I wish I knew what the player to my right is drafting!
How many times has a player thought this while at the draft table? The potential strategic advantage of knowing what colors/cards won’t reach you in the first and third packs is impossible to overstate.
It is incredibly tempting to crane the neck a little, lean back in the chair, and sneak a peak at your neighbor’s cards. Do the Nosy Goblin!
In all seriousness, deliberately looking at another player’s draft cards is a grave matter. Doing so allows you to use something other than your draft skill to gain an advantage over the other players at the table. You can make draft choices based on information you should not have. The key reason for having rules and procedures for the game of Magic is to keep the game fair for all. Any deliberate attempt to gain an unfair advantage will be dealt with harshly.
Before looking at practical matters, how about some rules information:
From the Penalty Guidelines
This section deals with intentionally committed infractions that can give a player a significant advantage over others.
This category includes any intentional infraction that does not fall into the categories of bribery, stalling, or fraud.
Any player who intentionally violates the rules should face a serious penalty.
Disqualification without prize
There are a couple of key parts of the quotation above:
Intentional infraction: This is a critical part of the rule. Accidentally seeing your neighbor’s cards will not cause you to be penalized as harshly. Deliberately acting in such a way as to see the cards will cause you to have a prolonged discussion with the head judge.
Significant advantage: This is the reason for the harsh penalty. The purpose of the rules and procedures that judges support and enforce are all intended to keep the playing field even for players. This allows play skill to determine the result of the match, not an unfair information advantage.
What actions are the judges looking for?
- Eyes focusing on the player next to you while drafting: Even a casual glance at the players around you could be misinterpreted. Any extended looks at any cards other than the pack in your hands will attract the judges’ attention. You might even get caught on film doing the Nosy Goblin.
- Sitting in an unnatural position: The things to be careful of are leaning forwards, backwards, or to either side. If it looks like you are trying to get into position to see another player’s cards, judges get suspicious.
A couple of simple rules make it easy to avoid problems:
- Keep your eyes on your cards when drafting.
- Sit straight in your seat and don’t lean back.
- Keep your eyes front and center between packs.
- Do not lead others into temptation. Keep your cards close and out of sight of your neighbors.
It is easy to avoid being penalized by playing by the rules. Keep your eyes focused on the cards in front of you and you will avoid becoming another Nosy Goblin.
Mike King, Colorado, L3
Thanks to Yawgatog for the Nosy Goblin image.