Policy Changes for Ravnica Allegiance

The New Docs


Ravnica Allegiance is here, which means it’s time for us to let our Simic flag fly. Open the cloning vats! Prepare the splicers!

Two New Match Losses

Bet that got your attention. I’m going to announce something big, but it’s not as big as you might initially think. Deep breath.

Improperly Determining a Winner and Bribery and Wagering are now Match Losses.

Breathe. Use your gills if you have to. Here’s the really important thing to remember: If the player knew they weren’t allowed to make the offer or roll the die, it’s still Cheating. They’re disqualified. Most people know better.

But, the rules in these sections are complicated, and sometimes people who haven’t played in that many big tournaments don’t know the details and inadvertently fall into a pit somewhere along the way. In those cases, it is acceptable to issue the still-harsh-but-less-so Match Loss (or double Match Loss in some cases) and treat it as a more educational moment rather than whipping out the DQ paperwork.

Additionally, players are no longer required to call a judge as soon as they receive an offer. They’re still expected to point out the violation (as with all violations), but not involving a judge won’t also get them Disqualified for the same infraction. On the flip side, we’re tightening up the rules around luring your opponent into the pits. Trying to entice a violation (“A draw is so bad here. If only there was something we could do!”) is, itself, a violation.

Shark Trolls for Better Triggers

Some of you may recall that I posted about Charnel Troll a bit ago. While discussing that with the good folks at R&D, we also chatted about parts of the policy that weren’t working as well as we liked, and that led to a few spiffy modifications. Octopus arms!

First of all, special handling for triggers with default actions is gone. These rules have been around forever – they predate the IPG! – and it turned out nobody liked them all that much. Some of them were excessively punishing, the Pacts in particular. There were some awkward technical corners: “If you don’t” and “If you can’t” worked differently (and Charnel Troll used an entirely different template). Now, if you miss a trigger with a default option, your opponent decides if it goes on the stack. If it does, you make all the appropriate choices.

Also in that section were the cleanup triggers. Cards like Obzedat and Aetherling that have an ability that removes them from the game, and a delayed trigger that returns them. While it’s technically two separate abilities, it was intuitively a single one that was really punitive if you forgot the second half, so we carved out an exception for these. That also took care of things like handling Geist of Saint Traft tokens that were hanging around for too long. And Prized Amalgam triggers…

Wait, Prized Amalgam? How did that get in there? It happened that the wording on Prized Amalgam was just parallel enough that it fell into the same bucket. This wasn’t a huge problem; a policy that occasionally makes a trigger happen that was supposed to happen anyway isn’t going to break anything, but it was pretty weird. So I made a note to revisit this next time we did work on Triggers.

Now, the trigger explicitly looks for delayed triggers created by abilities to clean up zone changes caused by the abilities themselves (and temporary token creation comes along for the ride). That’s more narrow, but still hits the cards that you’d think would be intuitively in this bucket. I think this version is easier to read and understand, too.

Let’s talk about The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. It’s got a great recombination lab in the basement, but the card has been a pet peeve for years. It has a mostly-defunct template which creates triggers on other objects, notably opponent objects. So this is a land (not front and center) that is incredibly easy for the opponent to miss, and the penalty for missing it is punitive, as it has a default action. Plus, you get a Warning, just to be extra-mean.

We cleaned up the default action. What about the Warning? How do we make these triggers not detrimental? It turns out there’s an intuitive solution – a trigger is only detrimental for you if you caused its existence. Always take responsibility for your creations!

We made a few other nonfunctional changes for clarity, and now you have a trigger section that is faster, stronger, and only a small part camel.

We’ve Been Here Before

By far the biggest change in terms of text volume is a new Communication section in the Magic Tournament Rules dedicated to loops. They’d come up again because of Teferi, and I was talking to Magic Rules Manager Eli Shiffrin about how we could make them better. The rules on loops are fine. It could use another row of teeth, or maybe a tail, but what couldn’t? It also didn’t really handle loops that were being sustained through choice rather than action. That’s easier to fix than more teeth.

There’s an additional paragraph in MTR 4.4 that explains how to handle choices being made in loops. There is a reversal in here – in the past, if you were making a choice involving a hidden zone (usually your hand), you weren’t required to break the loop. But, now that choices are similar to actions, if you don’t want to make a different choice you’ll have to demonstrate (either by revealing or getting judge confirmation) that you can’t. Otherwise, the loop ends. Now, almost anybody keeping a loop going can be stopped.

We’ve Been Here Before

Anyone need horse parts?

Miscellaneous Parts (Horse and Other)

  • About a hundred people wrote in to make sure I knew that Tournament Errors still reset with cuts. Yes, that was an oversight. No, nobody had to rule on that in the entire time they were mismatched (it’s really hard to get repeat Tournament Errors that aren’t already Game Losses!) Yes, it’s fixed.
  • If a player says “Go” (or otherwise passes the turn) and time is called while the opponent is doing something in end step (or not yet untapping), the opponent gets Turn 0. This removes the incentive to run out the clock after a player has passed the turn by holding off untapping just long enough.
  • Hidden Card Error has a small tweak to the boundary between it and Looking at Extra Cards. It’s LEC if you see an extra card, but don’t add it to the set. That’s simpler and will hopefully be a little less confusing. There’s also a tiny tweak to returning cards; it specified the top of the library, but there are some weird corners where it might be somewhere else, so that’s reflected in there.
  • When a player is missing cards from the deck, and they’re with the sideboard, we replace them with random cards from the sideboard. That’s fine for constructed, but produces some strange results in limited. Now, you shuffle in cards chosen at random from the cards in the sideboard that were originally in the main deck. That sounds weird, but it works. Better than that anteater-ant hybrid I was working on.
  • One of the examples in Limited Procedure Violation is a player moving their head too much in draft. They shouldn’t be doing that; it makes judges jumpy.
  • There was some confusion over the use of “identity” in the Game Rule Violation partial fix for zone-change problems. I surprised people by pointing out that the card on top of the library at the time of the problem, if it’s still there, is identifiable. That makes sense – everyone can point to that card and say “yep, that’s the one”. But identity as used in Hidden Card Error implies knowledge of the face of the card. It’s a nonfunctional change, but the definition no longer uses the word “identity” to reduce confusion.
  • Judges can assist players in determining status information. Bet it never occurred to you that this wasn’t the case.

My Minions Are Legion, and Mostly Humanoid

Thanks to everyone who wrote in with ideas and suggestions. The tournament documents are an amalgam of ideas of all shapes and sizes. Shout-outs for their master splicing go out to Kevin Desprez, Scott Marshall, Sara Mox, Isaac King, Steven Zwanger, Bryan Prillaman, Eli Shiffrin, and Adam Eidelsafy. Enjoy your new hybrids!

Oh, and One More Thing (Maniacal Laughter)

There’s a new JAR! Seriously!

James and Kim and teams did such a good job on the JAR that it hasn’t really needed updating over the years, and we let the tiny tweaks build up until we had a reason to make changes. The Bribery and Determining a Winner penalties needed to be reflected in the JAR (where they’ll be more relevant), so it’s been reskinned (pangolin!)

The philosophies haven’t changed, nor has the length. It’s still jam-packed with good advice, and now you have an excuse to go read it again.

74 thoughts on “Policy Changes for Ravnica Allegiance

  1. What’s the result if a player declines a bribe while appropriately pointing out that bribery is illegal at the start of a match, then calls a judge and tells them about the offer?

    Seems like the answer is ML, investigate for DQ. This goes against a lot of our policies not rewarding a player for sitting on an infraction though.

    Further, what if the match is finished and then the player informs a judge? ML in the following round?

    1. Wanted to clarify that I meant “then calls a judge later… when they are about to lose the match.”

  2. How does a double match loss in the case of improperly determining a winner work practically? Is it put in as 0-0 in WER and then gives neither player any points?

  3. Quick question regarding the new match losses:

    Is there a difference between making the default penalty a match loss and making the knowledgeable version a different penalty, and having the penalty remain a disqualification with an optional downgrade for ignorance on the same penalty?

    Just looking for the thought process. I’m totally on board with not having to DQ new players who don’t know any better.

  4. I’m a big fan of these trigger changes. It’s a little weird that you now can’t get Warnings for a creature that you stole with a Control Magic effect, but overall this seems like a huge improvement.

  5. Thanks for the article
    As a foreign judge, I recommend to use other word than “clean up” when you are talking about something other than the cleanup step, but that usually happens in the end phase. It might be a bit confusing at first for some of us 🙂

  6. Just so I don’t have that part about the triggers with default actions misunderstood. I control a Kataki/Tabernacle, my opponent forgets to pay and draws. He now has the chance to pay with the new information he gained and he doesnt get a warning because the trigger isnt detrimental?

    1. This will also occur on something like pact of negation correct. I untap draw and forget to pay. I can go back and pay now?

      1. Using pact of negation: if I forgot to pay, I receive a warning, dont I? Because the trigger is now detrimental, right?

    2. It’s now up to the Tabernacle/Kataki player to remind of the triggers if he doesn’t want the opponent to have the information before paying.

  7. So, to clarify, if I control a Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and if an opponent misses their creatures’ Tabernacle trigger(s) and draws a card, I have to remind them to pay or not pay and they can still choose save their creature?

    In other words, my opponent gets to see their draw before deciding to pay for upkeep costs AND they do not get a warning? (meanwhile they could have drawn something like Dark Ritual to pay for the cost, or the cost of a pact)

    So there’s no penalty for sloppy play then?

    1. If they’re doing intentionally, the penalty is a DQ. You can also remind them before they draw if you’re worried about this scenario.

      1. I mean, the first time they do it, it’s already a pretty significant advantage. How is anyone supposed to tell if it’s intentional, especially given even experienced players often forget the trigger?

  8. So how do the upkeep triggers on the pacts work? If my opponent uses Pact of Negation on my turn, then I pass, they untap and draw without recognizing the pact trigger, what happens then? Before, it was my opponent lost the game.

  9. The line between HCE and L@C is now whether the card that has been seen is part of its own set or part of the same set as all the other cards. But one of the examples of L@C still is “A player pulls up an extra card while drawing from their library.” Wouldn’t that now be HCE? The player adds a card to the set of cards being drawn. Wouldn’t the new rules make it so that L@C only applies when a player sees a card when doing something entirely unrelated like when shuffling? Dexterity errors like cards sticking together would now all be HCE?

  10. In the forums, it was pointed out that now, with the Pacts, a player can “forget” their trigger and then say “oops I forgot” when the opponent notices; I confirmed that that would still be Cheating.

    However, it occurs to me that we’ve left the window open for the opponent to get a free win:
    AP: Pact of Negation, resolves, turn ends;
    NAP: land, go;
    AP: forgets trigger (honestly), gets to Combat, pays to activate Celestial Colonnade (or similar), then NAP says “oh, your Pact!”
    NAP can – and likely will! – choose to put it on the stack, since AP forgot to pay when they had sufficient mana.

    I’m assuming this is not an oversight?

    1. It’s not. Forgetting triggers can still be bad. This is just better than the previous.

      Most common scenario will be draw followed by “oh, and my pact”

      1. What about the scenario where an opponent chooses to use a Simian Spirit Guide to help pay for a pact trigger after they have drawn and their opponent puts the ability on the stack? Is there anyway to determine whether the Spirit Guide was drawn for the turn to help pay for the pact?

      2. Probably not. That’s also very unlikely to happen and easily preempted with a reminder during upkeep.

      3. I’m not sure why, especially with the trigger policy updates from prior years, that the best way for me to play magic is now to remind my opponents of their detrimental triggers for them when the whole reason for the trigger policy changes in the past were so that you weren’t responsible for helping your opponent win with their beneficial triggers. This seems like a step backwards.

      4. I don’t think “you aren’t responsible for helping your opponent with their beneficial triggers” is incompatible with “you might occasionally want to remind someone about a detrimental one”.

      5. So in the case of this question, is there ever any point where the opponent of the past player could be punished for adjusting these rules?

        As in, I’m the opponent, I’m clearly aware of the post trigger, and I chose to wait until my opponent can’t afford to pay for it before I say anything. If you’re also responsible for game state, and you’re intentionally ignoring something until it can win you the game that falls under cheating correct?

        Since intent is hard to prove, seems like that case should warrant a warning for tracking if nothing else.

        Overall I really like the triggers change, and not many people play pacts very often in my experience. I just want to consider if there’s a new loophole now or not.

      6. If it can be determined that the Simian Spirit Guide was the card drawn for the turn (e.g. if they had no cards in hand), do the rules allow for the judge to say that it can’t be used to pay for the Pact?

  11. So if I control a Tabernacle and my opponent forgets to acknowledge the trigger and to pay for his creatures, the default action (=destroy) doesn’t apply anymore? Instead I choose if the trigger is put on the stack and he can still choose to pay? Plus no warning can be issued.

    I get the part about the warning, but if I understood the change correctly, it seems like a major downgrade.

      1. This may be correct by the current t ruling, but it should be. There is no way to prove it was an honest mistake/intentional, same with Pacts. This should default to the cost not paid. (Either the creature is destroyed or in the case of Pacts the game is lost. It opens the possibility of cheating without repercussions far too much.

      2. Agreed Steve. This outcome has potential for abuse, and per previous policy, areas with potential for abuse generally have harsher penalties applied where this has zero. This change was a mistake.

  12. Does this essentially mean I’m responsible for my opponent’s pact triggers then? If the fix is to go back and let the pact player pay, what is the incentive against trying to not pay?

      1. Seems kind of dumb that’s it’s now our responsibility to remind our opponents not to lose, when sloppy play and missed triggers should have consequences.

      2. Agree with Darcy 100% here. There’s no way for you to prove/disprove ill intent here. Therefore leaving it to a judges discretion shouldn’t be the proper way to deal with it. It should automatically assume the costs were not paid and then the appropriate actions taken. I.e. lose the game in the case of a pact and creature destroyed in the case of Tabernacle

    1. If it’s in the case of Hivemind + pact, and opponent did a couple of things after their pact, i can see it being legit, but if it’s the players own pact, that seems awfully close to cheating

  13. Dumb rules changes are easily the worst part about magic. What happened to competitive magic? If people forget upkeep triggers and pay a large enough price I assure you next time they wont forget. This is how people become better magic players. Way too many people with bad intentions will try to take advantage of this rule change and you should be ashamed for enabling it. I hope it becomes a rampant problem in events and forces you to change it back. I am sure by then everyone will be getting participation trophies for all the takesies backsies they can do with no repercussions. Ugh

    1. “I hope it becomes a rampant problem in events and forces you to change it back.”

      This sentiment is what’s wrong with competitive magic. It’s not the rules-gurus who work hard to make this game successful.

      Change your attitude and have some respect for your fellow Magic player.

  14. Is my reading of the new JAR correct that Bribery, Wagering, and IDaW are now no penalty at all at Regular REL?

  15. Are these policies able to be applied retroactively? I was accused of bribery during a beta draft qualifier in Vegas and received a year ban from magic due to multiple pros corroborating a false narrative.

    1. I would suggest appealing it through the appropriate channels.

      I don’t know the exact suspension guidelines, but whether you were aware you were breaking a rule is generally factored in to the case. For situations where the player knew what they were doing, nothing here has changed.

  16. Lol, so I can do something as stupidly simple in bant nexus deck as adding a millstone and then I’m mo longer “teferi looping” sure… nothing like ineffectually changing a rule just to appease unseasoned and players.

  17. I’m really confused by the new “Improperly determining a winner” example.

    What is considered enticing to do it or not? How many time have I seen the two players looking at each others awkwardly, unsure about what they’re allowed to say?

    Are they even allowed to talk at all with those new rules? I mean, “Would you concede to me?” isn’t already improperly determining the winner now, as that could make a clueless opponent suggesting a bad method to determine the winner? Where is the line?

    1. This has been in effect for years, just got formally written down. It’s not that hard to tell when someone is intentionally leading the other person into a trap. “Would you concede to me?” is not.

  18. What does this mean for situations where the players know that bribery is illegal and tries to arrange a legal split, but they do it wrong? (As an example, asking a judge if an offer you’re not allowed to make is legal used to be a DQ if you asked it at the table so the opponent could hear it.)

    Ad a sidenote, the new B&W/IDaW rules are great, but whenever people suggested changing them previously they would always hear that they had to be there for legal reasons. Did something change? (And if not, why wasn’t it fixed previously?)

    1. If you’re trying to be legit and accidentally screw up, the default is now a Match Loss. If the judge thinks your accident was not so accidental, it’s the same as before.

      Changing these involved lots of lawyers. I’m not privy to those discussions, but it’s not something that could have been done before they figured out if it was OK.

  19. I do not like how you can now get an advantage from (unintentionally) missing a trigger. The problem is that, for upkeep triggers, the opponent doesn’t know that the trigger is missed until you draw a card, at which point you have information that may inform your choice. (Didn’t you deal with this issue for another change recently? It sounds familiar.)

    A solution I would prefer is that if you miss a trigger with a default action, you can choose between taking the default action or treating it as a HCE. (Basically saying “I want to still be in my upkeep, that means that I’ve drawn a card that I shouldn’t have drawn, let’s apply the fix for that.”)

  20. Reread it and that article is still a very irritating to read. It is laced with a condescending tone, like an “adult” talking to kids that don’t know better.
    At its heart, this is a person that has been burned repeatedly for missing triggers, not accepting responsibility for the consequences, maneuvered into a position where they can officially strap on training wheels for themselves and is now saying “there, I fixed it”.
    I can follow this up with various expletives and derogatory terms like “millennial” but it really doesn’t do justice about how I feel about these changes. I get it. Learning is hard. It requires one to take responsibility and ownership for ones mistakes. To not make excuses. If there was a word that could capture what was lacking completely in this article it would be humility.

  21. So Nancy casts Sumoner’s Pact during Andrew’s End Step. Andrew allows Sumoner’s Pact resolve and Nancy searches for Primeval Titan and reveals and puts it into her hand. Nancy proceeds to her turn and untaps 5 Forests and draws for her draw step. Andrew realizes that she didn’t pay for the Pact so in the old rules the default action was Nancy to lose the game and Andrew can bring this up during the draw step. Now it seems he can wait until she spends the mana that she would other wise pay the pact with. Let say she puts Forest number 6 into play and Casts Primeval Titan. He can than say “Hey you didn’t pay for pact, I would like to add this trigger to the stack now. “Oops you can’t pay for it, I win.” Is this the correct interpretation?

      1. This is really weird, if Andrew notices that Nancy forgot her trigger and reminds her only after she casts the titan, it seems like cheating.
        Andrew notices the offense(forgetting the trigger), he is attempting to gain an advantage(winning the game via pact trigger). Being aware that this is cheating is a bit vague now as I don’t understand how it is not illegal to do so. It seems very shady

  22. Could you explain in more detail what “They’re still expected to point out the violation ” means? Does the rules say you have to do it but there’s no penalty if you don’t, like with shuffling the opponent’s deck? Or does it just mean that the judges would appreciate it if you do it?

    1. If you see a violation in your match, you are required to call attention to it – not doing so is cheating. You do not have to involve a judge.

      1. So “expected to point out the violation” means that they need to tell the opponent that it’s not legal?

  23. Whoever came up with these rule changes is beyond naive and is ruining magic. These are promoting sloppy and dishonest play. Claiming otherwise is ignorant.

    I get that wotc wants to lure in the timmy’s with arena and make the game welcoming, but this does not promote better gameplay. Go to FNM and get stomped like the rest of us did. Then come back better. The first time you lose a game to a pact trigger will be the last time you forget a pact trigger.

  24. I left some feedback with an L3 friend of mine as well, but might as well leave some here. I think this post could have better been served with some examples of situations in the post itself to help illustrate the changes made. I have talked to numerous people wholly confused over pieces of this (the Tabernacle / Pact changes, and the Prized Amalgam change) and it’s hard keeping straight what’s right and what isn’t. Examples within the post would have made things a lot easier, I feel.

    I do want to confirm something if you have the time. Situation was discussed in the comments about player tapping out and then the other player reminding them of their pact. Is that just something you can do? It feels oddly shady to me that the other player could just wait until its advantageous to them to point out a trigger like that.


  25. Hi Toby,

    I’d just like to leave some feedback that I found it very difficult to drill down on this post to what the actual changes were. Sifting through a lot of text that is irrelevant to the update makes using “Policy Perspectives” for it’s purpose (guidance and clarification on policy updates) mostly impossible.

    I know that you are appealing to a larger audience than just me, but can I ask that you look critically at how much of the post is relevant and important to the policy update, and how much is simply confusing judges looking here for clarity. I understand that you may be trying to make these updates less “dry” and more “fun”, but I think that in the end it just ends up creating confusion for judges who simply need to know how the latest change to missed triggers work. Sometimes I reference this blog when I am in the middle of a difficult policy interpretation, and once I have even referenced it while on the floor while responding to an appeal from a player.

    While I’m on the floor of an event looking for clarification on the intent of policy, it is very frustrating to have to skip over a whole bunch of “Octopus Arms” and “Deep breaths”.

    Obviously this is my opinion, and you can run the blog however you like – it’s just feedback I wanted to give 🙂

  26. Correct. If Nancy wanted to not lose then she should have payed better attention to her own cards. I believe these rules point towards exactly that: if everyone’s playing their own cards mindfully, then these rules shouldn’t be needed. Now, if you forget triggers of your own cards, it is great to let your opponent make the choice and punish you for your distraction.

  27. What exactly is the limit of “undo” for delayed zone change triggers, here? Do cards have to return to the same zone they started in?

    Since tokens don’t have a starting zone before being created and go to either the graveyard or exile, depending on the card, it seems like “undo” is “put onto the battlefield, then later, leave the battlefield”. Does that extend to cards as well? If I forget to sacrifice a Sneak Attack’d creature, does that trigger fall under the delayed zone change exception?

  28. About ID. How about we just don’t allow it, like in every other sport? ID is, at it’s core, unsportsmanlike where you both agree on the results to guarantee you moving on to the next round (or whatever) at the expence of other players. This whole bribery confusion would go away and people would not have to ask judges to formulate sentences for them to no be disqualified.

    The only place where it might be justified is in the finals, where it doesn’t affect others and there is a ticket (or similar) as a price which one person can’t make use of.

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