Nomic: The Gathering

The comprehensive rules for Magic: The Gathering say (amongst many other things) this:

101.1. Whenever a card’s text directly contradicts these rules, the card takes precedence. The card overrides only the rule that applies to that specific situation. The only exception is that a player can concede the game at any time (see rule 104.3a).

Okay, fair enough, the exception means that they can’t publish a card with the effect

Target player can’t concede this game.

That makes sense. In fact there are tournament situations where you’d rather concede than let an ability resolve that would give away information about your deck – for example, you’re losing the first game of a three-game match, your opponent has just cast Extirpate, and the key piece of your deck hasn’t come out yet. You’d probably rather concede than let your opponent know what to sideboard against.

And in a broader sense, I’m not sure what it would mean for the rules of a game to say that you’re not allowed to just stand up and walk away.

But… but but but… the rule doesn’t say that a card can’t override rule 101.1 itself. So they could print a card that says

This card can override a player’s right to concede the game at any time.

Target player can’t concede this game.

It just has to override rule 101.1 before it overrides rule 104.3a.

I didn’t say they would print it.

4 comments

4 Comments so far

  1. Stu December 14th, 2009 10:23 am

    Excellent legal reasoning, sir :) I always thought a good programmer would make a good lawyer.

    As a followup exercise, what would be the most efficient way to close that loophole?

  2. Stu December 14th, 2009 10:24 am

    Is it just coincidence that my Wavatar has glasses?!

  3. David McLeish December 14th, 2009 4:06 pm

    Most efficient way, huh?

    Section 101 is conveniently already called “The Magic Golden Rules”; I’d probably change 101.1 to say that everything under 101 is an exception (which includes itself), and move the concede rule (104.3a) under 101.

    That’s not the most efficient way, because it makes a lot of new rules immutable. I can’t see any rules under 101 for which that would be a problem; but the smallest change would probably be to just change 101.1 to say “The only exceptions are this rule and 104.3a.”

    But then…

    101.2 says that “When a rule or effect says something can happen and another effect says it can’t, the ‘can’t’ effect wins.” So if rule 104.3a says a player can concede but a card says they can’t, arguably it’s not a direct contradiction (which would fall under the exception to 101.1) but a can/can’t conflict, which the “can’t” should win.

    Arguably.

    Bloody lawyers.

  4. Stu December 15th, 2009 8:50 am

    Arguably it’s not a direct contradiction, but that’s debatable – if the card says the player can’t concede, then that contradicts 104.3a – because by the card’s mere existence, WOTC published a card which is forbidden by the rules. But it depends how literal you want to get with things.

    So to clarify 101.1 I guess you could add “… directly contradicts these rules (whether by express reference to them or by effect) …”

    I would perhaps also add in at the start of 101.2: “Subject to rule 101.1,” which I think would have the effect of making it clear that 101.1 overrides 101.2.

    I wish people could run rules through a compiler or something and have the computer spit out the errors.

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