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The New IPG and You


Well, today, the higher-ups in the judge program dropped a bomb on us: a huge change to how triggers are going to be handled at Competitive and higher REL (Rules Enforcement Level). This article is going to break down that change and explain the practical applications of the new policy. Yes, this is going to change the functionality of some cards at Competitive and higher REL. I keep saying “Competitive and higher REL” to make sure it’s deeply ingrained that these are only for those types of events. These changes have nothing to do with FNM or other Regular REL events (prereleases, releases, Game Days); however, they do apply at Competitive and higher REL events (Grands Prix, Pro Tours, Pro Tour Qualifiers, Grand Prix Trials, StarCity Opens, StarCity Invitational Qualifiers).

Let’s get right into the big trigger changes; I’ll quote the policy and then break down what it means:

Traditionally, some abilities include the word ‘may’ as part of their text, indicating that their effect is optional. At Competitive and Professional REL, some additional triggered abilities and enters-the-battlefield replacement effects are considered optional. The player is not required to follow the instruction when the ability resolves, and if the ability is forgotten it will not retroactively be applied. An optional ability does one or more of the following things, and nothing else:

That’s the big reveal. A lot of abilities are going to be changed to work as though they had a “may” in them. You are no longer obligated to point out triggers that fit the new criteria for your opponents, and if you forget one, it will not be placed onto the stack like it used to be. The goal of these changes was to stop the fact that players had to “help” their opponents with their triggers. No longer will this be the case at high-REL tournaments. These new abilities are going to be called Optional Abilities. Let’s get into what the criteria are for an Optional Ability. One thing to note is that an ability has to do one or more of these things exactly—and nothing else—to be considered optional.

Gains you life or causes an opponent to lose life

An example of this is Soul Warden. This is now treated as a “may”—like Suture Priest is already worded. If the ability strictly has you gain life or your opponent lose life—or the only other effect is one of the others mentioned in this article—it is now a “may” ability.

Puts cards from your library, graveyard, or exile zones into your hand or onto the battlefield. This includes drawing cards.

Examples of this are Rancor and Angelic Destiny. Now if you leave those cards in your graveyard, they are going stay there if you forget the trigger, and if your opponent makes that mistake, you are not obligated to point it out.

Causes opponents to put objects from their hand or the battlefield into the library, graveyard or exile.

An example of this is Ravenous Rats. If the effect only instructs your opponent to move objects to his library, graveyard, or exile zone, your opponent is no longer obligated to remind you if you forget to have him do it.

Puts a permanent into play under your control or gives you control of a permanent

An example of this is Sower of Temptation. If you forget to gain control or put something into play, your opponent no longer has to remind you, so be careful to remember triggers doing these things.

Puts +X/+X counters, or counters linked to a beneficial effect, on a permanent you control

An example of this is the Shrine cycle from Scars block (e.g. Shrine of Burning Rage).

Gives +X/+X or a beneficial ability to a target creature you control

An example of this is Elder Cathar. His ability is going to be optional after this policy goes into effect.

Exiles, damages, destroys, taps, or gives -X/-X to an opponent’s target permanent. If the ability could target your own permanents, it is not optional unless that ability could target an opponent

A great example of this is Inferno Titan. His ability is now optional under the new policy, so if your opponent’s 1/1 is the only other creature on the battlefield, your opponent is not required to remind you to kill his guy with your Inferno Titan.

Gives you additional turns or phases

An example of this is Lighthouse Chronologist. You can now forget to take your extra turns, and you aren’t going to be reminded at Competitive REL.

Counters a spell or conditionally counters a spell, but only when cast by an opponent

An example of this is Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. Your opponent is no longer required to remind you that his spell is countered. Here is where you can see the new finesse of the policy. Under old missed triggers rule, if this was caught within a turn cycle, it would be put onto the stack yet the spell wouldn’t be countered.

Abilities that trigger at the same point in each players turn and do something to “that player” (e.g. Howling Mine) are never optional.

This list is comprehensive. An ability that does not fit all of the criteria above is not optional, even if it is to the benefit of the player controlling the ability. Similarly, an optional ability is always optional, even if it would be to the detriment of the player for it to happen.

This is how this section ends. You see that effects like Howling Mine and The Abyss are never optional—they happen at the same time during each player’s turn. You also see that if it does not fit this list exactly, it is not optional. There is now a proviso in the section for Missed Trigger that states if the ability had a “may” in it or is an Optional Ability and it is forgotten, there is no penalty, and the trigger will not be placed onto the stack.

There is also a proviso stating that opponents are no longer obligated to point out triggers that you missed even if they are mandatory. They also will not receive a failure-to-maintain-game-state penalty if you realize you forgot your own trigger and call a judge.

Past the Missed Trigger and Optional Ability changes, there are a few more tweaks. Improper Draw at Start of Game has been clarified to determine when the game actually starts. IDSOG now can no longer apply once a legal game action has been taken in the first turn. If you have more than the normal number of cards in your hand past that point, the infraction turns into Drawing Extra Cards, which is a game loss. It now behooves you to call a judge immediately if you have drawn too many cards.

Slow Play has an added caveat that you can no longer initiate a loop without a definite end. If you are going to initiate a loop, you need to define an end to the loop. If you go into an infinite loop without an end, it is now a Slow Play warning.


So, now you have a grasp on the major changes to Competitive Policy. It seems clear that we are leaning in a direction that prevents your opponents from having to play your game for you. There have been a lot of complaints and backlash about the old way we did things, so we are doing it this way now. The policy is a living, breathing object and will change and gain more finesse as we move through events with these new changes in place. If you have any questions about triggers and want to know if your card is optional now (Transcendence!), please ask in the comments section below!

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