Pondering Policy: Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, and War of the Spark

Welcome back to our next installment of Pondering Policy! This will be the last of our catch-up articles. We are discussing the updates for Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, and War of the Spark. There are some big ones in here, so let’s get right to it!

Guilds of Ravnica Policy Update: Reversing Decisions (MTR 4.8)

Infernal Tutor
Lions Eye Diamond

I told you there were some big ones! This one is less monumental than it appears at face value. It’s long been accepted practice for a judge to allow an immediately-regretted decision to be changed. This practice had been getting even more lenient over the year preceding this update. In fact, the biggest effect of this change is to codify exactly when decisions should not be reversed. Specifically, if there is a chance that the player making the decision has gained any information as a result of their action, the decision should stand. It is far more useful and accurate to think of this update as restricting exactly when a take-back should be allowed, rather than panicking over some perceived lessening of standards.

What it means for us: This has a number of implications, so I will try to cover the most relevant situations. First, a straightforward application of the new policy: if you activate Polluted Delta and place Underground Sea on the battlefield, even if you start to shuffle your library, you might be allowed the chance to get a Badlands instead if you change your mind. If the judge believes that you had a chance to gain any information based on your choice, then you are out of luck. This also applies to one of the more common interactions in The EPIC Storm, namely that of Infernal Tutor/Burning Wish and Lion’s Eye Diamond. Usually, you will cast one of the Sorceries, hold priority, and activate the Lion’s Eye Diamond in response to the spell. This policy is formalizing what we have known for ages: if you do not immediately and explicitly retain priority once you have finished casting your Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish, you will lose the opportunity to activate your Lion’s Eye Diamond. Any sort of implicit passing of priority will give you information pertaining to your opponent’s response and that disqualifies you from being able to reverse your decision to pass priority. You must EXPLICITLY retain priority when you wish to do so.

Ravnica Allegiance Policy Update 1: Improperly Deciding a Match and Bribery (IPG 4.3-4.4)

Diabolic Intent
Ill Gotten Gains

Another big one. These two infractions have been auto-disqualifications for a long time, even if the player was unaware that doing either of these things is against the rules. Now, in that specific circumstance, these penalties have been downgraded to Match Loss. That said, everyone reading this should know that you are not allowed to do ANY of the following things to determine a match winner at a Magic tournament: roll a die, play a different format, look at the top cards of your library to see “who would’ve won,” offer any sort of compensation, etc. If the judge handling the situation believes you knew better, then the penalty is still a disqualification. Don’t do it. But if you see a new player accidentally fall into the trap, they will still get to remain in the tournament.

Ravnica Allegiance Policy Update 2: Triggers with Default Actions (IPG 2.1)

Pact of Negation
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

This one is oddly narrow and specific if you aren’t immersed in the rules and policy like judges are. I can give you some context for what’s going on here, though. It starts with the fact that Missed Triggers are handled differently from most other in-game errors. For many triggers, missing them means you don’t get their benefit and that’s remedy enough. There are some triggers worded as “When <something happens>, you may <do this thing>. Otherwise, <do some other thing>.” The last part is called a “default action,” and is generally some sort of punishment. Instead of letting these be entirely missed, the rules for a long time have simply been that you perform the default action and move on with the game. This can be tremendously punishing, especially if the trigger in question is from Pact of Negation. This change to policy now gives you the same option you would have originally had when the trigger was supposed to happen.

What it means for us: The card impacted most by this change in Legacy is The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. The trigger granted to your Goblin tokens by that land is a trigger with a default action. Before, if you missed this trigger, you would be stuck sacrificing the tokens even if you had mana available. Now, you are given the chance to pay for whichever triggers you can. It’s not a huge change for us, but it’s a pretty drastic shift in how people are used to these situations being handled.

Special note: There is one other minor policy change that affects The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. The fact that its trigger is generally detrimental means that you would receive Warnings for missing those triggers. Even though it isn’t your card. That was deemed unacceptable, and now you only receive Warnings for generally detrimental triggers caused by cards you own.

Ravnica Allegiance Policy Update 3: Loops with Choices (MTR 4.4)

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Nexus of Fate
Blightsteel Colossus

This is the interesting update that I mentioned in the last article. With the Core Set 2019 update to the loop rules, many loops got easier to handle and had much more natural resolutions. Except one. But it’s not like that came up in Standard or anything. Wait…

The awkward situation is set up like this: Player A has an empty library, five lands, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Player A announces their intention to use the -3 ability of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on itself, draw it, cast it, and repeat. Player B, on the other hand, has one card in their library and seven cards in their hand. Each turn, they draw a card, end their turn, and discard a Nexus of Fate which is then “shuffled” back into their library. On its surface, this seems to be a clear situation of loops spanning multiple turns that are maintained by both players. Except there was a difference between Player A actively engaging in the loop and Player B only discarding to hand size in order to maintain. This difference meant that Player A would have to break the loop and likely lose the game. Thankfully, this update fixed that problem. Now a judge can verify that Player B has an alternate choice and is, therefore, sharing responsibility in maintaining the loop. This would now result in a draw.

War of the Spark Policy Update: There isn’t one.

That’s right, there were only very minor updates to policy for War of the Spark. None of them are worth mentioning here. Which means this brings us to the end of this installment of Pondering Policy! This column will return with the policy update for Core Set 2020. If you have any Storm-relevant rules or policy questions, feel free to send them my way through email, Twitter, or Facebook. I’ll keep a running list of the most common ones for a Rules FAQ article later down the road. In the meantime, Storm fair and Storm fun!