Posted in News on September 26, 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 Kaladesh 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 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 each quarter:

Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules

(Can be viewed 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
  • Tthe various formats for tournament play
  • Sanctioning rules

Infraction Procedure Guide

(Can be viewed 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). It is also includes the underlying philosophy that guides the implementation of those penalties and procedures.

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

(Can be viewed here)

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

I encourage anyone that 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.

Updates by Section Numbers

Here is 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. In order to more context, you should refer to the actual wording in the document itself.

General change throughout the rules document: Many instances of "sanctioned tournament" have been changed to "sanctioned, rated tournament." See "Introduction" below.

Introduction: Defines sanctioned tournaments as coming in two types—"rated" and "casual." Rated tournaments are those which provide Planeswalker Points on a match-by-match basis. Casual tournaments provide a single Planeswalker Point (only) for participation. We used to use the term "competitive" instead of "rated" in the Magic tournament rules. However, we also used "competitive" as a Rules Enforcement Level, thus leading to confusion. 

Section 3.7 (New Releases): Updated to include the tournament-legal dates for the newly announced sets Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation.

Section 3.9 (Shuffling): This change has to do with "pile shuffling." Pile shuffling alone is not a sufficiently random form of shuffling. Update states that a player may only pile shuffle once each time a deck is randomized. The one pile shuffle is allowed in order to count the number of cards in the deck.

Section 6.3 (Standard Format Deck Construction): Adds newly announced sets and the date on which they become legal in the format. Also clarifies that there are cards from Planeswalker Decks that are Standard-legal, even though they did not appear in a booster set release. These cards have the same expansion symbol as the set and are considered part of that set.

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

Section 6.5 (Vintage Format Deck Construction): All cards that 1) have the type "conspiracy" and 2) refer to "playing for ante" have been consolidated into a single entry on the list of cards banned in Vintage.

Section 6.6 (Legacy Format Deck Construction): All cards that 1) have the type "conspiracy" and 2) refer to "playing for ante" have been consolidated into a single entry on the list of cards banned in Vintage.

Section 6.7 (Block Constructed Format Deck Construction): Adds the Kaladesh block.

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

Appendix E (Number of Rounds in Swiss Tournaments): The chart has been updated for 9–16 players to clarify when four or five rounds (and a Top 4 or Top 8 playoff) should be used. With 9–16 players, four rounds of Swiss and a Top 8 playoff should only be used if the playoff will be a booster draft. Otherwise, five rounds of Swiss and a Top 4 playoff should be used (for a Sealed Deck playoff and all Constructed format playoffs).

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 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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