Where have all the examples gone?

Posted in NEWS on July 24, 2007

By Wizards of the Coast

This article was started by just one question: what happened to our old procedural errors? They are gone now, but do the infractions still remain? And in addition, wouldn't it be a great learning experience to see if I can asses the new penalties correctly? Therefore I went over them and looked into them – how do they fit under our new guidelines? For this article, I assume some familiarity with the old and the new Penalty Guide, as I won't give the definition of the new infractions and the old ones should still be fresh in your minds. In addition, I wrote a philosophy section for each that explains why I put it where it was. I kept to the procedural errors, as they are more interesting (they convert to a variety of penalties under the new guidelines) and the most common. Without further ado, here comes the main attraction:

Procedural Error—Minor

(A) A player indicates "Soratami Mirror-Guard" instead of "Soratami
Mirror-Mage" (the two are concurrent on the registration sheet) while recording
the contents of his limited decklist.

Now: DWE — Improper Registration of Limited Card Pool

Philosophy: This is a straightforward registration error if done while registering the card pool, thus making it DWE — Improper Registration of Limited Card Pool. If a player notes this incorrectly while registering the deck he plays, it depends: are both cards in his pool and he marked the wrong one? Then he is likely to have an illegal deck, therefore it will be DWE — Illegal Deck (Legal Decklist). If only one of the cards is registered on the list, the decklist will be illegal, as he is playing a card that is not in his pool.

(B) A player fails to provide a reliable method to track her life total.

Now: Nothing.

Philosophy: This in general is a very minor infraction that in itself doesn't contain an advantage. Of course as a judge, you should ask the player to get herself some method to track her life total, because it is still a violation of the tournament rules. Failure to follow that direct instruction will be handled by USC - Major. (Keep in mind, though, that you should be reasonable with such direct instruction in general – correcting a tournament error is well within bounds)

If there was a public announcement at the beginning of the tournament (e.g., during deck registration or seating for collecting decklists) like, "Also, please have pen and paper ready for tracking your life total," or you have signs indicating that, this example would be TE — Failure to Follow Official Announcements. However, I rarely see judges making announcements about such a thing,

(C) A player repeatedly holds her cards below the table.

Now: none.

Philosophy: Also quite a minor infraction, which is just handled by a judge telling the player to stop that. One should investigate if there were a "special" reason for the player to hold the cards below the table, but this would go into the cheating category.

After the direct instruction to keep the cards visible above the table, it might be a bit harder to justify USC – Major for failure to follow direct instructions in some cases. It might just be a habit the player isn't aware of, so he tries to keep his cards above the table (and to follow your instruction) for some time, but after two rounds, he goes back to his former behavior. I would advise educating twice here, before handing out a severe penalty.

(D) A player leaves a small amount of garbage in the tournament area (such as a
gum wrapper or scrap of paper from a score pad).

Now: none.

Philosophy: Well, let me first stress one thing: we don't want people to litter all over the place, and we want to keep our tournaments tidy. It is not much fun to play in a messy environment. However, this is quite a small amount of garbage, which can be easily missed when leaving a table. Thus, if you see a player leaving just a tiny bit of trash, you should ask the player to throw the trash away and expect her to comply. Otherwise, feel free to hand out USC – Major for not following direct instructions. If you see a player littering more often, I would suggest handing out USC – Minor, as small trash adds up to big trash, which is one example of USC – Minor. Also, if the player's behavior indicates that he usually leaves small trash in the play area, I could see handing out USC – Minor immediately as appropriate—use your judgment here!

(E) A player is using a snow-covered land in a Standard Magic tournament.

Now: none.

Philosophy: They are legal right now. But when they rotate out of the format, the player most likely won't indicate the snow-covered lands on his deck list, so that you can rule out DWE — Illegal Decklist. But you most likely end up with DWE — Illegal Deck (Legal Decklist).

Procedural Error—Major

(A) A player fails to write her name on her decklist.

Now: none.

Philosophy: First of all: it is annoying for players not to put their names on their lists, and we certainly don't like that. But ask yourself two things: how often have you required players to write down their DCI numbers, too, and have you penalized players for not writing down their DCI numbers? As we usually order by name, this will be sufficient, and I never cared about their numbers unless their handwriting was illegible. The second question: which rule does that player break? He breaks no tournament or game rule, just more or less a rule of common sense. My advice would be to announce that players should write down their names on their lists. In case one fails, then the infraction becomes TE — Failure to Follow Official Announcements

(B) A player replaces cards in his sealed deck with copies of the same
card without permission from a judge.

Now: none.

Philosophy: Unlike the other example, this is indeed a violation of the tournament rules, yet in my view, a fairly minor one. Ultimately, it will depend on investigation: what cards were replaced and why? Has the player replaced the foil in his pool with a fresh non-foil version of the card? As he replaced the basic lands with basic lands that she thinks look nicer? Or has she replaced two cards that were damaged due to shuffling with exact copies? First, check to see if the deck might have become marked. I would advise to have the player return the original cards in the first two cases (as there was no reason to swap them), and leave the configuration in the third one. In addition, give a lecture about not doing that in the future without first talking to a judge. If you deem it too disruptive for some reason (like replacing many cards with reprints which could confuse opponents and also make them too suspicious), one should hand out USC – Minor.

(C) A player does not sufficiently randomize her deck before presenting it to her opponent.

Now: TE - Insufficient Randomization

Philosophy: This is what this infraction is for now; please read what is written there.

A player leaves a large amount of garbage in the tournament area (such as uneaten food and/or food wrappers).

Now: USC – Minor

Philosophy: For the most part, refer to the other garbage example and also remind the player to do something about the garbage immediately. Take care that the player removes the trash and cleans up after himself; otherwise hand out a USC – Major penalty for not following direct instruction.

(E) A player in a Magic tournament plays Wrath of God (mana cost: 2WW) using one White mana and three colorless mana.


(F) A player in a Magic tournament attempts to play Pacifism on a creature with protection from White.

Now: GPE — Game Rule Violation. Opponent: GPE — Failure to Maintain Game State

Philosophy: See GPE — Game Rule Violation, straightforward application.

(G) A player shuffles his deck after an opponent has cut it.

Now: none.

Philosophy: As among other things, this example is just no infraction anymore. Just remind the player to not do that anymore, but also investigate why he shuffled it again.

(H) During her match, a player looks at her sideboard cards.

Now: none.

Philosophy: At firs glance one might think of this as Cheating – Outside Assistance, because the sideboard is hidden to the player and he looks deliberately at it. Yet, the sideboard is no longer considered hidden information making that infraction not applicable. As it is no game rule, but a tournament rule, to have a hidden sideboard, one should simply ask the player to stop going through his sideboard.

(I) A player has blackened out all the artwork on one of his Wrath of God cards. The card can no longer be distinguished by artwork alone.

Now: USC-Minor

Philosophy: This is disruptive to the tournament as it prevents other players from easily recognizing the card by artwork, so that it might be missed by cards like Cranial Extraction. In addition, you should ask the player to replace the card with a normal Wrath of God. Do not hand out a proxy for this one!

(J) A player fails to reveal a morphed card when the game ends.

Now: GPE — Game Rule Violation

Philosophy: Like example E in the new guidelines under that infraction, this has occurred in a private zone, so should usually be upgraded. Remember that, while only the head judge should deviate from the Penalty Guide, this is a recommended upgrade, and can be issued by any judge.

(K) Players fill out and submit an incorrect match slip. (Both players are penalized.)

Now: none.

Philosophy: Investigate for the correct result, and if you are certain that the result slip was wrong, change it.

Procedural Error—Severe

(A) A player spills coffee on his deck and is unable to play the match effectively.

Now: none.

Philosophy: This is indeed one of the "exceptional circumstances" that are mentioned in the preface of the Penalty Guide. The head judge is still able to hand out a game loss for this infraction, as this is a rare occurrence. In my experience, it is usually worse: a person wandering by or some poster from the nearest wall causes the game to be screwed up and you cannot hold any player responsible for that. If you cannot restore the game state anymore, you might be forced to let them replay that game.

(B) A player draws from his sideboard and places it into his hand instead of drawing from his deck.

Now: GPE – Game Rule Violation

Philosophy: In this case the player has committed a violation of the game rules, as he put a card from his sideboard into his hand and not from his library. However, this infraction has occurred in a hidden zone, so an upgrade for a game loss is likely.

A player loses his or her deck and must find replacement cards.

Now: TE — Tardiness

Philosophy: It is one of the new examples of the tardiness penalty. In addition, as for all Tardiness issues the TO may elect to give the pregame time limit without handing out a penalty so that player has this time to find replacement cards.

(D) A player shuffles his deck when it is not appropriate to do so.

Now: GPE – Game Rule Violation

Philosophy: This is just a violation of the game rules, yet it occurred in a hidden zone so you have to investigate a bit more – why did the player shuffle, and did he have knowledge of some cards the opponent didn't have?

Final thoughts: I hope this little guide proved useful for you and also gave you some food for thought on how to apply the new Penalty Guide, and make you more comfortable in using it in the future. I would like to thank my fellow judges (namely Toby Elliot for some unclear situations) for their advice and suggestions. Any further suggestions and comments are very welcome.

Eckhard Maass, L2