Nathan controls Jeskai Infiltrator. His deck has green sleeves. Anthony controls three Mountains. His deck has blue sleeves. Anthony casts and resolves Act of Treason, gaining control of Infiltrator. He attacks Nathan, deals combat damage, and triggers and resolves Infiltrator's ability. Anthony now controls two manifested permanents: Jeskai Infiltrator and a random card from the top of his deck.

Two questions:

  • Can Anthony desleeve both manifested cards, or otherwise manipulate them so that they cannot be differentiated?
  • Assume the cards are not sleeved to begin with, or Nathan is colorblind, so that Nathan is unable to differentiate between the two face down cards. Is Anthony obligated to tell Nathan which card is the card that he owns?

It seems to me that, depending on the answer, Jeskai Infiltrator's ability might not work the way it was intended. If Nathan knows which card is which, then shuffling them is pointless.

I am looking for a rules based answer if one exists. The Release Notes for Fate Reforged say the following:

A card's owner is public information at all times. If the two cards you exile are owned by different players (perhaps because you gained control of a Jeskai Infiltrator owned by your opponent), which card is which is no longer hidden from your opponent. That player will know which face-down creature he or she owns.

However, it does not provide rules to back this up. I checked the Tournament rules on Free, Derived, and Private information, but I found no mention of this. If the answer depends on what Rules Enforcement Level you are playing at, please describe the rule as it applies to each level.


6 Answers 6


I too was unable to find anything in either the CR or MTR defining this, so I asked Matt Tabak, current Rules Manager of Magic and he said:

I just assumed that was self-evident. Like, if you get up from the table, you should know which cards to take with you.

And a Level 2 Judge I asked said:

From a practical standpoint, you’re going to be using different sleeves from your opponent 95% of the time. Even if the sleeves are the same, you have a right to your property, so you have the right to know which cards you own.

  • 3
    If you get up from the table, then the game must have ended. All manifested permanents should have been revealed when the game ended, and so you should automatically know which cards are yours. It appears as though Matt Tabak chose not to take the question seriously. That said, I have to give you a +1 because what Matt Tabak says is pretty much the rule, whether he chooses to explain it properly or not.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:15
  • 2
    I can see the need to know which card is yours. It does not follow that your opponent must satisfy that need. Anyway, I don't mean to take this out on your answer. I'm mostly just annoyed by Matt Tabak's "Because I said so." response. Hence my upvote.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:45
  • 8
    I don't think Tabak truly grasped your plight as it relates to Jeskai Infiltrator.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 27, 2015 at 21:16
  • 2
    Considering he only talked about what cards you own when leaving the game as opposed to identifying to your opponent which cards are his during the game, I don't believe he did. He treated the question as though it was obvious when it is not necessarily obvious given the context of the question.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 28, 2015 at 1:27
  • 4
    I'm talking about the ruling in this question. diego asked him to justify a ruling that covers exactly the scenario this question asked about. The fact that, as he says "To be clear, I totally answer real questions with snark when I feel like it. This tumblr is like a minefield," doesn't mean that he didn't understand the issue.
    – murgatroid99
    Jan 28, 2015 at 1:33

You cannot obscure information about face down cards.

707.6. If you control multiple face-down spells or face-down permanents, you must ensure at all times that your face-down spells and permanents can be easily differentiated from each other. This includes, but is not limited to, knowing the order spells were cast, the order that face-down permanents entered the battlefield, which creature attacked last turn, and any other differences between face-down spells or permanents. Common methods for distinguishing between face-down objects include using counters or dice to mark the different objects, or clearly placing those objects in order on the table.

One could probably argue that since the list of differences isn't limiting, ownership of a card would be something that would differentiate the cards from each other.

  • This answers one of two questions, and the question it did answer is not the one in the title. Can you expand?
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:09
  • 1
    @corsiKa When cards get shuffled, as Jeskai Infiltrator requires you to do, their final order must be random by definition. Sticking a post-it note on the card breaks randomness.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 20:57
  • 2
    @Jefromi If what you say is true, then no player could shuffle a 1 or 0 card deck, but clearly we know they can. Regardless, it still works: no player knows their order during the shuffling process - immediately after the shuffling process, however, all public information just as public as it was before.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 28, 2015 at 15:16
  • 1
    Of course they wouldn't: 716.1: The rules for taking shortcuts are largely unformalized. As long as each player in the game understands the intent of each other player, any shortcut system they use is acceptable. Both players know the outcome of shuffling a 0 or 1 card deck, or a pile of 2 distinguishable cards, and therefore would have no problem "skipping the shuffle". The game doesn't skip the shuffle though, and that's the only thing we care about.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 28, 2015 at 16:11
  • 1
    @Jefromi Super pedantic counter-argument: I have zero cards left in my library. Every turn, I cast Beacon of Immortality to stay alive. If you play Cosi's Trickster, it will get counters. If you play Psychic Surgery, it will trigger and eat my Beacon.
    – Alex P
    Jan 30, 2015 at 1:18

The ruling in question is an official ruling on the workings of the card on the official Magic website. Like any ruling, it clarifies the rules with regards to a particular interaction. In this particular case, the rule regarding free information says "Free information includes:" followed by a list of information. The ruling quoted in the question says that free information also includes the owner of any object.

In addition, rule 108 defines what a card is, and rule 108.3 says

The owner of a card in the game is the player who started the game with it in his or her deck. If a card is brought into the game from outside the game rather than starting in a player's deck, its owner is the player who brought it into the game. If a card starts the game in the command zone, its owner is the player who put it into the command zone to start the game.

I would argue that this means that "ownership" is a fundamental property of a card, and that each card's owner must be known at all times. That implies that you must make it clear which player owns which card in both situations.

As another data point, the card Conjured Currency says

At the beginning of your upkeep, you may exchange control of Conjured Currency and target permanent you neither own nor control.

This card does not work unless ownership is public information.

  • Jeskai Infiltrator moves from the battlefield to exile before he gets shuffled. He's also face up when he leaves the battlefield. Do you still think 707.9 is applicable?
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:44
  • If you read the sentence after the rule quote, you will see that I was quoting it not for the direct meaning but for the implication of the bolded text. If the owner reveals any face down card when it leaves the battlefield, then the owner must know that they own it while it is still on the battlefield.
    – murgatroid99
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:48
  • @murgtroid99 The card was already revealed when it left the battlefield. It leaves face up. Then, it gets shuffled. Then, it enters face down. At what point in this sequence does 707.9 apply?
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:49
  • 1
    That's not what I'm talking about. After the Infiltrator and the other card are manifested, their owner has to know who owns which because when they next leave the battlefield, the owner has to reveal them.
    – murgatroid99
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:51
  • 1
    I fundamentally disagree with that last sentence. If the rules say that someone is obligated to have information, and you have that information, then you are obligated to share. That's the only way an obligation to have information could possibly make sense.
    – murgatroid99
    Jan 27, 2015 at 18:00

Consider the question Is there any point in time at which someone can not identify which cards they own? The problem with words is that they need definitions. So let us be very clear about two different definitions of the same word that are tricking us up.

  • Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. Typically measured in seconds, minutes, or hours.

Clearly, a "point in time" is therefore defined as the instant in time corresponding to some measurement. For example, January 25, 2015 AD 10:45:12.134 AM or something like that. But I would like to propose an alternative definition of time: instead of measuring it in minutes, we measure it in terms of the game state.

It takes seconds or minutes to shuffle a deck, but in terms of the game state it is an instantaneous action. So if players did not use sleeves, or used the same sleeves, there may indeed be few seconds where it was unknown which card a player owned. I suppose you could Act of Treason another Jeskai Infiltrator, and you both use the same sleeves, and they're both in mint condition. But realistically, a simple inspection of the cards will quickly reveal ownership regardless of what sleeves there are.

Because it is an instantaneous game action, there is no point in the game where a player cannot readily identify what cards are owned by what players.

So let us focus on the questions being asked:

Can Anthony desleeve both manifested cards, or otherwise manipulate them so that they cannot be differentiated?

Answer: cards may be desleeved with the owner's permission, but they must be able to be identified by all players who the owner is. So if you want to desleeve for purposes of obfuscating the owner, that would not be okay. If you desleeve for some other reason (I don't know what) I suppose it's no different than any other time. (Maybe you're alergic to Ultra Pro sleeves or something?) But if you remove that differentiating factor, you must provide some other differentiating factor.

Next question:

Assume the cards are not sleeved to begin with, or Nathan is colorblind, so that Nathan is unable to differentiate between the two face down cards. Is Anthony obligated to tell Nathan which card is the card that he owns?

This is appears to be up in the air, but I assure you it is not. The tournament rules specifically state:

If a player is ever unable or unwilling to provide free information to an opponent that has requested it, he or she should call a judge and explain the situation.

While ownership of the card is not explicitly listed as free information, the definition of free information is

information to which all players are entitled access without contamination or omissions made by their opponents.

Now, I believe it is clear that "public" information means "free" information. I cannot imagine any definition otherwise. And as we know, ownership of a card is "public" information. The only logical conclusion is that it is a form of "free" information that the guide simply has not provided.

Specifically, we know it cannot be private information, because that public is the opposite of private and that would just be absolutely silly, and that would make the only other alternative derived information. This is defined as

Information to which all players are entitled access, but opponents are not obliged to assist in determining and may require some skill or calculation to determine.

Because the shuffling should have randomized the cards, you have no actual way of knowing by simply calculating and inspecting the visible game state which card is yours. (Especially if you do the unsleeving, or you don't play with sleeves, or you play with identical sleeves.) Derived information, by definition, can be calculated without the assistance of your opponent and merely by inspection of the game state. So this information (ownership) does not meet the qualifications of derived information. If it is not derived or private, it must be free. It's the only type of information that meets all the criteria, and is in line with the Fate Reforged FAQ.

Further evidence, which has that "Because Tabak said so", is taken from this question:

Jeskai Infiltrator's release notes state "A card's owner is public information at all times." Is public information in this context the same as "Free Information" as described in MTG-TR 4.1 Player Communication?

With the ever snarky answer:

Sure, why not? If, for some reason, you’re trying to split hairs here, stop. :)

So while we're not trying to split hairs (but rather, trying to make sure that other's don't try to split hairs) it's pretty clear that he means to include card ownership in Free Information and just apparently never bothered to update the TR.

Answer: if you are unwilling to give your opponent the ownership information of the cards exiled by Jeskai Infiltrator, you should immediately call a judge and explain the situation.

  • I find it hard to believe that the tournament rules incompletely list what information is Free. According to this answer, we are considering all phrase synonyms of "free information" to be an extension of that list. This is unusual for Magic rules, as they generally aren't left up to interpretation.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 28, 2015 at 16:21
  • Listed under free information is The physical status (tapped/flipped/unattached/phased) and current zone of any object. Compare this to the definition of "Characteristics", An object’s characteristics are name, mana cost, color, color indicator, card type, subtype, supertype, rules text, abilities, power, toughness, loyalty, hand modifier, and life modifier. (...) Any other information about an object isn’t a characteristic. For example, characteristics don’t include whether a permanent is tapped, a spell’s target, an object’s owner or controller, what an Aura enchants, and so on.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 28, 2015 at 16:34
  • You do realize that you just quoted a rule that says that an object's owner is not a characteristic of the card?
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 28, 2015 at 16:39
  • 1
    Tabak is probably being snarky/unworried because honestly, if anyone ever tries to tell a judge "but ownership isn't free information, see the list?" they're just going to get shot down. Trying to defeat that kind of rules lawyer by rules laywering back even harder here might be a bit of a fool's errand.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 29, 2015 at 0:26
  • 1
    I don't think that's the reason: I think it's just the persona he uses to answer questions. The name of the blog is even "Snarkham Asylum".
    – corsiKa
    Jan 29, 2015 at 0:34

Answer to the first question is no and two reasons as to why it is no.


section 3.3 Authorized Cards

Players may use cards from the Alpha printing only if the deck is in opaque sleeves

If the card that was manifested is an Alpha card (or other card with a distinct backing) then it would be in violation of that rule

section 3.9 Card Shuffling

The opponent may then shuffle it additionally. Cards and sleeves must not be in danger of being damaged during this process.

If there is a rule about not damaging opponent's cards during the shuffling processing then it would be no difference about damaging them during play and when removing card from a sleeve the chance of it being damaged is increased and it is possible to break the sleeve when removing the card.

As for the second question there is no question that the color of the card sleeve is public knowledge and while I don't have a rule to back it up I am sure it wouldn't be legal to deny someone public knowledge because of a disability such as color blindness.

Another way to look at the second question is if a player who has no knowledge of what has happened walks up to observe and is able to rapidly determine which card belongs to which player then it is not knowledge that can be hidden.

  • What if neither deck is sleeved?
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 28, 2015 at 1:45
  • 1
    @Rainbolt If you're also interested in the unsleeved scenario, please mention it in your question. Extending the scope of the question in comments is a form of chameleon question behaviour, i.e. not good: if it wasn't in your question it shouldn't need to be answered, so put it in there. Jan 28, 2015 at 1:49
  • 1
    @doppelgreener Oh please. I did ask the question but instead of saying the decks were unsleeved, I just made Nathan colorblind. The effect is the same: Nathan is unable to tell the difference. And murgatroid went ahead and edited the question for me.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 28, 2015 at 1:59
  • 1
    @Rainbolt I didn't see the color blind bit on account of looking for something about being unsleeved. Anyway, the principle is: don't surprise people with extra questions outside the original question scope, it's unreasonable to expect them to answer, especially if you are directing it at that author and only that author. So, no, you didn't ask the same thing. But now with the edit you are and all is well. Also, mind the courteousness of your responses, as I try to do the same for you. (i.e. Don't respond with a condescending "oh please".) Jan 28, 2015 at 2:26
  • 5
    @Rainbolt No, man, what you need to do is work on your politeness with fellow site members. You got a reminder about scope creep because you engaged in scope creep. You dismissed my concerns condescendingly, then just now suggested the appropriate action would be ignoring me. This isn't cool or helpful! Many of us are generally trying to be courteous and cooperative: you need to do the same with us, but your behaviour is generally unnecessarily aggressive and dismissive of others' concerns, which prevents us from interacting with you constructively. Jan 28, 2015 at 7:00

The owner of a permanent is free information, by desleeving a card you are intentionally trying to obscure that fact.

Additionally nothing in the tournament rules allows you to desleeve your opponents cards, which are their property and you are only allowed to manipulate them while following the rules of magic (which don't mention sleeves and therefore do not affect them).

  • 1
    Why is ownership classified as free information? I am not saying that your answer is wrong. I just want to know if you can qualify that statement.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 20:38
  • 1
    @Rainbolt: Oddly enough the rules don't call out the owner as free information. However they also don't call out the controller as free information, so I don't believe it is meant to be a completely inclusive list. There is certainly no way that the rules of magic would allow you to conceal the legal owner of the card, which is normally derived from the owner of the card within the game.
    – Guvante
    Jan 27, 2015 at 21:02

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