Why did it have to be snakes?

Anna is playing against Nigel at a Sealed PPTQ and round four has just begun. Anna asks to speak to you away from the table, shows you her hand, which contains 3 copies of Narnam Cobra. Anna explains that she is only playing 2 copies of Narnam Cobra in her main deck, and has one more which she sideboarded into her deck in round three. You confirm that Anna has just drawn her hand, and called you immediately. What do you do?

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


Anna receives a Game Loss for Deck/Decklist problem. While Anna has notified a judge immediately following drawing an opening hand with a wrong sideboard card, the downgrade does not apply when the extra sideboard cards also appear in the main deck.

Do not apply this downgrade if the error resulted in more copies of a main deck card being played than were registered. For example if the decklist has two copies of Shock in the main deck and two in the sideboard, but there are three copies of Shock in the library, the penalty is not downgraded.

Have Anna fix her deck to match her decklist, and the match will begin on game two.

Always double-check

At the beginning of round three at a standard Grand Prix Trial, you deck check table 5. Elspeth’s decklist says “4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy”, along with a variety of other blue and black spells and lands. Her deck, however, contains 56 cards and 4 unmarked Magic Origins Checklist Cards. Her box also contains 4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in clear sleeves. There are no other cards which can be represented by a checklist card on Elspeth’s decklist or in her deck. What do you do?

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

Many of you correctly identified this as a Tournament Error – Deck / Deck List Problem, with a penalty of Game Loss. Unmarked Origins checklist cards in a deck that can produce multiple colors of mana could feasibly be used to represent multiple cards, so they can’t be allowed. Elspeth should clearly mark those checklist cards, the players will start game 2 without sideboarding, and Elspeth will choose whether to play or draw.

On Second Thought…

Albert is playing against Nora in PPTQ. Albert has lost game 1, and they are moving to game 2.

Albert swaps some cards in from his sideboard, presents, then draws his opening 7. There’s only one land, so he decides to mulligan. He puts his hand back on top, says “Hmm, actually…” and swaps one more pair of cards from his main deck and sideboard. He then shuffles thoroughly, presents to Nora, and draws 6. At this point, Nora says, “Hold on a minute. I don’t think you’re allowed to sideboard between mulligans.”

Albert responds, “Uh oh. I think you’re right. Judge!”

What do you do?

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

To determine the appropriate infraction, we must first determine which rule
or policy has been violated by Albert’s actions. In this case, Albert made
a change to his sideboarding choices during the mulligan process. While
some aspects of the pregame procedure are contained within the
Comprehensive Rules, when a player is allowed to sideboard during a
multi-game match is not one of them. So we know that this isn’t a Game Play
Error of any sort.

If this is a violation of the Magic Tournament Rules, we are in the
Tournament Error category. Some have explored the possibility that this
error is covered as a Deck/Deck List Problem. However, we neither have an
illegal deck presented at any point, nor a sideboard change occurring
during a game – we are still in pregame procedures! What this leaves us
with is an uncategorized Tournament Error, for which there is no infraction.

Explain to the players that they may not, in fact, change sideboard
decisions after a mulligan. Ask them to please play more carefully and call
a judge before they take an action they are unsure about, rather than after. Then instruct them
to play on.


Alfonso is playing in a sealed GPT. He sits down for game 1 of his match, grabs a pile of roughly 40 sleeved cards out of his deck box, shuffles, and presents to his opponent. Upon drawing his opening hand, he immediately calls a judge and explains that this is his sideboard. He has several other packages sleeved for quick sideboarding, and he just grabbed the wrong pile from his deck box.

What do you do?

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

Fundamentally what has happened here is that Alfonso has presented a set of cards that do not match the 40 cards registered as his main deck. That means we are looking at a Deck/Decklist Problem. Ordinarily, errors with a deck result in a Game Loss. However, we have a particular condition under which this is not the case:

IPG 3.4 – Additional Remedy:

If a player, before taking any game actions, discovers a deck problem and calls a judge at that point, the Head Judge may downgrade the penalty, fix the deck, and allow the player to redraw the hand with one fewer card. The player may continue to take further mulligans if he or she desires.

Typically this error is the result of failing to replace a small number sideboard cards from the prior match with their correct main deck slots. However, the IPG does not limit our ability to apply this fix based on the scale of the error. In this case, Alfonso has presented approximately 35 mismatched cards, which made it extremely easy to detect and report the error. Because he has done so, the Additional Remedy should be invoked. A Warning will be issued, and Alfonso will have the opportunity to correct his deck back to the proper game 1 configuration. After he has done so and presented the deck to his opponent, he will draw a hand of six cards and may mulligan from there.

Some discussion has revolved around how best to have Alfonso restore his deck to match his list. The answer is to simply ask him to do so. After he has, browse quickly through the deck, looking at the colors he is playing and any cards you feel are notable, either for being especially good in some matchups or rarity or any other criterion than strikes your fancy. Once the players have begun play, quickly check the player’s list to ensure that the colors and cards you mentally noted match up. Do not perform a full deck check or other intensive deck verification procedures. Alfonso has called a judge on himself after noticing an error, and your priority should be to get him playing Magic with the minimum required extension.

Relentless Rats or Shadowborn Apostles…?

Louis is playing in a GPT, of which you are head judge. As you are checking decklists, you notice Louis’s list ends with the line “23 ______________” with no card name filled in. The remainder of the list contains 37 cards, all of which are either blue or artifacts.

What do you do?

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

This week our question focused on this passage from the IPG:
Originally posted by IPG 3.5 Philosophy:

The Head Judge may choose to not issue this penalty if they believe that what the player wrote on their decklist is obvious and unambiguous, even if it is not the full, accurate name of the card. This should be determined solely by what is written on the decklist, and not based on intent or the actual contents of the deck; needing to check the deck for confirmation is a sign that the entry is not obvious.
So the issue is fundamentally what a player could conceivably mean by “23.” As Ernst Jan Plugge correctly points out, format is potentially important here due to the existence of Snow-Covered basics, but when we wrote this scenario, the intent was for it to be a Standard event. With that context, there are only 5 cards of which a player could play 23 copies, and those are the basic lands. Of the basic lands, only “Island” makes sense in the context of the rest of the list, which is mono blue.

Some consideration has been given to the possibility that “23” may mean “23 assorted lands.” While this could theoretically happen, it is not consistent with the way players write actually deck lists. If you see a list that says “4 Bolt” that means “4 Lightning Bolt,” not “3 Lightning Bolt, 1 Forked Bolt.” In much the same way, it would be very easy for a rushed player to write 23 and leave it blank with 23 copies of the same card. It would not make nearly as much sense for him to write “23” when he meant “17 Island, 4 Temple of Mystery, 2 Radiant Fountain.”

As such, it is the opinion of the Knowledge Pool team that 23 unambiguously means “23 Islands” and the deck list should be corrected without penalty. No follow-up deck check is required.

Coasting to Victory

While counting decklists for your Post-M15 Standard GPT, you notice on SeaCat’s list he had written 4x “U/G painland”, 4x “U/G Temple”, 4x “U/G Shockland”.

What do you do?

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

Keep in mind that if this were a larger tournament with more than one judge, this decision would fall to the Head Judge. That being said…

Many people stated that there is no penalty. Those people are correct. We understand what the intention of the list is. There is no need to mark the changes on the list or involve the player. If you have time, mention to the player to be more careful in the future, but it’s not required.

Judge, I don’t think I can ever cast this…

It is PTQ time. Andrea and Norman have presented their decks to each other for Game 1. Norman does a pile shuffle of Andrea’s deck and asks afterwards, ‘So you are playing with 61 cards?’ Andrea replies, ‘What?! No…’ and quickly checks her sideboard: There are 15 cards. They call you over as a judge to help resolve the situation.

While checking Andrea’s deck, you find an Elemental token in the same colour sleeve as the deck.

How do you resolve the situation?

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

Thank you to everyone that participated in this week’s KP discussion! For quite a simple scenario, the opinion was initally divided between a D/DL error or no infraction.

Looking at the MTG Comprehensive rules:

108.2. When a rule or text on a card refers to a “card,” it means only a Magic card. Most Magic games use only traditional Magic cards, which measure approximately 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) by 3.5 inches (8.8 cm). Certain formats also use nontraditional Magic cards, over sized cards that may have different backs. Tokens aren’t considered cards—even a card that represents a token isn’t considered a card for rules purposes.

By this definition, the token card isn’t a Magic card and as such the D/DL Problem infraction does not apply in this scenario. The token card is removed and no infraction is issued. (We will suggest that Andrea change to a different color sleeve, or remove the sleeve, to avoid further problems.)

Some judges considered a downgrade to a warning, but to re-iterate, the D/DL penalty does not apply (meaning there is nothing in the first place to downgrade). In addition, the downgrade would have represented a deviation from the IPG.

Andrea could not have gained any sort of advantage having the Elemental token in her deck and whilst it is tempting to try and issue Andrea a warning here, don’t! Reverse-engineering a need to issue a warning is very bad form in the judge program.

Slaughtering Spherical Demons

It’s PTQ time, and Adam casts Slaughter Games targeting Nate, naming Detention Sphere. While searching through Nate’s deck, Adam finds one of his own Desecration Demons. After investigation, you learn that in game 1, Nate used a Detention Sphere on a demon, and accidentally shuffled it into his deck because they are using the same sleeves.

What do you do? What is the appropriate infraction, penalty and fix?

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

Thanks for your responses this week! As many of you correctly identified, this is not one but two instances of a Deck/Decklist Problem. Both Adam and Nate have presented illegal decks; Nate because he has a Desecration Demon he shouldn’t have, and Adam because he only has 59 cards in his deck. Both players receive the prescribed game loss, and we fix the problem by returning the Demon to it’s rightful owner and double-checking that each player has only the cards they’re supposed to. Importantly, due to the recent update to the IPG, the two simultaneous game losses we just awarded do not count towards the reported match result. However, they should still be recorded as penalties on the match slip and by the scorekeeper.

A few of you mentioned a situation in which Adam presented a legal deck of 60+ cards for game two. This could happen either by Adam attempting to sideboard up to 61+ cards for game 2, or by him accidentally not sideboarding on a one-for-one basis. If that was indeed the case, and your investigation determines that Adam did not notice the missing card, then his D/DLP does not carry a game loss because the missing card was from his sideboard. The IPG says

Sideboards are considered to be a part of the deck for the purpose of this infraction. If sideboard cards are missing, make a note of this, but issue no penalty.

The IPG is telling us to adjust the decklist to reflect lost sideboard cards, but the card in question is not actually lost. We return the Demon to it’s owner, and issue Adam no penalty. Nate would then be awarded a game loss, which will affect the reported match results.

Setessan… Something

You perform a mid-round deck check on Alex during round 6 of a Theros sealed 5k, of which you are head judge. You quickly discover that he is playing a Setessan Battle Priest in his deck, but no copies of this card are marked in the Total column on his deck registration sheet. When you investigate further, you find that a Setessan Griffin is marked in his Total column, but it is not in his pool. When you speak to Alex, he says he didn’t notice the error because the card wasn’t in his main deck, so he didn’t bother to check that it was right on his sheet. As usual, the players had been instructed to confirm the contents of their pools before beginning deck construction.

Based on interviewing Alex, you believe that the pool has always contained the Battle Priest and not the Griffin. What do you do?

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

View Answer
Although Alex is playing a card that was not listed in his pool, the card has actually been there the entire time. This initially looks like a Deck/Deck List Problem, but the Definition of D/DLP stipulates “This infraction does not cover errors in registration made by another participant prior to a sealed pool swap, which should be corrected at the discretion of the judge.” So, this isn’t D/DLP, but we do need to correct the player’s list.

We also issue a Warning for Failure to Follow Official Announcements. Fundamentally, the error Alex has committed is failure to confirm the contents of his entire pool. This needs to be tracked so that if a pattern of “accidentally” having the wrong card marked emerges, we will have a record of it. Just because we don’t think Alex is cheating, that doesn’t mean we’re right!

(The correct infraction and its justification was nicely summed up by Alex Zhed, who is becoming an ace at my KP scenarios.)

This week we intentionally did not ask for infraction, penalty, and fix. Instead I wrote ‘What do you do?” This is more open ended question, in line with the realities you are faced with as a head judge. And, in reality, believing a player is being honest with you doesn’t mean your job is over once the infraction is handled.

Once you have the match going again, it is entirely appropriate to initiate a follow-up investigation. Although your initial impression is that Alex made an honest mistake, you want to be as sure you can be. If possible, find the player who registered Alex’s pool and Alex’s past opponents. Ask them if they saw either Setessan Battle Priest or Setessan Griffin during registration or in their matches with him. Keep in mind, the Battle Priest was in the player’s sideboard. It’s entirely possible that no opponent has seen the Priest. Everything is consistent as long as they haven’t seen the Griffin. If you discover Alex is cheating through your investigation, you can always DQ him at that point. If his story checks out, by doing the investigation as follow-up, you have avoided giving out a 25 minute extension just to discover everything was actually fine to begin with.

An additional step you can take to help avoid these situations is to have the players swap pools for confirmation between initial registration and deck building. This will not eliminate 100% of errors, but it should help prevent most of them.

This seems a bit light…

At a Constructed GP, Chris calls you over to his table. He has five stacks of cards sitting in front of him and indicates to you that upon mulliganing away his initial seven card hand prior to starting game 1, he pile shuffled, only to discover that he only has 59 cards in his main deck. After confirming that his count is accurate and that the missing card is not in with his sideboard, he notes that Paul, his opponent from the previous round, had identical sleeves and that he may have his missing card. After locating Paul (who is in turn 5 of his first game of this match), you are able to determine that he does indeed have an extra card in his deck. You then return to the original table with the card, where Chris confirms (before seeing the card you have in hand) the identity of the card he is missing.

What infraction(s), if any, will you be awarding to each of Paul and Chris, and what are the appropriate penalties and fixes?

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

View Answer
Thanks to everyone for the discussion – let’s see how this all played out…

With the Head Judge’s permission, Chris would receive a Warning for a downgraded Deck/Decklist Problem (D/DP). While Chris has presented an illegal deck and made a mulligan decision with that deck, he has called this error on himself and has not had any opportunity to gain any advantage from the situation. Two things are important to notice here – first, as per the Magic Tournament Rules, “The game is considered to have begun once all players have completed their mulligans”. This is how we are establishing the “has not had any opportunity to gain any advantage from the situation” – had mulligans been completed and this issue been discovered any time after that, such as while performing some sort of search / tutor effect, the downgrade clause would no longer apply. Second, we are not forcing any mulligans on Chris – this is not a Improper Draw at Start of Game – he was in the middle of resolving his own mulligan when he discovered a D/DL Problem – we apply those fixes to this situation (find the missing card) and carry on from that point – Chris would continue with his mulligan to 6 cards.

Paul will receive a Game Loss for his D/DL Problem. As noted previously, he had very obviously started his game and had not called the error on himself, so neither of the prerequisites for the downgrade clause can be applied here. As opposed to when a larger number of D/DL Problems are discovered (during beginning of round deck checks), both players in Paul’s match are allowed to sideboard before game 2, as a (partial) game of Magic has actually been played.