What is Remorse?

Austin Whitehead, Level 2, Sedley, Virginia, United States

Austin Whitehead, Level 2, Sedley, Virginia, United States

This is going to be a short tournament report but I hope it is one that sparks a bit of discussion. Last weekend I worked a PPTQ. We had 29 players which was an amazing showing for this store since it was their first PPTQ ever. For several players in the event this was their first competitive REL event and I knew going in that this was likely to be the case. I will only discuss one judge call that happened at the event but I will attempt to look at it in depth. I would also like to state up front that I do not know that my call was correct and that is part of why I decided to write this report. Please be forewarned that it will contain statements and language that I do not condone. Proceed with caution.

Round 3 – After completing my deck check for the round with my floor judge (L1) we settled into a relatively quiet round. Late in the round I was called to a table by AP. AP had declared attackers, NAP had declared a blocking creature then attempted to activate a man-land and declare this as an additional blocker. I ruled that we had moved past the declare attackers phase since we had a clear physical indication that we were in the declare blockers phase initiated by the NAP and that the land was not a legal blocker at that time. With only minutes on the clock, this match seeming close to ending, and few other matches still being played I decided to sit at this match until its conclusion.

(Editor’s note: As Scott Marshall pointed out in the forum comments, ‘Saying “Block, animate, block” has long been an example of OoOS.’. However, don’t let it distract you from the ‘real meat’ of the tournament report, read on!)

The players counted the damage and agreed that it was lethal. AP looked at NAP and said I would have let you have the block if you hadn’t said what you said earlier. Obviously intrigued, I inquired about this and after some coaxing AP told me that NAP had started their round by saying “Heh, you got beat by a girl.” AP tried to explain to NAP that this was sexist. NAP did not understand how it was sexist. AP made a statement that this is why he really didn’t want to get into it with NAP and hastily continued packing his cards away. NAP looked at me directly and asked how is that offensive, it’s not like I called him a bitch or a faggot or something. AP exclaimed and removed himself from the situation.

After the players had separated I asked AP about the initial comment made during the match and was able to determine that both players had lost to the same person earlier in the tournament and that that player was a female player. I interviewed several players from the area and found a few that had heard the statement from the beginning of the round. I knew I had two separate statements that could constitute a USC – Major and a USC- Minor. While I pulled NAP to a side table to discuss the situation with him I asked my L1 to pull me up the DQ procedures just in case.

During our interview NAP seemed genuinely perplexed by the situation. I addressed the two vulgar words the used while I was present then I tried to explain again why his comments about losing to a girl were inappropriate. He became argumentative tried to defend his position that his statement wasn’t sexist. I met my wife playing magic, and comments like this are a large portion of the reason that she doesn’t play anymore. She has from time to time tried to give me perspective on this and I decided to tap into some of the things that she has told me while talking to this player. I asked him if he would ever say “Heh, you lost to a black person?” He said no that would be racist. I told him that saying the same thing but substituting girl for black person is also prejudiced. I tried to explain that the very act of pointing it out implied that you feel that female magic players are less or worse and it was somehow embarrassing to lose to them and that was not acceptable. Still he would not admit that what he said was wrong. Finally, I asked if he would ever say “Heh, you lost to a boy?” He replied “no, well yeah I would.” NAP finally looked at me and stated, I do not understand but if you are telling me not to say those things I won’t say them no more.

I talked to my floor judge. He was staunch that the argumentative nature of NAP indicated a lack or remorse and that simply consenting to not say those things again did not constitute remorse. We both agreed that his statements contained no malice, he was not intending to hurt anyone’s feelings. This matters because of the upgrade conditions for USC- Major.

From the IPG USC – Major

Penalty: Match Loss

Definition: A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked. This may include insults based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. Threats of physical violence should be treated as Unsporting Conduct – Aggressive Behavior.

It is possible for an offender to commit this infraction without intending malice or harm to the subject of the harassment.


A) A player uses a racial slur against his opponent.
B) A player takes inappropriate photos of another player without express permission.
C) A player asks a spectator for a date, is denied, and continues to press the issue.
D) A player purposefully obstructs another player with the intent of inducing physical contact.
E) A spectator uses social media to bully another player.

Philosophy: A safe environment is a basic expectation of any tournament attendee. Harassment undermines the safety and integrity of a tournament. Players who purposefully create harmful or unwelcoming situations in an event are expected to immediately correct the behavior and demonstrate remorse or be removed. Because of the confrontational nature of this infraction, judges need to end any match in progress and separate the players. Care should be taken not to escalate the situation if at all possible. The offender will be removed from the area to receive the penalty, and education about why the behavior is unacceptable regardless of excuse. They may need a few moments to cool down afterwards. Apologizing is encouraged, but the desire of the other individuals to not interact with their harasser must be respected. Officials must investigate these matters as soon as they are brought to their attention. If they determine that the infraction does not meet the criteria for Unsporting Conduct – Major, it is still recommended that the players be talked to to avoid future misunderstandings.

Additional Remedy: The player must correct the behavior immediately. If the offense occurs at the end of a match, it is acceptable for the judge to apply the penalty to the next match instead.

Upgrade: If the offense was committed with malicious intent, the player displays no remorse, or the offense is repeated at a later time, the penalty is Disqualification and removal from the venue.

I have debated this for hours of my life now. So, judge community, what constitutes “displays no remorse?” I ruled that the player consenting to not say these things again was the very least he could do, but did meet for me the technical definition of non-zero amount of remorse. I applied the prescribed penalty of Match Loss. I applied this loss to a future round as suggested since his match in round 3 had concluded. During round 5, our final round of swiss, I hovered within earshot of NAP just to make sure he was not making anymore offensive statements. He left with no further incidents.

I am sure I missed some points but this covers most relevant information. If you were at this event (at least 4 judges were) and you have differing opinions or other facts to bring in please feel free to do so. “The player displays no remorse” is a terribly gray statement and ultimately I do not think that a judge would have been totally off base to DQ this player. Thank you for reading this and please comment if you have an opinion on this.

(Editor’s note: Please leave your feedback and comments on the JudgeApps forums too!)

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