A Player's Guide To The Recent Rules Changes
Recently a few changes to certain rules documents came down from on high exploding the brains of judges and players alike. It was decreed that the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules and the Infraction Procedure Guide needed an update. Here I'm going to outline for you some of the things that players want or need to know about the recent changes.
Changes to the Magic Tournament Rules
The Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules (MTR) document describes rules as procedures to be followed by players judges and tournament organizers. The MTR is updated on a regular basis usually with banned and restricted announcements and tournament format legalities. This update came with a few significant changes that will change the way players play Magic.
The Play/Draw Rule
The first major rule change is the expansion of the Premier Event Top 8 play/draw rule. Nearly a year ago it was decided that for Pro Tour Top 8s if you had a higher finish than your opponent in the Swiss portion of the tournament you would have the privilege of choosing whether to play or draw at the start of your playoff matches. With the most recent update this has been expanded to include not only Pro Tours but also Grand Prix events World Magic Cup Qualifiers and Pro Tour Qualifiers. Wizards wants people to play Magic. This rule was implemented to reward players who did well playing Magic during the Swiss portion instead of intentionally drawing in.
Electronic Device Support
Hey did you know that Magic players like smartphones? Whether it's an iPhone iPad Android or your favorite electronic gadget the second major change is that the MTR was updated to support some additional use of these devices. So what do you the player need to know? Answer: not much. Most players have already adopted smart devices to keep track of life totals and generate random numbers. StarCityGames.com even created their own life-tracking app for the iPhone.
Part of this update included a rule stating that players are allowed to nicely ask their opponents if they can answer a phone call during matches. By answer they mean: answer the phone tell them you're busy in a match and then hang up. During the phone conversation you are still subject to slow play and stalling penalties.
Another thing you couldn't do before was look up oracle text on your own device during a match. You are now allowed to do this as long as the information is available to both players and does not give any strategic information. I'm willing to bet that most of you didn't even know this was against the rules; even though you can now most of you will still call a judge to have him or her look it up for you. That's fine too. Part of the fun of learning how to be a judge is learning about interesting cards by looking up their oracle text for the first time.
Announcing Life Total Changes
Now to my biggest pet peeve of all and the change that I as a judge am most grateful for. From this moment forward each player is expected to announce all life total changes. Hallelujah. All of my judge friends are now jumping for joy I'm sure. Some of the hardest judge calls I've ever taken were life total discrepancies. One player says "Blah." The other player retorts with "Anti-blah." At the end of it they ask the judge what to do. This change was implemented to curb these occasions. Players are now required to designate a public method of keeping track of life and are required to call out discrepancies when they see them. Although this isn't a huge change it makes life a lot easier for all parties involved.
Changes to the Infraction Procedure Guide (Starting This Weekend)
Now that I'm down from my soapbox let's go over the changes to the Infraction Procedure Guide (IPG). The IPG is a document that instructs judges in how to handle situations that result from illegal actions. Judges lean on the IPG to call out infractions and issue penalties.
Some Minor Changes
So what do players need to know about these changes to the IPG? There's a little something about missed triggers but we'll go over that in a minute. For now here are some of the minor changes that players may be interested in knowing.
- If an object is in the wrong zone instead of backing up the game state judges will now just move the object into the correct zone if it is caught before you reach the same step of your next turn. Basically this means if you forgot to put a creature into the graveyard instead of backing up the game to the point where you forgot to put the creature into the graveyard the judge will simply place the creature in the graveyard.
- Penalty upgrades for game play error infractions reset between multiday events. Multiday events are often grueling and expecting players to play perfect for fifteen rounds of Swiss can be expecting too much.
And now for what you've all been waiting for...
Changes to Missed Trigger
I'm sure that most of you have heard about the changes to the missed trigger policies. If not this next sentence should give you everything you need to know as a player about the changes.
"Don't miss your triggers!"
So "Judge?" you ask "What if I do miss my or my opponents' triggers?" My answer: it depends…
At all Rules Enforcement Levels: Just like before you are responsible for your own triggers. Intentionally skipping a mandatory trigger will get you kicked out of a tournament faster than you can say "cumulative upkeep." Regardless if you miss your own trigger raise your hand and call a judge.
At Friday Night Magic or any other tournament run at Regular REL: Everything you previously learned about triggered abilities still holds true. You are still required to point out any mandatory triggers at Regular REL. Regular REL events are considered a place to learn how the game works. Not pointing out your opponent's triggers goes against the spirit of FNM and other such events.
So what if this is a PTQ or higher-level event?
At Competitive REL or higher: You are not expected to point out your opponents' triggers mandatory or not. Magic is a game of skill. Judges and you as a player should not be required to make sure players play the game well. This policy change makes remembering your triggers into a skill test. I welcome it.
What if you want something to trigger? Let's say your opponent forgot to discard a card to their trigger; what do you do? You simply point out that they missed a trigger and call a judge. After you explain the situation to the judge the judge will let you know if the trigger will go on the stack or not. This is where all the technical stuff about lapsing and non-lapsing abilities comes in but players really don't need to worry about that. Basically if your opponent misses a mandatory trigger and you want it to resolve call a judge right away.
One more thing: since remembering triggers is now a skill test this means that judges other players and spectators are not allowed to point out missed triggers. This is going to take a little getting used to and I'm sure for the first few weeks there are going to be some awkward judge calls involving outside assistance.
Want to Learn More?
That's it… As always if you have a question raise your hand and call a judge. For those people who want a more in-depth explanation of some of the changes check out the "Missed Triggers: The DVD Commentary" article written by Level 5 judge and policy guru Toby Elliott.
Are you interested in becoming a judge? Most everything you need to know can be found here.
I hope I've shed some light on the recent changes. Until the next time I get the bug to write an article keep it fair.
A special thanks to Charlotte Sable and the other fabulous judges that lent their time to proofreading this article.
Level 2 Judge