English Nationals Briefing

Posted in NEWS on July 21, 2000

By Wizards of the Coast

Paul Barclay

Rules Questions

If you have rules questions, then ask a judge. If that judge doesn't know the answer, ask a taller judge.

Tournament Rules


What is shuffling? Shuffling is any method that can be used to randomise a deck. This is basically limited to "riffle" shuffling, as other common methods of shuffling such as "pile" or "overhand" are not truly shuffling. There is three minutes allowed for (de-)sideboarding and shuffling before each duel.

What should you do? A reasonably good shuffling method is to do 2 riffle shuffles, a pile shuffle, 2 riffle shuffles, a pile shuffle and 2 final riffle shuffles. With practice, this can easily be completed in 2 minutes or less. You should shuffle your opponent's deck, even if they have shuffled. Don't just cut. This is the only way to be sure that your opponent has not stacked his or her deck.

Deck Stacking:

What is deck stacking? Deck stacking is cheating. Anything that makes you able to predict the order of cards or sets of cards in a deck, or increases your chances of drawing a certain card is deck stacking. For example, "mana weaving" (Land; Spell; Land; Spell) and "separation" (deliberately splitting up your 4 Replenishes so they're in different areas of your deck) both increase your chances of drawing a useful card, and are both cheating unless they're followed by a very thorough shuffle.

What should you do? There is no reason to separate out spells and land during a match - your shuffling method will make the deck random again anyway, and doing so just wastes time. If you suspect that a player has stacked his or her deck, call a judge. The judge may ask why you think the deck is stacked, and then will check the deck and assess an appropriate penalty. If you're caught deliberately stacking your deck, the penalty is disqualification.

Slow Play

What is slow play? Slow play is defined by the rules as playing at any speed that will not allow the match to be completed in 50 minutes. If you're playing a deck that requires a lot of time to finish a match, you need to play quicker than you would normally play.

What should you do? If you think your opponent is playing slowly, ask them to speed up a bit. If that doesn't help, call a judge over. It's very important to call a judge over early - we can't do anything if we are called over with only a couple of minutes left in the match.


What is stalling? Stalling is deliberately playing to take advantage of a time limit. This is cheating - if someone is caught stalling, they will be disqualified from the tournament.

What should you do? Call a judge. If you wait until a minute before the end of the round, then calling a judge isn't going to help you. Call a judge as soon as you think that your opponent might be stalling.

Unsporting Conduct

What is unsporting conduct? Generally, anything that wouldn't be acceptable if done to a ten-year-old child, your fiancee's grandmother or your own mother. Swearing, asking for a penalty for your opponent, arguing with a judge and generally behaving in an obnoxious manner are all examples of unsporting conduct. Different levels of conduct have different penalties. Generally, the worse the behaviour, the harsher the penalty.

What should you do? Call a judge. If you don't, we can't do anything about it.

The Upkeep Step

Fading Counters: Fading counters must be removed from a permanent at the beginning of the upkeep step (as a triggered ability). If you forget to remove Fading counters, you will receive a Warning and the counters will be removed.

Upkeep "costs": Payments for cards such as Masticore also trigger at the beginning of the upkeep step. If you forget to discard the card, the Masticore will be sacrificed and you will receive a Warning.

Parallax Cards

Parallax Wave, Tide and Nexus: There are set rules for what to do with the cards that are removed from the game with these cards. The cards should be placed under the card that faded them out, face-up. This is to keep track of which cards are removed with which Parallax card.

Draft Rules

The draft format for the Nationals is Booster Draft. Here are some common answers for booster draft questions:

You can't talk during the Draft. Talking will get you warnings and worse. If you need to speak, ask a judge.

You can only look at the cards you've drafted between packs (you'll have 1 minute to do this). At all other times, they must be in a single face-down pile in front of you.

If you don't choose a card in the time available, you'll be given a Warning and a random card from the pack. Once you've picked a card, you can't change your mind.

Don't touch the cards you've drafted and the cards in the pack at the same time.

You're not allowed to show people what's in your pack, or what you have drafted.

Pass the first Masques pack to your left, the second Masques pack to your right, then the Nemesis pack to your left. After the draft, you'll have 30 minutes to build your deck, including logging all 45 cards that you drafted. Don't forget to write down the basic land you'll be playing in your deck (decks must be 40 cards or more).

Tournament Issues

Round Length

All rounds are 50 minutes long, with the "five extra turns" rule in effect. When time is called, the active player finishes that turn, then there are five extra turns for the two players, so the player who was not the active player when time was called will take the last turn in the duel.

Being Late

When the pairings are posted the time that the next round is scheduled to start will also be posted. The pairings will be posted at the time shown on this sheet. When the pairings are poster, an announcement will be made. After this announcement, players will have five minutes to find their seats before the round begins.

If you are not sitting in your seat when the start of a round is announced, you will lose the first game. If you are not in your seat ten minutes after the start of the round, you will lose the match and will be dropped from the tournament.


If you don't think that a ruling given by a judge is correct, you can appeal to the Head Judge. The Head Judge's decision is final. You're not allowed to appeal to the Head Judge before the judge has given his or her ruling. Doing this will just annoy the Head Judge, which is not a good thing to do.

Match Results

The match results slips are very important. If they are filled in incorrectly, they will not be changed. To fill one in, write the match score in the spaces provided, then sign (don't sign before writing in the score). Once both players have signed, call a judge over. The judge will confirm the score with both players, sign the scorecard, then take it away.

Warnings and Penalties

The tournament is run under Level 4 rules enforcement. The penalty guidelines have the following to say. Note that these all assume that players aren't cheating (except the "Cheating" ones). See the Penalty Guidelines for more details - many infractions carry additional penalties. Repeating the same offence will also carry a more severe penalty.

Infraction Penalty Infraction Penalty
Illegal Main Decklist Match* Improper Drawing at Start of Game Warning
Illegal Main Deck (Legal List) Game Failure to Draw Warning
Illegal Sideboard List Game Marked Cards: No Pattern Warning
Illegal Sideboard (Legal List) Game Marked Cards: Pattern Match
Procedural Error: Minor Caution Playing Slowly Warning
Procedural Error: Major Warning Exceeding Time Limits Warning
Procedural Error: Severe Game Unsporting Conduct: Minor Warning
Failure to De-Sideboard Game Unsporting Conduct: Major Match
Misrepresentation Warning Unsporting Conduct: Severe Disqualification
Drawing Extra Cards Game Cheating: Bribery, Collusion, Stalling, Fraud, Deck Stacking Disqualification
Looking at Extra Cards Warning

The default penalty for an illegal decklist is disqualification. A Match Loss will be given instead if the error is obviously a clerical error, and easily correctable. Rolling a die or tossing a coin to decide who would win a tied match falls under Cheating: Collusion. Taking an Intentional Draw is never cheating. Conceding to your opponent is not cheating, as long as there is no discussion about the concession. Yes, stacking your deck land-spell-land-spell or swamp-ritual-negator, or putting a certain card in a certain position in your deck is cheating. Don't do it - you'll be disqualified.