Policy Update for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

The New Docs

IPG | MTR

There’s only one thing to talk about this update, but it’s something I know a lot of you have been waiting for. How will Companions work in paper play?

In Magic it is Great Comfort to Have a Companion

I’ll start with my usual advice: Don’t Panic. I’ve seen some fears of constant deckchecks and impossible enforcement. We had discussions with the Design team way back when these were in early development, and one of the things that they wanted to make sure was that these would be functional in paper play without being a drain on judges.

The good news is that, with one exception we’ll get to in a minute, none of the companion cards are abusable. They have conditions that become immediately apparent if you violate them. You don’t need to run a verification whenever a companion is revealed; there’s no possible advantage to running violating cards.

But, that doesn’t mean that Companion won’t be a potential issue, because there will be times where someone messes up. They don’t know what the converted mana cost of a split card is, or accidentally sideboard into a configuration that doesn’t match the companion. So, there are updates to the IPG to handle them.

Figuring that out was an interesting challenge that broke down into two subproblems:

  • You could register a decklist with a matching deck and it might turn out it wasn’t the deck you meant to play at all.
  • The “legality” of your deck could change from game to game based on in-game actions.

Were these Game Rule Violations? Deck Errors of some kind? Neither category quite applied. We started from the simplest point – violating a revealed companion restriction was a Game Loss and if you registered a deck that would violate your companion, you wouldn’t be able to play it in future (unsideboarded) games. But that was obviously too harsh for a mechanic with so little abuse potential. In looking at how we might permute it from there, something became apparent: our adjustments paralleled how we moved away from Game Losses in Deck Error, which suggested they philosophically belonged there.

Here’s what happens when someone discovers that they’ve violated the restriction announced by their companion at the start of the game:

  1. The judge goes through the rest of the cards you’re currently playing and finds any that violate the restriction.
  2. The judge goes through the sideboard and finds cards that do not violate the restriction. A number of those are chosen at random sufficient to fix the deck problems. If the judge can’t find sufficient cards in the sideboard to fix the problem, it upgrades to a Game Loss.
  3. The opponent looks at the randomly chosen cards and decides which replaces each illegal card. Swaps are made, the library is shuffled, and the game carries on.

This should look an awful lot like the usual fix for a deck problem with a couple tweaks in it, notably that this can bring in random sideboard cards during game 1. But, mechanically, this should feel pretty comfortable.


There’s one exception, of course. As I mentioned above, one Companion isn’t fully verifiable. Everyone’s favorite otter, Lutri. Sigh. Lutri gets a little clause of their own in the same upgrade path we have for other too-many-of-a-card violations; if they’re not all still in the deck, it’s a Game Loss.

So we’re done! It’s all good now; everything is covered and a lot of this should feel pretty intuitive for judges. See you for the M21 update…

Wait, What Was That Bit About Split Cards?

There’s going to come a moment where a player discovers that they messed up building their deck. I expect this mainly to happen in Limited, but it’ll show up in Constructed, too. The player registers a card, reveals a companion, and discovers a bit later that, well, they missed that that particular card wasn’t going to work.

At this point, the player has two choices (assuming the judge believes this was an innocent mistake).

  • Fix the deck as above, take the Warning, and don’t reveal the companion any more for games in which they now know the deck doesn’t qualify.
  • Take a Game Loss. Swap cards in from the sideboard to replace violating cards in the main deck. Make the new configuration their new decklist for the remainder of the tournament.

This is an extension to Decklist Problems, as it has not previously covered situations where the deck and decklist match. However, the infraction does philosophically call out that the deck is what the player intends to play, and they clearly did not intend to play a deck that violated their companion. So we’re providing a little latitude here and allowing it to be fixed within fairly narrow parameters before recording the new decklist.

That’s it! There aren’t even any Quick Hits; the changes to Companion are the only thing in the update (well, I did reword one upgrade clause in Deck Error while I was in there, but there’s no change).

I know paper Magic is kind of on hold, and we’re all looking forward to getting back to the Gathering part as soon as we realistically can. But, for now, take care and stay safe. See you for Core 2021!

46 thoughts on “Policy Update for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

  1. Question on the fix

    “2. The judge goes through the sideboard and finds cards that do not violate the restriction. A number of those are chosen at random sufficient to fix the deck problems. If the judge can’t find sufficient cards in the sideboard to fix the problem, it upgrades to a Game Loss.

    3. The opponent looks at the randomly chosen cards and decides which replaces each illegal card. Swaps are made, the library is shuffled, and the game carries on.”

    What choices is the opponent making in #3? You find 4 cards that violate the restriction and then pick 4 random side board cards that fix the deck. I don’t see where the opponent making choices comes in? Don’t all 4 card go in taking all 4 bad card out?

    1. Consider the situation where 3 of them are in the deck and the other just got drawn by the player.

      1. What happens if the card was just cast?

        This isn’t carved out for Deck Problem normally, since presumably a player would notice a sideboard card drawn in game one. Now the player might genuinely have forgotten they didn’t meet the restriction until their opponent points out the error.

  2. Hi Toby!

    Quick question: in the first DP Upgrade it says “if the deck contains too many cards”.
    Shouldn’t it be “too few” if referred to the main deck?

    Thanks!

    1. Hmm, looks like there’s a typo there. It should be “too few”. Will see about getting it fixed. Thanks!

  3. Why is the fix for an illegal decklist due to a companion restriction different than a regular illegal decklist?

    If I don’t realize that Oko is banned in Modern, and register it in my main deck, I must replace with basic lands.

    If I don’t realize that violates restriction of and register it in my main deck, I get to replace it with a sideboard card that I choose.

    1. Most of the illegal decklists will happen in Limited, where it is far easier to make the mistake, and far more intuitive to swap a card.

      1. Any thought to making “if you can’t find a legal card, replace it with a basic land.” And keeping it a warning?

      2. If it becomes a common thing, then maybe. Practically speaking, the odds of the sideboard not having any matching cards seems small. Once we see how these things are actually used in the wild, we’ll tweak if necessary.

      3. If a player has a separate “sideboard” for their limited deck, its 3 cards sleeved the same as the main deck, in the box with the main deck, the rest of their sideboard is in a different box, would you swap with one of those 3 cards, or a random legal card from the entire rest of the pool?

  4. Thanks Toby!

    This is definitely an edge case scenario, but do you have any thoughts on how we should handle Companions in the situations where a sideboard card can be brought into the game without being revealed? Mastermind’s Acquisition and Death Wish can both do this. Once one of those cards is cast, it’s impossible to verify whether a single Companion-violating card started in the maindeck, or legitimately brought into the game.

    1. This is a hilarious edge case, and I doubt it will ever happen, but it’s pretty awesome.

      If they can convince you that this is what they got with the wish, it’s fine. I think the abuse vector here isn’t worth worrying about!

  5. “Here’s what happens when someone discovers that they’ve violated the restriction announced by their companion”

    Are the penalty/fix the same if the opponent discovered the violation?

    Also as a followup to your response to Steve W’s comment above, would you consider revising the fix to “and decides which replaces each illegal card in its respective zone”, or would this be a functional change? Can permanents on the battlefield be swapped?

    1. There is no difference depending on who discovers it. I don’t think your wording is a functional change. I’ll look at it for a possible update next release. Thanks!

  6. “There’s one exception, of course. As I mentioned above, one Companion isn’t fully verifiable. Everyone’s favorite otter, Lutri. Sigh. Lutri gets a little clause of their own in the same upgrade path we have for other too-many-of-a-card violations; if they’re not all still in the deck, it’s a Game Loss.”

    This doesn’t make sense. What is it about Lutri that makes it not fully verifiable?

    1. If they play a card, you can’t be sure it’s singleton in the same way you can be sure it has, for example, an odd-cmc

  7. Q1: Ignoring Lutri for the moment… Am I reading correctly that there is not an upgrade for an illegal card (due to a companion restriction) being found by an opponent or found during a deck check? (Opponent seeing a SB card carries an upgrade, this might be parallel.)

    Speaking of deck checks. Ideally: Companion has or has not been revealed during the swoop? Players are going to want to wait to reveal until they present their deck, even though (by the book) you reveal before you shuffle. Should this legality check even be performed by judges during a deck check? I find it unlikely that we will be issuing warnings for GRV for not presenting prior to shuffling/presenting.

    1. You’ve basically identified the reality of it. Companions are going to get revealed after deckchecks in most situations. If this turns out to be a big problem, we can look into changing our swooping process or the pregame order.

  8. “The player registers a card, reveals a companion, and discovers a bit later that, well, they missed that that particular card wasn’t going to work.
    (…)
    Fix the deck as above, take the Warning, and don’t reveal the companion any more for games in which they now know the deck doesn’t qualify.”

    What if the player was warned to not reveal the companion, and does so anyway in a later game? My first instinct tells me this would qualify for DQ – am I correct, or too harsh?

    1. I think intentionally running a companion you know is illegal is pretty clearly in cheating territory.

  9. Thanks Toby.

    After revealing, I think my companion will keep staying in my sideboard still.
    On this procedure, can my otter run off into my library during G1?
    Or, we avoid it while choosing randomly?

  10. Is there any concern about correcting decks that are illegal for companions in limited? Players often don’t keep their whole sideboard in limited, and so the judge might not have access to the sideboard to fix the deck. That could also result in unplayable cards from the sealed or draft pool getting mixed in, unless I’m missing something?

    1. I don’t think there’s a concern here. If it can’t be fixed, it’s a Game Loss. If it can be fixed, you’re in better shape than that!

  11. “The judge goes through the sideboard and finds cards that do not violate the restriction. A number of those are chosen at random sufficient to fix the deck problems”

    How does this work when (usually in limited), a player doesn’t have their full sideboard with them (sold a rare to a vendor, threw some unplayable things in the trash, etc)? Do we do anything differently with cards that are obviously not playable (wrong color)? Do we do anything different if some of those sideboard cards are sleeved in a 2nd deck? Do we do anything different depending on whether the player has extra basics with them? If all limited sideboards contain an infinite number of each basic land wouldn’t that mean if we are taking randomly then we would only ever get basic lands (which are legal for all companions)?

    In practice I’m not sure this will matter because I’m not sure there are any Comp REL events happening before the next set comes out 🙁 but I’m curious.

    1. The basic lands are not technically part of the sideboard (they aren’t registered); they’re just available. If they actually did get rid of a chunk, and you don’t think they did it intentionally to manipulate this (which seems highly likely), work with what’s left.

      Agree that this may never actually be put to practical test 🙁

  12. Hi Toby – I think there’s a solid chance that people will be revealing their companion much earlier than we think, kind of like how some people reveal their commander in edh much earlier than they need to

    1. Certainly possible. But I doubt it will happen regularly enough to rely on. I think most of the time they’ll present, shuffle, return, then reveal a Companion.

  13. Thanks for the article!

    If players run through their mulligans, both agree upon opening hands, and then a player tries to reveal their Companion (at the same time one would normally reveal a Sphinx of Foresight or the Chancellors), are we saying that it’s “too late,” and you have now shown your opponent a card in your sideboard?

    Obviously, a player may make mulligan decisions differently if they know their opponent is on a certain type of deck, so I want to know what you think the cut-off is for Companions.

    1. Practically speaking, I think once you’ve drawn your opening hand, that’s pretty much the point of no return. There might be a mild issue of you letting the other person draw and make decisions before doing anything, but I think that’ll be obvious.

  14. For tournament play, do I need to declare my intended Companion on my decklist?

    To explain why I’m asking: suppose I have an 80-card singleton Constructed deck, so it satisfies both Lutri’s and Yorion’s requirements. Am I allowed to alter which Companion I declare between Game 1 and Game 2 of a match? What about declaring Lutri for Game 1 of Round 1, and Yorion Game 1 of Round 2?

    The Comp Rules appear to give you the flexibility to switch freely if you meet multiple conditions, but I wanted to confirm if this would be allowed for tournament play.

  15. In the unlikely event that a player registers a deck that satisfies the conditions of more than one companion, and has both candidates in their sideboard, are they allowed to declare a different companion in each round of the event? I can’t think of anything in the tournament rules that would prevent it, but it feels REALLY wrong.

  16. Could I get some help understanding this? Some of the wording I just can’t get my head around.

    “There’s one exception, of course. As I mentioned above, one Companion isn’t fully verifiable. Everyone’s favorite otter, Lutri. Sigh. Lutri gets a little clause of their own in the same upgrade path we have for other too-many-of-a-card violations; if they’re not all still in the deck, it’s a Game Loss.”

    Specifically the “if they’re not all still in the deck” Does it mean if there are two copies of a card with the same name and one has been drawn it’s a game loss? because one copy is in hand and another in the deck? And then does it mean there is no game loss if there are two copies of a card but both are still in the deck?

    1. Correct. It’s just like the old upgrade clause for discovering a player was playing more copies of a card than registered.

  17. Geez, all these Companion questions; time for something completely different! 🙂

    I’m curious how you see the pre-existing wordings in the IPG and MTR applying to the new counters (Flying, Trample, etc.)? In a Comp/Pro REL event, how should we enforce communication of that status? (I get that not communicating it correctly is handled just fine by the definition of Free Information; I’m just asking if we’re gonna require players to write it down, like life totals or mana, or if any method both players seem to accept is OK?)

    1. They’ll need to be represented, but they’re counters, and should have the same information classification as +1/+1 counters. Ideally, people will use something special, but if a bead is sufficient for both players, I don’t think it’s a problem. If someone is trying to be confusing, we have the tools for that.

  18. The first upgrade of Deck Problem now reads “a deck contains too many cards” whereas it was “deck is discovered to contain an incorrect number of cards” since Eldraine IPG (and it was the total opposite, “the deck […] is discovered to be missing cards” before).

    Is this a functional change? An overlook?

    1. I think it’ll probably get changed back to incorrect with the next update. I’m still trying to find a way to make that sentence read clearly. It’s not an intended functional change.

  19. Why not just go with the game loss? Come on…

    If oyu mess up there should be a punishment, not a slap on the wrist.

    1. If you mess up in a fixable way that doesn’t disadvantage the opponent, why not fix it? More Magic being played is a good thing.

  20. What happens if a player doesn’t actively reveal a companion in game 2, and they assume the reveal from game 1 still carried over? Their intention to play the companion is clear (to them), but their opponent assumes they sideboard in such a way that their deck no longer meets the criteria.

    1. You’ll have to use a little discretion here, as it’s a communication question. as it obvious to both players that there was a companion involved? How did they convey their intent? I don’t think the assumption of a reveal is there, but there’s a lot of ways to communicate the companion is still in effect. You’re going to have to figure out what happened and whether it was sufficient communication.

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