Important Changes to Rules and Penalties

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The letter P!art of being a successful tournament player is staying on top of important rules changes, and this event features not just an important rules change but also a completely new system for official penalty guidelines. I sat down with level 4 judge Toby Elliott and DCI Judge and Investigations Manager Andy Heckt to get all the information.

Rules Changes

As far as card rulings go, by far the most important Planar Chaos rules update effective February 1st involves Momentary Blink's interaction with tokens. First off, if the phrases "Momentary Blink" and "interaction with tokens" together aren't ringing any bells for you, I'd suggest a quick read through "Rules Mayhem!"

So, prior to Planar Chaos, if you had a token leave play and return without a chance to check for state-based effects (as happens with Momentary Blink), the token would actually come back into play. The wacky thing is, there is a game rule about tokens not being able to return to play after being removed. The problem was that it checked as a state-based effect. Starting with the Planar Chaos rules update effective February 1st, that rule has been specifically reworded to work correctly. Now, if you cause a token to leave play, it won't come back. So you can't cast Momentary Blink on your token and keep the token, and you also can't make a token copy of Flickering Spirit and use its ability without losing the token. (The token copy of Flickering Spirit will disappear while flickered out and then not come back.)

Card-wise, the other change of note involves a strange guru-level interaction between Void Maw and Leyline of the Void. Suffice it to say that under the old rules you could pump the Void Maw infinitely with a Leyline of the Void in play - Leyline of the Void kept the card removed from the game, where it could be used to pump Void Maw again. With the Planar Chaos update that strange occurrence is gone, and Void Maw goes back to working the way you probably thought it worked in the first place.

NEW PENALITY GUIDELINES

Looking for the nitty gritty on the new guidelines? Go to the DCI Document Center for Wrod and PDF versions for download.

New Penalty Guidelines

The much bigger news for tournament players is that Geneva is the first Pro Tour to use a new penalty guideline system, which has been completely reworked from the ground up. Inspired by issues that arose at Pro Tour - Honolulu, Heckt and Elliott stressed that everything has been reevaluated and reassessed.

The main issue comes from a change in judging philosophy for organized play events. In the past judges have been put in difficult situations when the game state has become broken that force them to have to sometimes make strategic evaluations of the board to determine how serious the problem is and what, if anything, can or should be done.

To avoid this problem and many others, the new philosophy is that both players are now fully and formally responsible for the game state. If Player A makes an illegal play (like putting an Armadillo Cloak on a Dunerider Outlaw), it is both players' responsibility to notice the problem.

Under the old system, dishonest players were incentivized to allow their opponents to make game state-breaking mistakes. Then the dishonest player might just wait a turn or two to "notice" a play they knew was illegal right off the bat. A couple turns later they call the judge over instead. If the mistake in question caused the game state to be broken to the point that it's too difficult to correct the original mistake, the player who made the mistake may be issued a game loss.

These kinds of problems and others led to the new philosophy which states that both players have a responsibility to maintain a legal game state.

Under the old system, the penalty guide described procedural errors with very broad strokes, so assignment of penalties was also very general, leading to variance in enforcement from event to event and region to region. There are now two specific classifications of procedural errors: Game Errors and Tournament Errors. From there, the new penalty guidelines have very specific examples of each possible kind of infraction and how they should be handled when they occur. At the core of all of them is the philosophy that both players are responsible for maintaining a legal game state.

Procedural errors come in two types. "Tournament errors" are defined as violations of the floor rules and/or universal tournament rules, so here you're dealing with issues like tardiness, slowplay, etc. The other side is "game errors," which are instead violations of the comprehensive rules, such as putting an Armadillo Cloak on a Dunerider Outlaw.

Now, within "game errors" there are four specific categories of warnings that the offending player can get. However, because bothplayers are now responsible for maintaining a legal game state, if one player gets a warning for one a game error, the opponent will receive a warning from the special fifth group, which is "Failure to maintain game state."

Here then are each of the four kinds of game errors with examples and how they are handled (generally speaking). Remember, though, that this is the first event using the new penalty guidelines, and they are still provisional. With so many changes it's understood that the judging staff will need to see what works and what needs work. Some time soon following the event the new policy will be posted to the DCI document center. So, if you've got an organized play event coming up with any serious level of rules enforcement, you'll want to watch that page for the official document. With that in mind, I'll also stress that the following is just an introduction to the changes - a heads-up to be aware that important changes are coming and to make sure you educate yourself once the official policy is released.

1) Error of Representation

These are very minor procedural or clerical errors such as playing a Harrow and putting it into the graveyard immediately, then getting the lands out of the deck. (In that case, the proper order is to resolve the spell completely and then put the Harrow in the graveyard.)

Result: The player making the mistake gets a verbal caution and is told how to do it correctly.

2) Illegal Game State

With these, at some point in the past something happened which caused the game state to become illegal. (Example: Armadillo Cloak was played on Dunerider Outlaw several turns ago. Since then several attacks have occurred and both life totals have been affected.)

Result: State-based effects are applied immediately, and a written warning is given to the player that made the mistake. (This is assuming it's judged unintentional. If the judges determine that the infraction was intentional that's cheating, which is much more severe). The opponent is given a written warning for failure to maintain a legal game state. So, in our example, as soon as the problem is identified, state-based effects would be applied immediately, causing the Armadillo Cloak to fall off. The player that made the mistake would get a written warning for creating an illegal game state and the opponent would get a warning for failing to maintain the game state.

3) Missed Trigger

This one breaks down by what kind of trigger was missed. If it's an optional trigger that involves choices, the assumption is that you chose not to take any optional actions. (So, if you forget to declare echo the assumption is that you chose not to pay echo.)

If you have a mandatory trigger that doesn't involve a choice, like suspend, the players have a "turn cycle" to discover the problem. For the sake of this article we'll say that a turn cycle is basically a full turn from where you are currently to the end of the same part of the turn two turns from now. So, if it's currently your upkeep, the current turn cycle would extend until the end of your next upkeep. (Remember, this is just an introduction, not the rules document itself, so make sure to watch for the official rules once they are released for more exacting definitions.)

So, if you forget to remove a suspend counter but one of the players notices it before the end of your next upkeep, you go ahead and correct the problem by removing the counter. (So if you forgot a suspend counter one upkeep and noticed it next upkeep, you'd remove two counters.)

The real issue comes up with mandatory triggers that do involve a choice. If one of these gets missed, and a player catches it within a turn cycle, the fix is to put the trigger in question onto the stack immediately. Sound crazy? You bet. It's both players' responsibility to make sure mistakes like these don't happen, so the way to avoid problems like this is to stay vigilant. Issues like this happen only if both players miss the problem in question. (If it sounds like somebody could take advantage of that, keep in mind that any infractions are recorded as part of a player's history, so judges will be able to watch for any patterns of abuse, at which point we're potentially talking about cheating, not inadvertent errors.)

4) Game Play Error

This is the "everything else" category, so any game errors that don't fall under the first three categories land here. So this is where we're talking about things like accidentally playing a card for the wrong mana cost, forgetting to attack with a creature that must attack each turn, etc.

Result: For these, if it wasn't caught immediately the current game state stays, and both players get warnings (the offending player gets a game play error and the opponent that didn't notice the error gets a warning for failure to maintain game state). Yes, that's potentially different than previous enforcement policy, and it highlights yet again the underlying change of philosophy that both players are responsible for making sure the game is proceeding legally.

5) Failure to maintain game state

This is the special fifth group, which is the warning a player gets for not noticing that the opponent made a game error.

Wrapping Up

As I mentioned, this isn't intended to define or even completely list all the changes involved in the new policy. Instead this is just a heads-up that such change is afoot. With that in mind, I'll finish up with notes on a couple other parts of the new policy that players should be aware of.

First, because different game errors can fall under the same classification, the policy of escalating penalties on repetitions of the same infraction will take into account if the game error in question is actually the same as previous game errors in the event. So, for example, if a player gets the casting cost on a dragon wrong one match and then gets a warning next match for forgetting to attack with a creature that must attack, those are both category four game errors, but different enough mistakes that they probably wouldn't lead to an automatic escalation to game loss. (Obviously that all changes if the "mistakes" are determined to be intentional.) By contrast, if a player paid [manacost: 1WW] for a Wrath of God and got a warning, and then got another warning later in the day for casting a different spell with the wrong mana, that would be much more likely to receive an escalation since then you're talking about the same mistake being made multiple times at the same event.

The same logic applies to getting warnings for failing to notice your opponents' mistakes. Because this is a broad category and players can get these for many different reasons, it's unlikely that this kind of warning will automatically escalate just for having low multiples at the same event. (There's a line, of course; it's no excuse to go lazy.)

Another change to be aware of is that, under the new system, if you call a judge on yourself immediately for something that you haven't gained any advantage from yet, the head judge now has the option to downgrade the standard penalty. So, for example, if you presented your deck to your opponent but noticed your 60th card sitting in your sideboard while shuffling your opponent's deck, if you called the judge over immediately before the game started the head judge would have the option to downgrade the standard penalty since you alerted the judging staff as soon as you noticed the problem.

Finally, another change to be aware of at this stage involves formats where a "match" consists of only one game rather than best-of-three, such as Two-Headed Giant. In such formats, previously anything that resulted in a game loss penalty was essentially the same as a match-loss penalty. Since this can be too strict for some infractions, a new penalty level has been created in which the penalized team is given a negative match point rather than losing the whole match. So, while registering 8 Skullclamps for your Two-Headed Giant Extended team is likely to get you a full match loss penalty, making a more minor error that used to be the equivalent of a match loss now may only cost you a match point. In that case, your team loses a match point off its current score in the event, regardless of whether you win or lose the match in question. So, if your team went into the round with 19 points and received a match point penalty, you'd now have 18 points in the tournament. From there if you lost you'd still have 18, but if you won now you'd be up however many points the win was worth.

So there you have it. The bottom line is to stay vigilant. Work with your opponent to make sure both of you are playing correctly, and check with the judges if you run into anything you aren't sure about. And, since all of this is just starting to be released, make sure to watch the rules pages for official updates as the policy is fully released.

And remember not to use Momentary Blink on your tokens any more!

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