Tardiness – Kevin Desprez

Written by Kevin Desprez

Written by Kevin Desprez

What is the rule?

To fully understand how to apply a penalty and a remedy, it is important to start from the rules.

Tournament Error — Tardiness


A player fails to comply with announced time limits.


A. A player arrives to her seat 5 minutes after the round begins.
B. A player hands in his decklist after the time designated by the judge or organizer.
C. A player loses his or her deck and must find replacement cards after the round has begun.
D. A player sits at an incorrect table and plays the wrong opponent.


Players are responsible for being on time and in the correct seat for their matches, and for completing registrations in a timely manner.


Game Loss

Additional Remedy

Give no penalty if the round started early and a player arrived at his or her seat before the originally announced start time. At Competitive events, the Tournament Organizer may elect to give players the amount of time allotted for the pre-game procedure (3 minutes) before a penalty is issued. Otherwise, the penalty is issued as soon as the round begins. A player not in his or her seat 10 minutes into the round will receive a Match Loss and be dropped from the tournament unless he or she reports to the Head Judge or Scorekeeper before the end of the round.

Areas of application

Tardiness covers several different situations:

1) Not being in the right seat.
2) Not being able to play because part of the deck is missing.
3) Handing in a decklist late.

Although these three aspects do share the characteristic that “A player fails to comply with announced time limits,” they don’t quite exactly cover the same situations.

The first two aspects aren’t very different, as they both refer to a player who cannot start playing, either because he isn’t physically present or he is missing part or all of his deck.

The third one is more specific and addresses tournament procedures rather than matches.

Why is Tardiness an infraction?

The first aspect that comes to mind is the social aspect: We want players to be on time and at the right place because their opponents shouldn’t be waiting for ages before they can start playing. Additionally, we have determined in our Best Practices guide that players get to play a 50-minute match, no matter if a penalty was issued or not. Therefore, a table at which a player was late would get additional time. Going extreme, if Tardiness wasn’t an infraction, we could have to give +50 minutes to a match, which is clearly nonsense.

In the same way, if a player has lost part of his deck, he needs to be given a reasonable amount of time to try to solve the situation; otherwise we could end up in the same extreme situation as described above.

As for the decklists, players have to give them on time to ensure fairness between all players and not delay the start of a tournament because a couple decklists are missing.

If a player is late in performing any of these actions, he potentially delays the whole tournament. Therefore, there is a need to require players comply with time limits.

Understanding of the penalty

Why is Tardiness worth a Game Loss and not a Warning? Indeed, there aren’t that many Game Loss penalties remaining in the IPG and the JAR doesn’t pull the trigger for a Game Loss until the infraction has been repeated several times.

We’ve just seen that there is a need for Tardiness to be an infraction to protect the tournament integrity time-wise. This is and has always been a major concern at events. Now, what is the appropriate penalty to enforce this? Currently, this has been set to Game Loss, so let’s reason backwards: What could happen at these events if Tardiness was worth a Warning? Basically, players would have no real incentive to be in their seats on time as they could feel that once per tournament they have ten extra minutes to come to their table. Worse, a player not in the right seat and discovering it after 30-40 minutes should be issued a Warning, brought to the right table and given additional time. (Worst case being his opponent isn’t there anymore.)

As a direct consequence, it will result in many more tables with additional time, which makes it more likely at least one of them will use the full 50 minutes. A ruling that would happen at one of these tables would increase the additional time even more. Eventually, this will simply result in delayed tournaments.

At that point, there is a need to evaluate how dangerous this is for the tournament integrity: It is important, as we cannot afford extending the length of an already long event. Therefore there is a need to increase the incentive for players to comply with the requirement “You need to be on time so that the tournament progresses,” which justifies the Game Loss.

Note that it can easily and with some success be argued that if the penalty was a Warning, it would of course be upgraded at the second offense, as this is a Tournament Error so there would eventually be an incentive. This is relevant. However, harm will already have been done.

This reasoning also applies to players who can’t start their games because their deck is illegal. If they cannot make their deck legal and start playing eventually, they need to lose the game/match, as we cannot, again, afford giving them a significant amount of additional time.

As for the late decklists-handing, another aspect is to take into account: The potential for a player to have received assistance before submitting his decklist at a limited event. The balance between receiving a Game Loss and getting to know which card is the best 23rd slot makes it unlikely to encourage players to do it.

Range of application

Being late in his seat

Amongst our Best Practices, for quite some time already, we apply the following rule at most Grand Prix:

If a player is hurrying to reach his table or making efforts to start his match (being late because he’s struggling to find a chair for instance) and is late by little, no Tardiness penalty should be issued.

This seems at first look to directly contradict the sentence from the IPG that states “Players are responsible for being on time and in the correct seat for their matches […]”and therefore could easily be perceived as a deviation. However, it all depends on which issues we want to address.

The first reason that could come to mind to justify this course of action is customer service. However, it isn’t customer service if being nice with one player can be disservice to 1500 others. Indeed, why should we be lenient with one specific player and having several others miss the last metro?
In the same way, neither the unusual size of the event for players nor a will to keep players happy are good reasons.

One important thing to keep in mind is that this “deviation” can be applied only if the player is hurrying to his table. This is a hint towards the right answer: There is a difference between players paying attention to the tournament, its procedures, trying to do great but failing by little and players who believe their personal interests (completing their trade, finishing eating, etc.) matter more. If the first category isn’t problematic, members of the second one can eventually be. These players are those who really commit the infraction as it is described.

Penalties exist to uphold rules and to educate players. A player who is running to his seat doesn’t need to be educated. He has understood that being on time is important.

Therefore we’re not deviating here. We’re simply sorting the indelicate players, whom we want to penalize to have them realize that being on time is important, from those who have already learnt this lesson and tried to help the tournament to finish on time.

Not being able to start playing

It happens that upon shuffling his deck, a player realizes he is missing cards calls a judge. Reading Tardiness, this should be an immediate Game Loss, then the player has 10 minutes to find replacement, or he gets a second Game Loss. However, this quite contradicts with an example from the Slow Play section: ” C. After 3 minutes into a round at a Pro Tour™ Qualifier, a player has not completed his shuffling,” although both are not mutually exclusive.

Analyzing these two statements very technically, it would mean that a player has at least three minutes to present a randomized deck to his opponent, but only if he has all of his cards physically present. He therefore has no interest in calling a judge, since he would get a Game Loss. On the contrary, he could just leave to find replacement cards and would be subject to Slow Play, with this very close example: “D. A player gets up from his seat to look at standings, or goes to the bathroom without permission of an official. ”

Calling a Game Loss here would most likely contradict with this other statement from the IPG: “Judges should be seen as a benefit to the players, […]Players […] should not be afraid to call a judge when one is required.”

The solution also lies in the IPG: “If a player commits an offense, realizes it, and calls a judge over immediately and before he or she could potentially benefit from the offense, the Head Judge has the option to downgrade the penalty without it being considered a deviation, though he or she should still follow any procedure recommended to fix the error.” The player had an illegal deck, realized it himself, called a judge and couldn’t benefit from the mistake. This is still Tardiness, but downgraded to Warning. No deviation here.

However, the error needs to be fixed and it is very likely that the player will need time to find replacement for his cards. Again, he can’t have access to a too important amount of time:

    • When a judge intervenes, additional time is issued. Therefore, it would seem unfair to start giving time to a player before the judge has finished acting (i.e. determine which cards were missing, if possible).
    • The player needs to realistically have enough time to act and find missing copies, otherwise, again, he could be not perceiving the judge as a benefit. Under “normal,” i.e. not in his seat, circumstances, a Match Loss for Tardiness would be issued after 10 minutes.

This leads us to: Once the judge has finished identifying the missing cards from the player’s deck, the player has 10 minutes to find them, or he receives a Match Loss for Tardiness. If he does manage to find them, he receives a Warning (downgraded penalty) for Tardiness. Note that the player can avoid the upgrade to Match Loss penalty by opting for basic lands instead of his lost cards. However, he’ll have to play with them until the end of the tournament.

Note that the decision to Match Loss the player after 10 minutes, despite the apparent gap from Warning to Match Loss, shouldn’t be perceived as overly harsh. On the contrary, it should be seen as efforts from our part in first place, although the player is ultimately responsible for securing his cards and being able to play a match as soon as pairings have been posted.

Tardiness’s key points

  • Tardiness is an infraction to prevent players from delaying the tournament
  • Therefore, Tardiness should only penalize players who endanger the tournament’s integrity and not those who actively try to help.
  • A player involving a judge to request help for starting playing shouldn’t be penalized with Tardiness, unless he proves unable to start his match, in which case he should receive a Match Loss