What You May Have Missed With the New Trigger Rules

Feature Article from Melissa DeTora
Melissa DeTora
10/26/2012 10:52:00 AM
submit to reddit » Print «

Hi everyone. This week I'm going to discuss the recent changes announced to the Magic Infraction Procedure Guide (IPG). Being a competitive player and a level 2 judge, I have a slight advantage over most players. My judge level requires me to be very knowledgeable of not only the Magic rules, but also the penalties that can occur when players make mistakes.

These rules apply only to Competitive REL (Rules Enforcement Level) tournaments. If you only play in FNM or weekly events at your local store, this will not apply to you. If you are a PTQ or Open grinder, play in the occasional Grand Prix, or even on the Pro Tour, you may want to give this a read. Don't know if the event you're playing in is Competitive? A good rule of thumb is if you are required to fill out a decklist, the tournament is probably competitive.

Back in April, there was a major overhaul to the IPG and it greatly changed how we played and judged magic. No longer did we have to point out our opponent's missed triggers! If they missed a trigger, then too bad for them! Previously, if our opponent missed a mandatory trigger, we had to call a judge, the judge would then put the trigger on the stack (as long as it was within a turn), and the opponent would receive a penalty. To clarify:


I'm at three life. My opponent controls Charmbreaker Devils and has a Brimstone Volley as the only instant in his graveyard. My opponent untaps and draws, plays a creature and passes the turn. I call a judge and point out the missed trigger. The judge gives my opponent a warning and the trigger goes on the stack. My opponent returns Brimstone Volley to his hand and casts it, targeting me. I die.


I'm at three life. My opponent controls Charmbreaker Devils and has a Brimstone Volley as the only instant in his graveyard. My opponent untaps and draws, plays a creature and passes the turn. Since I no longer have to point out my opponent's missed triggers, I take my turn, attack for lethal and win the game!

This change in the trigger rules seemed like a perfect Remedy for players who were sick of telling their opponents about their mistakes. However, the new IPG was far from perfect.

For starters, there were these things called “lapsing triggers.” This was an entirely new term for both players and judges. There were also all of these new rules to remember. Judges had to know the difference between a lapsing trigger, a trigger with no visual effect on the game state, when a player was using “out of order sequencing,” among others. Players who didn't study these new rules would have an extreme disadvantage over those who did.

These new changes were so confusing that judges were very inconsistent with their rulings. I had one judge rule one way at a Grand Prix only to have another judge rule completely differently for the same thing at a Grand Prix the very next week.

The high level judges who wrote the IPG understood the problems that players and judges were facing. Once again they made revisions to the IPG. These revisions were just announced last month and went into effect on October first.

Lapsing triggers were completely scrapped from the document, as well as all of those other weird triggers, such as the “no visual effect” one. Now, a trigger is one of two things: Beneficial or detrimental.


A beneficial trigger is a trigger that is good for you. Gaining life, drawing cards, making your creatures bigger, and putting tokens into play are considered beneficial abilities.

If you forget a trigger and it's a beneficial one, then too bad, you forgot. However, your opponent will be given the option for it to go on the stack. Chances are your opponent will choose not to have it go on the stack, as it is probably bad for him. Of course, there are some cases when your opponent will want you to have the trigger. For example, if you control Dark Confidant and are at one life, you can bet that your opponent will want that trigger to happen!

One important thing about this: You can't intentionally miss your trigger. If you try to “beat the system” by “forgetting” about your Dark Confidant trigger, that is cheating. Don't do this, not only will you no longer be able to participate in that tournament, but there is a good chance that you won't be playing sanctioned Magic for a few months.

How does a player miss a trigger? According to the IPG, a missed trigger occurs when a triggered ability triggers, but the player controlling the ability doesn't demonstrate awareness of the trigger's existence and/or forgets to announce its effect.

So what does “awareness” mean? Do I have to make a verbal announcement? Can I just point to it? As long as you show that you are aware that the trigger occurred, it triggered. This can mean pointing to the card or just saying “trigger”. It can also mean a variety of other things. Here are a few examples.

 Geist of Saint Traft
Store QTY Price  
Trade Up 1 $7.60
RedWorld 1 $7.60
Prodigy Games 2 $7.98
Full Moon Games 3 $7.98
Tazs Games 1 $7.99
Aspen Deals 2 $7.99
Pearl Trident Magic 1 $7.99
Desert Keep Games 2 $7.99
Card Monster Games 6 $8.00
RebellionCards&Games 1 $8.00
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Geist of Saint Traft Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Geist of Saint Traft:

- I control Geist of Saint Traft. I attack with it and put my deckbox onto the battlefield, representing a token. This is fine.

- I turn my Geist of Saint Traft sideways as the only attacking creature. While I tap it, I say “Take six.” This is also fine. Although I didn't state that I was putting a token into play, or even physically put an object into play, I implied that I was attacking with both the Geist and the 4/4 Angel.

- I attack with my Geist and look at my opponent to see if he wants to do anything. He moves his creature up to my Geist to represent a block. I then say “hold on, I get an Angel,” and put a token into play. This is a case where the trigger would be considered missed. I attacked and then waited for my opponent. This signified that I had passed priority. Once my opponent tries to block, then it's too late to get an angel.

 Soul Warden
Store QTY Price  
MTG Rares 10 $0.16
GordonsGames 1 $0.20
Brickmaster Games 4 $0.20
OmnomaxTradersLLC 7 $0.23
MTG Rares 9 $0.23
Serenity Games 2 $0.24
Krazy Kidz Gaming 2 $0.25
jestercapscards 9 $0.25
Brickmaster Games 1 $0.25
Blackleaf Magic 1 $0.25
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Soul Warden Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Soul Warden:

- First, an easy one. I have a Soul Warden in play. I play a creature and pass the turn. It's too late for me to gain the life.

- I am playing a crazy Soul Warden combo deck. I am casting a ton of creatures, and each time one comes into play, I say “gain one.” However I don't write the one on my life pad. After I am done casting things, I then mark my life pad for the appropriate amount. This is fine. Although I didn't write the one life right away, I did say “gain one,” meaning that I was aware that the trigger occurred. If I wrote down the life each time I played a creature, I would be wasting a lot of time.

- I have a Soul Warden in play. My opponent plays a creature. I nod my head and write plus one life on my life pad. I said nothing, but it's clear that I was aware that the trigger happened.


Detrimental triggers include things such as losing life, returning permanents to your hand, tapping your permanents, and sacrificing creatures.

If you miss a trigger that is detrimental to you and it's caught within a turn, the trigger will go on the stack and you will receive a Warning for Missed Trigger. If more than a turn has passed, the trigger will not go on the stack but you'll still receive a Warning.

So how do you know if a trigger is beneficial or detrimental? That's up to the judge to decide. The judges are trained in this type of thing and players are not required to know this. However, the judge will NOT use the current game state to determine if the trigger is beneficial or detrimental. Here's an example:

 Abundant Growth
Store QTY Price  
Game Nite 1 $0.11
Q Music Shop 2 $0.11
Pipe Dream Toys 2 $0.12
CoMo Magic 4 $0.13
Gaming Place 1 $0.13
BobbysWorldCCG 5 $0.13
Northwoods Games 2 $0.13
The End Zone 8 $0.14
North Valley Games 12 $0.14
Battle of Wizards 1 $0.14
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Abundant Growth Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Abundant Growth:

- I cast Abundant Growth and immediately say go. As my opponent untaps, I say, “Oh, I draw a card!” We call a judge who determines that the trigger is beneficial, and at this point the trigger is missed. The judge asks my opponent if he wants the trigger to go on the stack, and he of course says no.

- The same thing, except this time I only have one card in my library. The judge does not look at the game state and still rules that the trigger is beneficial. If doesn't matter that I'm probably going to lose if the trigger goes on the stack. The judge then asks my opponent if he wants the trigger to go on the stack and my opponent immediately responds with a yes.

 Desecration Demon
Store QTY Price  
GalaxyGamesOnline 1 $0.20
WiggysCardShop 3 $0.20
OmahaMTG321 1 $0.25
Marldains Menagerie 1 $0.25
bopmansales 1 $0.25
The Game Shoppe 3 $0.25
Tophat Cards 2 $0.30
Snapcasters Gaming 2 $0.31
jestercapscards 3 $0.33
TemplesPlayground 1 $0.35
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Desecration Demon Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Desecration Demon:

- I control Desecration Demon. My opponent controls a huge swarm of creatures. At the beginning of combat, I attack with the Demon, completely forgetting about the trigger. My opponent calls a judge who rules that I must untap my Demon and give my opponent the opportunity to sacrifice a creature. I receive a warning.

- Same thing, except this time my opponent's only creatures are four Angels of Serenity, and each Angel has three of my creatures underneath it. I go to my attack and forget about the Demon trigger. Now, the trigger is extremely beneficial to me. I want my opponent to sacrifice one of his Angels. However, the game state doesn't matter. Although having my opponent sacrifice creatures is sweet, tapping my Demon is detrimental. The trigger will go on the stack (hooray!) and I will receive a Warning.

What does this means for competitive players?

There are a few downsides of this change for competitive players. The main one is that we can't outplay our opponents by hoping they forget about our invisible triggers. For example, before this rules change, if I control a Steppe Lynx, play an Arid Mesa and crack it, my Steppe Lynx is a 4/5, no question about it. If I played a couple of spells and maybe got into a counter war with my opponent, there was a chance that my opponent would forget that my Steppe Lynx was a 4/5. Post rules change, if I play an Arid Mesa, I have to announce the Landfall trigger. If I crack that Arid Mesa, I have to announce that second Landfall trigger. There's no way that my opponent will forget about it.

Another example of this is with Jace, Architect of Thought. Jace's first ability creates a delayed trigger that triggers at the beginning of my opponent's next combat. If I use Jace's first ability and my opponent attacks on his turn, I need to announce the trigger. If I don't, the trigger won't happen. This is another way that we can miss out on outplaying our opponents. If they are reminded of the trigger, they will certainly play differently. Maybe they had a really difficult decision in their first main phase, and by the time they got to combat, they forgot about Jace.

The majority of triggered abilities are beneficial triggers, especially in Standard. Chances are the trigger you missed was beneficial to you. Here's a quick list of cards with detrimental triggers in Return to Ravnica: http://blogs.magicjudges.org/telliot...-check-of-rtr/. Remember, if you miss one of these triggers in a tournament, as long as it's within a turn, the trigger will go on the stack and you will get a warning.

On the plus side, players are no longer required to memorize the difference between the different types of triggered abilities. Lapsing triggers were just confusing for everyone. Now, everything is much clearer. If you're opponent misses a trigger unless you actually want that trigger to occur, you don't have to say anything. If you aren't sure if your opponent's trigger is detrimental or not, just call a judge. They will give you the option anyway (unless it's detrimental, in which case it's probably a good thing that it goes on the stack).

I hope that this article has clarified anything that you were confused about regarding the new IPG. To summarize, be sure to remember these things: don't intentionally miss your triggers, you aren't required to point out your opponent's triggers, and if you are unsure about anything, call a judge.

See you in Philly!

Melissa DeTora

submit to reddit » Print «