Agent of Chaos

Acacia and Naomi are playing in a Legacy 5k. Acacia controls a Sylvan Library. Acacia draws for turn, resolves Sylvan Library‘s ability and puts two cards back on top of her library. Acacia casts Shardless Agent and says “Does Shardless Agent resolve?” Naomi answers “Yes, it resolves.” Acacia then flips over the top two cards of her library, revealing a Misty Rainforest and Abrupt Decay. Naomi calls for a judge and explains that she thinks Acacia missed her cascade trigger. What do you do?


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Acacia has missed her cascade trigger. Since it is not generally detrimental, she does not receive a penalty for missed trigger. Ask Naomi if she would like the trigger to go on the stack now. In either case, Acacia has looked at extra cards by resolving the cascade ability that wasn’t there. Acacia receives a warning for Looking at Extra Cards. Since the two cards revealed from the top were known from Sylvan Library and the order they came off the library is not in question, we can simply place the revealed cards back on top in the order they came off and leave the library as is without shuffling and proceed with the game. Note that if Naomi does choose to have cascade go on the stack, the same two cards will end up being revealed, but we still want both players to have priority before it resolves.

Scefet’s Special

Abby and Nova are playing in an Amonkhet Sealed PPTQ. Abby taps four Forests, discards a Shefet Monitor, and announces she is paying the cycling cost. She draws a card and then starts searching her library. Nova stops her and says, “Hold on. You have to search your library before you draw. It even says so at the bottom of your card.” Abby reads her Shefet Monitor closely and replies, “Oops! You’re right. JUDGE!”

What do you do?

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Shefet Monitor’s triggered ability is optional. Drawing the card and declining to search is legal, so there was no infraction the moment Abby drew a card. Nova couldn’t have been sure there was an issue until Abby started searching. Nova did stop the game immediately after watching Abby make the first noticeable error. This means Abby committed a Looking at Extra Cards infraction and she receives a warning. Have Abby shuffle the random portion of her library and remind her she always needs to search her library before drawing a card every time she cycles Shefet Monitor.

Slippery Serpopard

Arf and Nance are playing in a PPTQ. They are drawing their opening hands. While dealing out the cards face down, Arf notices one of Nance’s cards is sitting next to his own foot face down. He immediately calls you to the table and explains that he must have dropped it while shuffling. He had fumbled the cards a bit while shuffling, but he thought he had caught them all. When you pick up the card, it is a Prowling Serpopard, a card in Nance’s deck. What do you do?


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Arf receives a warning for Looking at Extra Cards. While Arf probably didn’t see the face of the card or gain any additional information, he may have, so it fits the definition for Looking at Extra Cards. Any time a player might have seen the face of a card they weren’t entitled to see by their own action, Looking at Extra Cards applies.

Shuffle the extra card into Nance’s library and then have the players finish drawing opening hands.

5, 6, Pick up Sticks

Arborea is playing in Modern 5K run at Competitive REL. She casts Ancient Stirrings and grabs top the few cards of her deck. She counts them, realizes there are only 4, and reaches for a fifth. When she does so, the top two cards of her library stick together, and she picks up both of them. She immediately realizes her error and calls for a judge. The two stuck cards have remained separate from the other cards she had picked up, and are still stuck together in her hand when you reach the table. What do you do?


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This can’t be Hidden Card Error because the root cause was a dexterity error, so this is Looking at Extra Cards. It also cannot be HCE, as Arborea clearly intended to draw one card, and accidentally drew two cards, which is explicitly excluded from that infraction.

Take the bottom card (the 6th card) of the two stuck together and shuffle it into the random portion of Arborea’s library. The other card becomes the 5th card she is looking at for Ancient Stirrings, and she can finish resolving the spell. Arborea receives a Warning for Looking at Extra Cards.

Yes, LEC does instruct us to “Shuffle any previously unknown cards…“ In this case, the 5th card is part of the Ancient Stirrings set of 5, and the 6th card is the only ”unknown card.” This is identical to a player drawing for turn and accidentally seeing the 2nd card of their library.

The Mystery of the Temple of Mystery

Arnold and Nadine are playing in a PPTQ. Arnold plays a Temple of Mystery, then scries. He puts the card back on top, slightly askew from the rest of his library. He then attacks with a face-down creature, which Nadine does not block. As Nadine is setting her pen down after recording her life total change, she accidentally bumps Arnold’s library and flips the top card onto the table face up. Both players immediately call for a judge.

What do you do?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario on Judge Apps!

What we have here is a case of Game Play Error – Looking at Extra Cards. Nadine has seen the top card of Arnold’s library. This wasn’t intentional, but as the definition of LEC says, “this includes errors of dexterity.” Arnold was somewhat sloppy putting his card back on top of the library, but there is no infraction for that. Each player immediately called for a judge, so Arnold doesn’t need to worry about Failure to Maintain Game State.

So Nadine receives a Warning, but the question is what to do about card that she has now seen. The Additional Remedy of LEC tells us to “shuffle the randomized portion of the deck.” In this case, even though Nadine was not supposed to know the identity of the top card, it was not random. It may be tempting to try to implement some fix that negates the advantage that Nadine has gained. However, this type of creative solution is not supported by policy and should not be attempted. (It is slightly awkward that Nadine has gained an advantage by her error, but slight awkwardness is nowhere near grounds for deviation.) We leave the deck as-is, with the known card on top and have the players resume their match.

Horse of Greed

You are the head judge of PPTQ. Anna has a Courser of Kruphix in play. Both Anna and Nicole are playing quickly due to it being near the end of time in the round. While watching the match, you see Anna untap, play the revealed land from the top of her library, and draw for her turn. She then records that she gained 1 life from the Courser of Kruphix trigger. Nicole immediately calls for a Judge. Assuming no cheating has occurred, what do you do?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario on Judge Apps!

After a great week discussing the fine points between Game Rules Violations and Drawing Extra Cards, we are ready for the answer. The first area to address as part of our investigation is to clarify the situation. In this scenario, it was stated that no cheating was involved, so we need to focus on what other aspects of the IPG may apply and investigate what the players believed to have happened.

Many of you correctly identified that there were several problems that occurred. The first incorrect action was that Anna played the revealed land from the top of her library prior to drawing a card for the turn. Anna has committed a Game Play Error – Game Rules Violation (IPG 2.5).

The next action Anna performed was to draw a card for the turn. However, the Courser of Kruphix requires the player to play with the top of their library revealed, which was not performed after the revealed land was played.
A number of you also correctly pointed out that because a Game Rule Violation had been committed, this should not be a Game Play Error – Drawing Extra Cards (IPG 2.3).

Anna has committed a Game Rule Violation and the best solution is for the Head Judge to authorize a backup. Because the incorrectly drawn card was unknown, a card should be taken at random from Anna’s hand and placed face down on her library. The land that was incorrectly played (and known to both players due to being face up on the library) should then be placed on top of Anna’s library and turned face up per the Courser of Kruphix. If Anna’s life gain from the Courser of Kruphix was recorded, that also needs to be corrected as part of the rewind.

While we recognize the card returned from Anna’s hand to the top of her library may not be the one that was drawn, this is an acceptable fix and the chance of Anna gaining any advantage is extremely small.

Though Anna performed several incorrect actions, they were performed in one continuous action and should result in only one penalty. A Game Play Error – Game Rule Violation should be issued to Anna. No penalty is assigned to Nicole as she called for a judge immediately (IPG 2.6). When issuing the penalty, the judge should verify if Anna has received any other previous penalties in the tournament.

Thank you to everyone who participated this week. We look forward to seeing your discussion in tomorrow’s scenario.

Here’s Looking At You, Deck

At a Grand Prix Trial you are running at your local store, a spectator points out a player to you and asks you to watch the way he shuffles. Before the player’s match, you witness him riffle shuffle with the cards facing himself once, and then once with the cards facing away. He repeats this cycle several more times, once towards himself, once away, before presenting his deck to his opponent. You step in and ask the player some questions about his shuffling method. He answers that he always shuffles that way so his cards don’t develop a bend in them from riffle shuffling all in one direction.

What do you do?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario on Judge Apps!

Thank you everyone for your discussions and input on this scenario!

By shuffling his own deck with the cards facing himself, even with one shuffle afterwards away, it is possible for the player to know the position of cards in his deck when it should be completely randomized. From the IPG: “A deck is not shuffled if the judge believes a player could know the position or distribution of one or more cards in his or her deck.” The player has committed Insufficient Shuffling and should be given a Warning as well as a chat about proper ways to shuffle.

Various shuffling techniques were discussed; it’s important to note that players may – probably should! – use a variety of techniques, as long as the end result is a random, unknown ordering of the cards in their deck. Pile shuffles, riffles, mash/insert, etc. – these are all fine, even if some seem less effective by themselves. It’s also legal to shuffle your own deck with the cards facing you, or to mana-weave, etc., as long as you subsequently perform adequate randomization of the deck.

It also came up in the discussions this week that some judges would simply talk to the player and verbally caution them instead of giving them a Warning. It is important for organized play to give a consistent experience to players around the world when they are dealing with judges. The Infraction Procedure Guide is in place to be a guide and should be followed except under conditions outlined in the IPG for deviating from the written policy. If a player commits an infraction, then it is appropriate to give the player the penalty prescribed for that infraction and enter it into the tournament so it can be properly tracked.

Temple of Malarkey

Aardvark is playing in a Standard Competitive REL tournament. He’s playing a red-black aggro deck. On his decklist is written 4x Temple of Malady. A start of round deck check reveals he’s playing 4x Temple of Malice. The decklist is otherwise legal.

What do you do? What are the relevant infractions, penalties, and fixes, if possible?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario on Judge Apps!

Aardvark has committed a Deck/Decklist Problem infraction, the penalty for which is a Game Loss, to be applied to the current match (the situation involves a start-of-round deck check).

As was the general consensus, we cannot downgrade the penalty for this infraction. The direction we have on downgrading this infraction is as follows:

Ambiguous or unclear names on a decklist may allow a player to manipulate the contents of his or her deck up until the point at which they are discovered. The Head Judge may downgrade the penalty for an ambiguous name or obvious clerical error if they believe that the error could not be used to gain an advantage in the tournament.

We do not have an ambiguous name (“Temple of Malady” can be exactly one card), nor do we have an obvious clerical error. The distinction here is between “probable” versus “obvious” – yes, he is probably playing Temple of Malice, but we cannot tell that from the decklist alone. We would need to confirm that by doing a deck check; which in Toby Elliott’s blog post he eloquently points out that it is not obvious if you feel the need to do so. Please note that the inclusion of Nightveil Specter should not sway your interpretation of ambiguity or obviousness.

Regarding the fix, please remember that in situations such as this, we fix the decklist to reflect the deck, and not the other way around. We do not force the player to play the Temples of Malady; we do not make choices for the player. René Oberweger really hit this nail on the head, well done.

Better late than never

Abel is playing in a Standard PTQ. He controls a Pain Seer, which he untaps at start of his turn. He then immediately draws a card for his turn. He pauses for a second, says, “Oh!” points to his Pain Seer, then reveals the top card of his library, which is a Swamp. He says “Swamp. Lose zero,” and puts it in his hand. At this point, his opponent Nancy calls for a judge.

What do you do?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario on Judge Apps!

Hello, judges! Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion this week. As is the case with many of our Gold scenarios, this was an extremely nuanced scenario. (In fact, the internal discussion among the Knowledge Pool team has included even more posts than the public discussion!)

In order to determine the most correct infraction, penalty, and fix to apply in this situation, we must logically walk through each game action that went wrong. The first problem we encounter this turn is a Missed Trigger from Pain Seer during Abel’s upkeep. However, this is not a generally detrimental trigger. There is no infraction to worry about there. However, this will come up when it comes time to apply fixes.

Next, we have announcement of the Pain Seer trigger that doesn’t exist. This was only “Oh!” and pointing to a card, but that would certainly constitute announcing the trigger had it happened before he drew for the turn. Some have made the argument that announcing a trigger that doesn’t exist itself constitutes a prior GRV. However, we should treat an improperly announced trigger according to the consequences of resolving that trigger. Simply put, we don’t give players the option to “remember” a non-existent trigger in order to avoid a DEC or similar infraction. Whatever infraction results from resolving the trigger is the infraction that should be applied.

Now we get to the resolution of the trigger and the game actions that were taken illegally as a result. The first wrong game is Looking at Extra Cards when he reveals the Swamp for a trigger that doesn’t exist.

This is followed by announcing the loss of zero life. Even though no physical action is required to record a loss of zero life, this is a game action. We can easily understand this by examining the situation where a player is legally resolving a Pain Seer trigger and reveals a Pack Rat but fails to lose 2 life. We would treat this as a Game Rules Violation and rewind to exactly the point of losing life in the middle of the resolution of the ability if the error is caught within a reasonable time frame. This error is the key to this scenario because it does two things:

First, it tells us that LEC stops applying. Per IPG 2.2, “if a player takes a game action after removing the card from the library, the offense is no longer Looking at Extra Cards.”

Second, when the player puts the card in his hand, it tells us that this is not Drawing Extra Cards. Per IPG 2.3, an infraction can only be Drawing Extra Cards if “at the moment before he or she began the instruction or action that put a card into his or her hand, no other Game Play Error or Communication Policy Violation had been committed.” So, even though an extra card is put into the player’s hand, Drawing Extra Cards does not apply.

In combination, these two elements give us the infraction and the penalty. It’s not LEC anymore. It’s not DEC. It’s definitely a Game Play Error, and so must be a generic Game Rules Violation with a Warning to go with it.

Now we have to fix the situation. The first step is to rewind to the point of the first Game Play Error that occurs as part of this GRV. That GPE is Abel revealing the top card of his library. Fortunately, we know it was a Swamp and no life was lost, so it’s a very simple rewind to put the Swamp back on top. Then, because that Game Play Error resulted in an extra card being seen, we apply the LEC fix of shuffling the random portion of the library, even though we are not assigning a Warning for that exact infraction.

Now we have the final step of asking Nancy if she would like Abel to place that trigger on the stack, since a Missed Trigger has also been caught within a turn of when it should have happened. It is somewhat unlikely that Nancy will want the trigger placed on the stack, but we are still required to ask.

Given the highly technical nature of this answer, we would also like to briefly mention that while applying LEC or downgrading DEC are not perfectly correct, very little harm would come of assigning this Warning in a different category or even neglecting to shuffle the library. Gold scenarios are meant to push toward a highly detailed analysis of policy, and the practical differences among these solutions are relatively minor. If such a complex scenario were to arise in a real event, getting the Swamp out of the player’s hand, assigning a Warning, and efficiently getting the game moving again are more important than nailing down exactly what the infraction is and why. (Exploring the minutiae of the ruling is great thing to do with other judges during the remainder of the event. Then submit it to us!)

Big Girls Don’t Scry

Alice is playing in a Standard Grand Prix event. She has a Thassa, God of the Sea and a dozen assorted lands in play. She begins her turn by Scrying for Thassa’s beginning of upkeep ability. When she goes to her deck, a 2nd card is stuck to the top card. Alice looks and realizes that she has 2 cards and immediately calls for a judge. You arrive at the table. Alice and her opponent state that the cards are still in the same order as she immediately put the cards face down on the table, and also explain that Thassa was played on Turn 3. How do you handle this situation?

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View Answer
The MIPG tells us that Alice has committed Looking at Extra Cards. She has seen an extra card that she should not know the identity of, but has not drawn the extra card. The Additional Remedy section tells us that we need to shuffle the randomized portion of the deck. This means that as a judge, we must survey the field to determine if there are any cards that could have manipulated the deck in some way and ask the players the same. In this game we have a Thassa that has been in play for multiple turns. This far into the game, it is also likely that the players will not know exactly how many times Alice has put a card on the bottom of her library with Thassa. We can ask the players and try to get a consensus on how many cards were put on the bottom. While we want to get to the right number, it doesn’t have to be exactly right. If X cards were put on bottom, that leaves N random cards above them. If we happen to leave X+1 and shuffle N-1, the end result will still be N random cards above the X Scryed cards. Also, kudos to Eric Paré for the suggestion of asking Alice away from the table if she remembers the first card put on the bottom. You should also ask if they put more than one copy on the bottom to make sure we’re going to the right spot if you can use this method.

Set the top card aside since this is the card that Alice was supposed to be able to see and set aside the number of cards from the bottom that you and the players have agreed on. With the remaining deck, shuffle the deck then place the cards set aside in their appropriate positions on the top and bottom of the deck. Alice can then proceed with her Scry and continue the game. Alice receives a Warning for Looking at Extra Cards.