Sleight of hand, Sleight of Mind

Posted in NEWS on August 25, 1999

By Wizards of the Coast

A mini-guide to sleight of hand tricks

Chris Covington

Just about anyone can do them with some practice. The person that seems to be the most honest player could be the one who cheats the most if he or she is manipulating their cards. This is just a short list of some of the most common card tricks and marking that I've seen in tournaments and on the side.

Card sleeves

With the advent of card sleeves, marking individual cards became a thing of the past. Not quite true, it just opened up a new forum for doing so. Just like a card can have wear on it, so can a card sleeve. One of the most common ways that I've seen this used to an advantage is using a slightly more worn sleeve to mark particular cards or card types, such as land. This takes a little bit of practice to spot if the shine is very close together. Other ways of using sleeves like this are with small fingernail marks or heavier wear on the corners of the sleeves, enough that the outline of a card can be seen.


The most advantageous way to use card manipulation is with the library. This can give extra cards, no cards or even with the most skilled person, less cards after "drawing" a card. The main thing to watch out for is a person drawing a card with the same hand that they are holding other cards with. It's very easy to draw more than one card and blend it into your hand as you pull away. On the same note, sliding the bottom card of your hand out as you move to your library, you can either make it appear that you are drawing a card when you're not, or you can even put a card back on your library. Also be aware of anyone who picks up a graveyard while holding their hand. Who needs Regrowth anyway?

Accidentally Dropping a Card

This one probably happens the least and is hard to determine whether it is accidental or not. It's very easy to just "drop" a card from your hand, library or graveyard as you look through it. A card that a player may not appear to need now could be dropped and used next game. I feel the need to include an example for this:

Player A has a Arcane Laboratory in his hand and is playing against a Memory Jar deck. Having just countered Player B's last Jar, Player A feels he has the game in hand and accidentally "drops" the Arcane Lab on his lap. Game 2 starts and Player A does not draw a good hand. Player A sets down his hand on the table, scratches his head and reaches for his hand. Instead of picking up his hand, Player A instead brushes up against the cards and noticeably knocks off one or two. While retrieving the cards he knocked off the table, Player A also picks up the Arcane Lab he dropped last game.

This is only a few tricks that people have done, and while some of them are very hard to do and not very common, they do still occur.

Chris Covington
Level III