In tournament Magic, once time is called in a round, the game stops and the players have a total of 5 "extra turns". If, after those five turns, the game is still not over, the game ends in a draw.

Why are there five extra turns? This rule seems like it gives the player who takes the first extra turn a large advantage - after all, that player has three more turns, while the opponent only has two. Why not six or some even number?

  • 7
    Is the question why there are exactly 5, not 4 or 6, extra turns, or why there are extra turns in general rather than the game just stopping when time runs out?
    – xLeitix
    May 15, 2019 at 10:29
  • 1
    @xLeitix the former, although now that you mention it, the latter's also a good question.
    – Allure
    May 15, 2019 at 11:06

2 Answers 2


The imbalance is intentional. It gives every player an incentive to have the time limit hit during their opponent's turn, and therefore to finish their own turn quickly. As a result, it helps each tournament round stay within the time limit and reduces the need for turn extensions.

From the Tournament rules (pdf)

2.5 End-of-Match Procedure

If the match time limit is reached before a winner is determined, the player whose turn it is finishes their turn and five additional turns are played in total. This usually means that one player takes three turns and the other two, but a player taking extra turns may affect this. If a player has already passed priority in their end step when the time limit is reached, that is considered to be in their opponent’s next turn.

When the time limit hits, the currently active player finishes their turn and, as you correctly note, is disadvantaged by getting only two extra turns vs. the opponent's three. That means you do NOT want to be the active player when the time limit hits. The best way to not be the active player is to finish your turn, so you have an incentive to finish your turn as quickly as possible and pass that "hot potato" to your opponent.

Additionally, with an odd number turn extension, the non-active player also gets the last turn. In a damage race situation with creatures on both sides, the player who has the last turn does not have to plan for the opponent's backswing, and can go all out with the last attack.

By providing each player an individual incentive to play quickly (in addition to regular slow play infraction penalties), the whole tournament benefits. If the turn extension was an even number, no player would have this particular incentive to play quickly, because it wouldn't matter who the active player is at the time limit. The active player would also get the last turn, so it would be an overall benefit to the currently active player and therefore an incentive to play slowly.

  • 1
    I don't doubt that you are right, but this is really only effective for a small subset of games where both players can realistically win in extra turns. In the vast majority of games, (at least) one player effectively plays for draw in extra turns. In these cases it is still better for the player playing for a draw to eat up clock time once time starts running out, even on the danger of them end up with the "hot potato" and one less extra turn in the end.
    – xLeitix
    May 15, 2019 at 10:34
  • (which is to say, the entirety of tournament rules around slow play and extra turns is largely held together by good faith and the, not always warranted, hope that players do the right thing)
    – xLeitix
    May 15, 2019 at 10:36
  • 1
    Slow play in itself is punishable by the IPG, so good faith only applies when judges are not (being made) aware of slow play. You could consider the 5 extra turns rule as another measure against slow play, one that is independent of good faith or judge oversight, by providing a material advantage. Also, draws only exist in group stage, not single elimination stage: "In single-elimination rounds, matches may not end in a draw. [..]"
    – Hackworth
    May 15, 2019 at 11:06
  • But it's simply not realistic to assume judges will be always be "made aware" or can even track all cases of slow play - and even if they are, you can always play slowly until your opponent calls the judge and then speed up while you are being watched. Added to this is that there is a large degree of uncertainty what actually is "too slow" for a given board state or scenario. In short, this aspect of the rules is much less cut-and-dry, and (at least in practice) assumes that players cooperate with the spirit of the rules.
    – xLeitix
    May 15, 2019 at 11:45
  • 3
    what you are not considering is that, it doesn't need to be your opponent calling a judge. If I'm sitting down at a GP and after my match I can see the person next to me and a player being really slow, I would simply alert a judge about it and they will slowly appear next to the player and watch him for a bit. Player is unlikely to notice the judge approaching tbh May 15, 2019 at 12:34

The thing is, both players get 3 turns "after" time is called. The active player, or "Turn zero", as it were, will take the current turn, plus turns 2 and 4. The other player takes turns 1, 3, and 5. Yes, it is possible the current turn is only a partial turn if time is called, for example, during combat (or in the worst case, during the end step). It is also possible time is called during the untap step at which point the player is indeed getting a full turn. To account for the latter possibility, the number of extra turns is odd. In an alternate universe, the rules could account for the former possibility, in which case the extra turn count would be even.

As for the secondary question (asked in the comments), and disclaimer this is purely my opinion, it's likely because the clock is not always easily visible to all players, and "Ok, players, everyone synchronize their watches, ready, one, two, three, GO!" is not really practical in a tournament setting of any scale. The idea is that players who don't have access to the round clock have a bit of lead time to finish up whatever they're doing and aren't severely punished if they are, say, mid-sentence moving to lethal combat when time is called (to take an extreme position, while also recognizing that less extreme cases exist).

  • I don't understand the assertion about turn zero, given the turn immediately ends when time is called (as if Sundial of the Infinite was activated). Then the next player in turn order begins turn 1 of 5. There's no "turn zero" past overtime. In regular REL that might get missed by players and go unenforced by a judge though. May 15, 2019 at 15:36
  • 3
    @doppelgreener I'm sorry, I have never heard of such a ruling. I see you have provided a link, but I am unable to find the passage on that page which provides evidence of your claim. Can you be a bit more specific? It's possible you are misunderstanding something.
    – Ertai87
    May 15, 2019 at 15:48
  • 4
    Aha, upon rereading that page I see where the confusion arises: "If the match time limit is reached before a winner is determined, the player whose turn it is finishes their turn". Perhaps you are not a native English speaker, but there is a difference between "...player...finishes their turn" and "the turn is finished". In the former, the player has agency to continue performing game actions on the turn until its natural conclusion. In the latter, as you stated, the turn is ended immediately. The former is the wording used.
    – Ertai87
    May 15, 2019 at 15:58
  • 3
    I'm a native English speaker and I understand them to mean the same thing. Maybe I've misunderstood. Let me ask a question on that... boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/47262/… May 15, 2019 at 16:07
  • @doppelgreener Out of respect, I am not going to answer your question, although I will keep an eye on the responses.
    – Ertai87
    May 15, 2019 at 16:14

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