Policy Changes for Core 2020

The New Docs


Evil schemes. Blue-coated figures. Carnage in the streets. Sacrifices being made to save the day.

Yeah, Narset has been interesting.


Many people have been worrying about Narset and, more generally, the static abilities on the War of the Spark planeswalkers. It turns out that they’re really easy to miss, and several of them alter game rules directly. They’re generating frequent judge calls and Game Rule Violations (or, in the case of Narset, Hidden Card Error violations).

I got lots of suggestions on what needed to be done to handle one or both problems, from revamping our communication rules to fundamental changes on player responsibilities. In the end, a lighter touch seemed wise and hopefully this will make things smoother.

Step one was to get Narset out of Hidden Card Error. Almost everyone felt that it was too easy to not realize there was a relevant card in play and wanted the opponent to take a more active role in preventing any issues. This isn’t to say that a player casting Divination with a Narset out should be able to take it back, but we’d prefer the opponent to be preemptive about reminding the player of what the result was going to be before things became harder to fix. With a potential reveal of the opponent’s hand and removing their best card available, staying silent was too good, to the point where the IPG was making Narset a stronger card. So we’ve added a line to Hidden Card Error that makes it not a Hidden Card Error if Narset (or another ability modifying the game rules) is the underlying cause. Instead it’s handled as a regular Game Rule Violation.

Step two was to update the guidelines for when it’s appropriate to give a double Game Rule Violation as opposed to a Failure to Maintain Game State. We now explicitly call out cards controlled by the opponent that are modifying the rules of the game as a relevant factor. This makes instinctive sense; these effects are usually invisible, and if the opponent who controls that card also fails to notice the error quickly, they share responsibility for the problem.

Between the two changes, we think everyone will have more incentive to catch potential Narset errors early, and the remedy will be less punitive when it does happen.

Which Isn’t To Say That HCE is a Bad Thing

Judge extraordinaire Kevin Desprez and I were chatting in London about ways we might improve Deck Error. There were some edge cases that weren’t being handled as well as we thought they could be, especially around cards revealed to both players at right around the same time. We were playing around with various creative solutions and best things we tried… looked a lot like Hidden Card Error. What would happen if we treated Deck Problem the same way? It worked!

There’s still a couple of upgrade paths. There’s no getting around putting more copies of a card into your deck than you started with, and the presentation upgrade is needed to keep people from presenting a deck short on cards. And there’s one more we’ll get to in a moment. But everything else can be handled with the help of your opponent.

The way Deck Error works now is you locate all the cards that need to be put in, all the cards that need to come out, and the opponent chooses which goes where. Reveal a sideboard card when resolving an Explore? Your opponent chooses which card it really is. Have one in your hand? Your opponent decides what to replace it with.

We managed to get it to a point where the player couldn’t benefit from not immediately pointing out a sideboard card, with one exception. What if the opponent had seen a sideboard card (from a Duress or a Surgical Extraction, or – worst of all – a sideboard card being played) and subsequently made decisions based on that knowledge? It would not be fair to them to try to fix the game at this point. But, we have a good precedent for that as well in Communication Policy Violation. So, if a judge thinks that the player made strategic decisions based on seeing a card that wasn’t supposed to be in the deck, we have our final upgrade.

The British Are Coming

The London Mulligan is here! For what is functionally a pretty small change, our old rules around mulligan mistakes weren’t compatible with it, and that section has been revamped. And by revamped, I mean made a lot simpler. Turns out there’s only two realistic ways to mess up a London Mulligan. Either you draw eight cards, or you forget to put cards on the bottom before beginning the game.

Eight cards is easy. You simply make them take another mulligan. Forgetting cards is more of a challenge. Getting information about what your opponent is playing is an advantage, especially in a world where Leylines are in Standard. In the end, the best way to handle this was through Hidden Card Error, so we send it there.

Yes, We Have a Heart

For years, we’ve talked about “tardiness with a heart,” the idea that maybe we give the players until a minute after the round starts to get to their seat. The problem with that approach in big tournaments is that if that’s the policy players don’t worry about getting into their seats until a minute into the round; you’ve simply punted the problem forward a bit. But, what if we could forgive players for being late once? That turns out to be easy to do. There’s now a downgrade to a Warning if the player makes it in the first minute. Of course it happens again, they get another Warning… which for Tournament Errors is upgraded back into a Game Loss.

Status Conscious

Several people pointed out that we needed to add status information to the list of information types that you needed to be honest about. A couple also suggested that mana in pool could be a status type. This makes a lot of sense. We require players to announce floating mana, and if it’s going to stick around for any length of time, we really want it to be visually represented (I’ve seen players try to storm out while tracking verbally. It’s never pretty.)

A nice side effect is that it removes the need for the X-spell shortcut; mana as status information handles it for you.

Quick Hits

  • The wording for the zone-change-undo trigger rule has been updated to make it clear that the zone the object goes to doesn’t have to be the same as the one where it started. For example, Sneak Attack’s delayed trigger can’t be missed.
  • Looking at Extra Cards got tweaked in the last update to include the sideboard in locations you could accidentally see cards from. Unfortunately, that messed up Bomat Courier and friends, so there’s another small update this time that restricts any remedy to cards seen from the library.
  • Technically, when a player passed the turn, the opponent could announce that they were acting in second main phase and keep the turn there until time expired. That obviously wasn’t the intent of our new end-of-round policy, so it got tweaked to avoid that loophole. It now works the way you thought it worked all along.
  • We really don’t care if players use Snow-covered lands accidentally in Standard. Fix it and don’t issue a penalty.
  • The section about representing tokens was moved from Game Markers to Board Layout, where it feels appropriate. It also means that if a player does a poor job of representing a token, it may fall into Communication Policy Violation if the opponent acts on bad information (such as the tapped/untapped status of a die)

That’s it for this update. Thanks as always to everyone who sent in suggestions or requests. Particular shout-outs to Kevin Desprez, Isaac King, Matthew Johnson, Alfonso Bueno, Joseph Steet, Florian Horn and Sara Mox. Enjoy the new Core set and we’ll see you in the fall for whatever Archery turns out to be.

42 thoughts on “Policy Changes for Core 2020

  1. If a player notices during searching their library during game one that they didn’t desideboard, but all of the incorrect cards are still in the library, does the opponent still get to view the correct and/or incorrect cards even though all of them are getting shuffled into the library?

    Under the old rules, they would not, and the judge shouldn’t give that extra information to the opponent. Is the intention to give that extra information even when it isn’t needed to perform the fix?

    1. I think it’s totally reasonable that the opponent would know the scope of change so that they understand what’s going on. I don’t think they need to know the remainder of the library.

  2. ” If the judge believes that both players were responsible for a Game Rule Violation, such as due to the opponent controlling the continuous effect modifying the rules of the game that led to the Game
    Rule Violation”

    I love the change (obviously), but for clarification, you’re still including replacement effects here (which was the previous call-out). Does creating a replacement effect count as modifying the rules of the game?

  3. “We require players to announce floating mana, and if it’s going to stick around for any length of time, we really want it to be visually represented (I’ve seen players try to storm out while tracking verbally. It’s never pretty.)”

    Doesn’t making it Status Information require it to not only be physically tracked, but tracked with pen and paper (or equivalent) and not dice? When playing storm using dice to keep track of mana is by far the most popular method and I haven’t really seen any issues from it being too easy to knock around the dice. Requiring players to use pen and paper every game seems to make playing storm a pretty big hassle and would generate quite a bit of unnecessary trash. Also, why is Storm count not Status Information? I’ve seen counting that go wrong a lot more often than mana.

    1. I think pen and paper is only an upgrade, for all the same reasons dice are problematic for life totals.

      Obviously, we’re not going to come down on folks like a ton of bricks if they use a die, but encourage folks to move to paper.

  4. For the mana as status information, does that mean that say, when a storm player is comboing, they need to have a written record of mana, or are dice fine and the only thing not allowed is verbally keeping track of mana?

    1. Dice are not great for the same reason they aren’t great for life totals. Encourage paper!

      1. I don’t fully agree with this for 2 reasons. First, the amount of mana in the pool is going to change a lot more frequently than life totals (while you are storming). This makes it a larger inconvenience to constantly write it down. Secondly, since mana pools only exist for each step, it’s usually quite easy to do a recount even if you accidentally knock over the dice or lose count. You don’t have the problem that you notice the problem several turns later.

  5. Part of the change to separate out status information seems unfortunate. At Comp REL, players are explicitly forbidden to track status information with dice. This means that storm players can no longer track their floating mana with dice, which is how most have done this for many years.

    Forbidding the use of dice to track rapidly fluctuating mana totals seems as though it will make the game state harder to track, not easier. Can we have an exception to allow dice to be used for this purpose?

    1. We can look into it, but I think you want to be able to track fluctuating mana totals, and that’s better on paper.

    2. There are many problems with dice for these purposes. The most common one I see is “Wait… was I changing this from 5 to 6, or from 6 to 7?”

      Only slightly less common is the table being bumped and that die tipping. With 3 or 4 dice on the table (3 colors of mana plus storm count) a bump is a real pain to try to fix.

  6. Am I correct to understand that for sideboard issues sometimes the resolution will be to leave the cards as they are? If I accidentally have 61 mainboard and 14 sideboard that my opponent could deny returning the extra card to the sideboard?

    1. In game 1, the incorrect card goes back. In subsequent games, there’s no infraction.

  7. Toby, I’m concerned about a nefarious player playing against Narset. Consider the following:
    Player A controls Narset.
    Player N is not above cheating and angle shooting. N has a hand full of useless lands. N casts divination.
    If player A forgets about Narset, then N can just draw the 2 cards and continue playing.
    If A remembers the Narset, then A has 2 options. A can choose to stop N from drawing cards, which results in no penalty, meaning N can repeatedly try this trick over and over with no tracking. Or, A can choose to wait until N illegally draws the cards and then call a judge, which results in a trackable warning, but then N will get a huge advantage in the game by virtue of having random cards put back from their hand, so they effectively get to draw the cards anyway if some useless lands are chosen to be put back.
    What can player A do in this situation to defend against a cheating opponent?

    1. Given that if A remembers the Narset, N has just cast a Divination for no value. As angle-shoots go, this seems terrible.

      A can defend by remembering the card they played, then saying “resolves. Remember that Narset is in play.”

      1. If B in this situation thinks it’s their last turn to draw outs given the board state, then running out the Divination is totally free.

        I share Sam’s concern that there are situations like this where running a cheat is more or less strictly better than not doing so. Isn’t that what the warnings system is there to catch?

      2. They’ll be getting a warning. The penalty changed class; it didn’t cease to become a violation.

  8. Heya! I think there’s a small mistake in the new MPE section:

    Once the mulligan process is complete and the game begins, any excess cards arising from an improper mulligan should be treated as Game Rule Violation — Hidden Card Error.

    Shouldn’t this read “should be treated as Game Play Error – Hidden Card Error”

  9. The way Deck Error works now is you locate all the cards that need to be put in, all the cards that need to come out, and the opponent chooses which goes where.
    From this description, I am under the impression that opponent can actually choose to put the erroneous card back to the game, instead of sideboard. Is that true?

    1. No, the judge determines which come in and out. The opponent simply chooses where they go. We can look into making that phrasing clearer.

      1. Sideboard card is drawn, judge called inspection of sideboard reveals three main deck cards, two other sideboard cards found in library… all three sideboard cards go to sideboard, opponent looks at main deck cards and chooses one to put in hand, remaining two shuffled into random portion of library…

        If instead one of the sideboard cards was found to have been fate sealed to the bottom it doesn’t come out of the deck (opponent made strategic decisions based on that card) and opponent chooses which main deck card goes to hand, which stays in the sideboard and which gets shuffled into random portion of deck?

      2. I think most of the time, a fatesealed card would be upgraded, but otherwise, that’s accurate.

      3. Mistake in prior reply, strategic decisions is an upgrade not a don’t fix… so Game Loss because the opponent fatesealed a sideboard card to the bottom of your library? (You never saw it to call out and correct the issue and the choice to put it on the bottom is itself a strategic decision)

  10. I’m a bit confused by this last point:

    “What if the opponent had seen a sideboard card (from a Duress or a Surgical Extraction, or – worst of all – a sideboard card being played) and subsequently made decisions based on that knowledge? It would not be fair to them to try to fix the game at this point. But, we have a good precedent for that as well in Communication Policy Violation. So, if a judge thinks that the player made strategic decisions based on seeing a card that wasn’t supposed to be in the deck, we have our final upgrade.”

    Mainly this is confusing because it refers to CPV which is a warning… and does not currently have any upgrades beyond repeated infractions. I think what you are referencing is simply the “judge believes the action was taken based on this action” portion?

    My concern with this upgrade is that it is very dependent on judge. CPV obviously has the same issue, but the difference is that a warning/backup is very different from “no, you lose.” With CPV, the decision is also a much more immediate and obvious choice (“2 cards? Mind rot”) than “I saw surgical extraction in the main so I played around it.” This puts a lot more pressure on the investigational aspect than does CPV; there is incentive for a savvy opponent to make a case (e.g. lie) that they made those decisions. And now the judge has to determine whether to believe the lie (issue GL) or believe the player is lying (DQ for lying).

    1. Looks like the actual IPG text says “an opponent may have made strategic decisions” and not specifically that the opponent DID make strategic decisions, so I think I answered my own concern. 🙂

    2. I’m simply saying that we have precedent for “has the opponent acted on this information?” as a tool in the judge arsenal.

      You are correct that the game loss is relevant here, but what this really means is “pointed out before the game continues is probably safe, otherwise not”, plus the flexibility to recognize that with 10 lands out, thinking they had a Glacial Fortress in the deck rather than an Island probably didn’t hurt anything. I’m OK if the general default is a GL.

  11. IPG: It is not a Hidden Card Error if the opponent acknowledges the action or controls
    the continuous effect modifying the game rule that was violated.

    So if I control Spirit of the Labyrinth and draw excessive cards, it’s still HCE; if opponent controls Leovold, Emissary of Trest and I draw excessive cards, it’s GRV. The ruling is clear, but I just wonder is this really the intention of the change? This difference somewhat feels weird to me.

    1. That is the intention. It reflects that we want the person who introduced the card affecting the game rules to take at least some active responsibility.

  12. NAP controls Narset.
    AP casts Divination.
    NAP: “Resolves”.

    As soon as AP starts drawing, say after the first card leaves the deck but before that card touches the hand, NAP points out Narset and calls a judge.

    Investigation reveals NAP was aware of Narset from the very beginning, and waited for AP to actually commit an infraction before calling, so that AP would get a penalty.

    What should we do?
    Does NAP get a penalty?

    1. At this point, you’re in Looking at Extra Cards terriority, and the NAP doesn’t get a penalty. NAP only gets a penalty if they don’t immediately (ideally preemptively) point it out.

  13. Is the line still at the same point for static abilities that modify the rules of the game? For instance, if AP tries to cast a Lightning Bolt for R while NAP has a Thalia, if AP immediately calls a Judge this is still GRV for AP and no penalty for NAP? But if the game progresses past that point and then the error is discovered, it is now a double GRV?

  14. I wonder which effects will be interpreted as rule changing, such as changing a cost (e.g. Dovin, Hand of Control), determining a cost (e.g. Trinisphere) and adding a cost for action (e.g. Propaganda).
    Are they changing rule?

    1. There’s some flexibility for the judge to decide, but those all look like they’re changing game rules.

  15. With the prevalence of mass manipulation, how does a stolen Chandra’s emblem work? By the reading of the IPG as currently written, I’ll be given a warning for each Chandra Emblem trigger that I miss, since I originally owned the card. This potentially creates some invisible memory issues, with a penalty being upgraded or not upgraded depending on a sorcery potentially cast many turns ago.

    If this is what we want, great!

    If it’s not want we want, I’d consider adding some wording to the IPG, such as “If the triggered ability is usually considered detrimental for the controlling player and they own AND CONTROLLED the card responsible for the existence of the trigger”

    1. You’d be getting a warning for an effect you brought into the game (even if you didn’t end up benefitting from it), so I think that’s OK.

      1. Just to make sure I’m reading that right- I steal your Chandra, give you an emblem with her, you miss the trigger, and now you will receive a warning?

  16. So yesterday at a local Modern event I had Narset in play, my opponent on his turn cast three manamorphose and drew 3 cards before a realized he had been drawing a card each time he cast. He then told me that it was my card and I am responsible for missing it’s triggers, therefor he said he got to keep the cards he drew. Was this correct or what was the correct thing to do here ?

    1. This was wrong in about 5 different ways (Narset doesn’t have a trigger to miss!). The correct thing do do is call a judge. The judge would have issued GRVs and corrected the situation if still possible.

Comments are closed.