Magic is a complicated game. Each turn, several trivial choices are assumed but never explicitly said out loud, to prevent the game from dragging through extremely boring rules minutiae. It’s therefore necessary to have rules on what can be left untold, and how.
This article is the first installment of a series of articles where I’ll explain how players are supposed to communicate with other players and with judges. Let’s start by looking at communication between a player and a judge.
Communicating with a judge
Magic Tournament Rules are very clear on communication between a player and a judge:
MTR 4.1 […] Players must answer all questions asked of them by a judge completely and honestly, regardless of the type of information requested. Players may request to do so away from the match.
If a judge asks you a question, you must say the truth and all the truth. If you fear that your opponent can overhear and gain information that you’d rather keep private, you can always ask to the judge to move away from the table, whether you want to ask a rule question or the judge is asking you something. If you aren’t truthful with a judge, the penalty is, without exception, the disqualification from the tournament:
IPG 4.8 Unsporting Conduct — Cheating
A person breaks a rule defined by the tournament documents, lies to a Tournament Official, or notices an offense committed in his or her (or a teammate’s) match and does not call attention to it.
If you’re going to learn a single thing from this article, let it be this: if a judge asks you a question, you say the truth and all the truth. To be honest, many disqualifications don’t stem from the deductive skills of the judges or their capability to spot a manipulation attempt from across the floor; they are caused by players who try to outsmart us and “adjust” their recounting of an event.
If a judge summons you to ask questions, follow my advice:
- Stay calm. Judges are not particularly keen to disqualify or penalize you – we don’t make metaphorical notches on our guns. If you did nothing wrong, we just want to be sure of that and have a clear picture of what happened. But if we suspect you are giving us an adulterated version of the facts, you’re in for a long day, and a short tournament.
- Don’t try to cover a mistake. We all make mistakes. Judges have official documents that describe unbiased procedures to fix game play errors, and they very rarely bring penalties higher than a warning. Sometimes, your mistake will cost you a game, but trying to cover it with a lie will cost you the whole tournament.
- Call a judge. Judges basically have two roles at events: answer your calls and posting pairings or pushing chairs under the tables. Guess which part is the boring one? There is nothing wrong if you or your opponent calls a judge and asks them to fix the problem you are having or confirm the rule interaction described by your opponent. Remember that your opponent’s goal is that you lose the game, so asking him about your doubt may not be the best possible idea. In addition to this, remember that complaining about your opponent shady behavior directly to them will almost always be useless. If something doesn’t sit well with you, call a judge right now, perhaps pretending to have a rules question about a card you have in your hand, and explain your concern away from your table. The judge will know what to do.
I can summarize this article with a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: don’t panic! Judges attend tournaments to help you and to make sure you can play in a fun and fair event. You should never be afraid to call us for any reason or to speak freely with us.
Next time, we’ll talk of a much more nuanced topic: communication between players.