This call takes place at day 2 of a limited GP. This means that players drafted their decks and the REL is Competitive. The set has been out for a few weeks at this point, so presumably all the players should have a good amount of experience with the cards. All the cards from the drafts are stamped, and there is a record, not only of which cards are in each player’s deck, but also of which stamped cards were in each draft pod.
Amy calls a judge and says that her opening hand contains two Breeding Pools although she only has one in her deck. Nicole is using the same type of sleeves as Amy and also happens to have Breeding Pool in her deck, so the players agree that Nicole’s Breeding Pool must have somehow ended up in Amy’s deck although they “don’t have any idea how this could have happened”.
Obviously this is a freak mistake. Therefore, this analysis will focus not on what the infraction, penalty, and fix should be, but rather on the process the judges taking this call used to investigate and proceed given each new piece of information we received. This is more important, since the chances of this exact situation happening again at another event are vanishingly small, but having a framework to guide how you conduct an investigation in a situation you haven’t ever faced before is invaluable.
The general pattern of an investigation is to first ascertain what happened, but after that, identify why and how it happened. For example, in this case, it seems that Amy has somehow taken Nicole’s Breeding Pool into her deck. Both players agreed on this, so this first step was pretty straightforward here, but in other cases, such as a miscommunication between players, this step may be the most difficult part of the investigation.
The next step is to determine the why and how. Even if players “don’t know” or “can’t remember”, we still can and should use available information to form an educated guess about these. For example, one possibility is that Amy has Nicole’s card in her deck because she was trying to steal it. At the time this happened, an RNA Breeding Pool could be had for around $10, which is on the order of 10% of the prize support the players in question were live for. This, coupled with the fact that Amy called a judge herself pretty conclusively rule this possibility out.
Another possibility is that Amy somehow had Nicole’s card on her own side of the battlefield in game 1 and took it into her deck while shuffling her permanents back into her deck in preparation for the next game. This type of mistake is relatively common for creatures and Pacifism effects, but lands are another story. There’s no card in the set that can make lands change controllers or allow a player to play lands from her opponent’s deck.
In fact, I and the other experienced judges taking this call could produce no more satisfactory theory than he players about how this happened. Although I did consider the scenarios discussed in the previous two paragraphs, I discounted them for the reasons given above. This inability to produce a plausible narrative is an important trigger in your investigations process to look for more information. It’s also a reason to proceed with more caution in your fix than you normally would. We asked both players to thumb through their libraries to see if any other cards were in either player’s deck that shouldn’t be there. While this was happening, we sent a judge to get their decklists from the decklists team. Both of these extra steps would probably be unnecessary if the judges taking this call could come up with a mental narrative that explained why and how Amy got Nicole’s Breeding Pool into her deck.
While Nicole was looking through her library, she noticed something interesting: her own Breeding Pool! It seems that it was in her library all along! But where had Amy’s extra Breeding Pool come from? A count of Amy’s library revealed that she had started with 40 cards, so it didn’t belong to a previous opponent; or at least, if it did, it was taking the place of something else in her deck.
About this time, the judge returned with Amy’s decklist. Here, we found the final piece of the puzzle. Amy had registered 40 cards, including 1 Breeding Pool. But just below that, in the nonbasic lands section of her decklist, she registered 2 Simic Guildgates. Sure enough, Amy’s deck contained 2 Breeding Pools and 1 Simic Guildgate rather than the opposite.
New information in your investigation may cause you to alter your mental narrative. In this case, the old narrative of “Amy somehow took Nicole’s Breeding Pool into her library” was disproved when Nicole found she still had hers. The new narrative of “Amy thought she had 2 Simic Guildgates rather than 2 Breeding Pools” also fits the initial situation much better. It’s reasonable to think that a player could draft these cards and think that she had two of the common rather than two of the rare if she wasn’t paying close attention. After we got the players playing again, we found that indeed, their pod had 3 copies of Breeding Pool in it, so we were all satisfied we had reached the correct conclusion.
Once you have established what happened, your rules and policy knowledge take over to determine the appropriate infraction, penalty, and fix to assess. Investigations skills are necessary to first get to that point. I hope this analysis of the process we used to take this call will be helpful in your own investigations.