Game Play Errors are caused by incorrect or inaccurate play of the game such that it results in violations of the Magic Comprehensive Rules.
These are errors committed by at least one player during a match by unintentionally violating a Comprehensive Rule. Game Play Errors can occur for many reasons. Players get tired, get distracted, play too fast, or don’t know the cards or the rules that apply to a complex situation well enough. These situations are not exceptional, which is why Game Play Errors are a common category of error.
Many offenses fit into this category and it would be impossible to list them all.
The guide below is designed to give judges a framework for assessing how to handle a Game Play Error.
Most Game Play Error infractions are assumed to have been committed unintentionally.
We like to assume players are nice, and when we walk up to a table, we aren’t accusing people of cheating. That might change once we ask a few questions, but when we start out, our baseline assumption is that we are dealing with an honest mistake.
If the judge believes that the error was intentional, he or she should first consider whether an Unsporting Conduct — Cheating infraction has occurred.
With the exception of Failure to Maintain Game State, which is never upgraded, the third or subsequent penalty for a Game Play Error offense in the same category should be upgraded to a Game Loss. For multi-day tournaments, the penalty count for these infractions resets between days.
Regarding the Failure to Maintain Game State infraction, be prepared for some players to not understand why they are getting a Warning. “But judge, I didn’t do anything wrong?” Take a few seconds to explain to the player why he or she is getting the Warning, and if he or she still wishes to discuss it, you can talk about it after the match. While they still get the Warning, we do not upgrade this infraction as we do other tournament errors. This is because we do not want players to fear calling a judge. Being awarded a Game Loss because my opponents made play mistakes and I didn’t catch doesn’t make sense. And, if this is the third time that my opponent has made a play mistake that I didn’t catch over the course of the tournament, I might be reluctant to call a judge and have my Failure to Maintain Game State upgraded, so I choose to pretend that I didn’t notice. We don’t want our policy to encourage cheating. If we don’t upgrade this penalty, though, why give Warnings at all? There are two reasons: the first is that the act of receiving a Warning is generally enough to remind a player to pay more attention. The second is so we can track them. If a player tends to get Failure to Maintain Game State a lot, and the related error is always in his favor, this gives judges the ability to track these infractions — and when added to the larger infraction database, we can track across events too.