A player commits an error in the game that cannot be corrected by only publicly available information and does so without their opponent’s permission.
Most Game Play Errors can be observed by both players. The window might be small, but it’s visible. Failing to discard a card, casting a spell for the wrong mana; these are things you can see. All the information is out in the open. This isn’t an infraction for those type of errors. This is for when an error occurs and at the point of the error, the opponent has lost the ability to detect how things went wrong, and has no insight into how to fix the game.
Now, the second clause of that sentence talks about the opponent’s permission. In that case, the opponent is given warning that something is about to go wrong, and agrees to the action. In this case, we do not want to overly penalize the player as the error was ‘visible’ to both players, or incentivize the opponent to “agree” to an action that will get their opponent a harsher penalty. In that case, consider a Game Rule Violation instead.
This infraction only applies when a card whose identity is known to only one player is in a hidden set of cards both before and after the error.
In this case, hidden locations are the hand, the library, face down cards on the battlefield and face down cards in exile. Unknown cards are when one or more of the players don’t know what the cards are. Note that the identity of the top card of the library is unknown, but the location of the top card is public, something that isn’t always obvious, so a tutor effect that searches for a specific card and puts it on top of the library is putting the card into a “known” position.
If an additional card is seen but not added to the set, the infraction is Game Play Error–Looking at Extra Cards.
This line is here to give a distinction between when a player action should be considered Hidden Card Error versus GPE – Looking at Extra Cards.
If we use Dig Through Time as an example, if a player resolving this spell looks at eight cards rather than seven, we have the wrong number in the set. This is HCE, as the set contains a card it should not, and that set is hidden. If, however, during the resolution of Dig Through Time, a player looks at seven cards, but knocks the eighth card off the deck while picking up those seven, then that eighth card is not a part of the set, and should be treated as a GPE – Looking at Extra Cards infraction.
Additionally, if a player goes to scry one card, and accidentally picks up two, This could still be Looking at Extra Cards. The difference does require a bit of common sense, as defining an exact technical line between HCE and Looking at Extra Cards is would require a lot of text and examples and still not cover everything. Take a moment to consider whether Looking at Extra Cards is a more appropriate infraction, whether the player made a mistake in the number of cards or the number of cards was an accident, and whether the player has already started to make decisions about the set of cards.
- A. A player draws four cards after casting Ancestral Recall.
- B. A player scries two cards when they should only have scried one.
- C. A player resolves a Dark Confidant trigger, but forgets to reveal the card before putting it into their hand.
- D. A player has more cards in their hand than can be accounted for.
- E. A player casts Anticipate and picks up the top four cards of their library.
- F. A player, going first, draws for their turn.
Some of these examples look like the infraction Looking at Extra Cards. The important distinction is that if a player ends up with more cards than they are supposed to, either in their hand, or in a set of cards they are performing an action on, then it falls under the Hidden Card Error infraction. If they’ve only seen one or more extra cards because the card has been flipped over or some other dexterity issue that reveals a card to the player then treat the infraction as Looking at Extra Cards.
Example C only applies if the player remembers the Dark Confidant trigger and doesn’t reveal the card before putting the card into their hand. If the player draws for the turn before remembering, it’s treated as a missed trigger.
Example F looks a lot like it might fall under Mulligan Procedure Error, but it doesn’t because the error occurs after the game has begun. Drawing a card on the opening turn while on the play is an example of adding a card that should not be added to a hidden zone, and thus falls under Hidden Card Error.
Though the game state cannot be reversed to the ‘correct’ state, this error can be mitigated by giving the opponent sufficient knowledge and ability to offset the error so that it is less likely to generate advantage.
The player with the extra cards has gained information, and that information has been potentially commingled with other cards. Being able to see other information you aren’t supposed to and potentially make decisions or take action on the information or use those resources (cards) is a big deal. We can’t fix it. But we can mitigate it. Your opponent couldn’t witness the error, but by allowing the opponent to participate in the fix, we eliminate any advantage gained from the error, and still provide a strong incentive not to attempt to cheat.
If cards are placed into a public zone, then their order is known and the infraction can be handled as a Game Rule Violation.
If cards are revealed for something like a mill effect, where both players can see what’s happening, the infraction isn’t Hidden Card Error, because the cards aren’t hidden. For a mill effect, order is not lost. The information is revealed to everyone and order is maintained. Sounds like all players have all the knowledge, and the judge doesn’t have to worry about one player having information the other doesn’t. In this case, go to the Game Rule Violation infraction.
Order cannot be determined from card faces only visible to one player unless the card is in a uniquely identifiable position (such as on top of the library, or as the only card in hand.)
This sentence is in here to prevent arguments about which card was the extra card drawn, or what the third card picked up on a scry 2 was. Unless it was visible to both players, you have to treat the cards like they were mixed up. Note, this is different from some cases of Looking at Extra Cards, where the cards are still being separated from the library where there is a clear order. The line between Looking at Extra Cards and Hidden Card Error is when the cards leave the library and the card faces are only visible to one player.
Be careful not to apply this infraction in situations where a publicly-correctable error subsequently leads to an uncorrectable situation such as a Brainstorm cast using green mana. In these situations, the infraction is based on that root cause.
Look at the root cause. Just because we are now in a spot where information has been lost doesn’t mean we started out this way. Another example would be the case of casting Elvish Visionary for UU, and then the player draws a card when the enters the battlefield trigger resolves. Once that card is drawn, that information is lost, but the original problem was the casting of the spell incorrectly and visible to both players.
Information about cards previously known by the opponent, such as cards previously revealed while on the top of the library or by a previous look at the hand, may be taken into account while determining the set of cards to which the remedy applies.
Even though the contents of a previously revealed hand are not public information, the knowledge of those cards, when agreed upon by both players (such as from notes taken about the hand) may be useful in reconstructing as correct a game state as possible. There is a “may” here, however. If there is doubt or disagreement about what has been revealed some turns back, and you aren’t confident that the set is correct, you may treat the entire set as the grouping to which to apply the remedy.
Always operate on the smallest set possible to remedy the error. This may mean applying the remedy to only part of a set defined by an instruction. For example, if a player resolves Collected Company, picks up three cards with one hand and then four cards with the other, the last drawn set of four cards should be used for the remedy, instead of the full set of seven cards.
This section really just enforces that we use common sense to restore the game without too much disruption. In the example given, the player should have looked at six cards on resolution, but looked at seven. Because of the physical way that action was performed, however, it is clear that the first three cards were correct and maintained a clear distance from the other, physically distinct set of four cards. This allows us to apply the fix to that smaller set (four cards versus seven) without advantage gained or lost unduly. Be sure to gain a full understanding of the actions taken with the cards in question before determining if a smaller set will be appropriate (ensure sets didn’t touch or mingle).
In cases where the infraction was immediately followed by moving a card from the affected set to a known location, such as by discarding, putting cards on top of the library, or playing a land, a simple backup to the point just after the error may be performed.
This portion of the remedy exists so that the actions taken to mitigate advantage may be applied to all of the cards that should have been involved. A simple backup allows for the set of affected cards to be reconstructed in order for the game to be restored as fairly as possible. This type of action is most likely to arise when a player mistakenly puts too many cards directly into their hand, then makes a play or completes some other action before realizing the error has occurred. In this case, consider the benefits of that simple backup before applying the remedy, so that the card set is as correct as possible. This is not a backup to before the error, though, so make sure it is used to restore the set for which the remedy of Hidden Card Error is applied, not to backup to before the Hidden Card Error happened.
An example of this would be if someone draws 4 cards from a Brainstorm, puts 2 cards on top of their library, then the error is detected. We will return those two cards to the hand before applying any other fix.
If the set of cards that contained the problem no longer exists, there is no remedy to be applied.
If, during a series of game actions, the affected set of cards has been lost by shuffling them away, and the set cannot reasonably be reconstructed, then there is no set left to which we can apply the remedy. The infraction still exists in this case, and a penalty issued.
If the error put cards into a set prematurely and other operations involving cards in the set should have been performed first, the player reveals the set of cards that contains the excess and their opponent chooses a number of previously-unknown cards. Put those cards aside until the point at which they should have been legally added, then return them to the set.
This is really saying that you can address a complicated situation such as that of “looting” instead of “rummaging.” If a card gave an instruction such as ‘discard a card: draw a card,’ but the player resolves ‘draw a card, then discard a card,’ then we have this remedy available, since the hand now contains a card that shouldn’t be there, but a discard still needs to occur. Since one route to advantage here is the ability to discard the card just drawn, we allow the opponent to identify the card “to be drawn,” and set it aside before applying the remedy. Then, once the remedy has been applied, we return the card to the hand/set, and continue from there.
If the error involves one or more cards that were supposed to be revealed, the player reveals the set of cards that contains the unrevealed cards and their opponent chooses that many previously-unknown cards. Treat those as the cards that were ‘revealed’ and return them to the set that was being selected from; the player then reperforms the action. If recreating the original selection set and reperforming the action would be too disruptive, leave the selected cards in hand.
This involve cards put into a hidden zone whose characteristics should have been checked before they moved to that zone. An example of this is Domri Rade’s first ability, which reads “+1: Look at the top card of your library. If it’s a creature card, you may reveal it and put it into your hand.” If the card is put into the hand without being revealed, we can remedy that by revealing the set with the unrevealed card (this case, the hand) and allowing the opponent to choose which card should be treated as the “revealed card(s)”. Then, the player reperforms the action (the Domri Rade’s 1 ability in our example). If, for instance, the opponent chooses a non-creature card in the Domri Rade example, that card no longer fits legally in the set (the hand) and should be returned to the top of the library.
If a set affected by the error contains more cards than it is supposed to contain, the player reveals the set of cards that contain the excess and their opponent chooses a number of previously unknown-cards sufficient to reduce the set to the correct size. These excess cards are returned to the correct location. If that location is the library, they should be shuffled into the random portion unless the owner previously knew the identity of the card/cards illegally moved; that many cards, chosen by the opponent, are returned to the original location instead. For example, if a player playing with Sphinx of Jwar Isle illegally draws a card, that card should be returned to the top of the library.
This is the commonly termed “Thoughtseize” fix. The player with too many cards in the set reveals that set to the opponent, and they choose which card is to be the “excess card(s).” This allows the game to continue while offsetting the very large advantage of an extra card or cards being in hand or another set. Return the excess cards to the location they came from. If that location is the library, we typically do this by shuffling them into the random portion. If the cards were previously known from the top of the library before adding to a set, we return them to the top of the library instead. This exists to remove a minor cheating angle where a player would attempt to use HCE to get a free shuffle if their hand and top of library were bad.
If a face-down card cast using a morph ability is discovered during the game to not have a morph ability, the penalty is a Game Loss. If the player has one or more cards with a morph ability in hand, has not added previously unknown cards to their hand since casting the card found in violation, and has discovered the error themselves, the upgrade does not apply and they may swap the card for a card with the morph ability in hand.
In all but a very few cases, Magic is set up so that both players can see what is going on. Both players are responsible for the game. If you pay the wrong mana for a spell, I can see that. If you put too many counters on a creature, I can also see that. When it comes to accidentally casting a card as though it had the morph ability, the opponent cannot verify that the face down card has morph. For example, playing a Highland Game thinking it is a Temur Charger fits this upgrade path.
We also now have a specific option to ignore this upgrade if the player discovers it themselves and hasn’t had any opportunity to add cards to their hand since casting the card. If these conditions are met, rather than upgrading to a game loss, we issue the normal warning and swap the 2 cards.