(or “How Not to Get Disqualified at a Magic Tournament”)
Everyone goes to a Magic tournament to play Magic. It doesn’t matter what kind or size of the event is, be it a weekly draft, an FNM, or a Grand Prix, everyone is there to play Magic and, hopefully, to have fun. The worst way for that experience to end is to be told that you can’t play Magic anymore today. Disqualification sucks. It sucks for the player who’s disqualified, it sucks for the judge who has to deal with the disqualification process, it sucks for the other players in the event because DQs usually slow down the event. It sucks for everyone involved, basically, so let’s talk about to keep it from happening.
What is a Disqualification?
In the simplest possible terms, a disqualification from a Magic event means that you’ve done something that violates the integrity of the tournament to the point where you’re no longer able to participate in it anymore. You’re not in the tournament anymore and, depending on the nature of the infraction and the feelings of judge(s) and store staff, you might be asked to leave the premises as well.
When you’re disqualified, you’ll be given the chance to make a written statement. This statement will be submitted, along with the head judge’s report and other witness statements, to the Player Investigation Committee. The PIC reviews disqualifications and other reports of severe player misconduct decides on what further action, if any, is needed. Many first time offenders will receive a warning letter reaffirming that what they did was not acceptable and that future disqualifications will take this warning into account. For more serious offenders, a suspension of anywhere from six months up to a lifetime suspension is the result. Lifetime suspensions are reserved for cases of serious tournament fraud, violence, and similar. A suspended player cannot participate in a sanctioned Magic event in any way during their suspension, not as a player, not as a judge or scorekeeper, and not as a tournament organizer.
Sidetrack: Player Responsibilities and the Magic Tournament Rules
Many players don’t know that when they sign up for any tournament, they agree to a certain set of responsibilities. These responsibilities are laid out in section 1.10 of the Magic Tournament Rules. These responsibilities include expected things such as behaving in a respectful manner, maintaining a legal game state, and following announced time limits, but it also includes two points that I want to call out specifically: Players are required to be familiar with the rules contained in the Magic Tournament Rules document, which most aren’t; players are also required to bring attention to any rules or policy infraction or any offer of bribery, wagering, and other match manipulation. I highly recommend reading through the MTR if you get the chance, especially if you plan on playing at Competitive REL events, such as PPTQs and GPs.
How to Get Disqualified
Now that we know what a disqualification is, let’s talk about what exactly it is that you can do to get yourself disqualified at a tournament as well as some simple ways to avoid being disqualified for these things.
(Bribery, Wagering, Improperly Determining a Winner)
Wizards has to draw a hard line against anything that might associate Magic with gambling in the eyes of the law anywhere in the world because otherwise Magic events might not be allowed in some of those places. Wizards has already had to stop running Grands Prix in Germany or Austria because of falling afoul of their gambling laws, with the last GP there (GP Bochum 2012) having to give out non-cash prizes because of a last-minute crackdown by authorities.
Any attempt to bribe a player or tournament official, accepting such a bribe, or failing to report any such bribery offer is cause for immediate disqualification from the event, even if you didn’t know that doing so wasn’t allowed. Offering an incentive in exchange for a match result is the most common example of bribery at Magic tournaments. Even if you think the offer your opponent makes you is a joke, you still need to call a judge or risk being disqualified. (There was a fairly high-profile case of such a thing this past weekend at GP Houston. It was all over Reddit.) It’s not your place to determine whether or not an offer was a joke or not. Leave that to the judges.
In a similar vein, placing a wager on the outcome of the event or any portion of the event, such as a player’s final record, or even prop betting on whether or not certain things happen, is not allowed and will lead to disqualification from the event. Not reporting an offer of such a wager to a tournament official is also grounds for disqualification.
Finally, determining the outcome of a game or match using any method other than playing the match or agreeing to an intentional draw or a concession is grounds for disqualification for all players involved. Players are expected to play matches to completion if neither of them concedes and they don’t agree to an intentional draw. Even if a match goes to time and would end in a draw, the players must report the match as a draw unless one of them agrees to concede. Only the information available to the players when the match ends can be used to argue for such a concession. Turning over cards from the library or rolling dice to determine who should concede will lead to both players being disqualified unless the player not making the offer calls a judge immediately.
How to Avoid a Gambling DQ:
- Just play Magic. Don’t offer or accept anything for a match result.
- Call a judge if your opponent makes an offer.
- Call a judge if you overhear such an offer being made in another match.
- If you want to offer a prize split, talk to a judge before making the offer to protect yourself.
- Don’t wager on the tournament or any part of the tournament.
- Call a judge if someone offers you such a wager.
- Call a judge if you overhear such a wager being offered, agreed to, or resolved.
- Determine the result of each of your matches and games by playing Magic, by one player conceding, or by agreeing to an intentional draw.
- Accept that some matches will end in draws. It happens.
- Call a judge if your opponent offers to roll dice or otherwise randomly determine the match’s outcome.
- Call a judge if you overhear such an offer being made or carried out.
(Threats, and Violence, and Abuse)
Players coming to an event should be able to expect a day of competition, testing their skills, and having fun. When a player threatens another player or acts out violently against others or their property, that player is violating the trust of everyone else in the event and needs to be removed from the event and the venue.
We as judges understand that competitive Magic can be stressful and that losing unexpectedly can ruin someone’s day, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to act out those negative emotions against anyone else or their property. Any player that threatens another player or intentionally damages items belonging to anyone else will be disqualified and ejected from the venue. This also applies to actual violent behavior against another person, but at that point the police or other relevant local authorities should also get involved.
Additionally, a player that is abusive to someone repeatedly, maliciously, or without remorse cannot be allowed to continue in the event and will be disqualified and removed from the venue.
How to Avoid an Aggressive Behavior DQ:
- Don’t be a dick.
- Don’t verbally abuse your opponents, or judges, or anyone else. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
- Have a plan for what to do if you’re prone to anger or frustration. Go outside, call someone, have a stress ball, drop from the event and go home. Do anything other than threatening or acting out violently against anyone or anything.
- Let a judge or other staff member know if you see a situation that you think will get aggressive.
- Don’t attempt to intervene yourself. The safety of everyone involved is more important than the tournament or issuing a penalty.
Anyone who steals anything from a tournament or its participants is no longer welcome at that event. They are to be disqualified and ejected from the venue. This includes stealing from opponents as well as stealing tournament materials, such as table numbers, prizes, etc.
How to Avoid a Theft DQ:
- Don’t steal!
- If something doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pen, a life pad, a card, a deck, the number tent for Table 69 (nice.), etc. Don’t do it.
- Talk to a judge if you have knowledge of a theft that has occurred at the event.
- Return items that end up in your possession by mistake.
- Sometimes you’ll wind up with a card from another player’s deck, usually, because you took it with something like Hostage Taker or you exiled it with something like Ixalan’s Binding. If you wind up with cards from other players, report them to a judge as soon as you discover them. Noticing and not reporting them or attempting to return them is theft and will lead to your disqualification from the event.
While players are allowed to control the pace of their own turns, players are expected to play at a reasonable pace so that a match can finish within the allotted time. Players not playing at an appropriate pace will be encouraged by a judge to increase their pace of play. They can even receive official Warnings for Slow Play at Competitive REL and higher. Stalling isn’t just playing slowly, it’s intentionally doing so to take advantage of the time limit in a round. Players found to be taking advantage of the time limit with intentional slow play this way are disqualified from the event for stalling.
For example, a player might play the first game of a match quickly and win it, then slow their pace of play to a glacial crawl once game two begins in order to ensure that the opponent can’t come back to win the match. This is stalling. Similarly, a player that has been playing at a reasonable pace all match who suddenly slows down when behind in game three so that they can squeak out a draw is also stalling.
Note that players are allowed to play towards drawing a game or match, but they must do so at a reasonable pace. Doing so is not stalling, which is only specifically abusing the clock for your own advantage.
How to Avoid a Stalling DQ:
- Play at a reasonable pace at all times. Don’t slow down when you’re ahead.
- Call a judge if you think your opponent is playing slowly. Do it early in the match as we can’t do much to address slow play when there’s a minute left on the clock.
- If you think your opponent’s slow play is intentional, make the judge aware of those concerns, preferably away from the match.
This is the big one that you all knew was coming. A player is cheating if they intentionally or unintentionally break a game rule or violate tournament policy or allow an opponent to the same, and then attempt to gain advantage from the violation while knowing that it’s illegal. It’s also cheating to knowingly lie to a judge or other tournament official.
In short, you have to know you’re doing/allowing something wrong and be trying to gain an advantage from it in order for it to be considered cheating. If one or both of these criteria aren’t met, then you’re not cheating.
Common examples of cheating include drawing extra cards, untapping lands or creatures, changing numbers of counters, not calling attention to sideboard cards left in the deck, lying to a judge during a judge call or investigation, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
How to Avoid a Cheating DQ:
- Don’t cheat!
- If you intentionally lie to a judge or break the rules to get an advantage, you’re cheating and I can’t help you.
- If a mistake happens and you let it slide because it benefits you, you’re also cheating. Don’t let this happen. If something happens that shouldn’t have, call a judge immediately.
- If you see someone cheating or suspect that someone is cheating, talk to the judge in private. When investigating for cheating, we need all the information we can get.
- If you catch a player in the act of cheating, ask them to stop and call a judge. The judge should make sure that someone watches the match so that nothing changes while you’re talking to them.
Dodging a Bullet
So that’s a general summary of the ways you can be disqualified at a Magic event and how to avoid them. As a player, you’re not likely to ever be disqualified from a tournament as long as you go into it just wanting to play Magic and have a good time. As long as you treat your opponents with respect, steer clear of anything resembling gambling, and play the game as it’s meant to be played without any shenanigans, you’ll be fine. Finally, if you’re ever unsure of anything at an event, ask a judge. We’re here to help.
If you stuck with me until the end here, thank you for reading! I hope you found this article useful and informative. If you have any feedback for me, please message me through judge apps or at my blog over at magicjudge.tumblr.com.
This article was originally posted here and has been reposted here with the author permission.
Editor: Aruna Prem Bianzino