The latest updates to the missed trigger policy have caused quite a stir in the Magic community. There is a lot of misinformation being spread about the changes, and it's been causing most of the complaints. In this article I am going to try to dispel many of the myths surrounding the new trigger policy and explain why I think it is a great improvement from past iterations.
Why am I writing this article? Because I have spent countless hours reviewing and rationalizing the current missed trigger policy. I have presented seminars on the topic, and I have gone out of my way to seek out those who developed the policy in an effort to understand its intricacies. I have years of experience as a judge, and I understand what judging is really about: to keep Magic fair and therefore fun for Magic players.
Myth #1: Change is bad
This change to the missed triggers policy is good for Magic.
At regular REL, such as FNM, the current trigger policy encourages players to help one another while hopefully having fun. At FNM players are responsible for pointing out their opponents' triggered abilities when they are missed. This is a teaching tool for players to help newer players with their first tournaments remember to resolve their missed triggers. It also teaches newer players about the game and the concept of triggered abilities.
Also, there is the issue of outside assistance. If a newer player or spectator at FNM points out that a player missed a trigger, would you feel comfortable with a judge giving that player a penalty for outside assistance? I would not, since that player probably isn't familiar with rules and policy. Obviously, the policy needs to be the way it currently is to avoid that issue entirely.
At competitive and professional REL, the new policy gives players new strategic options. This enriches the game in my opinion. It does not ever take away options. Players are only responsible for acknowledging their own triggers. Players may choose to allow their opponents to miss their triggers and even bring up at an opportune time when a trigger has been missed to gain an advantage. If a player forgets to acknowledge a trigger they control, it is their opponent's choice whether that trigger will be put onto the stack. That's all a player really needs to know about the new missed trigger policy.
Myth #2: This change hurts players that are new to competitive REL
Let's imagine that at Regular REL attacking was mandatory if your opponents controlled no creatures. It would be a player's responsibility to point out that their opponent should attack with their creatures because there is practically no downside to doing so. Once a player ascends to the realm of competitive REL, it would be the way it is now, no help from the opponent.
Would the new player be hurt under this policy? I believe the player would learn that if he or she wanted to play at competitive REL, they would need to learn this skill of attacking into an empty battlefield, instead of relying on their opponent. This example is analogous to the new missed trigger policy. A player new to competitive REL needs to learn this new skill to be a good player at competitive REL, similar to learning to attack when the board is empty.
Myth #3: Invisible triggers like exalted are worse than they were before
Remembering your triggered abilities is now a test of skill. If you forget to acknowledge your exalted triggers, then you are not playing at your optimal level. This policy benefits those players who are more aware of the game state, while punishing those who are less aware of it.
It is important for players to have clear communication, especially when it comes to invisible triggers. Problems only arise with the new policy whenever there is poor communication between players. Over time, these problems will go away as players become more accustomed to acknowledging their triggers.
Myth #4: My trigger won't resolve unless I verbally announce it
This is wrong. You only need to acknowledge your trigger within the time frame between the trigger resolution and your next action. What constitutes an acknowledgement? Anything that communicates to your opponent that you have not forgotten about your triggered ability. This includes verbal acknowledgment, pointing to the card, writing an appropriate change in life totals, or anything else that communicates that you did not forget the trigger. You only have missed your trigger if you don't demonstrate awareness of its existence and/or you forgot to announce its effect. (In the Jace, Architect of Thought example, forgetting to announce its effect would be like acknowledging the trigger but forgetting that it reduces the power of your opponent's creatures.)
Myth #5: If my opponent misses their Dark Confidant trigger at one life, then they can live and get away with it
As an opponent, you will almost always have a choice to put the trigger on the stack if you want it to resolve. If a player “misses” their trigger (in other words, the player purposefully missed their own trigger) then they are going to be removed from that event for committing fraud. Triggered abilities such as that of Dark Confidant's are allowed by policy to be put on the stack by the opponent, so that players cannot skip triggers that would normally kill them. This is the eloquence of the new missed trigger policy design. All triggers, unless they have a default action or a duration, have the option for the opponent to put them onto the stack if missed.
Some would argue that it is correct to “miss” their own trigger if it is considered non-detrimental generally but not during this specific situation. If a player misses a Dark Confidant trigger at one life, they are going to have a long and deep discussion with the head judge, with a greater than normal likelihood that if they do it again, they will be removed from the event.
Myth #6: An opponent's action will make me miss my trigger
An opponent cannot take an action that will make a player miss a trigger. If you control a triggered ability that triggers on the upkeep of an opponent and that opponent draws a card before you are able to acknowledge the trigger, then the triggered ability will go on the stack at that time. If you attack with your Pyreheart Wolf and your opponent flashes in their Restoration Angel, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “OK, but that creature can't block alone.” This is because you have not taken an action between the time of the trigger resolving and that particular moment in the game.
Some would say that this is not how this situation was ruled in the past. It's worth noting that a lot of details about specific situations are missing. I doubt that we have the whole story. In such stories, the judge determined that the player forgot about the existence of the triggered ability until well after the trigger should have resolved.
Of course, judges are also adjusting to this new policy, and they can make mistakes. However the proper ruling is that you can acknowledge the trigger even after the opponent takes an action, and the trigger will go on the stack.
Myth #7: The policy makes me feel like a jerk
This is possible, but I would argue that it doesn't have to. I am specifically thinking about the example of the missed Pyromancer Ascension trigger.
A high profile player was playing against Pyromancer Ascension. The opponent cast a Gitaxian Probe and waited for a response. The player said “OK” and laid out her hand to resolve Gitaxian Probe. After drawing a card for the Probe, the opponent ticked up the counter on Pyromancer Ascension.
“Odds are pretty good I talk to the player and if it's clear that he just screwed up the order and was always aware of the trigger, I'd give it to him. It's quite possible that they thought it triggered on resolution of the spell. Obviously that's not definitive, but that's why you talk to them.”
However she assumed that the play was incorrect. If she had called a judge on her opponent, she says she would have felt like a jerk. Was calling a judge the only recourse for her? No. She could have educated her opponent on how to resolve the trigger if she was willing. A simple “That trigger resolves before the spell you cast resolves. I may call you on it next time if you forget it” gets around any awkwardness and puts the onus on the player to remember how their abilities work.
Myth #8: It matters whether a trigger is detrimental or non-detrimental
A triggered ability is considered either generally detrimental or non-detrimental. However, the only reason that distinction exists is for judges to determine whether the player receives a warning or not. The fix is the same regardless if the trigger is detrimental or non-detrimental; we ask the opponent if they would like it to be put on the stack.
I have tried my best here to clear up some common misconceptions. If there is one piece of advice I can give players about the new policy, it's to give it time. Players and judges are adjusting to the new rules. The reason you play and the reason we judge is the same; the game of Magic is fun, and we want to keep it that way.
Until next time, keep it fair to keep it fun.
My door is always open. If you have a question about the missed trigger policy, comment below. I will be more than happy to answer.