Hidden Card Error

In a nutshell:

  • Hidden Card Error is an infraction designed to handle cases where public information is insufficient to determine what the proper game state would have been without the error.
  • Because of the hidden information involved, the potential for abuse is higher, and so the additional remedy is often harsher than for a Game Rule Violation.
  • Intent can be a factor in cases where HCE or LEC could apply. Scrying 2 instead of 1 because your cards stuck together? LEC. Scrying 2 because you didn’t realize it wasn’t the same thing as scrying 1 twice? HCE. If you meant to put the extra cards in the set, it’s HCE; if it was an error of dexterity, it’s LEC.
  • The general remedy is to allow the opponent to determine which cards were illegally added to the set and put them where they belong.
  • If necessary, a simple backup may be performed to return cards to the location they were in at the time of the error (for example, if cards were discarded immediately after an HCE involving the player’s hand).

Q: Amy casts Dragonlord’s Prerogative revealing Dragonlord Ojutai. When it resolves, she draws 5 cards instead of 4. What do you do?

A: Amy has committed an error that cannot be corrected using publically available information (because we don’t know which card is the extra one). This is a Hidden Card Error. Nicole gets to look at Amy’s hand and decide for herself which card is to be treated as the extra one. The card she picks will be shuffled into the random part of Amy’s library. Because Dragonlord Ojutai was known to both players before Amy drew her cards, Nicole may not choose this card to be the one that’s treated as the extra one.

Q: Amy casts Electrolyze on Nicole’s two Cursecatchers. Nicole then sacrifices both Cursecatchers in response. Amy pays 2 mana, then says “Draw for Elecrolyze?” to which Nicole responds “yup.” Amy then draws a card. A spectator calls for a judge and tells you what happened. After talking to the players, you determine that they are both new to the game and neither one knew that Electrolyze would be countered for having no legal targets. What do you do?

A: Because Nicole confirmed the card draw before it happened, this is not considered a Hidden Card Error. It’s therefore handled as a GRV. No partial fixes apply, so we may either perform a backup (by putting a random card from Amy’s hand on top of her library) or leave the game state as-is. Because the error was caught right away, I would advocate the former.

Q: Amy controls Shadows of the Past when two creatures trade in combat. She points to her enchantment, says “Triggers,” sets down her hand, and picks up the top 2 cards of her library. After asking her why she did this and listening to her explanation, you believe she didn’t realize that scrying 2 wasn’t the same thing as scrying 1 twice. What do you do?

A: This is not Looking at Extra Cards, although it may look like it. The root error here is that Amy added two cards to the set of cards she was scrying rather than one. This error is fixed just like it would be if Amy had taken extra cards into her hand. Amy’s opponent will get to see the two cards Amy picked up and choose one to be considered the extra one. This card will be shuffled into the random portion of Amy’s library, and she will get to scry with the other. Afterwards, she will get to scry 1 again for her other trigger.

Note: Hidden Card Error does not include errors of dexterity, such as two cards sticking together. If that had been the root cause of this situation, it would be handled as Looking at Extra Cards. Investigations skills are therefore important to determine the reason Amy has two cards in front of her, which is critical in determining the appropriate infraction and fix.

Q: When Amy’s Satyr Wayfinder enters the battlefield, Amy reveals the top four cards of her library, two Forests and two Swamps, then puts all four into her hand. Nicole calls a judge. What do you do?

A: This is not a Hidden Card Error because it can be corrected using publically available information. Since all four cards are known to both players, it’s possible to rewind and know that the proper four cards have been affected. This is a GRV for Amy, and she picks one of the four cards to stay in her hand. The other three are put into her graveyard.

Note: Suppose that Amy’s opponent (claims she) cannot remember which cards were revealed. This makes no difference in the appropriate infraction. Because the cards were properly revealed, Nicole knows what they were, at least in priciple, so the harsher penalty is not merited. Work with the players to determine which four cards they were; if they cannot agree, you’ll need to use your best judgement in determining which ones are the most likely.

Q: Amy casts Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which resolves, and then says “Go.” At this, Nicole begins her turn by drawing a card (she controls no tapped permanents). Amy calls a judge and tells you that she should be taking her extra turn, but Nicole drew her card before she could react. What do you do?

A: No infraction. Amy only has to acknowledge this triggered ability the first time that it would affect the game state. The shortcut “Go” offers to keep passing priority until the opponent has priority in the end step, which is still before the time when Emrakul’s trigger would affect anything, so it is not yet considered missed. On the other hand, because Amy did not acknowledge this trigger yet, Nicole is within her rights to assume that it will be missed and proceed as though that is the case. Her play will either succeed, confirming that assumption, or else her opponent will remember the trigger as is the case here. Because the trigger was acknowledged at the appropriate time, Nicole’s actions are rewound by putting a random card from her hand on top of her library, and the game will proceed with Amy taking her extra turn normally.

Note: Suppose that Amy had acknowledged her Emrakul trigger, perhaps by saying “I take an extra turn” as she cast it. In that case, Nicole would have no standing to believe that this trigger had been missed. In this case, she would have committed a Hidden Card Error, and Amy would be able to choose a card from her hand and shuffle it into her library.

Q: Amy mumbles something indistinct, and Nicole mistakenly believes that she said “Go.” At this, Nicole begins her turn by drawing a card (she controls no tapped permanents). Amy calls a judge and tells you that she was not done with her turn, but Nicole drew her card before she could react. What do you do?

A: Nicole drew a card when she wasn’t allowed to. Like the previous example in which Amy clearly announced her extra turn trigger, Nicole has no standing to believe that her turn is starting. This isn’t a miscommunication; Amy didn’t say anything incorrect that caused this mistake. Nicole will get a Warning for HCE. She will reveal her hand and Amy will shuffle a card back.

Note: This penalty may seem a bit harsh for something that could easily and justifiably happen, especially if the venue acoustics are less than stellar. On the other hand, this must be balanced against the ease of abuse. It’s very easy to claim such a scenario has occured and very difficult to disprove it. If the fix were substantially different between those cases, it would open the door to a lot of convenient partial deafness.

Q: Amy begins her turn by untapping her permanents and drawing a card. Amy’s friend then distracts her by bringing Amy food. After that, the players can’t remember if Amy has drawn for turn or not. Amy proposes counting the cards in their hands, graveyards, and battlefield to see whether she has the right number of cards. They conclude that Amy is one short, so she draws one. At this point, Nicole realizes that two of her sleeves stuck together and that her hand actually has one more card than she reported. At this point, the players call a judge. What do you do?

A: Amy drew an extra card here, but it was due to bad information supplied by her opponent. Because this information is derived information, it’s against the rules for Nicole to represent it incorrectly. Nicole will receive a Communication Policy Violation. We will then back up to immediately before Amy drew the extra card by having her return a random card to the top of her library.

Q: Amy casts Stoneforge Mystic, but puts the card she searches for into her hand without revealing it. Nicole points this out and calls a judge. When you talk to the players, you determine that Amy forgot to reveal the card. Amy apologizes and says she fetched Batterskull and offers to reveal it to Nicole. Amy’s hand is currently a Batterskull and a Plains, so you believe her. What is the proper course of action?

A: This error cannot be corrected using public information, so it is a HCE. Nicole will be able to look at Amy’s hand and choose a card to be treated as the revealed card. If she chooses Batterskull, then the search was legal, and nothing else happens. If Nicole instead chooses Plains, a card that Amy could not have searched for, as the card to be treated as the revealed card, Amy will have to shuffle it back. She will not get a chance to repeat the search and look for another legal card.

Q: Nicole casts Enlightened Tutor during Amy’s end step and forgets to reveal the card she got before putting it on top of her library. Nicole then untaps her permanents, and draws for her turn. At this point, Amy says, “Wait a minute. What did you get with that?” and the players call a judge. What do you do?

A: While the situation here is close to the last one, the appropriate error here is not HCE. This is because Nicole did not commit an error that could not have been corrected using only publically available information. Because she correctly put the card on the top of her library, the error could have been corrected by revealing it there if it had been caught in time. The infraction appropriate for this root cause is a GRV; the fact that the game state later became corrupted to the point where it wasn’t solvable with public information is immaterial.

Note: Amy may be upset that Nicole essentially gets a “free pass” here. In fact, she will get a Warning for Failure to Maintain Game State for not catching the error in time, which may seem like an additional slap to her. Some strategies you may consider to help diplomatically present this ruling include stressing the importance of handling these cases consistently, and pointing out that if the remedy were different based on when the infraction was noticed, one player might be incentivized to wait rather than call a judge right away.

Note: Suppose that rather than properly resolving Enlightened Tutor by putting the card on top of her library and drawing it later, Nicole had “shortcutted” these together by putting the card she got directly into her hand. In this case, HCE would indeed be the correct error, since the card was never in a place where its identity was public information. The fix used in the previous question would then be applied.

Q: Amy taps three Plains and casts Divination. Nicole says “resolves” and Amy draws two cards. Shortly afterwards, Nicole says “Wait a minute. How did you cast that?” and calls a judge. What do you do?

A: The root cause for this error is that a spell was cast using improper mana. This could have been corrected by using publically available information, so the appropriate infraction is a GRV, not a HCE.

Q: Amy casts Gitaxian Probe while she has Jeskai Ascendancy in play. Nicole indicates that she has no responses by laying her hand face up on the table. Amy draws 2 cards, then attempts to discard, but Nicole stops her and points out that she was supposed to draw and discard for Jeskai Ascendency first, then draw for Gitaxian Probe. What do you do?

A: This is a Hidden Card Error because the card draw for Gitaxian Probe was not supposed to happen until after Amy discarded. Therefore, Amy added a card to a hidden set at a time when she wasn’t allowed to do so. The possibility for abuse is relatively high here, since Amy could potentially benefit from this error by discarding a card that she shouldn’t have yet had access to, and Nicole would never know. In order to mitigate the advantage in cases like this, Hidden Card Error has a specific clause for cases where cards were added to a set properly, but prematurely. Amy’s opponent gets to look at Amy’s hand and pick a card that will be treated as the one Amy will draw for Gitaxian Probe. Amy will then choose a card to discard, then the card that Nicole set aside will be returned to Amy’s hand.

Q: Amy casts a creature face down and says go. Nicole then takes her turn and passes back. Amy untaps, draws for her turn, looks at her hand, and then calls a judge. Away from the table, Amy explains that last turn, she had intended to play Willbender face down and pass, but because she had her hand face down when she did this, she put an Island into play instead of Willbender. You note that after drawing for the turn, Amy’s hand is Plains and Willbender and confirm that her face down card is an Island. What do you do?

A: Amy cast a card without a morph ability face down, which is of course against the rules. What makes this error more serious is that the opponent has no way to know that this error was committed. It isn’t like drawing an extra card, where the mistake could theoretically be caught by seeing the opponent has too many cards in hand. From Nicole’s point of view, everything Amy did is perfectly legal. Because of the higher potential for abuse, the penalty for this HCE is upgraded to a Game Loss.

Note: The upgrade does not apply in cases where the player committing the error notices the problem and calls a judge before adding any cards to her hand. The procedure to correct the error would be to issue a Warning as normal and have the player switch the card on the battlefield with the morph she inteded to play. In this case, Amy has added a card to her hand, which means the upgrade is appropriate. It’s possible that Amy didn’t have an actual morph card in hand when she played the face down creature, so we can’t be sure she made a play that she would have legitimately been able to make.

Note: This upgrade applies specifically to cases involving the morph mechanic.