Sometimes when I pass my turn, my opponent simply untaps and, if nothing triggers during upkeep, they draw. This can be a major headache for me when I want to cast Mana Short after my opponent untaps but before he or she draws a card.

What is the penalty for skipping priority at competitive REL? At a regular REL event?

Assume that

  • The card was drawn and has already touched the players hand, such that no judge could tell it apart from the cards already in that player's hand
  • My last spoken words were "Pass turn"
  • I had 2-3 seconds of time between untap and draw during which I could have said something but failed to do so

The situation is frustrating because I do not want to tell my opponent, "Hey, I have something to do during your upkeep. Now I pass my turn." That gives away my plan.

If the answer is "You should speak up faster!" that's fine, as long as the answer contains a respectable source (a judge's ruling, the comprehensive rules, etc.).

  • 3
    If this happens a lot, seems like you might want to get used to saying something ("upkeep?" or "in your upkeep" or even just "wait") a bit sooner - when your opponent is finishing untapping or first reaching to draw a card.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 30, 2014 at 20:53
  • Tough situation... do you think your opponent should ask if you have anything you'd like to do each time they untap, before they draw? This would slow down the game a lot. I would expect normally the player who wants to do something should speak up if they see their opponent reaching for the draw pile.
    – GendoIkari
    Jan 30, 2014 at 20:53
  • 1
    The assumptions are kinda weird for this question: knowing you had something to play, why would to let your opponent assimilate the drawn card into his had. As soon as he touched the top card of his deck to draw, you should have interrupted his action.
    – Colin D
    Jan 30, 2014 at 22:36
  • 2
    Why can't you at the start of the game inform your opponent that you might want to do something during one of their upkeeps. His way you don't hint when you are going to Mana Short them, and they have to explicitly pass priority to go to their Draw Step.
    – user1873
    Jan 31, 2014 at 1:04
  • 2
    @John in a sense, yes, it does. If you've been playing the game for many turns at a particular pace and not asking your opponent to slow down or be explicit about the upkeep step, you can't really expect him or her to be penalized for carrying on playing at the same pace with the same shortcut that you didn't previously say anything about?
    – Affe
    Jan 31, 2014 at 5:37

3 Answers 3


Nothing/Warning for both you and your opponent at a Competitive REL or Regular REL event.

The rules at Regular Rules Enforcement Level (REL) events (such as Friday Night Magic, Game Days, and Prereleases) has a more relaxed/friendly atmosphere, and does not use the Infraction Procedure Guide. The Infraction Procedure Guide has no Game Play Errors that match your situation and the closest matching Common Issue from the Regular REL is:

A player makes an in-game error not mentioned above - This will cover the bulk of player errors, and we will usually leave the game as it is. Fix anything that is currently illegal (e.g. an Aura enchanting an illegal permanent) and continue the game. If the error was caught quickly and rewinding is relatively easy, you may choose to undo all the actions back to the point that the illegal action happened. This can include returning random cards from the hand to the library to undo card draws (though don't shuffle the library if you do this) and reversing various other actions (such as untapping permanents and declaring attackers or blockers). Don't go crazy with this!

In general, they just leave the game as it is. It is probably fairly common that people just skip upkeep when nothing triggers during the upkeep. In the relaxed environment, judges are there to be friendly and educate, not to hand out violations. At the Competitive level though, if any violation occurred, it would have to be the generic ones Game Play Error/Failure to Maintain Game State, and both you and your opponent are guilty of each one respectively.

Now, within "game errors" there are four specific categories of warnings that the offending player can get. However, because bothplayers are now responsible for maintaining a legal game state, if one player gets a warning for one a game error, the opponent will receive a warning from the special fifth group, which is "Failure to maintain game state." [...]

  1. Game Play Error - This is the "everything else" category, so any game errors that don't fall under the first three categories land here. So this is where we're talking about things like accidentally playing a card for the wrong mana cost, forgetting to attack with a creature that must attack each turn, etc.
  1. Failure to maintain game state - This is the special fifth group, which is the warning a player gets for not noticing that the opponent made a game error.

The MtG Tournment Rules note the following regarding shortcuts:

Tournament Shortcuts

A tournament shortcut is an action taken by players to skip parts of the technical play sequence without explicitly announcing them. Tournament shortcuts are essential for the smooth play of a game, as they allow players to play in a clear fashion without getting bogged down in the minutia of the rules. Most tournament shortcuts involve skipping one or more priority passes to the mutual understanding of all players; if a player wishes to demonstrate or use a new tournament shortcut entailing any number of priority passes, he or she must be clear where the game state will end up as part of the request. [...]

A player is not allowed to use a previously undeclared tournament shortcut, or to modify an in-use tournament shortcut without announcing the modification, in order to create ambiguity in the game.

You opponent used a Tournament Shortcut that was previously undeclared. They should have informed you that they wished to proceed to the Draw Step, possibly by saying, "Draw step? I wish to skip the Upkeep Step and proceed to the Draw Step." You failed to maintain the game state, by not being quick enough to interrupt your opponents draw in the time your opponent untapped and waited an additional 2-3 seconds.

A player may not request priority and take no action with it. If a player decides he or she does not wish to do anything, the request is nullified and priority is returned to the player that originally had it.

You should not request priority during your opponents Upkeep unless you plan to take an action.

Certain conventional tournament shortcuts used in Magic are detailed below.

  • The statement "Go" (and equivalents such as "Your turn" and "Done") offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the end step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise.

A judge could issue you both a Warning. Your opponent needs to explain that they want to proceed to the Draw Step. You need to maintain the game state so your opponents errors are caught early before they can give you/him an advantage. Additional remedies are also a possibility.

Additional Remedies

If the error was discovered within a time frame in which a player could reasonably be expected to notice the error and the situation is simple enough to safely back up without too much disruption to the course of the game, the judge may get permission from the Head Judge to back up the game to the point of the error. Each action taken is undone until the game reaches the point immediately prior to the error. Cards incorrectly placed in hand are returned to the location in the zone from which they were moved (if the identity of the incorrectly drawn card is not known to all players, a random card is returned instead). Once the game is backed up, it continues from that point.

In the future, you might want to take a little longer before you announce, "Your Turn," until you have decided whether you want to play Mana Short next turn during your opponent's Upkeep. This way you can interrupt them when they reach for their deck, and not give them any advantage (if they have a Split Second card) nor you an advantage if a judge decides to return a random card to the top of their library (possibly a Counterspell). Repeatedly receiving warnings for the same violation (skipping an upkeep, or failing to maintain the game state by not interrupting a draw) can result in an upgraded penalty.

  • 4
    -1. Judges don't issue warnings for "not being quick enough" to interrupt your opponent's gameplay error. It is not a reaction-time game. Jan 31, 2014 at 15:39
  • 1
    @SamIAm He did point out at the end that if the error was discovered within a reasonable time frame, they might not issue a warning. It appears that the judge gets to determine what is reasonable, so while the ruling could be questionable, this answer seems pretty sound.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:59
  • @SamIam, it isn't reaction based, but the rules indicate if a warning is issued for Game Play Error, the other player receives a Failure to Maintain Game State. I would guess if you reacted fast enough that the opponent couldnt put the early draw in their hand your warning could be reduced.
    – user1873
    Jan 31, 2014 at 18:25
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    @user1873 There are 2 problems with this. The assumption is that the player does call a judge after his opponent made the communication error. You are not expected to prevent the error before it happens, rather, you're expected to identify it when it happens, and then call a judge. Secondly a communication error, is a different sort of error than a game play error, and doesn't result in an incorrect game state, and "failure to maintain game-state" doesn't deal with communication errors. Jan 31, 2014 at 19:21
  • 1
    I think the most important part here is recognizing that skipping the upkeep stage is a shortcut most players implicitly use, and if you wanted to do something at upkeep you should announce it either before or as you pass turn. "Go, and during your upkeep, I ..." as he can be assumed to have passed priority to you as part of the shortcut.
    – corsiKa
    Feb 3, 2014 at 21:37

The other answers to this question are very detailed calling on the comprehensive rules and are quite clear. I have had this problem in a tournament situation, and a judge was called to resolve the situation, Obviously this is anecdotal evidence but the judge was a level 2 and quite experienced running tournaments, so I would be surprised if their decision was incorrect.

The Situation

It was a competitive REL legacy tournament, I was playing Goblins (probably badly), My opponent was playing an early incarnation of an esper stoneblade deck (this was around the time Jace the Mindsculptor got banned in standard, people werent sure Stoneblade was good enough for legacy yet). The game was going long, We each had large amounts of mana and I was trying to preserve my resources as much as possible as Pernicious Deed was on the field. As such I was using my Rishadan Port every turn to try and limit my opponent's choices.

My opponent had a nasty habit of not giving me much time to interrupt the start of his turn to tap one of his lands. Eventually we got into the situation where he managed to draw his card before I had an opportunity to activate my ability. This was problematic for obvious reasons, I don't want him to be able to use that mana to cast the card he just drew. A judge was called and the situation was explained to them from both of our perspectives. I made clear that this was something I had been doing numerous times, and that I felt I didn't have enough time between untap and draw to announce my ability.

The Resolution

The judge decided that what had occurred was a case of Out Of Order Sequencing. As such, the resolution was to tap his land, he was not permitted to tap it to generate mana to cast any instants.

The Answer

Taking the above as evidence, I would expect in a similar situation, you may well get the same result. I don't remember either of us getting any kind of warning, but obviously all of this is contingent on the judge on the day, who could make a very different decision from the one the judge made in this situation.

  • 2
    I looked up Out Of Order Sequencing. An out-of-order sequence can’t result in any player prematurely gaining information that would reasonably affect decisions later in that sequence. In this situation, my opponent drew a card, and therefore had information he wouldn't have otherwise had. Still, +1 for not just saying "you should have done this" like everyone in the question comments.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 31, 2014 at 14:19
  • "As such, the resolution was to tap his land, he was not permitted to tap it to generate mana to cast any instants." That seems odd to me. Assuming he had waited to draw a card and did pass priority, he could have always tapped the land in response. Why would the judge rule this way?
    – user1873
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:05
  • 1
    If the judge can fix the game state, than they will, but in some scenarios, like that the OP described, the drawn card has already been put into one player's hand, and that is unfixable Jan 31, 2014 at 15:45
  • 1
    I'm not in the judges head so I can only presume. The point where he could have responded had passed as he had drawn his card, there was no way to verify which card was drawn so it was safest to prevent the mana from being used for any spell. I would probably expect the same ruling even if he had seen the card but not yet added it to his hand, as the knowledge of what he was about to draw might inform his decision to cast a spell or not
    – Patters
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:56
  • @user1873 This situation is a bit different than the OP's: the opponent basically knew he needed to let something happen, because something had been happening during every one of his upkeeps. Presumably the judge took that into account. It doesn't seem that unreasonable to rule that, by skipping ahead to draw, with full knowledge that a land was likely going to get tapped during his upkeep, he was acknowledging that he wouldn't do anything during upkeep, especially in response to the Port ability (or alternatively, trying to cheat out of getting the land tapped).
    – Cascabel
    Jan 31, 2014 at 18:50

Wizards acknowledges this as a valid game shortcut (for non tournament play at least):


Game Fluidification” shortcuts: not letting the opponent know about skipping a phase or step (for instance, drawing right after untapping) or not passing priority whereas you should (when opponent is all tapped…)

What you should do as follows:

While your opponent is untapping you should say, you want to play something. In the case they have nothing to untap, wait until they verbally or non-verbally communicate that they are about to start their turn then interupt them saying "wait a second I have something to play during your upkeep".


Wizards admits that their list of common shortcuts is not exhaustive but when miscommunication or a player uses a previously undeclared shortcut they can be issued a warning for 'Communication Policy Violation'.

A player is not allowed to use a previously undeclared shortcut, or to modify an in-use shortcut without announcing the modification, in order to create ambiguity in the game.

Until you establish a shortcut, there is no shortcut. And again, once you establish a shortcut, you stick with it – until you say otherwise. But even more important: in order to create ambiguity in the game – that's the key concept in our first "Thou shalt not!" Players use many bluffs to try and gain advantage. We acknowledge that's part of the game, and Section 50 of the PG addresses many of the boundaries (as explained in Toby Elliott's article). What we're trying to say here is that players should not mess with shortcuts to confuse their opponents (nor themselves, for that matter).

Now, what to do with such a player? Apply the new penalty from the new Guide? Well, there isn't one. We added a new penalty because of Section 50:

137. Tournament Error – Player Communication Violation 

and the definition of that new penalty includes:

A player unintentionally violates the Player Communication guidelines (see section 50). 

No mention in there at all of section 51 and these Shortcuts. A further search of the whole Penalty Guide doesn't refer to Shortcuts. So what is the penalty for violating this?

Let me repeat: there is none. It's enough to explain to the player that their intent to create ambiguity via shortcut shenanigans is unacceptable – and to refrain from doing so again. (If they continue to ignore that last instruction, then you may have an instance of Unsporting Conduct.)

This can result in rolling back the state of the game, until before the error occurred.

For your specific case, consult the Magic infractions procedure guide

If the situation is simple enough to safely back up without too much disruption to the course of the game, the judge may get permission from the Head Judge to back up the game to the point of the incorrect information. Each action taken is undone until the game reaches the point immediately prior to the error. Cards incorrectly placed in hand are returned to the location in the zone from which they were moved (if the identity of the incorrectly drawn card is not known to all players, a random card is returned instead). Once the game is backed up, it continues from that point.

Now my interpretation of the situation:

on previous turns you established a shortcut with your opponent by not insisting on him not skipping the declaration he was moving from untap to upkeep to draw without taking any actions (or by skipping the declarations yourself). Your time to act and terminate the shortcut was during that pause between when he untapped and when he drew.

  • 2
    The problem with this shortcut is that it gives your opponent a chance to play something in response to you saying you have something you want to play.. before you actually cast it. I suppose that's not normally an issue, because in general it's better to cast your instants after your opponent has cast his... but it could matter, especially if he has something with Split Second that he wasn't going to play until you said you wanted to play something.
    – GendoIkari
    Jan 30, 2014 at 21:22
  • Re "While your opponent is untapping you should say, you want to play something", that reveals your intentions before you need to. I would not want to do that.
    – ikegami
    Jan 31, 2014 at 14:11
  • @ikegami, sure it reveals some information, but you don't really have a choice if you have already established the shortcut. Since there was a pause in this hypothetical, that would be the best time to interrupt.
    – Colin D
    Jan 31, 2014 at 14:42
  • Not sure what you mean. No shortcut has been proposed yet. The pause would be the right time to get ready, but I wouldn't interrupt until he actually reaches to draw, or else he could say I don't have priority and do something first.
    – ikegami
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:01
  • The last paragraph makes no sense. You didn't specify what shortcut would have been established on the previous turn, but I can't think of any that would help. Any shortcut that has him do nothing in his upkeep can be shortened by him doing something in his upkeep.
    – ikegami
    Jan 31, 2014 at 15:13

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