Magic Tournament Rules Release Notes

Posted in News on July 18, 2016

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.

Hello! My name is Scott Larabee. I am the E-Sports and Premier Play Programs Design Manager in the Organized Play department at Wizards of the Coast. In addition to my duties of program design for all the premier play programs (Pro Tour, Grand Prix, etc.), I also coordinate the various tournament rules documents that govern the operation of Magic tournaments.

These rules are updated quarterly, and updates are released the Monday after each Prerelease. As you probably know, the Eldritch Moon Prerelease took place in stores worldwide this last weekend, so it's time for a quarterly update! We will be posting "release notes" for each update going forward, in order 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 clairification 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 each quarter:

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 longtime 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 that latest release (which can be found here), listed by the section number of the rules. For added context, you should refer to the actual wording in the document itself.

General change throughout the rules document: In order to prevent confusion, the term "REL" has been replaced with the spelled-out "Rules Enforcement Level" in all instances.

Introduction: Clarifies that an official fact sheet for a tournament that is on the Wizards of the Coast website can override a tournament rule.

Section 2.5 (End-of-Match Procedure): Clarifies that the winner of a match in a single-elimination portion of a tournament is checked at the end of the five additional turns after time has expired.

Section 2.7 (Deck Registration): Clarifies the deadline as to when decklists must be submitted to a tournament official for a tournament. In Constructed-format events, they are due before the start of the first round. For Limited-format events, they are due no later than the first round for which an individual player does not have an awarded bye.

Section 2.11 (Taking Notes): Clarifies that players in a Regular Rules Enforcement Level tournament can consult the Magic card database (at, even if it contains small amounts of strategic advice.

Section 3.3 (Authorized Cards): Language has been added to include cards from Eldritch Moon that are part of a meld pair.

Section 3.7 (New Releases): Updated to include the tournament-legal dates for the newly announced sets Kaladesh and Aether Revolt.

Section 3.11 (Marked Cards): Clarifies the list of basic land types that can replace a card in a deck when an exact replacement cannot be found (no, you cannot use snow-covered basic lands or Wastes).

Section 3.15 (Sideboard): When you control another player's turn, you can no longer look at their sideboard. This is an actual rules change, not merely a clarification. Magic R&D requested this change, and the explanation as to why is provided here by Aaron Forsythe, Senior Director of Magic R&D:

"Looking at other players' sideboards during a game wastes a lot of time and adds a lot of note-taking, often for very little gain. To that end, and to keep the rules as simple as possible, we've chosen to make other players' sideboards sacrosanct. There is still plenty of information to be gleaned and havoc to be wreaked when controlling another player, even without access to their sideboard."

Section 4.2 (Tournament Shortcuts): Adds the "scry-after-mulligan" to the scry shortcut in the list of conventional shortcuts.

Section 7.2 (Card Use in Limited Tournaments): Clarifies that players may use their own basic lands in a Sealed Deck or Draft tournament, even if the organizer of that event provides basic lands.

Section 7.5 (Sealed Deck Pool Registration): Clarifies that players must sort the cards they are registering.

Section 6.3 (Standard Format Deck Construction): Adds newly announced expansions and the date on which they become legal in the format.

Section 6.4 (Modern Format Deck Construction): Adds newly announced expansions and the date on which they become legal in the format.

Section 8.4 (Unified Deck Construction Rules): This is a formal update to the Unified Deck Construction rules for Team Constructed–format events that was announced here. Except for cards with the basic supertype (or cards with text that specifies otherwise), no two decks within a team may contain the same card.

Appendix D (Recommended Booster Mix for Limited Tournaments): Various updates and additions due to the announcement of new expansions.

Appendix F (Rules Enforcement Level of Programs): Grand Prix Trials have changed from Competitive Rules Enforcement Level to Regular Rules Enforcement Level. The net effect of this change is that Grand Prix Trials now require a level 1–certified judge and no longer require decklists (though judges and organizers may still require decklists).

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

  • Ask a judge. Judges are easily the most readily available resource available for questions about tournament rules.
  • The Judge Program has a chat forum available for rules questions at
  • 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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