The following steps must be performed in a timely manner before each game begins:
- If sideboarding is allowed, players may remove cards from their decks and add cards from their sideboards.
Sideboarding is allowed between games only when a previous game had actions taken during it. A tournament should test a player’s skill in deck building and technical play first, not in advance scouting opponents. A player may not offer to intentionally draw the opening game prior to taking game actions in order to introduce sideboard cards for the match. If the players have completed game actions, it’s reasonable for them to use that knowledge to sideboard effectively. Note that this applies to the first game of the match, or to any match that begins on a second or subsequent game due to penalties assessed to one or more players prior to the first game beginning. The final statement covers events such as those caused by the third activated ability of Karn Liberated; treat these restarted games as the same game in the match.
- Players shuffle their decks. Steps 1 and 2 may be repeated.
Each player must present a fully randomized deck for each game — a player may not know the specific or general location of any card in the deck. “Pile shuffling,” or laying cards out in a determined number of stacks, is not considered sufficient for this process (MTR 3.9). Shuffling the deck is not a signal that all sideboarding is completed. Players may shuffle and reconsider their sideboard choices, so long as this is done in a reasonable time frame.
- Players present their decks to their opponents for additional shuffling. The sideboard (if any) is also presented at this time.
This clause is to prevent players from stacking their own decks through sleight-of-hand tactics in the shuffling process. Players should also allow their opponent to verify the legality of the sideboard for each game (the number of cards but not the contents). Once a player has presented his or her deck and the opponent has shuffled it, the time for repeating steps 1-2 has passed.
- The appropriate player must decide whether to play first or second at this point, if he or she hasn’t done so already (see section 2.2).
This is covered in MTR 2.2 as well, but to recap: players decide if they want to play or draw before looking at their hand, as that could influence them greatly. Most people want to play first anyway, so we just default to that if they don’t explicitly announce it.
- Each player draws seven cards. Optionally, these cards may be dealt face down on the table.
This rule defines the starting hand size for sanctioned tournament play. The method of drawing these cards is inconsequential as long as far as exactly seven cards are drawn. Dealing the cards face down on the table does not mean they are drawn. Many players do this to count out the cards to make sure they get the correct number.
- Each player, in turn order, may take mulligans. (Rules on mulligans can be found in the Magic Comprehensive Rules, rule 103.4). If a player takes a mulligan, they repeat the shuffling and presentation process described above.
Once a player has announced a decision to keep a starting hand, he or she may not later decide to take a mulligan based on the opponent’s decision. When a player announces a mulligan decision, he or she is held to that choice, even if it is made out of order. Note that steps 1-2 are not repeated during mulliganing. Cards may not be added or removed from the deck at this time.
As of September 26, 2015, CR rule 103.4 will change to allow any player who took a mulligan to Scry after deciding to keep. For all of the technical details in how to proceed with mulliganing, check the Comprehensive Rules, rule 103.4.
The game is considered to have begun once all players have completed taking mulligans. Pregame procedures may be performed before time for the match has officially begun.