Policy Changes for Ixalan

The New Docs


Avast me hearties!

I’ll bet you were all expecting a Dinosaur-size update here. Think of all the jokes! Alas, it’s more merfolk-sized; a solid set of changes, but not one to get judge-Timmies excited. Let’s drive pirate jokes into the ground, instead!

Rrrrremembering “When you do” Triggers

Rrrrrecent triggers in Amonkhet are of the form “You may do something. When you do, something happens”. The most common of these is Exert. Ask the average person what’s a trigger here, and you’ll hear “the whole thing”. It’s not, of course, but saying “Exert this creature” is clearly communicating that you’re aware of the subsequent trigger. The rules have been updated to make that the case. (Errrrata: originally I called these Reflexive Triggers. Turns out that’s not technically true and I’m updating things to correct that.)

Rrrrrandom cards, such as Trueheart Twins or Vizier of the True have a trigger that looks the same, but isn’t. You can identify those because their trigger is in a separate paragraph. Those triggers are still missable; they might not even be on the card you’re exerting.

Rrrrreduced Outside Assistance Penalties

Rrrrrarely, a player will commit Outside Assistance, but it’s for information that they could get in between games (not matches!). Making you walk the plank for accidentally leaving sideboard notes on the table seems harsh; after the game, you’d have been able to read them! So, in those cases, it’s now downgradable to a Game Loss.

Rrrrremember that some information has game scope, but is not information that could be acquired between games. For example, soliciting or providing Outside Assistance about what cards a player sideboarded in is not downgradable, as that knowledge could apply beyond that game.

Rrrrreminding Your Opponent About Optional Choices

Rrrrrecently, there’s been some question about what we expect players to do when they play a spell or ability – most commonly Path to Exile, but Ghost Quarter comes up, too – and their opponent doesn’t do an optional part of the instruction. Since it’s optional, that’s theoretically a legal result, even if they didn’t realize that they had the option. Given the preponderance of textless and foreign cards, and communication rules that don’t require you to explain everything a card does (because that way lies madness), there was incentive for scurvy dogs to not bring up those parts of a card.

Rrrrrevised communication rules have added text to preempt this. Now, if a spell or ability you play gives an opponent a choice, you must get confirmation from them that they aren’t doing the optional thing. You still don’t have to remind them while they decide if they want to respond, but once it resolves and the time comes, no making assumptions or you’ll be hung from the yardarm for a Communication Policy Violation!


Rrrrreally, there’s no policy change here. But some good suggestions were made about how we might make the language clearer, especially for non-native English speakers. That seemed like a big win, so we got permission to tweak the wording a little bit. I only call it out here so that people don’t see that there are changes to the bribery rules text and freak out.

(OK, Toby, stop it with the r’s already)


* The layout used in filmed matches at PTs and GP Day Twos is extended to GP Day Ones as well. Assume you should always play lands in the back in video matches.

* The opening section of Game Loss philosophy has been deleted. It was out of date and occasionally led people to bad places, so we took it out.

* We put in new language detailing when someone might get a Game Loss due to an illegal deck. Now, it spells out the window explicitly.

* The build times in sealed deck events on the launch weekend of a set (including GPs!) have been extended by fifteen minutes. Now that piece of the event can be a bit laid-back.

* Don’t wait to issue a Game Loss penalty when an opponent is getting a Match Loss/Disqualification. It doesn’t come up enough to justify the exception. They still get the penalty, it just doesn’t do much. Lucky them!

Rrrrrapping Up (Can’t Rrrrresist)

Thanks to everyone for all the great suggestions. Extra grog to Florian Horn, Kevin Desprez, Richard Drijvers, Matteo Callegari, Ivan Petkovic, Zohar Finkel, Bobby Fortanely, Eli Meyer, and Jeff Morrow. Actually, Jeff didn’t make any suggestions this time, but it’s the last of these before he retires, so he gets one more shout-out.

Hope everyone had a great prerelease and I look forward to beating down with dinosaurs for the next few months!

88 thoughts on “Policy Changes for Ixalan

    1. I found it finally under MTR 4.2. However, the new IPG still defines CPV explicitly as a violation of MTR 4.1. Do we still treat this as CPV?

  1. The bit about reflexive triggers needs tweaking. As it stands, the additional remedy for missed reflexive triggers is to resolve them immediately (a remedy which doesn’t use the stack). However, some reflexive triggers (like Glorybringer’s) require targets in order to resolve. How can these be handled if we don’t put the trigger on the stack? Do we allow the controlling player to specify a target retroactively? Do we check for target legality when resolving the trigger? What if no more legal targets remain at the point the trigger is remembered? Does the opponent get no chance to respond once the trigger is remembered?

    All in all, I think it would be much cleaner to put these triggers on the stack rather than resolving them automatically, with the restriction that no choices can be made which could not have been made if the trigger had been put on the stack at the correct time.

      1. Hi Toby, can you clarify how you will fix this point? Should this kind of triggered ability always be put onto the stack when missed, or only when they have a target?

      2. I’ve actually got an update coming out (due to a technical problem) that will make this clearer. It just always goes on the stack, as this change is about the trigger being appropriately communicated, not what to do if it’s actually missed.

  2. Cap’n! A clarification, if you please sir.

    You say in the blog that the Optional Choices clause is now a CPV covered under IPG 3.7, but that penalty is governed by MTR 4.1. It says so in the penalty guidelines. When I went to find the exact wording in the 4.1 section, I couldn’t, and saw it was in the 4.2 section of Communication. Wouldn’t that imply that it’s NOT covered by CPV, argh?


    1. More people seem happy that they don’t get a dry piece to wade through, so I do what I can to keep it interesting. The appendix in the MTR and IPG lists all the changes.

      1. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to complain about this but I also felt this specific article was a bit too much. All those rrrrrr’s made me give up reading because it just made my brain pause every time and I kept losing focus.

    2. I agree, I thought out was really hard to read this… There’s a middle ground between a cartoonish article, and a dry one.

  3. Hi Toby,

    I am very glad to see the changes regarding CPV and opponents’ optional choices.

    For future consideration, I would like to suggest considering whether the policy could/should be expanded to cover “ignore this effect” special actions. I am specifically thinking about Leonin Arbiter. I understand the technical distinction, but these the effects do feel very similar in spirit.


    1. Leonin Arbiter is a gigantic pain on several levels, and really hard to write policy around. We’ll keep poking at it.

      1. Hi Toby,

        Thanks for the response. I can definitely see (at least some) of the ways Arbiter would be a huge pain to deal with.

        I had some local players already ask me why the new rules don’t affect Arbiter, and they were somewhat disappointed that Arbiter “gets a pass.” They asked me specifically to run the idea past you, so I just wanted to oblige. 😉

        Thanks again,

      2. I would love to make Arbiter better. However, it’s not entirely clear what “better” would even look like, let alone how to then make it happen!

    1. No, since that doesn’t match the form. I’m kind of sad that there are people who think that’s a good way to win, though.

  4. Toby – Your constant, quarterly changes to fundamental ways the game is played are becoming increasingly frustrating. Starting with an incomplete assessment of how combat works, and now most recently removing responsibility of players to read their opponents’ cards.

    You need to better understand how magic is actually played. Your new CPV “tweaks” help no one except the newest beginners who wouldn’t be playing at Competitive Events and creates a huge headache for everyone else.

    Stop fixing things that aren’t broken.

    1. I fundamentally disagree. I think the thought process behind these changes revolves around improving player communication, which is relevant across all levels of play including Professional. Especially at the Pro Tour and World Championships, you’ll see players who don’t speak the same language trying to fumble their way through the game. Anything that improves that experience is an upgrade.

      Further, Toby’s been making this style of rules change for quite a long time now, and it’s always been relevant. Any time you have an honest player worrying that they’re giving up equity by being honest, the rules are broken. He isn’t fixing what’s not broken, he’s been repairing a broken rules set that rewards scumming and punishes honesty.

    2. Feels very “keyboard Warrior”. Hoping your opponent misses a basic interaction to give you an edge doesn’t give the competitive side of the game a huge amount of credibility. Win by better use of your own resources and better navigation of the ever changing game state. Not by other means.

      Respect your view but focus on constructive feedback not just “it’s all bad” in future.

  5. Heard some rumblings about discussing the philosophy behind seeing extra cards when shuffling your opponents deck in between ganes. Any thoughts on this? An advantage is gained and there isn’t a truly fair way to remedy this advantage. A warning seems correct but atill doesnt address the potential issue of seeing what cards your opponent sided in, even if it is an accident. Maybe allow a rrrre-sideboard/rrrre-present?

    1. I’m not aware of those rumblings. If people want to propose something, I’ll happily listen to it, but it hasn’t been raised as a big problem.

    2. I mean, if you have a player that’s consistently shuffling their opponents’ decks in a way that lets them peek at cards, that feels like UC – Cheating, get them out of there.

      1. The issue was ayer A presents deck for game three. Player B shuffles and drops a card on the table face up revealing that it is a previously unseen negate. Player B has knowledge now that player A has Negate in his deck and is able to play around it for the entire game. Its looking at extra cards, warning because it was very obviously a mistake. Player B has gained an advantage though, through an accident. The only way to remedy this accidental advantage would be to allow Player A to re sideboard and re present (happened in between games 2 and 3) to reduce the advantage gained. Unless there is another solution. Clearly an accident occured, and an advantage was gained, but resolution of that being just a warning seems unfair to player A, while a game loss would be unfair to player B. Re randomization of the deck can slightly remedy this advantage.

  6. Does this include having to ask about scry as well as a part of a cards effect or after mulligans? Feels like in spirit it should but does it still default to them choosing to leave it on top if they forget?

    1. Yeah, this is solely for opponent spells and abilities. Scry get handled in different places and they can forget.

  7. Hi,

    Players are speaking about this change in the Spike’s subreddit, and I came across This:

    If I cast Path to Exile on my opponent’s upkeep (or Ghost Quarter my opponent’s land on their upkeep), and then they draw from their deck before I can can be sure they decline the may trigger, what then?

    NA: upkeep, path your creature waits for response or confirmation
    A: quickly exiles creature and draws for turn
    Then what?

    what happens in this case?

    Sorry if this isn’t the place for questions like this one.

      1. Even at Comp REL when Oracle Text is considered Derived Information? Wouldn’t moving to the next phase be considered making the decision of no action?

    1. It’s in a section where we don’t really have examples. I’d prefer to work on the wording until it doesn’t need it.

  8. Hi Toby!

    Expecting Magic players to say a specific word (or words) never goes over particularly well unless maybe you’re playing Legacy (because they’re the only players who know the meaning of “resolves.”) Creating the need to communicate a part of a spell resolving closely resembles (to me) a trigger that requires an opponent needing to make a choice (like Reality Smasher).

    Which of the following, if any, would avoid CPV:

    1. “Path your creature. Land.”
    2. “Path your creature, you have a decision to make.”
    3. “Path your creature, go fish.”
    4. “Path your creature, get ’em if you got ’em.”
    5. “Path your creature, भूमि खोज्नु” (“Look for a land” in Nepali)

    The last one touches upon a touchy subject – how is this supposed to work at international tournaments? If I inform someone in a language they don’t understand, is that good enough? Or is it my responsibility to make sure that I’m understood as well?


    Part 2:
    I’ve been to plenty of magic tournaments and never seen this come up as an issue during competitive play. How often was this an issue that it needed to be added to the rules?

    1. The expectation is that you make sure that both of you have reached the same understanding, and you know what choice the opponent has made. It doesn’t seem to be a challenge when it’s deal 3 damage rather than choosing to search for a land.

      It came up often enough that people were unhappy with it happening. If you’ve never seen it, that’s great!

  9. Does the new CPV section apply to cards like Censor or Mana Leak? If my opponent just puts their spell into their graveyard do I have to tell them they can pay to avoid that?

      1. what if they don’t say censor, they say counter? this happened at a tournament where the dragon counter was played and person said counter I thought it was a negate so I did not pay where I would have won.

  10. Does the additional time for sealed deck construction apply to the Team Sealed GP in Providence this weekend?

      1. I’m struggling to understand the rationale on this one. It just seems inconsistent –

        *Player A doesn’t search for a land because they don’t want to search.
        *Player B doesn’t search for a land because they think Ghost Quarter does the same thing as Strip Mine and aren’t aware they have the option to search.
        These are visually indistinguishable events; there is absolutely no way to tell these players apart. The new policy is designed to protect Player B and is justified on the basis that we are *not* supposed to assume Player B is acting for the same reason as Player A.

        *Player C puts their spell into their graveyard without paying {1} because they don’t want to pay.
        *Player D puts their spell into their graveyard without paying {1) because they think Censor does the same thing as Counterspell and aren’t aware they have the option to pay.
        These are visually indistinguishable events; there is absolutely no way to tell these players apart. The new policy doesn’t apply to them and we *are* supposed to assume Player D is acting for the same reason as Player C.

        What am I missing? Why am I to assume people know what Censor does but not what Ghost Quarter does?

      2. They’re structurally different, which is important. This approach isn’t designed to tackle Censor et al, which would have much wider implications. It’s possible that happens in the future, as you’re right that there’s some philosophical overlap, but that would require a bunch more examination.

  11. I’m not a fan of the update of reminding your opponent of optional choices and think its a big mistake. I now get a penalty if my opponent taps out to pay a spell and I say “censor targeting that spell.” That’s beyond stupid. You’re making me say “do you want to pay 1?” to an opponent that is tapped out. You’re making me sound like a jerk if I don’t want to get a penalty. And this is every single time. Now the best way to make someone tilt is simply play counter spells that give the opponent the choice of paying when they’re tapped out.

    1. To add onto this, weren’t the rules changed in the past where you didn’t have to help your opponent remember triggers because it didn’t feel good to help your opponent win the game? I guess we’re going back to that.

      1. You don’t have to help an opponent remember their triggers but you still have to remind them of YOUR triggers that are beneficial for them. This can be compared to such a thing.

    2. You don’t get a penalty here. This is for option actions on your spell where they don’t appear to have made a choice (i.e. the spell resolves and they don’t do something). Here, they’ve done something.

  12. Someone else posted this but I thought it was important for clarification.

    I control the Arbiter, and I path their creature.
    They put their creature in exile.
    I remind them about searching as required.
    They go “Oh yeah” and start searching their library, which they aren’t allowed to without paying (2). I then raise my hand and call a judge because my opponent performed a game rue violation. Is this an acceptable outcome for this event?

    1. This is the new addition to 4.2 of the MTR “During the resolution of one of their spells or abilities, a player may not assume their opponent has taken a shortcut. They must seek confirmation that a choice with no visible impact was taken.”

      I would think that with an Arbiter out the game would just say “Players cannot search their libraries.” So, the opponent in your example wouldn’t have a search shortcut available. If the Path starts to resolve they do not have priority and cannot pay 2 as a special action for Arbiter.

      Therefore, I think reminding your opponent about the search is not required here.

      In your example I feel like I could make a case for you be be penalized in some way, potentially Tournament Error — Communication Policy Violation or even Unsporting Conduct — Cheating.

  13. Hi Toby,
    I don’t think your statements about the new policy for Path to Exile and the like actually line up with the actual wording in MTR 4.2. Specifically, the line in the MTR directly references shortcuts, but there are no shortcuts in the MTR that deal with declining optional effects (I guess “Fail to find” is a fairly well understood shortcut, but it is both not defined by the MTR, and occurs after the choice to use the search has been made).
    I think a better wording might be “During the resolution of one of their spells or abilities, a player may not assume their opponent has declined an optional effect granted them by that spell or ability.” but I haven’t fully thought through if that causes headaches to crop up for other cards.

    1. It’s using the general sense (“skipping parts of technical play”) for defining shortcuts, but this is a wording worth considering. Thanks for the suggestion!

  14. I know it’s not part of this but it would be great if the blood moon effect change was actually discussed somewhere. We all know the what but not the why.

    1. That’s a game rules change, not a tournament rules change. Any discussion of that would have been in the update bulletin. I have no insight to share there.

  15. While I like the lighter tone of these articles, I see that some people don’t.
    Furthermore, I find it hard looking for the differences on such wordy documents (especially since the old ones aren’t accessible once the new ones come out).

    For this purpose, I made these:
    MTR Diff
    IPG Diff

    Would it be possible to include such things in future document updates? (I can help with that)

  16. Does the change to communication policy include cases where the controller of the resolving spell or ability *wants* his opponent to choose the option with a visible impact on the game state, and so does not point out that his opponent can choose to have nothing happen?

    I’m thinking specifically of the case where a player controlling Kalitas casts flaying tendrils and, upon resolution, simply puts a zombie into play for each of the opponent’s creatures he kills. Is this still legal or does he now have to confirm which replacement effect his opponent is applying? If he does, is it enough for him to say “so I get X zombies?” or would he have to be more explicit in indicating that his opponent has a choice to make e.g. “do I get zombies or not?”

    It has always bothered me that this mind trick was ruled to be legal under the “suggesting/assuming a legal course of action as a shortcut” doctrine, so if it is prevented by this change that would be welcome news!

  17. Rules updated to ensure the competitive nature of the game is upheld,

    Magic players complain about there being too many “R’s” in front of words – lol

  18. Hi,
    one question to the Outside Assistant Penalities,
    i dont get it actually.
    I often see players with lists of their sideboard strategy after the first game. Is it allowed or not ?


      1. Okay thanks
        but sometimes ive Hot confused by games and matches.
        So the games Container the three matches, right?
        And only After all matches it is allowed right ?


  19. Do I need to remind them about chalice of the void? If I play a spell hoping they will miss the chalice trigger do I need to ask, “would you like to counter that with chalice?”

  20. This is to reduce the issues with textless and foreign cards, but its actually harder to understand, as there are so many cases where this new rule on explaining optional choices vs times when you don’t. I tried explaining this to my 10 year old’s who play and they both said why can’t we just ask or get the oracle text. (a lying opponent is already covered under the rules I believe)

    Maybe you can use more obscure examples than two well known cards, and some other cards where you don’t have to tell them. Either way this is going to be a headache, now instead of ~5 oracle text calls your going to get a bunch of wordsmiths calling judge on someone who doesn’t offer the optional part of their card. ( ie judge this new player didn’t tell me its a option so give him that cpv, going to make those new players feel welcome at the tables)

    Agree Diff of new rules documents are super helpful, thanks guy who posted that above. Never understood why a rules change wouldn’t just include the diff or a changed from previous section at the top, way easier for people to read.

    Also, agree humor is cool, but not on rules. You wrote “The IPG and MTR are entirely without jokes, so you should be all set.” but also super tedious to find changes in, again leads back to a diff file being helpful. Currently, most rule updates are posted here, where you explain the changes most people get rulings from maybe not the place for humor within the document, intro paragraph/closing remarks fine, on the rule itself maybe not.


    1. That was a one-shot test, and I don’t know that it’ll be the case going forwards. I don’t believe there’ll be sleeving at PT Ixalan, for example.

      1. Can you verify this? The article seems tot imply this is policy going forward, after the experiment at PT SOI.

        “After careful consideration, we have determined that this procedure is the best option going forward for all Professional REL events (Grand Prix main events, Pro Tours, and the World Championship) that will use Booster Drafts of sets with double-faced cards.

        Going forward, for all Professional REL Booster Drafts:

        All stamped cards used during Booster Drafts will be sleeved by Wizards of the Coast. “

      2. That may just be for sets with a lot of DFCs in them. Certainly, the last PT draft wasn’t sleeved, and that announcement implies they all would be. I’m sure as time comes nearer they’ll make an announcement.

  21. Just to verify for a couple of locals, every time that an optional choice is presented (Path to exile as an example,) the player pathing the creature has to remind the opponent of the choice. This isn’t something akin to an established shortcut, it has to happen every time otherwise it’s a penalty?

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