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.
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.
- 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.