September Magic Tournament Rules Release Notes

Posted in News on September 28, 2020

By Scott Larabee & Toby Elliott

Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules Updates

Hello there! It has been a while since we have had a rules update. COVID has kept us busy, and all updates have just been housekeeping issues that always come with new sets. No real changes.

From now on, Toby Elliott and I will be presenting the updates to the Magic Tournament Rules, the Infraction Procedure Guide, and the JAR each quarter in this article. I'll take care of the housekeeping bits on the Tournament Rules, then Toby will continue with deeper explanations plus information about how these changes affect the infractions.

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.

Not a large amount of changes this time around. The rules have been updated with Zendikar Rising in various sections. Plus, the banned cards lists in the various Constructed formats have been updated with the July and August changes.

The more specific changes:

General: The introduction of Set Boosters has necessitated many changes in the tournament rules, mostly to indicate that Booster Draft and Sealed Deck tournaments use Draft Boosters.

Section 3.5, other sections (Checklist Cards): Zendikar Rising has introduced a "help card" instead of a checklist card to represent double-faced cards. The section has been renamed to "Helper Cards." More from Toby on this below.

Section 6.3 (Standard Format Deck Construction): In addition to removing some rotated sets and adding Zendikar Rising, language has been added to clarify that cards are legal in Standard based on the expansion symbol on the cards.

Section 7.7 (Booster Draft Procedures): An exception has been added to cover the differences in drafting with Double Masters.

For a more takes on these changes (as well as how Zendikar Rising affects enforcement of tournament rules, I'll hand it over to Toby.


Huh, New Digs. Spacious!

Hi! For those of you who don't know me, I'm Toby Elliott. I'm a judge and a consultant to Wizards of the Coast on tournament policy. Traditionally, I've written a policy update with each new revision of the two main tournament documents: the Infraction Procedure Guide (IPG) and the Magic Tournament Rules (MTR). Those updates have ranged from serious to deeply silly. Wizards asked me if I could start writing them for the mothership. I asked them if I could keep being silly, and they said they expected it. I asked them if they'd read my Throne of Eldraine update and were sure about that, and they said that it wasn't a problem. They're insane.

But we'll keep it muted here; this update is going to touch on a serious and important subject. I make no such promise about future articles.

The Rising

Zendikar Rising brings a whole host of new cards and mechanics, but it isn't too complex from a tournament policy perspective. The biggest problem I see is people sweeping their lands back into the deck after a game, then discovering they forgot to turn their modal double-faced cards back to their front face and can't remember what's on the other side. If we were judging tournaments, I'm sure I'd have more than a few judge calls where the player pulls me aside and says, "I don't actually have a question, I just needed to turn this card around without my opponent seeing me do it." Try not to abuse that when we get back to paper play.

You are expected to have your cards with the front face visible while not on the battlefield, though accidentally messing that up won't get you penalized unless it causes confusion.

But tournament updates can be driven by all sorts of interesting things, and the two main updates this time revolve around two things not related to the cards in Zendikar Rising.

The first is the introduction of Helper cards. Since Innistrad, we have had checklist cards to stand in for double-faced cards, but Helper cards are new, so this update has rules for them. They're what you'd expect—write them legibly, don't cause confusion, don't put advice on them. Checklist cards simply become a type of helper card. Beyond that, I'm looking forward to seeing what people can do with this blank canvas.

The second change arises from the new booster types—Set Boosters, Collector Boosters, and Draft Boosters. In the tournament documents, we mostly care about Draft Boosters, as that's what will be used for sanctioned Limited events. The documents now explicitly refer to them (and sent me down a rabbit hole about consistent capitalization of Sealed Deck and Booster Draft, but that's not of interest to anyone other than me). But the section describing the cards legal in standard was getting more and more complicated as it talked about Buy-a-Box promos, Planeswalker decks, and several other sources. Was there a way to clean it up?

It turns out there was. At this point, all the cards legal in Standard have the expansion symbols of the sets in standard, and that's a lot easier to explain. All the cards you might find with these products—cards off The List, Box Toppers, et al.—that are not part of Standard have different expansion symbols. So, the Standard pool is defined by the expansion symbols of the sets in Standard: Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, Core Set 2021, and the one from the plane with everything trying to kill you.

Quick Hits

This is the section where I mention other changes that might be relevant to highlight, but I don't have much to say. As you've probably figured out by now, I'll talk about pretty much anything! So, these are small corners, but here for completeness.

* If you're disqualified from a tournament, we had a rule that made it clear that you don't get Planeswalker points or pro points. But nobody else does now either, so there's not much point in keeping it around.

* Team tournaments don't look at the individual match scores for tiebreakers. It doesn't matter if your team won by 2 matches to 0 or 2 matches to 1, for example. This has always been true but wasn't actually documented. It is now.

* The wording for handling a situation where a companion was discovered to be invalid was a little more confusing than it needed to be and could be misinterpreted. It's been reworded to be a little clearer.

* The upgrade paths for Deck Problems has a section on too few cards in a deck, but there are some situations possible where the deck has too many cards and the handling is the same. So that got a small tweak to roll that back in. It shouldn't come up much at all.

A Norse Is a Norse, Of Course, Of Course

That's it until Kaldheim! And I probably should have saved that headline. It's gold, Jerry! I hope the world will be in a better place and we'll be able to gather in person a bit more to sling cards. In the meanwhile, see you all on Magic: The Gathering Arena and over webcams. Enjoy Zendikar Rising!


That's all for this update! If you have questions about Magic Tournament Rules, we 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 fundamentals 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.


We 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 & Toby Elliott

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