Of Course They Do, It Must Be Obvious

We’ve had the new decklist rules out for about a month now, and I’m seeing some evidence that judges are taking it further than is supported by the IPG.

The idea is not “oh yeah, I can see how the player might have made that error”. Players are still responsible for filling out a clear and unambiguous decklist. The philosophy is that in cases where the error (or shorthand) is clear and obvious, we’ll let it slide – the decklist is still unambiguous, just not strictly correct.

Some of this is my fault. A couple examples I used in the original article made bad assumptions about judge knowledge. Not everyone has been playing forever! Some folks were confused by the Rootwalla/Basking Rootwalla example. There’s a famous UG Madness deck in which Basking Rootwalla is one of the core cards, whereas Rootwalla has seen… basically no constructed play ever. Writing “Rootwalla” on that decklist is still risky for the player, but the judge now has the flexibility to recognize this distinction.

I’ve put together some simple heuristics to help you know if something is ‘obvious’. When you stumble across an error you think is potentially obvious, go through this checklist:

  • If it’s a limited event, it’s not obvious.
  • If the card listed has also historically seen some play in the format, it’s not obvious.
  • If you have to spend more than a couple seconds thinking about it, it’s not obvious.
  • If you have to check the deck to see which card it actually is, it’s not obvious.
  • If you want to talk to the player to see if there might be something shady, it’s not obvious.

Most importantly:

  • If you aren’t sure if it’s obvious, it’s not obvious.

3 thoughts on “Of Course They Do, It Must Be Obvious

  1. Hi, Toby,

    I had a quick question about this point: “If you have to check the deck to see which card it actually is, it’s not obvious.”

    Surely this is to be done as a confirmation method – i.e. “if this unclear card name on the decklist means he’s playing this card in the deck, I’m fine with that. If it’s anything else, it’s a Game Loss.”

    Should it always be so obvious and clear cut that we shouldn’t even check the card as it exists in the deck?

    1. I think a validation check is OK, but if you’re using it to verify that it’s the most likely of choices, that’s problematic. The idea is that you shouldn’t need to look at the deck to make the determination.

      1. To follow up on that point, the philosophy behind many of the IPG guidelines is to deter players from taking actions that sap judges’ time and by extension delay tournaments. If the inaccurate decklist is taking up your time as a judge (either through hemming and hawing about whether it should be a penalty, or by feeling the need to confirm with the player), it is a good indication that the player’s actions are undesirable and that a penalty is warranted.

        To use my favorite example of a legacy Delver deck registering “2x Grim Lavamonster,” it only delayed me a few seconds while I tried to stop laughing. If the player had registered “2x Grim” instead, I would presume that he meant Grim Lavamancer but part of me would wonder if Grim Totem was the name of that artifact Delver sometimes sideboards. By the time I’m doing a Gatherer search to make sure Grim Totem isn’t a card, and double-checking that the 31 other “Grim” cards aren’t legacy playable (which few of them are, but not in Delver), I’d be fine issuing a penalty even if I’m now fairly certain of what the intent was.

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