Published on 06/29/2009

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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

Tournament policy isn't this confusing!
While all you players are excited about the shiny new Magic 2010 rules (or maybe "excited" isn't the right word... I heard a few people weren't happy with some of the changes or something?), all us judges have just been dying to hear about the new tournament rules! They've just recently been released, and boy are they a good read. Lots of stuff has been cleared up, and some policy has been changed. But what good is policy if players don't know about it?

Knowing what you can and can't do at a tournament is as important as knowing that creatures turn sideways to attack, so to help everyone get comfortable with tournament policy, we've devoted this entire Cranial Insertion to policy questions!

We'll return to your regularly scheduled rules column next week - something tells me that there's about to be a whole lot of new rules questions very soon! In the meantime, keep sending your rules questions to !

Also, keep in mind the policy changes don't go into effect until Wednesday, so if you've got a tournament today or tomorrow, you're just using the old rules for the time being.

Q: Can I look at the cards I've picked during a draft to help me choose what to pick out of my current pack?

A: Possibly, but it's up to the Head Judge. At Regular RELs, the Head Judge has the option to allow players to look at their long as you're not holding any other cards while you're looking at the cards you already picked.

Q: In a big draft, we split up into as-even-as-possible draft pods to draft, but do we eventually play other people not in our pod?

A: At Regular REL, if the Tournament Organizer wants to, he or she is able to pair players out of their pods, and they should announce this before the tournament starts.

Q: Are players in different pods part of the same draft? For instance, can I show off my rare to my friend who's in a different pod?

A: Nope. Players aren't allowed to communicate or reveal hidden information to anyone but tournament officials. Even though your friend's in a different pod, he's still in the same draft!

The new policy documents have had
their language cleared up considerably.
Here's a sample from the old ones!
(No not really....)
Q: Am I allowed to sort my cards into different piles between picks? Like, cards I'm playing and cards I'm not playing, or by color, or whatever?

A: Nope - all the cards you drafted must be kept in a single, face-down pile. Separating them just invites much confusion as to what's being passed vs. what you've drafted, so keep them together! Besides, you're a good enough player to sort them in your head. I know you are.

Q: How's this new "mulliganing at the same time" thing work?

A: Instead of the first player announcing and resolving all mulligans before the second player even starting to mulligan, now players make their choices practically at the same time. First the player who's going first announces whether or not they're going to mulligan, then the second player announces whether they're going to mulligan. Then each player mulligans! (That's the exciting part.) After both players have drawn their slightly-smaller hand, they repeat the process until neither of them want to mulligan anymore. Once a player has chosen not to mulligan, they can't later decide they're going to mulligan again.

Q: It's 1 AM and FNM was exciting, but it's top 4 and no one wants to play anymore. Can we all split the remaining prize and go home?

A: Sure - in the single elimination rounds of a tournament, players may ask the Tournament Organizer if they can split the remaining prizes and go long as all of them agree. It's important that no one concedes here though - they need to drop from the event, and the tournament ends.

Players can also agree to split the remaining prize evenly, but keep playing anyway just for the rating points. Everyone wins!

Q: Am I allowed to bring a sheet with me that tells me how to sideboard for each matchup?

A: Yep! In a stunning change of events, outside notes are legal... so long as you don't refer to them during a game. Between games, and between matches, you can look at outside notes all you want. The DCI's philosophy on this is that knowing exactly how to sideboard can't be "brute-forced" by notes: you still need to know what you're doing!

Q: I've lost a Wrath of God that was in my maindeck, and the next round's about to start and I can't find another one to replace it. What am I supposed to do?

A: Well, in the past, your only option would be to drop. But thanks to the DCI, now you have another option - call a judge (this is important, don't try to fix this yourself!) and replace the missing card with a basic land! While a Plains might not be nearly as game-breaking as a Wrath, at least it doesn't totally end your Magic day. Unfortunately for you, once you've made this change, it's marked on your decklist and you can't change it back, even if you can locate a Wrath later.

Q: In an Alara block draft, can I switch up the cards in my graveyard so my Dregscape Zombie is on top of my yard, even other cards have since been put there above it?

A: The last time cards cared about graveyard order was before Urza's block. So in any format that only allows cards from that block and later (Extended, Standard, and any limited or Block format from Urza block or later), you can change up the order of your graveyard as much as you want now.

Q: If I see someone accidentally make an illegal play at FNM, can I stop the match and tell them?

A: No - but at Regular and Competitive level events, you're now allowed to tell players to stop the match while you call a judge. You can't tell them what's wrong, but the DCI recognizes that while judges are awesome, they're not super-fast (though have you seen the new shirts? Woo!) so they can't always get to a match in time to stop an illegal gamestate from progressing if a spectator calls them over.

Q: I heard that riffle shuffling is now mandatory, but I'm playing with expensive cards and don't want to riffle shuffle my foil Tarmogoyfs. Can I shuffle without actually bending the cards to riffle them?

A: It seems to be a common misconception that you need to bend your cards to shuffle them sufficiently randomly, but that's not true: you can sort of "slide" them together (hold one half of the deck over the other, and let the top cards fall between the bottom ones), or "mash" them together. It's important to note that pile shuffling isn't random: you can do it as part of your shuffling routine, but you'll still have to perform some kind of actual shuffle a few times.

Q: If I evoke a Mulldrifter for the wrong mana cost by accident, do I get a penalty for Drawing Extra Cards? What if I play a Counsel of the Soratami for the wrong mana cost?

A: You've only committed "Drawing Extra Cards" when you've actually drawn extra cards. If an effect tells you to draw two cards (or you think an effect is telling you to draw two cards, such as a Font of Mythos that isn't in play anymore) and you draw three cards, that's Drawing Extra Cards.

Q: If my opponent casts Rampant Growth and puts it in the graveyard before searching, can he still search?

A: He can, thanks to a bit of policy called Out of Order Sequencing. If you discard a card to your Masticore before you even untap your lands, or draw three cards before you return a creature with Cruel Ultimatum, or place a Rampant Growth in your graveyard before it even finishes resolving, that's all Out of Order Sequencing. As long as you're not abusing it (trying to catch a reaction from your opponent, or taking an action you just plain forgot about, or so on), that's fine, though not desired.

It was previous policy that players at Professional events couldn't use Out of Order sequencing, but now everyone's afforded the luxury of not playing absolutely perfectly.

Q: If we have twenty players at a local event, how many rounds does that have to be?

A: Five rounds is the ideal number for that many players, but it doesn't have to be! In fact, under the new rules a TO can announce that they'll stop it at four rounds if they have only one player who's undefeated after four rounds.

We're here to help!
Q: My friend joked that if I was ever in a situation in an important match where knowing what was in my opponent's hand could save me, he'd should out what was in my opponent's hand, because it's "only a Warning at Regular REL". I don't think he was serious, but is this true?

A: Not at all - that'd be intentionally committing an infraction, which falls under Cheating - Fraud. Turns out that's way more than just a Warning: it's a DQ!

Q: My friends and I draft every Wednesday night at my house, and it'd be cool if we could get rating points for it. Can we get it sanctioned?

A: As long as you move to a more public venue and whoever's sanctioning it doesn't play (unless it's one of those fancy WPN "casual non-rated" events), sure! Tournaments can't be held in a private residence, and you can't make your tournaments invite-only...unless you've held a significant number of tournaments to allow players to "qualify" for your invite-only sanctioned event!

Q: My FNM store allows us to bring our own packs to get a discount on the entry fee, since they don't need to provide as many packs that way. But doesn't this make cheating pretty easy?

A: It does - and that's why players who bring their own product have to throw it in with the rest of the product the Tournament Organizer is going to give out.

Q: Someone told me that if I look at my hand before my opponent, I'm playing first. That seems a little...odd. If I want to play first, all I need to do is look at my hand faster than my opponent?

A: Well, that'd be a fun (though illegal) way to determine who plays first, but you weren't told the whole deal. If you win the die roll and look at your hand before announcing if you're going to play or draw, you're automatically on the play no matter what you were going to say. If you do look at your hand before you even randomly determine who goes first, you're locked into being on the play if you win the die roll.

Q: Where can I find the new Tournament Rules and Infraction Procedure Guide?

A: At the official Document Center! For all your rules lawyering needs!

Well that was fun! Remember, the point of having these policies is to have the tournament be fun and fair for everyone, so go out there and have fun!

About the Author:
Brian Paskoff is a Level 2 judge based in Long Island, NY, and frequently judges in NY, NJ, and PA. You can often find him at Brothers Grim in Selden or Friendly Neighborhood Comics in West Islip. He runs a newsletter for Long Island Magic players called Islandhome, which can be signed up for by contacting him.


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