Policy Changes for Rivals of Ixalan

The New Docs


I know, I know. We’re all in mourning. It’ll be tough to get through a policy update, but we can power through. It’s a small update, so if we all work together, it won’t be too bad.

But enough about the end of Unstable drafting. What does Rivals of Ixalan bring to the table?

To the City!

Players are not objects. For most people, this is a pretty weird statement, but if you’re a judge, this means that, until today, statuses that a player had were not explicitly defined as free information. With the addition of the city’s blessing, it’s worth tweaking those rules to bring it in line. If someone wants to know if you’ve ascended, you are required to tell them. Monarch comes along for the ride, too.

So how do we handle ascending? It’s not a trigger, so it can’t be missed. At some point, it just happens. If a player takes an illegal action because they forgot about it (or didn’t notice), treat it like any other Game Rule Violation – consider a backup, or leave the game as is. They still have the city’s blessing, though.

It’s a Lot Like Life

For a few years, we’ve had our current rules about life total tracking an announcement. They’re great and, while they can’t possibly clear up every life total discrepancy problem, they’ve reduced their frequency and difficulty quite a bit.

Poison was still out there, but it was a counter, which made it structurally different, so we left it alone. That was OK. But then energy came along and was another counter that didn’t really feel like one. So, we’re updating the life total section to be a more generic section on Stuff You Need To Track and Announce(tm), and we’ve added Energy and Poison to it. Once it becomes relevant (for life totals, that’s the start of every game!) you need to make it clear how you’re tracking it, and announce when it changes.

Related to that, we’re disallowing the use of dice for tracking these totals at Competitive and Professional Rules Enforcement Levels. It’s too easy for dice to be accidentally knocked over or intentionally manipulated. Electronic* life trackers are an acceptable solution, but paper and pen continue to be best.

(* a previous version of this referred to cell phone rather than electronic, such as a Boogie Board. Apologies for the confusion)

Look! A Monkey!

Unstable drafting was amazing. And it was sanctioned (casual)! Unstable Commander was hilarious. And it was sanctioned (casual)! It just required you to close your eyes a little bit and pretend a section of the MTR – the one that defined silver-bordered as not part of the definition of a Magic card – didn’t exist. Now we don’t have to hand-wave; silver bordered cards are real Magic cards. They’re only allowed in formats that explicitly permit them, but they’re sanctionable there.

Quick Hits

* In an effort to be a little clearer, the shortcut about retaining priority has been split into two. One covers auto-passing priority and the other what happens when someone adds mutiple objects to the stack. There’s no policy change here.

* In a similar vein, we’ve tweaked the wording on Bribery to make it clear that the restriction on prizes already won still applies to the finals exception. You can only discuss prizes you’re going to receive, not ones you received previously in the tournament.

* Partial backups have a weird side effect in that they can cause triggers to occur that would not have happened if you backed up the game normally. The rules for partial backups now take that into account and you consider the game state at the time the error was made in assessing triggers on the battlefield. The text in this section also got cleaned up a bit.

* Speaking of backups, the last few sentences on how to perform them have been reworded. The single-shuffle at the end was a time-saver, but it did sometimes make it harder to figure out, so you can shuffle to back up shuffles at the appropriate time now (though feel free to just do it at the end if it’s clear). The other change is that if a player learns about cards through scrying, but hasn’t drawn them yet, those cards can be shuffled away as part of the process. Be careful if they’ve gone into the hand, though. Those should normally end up on top.

A Quiet Update

That’s it! Thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions, including Jess Dunks, Steven Zwanger, George Gavrilita, Mark Brown, Salvatore La Terra, Jonah Kellman and Joseph Steet. We can’t always fix everything, but it’s good to hear the suggestions!

One More Thing

Way back in the misty days of 2012, there was a bit of kerfluffle over Cavern of Souls. It is one of very few times, if not the only time, where policy philosophy and the desired outcome conflicted enough to engender a specific ruling override. You can read all about it in a great article that Matt Tabak wrote discussing the situation. All was good.

But, there’s not really any place to put this information. It’s not a Comprehensive Rules issue, so it doesn’t belong in Gatherer. It’s not a Tournament Rules issue, as it’s (philosophy) errata to a single card and there hasn’t been any other cases over the years. We’d have to have a section titled “Cavern of Souls.” So, instead we’ve relied upon generational knowledge to pass it down. And, we’re seeing now that some folks aren’t aware of this ruling. So, I’m mentioning it again to fill in the knowledge gaps a bit. Seriously, go read the article. It’s well worth your time.

61 thoughts on “Policy Changes for Rivals of Ixalan

  1. How should we handle if a match is uncertain if a player has received the City’s Blessingm?

    Ajani controls 8 permanents, including one with Ascend. Ajani remembers having 3 vampire tokens plus this Ascend creature 4 turns ago, plus 6 lands. Since then the tokens have died, and Ajani has played another land. Nissa disagrees and says Ajani only had 5 lands that turn, and never had 10 permanents but isn’t sure.

    I’m interpreting this as “use your best judgement to determine if Ajani should have the City’s Blessing.”

    Players appear to have no reason to announce or represent their blessing status, so this situation arises.

    Is my interpretation correct?

  2. Hey Toby, long time reader, first time commenter.

    Shouldn’t experience counters also fall under tracked totals? In case someone decides to sleeve up an Ezuri, Claw of Progress in a Legacy tournament.

      1. There are already six decklists from competitive or higher REL including Meren of Clan Nel Toth, as a mechanic that has demonstrably showed up in tournaments is it not worthwhile to include it in the relevant rules?

      2. Joe losset, a large competitive legacy personality, is already playing Meren of Clan Nel Toth in legacy.

      3. Meren of Clan Nel Toth definetely appears in legacy tournament and the wording is about experience counter if I’m not wrong

    1. Meren of Clan Nel Toth is regularly sleeved up in legacy shouldn’t this be covered in that because of this.

    1. Answered above. If it becomes a thing we’ll look into adding it. Otherwise, it’s just extra text.

      1. That’s fair I suppose. I don’t see much of a downside to adding it though- it’s just an additional item on the list. And Meren of Clan Nel Toth does see a reasonable amount of legacy play.

      2. You’re correct, though the downside is that it’s another thing to remember (and be tested on). And it is rare enough that using a die is OK, so not necessarily worth worrying about. But I’ll talk to folks and see if we want to add it.

      3. Replied before 😉
        Some Legacy Nic Fit lists include Meren of Clan Nel Toth which makes experience counters worth considering 😉

  3. You mention for life total tracking “Cell phone life trackers are an acceptable solution” – is that true for Competitive/Professional REL with regards to the Electronic Device Policy? Because it doesn’t look that way in 2.12.

    1. There was an error in there and should have referred to electronic devices like Boogie Boards. I’ve fixed it.

  4. “Cell phone life trackers are an acceptable solution, but paper and pen continue to be best.”

    At competetive/professional REL? What?

  5. You used the words “partial backup” in the article, even though that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense and it’s never used in the IPG. What you probably meant is “partial fix”.
    You also added in the term “reflexive trigger” again, but never actually define what that means.
    You then made “reflexive triggers” part of the list of triggers that you always resolve immediately, even though triggers like Glory Bringer can’t really be resolved without going over the stack. This was already brought up with the last IPG update, then you fixed it a couple days later and now it’s back again, without even a note saying as much.

    Not to be too negative, but I expect more and better proofreading in a document that I am expected to adhere to and that I need to explain to players.

    1. The partial backup/fix is on me. We use the terms interchangably, and I stuck the less formal one in the article.

      The reflexive triggers thing appears to be a regression I wasn’t aware of (since we didn’t touch that section this time). I will need to go and figure out how that happened and get an update posted.

      1. If I can make a suggestion, I’d move the “when you do” trigger part in the “philosophy paragraph” rather than leaving it in the “remedies paragraph”.
        It’s actually not a remedy, so it would fit better where the infraction is explained in detailes. 🙂

        Thanks for reading

  6. As I understood it you cannot have electronic devices at the table during a Comp or Pro REL match so tracking life total on a Cell Phone likely isn’t ok?

  7. “Related to that, we’re disallowing the use of dice for tracking these totals at Competitive and Professional Rules Enforcement Levels. It’s too easy for dice to be accidentally knocked over or intentionally manipulated. Cell phone life trackers are an acceptable solution, but paper and pen continue to be best.

    To be clear, are you stating that they are fine at Comp and Pro REL, or just at Reg?

  8. >We’d have to have a section titled “Cavern of Souls.”

    I’m not a judge, but why not have a section titled “Cavern of Souls”, and make it a subsection below the rule that it’s an exception to? It’s not like the Magic Comprehensive Rules don’t have subsections dedicated to single cards, and it’s not just judges that read the Tournament Rules. Players read them too, since they need to know them if they want to compete.

  9. The CR has some “one card” rules. I don’t think it would make any harm add a line under the 4.1 on MTR with “one card (Cavern of Souls)…”.

    I think it is better than a blog post exhuming an 5 years old post in another blog. People getting in touch with Magic and the MTR (players, uncertified judges and new L1 judges) are expected to read the docs instead of this post, would be easier (don’t get me wrong, I love your blog). Sometimes Cavern of Souls isn’t a matter during the mentoring process and an experienced judge may never talk about it.

  10. Hi Toby!

    The IPG link seems to be broken: it sends me to the WPN home page instead of opening the document.


    1. Thanks. It confirms we have an unintentional regression in the triggers section. Am looking into that now.

  11. Regarding not being able to use dice. I believe you are truest ignorant as yes dice can be moved. But it’s not like a pen and paper can’t be changed to suite the person keeping track…using dice displays something that’s easy for both players to see. You are nit picking and trying to micromanage things that do not need managed. Tbh I think whoever came up with this should step away from the judge program for its betterment as they clearly don’t have the games interest at heart.

      1. I mean, just because it’s written doesn’t make it so. How long until you’re required to write down the source of the life change, as well?

  12. Under the new policy, if someone wanted to keep track of life both with dice and with pen/paper, would this be allowed?

      1. While those are not trackable like pen and paper, they usually have a clear mark on which number is the selected one, and don’t spin unintentionally, so if they roll, you can still know which number they’re pointing to.

        Not as good as writing things down, but can’t change by accident, so it should be legal.

      2. Hmm, maybe we’re thinking of different things. I’m used to the d20s that come with the prerelease packs being called spindowns. Those can definitely change.

  13. What are acceptable uses of keeping track of large amounts of energy without clogging up the boardstate.

  14. So what is the proper method of keeping track of Energy Counters, Poison Counters feel a lot more like ‘Life’ where as Energy Counters feel like a ‘Resource’ akin to Mana, Triskellion +1/+1 Counters (being able to ‘subtract’ them for an ability)

  15. Would the sturdy dial type life counters, such as those supplied in the commander anthology, be ok to use for tracking counters and/or life totals? (Please treat both separately incase it’s ok for counters, but not life)

  16. How will temporary things such as mana in the mana pool and storm count be addressed? Will you be able to track these with dice, or must you use pen/paper?

      1. But dice could be manuipulated! Storm needs a trigger or a mana and they could abuse the same thing you’re attempting to prevent here.

  17. Hi,

    I am just wondering, what was the main reason for changing this now – after a year and a half of Pro Tours and Grands Prix? Lot of messy situations in Professional setting recently?

    Thanks for a clarification.

  18. Can a player use something like the Commander Anthology / Archenemy Nicol Bolas life trackers for life/energy/poison? They can’t be easily accidentally changed even if they don’t track their history.

  19. Not sure where I can report this type of issue, but I think there is a typo in IPG -> Appendix B -> January 19, 2018 -> 1.4: the word “suring”


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