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:
- The judge goes through the rest of the cards you’re currently playing and finds any that violate the restriction.
- 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.
- 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!