Guide to Deck-Checking

Posted in NEWS on March 14, 2000

By Wizards of the Coast

Lutz Hofmann

There are three topics to address concerning deck-checking. The Why, Who and How.

The Why

The deckcheck is a tool to ensure the integrity of the tournament. Winners are publicised and congratulated and it damages the integrity of the tournament when suspicions linger and it was not made official by a deckcheck that all was in order.

The Who

You can check each player, but have not the resources to do. Therefore you have to select them by some criterion. Check a whole table. No need to give extra time to more matches than minimally necessary. The table is selected randomly either by whim or by using the DCI-reporter function in the menu Perform. Later in the tournament i prefer tables, which are still in contention for prizes or the cutoff. There the threat for the integrity of the tournament is greater. Finally when you suspect someone of stacking, marked cards etc. you can select him or her and his opponent for the usual deckcheck. Last Saturday March 4th i did just that at the PTQ New York in Berlin, Germany. Both of my judges reported suspicous behaviour of players.

One was observed to sort his deck between rounds into land and spells and alternating them two spells and one land. His next match was scheduled for a deckcheck in order to confirm, that he shuffles sufficiently.

Another player was observed during the preparations for his or her third game. The player knew full well that a judge was watching and looked repeatedly and furtively whether the judge was still present. The player seemed to shuffle reluctantly and was quite nervous. The presence of the judge insured the good shuffling this game. But next round his match was selected for a deckcheck in order to aleviate the suspicion of his or her bad conscience to manipulate the deck routinely.

The How

Check each round. Do not stand right at their table when you intend to check their decks, rather observe them from afar. Step in and collect both decks and sideboards when the decks are presented for shuffling and cutting. Now the players declared that they finished the preparations for the game.

You check first whether the deck is stacked. If some lands collected into clumps and some spells collected into clumps it is more likely to be randomised. If cards of a combo or functionally dependant cards are close together and this is the case with three to for pairs or triples the deck is more likely to be insufficiently randomised. This makes it necessary that one is familiar with the workings of the current decks.

Next you check for uniform appearance of the cards (and sleeves). In the course of a tournament new sleeves degrade but the sideboard cards degrade to a lesser degree. Used sleeves can be used as well as long as the all look similar. Look for scratches, folds, holograms impressed to the backside from the front, grime and nicks at the edge. Sort the cards according to their appearance into two or more piles and examine the contents in order to determine whether there is a pattern or not.

Lastly you compare the deck and sideboard to the lists to check the legality of both and if the player desideboarded.

To date i did not perform a scheduled deckcheck in a second or third game of a match. This only looses the ability to detect a failure to desideboard. Therefore it can be done without any problems.

Yours Lutz Hofmann LvL 2