A player takes longer than is reasonably required to complete game actions.
Players are required to play at a reasonable pace, but what is a reasonable pace? It’s not really defined anywhere. There is no explicit number of seconds to make a decision. If we say “taking longer than 30 seconds to make a decision is slow play,” then players can legally take 29 seconds to make every decision, and we have just legalized Stalling. Making a slow play call as a judge is subjective, therefore judges have to use their best judgment when making them. Two methods judges have reported using are:
– If you have had time to assess the board, figure out what to do, and then get bored, it’s slow play
– If you start wondering if you should give Slow Play, you should have already given it.
If a judge believes a player is intentionally playing slowly to take advantage of a time limit, the infraction is Unsporting Conduct — Stalling.
Players can be playing slowly unintentionally without realizing it. If they are playing slowly with the specific purpose of eating up time on the clock (either to cement the win, or force a draw, or for other reasons) then it’s not Slow Play, it’s Stalling (i.e. cheating). Keep in mind they are very difficult to tell apart, and typically revolves around how much the player was aware of the remaining time on the clock.
It is also slow play if a player continues to execute a loop without being able to provide an exact number of iterations and the expected resulting game state.
This is one of those sentences that whole articles can be written about. Most loops have a finite ending — I do X 10 times, but stop early if Y happens. Using the rules for shortcuts as found in the MTR, you must also be able to explain the specific end state. There are many loops out there where they will reach a certain condition “eventually.” Eventually is not a specific number. These loop end states are also not specific enough. You cannot perform the loop “Mill myself until the last 2 cards in my library are Emrakul” because you can’t specify how many times you will need to loop to get to that state. You could loop “A million times!” but there is still a chance it won’t happen until the million and first. Fine, I loop 2 Million times! There is still the chance it won’t happen. It doesn’t matter how small the chance of failure is; if it’s there, you can’t loop. Also, if the opponent wants to respond when you have milled both Emrakuls and both shuffle triggers are on the stack, how do you determine which state happens first?
- A. A player repeatedly reviews their opponent’s graveyard without any significant change in game state.
- B. A player spends time writing down the contents of an opponent’s library while resolving Thought Hemorrhage.
- C. A player takes an excessive amount of time to shuffle their deck between games.
- D. A player gets up from their seat to look at standings or goes to the bathroom without permission of an official.
Examples A,B,C, and D all are all cases of unnecessary and excessive actions that do not progress the game. For Example D, if a player has to leave the game for a restroom break, they should seek permission from a judge. Upon return, a time extension will be issued. Keep in mind that you should always let the player go to the bathroom. The penalty is not because you went to the bathroom, it’s because you left your opponent and didn’t tell a judge.
All players have the responsibility to play quickly enough so that their opponents are not at a significant disadvantage because of the time limit.
In some professional sports taking advantage of the clock is a legal strategy. In Magic, we want matches to be determined by actually playing the game, not the clock. Time is a shared resource between players, and we do not want one player to consume more time than is reasonable to complete their actions. Complex combos may require more time to perform actions because there are more actions to perform, however wasted time is taking time from the opponent. Both players are expected to play at a pace that allows the match to conclude in the allowed time.
A player may be playing slowly without realizing it. A comment of “I need you to play faster” is often appropriate and all that is needed.
A player who is deep in thought may not be aware that they have used a lot of time. People are bad at estimating time and might think it’s only been ten seconds when it’s been fifty. In these cases it’s OK to step in a give a little nudge to play faster. This nudge is not a formal penalty or a Warning, it’s a ‘caution.’ If the player makes their play quickly and continues at a reasonable pace, everything is fine. It’s also worth noting that some judges don’t start with a Caution. This is also OK.
Further slow play should be penalized.
If a player has already been cautioned to make decisions, and doesn’t make a decision in a timely manner, or the next decision is also slow, then the next step will be to issue a Warning. If a Warning has already been issued, then a second resulting Warning will be upgraded to a Game Loss (with the Head Judge’s concurrence). When giving a Warning, double check with the player whether this is the first time a slow play warning has been issued for today’s tournament.
In the event that the match exceeds the time limit, two additional turns are added to the number of additional turns played.
There is no way to quantify how much time has been lost in the match because of a player playing slowly. Instead of giving a time extension, the remedy is to add two additional turns if the match goes to time. These turns may be taken by the same player if ‘take an extra turn after this one’ effects are used.
This turn extension occurs before any end-of-match procedure can begin and after any time extensions that may have been issued.
Those turns have to be put somewhere.
No additional turns are awarded if the match is already in additional turns, though the Warning still applies.
If a game has gone to time after a time extension, and players are in the five extra turns for end of match procedures, then no extra turns will be given for slow play because you aren’t “on the clock” anymore.
For further reference on Slow Play, see this article.