Target: No Penalties

Written by Aruna Prem Bianzino, Level 2, Spain

Written by Aruna Prem Bianzino, Level 2, Spain

Written by Ismael Álvarez Díaz
Level 1, Spain

Written by Ismael Álvarez Díaz
Level 1, Spain

The purpose of a penalty is to advise the player to prevent him/her to commit the same mistakes in the future. This may be achieved by explaining where rules or policies were violated, and by penalizing to reinforce the education. Finally, penalties are also useful to have a record of a player’s behavior through time.

In this article we will show different types of penalties in Magic tournaments and how to avoid them.


What is it? – A warning is a penalty that remains officially registered. Warnings are used in wrong gameplay situations that can be fixed in a short amount of time. A warning aims to alert judges and players involved that an issue happened. At the same time, warnings keep a permanent record of the infraction in the DCI Penalty Database. Still, a warning does not impact the game itself and just represents a reminder to be careful.

If you receive a warning, be aware that you made a mistake. Try to keep a clearer view of what is going on in the game, check you action to avoid further mistakes, but don’t be afraid: it is OK to get a warning sometimes. But if you made a mistake and try to hide it, your behavior will bring much more severe consequences (see below). It is better to call a judge in case of doubt: they are here to help!

Common errors: How to avoid them? – The most common errors happen because of not paying enough attention. For instance, Casting Doom Blade targeting a black creature, forgetting a triggered ability of a permanent we control that’s generally bad for you – such as Goblin Guide, attempting to Scry 1 but looking instead at two cards, etc. These errors happen because of a lack of focus or attention.

Paying attention to what we are doing will be more than enough to avoid a large percentage of these penalties. Playing carefully and checking twice what we are doing will also be helpful. These two tips will help you to avoid making the majority of mistakes:

  1. Reading and understanding the card’s text.
  2. Ask a Judge if you don’t know something, we are here to help.

Least common errors: How to avoid them? (For example: Insufficient shuffling, Communication policy violation, etc.) – Decks should be properly randomized, failing to do so is a reason for a Warning. If you might know the order of some cards in your library, your shuffling was not enough. For instance, riffle shuffling just once after a Fetchland before presenting the deck to your opponent represents Insufficient shuffling.

A Communication policy violation happens occasionally, but not very often. An example would be, your opponent asking you how many cards do you have in your hand; and you answering 3 without really looking, but realizing later that you actually had 4.

In all previous situations we have to assume that the mistake was honest, because if it wasn’t we would have to consider more serious penalties.

These errors usually come from lack of attention. The corresponding penalty tries to get the players used to play more focused and mindful of their game.

Game Loss (GL)

Acceptable Losses
What is it? – A game loss is used in situations when correcting the mistake takes a long amount of time that could potentially slow down or disrupt the tournament in some way. Beside, a GL is assigned when the game is impossible to finish because of a physical disruption. This type of penalty is issued in situations that can cause the offender to gain a considerable advantage.

The current game ends immediately and the player that made the infraction loses the game. This player chooses if he wants to play first or draw on the next game of the match. If a game loss was assigned before the game has started, no player of that game can use his sideboard.

These situations cause a Game Loss:

  1. Decklist problem: One of our cards is not registered, we made a last minute change to our sideboard, and didn’t change our list accordingly, etc. To avoid this, just pay more attention when writing the decklist and go over it before handing it at the beginning of a tournament. Leaving your decklist for the last minute isn’t advisable.
  2. Tardiness: We are not at our designated table when the Head Judge makes the beginning of round announcement. This penalty will be applied during the first 10 minutes of the round. After that, the penalty becomes a Match Loss. We have to consider is that our delay can cause the whole tournament to be delayed. This will affect all the other players, including our opponent, who was waiting for us since the beginning of the round. We need to be responsible. If we pay attention this situation will never happen.

Match Loss (ML)

What is it? – A Match Loss is a severe penalty assigned when the match cannot be finished because of time issues or because the match itself was compromised.

Luckily this kind of penalties are quite unusual. The most common one is Outside Assistance. Anyone at the event who: looks for game advice or hidden information about his/her game once s/he started playing, gives game advice or revealing hidden information to players during their game, or looks at notes (other than the Oracle text) taken before the beginning of the current match. In these cases, the penalty is more severe because a strategic advantage can be obtained which can compromise the integrity of the match. This is unacceptable, since we have to be sure that no player gets such an advantage.

At the same time, actions that make other individuals feel harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked create an environment in which it is not possible to safely play Magic. As such, this kind of behavior brings to an immediate end of the match and to a ML penalty to be assigned for Unsporting Conduct – Major.

Disqualification (DQ)

What is it? – Activities that put in danger the integrity of the tournament as such, or severe unsporting conduct.

These situations are quite unusual, as well. Thankfully, because it is unpleasant having to remove someone from a tournament. Some of these situations could prevent other players to enjoy the tournament.

The most common situations are:

  1. Improperly Determining a Winner. Randomly, for instance rolling a dice.
  2. Bribery and Wagering
  3. Aggressive behavior
  4. Theft of Tournament Material
  5. Cheating, such as: lying to a tournament official or a judge, or doing something illegal and attempting to gain advantage from it

These situations need little explanation and are unacceptable in a Magic tournament.

How to react?

The best way of reacting to any of these situations is understanding that we made a mistake and that mistake leads to a penalty. It is wiser to accept that we have done wrong, and never do it again. If the penalty looks too harsh, bear in mind how would you feel if the infraction was committed by your opponent instead. This will certainly be of help.

Final remarks

Hopefully this “little” summary will help you to know better the different types of penalties and understand how to avoid them. Just by paying more attention, we all can enjoy best the future events we may assist.


Based on the original article of



Enrique Garrido

Enrique Garrido