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.