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.
* 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.