April Magic Tournament Rules Release Notes

Posted in News on April 23, 2018

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 Dominaria Prerelease took place this last weekend. I hope everyone is feeling all historic and legendary! It's time for a Tournament Rules update.

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), and so on. However, there are sometimes substantive changes, and those changes are listed below.

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 numbers of the rules. To get more context, you should refer to the actual wording in the linked document itself.

General: As has been done with our Magic card content, all instances of "he or she" have been replaced with the gender-neutral "they."

Introduction: The schedule for updates has been clarified. There will be Tournament Rules and Infraction Procedure Guide updates per the table in this section. There can be additional updates. Any additional updates that deal with banned or restricted cards will happen with at least four weeks' notice. Other changes can happen any time.

Section 1.11 (Spectators): The Tournament Rules state that at Professional Rules Enforcement Levels (REL), spectators may not interrupt matches (i.e., ask the players to pause their gameplay) while that spectator informs a judge of a possible issue. The Tournament Rules have been amended to allow official coverage staff members to pause matches before informing a judge.

Sections 2.13 (Video Coverage), 4.6 (Game Layout): A while ago, rules were introduced regarding a standard layout of cards in play for matches that take place with video coverage. These rules have now moved into their own section in the Communications section of the Tournament Rules. By popular demand, the rules now apply to all matches at Competitive and Professional REL (not just those that have video coverage). For more on this, you can read Toby Elliott's explanation here.

Section 2.14: (Tracked Totals): This section was just reworked in the January Tournament Rules update, and it's already moving! It has moved to section 4.1 (Player Communication).

Section 3.4 (Proxy Cards): Foil versions of cards for which Wizards has never printed a non-foil version may now be issued a proxy by a judge if and only if that card would mark the deck.

Sections 3.15 (Sideboard): An explicit call-out has been added that, when a player performs sideboarding, they do not have to sideboard on a one-for-one basis. This has been true since the sideboard rules changed to no longer require exactly fifteen cards in a sideboard. However, enough questions have arisen about this that the language has been updated to be more explicit.

Section 4.1 (Player Communication): This is the biggest change this time out. The rules regarding life totals have been moved here. Additionally, a fourth type of information ("Status") has been added to consolidate rules around life total and counters on players, and help with issues around the monarch and city's blessing mechanics. (For the full explanation of this change, see Toby Elliott's breakdown here.)

Section 4.2 (Tournament Shortcuts): Since the game rules regarding redirection of damage from a player to a planeswalker have changed, the shortcut involving this has been eliminated.

Section 6.3 (Standard Format): This section has been updated to account for the new Buy-a-Box promos that are part of an expansion, but do not appear in that expansion's boosters.

Section 6.7 (Block Constructed Format): With the elimination of the block structure for Magic sets, the Block Constructed format is no longer supported and this section has been removed.

Section 8.2 (Team Composition and Identification): The wording of this section has been updated to explicitly call out that if a member of a three-person team drops or is disqualified from a tournament, the entire team is also dropped or disqualified. In practice, an exception is made for the World Magic Cup, as those teams did not choose to play as a team but instead play as a team due to the invitation policy for that event.

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

Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules (viewable here)

This is the main rules document that governs competitive 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; and
  • Sanctioning rules.

Infraction Procedure Guide (viewable here)

This document provides the recommended penalties and procedures to handle rules violations.

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. 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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