Cards or sleeves in a player’s deck have inconsistencies on them that might allow them to be differentiated from each other while in the library. This includes scuff marks, nail marks, discoloration, bent corners and curving from foils.
A card should be identifiable only from its front face. Being able to identify what a card is, or what card type it is, from anything other than its front face is an issue. This applies to physical markings, such as scratches, dings, and scuffs, as well as to physical orientation – for example, if all of a player’s lands are turned upside down in their deck. If a single card can be identified side-on (i.e. while mash shuffling), this is also a problem that needs to be fixed by replacing the card, or sleeve, depending on the issue. Please note, this infraction only addresses issues with potential abuse. If we feel there is actual abuse, then we are now considering Cheating.
We only issue this infraction if the marked cards are in a player’s deck, not the sideboard. If the cards in the sideboard have different markings or the sleeves appear newer we should only issue this infraction after sideboarding the marked cards into the deck. If the sideboard cards are noticed during a deck check the player should be made aware of this and suggested to use the main deck sleeves when sideboarding.
- A. A player has small marks on a few of their sleeves. The markings are on a Mountain, a Loxodon Hierarch, and a Lightning Helix.
There is not a great argument for a land, a creature, and an instant being a pattern of marked cards. However, cards that are individually marked in this fashion are still an issue. If the player notices these markings, that player can make an assumption that “this card in my 60 card deck is a mountain, a Loxodon Hierarch, or a Lightning Helix,” giving the player undue knowledge about what that card might be.
- B. A player has several foil cards that stand out significantly from the rest of their deck.
Foils have a tendency to bend inwards. It is possible, and with bad handling, for these cards to be warped in such a way that they are noticeable. Again, knowing which foils the player has in their deck, that player can make a more accurate assumption about what the bent card is. It should be noted that not all foils are marked, and not all bent cards are foils. Let’s be very clear here, the fact that your deck contains foils in a specific pattern (all lands, for example) does not mean the deck is marked; the markings arise from the bends (if they exist).
- C. The basic lands in a player’s unsleeved deck are from a set with notably lighter backs.
Having noticeably lighter backs makes these cards marked. Because it is all the basic lands this fits the upgrade path outlined in the additional remedy, since substantial advantage can be gained knowing if the top card of the library is a land just be seeing the different back.
Sleeves and cards often become worn over the course of a tournament, and, as long as the player is not attempting to take advantage of this, addressing the situation is sufficient in most cases. Note that almost all sleeves can be considered marked in some way; judges should keep this in mind when determining penalties.
Tournaments are long, with many larger tournaments involving over 8 hours of actual Magic gameplay. Playing Magic — especially shuffling cards — over an 8 hour period will cause sleeve splits, and it will cause dings, dents, and scuffs. As long as these markings do not make a card identifiable, it is simple enough just to point out this error, give the penalty and get the player to replace the sleeves. Be careful, though — if you stare long enough, you can probably find markings on all but the newest sleeves. This does not mean they are marked.
In cases of marked cards, educating players to shuffle their cards and sleeves before sleeving the cards is very important.
It’s always important to explain why players are getting a particular penalty, but with Marked Cards, you need to explain how to prevent further occurrences. Typically the players won’t know anything is wrong until you tell them.
There are some additional steps the players should take when sleeving up their deck. For example, players should shuffle their sleeves as well as their decks prior to sleeving, in case some sleeves are slightly shorter than others (this can happen with sleeves from different packs, even if they’re sold as identical). If the player shuffles the sleeves first, there may be marked cards, necessitating changes, but it is unlikely to be serious. If the player does not shuffle the sleeves first, it could be that the deck is in one size of sleeves and the sideboard in a different size — a much bigger problem (see below).
This infraction applies only to cards in a player’s deck. Differently-marked sleeves in the sideboard are not illegal unless they are put into the deck without being changed.
Let’s say a player’s whole deck is sleeved, but their sideboard is unsleeved. Are those sideboard cards marked? Of course not! These two sentences here delineate the boundary between Marked Cards and cards that are marked, and that boundary is the deck. Cards in the sideboard can be in any condition until they are put in the deck. This means during a deck check, you may run across marked sleeves that make sideboard cards stand out, but if they aren’t in a deck, its legal.
Unless investigating, judges are encouraged to alert players about concerns with marked sideboard cards.
During a deck check, if you find some sideboard cards that are marked, please notify the player they will need to swap sleeves with their main deck cards. Do not silently wait to see if they put those cards into the deck and then jump in with a penalty. Tell them beforehand. The exception to this is: Investigating. If you are investigating cheats, you may opt to not tell them so that you can gather more information for your investigation.
The player needs to replace the card(s) or sleeve(s) with an unmarked version or, if no sleeves are being used, use sleeves that conceal the markings.
In the event that a player’s cards or sleeves are marked, they need to become unmarked. There are often traders at larger tournaments such as a Grand Prix, and smaller PPTQs and other Competitive REL events are often held in a store, where sleeves may be purchased cheaply and quickly. If we are only talking about a few cards, most packs of sleeves come with a few extra, or perhaps the player can swap marked sleeves with unmarked sleeves from the sideboard. This is especially important in events where a player has not sleeved their decks — with the frequency that a deck of Magic cards must be shuffled, unsleeved cards get marked quickly.
If the cards themselves have become marked through play in the tournament, the Head Judge may decide to issue a proxy.
If someone trips over and spills water over a player’s deck, we don’t want it to be the end of that player’s tournament because they can’t play with their cards. Cards damaged or marked in the tournament — as well as misprinted limited product — can have proxies issued at the Head Judge’s discretion, as outlined in MTR 3.4.
If the player is unable to find replacement cards, they may replace those cards with any combination of cards named Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain or Forest. As the decklist is being changed to match the new contents of the deck, the penalty is a Game Loss. This change may be reverted at a later point without further penalty if replacements for marked cards are found.
If a player can no longer play with certain cards due to them being illegal (for example, the player’s four foil Huntmaster of the Fells were bowed, and can’t be used, so the player now has a 56-card deck), the player may replace those cards with other copies of the same card, or with any combination of cards named Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain or Forest. If the player opts to find replacement cards, please ask them to hurry, and give them 10 minutes before assessing a Tardiness Penalty. If the player adds any of the named basic land cards instead, the decklist should be changed to reflect what the player is actually now playing. We issue the player with a Game Loss because of the changed decklist which means they also won’t receive a Decklist Problem penalty if they receive a deck check later. If the player ends up finding replacements for any reason, we can reverse this change, this time without any penalty.
If the Head Judge believes that a deck’s owner noticing the pattern of markings would be able to gain substantial advantage from this knowledge, the penalty is a Game Loss.
A marking of cards that is a distinguishable pattern is normally more of a problem than the odd scuffed corner. For example, in a case where a player’s sleeves are not opaque, double-faced cards such as Huntmaster of the Fells can be seen through the back of them. Because all of the player’s Huntmasters of the Fells are marked in this way, it is possible to utilize the upgrade path on this. Other examples include: 11 cards have markings in the corner and 10 of them are land; all reanimation targets in a deck are slightly bent; in a post sideboard deck, sideboard cards are noticeably less scuffed.