Today we would like to focus on the purpose of writing comments for penalties resulting from Looking at Extra Cards (LEC).
All LEC infractions are very similar:
- A player saw a card he should not have seen
- If the card was unknown, it will be shuffled back into the random portion of the deck.
However, the impact of the infraction on the game can greatly vary. Let’s take two currently classic examples:
- The turn before, Nicholas killed Andy’s Courser of Kruphix. No player even notices Andy should put the top card of his library face-down. Andy untaps, draws for the turn and reveals the next card. That’s LEC.
- While shuffling Andy’s deck, Nicholas reveals a Temple of Deceit
In the first example, the infraction clearly exists but its impact on the game is pretty low. Andy, the player committing the actual infraction, can’t really gain an advantage from it. Actually, and baring corner-cases, it’s likely Nicholas who gains the most advantage from the mistake since Andy gave him additional information about his deck.
In the second one, things are trickier and the potential advantage does greatly vary depending on:
- Which card was revealed.
A basic land is less telling than a key card
- Which game they’re preparing for.
The identity of the card can reveal which kind of deck the opponent is playing. The Temple of Deceit in the example likely reveals Andy plays a control deck, which can be a great asset when Nicholas will need to assess whether to mulligan or not.
This leads us to the second point: Which game is this? The mistake that was just made is gives much stronger advantage if the card was revealed before the first game. If players are preparing for game 2, then the potential advantage is lower.
As you can see, within a single infraction, some situations are more concerning than others. A player who would repeatedly forget his Courser of Kruphix died a few moments before isn’t nearly as concerning as a player who consistently makes dexterity “errors” with his opponent’s deck before game 1.
This being said, which elements should you analyze at the table and report on the Entry Slip?
Is this a dexterity issue or a rules issue?
Rules issues are rarely concerning. Most of the time a LEC resulting from a rule issue is the consequence of a permanent that has been removed from the battlefield, but the player forgot about it.
The most common issue is currently Courser of Kruphix for Standard, who tends to die very fast and likely Sensei’s Divining Top in Legacy.
The only reason these aren’t concerning is that the current remedy for LEC involves shuffling the looked-at extra card in the random portion of the library. If this wasn’t the case, then looking at the top card of your library would many times be an advantage, since you could plan your turn ahead based on your next draw.
Obviously, activating Jace, the Mind Sculptor‘s first ability targeting your opponent and looking at the top two cards is slightly more concerning.
What you should do is mention the card or mechanic that led to the infraction: Courser of Kruphix, Sensei’s Divining Top, Scry, etc.
The vast majority of LEC warnings are the consequence of dexterity issues:
- A player flips a card while he is shuffling his deck or his opponent’s deck.
- A player saw the second card of his library because his sleeves were sticky.
On the one hand, it’s a very easy mistake to do and we don’t want to penalize players harshly for being clumsy, but on the other hand, a malicious player could easily pretend clumsiness to get free information about their opponent deck. Overall, dexterity issues are more concerning than rules issues, because they have no factual reason for happening so we want to be more careful with them in case there’s a pattern in a given player’s behavior.
What should you do is differentiate whether the player saw an additional card or flipped a card over.
Who’s the owner of the revealed card?
This is the first question you should answer when players call you at a table for looking at extra card.
Looking at an extra card from your own deck
First, let’s note that a player revealing a card from his own deck before the match started did not commit an infraction. He just put himself at a disadvantage. The reason is that flipping a card from your own deck is mostly detrimental: You give a free information to your opponent whereas you don’t get more information.
In cases like two cards were stuck together, we nevertheless want to issue a warning so as to educate the player that he needs to pay attention to what he is doing. Indeed, it’s not because the opponent noticed it this time that it never happened without the player noticing at other times.
Most of the time, there are no grounds to investigate further on these kinds of situations.
What you should write:
- Forgot own Courser died
- Scried Y instead of X with [CARDNAME]
Looking at an extra card from your opponent’s deck
Magic is a game where hidden information are crucial from a strategic point of view. Revealing Hidden Information can severely compromise the integrity of the game (that’s why Outside Assistance is a Match Loss by the way). Remember that seeing a card from an opponent’s deck can only be beneficial for a player, therefore this needs to be crystal clear on the result entry slip.
I recommend to use two different verbs to clearly differentiate what happened: To see and to flip, as in:
- Saw the second card while drawing
- Flipped a card from opponent’s deck
When did the infraction happen?
The impact of LEC vastly vary depending on the moment the player committed the mistake.
This usually happens when a player flips a card over while shuffling his opponent deck after a search effect (like a fetchland).
Once players have kept their opening hands, it becomes much harder for them to take advantage of an information they got by committing LEC on their opponent’s deck. It nevertheless remains an infraction and we need to notify the player to be sure he understands he needs to focus more. In terms of tracking shady behaviours, the impact remains low though.
What you should write:
“Flipped a card from opponent’s deck while [performing an action]”
This usually happens when a player flips a card over while shuffling his opponent deck before the game starts
Even if the archetype is known, seeing a card between two games may still be beneficial for the player who committed the mistake, in case he’d flip a sideboard card over, which may affect his line of plays (Did you expect your White weenie opponent to bring in 4 End Hostilities?). Generally, the impact is low because the player already knows about the match-up, but we nevertheless want to track it.
What you should write:
“Flipped a card from opponent’s deck while shuffling for game [2/3]”
Before the first game
Here comes the biggie. Knowing which archetype your opponent plays before starting the match allows you to change your mulligan decisions and potentially your line of plays in the early turns.
Here’s a real-life example from a GP I was a player at: At GP Genoa 2003, a player called a judge because his opponent flipped a card while he was shuffling the player’s deck. The flipped card was a Sparksmith, which clearly revealed that the player was playing Goblins.
The appropriate penalty was issued and no remedy was possible. After the judge issued the warning, I could see the opponent mulliganning a pretty decent hand: 3 lands and 4 drops T2 & T3. The reason is this player was playing White Weenie and was therefore playing 4 Silver Knights, a card that Gablins had no way to deal with in the format. He therefore decided to aggressively mulligan to try to get a Sliver Knight in his opening hand, based on the extra card he saw.
Even if most mistakes are honest mistakes, the high impact of this kind of errors on the outcome of game makes us want to track this infraction very carefully.
What you should write:
“Flipped a card from opponent’s deck before game 1”
(1) Is this the consequence of a rules mistake or dexterity issue?
(2) Who’s the owner of the extra looked-at cards?
[If applicable] (3) When did the mistake happened?
Example of a bad comment: “Saw an extra card during a spell resolution”
Even though we know it’s likely a rules mistake (1), this isn’t telling enough: We don’t know if the player was incorrectly resolving a spell (scrying 1 extra) or if two cards were stuck together, nor do we know exactly the owner of the card (was the effect fateseal’s?).
Example of a good comment:
“Flipped a card from his opponent’s (2) deck while shuffling (1) for game 1 (3)”
A description doesn’t need to be extremely long and comprehensive with all details. It can be short, but it needs to go straight to the point!