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Am I allowed to look up a card during a game, if it's being played with serious Rules Enforcement? Either to read the full card from the Gatherer, or to try to find the exact card I'm vaguely thinking of.

Two possible scenarios:

  • An opponent has revealed a card previously, and I want to remember the exact details. (Something like the exact wording of a sorcery, mana cost, keywords on a creature, subtypes, etc. etc.)

  • I have a "name a card and remove it from the opponent's deck" type card, and I want to, say, ask google for "Blue Gearhulk" to remember that it's that that one is called "Torrential Gearhulk".

Obviously, in casual or semi-casual games neither of these are a problem. Any reasonable opponent will just re-reveal the known card (assuming it IS still guaranteed to be known) or will accept "I name the Blue Gearhulk".

Also obviously, it seems unlikely that I (or anyone else) would get to the stage of playing at the REL without knowing the cards too thoroughly for this to be relevant.

But in principle... is it permitted? Or not? (and if not, is there a good reason, or just "we decided 'No'"?)

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  • You're allowed to ask a judge about any card (e.g. "what does card X do?" or "what's the name of the blue gearhulk?")
    – Samthere
    May 8 '18 at 8:57
  • I would encourage you to change the accepted answer here to this answer, because the rules have changed and the currently accepted answer is no longer correct.
    – murgatroid99
    Jul 31 at 21:03
  • @murgatroid99 by all means :)
    – Brondahl
    Aug 1 at 18:55
62

You can look up things on the Internet during a match per MTR 2.12:

Electronic devices are permitted, but players may not use them to access information that contains substantial strategic advice or information about an opponent’s deck.

When using electronic devices, you have to follow these rules:

Device use during a match other than brief personal calls must be visible to all players. Players wishing to view information privately on electronic devices during matches must request permission from a judge.

There are additional rules for limited tournaments:

At Competitive and Professional Rules Enforcement Level during drafting and deck construction, players may not use electronic devices capable of taking and storing notes, communicating with other people, or accessing the internet.

And as always, the Head Judge always has the final word:

The Head Judge or Tournament Organizer of a tournament may further restrict or forbid the use of electronic devices during matches.

This wasn't always true. Prior to the 2021 MTR update, the wording in 2.12 was:

At Competitive and Professional Rules Enforcement Level during drafting, deck construction, and playing of matches, players may not use electronic devices capable of taking and storing notes, communicating with other people, or accessing the internet (with the exception of taking brief personal calls with the opponent’s permission).

As for the Torrential Gearhulk. I've asked a judge at a Standard PPTQ Tournament (Competetive REL) if it's enough to name a card by describing it as "Blue Gearhulk". His answer was that it's OK, because there is exactly one card that can be described as "Blue Gearhulk" in the sets permitted in the format we are playing. This is per MTR 3.6:

A card is considered named in game when a player has provided a description (which may include the name or partial name) that could only apply to one card. Any player or judge realizing a description is still ambiguous must seek further clarification.

MTR 3.6 also clarifies that:

Players have the right to request access to the official wording of a card they can describe. That request will be honored if logistically possible.

So yes, you can ask about the card.

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    Model answer: Yes, you have the right that information (and here are the rules citations); but No you can't acquire it in that particular manner you've asked about. Thank you!
    – Brondahl
    May 8 '18 at 9:32
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    "That request will be honored if logistically possible." Then I guess the judge can look up the card on Gatherer, or show you a copy if they have one handy.
    – Arthur
    May 8 '18 at 12:54
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    The quoted rule from MTR section 2.12 has changed in a recent update in a way that substantially changes the answer to this question. This new answer has the correct answer under the new rules.
    – murgatroid99
    Jul 26 at 23:35
  • "Players have the right to request access to the official wording of a card the can describe." I find it a bit odd that "they" turned into "the". Did you retype the quote by hand? Or did the site originally have "the" and they edited it? Jul 27 at 23:26
  • @Acccumulation corrected
    – piotrek
    Jul 28 at 8:15
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As of the July 2021 Magic Tournament Rules Release Notes, you are now able to look up cards on your electronic devices as long as you do so in the open:

A few years ago, we opened Regular Rules Enforcement Level to allow electronic device usage, and that was quite successful. Now, we're unifying the rules across all Rules Enforcement Levels—you can use your device during matches if you do it out in the open. This allows for looking up Oracle text in Gatherer, or using a die-rolling app, but keeps the concerning behavior—outside assistance—in check.

There are still instances where you can't use your device though:

Electronic device use is still prohibited during drafts and Limited deck building, as the idea of "publicly visible" doesn't apply as cleanly and there's no reasons to be using them during those periods.

MTR 2.12 has the updated rules governing electronic devices.

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    "there's no reasons to be using them during those periods" Is the assumption here that the cards in a draft will be printed in a language you're able to read?
    – nick012000
    Jul 27 at 23:05
  • @nick012000 IIRC drafting at high REL is done to a clock, you (probably) don't have time to read all the text of all the cards, let alone look them up.
    – Caleth
    Aug 3 at 16:24
  • Is only Wotc official gatherer allowed?
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 3 at 17:44
  • @NeilMeyer MTR 2.12 lays out explicit restrictions, but generally you're able to use any resource as long as it's not giving you strategic advice and as long as it's not done privately
    – Kyle Pollard
    Aug 4 at 1:39
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As a supplement to piotrek's answer, there is a story in which Gerard Fabiano repeatedly attempted to name "Humpus Wumpus," for the ability of Demonic Consultation. Humpus Wumpus was not allowable in order to specify Hunted Wumpus. My point is that one judge may take "blue gearhulk" to uniquely describe only one magic card, but a judge may not allow "Humpus Wumpus" to uniquely describe Hunted Wumpus. Meanwhile, they might allow a mispronunciation like "Tarmogoof" in place of Tarmogoyf, and you might get away with naming a legendary creature without enumerating its entire name. A judge might know absolutely for certain what creature you're trying to name, and still not tell you what card it is you're thinking of; similar to Wheel of Fortune* not accepting a mispronunciation, even when all of the letters on the board are filled-in. So a description is acceptable when it is literally correct, rather than commonly clear.

*Originally I had accidentally said The Price is Right instead of Wheel of Fortune.

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    Is "The Price is Right" a mispronunciation of "Wheel of Fortune"? May 8 '18 at 15:03
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    That's a very old article; it's not optional that you have to specify a real Magic card, so nowadays if "Humpus Wumpus" were not accepted your opponent would have to clarify as you made the choice, not after it's resolved.
    – Samthere
    May 9 '18 at 11:44
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    Maybe a more relevant example (which I believe is still compatible with the current rules) would be the "Borborygmos/Borborygmos Enraged" flap from a couple years ago.
    – Micah
    May 9 '18 at 15:39
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    I would like to point out that in the story you refer to, the very next line says "Nowadays it would be acceptable to say “Humpus Wumpus” and describe what card you wanted to name, but 9 years ago the rules were different", and that article was published over 8 years ago. Overall, this entire answer is based on a very outdated view of the rules.
    – murgatroid99
    May 9 '18 at 17:52

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