Earlier this year, Magic: The Gathering‘s publisher Wizards of the Coast (WotC) announced that they were moving all competitive events in 2020 to their digital platform Magic: The Gathering Arena. The global health crisis and uncertainty around travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to this huge adjustment.
This change meant that players qualified for the latest Players Tour events would have to get used to playing high-stakes matches on Arena rather than with paper cards. But players and tournament organizers weren’t the only people preparing for the ambitious shift to digital premier play. Last week, the official organization of Magic: The Gathering Judges and rules advisors published new policy documents covering digital events.
New MTG policy/tournament documents to set expectations and guidelines for digital events!
— Judge Academy (@JudgeAcademy) June 9, 2020
Magic: The Gathering has long utilized the expertise of officials called Judges at paper tournaments. Judges ensure that a tournament runs smoothly and adjudicate any conflict between players over rules or even social interactions. They basically enforce the rules of Magic.
Interestingly, digital platforms like Magic: The Gathering Arena and its older sibling Magic: The Gathering Online come with rules engines that handle card interactions automatically. But problems while using these programs may arise, such as disconnections or bugs. The Judge Academy, alongside WotC, prepared these policy documents to deal with issues and violations that wouldn’t happen on paper.
As it turns out, the digital Tournament Rules and Infraction Procedure documents clarify many questions competitors may have about online tournaments. The first document contains useful information about how to challenge opponents using the Arena software, taking notes during matches, sharing your screen for video coverage, and more. It also defines tournament violations such as bribery, slow play, and outside assistance, all of which are infractions common to paper and digital Magic.
Meanwhile, the Infraction Procedure document outlines what to do when players violate rules such as being on time or playing at a reasonable pace. What the document adds are the procedures to deal with player disconnections during tournaments.
These documents may not be the most interesting things for Magic: The Gathering players to read, but it is important for competitive players to familiarize themselves with these rules, especially given the recent shift to digital play. They might just come in handy the next the next time you or your opponent suffer a disconnection during an important tournament match.