Rules changes for Pro Tour Origins – Reasons to be Cheerful, One, Two… er, Three? by Liam Casserly
This week Wizards of the Coast released a statement regarding rules changes for the upcoming Pro Tour Origins. That last bit is very important. These changes are at present only for that one tournament. Don’t try enforcing these at FNM this week. Of course, if you want to try them out in your casual formats, sure, go ahead.
Change number 1. If you mulligan down to less than 7 cards, when you keep you can scry the top card of your library.
It’s one of those subtle changes that seems like a nothing at first, then when you start to think it over it just gets better. I truly believe that if this rule change comes in, it will do what it is designed to do: reduce variance in the game. Not in the same way that Ponder and Brainstorm, or Index even do that. This change won’t instantly make combo the strongest deck in Modern. No, this is a change to make more games of Magic happen. We have all been in that situation of a dodgy mull to 6 and then a nice enough hand with things to do – if you could only find your 2nd land. Or keeping a 4-lander after going down to 6, hoping you can draw gas. Hopefully, this rule will help change those feel-bad stories. I don’t expect this to wipe out games where you get screwed or flooded, but it will reduce them. I hope.
After I read the changes, I went on to some online forums to gauge the reaction. As a community, we can be a force of great positivity. However, change gets our backs up, so I was expecting a bit of a backlash. Well, it must be me projecting my negativity. Almost all the comments were in favour of this.
A few were a bit too keen. If at any stage this does come into force for FNM events, I think we’ll be awash with people mulliganing down to 6 for no good reason.
I think the main reason Wizards of the Coast have put this trial in place at the Pro Tour is they think this is a good rule and will make Magic better. But they also think it is a difficult thing to grasp. I know, I know, how hard can a “If you mull, you get to scry” rule be to grasp, but hear me out. Mulligans are, in my mind, one of the things that even good shop players get wrong. Learning lines and playing correctly are easy to do for someone who is serious about improving their game. Mulligans and keeps bring out the gambler in us. They entice us with the top of our deck.
By introducing this rule at first in the Pro Tour, Wizards are hoping that we – the public – will see what a useful tool it can be. When we see it on camera, used by the best Magic players in the world, we can see how it supposed to be used. I suspect they are hoping to avoid a load of angry reactions on social media for people who see the new rule and instantly think of the best case scenario: with a mull to 6 and Delver of Secrets in hand, and all that nonsense. In reality, I think that if this comes to FNM, it will take a lot of getting used to and even then it will still lead to a few feel-very-bad moments. But overall – I welcome our new mulligan rule overlords.
Change Number 2. Judging decisions on camera will be handled differently.
Now I could have made the title for this one. Judges get to use video evidence… but it’s slightly more far-reaching than that. For anyone who follows cricket this seems to be adding a 3rd umpire-style judge: a dedicated judge who watches the footage that the streaming viewer sees. Anyone who has watched enough Twitch knows that small rules violations get missed with some regularity. Even more so on the Pro Tour, when players haven’t had a chance to play the new set very much. Since Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth was printed, every time a player taps Island, Island, Swamp to cast Hero’s Downfall, the chat goes crazy about a rules violation. But sometimes the viewers do catch something the table judge or the coverage team miss.
(The mana is okay, but since those Islands are now Island Swamps, they tap for a Black mana as well as for a Blue mana. You need to declare what kind of mana ability you are activating.)
The fallout from Patrick Chapin’s mis-play at the last Pro Tour was sizable. Wizards don’t like long running sagas where people take sides filling up all the Magic discussion groups. The Pro Tour is one giant advert, and if people aren’t talking about the latest Magic cards, then it’s a very expensive miss. Personally, I thought Chapin and head judge Ricardo were both perfectly reasonable in their discussion. I don’t know if I needed to see the whole thing, but I think the ruling at the time was fair and that Chapin’s arguments to have the ruling overturned were polite and – from his point of view – reasonable. Quickly going back to cricket: they have a warning for excessive appealing. You don’t see umps issuing it often, but I think Chapin might have been giving a little chat by the ump this time around.
The argument previously not to use footage was that it makes the coverage game somehow different from all the other games not on stream, but I might make the case that a coverage game is already different. Schrodinger’s game of Magic, if you will. I’m all for things that mean the feel-bad things are reduced and real cheating can be punished.
[draft]Foundry Street Denizen
Change number 3. Lands in back!
This one made me chuckle. To make it clear this is now only for coverage games, you can still play your lands in front at FNM and people will rightly ridicule you for it. I play white-bordered lands and people admonish me. It’s part of the fun. Every FNM has a lands-in-front player. My son will Adrian Sullivan (play lands in front and cards facing the opponent) whenever he plays a friend of mine who particularly dislikes it.
Magic has so many ways in which you can express yourself. Just choosing a colour that you favour can tell someone a lot about you – like if you play Blue, it says you don’t value friendship ;) Playmats, sleeves, alters… all those little details can be a way of showing your personality though this game. I would hate to see Wizards make a ruling on lands in front at FNM level of play. I enjoy people’s freedom of expression. I also support those players who just learnt to do things that way and it’s not some sort of statement. However, for coverage purposes, uniformity is fine. Like I mentioned above, the Pro Tour is an advert for the game of Magic. Wizards tries very hard to make sure that the game is easy to access and to follow on their streams. Making sure that each game looks the same goes a long way to helping newer players understand what they are watching. And why it’s so much fun.
NOTHING CAN GO BEHIND LANDS!
What about my dice? No. Nothing.
How about spells that are on the stack? Nope. Nada.
Imma just put this sandwich down here whilst I play. Not even if you are Richard Garfield himself.
As you can tell I’m quite positive about these changes, I will watch Pro Tour Origins with an extra eye for these rules details.
Community Question: Do you feel that the rules changes for Pro Tour Origins should be enforced at FNMs too? Explain.
Thanks for reading,