April Magic Tournament Rules Release Notes

Posted in News on April 24, 2017

By Scott Larabee

Scott Larabee started at Wizards of the Coast in 1998, having organized premier Magic tournaments since 1996. He is currently the E-Sports and Premier Play Programs Design Manager. He enjoys Commander and board games.

The Amonkhet Prerelease took place this last weekend, so it's time for a Tournament Rules update. Release notes are posted for each update to inform players, stores, and judges of the changes and updates that have been made.

In each update, most changes are small—grammar corrections, changes in language to provide better clarification on the intent of a rule, "housekeeping" updates (items that are updated each release due to new set announcements), etc. These are listed below with little or no commentary. Other changes are a bit more complex.

There are three main tournament policy documents that are eligible for update:

Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules (viewable here)

This is the main rules document that governs tournament play. It defines:

  • The fundamental parts of a tournament
  • The various roles and responsibilities of participants
  • The mechanics of a tournament
  • The violations that come with tournament play
  • The various formats for tournament play
  • Sanctioning rules

Infraction Procedure Guide (viewable here)

This document provides judges the appropriate penalties and procedures to handle rules violations that occur during a tournament held at Competitive or Professional Rules Enforcement Level (REL), as well as the underlying philosophy that guides their implementation.

This document is maintained by long-time judge Toby Elliott. His judge blog contains the notes for each release of this document.

Judging at Regular Rules Enforcement Level (viewable here)

This document provides guidelines for dealing with penalties and infractions at most non–premier level events.

I encourage anyone who is interested in tournament-level Magic to read these documents. They are the rules under which a tournament is run, so being familiar with these documents can help you to become a better player. In some cases, the Magic Tournament Rules supersede the Magic Game Rules, so knowing these rules can keep you from entering some awkward situations.

Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules Updates

Here are the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules update notes for the latest release (which can be found here), listed by the section number of the rules. To have more context, you should refer to the actual wording in the document itself.

General changes: We have moved a few rules to new sections. Rules regarding sideboards were in various sections throughout the Tournament Rules. We have now consolidated all those rules in Sections 3.15 (Sideboards) and Section 7.1 (Limited-Format Deck Construction Restriction). Additionally, there were rules regarding player communication during deck construction in Draft and Sealed Deck tournament, which have been moved to a new section on Outside Assistance.

Introduction: Some adjustments have been made to the schedule of Tournament Rules updates.

Sections 1.4 (Participation Eligibility), 10.4 (Pairing Algorithm), Appendix E (Recommended Number of Rounds), and Appendix F (Rules Enforcement Levels of Programs): The list of premier programs in these sections has been updated with additions and deletions.

Section 1.5 (DCI Numbers): This section has been rewritten to reflect the current ways in which a player can receive a DCI number if he or she does not already have one.

Section 1.10 (Players): Teammates are required to point out errors they notice in their teammate's games. This was referenced elsewhere but is now explicitly part of this section.

Section 2.2 (Play Draw Rule): No rules change here—just a consolidation of information about determining who goes first in a game.

Section 2.3 (Pregame Procedures): General cleanup of language that removes the implication that sideboarding cards must be done on a one-for-one basis.

Section 2.14 (Life Totals), Section 4.1 (Player Communication): Specific references to poison counters have been removed. Poison Counters are now handled in the "Free Information" portion of Section 4.1 (see below).

Section 3.2 (Formats and Categories): Explicitly says that players who are disqualified from a tournament do not receive Planeswalker Points for that tournament (this would also include Pro Points). This has always been true; it was just not explicitly stated in the rules.

Section 3.3 (Authorized Cards): We have changed the border-color condition for authorized cards from "black or white" to "non-silver." Yes, this makes Amonkhet Invocations legal for tournaments. No, this does not make gold-bordered cards legal due to other conditions in the list (namely "a standard Magic back"). We have also removed the Un-set basic land exemption due to its redundancy. Finally, we have moved information about replacing a card in a deck with a basic land from Section 3.11 (Marked Cards) to this section, as it has wider applications than simply marked cards.

Section 3.6 (Card Identification and Interpretation): This section has been renamed from "Card Interpretation." We have also updated the rules on naming a card so that any time a player names a card during a game, for whatever reason, they need to describe a card unambiguously, and if anyone knows that they haven't done so, they need to seek greater clarification. A name isn't necessary, so long as there's a single card that everyone is on the same page about.

Section 3.7 (New Releases): We have added a clarification that judges now have the latitude to allow obvious things (such as Amonkhet Invocations being legal during a Prerelease), even if an official update hasn't happened yet.

Section 3.15 (Sideboards): We have moved various sideboard-related rules from other sections to this section to consolidate sideboard rules.

Section 4.1 (Player Communication): The "Free Information" rules have been changed so that both the type and number of a counter are free information. For a more complete explanation of this change, see Toby Elliott's explanation here.

Section 4.2 (Tournament Shortcuts): There are a few changes here. First, a statement has been added that makes the shortcuts default communication. Second, combat and end-of-turn shortcuts have been updated. Third, a small additional restriction has been added to the planeswalker redirection shortcut. Lastly, the "Counterspell target" rule has been tweaked slightly because of Disallow. For the full explanation of these changes, see Toby Elliott's explanation here.

Section 4.5 (Team/Two-Headed Giant Communication): Team communication now defaults to always, but falls back to format-specific rules when needed.

Section 5.6 (Outside Assistance): This is a new section that makes it clear when it is inappropriate to give and receive advice from other players, spectators, etc.

Section 6.1 (Deck Construction Restrictions): The rules in this section regarding card legality have been moved to their own section (see below).

Section 6.2 (Card Legality): This used to be the section on sideboard use in Constructed tournaments. Those rules have been consolidated in Section 3.15, and we have moved the card legality rules from Section 6.1 to here.

Section 6.3 (Standard): The rules regarding Standard-legal cards from Planeswalker Decks (specifically, when those cards rotate out of Standard) and Welcome Decks (and other products) have been updated.

Section 6.5 (Vintage): The exception for Mana Crypt has been removed (due to its appearance in Eternal Masters). Also, two cards have been restricted in the Vintage format: Gitaxian Probe and Gush. You can read the explanation as to why these cards were restricted in the Banned and Restricted Announcement.

Section 6.6 (Legacy): As with Vintage, the exception for Mana Crypt has been removed. Also, Sensei's Divining Top has been banned in the Legacy format. You can read the explanation as to why it was banned in the Banned and Restricted Announcement.

Section 7.1 (Limited-Format Deck Construction Restrictions): Information about what constitutes a Limited-format sideboard has been moved from Section 7.3 to here.

Section 7.3 (Continuous Construction): Limited-format sideboard information was moved to Section 7.1, so now this section has been renamed and only contains the rules for continuous construction.

Section 7.7 (Booster Draft Procedure): The rules about how to handle a player leaving in the middle of the draft have been changed. Now that player is skipped instead of having a judge pick a card randomly for that player.

Section 9.4 (Pregame Procedure for Two-Headed Giant): While the play/draw rule for Two-Headed Giant is in section 9.3, when you applied the rule wasn't covered in the pregame procedure section. This is now corrected.

Appendix E (Recommended Number of Rounds): Since Team and Two-Headed Giant tournaments only require a minimum of four teams, we have added information about how many rounds to run when four to seven teams are in an event.

That's all for this update! If you have questions about the Magic Tournament Rules, I recommend the following resources:

  • Ask a judge. Judges are easily the most available resource available for questions about tournament rules.
  • The judge program has a chat forum available for rules questions at http://chat.magicjudges.org/mtgrules/.
  • You can also contact Wizards of the Coast Game Support. Information about how to do that can be found here.

—Scott Larabee

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