Missed Triggers: The DVD CommentaryArticolo del 2-4-2012
So, how did we get here?
It all started because Wizards made the decision to remove 'may' from cards where it didn't make intuitive sense. There are lots of good reasons for this—think about the number of clicks saved on Magic Online alone—but making judges' lives easier was not one of them.
For years, judges have used 'may' on cards as a sign that the player could choose to forget a trigger. The rules were written with this is mind, particularly the upgrade path, which is a check against players being excessively sloppy with their play. This was going to be a slowly-rising problem; as the number of 'mays' decreased, it only stood to reason that the number of missed triggers would rise. And then the were printed.
I, and all the other high-level judges, heard the questions. Should we be handing out Game Losses for people missing Shrine triggers? Should we be quietly ignoring them? Shrine triggers are ridiculously easy to miss and there's no worry about cheating—constructing a scenario that makes you want to not put a counter on your Shrine takes a lot of effort—and they're good enough to see competitive play. It was the perfect storm. So, we started talking with R&D, various high-level judges and pros, and went back and forth on what we wanted to accomplish.
We had three goals:
- Address the rising number of missed trigger infractions (or the rising number of situations where the judge chose to ignore missed trigger infractions).
- Address the parallel growing sentiment among Competitive players about how little they like "having to play the game for the opponent". It's a terrible feeling having to point out that the opponent has missed a trigger that is going to kill you when there are serious prizes on the line. Making players feel bad for their honesty sometimes has to happen (yes, you really do have to tell them that their hasn't actually taken lethal damage), but we want to reduce that as much as possible, especially for small things.
- Cut down on the number of 'weird' triggers happening at unintuitive times. This does not mean that we were trying to eliminate all of them—that would have large consequences—but we recognized that having to argue over whether a missed trigger could still trigger during the next turn was not optimal and reducing the number of those scenarios would be a nice side effect.
This turned out to have problems, though not necessarily the ones people think. In retrospect, putting "drawing cards" on there was an overreach, and if the rules had gone out without that, they might have been received OK. The actual impact on play would have been something akin to the removal of mana burn: every 500th or so game, it might have mattered that someone was able to ignore a pump effect. The split between Regular and Competitive was a small concern, but wouldn't have had much more impact than, say, the Communication Rules differences (excepting the card draws. Yeah, that was wrong).
But, there was a huge mistake, and we should have caught it in advance: the new rules presented a large learning curve for the players. Of course, the ones we ran it by—all seasoned pros—could understand the ruleset, and liked where it was going. But for the others, we dumped a large wall of text on them that was easy to misunderstand, and the consequence of getting it wrong was dire. The Internet, of course, made this worse, as people loudly declared the end of Magic because you could choose not to use 's trigger (sigh). Judges, especially those at Competitive events, live for rules, and can be educated on how to apply them. Players learn piecemeal through other players and don't always get the exact version. It's why judges exist in the first place!
It became clear very rapidly that the first solution wasn't going to work and we needed rules that shifted the complexities towards the judges. This was tricky and it took a while before we came up with something everyone was comfortable with. Seriously, this went through a bazillion iterations (it's a number, look it up). The breakthrough was when we understood it was important that the player still be considered responsible for all their triggers; they weren't "missable". That meant we could give opponents the ability to make them happen, while figuring out how to not let them sit on triggers. That gave us the general parameters to work with and the rest was nailing down the exact boundaries with Matt Tabak, , , , and whichever L3 judges happened to be in irc and wanted to give feedback on various revised proposals. By the time we were done, there were more people to thank than I could possibly remember, including all of R&D (especially Aaron Forsythe and Erik Lauerv), a whole lot of rules gurus (, ) and all the high-level judge community, especially , who is responsible for so many grammatical improvements that it's entirely his fault if this is at all clear and/or easy to understand. And now you have it in your hands, after a long, strange journey, but one I think has gotten us to a good place.
One final thing to make sure everyone understands before we move on to the infraction. These rules only apply at Competitive and Professional RELs. Regular REL does not have the same level of competition, and players are expected to help and educate each other, which includes pointing out mandatory triggers. If you look at the concerns that motivated these changes, most of them don't apply to Regular REL, and we want to keep the same sense of friendly play there that currently exists.
So, with that in mind, let's look at the new rules!
A triggered ability triggers, but the player controlling the ability is unaware of its existence and/or forgets to carry out its effects. The turn-based action of drawing a card during the draw step is also covered under this infraction. If a triggered ability has been partially or incorrectly resolved, instead treat it as a Game Play Error — Game Rule Violation.
For a while, we treated enters-the-battlefield abilities like Missed Triggers. This worked really well for some (, ) and really badly for others (any 0/0 creature who entered the battlefield with +1/+1 counters). In the end, we decided that the benefits didn't sufficiently outweigh the potential rules lawyering and left it alone. Not ruling out taking another run at it in the future.
Partial resolutions come up occasionally, where the player remembers the trigger, but only does half of it, or only does their half while the other person is distracted and doesn't realize they need to do something as well. The trigger obviously hasn't been missed here, and this just makes that explicit.
A trigger is considered missed once the controller of the trigger has taken an action after the point at which a trigger should have resolved or, in the case of a trigger controlled by the non-active player, after a brief period of time to allow that player to realize that the active player has advanced past the trigger. Players may not cause triggered abilities to be missed by taking game actions or otherwise prematurely advancing the game. For example, if a player draws a card during his or her draw step without allowing the controller of a triggered ability that would trigger during that turn's upkeep to resolve it, place that trigger on the stack at this point and issue no penalty.
Obviously, Out of Order Sequencing will apply occasionally. If they say, "Play s, untap my team, and put a counter on it from ", it's fine, even though it's technically inaccurate.
Obviously, the non-active player gets a little more latitude than the active player in terms of when a trigger is missed. They don't control the flow of the turn, so they may be waiting for a trigger to resolve while the active player barrels past. Much of this was prompted by the existence of . If the active player untaps and draws, what do we do? Nobody is really at fault here; it's just an unfortunate set of actions.
Figuring out how to fix it took a lot of time and huddling. We obviously didn't want a rule specifically for Curse of the Bloody Tome, so we had to isolate the core issue. Turns out that we've had cards with similar construction—think —and that general case and how it had been handled in the past led us to this conclusion. The NAP is waiting for the chance for the ability to resolve, therefore they should get that chance, even if the AP has forgotten. Yes, the Bloody Tome will occasionally mill the wrong cards, but if that's game-relevant, the players are much more likely to be calling it out before the card draw.
If the trigger instruction is optional (it includes "may" or "up to X," where 0 is a valid choice) and specifies no consequence for not doing it, assume that the player has chosen to not perform the instruction and issue no penalty.
I don't want to give the impression that 'may' triggers are completely gone. They'll still be used in places where it makes sense that it's a choice, rather than something you should be able to miss. Plus, there are almost 20 years of cards to deal with. We handle those in the same way as we always have.
If the trigger requires no choices to be made and has no effect on the visual representation of the game, assume the ability resolved at the appropriate time and issue no penalty. The visual representation consists of elements the players are able to see happening or on the battlefield, such as zone changes and adding counters to permanents, as well as life totals.
No change here, except to make it part of the definition. This change is one of those tiny things that about two people in the world care about, so it's clear I should spend a hundred or so words talking about it! Technically, if the trigger meets the criteria above, it's not a Missed Trigger at all, so any remedy, even a non-remedy, can't be applied. This doesn't make sense, so logically it must be part of the definition. I told you this wasn't important. You probably should have believed me and skipped ahead to the good stuff.
If the trigger was missed more than a turn cycle ago, instruct the players to continue playing and issue no penalty.
This change came very late in the game, because the former pros in R&D found a pair of loopholes. The first one was that you could take any default option, like a missed echo payment, and just sit on it... forever. If you wanted to bring it up five turns later, it would still be valid. Under the old rules, if you tried that, there'd probably be a rather unpleasant discussion with the judge, but now it was legal, and that wasn't good. The second involved non-default-option triggers. If you waited a turn cycle, then called a judge, the judge would issue the penalty, and not put the trigger on the stack. That was a legal way to get the best of both worlds, and clearly not a good idea.
A side benefit of this change is that the further away from the trigger point you got, the more likely that the trigger would have strange consequences. This should hopefully cut down on those really disruptive problems.
Triggered abilities are common and invisible, so players should not be harshly penalized when forgetting about one. Players are expected to remember their own triggers; intentionally ignoring one is considered Cheating — Fraud. However, remembering triggers that benefit you is a skill. Therefore, players are not required to point out missed triggers that they do not control, though they may do so if they wish.
The big one. This is, at heart, the main change to Competitive philosophy, and the implementation of Goal #2 above. Your opponent no longer has to point out your triggers to you.
Everything else is structured around this, such that when opponents do point them out, it'll almost always be in situations where a judge needs to intervene and do something. The effects that they don't point out, in all but the most unusual circumstances, are the ones that we're letting slide anyway. This means that the player may well forget it the next turn as well, because it wasn't pointed out to them. It also lets the opponent do some level of threat analysis, letting them choose to not point out an ability that would traditionally be considered a negative because they've realized they'd rather it didn't happen.
This also means that Failure to Maintain Game State is no longer issued along with a Missed Trigger penalty. This makes sense, as they've upheld their (non-)end.
Judges should not intervene when they witness a missed trigger that is a lapsing ability, as defined below.
This is going to take a little practice, and we understand that not everyone is going to get exactly right immediately. That's OK. Having judges intervene means that opponents not pointing out triggers is meaningless if there happens to be a judge watching for, say Slow Play. We obviously didn't want players to be calling over a judge "to make sure I'm not missing my triggers."
Determine whether the missed trigger is a lapsing ability, then follow the appropriate instructions. If the remedy includes putting the missed ability on the stack, put it on the bottom of the stack or, if it should have triggered since the stack was last empty, at the appropriate place in the stack. If the error is missing the turn-based action of drawing a card, don't put any ability on the stack. Instead, the appropriate player immediately draws a card.
The bulk of this paragraph appeared in the December update, and is designed to disrupt the game as little as possible. Let the players focus on the current stack, then deal with whatever was supposed to have happened. It's pretty rare that this makes any difference, but when it does, it's usually an improvement. Of course, this could let a trigger time-travel to before where it would have triggered ( comes to mind), so if we can insert it in the appropriate place in the stack, that seems even better.
No player may make choices involving objects that were not in the zone or zones referenced by the trigger when the ability should have triggered. For example, if the ability instructs a player to sacrifice a creature, that player can't sacrifice a creature that wasn't on the battlefield when the ability should have triggered.
If the error is discovered partway through an action (such as choosing blockers), complete the action before putting the trigger on the stack.
If the error is discovered partway through an action (such as choosing blockers), complete the action before putting the trigger on the stack.
More from the December update. We've talked about the bottom of the stack already, and the other small change here is that you now finish resolving the current action before dealing with the trigger. This makes sense—finish what you're doing, then we'll deal with the trigger—and handles some otherwise ugly situations simply. If you're halfway through resolving a when you remember a trigger that's going to shuffle things, how do you plan to back it up? Yuck.
Handling Lapsing Abilities
Credit to for the final name. They obviously weren't Optional Abilities, and we needed something new. They were called Transient Abilities for a while, so if I ever use that term when talking to you, it's not a spoiler. We wanted a word that conveyed that they were limited-duration, but nothing that implied that they were optional, and Lapsing Abilities fit the bill best.
Lapsing Abilities are the second major change, and address Goal #1 above. Awareness of the game state is considered a skill tester, and that logically extends to awareness of invisible items on the stack, just as it extends to knowing that the is currently a 4/5, and being aware that there's a in play buffing your opponent's creatures.
A lapsing ability is a missed triggered ability that, in the context of the game at the time the ability triggered, would cause one or more of the effects listed below to happen, and no other effects. In each of these effects, "you" is the ability's controller. If a lapsing ability could target objects that would make it a lapsing ability, it is a lapsing ability, even if it could potentially target other objects. For example, ("When Manic Vandal enters the battlefield, destroy target artifact") has a lapsing ability if an opponent controls an artifact, even though the controller of the ability could also control valid targets. If only the controller of the ability controls artifacts, it is not a lapsing ability.
Lots to unpack here. There was a lot of debate over whether lapsing abilities should be dependent on the game state. Having there be a definitive answer before the game meant that judges could talk in terms of absolutes and lists. Having them depend on the game made it easier to document them clearly. Writing a list item that would make lapsing (which it intuitively should be) generated some pretty tortured language. Ultimately, having them depend on the game state felt a little more natural and it won out. In general, the only list items that vary are the ones that have to choose a target that could be yours when your opponent doesn't have (and vice versa)
With the change, the list becomes pretty straightforward. It's not a comprehensive list of beneficial abilities, of course, but that's not the goal, and if the occasional "good" trigger goes onto the stack and causes a penalty, that's not a problem. We want to reduce the number of penalties, and this will do that nicely. Trying to identify everything would be basically impossible. As a general rule, if you really can't decide if it fits on the list (and you should feel free to ask us about it afterwards!), err on the side of it not belonging here. Worst case scenario is that a trigger that was supposed to happen happens, which doesn't seem like the end of the world.
An ability can do five things in the list, but if it also exiles the top card of your library, it's not a Lapsing Ability. Note that the definition still doesn't take strategic factors into consideration. It may be awesome that you'll get from losing two life, but that's still not a lapsing ability. This protects the judges from accusations that they are misunderstanding what is happening in a game, or favoring a particular player over the opponent. You can just point to the rules and have your answer.
- Causes you to gain life.
- Deals damage to an opponent or causes an opponent to lose life
- Causes an opponent to discard cards
- Instructs you to look at and/or rearrange cards in a zone
- Puts cards into your hand from your graveyard or the exile zone
- Puts a permanent onto the battlefield under your control or gives you control of a permanent
- Puts counters linked to a beneficial effect (such as +1/+1 counters or charge counters) on one or more permanents you control
- Gives one or more permanents you control +X/+Y or a beneficial ability.
Some people are a little unhappy that these two bullets require the judge to decide if something is a beneficial effect (and not by looking at the game state). Unfortunately, trying to put more specific guidelines in there is basically impossible, and I'm pretty sure it'll be reasonably easy to figure out, especially with cards being used at a Competitive level. One question to ask youself: if this ability is added to a card, does the cost go up? To forestall the two questions that come up most often: I'd consider both Shroud and Shadow to be beneficial.
People who like having specific rules would have been a real fan of the first draft which defined these triggers as "all upside, not taking the game into account." Yeah, that got a big "let's be more specific here."
- Untaps one or more permanents you control.
- Gives you additional phases.
Adding a phase is not, on its own, enough to qualify here, since it has no visual impact on the game. However, it's either accompanied by something else happening (such as untapping things), or the phase happened and nothing happened during it. The only card that adds a phase other than combat or a main phase is , and that one can't be missed—the extra upkeep just occurs when it was supposed to.
- Exiles, damages, destroys, taps, gives -X/-Y to, or puts -X/-Y counters on target permanent, and can target your opponent's permanents.
- Instructs an opponent to exile a permanent he or she controls or put a permanent into his or her library or graveyard.
When determining if a triggered ability is a lapsing ability, ignore portions of abilities that "clean up" previous parts of the effect (such as the creation of a delayed triggered ability to sacrifice a creature token put onto the battlefield by the effect) or specify a duration for the effect. Abilities that require no choices and have no effect on the visual representation of the game are not lapsing abilities; they simply happen at the appropriate time.
The first part isn't strictly necessary, but serves as a reminder that still gets his +1/+1 automatically.
Remember, an ability can do five things in the list above, but if it also exiles the top card of your library, it's not a lapsing ability. But, it's pretty silly to have an ability that gives a creature flying until end of turn, or sets up a delayed trigger to remove a permanent the ability granted you (e.g. ) not be lapsing, so we just ignore those in evaluating the ability.
When handling a lapsing ability, the turn is divided into three parts: before combat, during combat, and after combat. If a missed trigger with a lapsing ability is discovered within the same part of the same turn in which it should have triggered, any opponent of the trigger's controller may have the judge put that ability on the stack. Otherwise, the game continues and the ability is skipped. In either case, no player should be issued a penalty.
The idea of breaking the turn down into three parts was a genius contribution from Matt Tabak. If you look at the structure of a turn, it breaks down naturally that way, with combat providing the break in the middle. But it's more than that—it also represents a time frame in which a discovered missed trigger is usually not very disruptive to the game.
We want players to be able to ignore their opponent's triggers, but we don't want them sitting on beneficial ones in the hopes that something makes them suddenly bad for the controller at a later point. Your opponent shouldn't be able to float a pump through his own draw step in case he draws . A partial turn represents enough time to reasonably recognize that the trigger has been missed (especially given the unusual situation the game must be in to make the opponent want to act), while making it unlikely that things have changed in the interim. Of course, this luxury is only for the opponent—if you miss your trigger, it's missed.
To finish up, let's spin the Standard Wheel of Triggers, and see what we come up with . . .
- Bouncing creatures is not a lapsing ability.
- Trick question! Hero has two separate triggers. Battle cry is not a lapsing ability, as it has no effect on the visual representation. Putting the Soldiers into play is lapsing.
- Lapsing. It gives another creature an ability (with a duration) and targets, so it can't just happen.
- Lapsing. The look part is lapsing, and the transform (which is not otherwise lapsing) is optional.
- Not lapsing! It looks like one for much of the ability, but since you also exile the Monstrosity, not all parts meet the requirement.
- There are two possible outcomes here - nothing happens, or an opponent's creature gets destroyed. Therefore, it's lapsing.
- as is traditional, Frost Titan is a horrible, horrible card from a policy standpoint. The Enters-the-battlefield ability taps a permanent, which is lapsing, but also keeps it tapped, which isn't. The counter ability is also not lapsing, as that's not in the list.
See, that's not so bad. And those are the difficult ones.
Handling Non-Lapsing Abilities
. . . And the rest of the section should look very familiar, with instructions on how to handle default-action triggers and then all the rest. We're done! Ideally, things will work pretty intuitively and the message to the players is as simple as it gets. If you run across weird situations, or feel like something isn't working right, as always, please get in touch with us, and we'll see what we can do. Thanks for your patience as we put it all together and remember: don't panic!