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.

64 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”


  20. Hi Toby,

    Sorry for the wall of text — please reach out if you’d like to discuss over the phone. TL;DR — Please change IPG 3.8 to be less severe.

    While this is an IPG-related comment, it is not specific to this particular blog post — I believe I’d have to dig through the archives somewhere around 9-18 months to find the change that precipitated this comment. One of the judges making the ruling suggested I reach you here when I said I wanted to communicate with someone in charge of these policies.

    I played in GP Indy over the last two days with my team, and in Round 14, with our team at 10-3 (so out of contention for top 4, but still playing for a bit of money and pro points), I was deck checked after losing my game 1. During this deck check, my teammates had both completed their matches (and split them). The judges came back with our decks and called me away from the table, and after the judges asked me a few questions to help determine whether they thought I might have been cheating, they gave me a Marked Cards Warning that under the current IPG has a default upgrade to a Game Loss. To be clear, I think the ruling as issued was consistent with the current IPG. However, I have several concerns with this being more than a Warning in the situation as stated, and believe you should update 3.8 in the IPG to reflect that the only upgrade path for this scenario is if the Head Judge believes the player was cheating, the player should be disqualified.

    Here’s some reasons why:

    1. The level of wear on sleeves in the last round of a tournament is high. In fact, after telling the scenario to a number of friends and acquaintances immediately after it happened (and showing them the defective sleeve), many responses included some variant of, “If they’d checked everybody remaining in the tournament in the middle of this round and issued you a game loss for this, somewhere around 25% of the players would have been given a game loss.” I think that’s an overly draconian way of deterring cheating (which is what I believe this philosophy is designed to do).

    2. Potential for abuse would require me to realize the card was marked, and the card may have become marked during the current match. The specific defect on the card in question was a bent corner, almost certainly caused by shuffling via mashing cards overhand into each other. I had not realized any of my cards were defective at the time I was deck checked — overall, feels like the result here is that I’m being told, “While we cannot determine you were cheating, because you could have been cheating, we have to penalize you.” Moreover, in the specific case, I had only one way to manipulate the top of my library in my deck, and I cannot think of a scenario in which I would have ever played differently as a result of knowing the top card of my library. I do not look at my deck while shuffling, so I cannot manipulate where the card occurs in my deck — one of the things the Head Judge then said was that my (potentially unscrupulous) opponent might be able to manipulate my library for me, but since that’s to my detriment, I don’t think I should be penalized for it.

    3. Other remedies may be interesting and attractive. For instance, I would have far rather been offered the opportunity to play the remainder of my match with the card from the bent sleeve unavailable to me, instead of have my tournament (and my teammates’ tournament) end on an infraction I had not realized until the judge showed back up and asked to speak to me away from the table. Or a forced mulligan for the next game — basically, my theory here is that you need a penalty in between Warning and Game Loss. I think you came up with a novel solution around 2-3 years ago for drawing extra cards to enable it to stay a Warning that involved roughly giving the opponent the opportunity to Thoughtseize for free. Something similar to that in this situation (allowing them to Jester’s Cap me for the marked card, in essence) feels similarly fair.

    4. I believe the potential for abuse in the current system would be to become an aggressive shuffler. If I inadvertently bend a corner of my opponent’s sleeves while mash shuffling them aggressively, then see that sleeve either during play or during a subsequent shuffle, presumably I could call a judge regarding the marked card. Would the path here still upgrade them to a game loss? One of the what-if questions I have about my own scenario is, “What if that card became marked during game 1 of the current match — I haven’t had time to inspect my sleeves between games?”

    In any event, I believe the old philosophy was to track these sorts of infractions over the course of tournaments and beyond, and if a player had an emerging pattern of infractions of the same sort, to consider upgrading during a current tournament for multiple infractions, or suspending them from the DCI for cheating for a long-term pattern. I absolutely understand the need to combat cheating — I played against someone at Professional REL who was banned shortly thereafter for cheating involving shuffling, and definitely was upset about it. I think part of the way to combat cheating is to permanently ban players who repeatedly, deliberately, and without remorse cheat in an attempt to gain advantage. Meanwhile, though, I believe a large portion of the Magic community are honest, and as I heard over the loudspeaker throughout the weekend — “We want you to determine the outcome of your matches by playing Magic, and not by rolling a die, revealing cards, or offering or receiving anything of value.”

    Thanks for your time — and also thanks to the judges who issued the ruling, the floor judge who stood with me while we were waiting for the head judge was very affable.


    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Sorry it took so long to reply – this actually isn’t a place to get me with any speed, as if I haven’t written a post recently, I may not check.

      I can’t speak to your specific situation; I wasn’t there and don’t know what the Head Judge saw. They are trained to be aware of factors such as the fact that sleeves do become worn over the course of the tournament, and that’s why random wear isn’t penalized as harshly.

      The problem with your proposals (and framing) is that if they were in place, it would strongly incentivize players to mark their cards. There’s very little downside to it and a whole lot of advantage to be gained. There isn’t a meaningful offsetting in-game penalty we can apply, since the principal advantage to be gained is knowledge and the danger of being caught is quite low. I love it when we can find ways to introduce mitigating penalties, but I don’t think this is a situation where it works.

      The old philosophy was actually harsher than the current one – back in the day, your situation was classified as a Match Loss, not a Game Loss! I’ll note that even then, when the incentive was higher, nobody tried the aggressive shuffling you sugest. It’s very obvious behavior, and not terribly effective. We do, as always, track these things, but only for the purpose of investigation of cheating patterns, not to affect penalty levels.

      I’m sorry that you feel your case was particularly harsh. Unfortunately, that is sometimes necessary to ensure a healthy environment overall. If I thought there was a way to make the accidental infraction less harsh that wouldn’t encourage abuse, I’d be happy to do it, but as of yet, I haven’t found it.

Comments are closed.