Just over two weeks ago (yeah, I know I'm still I'm behind), Wizards of the Coast (WotC) announced some changes coming to the Magic scene starting with Pro Tour Magic Origins, which lands the weekend of July 31, 2015. Some of the announcements made logical sense, some a surprise, and one in particular stirred up quite a bit of controversy.

Let's take a look at them in more detail...

Mulligan Madness

Not quite a keeper!

One of the biggest annoyances in Magic can be drawing a completely useless opening hand right at the start of the game. Mana — or Land — Screwed, or Flooded. In one scenario, you don't have enough lands, if any, and in the other too much. My brother bitches about this all the time, he has a knack for running into this situation during most major events. I've also ran into it a handful of times myself. At one of the last GP Minneapolis events I attended, when I finally got to sit "behind the curtain" where some of the better record-holding players were sitting — I believe — I had to mulligan down to two cards. I just kept that starting hand, refusing to go down to one card.

It's a real buzzkill. Even for an opponent, because most know how depressing that can be, and at that point you're barely playing the game. Thankfully, my opponent and I were able to joke and laugh about random shit as he effortlessly pummeled me!

Taking a mulligan is an option for any player deciding they aren't satisfied with their opening hand. It simply involves reshuffling your deck and drawing a new hand, but at the penalty of one less card each time you mulligan. If you wanted, you could mulligan down to one card. I've honest to God, won a match after taking mulligans down to two or three cards, but it was extremely lucky and not the norm (and sadly not at that GP Minneapolis tournament)! Suffice it to say, once you take a handful of mulligans, you're likely down for the count, before your opponent even swings in for their first attack.

Again, a buzzkill.

Beginning the weekend of Pro Tour Magic Origins, however, a new rule is going into effect for mulligans! This is only for that tournament, until they decide when (or if) it will be legal widespread. The new change allows for a player who has a starting hand consisting of fewer cards than their opening hand to Scry 1. Scry is an ability/mechanic that allows you to look at the top X cards of your library. You may then place them on the top or bottom of your library in any order.

Therefore, Scry 1 allows you to look at the top card of your library and decide to place it on the top or bottom of it.

Simply put, if you mulligan, whenever you decide to keep your starting hand, you may Scry 1. This is in the hopes that players having to take a mulligan can somewhat mitigate the disadvantage it causes.

This seems like a pretty huge and quite helpful rule change, as long as there is no way to take abusive advantage of it. I've read some claims, but until it's tested on a large scale (like say, the PT Magic Origins) I remain hopeful that this is a healthy rule update. The majority of response to this announcement has definitely been predominantly positive. I'm curious to try it out myself!

Video Coverage Controversy

The fiasco that started it all!

Video Footage is now allowed to be reviewed during judge calls! Why is this a big deal, opposed by many, and what was the catalyst?

Back during GP Las Vegas, there was a huge outcry for video coverage review after Patrick Chapin, while facing his opponent Michele Ancona, had a rules violation called against him. Feel free to follow that link above back to the post I wrote about it. It was quite the spectacle, with a few surprises beyond the Head Judge's ruling in the mix.

While part of the community agreed with the rules violation — resulting in a game loss — Chapin received, others began an outcry to review the footage, claiming the game state could be preserved. This could have potentially resulted in merely a warning, and is what Chapin appealed for. At the time, the Head Judge wasn't allowed to review any footage (though, supposedly it's been done before?) and stuck to his ruling. Again, I go over most of this in the link provided, and then some.

All of this did, however, begin a fairly interesting debate about the fairness of certain players having the benefit of video footage reviewing over those not in feature matches. Most against it being allowed argued that it was an unfair advantage that mostly "professional" Magic players would receive, a perk, above the standard player. Only a select few would have access to such a benefit, while the rest of the community would be stuck with a "he said/she said" approach that they may not be able to prove and ultimately be left to the whims of a judge's ruling.

Others claim that if it's available, why not use it? This is also the standpoint of Helene Bergeot, Director of Global Organized Play at Wizards of the Coast, when someone addressed the issue (after the announcement) with her. I maybe came across it and chimed in after the fact...

Once again, my earlier post explains the reasoning behind my question...

No response... go figure!

Either way, I'm kind of on the fence here, because I can see it from both points of view. Being able to review footage during a match could potentially clear up many problems that may crop up during a game. On the flip side, however, I can see how it can be viewed as an unfair advantage. I've always thought that there should be an even playing field among players, especially in tournament settings, with no exceptions. Everyone treated equally. Soooooo... maybe I'm leaning more one way than the other after all.

Having access to reviewing recorded footage isn't cheating exactly (like I sometimes feel owning a bot on Magic Online may be... but I'll save that rant for another time!), but it's certainly a perk that isn't readily accessible to everyone participating in a tournament/event.

My biggest gripe, if it wasn't evident above, is the nonchalant, blatant avoidance by WotC/DCI, that has been shown, in regards to other infractions and cheating caught on video. If you are going to use a specific match as a catalyst, featuring one of your star pupils, to introduce a rule change allowing for the review of footage during feature matches, then review that freaking video and penalize as warranted... More on that, yet again, in an upcoming post...

Moving on to the third rule change.

Card Layout

The layout I grew up with!

This is a rule that only applies to matches being featured at professional-level-events, like GPs, PTs, etc etc. It enforces a specific layout that all players in a featured match must abide by. The layout is as follows:

  • Creatures must be in front of lands, and nothing can be behind lands.
  • The library can be on either side of the play area (left or right).
  • The graveyard must be adjacent to the library (player can choose which side of play area both are on).
  • The exile zone must be near the library/graveyard and must be distinct from the graveyard.
  • If a card is exiled by a permanent in play, the exiled card must be placed in proximity to the exiling permanent such that it is obvious that the two are associated.
  • All untapped cards in play must face the controller of that card.

Again, during any video recorded feature match, this layout will be enforced.

I love this rule, but I hate that is it not universally enforced! Perhaps that is something that will happen over time, much like the mulligan rule change. This layout is just intuitive, causes less confusion, and I believe makes games easier for both new and veteran players. And besides, I believe it's the layout the majority of players within the Magic community already use.

When reading about this layout change, I instantly thought of a player, Adrian Sullivan, as I'm sure many did. I don't know him personally, but I do believe he was playing at either a PTQ or GP Minneapolis (or both) and I witness his board layout (lands in front of creatures). I knew right away that if I had to play against him that I'd have anxiety. I was glad I never had to face Sullivan! It may seem odd, but the simple change of having lands in front of creatures and all of the cards facing me felt like a confusion tactic.

Admittedly, I felt like an ass after reading his thoughts on the upcoming changes to the layout for matches covered on video at these events. He is pretty chill. In fact, he says he understands the reasoning behind it and agrees with it (at least for video coverage). He also goes into more detail about why he plays with his particular layout. To make it less confusing for his opponents, allowing the cards to be more readily identified. Now, being I've never played against someone using that specific layout, I reserve final judgement one way or another. I still think it would be more confusing than not.

I was impressed, though, that he didn't make a fuss, as I'm sure there were a few who did (and those prompting him to). Hopefully that will be the case if WotC ever enforces it universally. I can only pray to the MTG Gods that they do! It just feels more user-friendly and intuitive to me, and those are always good qualities.

Time will tell how these recent changes will effect the game in the long run, but most of them seem positive! Here is the official link to the rule changes.

And on another note...

B&R Announcements (7/13/2015)

There were no changes to any sanctioned format during this Banned and Restricted Announcement.

Tiny Leaders: However, the Tiny Leaders had its B&R list updated. Grindstone is banned. Painter's Servant is unbanned.

I'm not sure this was the update to the B&R many fans of the format were hoping for (I think some were calling for the ban of Ezuri and Geist), but it's the one they get for now. I don't think it will shake up the format, but you never know. I have yet to play the format, even though I've been intrigued by it for months. I just follow along with news and the community. Some fear its charm is fading and it will never fully gain a foothold, others strongly disagree. It's a topic I look forward to discussing at some point.

If unfamiliar with the Tiny Leaders format I suggest you check it out!

What are your thoughts on the new mulligan rule? Have you tested it out yet? Do you feel that video footage reviewing should be allowed on judge rulings during featured matches, or do you feel it's unfair to the community at large? Do you use the standard layout when playing Magic: The Gathering, or a unique one? What are your thoughts on the enforced layout for players in video feature matches? Do you play Tiny Leaders? If so, was the recent update to its B&R list spot on, or lacking? What changes would you like to see made on any B&R list, sanctioned format or otherwise?