not sure if that change will satisfy the 8 goals listed above.

    1. For a while the IPG was supposed to be used for more Wizards games than just Magic. Dreamblade was a miniatures game where the set of minis that you played with at a tournament was called a warband.

  2. I’d still very much prefer something “I’d like to move to combat to resolve these cards’ triggers” as a solution to Rabblemaster/Engineer.

  3. Both players are required to clarify if a card named is ambiguous. Does this mean a DQ if a player knowingly allows “Shackles” to be named where “Vedalken Shackles” is strategically more likely?

    1. It wouldn’t be a DQ unless we believe it is Cheating. Players are allowed to play poorly, just not illegally. We would have the player identify the card unambiguously now, and remind both players that they need to seek clarification when identifying a card.

  4. A player meaning to stop the common Goryo’s Vengeance combo plays Pithing Needle naming “Borborygmos”. The related card in that deck is actually “Borborygmos Enraged”, and “Borborygmos” is a genuine, distinct Magic card from 2006. Is the Needle useless, or is it assumed the Needle player meant the card that’s actually in the opponent’s deck?

      1. But what happens if it is not clarified, and the discrepancy is only noticed when it becomes relevant? For example:
        A: “Pithing Needle, naming Shackles.”
        N: “OK.”
        Later, N attempts to activate Vedalken Shackles. Who is at fault here? And is the format relevant (would it be assumed that Vedalken Shackles was named if the format was one in which Shackles is not legal)?

      2. A says “I named that” and we declare that they did.

        And yes, an illegal card does not need to be considered.

      3. If it should somehow happen that both players are aware of Borborygmos Enraged but not that there is another card called Borborygmos, is the assumption that they’ll both just act as though they named the correct card so no worry? At which point do we allow the named card to be changed to correct the ambiguity? Like…they need to know they named it ambiguously before they know they need to clarify, and not every player will know that. If they realize there was ambiguity after the fact when it would be relevant, can they just correct the ambiguity directly?

  5. Does the first trigger ability of Cocoon fall in the new additional remedy?, because it affects the enchanted creature, but also affects Cocoon.

    1. It does not. I don’t anticipate this’ll be a problem.

      If they reprint Cocoon, we’ll figure something out.

  6. Please, please, please create real world communication examples for the combat shortcut to help people understand. Right now a lot of the grammar is run on sentences and verbage like “the trigger”.

    1. Yeah, I should have done a post for players this time around. I’ll see about doing one when I have time.

  7. If I understand the change to the Combat shortcut, I think it’s really awkward. Here are some examples according to my current understanding:

    AP: “Move to combat?”
    NAP: “Sure”
    now we’re in Beginning of Combat, and AP has priority. If AP wants to declare attackers, NAP can say, “First, let me cast this Cryptic Command.”

    AP: “Move to combat?”
    NAP: “I cast Cryptic Command.”
    now we’re in Beginning of Combat, CC is on the stack, and AP has priority.

    It seems like the solution to exploring the design space of beginning of combat triggers is to always put the players in beginning of combat. To me, it feels like the shortcut works the same way it used to work, except now there are two rounds of priority in the Beginning of Combat step.

    I agree that this part of policy needed to be revised, but this seems like a weird way to revise it. The fact that it doesn’t resolve the Mutavault/Cryptic Command scenario seems like a problem to me. I agree with you that the 9 things you outlined are all important, and it’s really hard (if not impossible) to satisfy them all with a single shortcut. Was the possibility of two shortcuts considered? I’m curious what people didn’t like about that. I think “Attacks?” and “Combat?” would be a reasonable distinction to make, though I haven’t talked to any judges who aren’t native English speakers about that. “Attacks?” would be the same as what we had before this update, skipping the chance to name targets for beginning of combat triggers, and “Combat?” would really just be a way to offer to pass priority once to get to the Beginning of Combat step.

    The flaw I saw with the previous system was that it was very difficult (and, depending on whom you asked, impossible) to pass priority once during main phase 1 in order to enter the Beginning of Combat step. The existing shortcut gave NAP priority in Beginning of Combat, so I would think it could make sense to add a shortcut to give AP priority in that step, along with letting them stack their triggers. That’s just both players passing priority once.

    1. Introducing special language meanings is an invite to let people introduce language complexity. People seem less thrilled about the option when the words they need to learn are not English.

      It is slightly awkward. You can’t have everything.

      1. I understand you can’t have everything, but one of the results of this change with the “double pass” is slowing down the game. “Combat? Yes. Attackers? Yes.” Maybe there are some decisions in there. Its just a few seconds but we all know how those few seconds add up when someone actives top, and this has the issue of effecting all decks with creatures in every combat. With how much importance is put on pace of play in magic with timed rounds I’m surprised this was preferred to the previous shortcut.

      2. What, exactly, is unclear about requiring shortcuts to refer to the correct parts of the combat phase? “Go to combat?” means we are in the Beginning of Combat step, triggered abilities are triggering, and AP has priority. If AP wants to skip to declaring attackers, they must use the word “attack” in their shortcut phrase. Seems intuitive to anyone who’s aware the Beginning of Combat step exists.

      3. I really like the above suggestion to use “Combat?” and “Attacks?” (or “Declare attackers?”) to distinguish between the stages. The language seems clear to me, and it mirrors the experience of playing on MTGO.

      4. This is very English centric. Would you feel the same way if you had to do it all in Chinese? What about all the variant phrases?

  8. Hello Toby!

    Just a little clarification:
    If, during a deckcheck, we find that an AP’s card is in NAP’s deck (so let’s say 59 cards and 61 in their deck), is it a Game Loss (we apply the second upgrade) or is it a Warning to both players (the first upgrade path seems to say that)?

    Thanks in advance for your answer!


    1. It’s a warning to both. It wouldn’t matter either way, though, since the GLs would offset.

  9. Sometimes something more visual can assist me in understanding. Is the new priority system working something like below?

    Beginning of Combat:
    (beginning of combat triggers)

    1. Think of it as “AP passes in first main. If NAP acts, it’s in beginning of combat (and there’s some trigger deferral). If they don’t, move to beginning of combat”

      1. If NAP acts, it’s in BOC;
        if they don’t, move to BOC.

        i get confused, so it looks same. no matter what they are in the BOC, isn’t it?

      2. That’s right. The goal is that no matter what happens after the AP passes, the next point we start at is BoC.

      3. So… this?

        AP: “Combat?”
        NAP: “Bolt your goblin rabblemaster.”
        AP: “Sure. Trigger from my goblin rabblemaster resolves, and I attack with my 1/1 haste goblin for lethal.”

      4. That doesn’t work. That’s what the specific callout for removing the source of a beginning of combat trigger is for. We assume that’s being done in main phase.

  10. AP: Attack?
    NAP: OK
    AP: I animate Raging Ravine and attack with it

    This is possible under the new combat shortcut rules right?

      1. So, these two scenarios are also possible?

        AP: Attack?
        NAP: OK
        AP: I animate Raging Ravine and attack with it.
        NAP: Wait, Cryptic Command your team before attacks.

        AP: Attack?
        NAP: OK
        AP: Attack with these!
        NAP: Wait, before attackers, I’ll Cryptic Command your team!

      2. The examples in ftaoubi’s follow up are helpful, thanks!

        Is this also possible? (I expect “Yes”)

        AP: Attack?
        NAP: OK
        AP: Any effects before I declare attackers?
        NAP: None
        AP: Attack with these!

        What about this? (I expect “No”)

        AP: Attack?
        NAP: OK
        AP: Any effects before I declare attackers?
        NAP: None
        AP: I activate Raging Ravine and attack with it!

        Here a judge would disallow the activation and provide some sort of rollback or remedy.

        My first example let’s the AP determine if NAP plans to cast Cryptic Command without giving away whether they plan to attack with all of their creatures or make a more conservative play. I.e. If AP is not planning on attacking they should still be able to ask NAP to lock in “no more effects before the attackers step” or commit to playing their defensive spell without the NAP always having the option to roll back to their priority after seeing the attack plan.

  11. I’m confused by the last sentence here: “Beginning of combat triggered abilities (even ones that target) may be announced after any non-active player action has resolved.”

    To me, this reads that:
    1. AP (with a rabblemaster in play) passes his initial pre-combat priority
    2. NAP casts a Cryptic Command, tap/drawing
    3. AP puts rabblemaster trigger on the stack, and attacks

    Even if NAP knows exactly how Rabblemaster works, the AP can put the trigger on the stack at any point in pre-combat? The wording in the above quote seems to allow that. It makes it impossible for a person to tap down the entire team post-trigger if the AP understands he can place the trigger at any point in PC.

    1. All it means is that the triggers aren’t missed because NAP took an action. Once you’ve dealt with that, you’re basically back at the start of BoC, and it’s a chance to put triggers on the stack.

      1. I think the question is:

        AP passes main phase priority,
        NAP passes doing anything before triggers,
        AP misses a the trigger for putting rabble master tokens in play

        Are we now in attackers, and the AP swings with a rabble master? Or are we still in Combat, the NAP can cryptic. If the NAP casts cryptic, does this count as the NAP taking an action, so the AP can declare their rabble master trigger and put a token in? This comes up due to the wording “Beginning of combat triggered abilities (even ones that target) may be announced after any non-active player action has resolved.”

        Specifically the ANY in that sentence.

      2. AP hasn’t missed a trigger yet in your description. It’s still on the stack until another round of priority pass is complete or AP actually declares attackers. Nothing about Rabblemaster needs to be mentioned until it would resolve.

        If NAP needs to work around Rabblemaster in this situation, they may have to point out the trigger. That’s nothing new.

  12. “This gets us everything above except for #3 (you can bait priority now, though not if the non-active player is very careful)”

    Would you mind clarifying what pitfall the NAP can encounter here, and how to avoid it if possible? I’m an avid caster of Cryptic Commands and worried about getting caught out!

    1. AP gets a change to get a read on whether you have Cryptic before they activate creature-lands. If you’re careful, they won’t be able to do it, but you need to be on your guard a bit.

  13. The new shortcut seems confusing to me. What’s wrong with the phrase “Pass priority.”? It’s quick (two words), entirely magic-eese (so there’s no language barriers), and unambiguous.

    For example:
    [Currently in first main]
    AP: Pass Priority.
    NAP: Pass Priority.
    AP: As we go into combat triggers.

    This strictly follows the magic rules, allows all players their chances to do whatever they need to do as allowed in the rules, and clearly demarcates the movement into the beginning of combat step, giving the active player a clearly defined opportunity to declare their triggers. Why use a shortcut where the literal interpretation of the rules is superior?

    1. “Pass priority” is mostly used to bait NAP to act in main phase, which is part of what this shortcut is trying to prevent.

      1. I guess what i don’t understand is why the NAP might be baited. If i’m the active player trying to attack with my mutavault, but wanting to bait the opponent’s cryptic command, I have two options.

        Option A:
        [In Main 1]
        AP: Pass Priority
        NAP: Pass Priority
        [Now in the Beginning of combat step]
        AP: I activate my mutavault and pass priority.
        NAP: I pass priority.
        AP: Mutavault resolves, pass priority.
        NAP: I cast Cryptic Command.

        Option B:
        [In Main 1]
        AP: Pass Priority
        NAP: Pass Priority
        [Now in the Beginning of combat step]
        AP: Pass Priority
        NAP: Pass priority
        [Move to declare attackers, opportunity to activate mutavault has passed]

        Either way, the only reasons NAP has to act in the main is that they wanted to, or they didn’t understand how priority works. The former is working as intended, and I think the latter is basic enough rules knowledge to expect players to understand at any REL. Avoiding a shortcut and using the phrase “Pass Priority” achieves all 9 of the stated goals. Where’s the problem?

      2. The problem is that not everybody is a magic-playing robot, and it’s easy to exploit the ambiguity, especially when not everyone speaks the same language.

      3. It would be much better if the shortcut simply always lead to Beginning of Combat with AP having the priority. There would be no confusion no baiting. People would simply learn that they can do stuff in the BoC. People would also always be secure that they cannot be attacked without getting their priority to cast their Cryptic Command, because NAP could automatically rewind to BoC if he was not given priority in the BoC.

        You talk about it yourself that there are many triggers happening, many choices to be done, why ignore this space of the game…. why making it complicated with breaking the AP NAP sequence, causing another problems with stacking triggers, multiple communication problems etc etc…

      4. No confusion? The primary purpose of the shortcut is to prevent the confusion caused when the NAP acts here and the AP announces that they’re still in main phase. People used to get caught by this all the time. That’s why the shortcut was created ten years ago.

      5. That is not a confusion. That is someone not knowing that there is a Begining of Combat.

        Now that was in a time when the Beginning of Combat was not really used on the cards that often, let alone that players would be actually doing stuff there that much.

        That has changed as you yourself pointed out. There’s lots of happening in the Beginning of Combat. Logically, as Combat gets more and more important in the whole game.

        So instead making people remember that there is First Main Phase, Combat made of three steps and Second Main phase and follow the simple sequence of AP NAP, you make them remember this all, and complicate it further more with adding some intricate communication nuances and exception to the AP NAP sequence which will cause problems.

        I thought that the magic should first and foremost follow simplicity. Passing priority in the Main phase into the Begining of Combat is the most simple solution that solves all the problems and requires much less of the players, just remember that there is a Begining of Combat step when you can do the instant stuff before someone attacks you. It also comes quite naturally to anyone who learns playing magic.

        Not really having to remember all the intricate communication tricks and changes to AP NAP sequence.

        The problem of the bait was that the AP could chose between main phase or declare attackers. If the shortcut would be simply passing priority leading always to Beginning of Combat, there could never arise such ambiguity. Just look at MTGO, thats exactly how it works. Thats also how many players learn the game anyway. It would make the online and paper game also follow exactly the same pattern.

    2. You are absolutely correct.

      They don’t seem to understand that players learn first about phases, steps and priority and just then they will maybe learn about shortcuts.

  14. The new Decklist Problems (3.4) definition says:
    … doesn’t match what the player intended to play …

    This looks like what’s covered by example e:
    A player registers Ajani, Valiant Protector, but she is playing Ajani Unyielding.

    But doesn’t really cover example c (an ambiguous card name):
    A player lists ‘Sarkhan’ in a format with both Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker and Sarkhan

    Is this on purpose?

    1. Example C is and example of “the decklist is illegal”. There are three possibilities there, and you only quoted one of them.

      1. While seasoned judges know that ambiguity makes the decklist illegal, how would a new L2 candidate know it if it’s not part of the definition?

  15. Say AP controls Weldfast Engineer (At the beginning of combat on your turn, target artifact creature you control gets +2/+0 until end of turn.) and Smuggler’s Copter. Is this a legal sequence under the new policy?

    AP: Move to combat.
    NAP: No effects, pass priority.
    AP: Tap the Engineer to crew the Copter. Trigger the Engineer’s trigger and target the Copter.

    Or do turn-based triggers still go on the stack first before AP can perform any instant-speed actions? Meaning AP would still have to crew the Copter during first main phase in order to target the Copter as a creature.

  16. On the Combat shortcut- Does this cause any awkwardness with Basandra, Battle Seraph? If NAP responds with a spell when AP passes the first main, is the NAP’s spell technically cast in the main phase but then put on the stack at the beginning of combat? (sorry if I missed some clear explanation of this while reading through the post).

    1. If they’re playing a spell that could only be played in main phase (thanks to, say, Basandra), then they’re obviously playing it main phase.

  17. Question: If AP chooses not to do anything upon getting priority in BoC, does NAP now get priority or does it jump straight to declare attackers?

    AP: “Combat?”
    NAP: “ok”
    Can AP just start declaring attackers now? or does AP have to pass to NAP first?

  18. Are the three other cards affected by the Malfunction change Abduction, Triclopean Sight, and Carry Away?

  19. Firstly, it’s great that this problem is being addressed. For the most part, I think I understand how it works, and it’s exactly like you’d expect. However, I was confused by the following sentence:

    “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.”

    So how do we deal with those situations where the non-active player *is* affecting how a beginning of combat ability triggers? Are they assumed to be acting at the end of the first main phase? Does this mean the active player will get priority in their main phase again? Some examples would be really useful here!

      1. So, I have the following situation, Amonkhet limited.

        I have a Fan Bearer and a tapped Greater Sandwurm.
        My opponent has Hazoret’s Fervor and a Battlefield Scavenger.
        We’re both at 5 life, no cards in hand. I know my opponent has a Trial of Zeal in his deck.

        My opponent draws a card for his turn.
        He says: “Attack?”, I say: “Tap”

        But because of his Hazoret’s Fervor, we’re still in his main phase, so he casts Unwavering Initiate and gives it +2/+0 and haste in beginning of combat and kills me.

        Doesn’t really seems like this is what you’d want?

      2. This isn’t how it works, though. The Hazoret’s Favor doesn’t put them back in their main phase. Plus, why on earth would you tap before knowing the target?

  20. “#8 (the double pass can, and technically always does, happen)”

    Well, actually, I think it will always happen in practice.

    If I am the active player, I must ensure that we have firmly moved into the declare attackers step before I announce my attackers, otherwise I will prematurely reveal information about which creatures I will be attacking with.

    If I am the non-active player, I will wait until my opponent offers to move to the declare attackers step before I cast my crptic command.

    “it’s arguable whether we achieved shortness”
    I don’t think it’s arguable, we clearly have not achieved shortness.

  21. So to clarify

    If I enter combat and pass priority and my opponent then passes back when I enter declare attackers does he still have an opportunity to cast cryptic to tap my team

    1. Depends what you mean by “enter combat”. If you mean you ask to go to combat in your main phase, then yes, that only takes you to beginning of combat. You haven’t entered declare attacks yet.

  22. If a player leaves in the middle of a pack, and the pack keeps going around, doesn’t that give some players more card picks than others? Don’t those players get an unfair advantage?

    1. There’s always someone getting advantaged/disadvantaged in these scenarios, unfortunately. Having the person next to you picking randomly is also a big disadvantage. Fortunately, it’s a very rare scenario!

  23. Hello Toby!
    AP controls Battle-Rattle Shaman (or any At the beginning of combat on your turn, target creature…)
    NA controls Illusionary Servant (or any When ~ becomes the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it.)
    AP: Attack?
    NA: Tortoise Formation (or any non-targeting instant provides shroud or hexproof)
    1st scenario: AP: ОК, BTW My trigger is targeting Illusionary Servant
    2d scenario: AP: BTW My trigger is targeting Illusionary Servant

    1. Are they in Combat?
    2. Is there any difference between two scenarios?
    3. Will Illusionary Servant die?

    1. This is real deep in unlikely-to-happen land. If that’s where you have to get to to construct a problematic scenario, then I think we’re good!

      I think the answer is 1. No, 2. If AP has another creature, they can play it and 3. Most likely.

  24. But now we have double priority passing, yes?
    AP: Attack?
    NAP: Sure!
    AP: Really-really want to attack (no triggers or other actions)
    NAP: Yeah, you still can.

      1. Still trying to understand this completely.

        AP: Attack?
        NAP: I’ll do something (this can be using a tapper, playing a removal spell, cycling a card, …)

        Are we in beginning of combat or still in the main phase? Does it depend on what NAP is doing exactly?

        What actions could NAP be doing to be in the beginning of combat already? Does it depend on wether AP had anything that would trigger in the beginning of combat?

        Can I use sentences like: “I’d like to go to (beginning of) combat?” and is there (from a rules point of perspective) any difference to “I’d like to attack?”

      2. I’m finishing up an article about this right now. But yes, they’re almost always in beginning of combat. There is no difference between your sentences.

  25. I’m confused by the Duskwatch Recruiter example:

    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.

    How can my opponent verify that I resolved the ability correctly, if I only reveal after I added the card to my hand? (i.e., if my hand has a noncreature card, I may have picked that one.)

    Or do they get to select a noncreature card, and when I resolve the ability again, I (obviously) can’t choose it? (In that case I might still end up with an additional creature from the other 2 cards, tho.)

    1. The opponent is not restricted in what card they choose. They simply say “that was the card” and you proceed logically from there.

      1. Just to be sure: if AP forget to reveal a card but it’s discovered after a while and the original set cannot be recreated, than we do nothing, wich means not even having AP revealing his/her hand to NAP.
        Is it correct?

  26. Hi Toby,
    I’m writing an article for players on an Italian website and I am in need for just a little clarification.
    When the shortuct reads: “unless they are affecting how or whether a beginning of combat ability triggers”, is this something that needs to be declared or should be inferred from the game state?

    For example:
    Ajani controls Rabblemaster. Declares “combat”
    Nicol: “Terminate on Rabblemaster”
    Ajani “Put the Token”
    Nicol “No, you don’t”

    Are the players just asked for clarification and Nicol gets the favor of the ruling? How should that work?

    Thanks in advance for your answer!

    1. Yes, you look at the context of the game state and see if they were doing something to stop the trigger. If so, we assume it was done in main phase. Otherwise, it’s in BoC.

      1. Just to double check, I assume the NAP also has the option to let the token trigger go on the stack at the end of this sequence?

        AP: Combat?
        NAP: Terminate Rabblemaster
        AP: Token trigger
        NAP: Ok
        (Token trigger resolves)
        (We are now in Beginning of Combat step and AP has priority.)
        (AP may use instant speed effects or may say “Combat?” to pass priority.)


        AP: Combat?
        NAP: Terminate Rabblemaster
        AP: Token trigger
        NAP: Nope, Terminate prevented that
        (We are now in the pre-combat Main Phase)
        AP: I cast Thundering Giant
        (Since Thundering Giant has haste, it may attack this turn after the players move from Main Phase 1 to the Attack step.)

      2. Does this mean that in this example:

        AP controls toolcraft Exemplar and Heart of Kiran. Says “Go to Combat” NAP kills Toolcraft exemplar.

        Are we in BoC or MP?

        Killing it in MP1 doesnt make much sense, and my player sense says I want to be acting in BoC.

      3. Well, no. If I kill the exemplar in MP1 He can play another creature. If I do it in BoC, it’s still a 1/1 with the trigger on the stack, and he can’t crew.

        We can expect players to be clear, but here this is pushing them onto acting when they don’t want to.

      4. Oh, good point. Yeah, you kill it with the trigger on the stack. Not sure how to codify that one. Will need to think about it.

      5. Unfortunately, I don’t think it can be easily. Not without having judges need to know all the cards and interactions.

        One other problem I have is Surrak, the Hunt Caller has an intervening if. So if they have 8 power, say combat, I then kill a creature, that trigger isn’t going to do anything, so I’d also like to be in BoC there. But only if that’s going to drop below ferocious…. (clauses in clauses… this isn’t easy)

  27. Can you explain two scenarios, 1. the best play as the cryptic command user who faces a mutavault, and 2. the best play as the mutavault user who wants to attack (knowing the opponent has a cryptic command)?

  28. AP has Surrak, the Hunt Caller with Formidable active and two other summoning-sick creatures. AP says “Combat”, NAP then announces Shock on one of the two summoning-sick creatures.

    1. If killing that creature turns off Formidable, is NAP assumed to have acted during the main phase?

    2. If killing that creature does not turn off Formidable, is NAP assumed to have acted during BoC?

    3. From scenario 2., can AP now choose the other summoning-sick creature as the target for Surrak’s trigger?

    4. From scenario 2, if AP lets Shock resolve without choosing a target for Surrak’s ability first, is the trigger considered to have been missed?

    Thank you so much.

    1. 1. Yes
      2. Yes
      3. Yes
      4. No. Though once the stack is empty, that’s the first thing they need to do.

      Basically, if they’re interrupting a trigger, it’s in main, if not, BoC (but AP gets a followup chance to use their triggers)

      1. Your answer to 4. really intrigues me. With that, isn’t it then possible for AP to respond to Shock by crewing a vehicle, let Crew and Shock resolve, then announce Surrak’s trigger and target the animated vehicle?

        The above scenario sounds really weird if it is allowed, although I can understand why it might be handled this way if the goal is that no matter what happens, we always go back to Beginning of Combat Step with AP having priority and AtBoC triggers waiting to be announced.

      2. It’s legit. AP should probably have waited. See my new article for a mental model that’ll make sense with it.

  29. What about a player calling a Judge because AP passed priority only once before declaring attackers, “fishing” for a GRV infraction? Are we ok with this?

    1. It’s not a GRV, any more than the numerous times the opponent implicitly passed priority in the previous turn were.

      1. Yes, but in those cases the players are just offering and accepting shortcuts. The problem with the original case is that they are modifying the BoC shortcut, something that was strongly disallowed before

      2. They’re just offering and accepting shortcuts here. They’re not modifying the shortcut, just skipping over the next priority pass.

  30. Can you verify that the following are now true scenarios that follow the rules, policy?

    AP’s 1st Main Phase…
    AP: “Spreading Seas your only untapped Plains”
    NAP: “Float White”
    AP: “Combat?”
    (AP is not required to voice their intent to activate mutavault)
    NAP: “OK”
    AP: “Activate Mutavault”
    (AP is activating Mutavault during Begin Combat)
    NAP: “Path to Exile targeting your Mutavault using floating White?”
    AP: “Nope, we’re in Begin Combat so you’re no longer floating White.”
    (AP is correct, the white mana is gone.)

    If so, this is all I’ve ever wanted from these shortcut rules… Thanks!

  31. Why on Earth has this become such an issue? The rules are crystal clear on how priority works. Implementing this shortcut (and its previous incarnation) just encourages people to not learn and understand the actual game rules as written. People who do have the understanding and utilize it to their advantage are not angle-shooting. They’re just following the game rules and should not be penalized.

    1. Because in the distant past, people exploited the ambiguity in those rules to angle-shoot, and the game was a lot less pleasant for it.

  32. Some questions…

    Is it in the interest of the NAP to announce when they are casting a card after the AP says “Move to combat?”

    Can the NAP explicitly state “Before we move to Combat…” and doing something? Which now puts both players still in Main Phase 1 with AP now having Priority.

    Can the NAP explicitly state “At the Beginning of Combat…” and do something? Which now puts both plays in the Beginning of Combat with AP having Priority.

    Does AP always get priority in the Beginning of Combat now no matter what? Even if there are no triggers to announce?

    If AP annouces “Combat?” (With intent to attack with Mutavault), and NAP says “Sure.” Has AP now missed the chance to activate a manland cause both players are now at the Declare attackers step? Or did they move from Main Phase 1 to Beginning of combat with AP now having priority?

    1. If NAP is explicit about where they are acting, all the better. The shortcut just sets up the default.

      AP always gets priority in beginning of combat, yes. And yes, they can activate mutavault. See my followup article!

  33. Unless i’m misunderstanding, there are way more than 3 cards other than tapping Auras affected by the Malfunction change, specifically Shape of the Wiitigo, Abduction, Ancestral Vengeance, Ephara’s Enlightenment, Triclopean Sight, Volition Reins, Wellspring, and probably Frenzied Fugue.

    1. Ancestral Vengeance doesn’t qualify. Wellspring and Frenzied Fugue I guess technically count, though they’re not likely to ever be missed! I’d missed the untappers.

  34. Hi Toby,

    I want to talk about the situation;
    “AP registered 4 Lightning Bolt and 0 Shock in the list, but AP is playing with 0 Lightning Bolt and 4 Shock, and AP intends to play 4 Lightning Bolt.”

    third Upgrade of 3.5 Deck problem says:
    “If an error resulted in more copies of a main deck card being played than were registered and this was discovered after the game had begun, the penalty is a Game Loss. 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 upgraded.”

    One who does not know previous downgrading-exception-criteria could read as though it can be applied in this upgrade th situation above, I think.
    I believe this understanding is not your intention, right? If it is, I want another one to be there.

    1. How could that downgrade apply? There aren’t more copies of a main-deck card, as there’s zero shocks registered main-deck.

  35. This might be a bit on the pedantic side, but regarding the new clarification to Sets in 1.5: say a player sets their hand on the table to cast Sphinx’s Revelation for X = 2. Then they draw 3 cards face down into their hand. I assume this should still be HCE with the “thoughtseize” fix, and I assume this happens because of the “(unless the new set is hidden)” clause in 1.5. But, by the same token, if a player deals out 8 cards for Dig Through Time, the 8 cards are also technically a hidden set, so I don’t see why that example avoids an HCE with the new language.

    Just want to clarify, because I suspect I’ve misunderstood the wording here.

    1. Yes, common sense applies here. But, if they take three cards from the top, set them aside face-down, then realize, there’s no infraction (and, yes, judges wanted to call that an infraction).

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