There are 2 main goals when conducting a deck check. The most important
is making sure that players are playing correctly registered decks. It is
administrative by nature, but necessary. Players should want decklists to
be used - the only severe penalties are for those who are caught cheating.
The second goal pales in comparison, that of speed, which will only come
through practice and knowledge of the environment being played. This
article addresses how to break down a deck in a quick and efficient
manner, while not missing the problems that deck checks can find.
1) Beginning of the round
While the pairings are being posted, randomly determine the pair (or
pairs) to be checked. Pull out those decklists, checking to make sure the
deck registered has a legal number of cards, and legal cards listed for
the tournament. Assign one judge per pair to pick up one set of decks.
These judges are subtle. They don't hover over the pair to be checked.
The players should have the opinion that the judge is most likely checking
some other table, or that the judge is just making sure everyone hears the
announcements. The judge waits until both decks have been presented to be
cut, and then steps in. If a player cuts his opponent's deck, and the
opponent lays out his hand of seven - still wait until the other deck is
presented. If a player finds a card, after the judge moves to pick up the
decks, it was not in the deck when it was presented to the opponent.
2) Preparation of the deck check area
The area where the decks are being checked should be clean - no sticky
areas from beverages, no miscellaneous cards that get mixed in, and no
papers that cards can slide between.
3) Deck check itself
a) Skim through the deck itself. The judge is checking for mana pockets.
The number of pockets of land should not equal the number of lands. This
is the easy way to check if a deck has been "mana-weaved", and then not
randomized. If the deck is weaved, leave the deck in its current state
for when the player is called up. Evidence should not be destroyed.
Penalty: Cheating: Fraud - Disqualification without prize.
b) Sort out the land from the non-land.
c) In Limited-format events, I recommend sorting out by set/color, and
then just comparing to the decklist, item by item. In non-Top eight
checks, skim the sideboard - but don't burn time. If the player was going
to cheat by adding extra cards, they will likely be playing with them. In
single-elim finals, the deck check should be thorough. In Constructed
deck formats, I sort each spell into its own stack. Item by item, check
the number in each stack against what is listed on the decklist. Conduct
the sideboard check in a similar fashion.
d) Check card/sleeve wear. We check this last - if there is a pattern to
the wear, it will be easy to tell if the pattern is is based on what card
it is, because the cards are still sorted by type.
Sleeves. If some of the sleeves are new, and some are worn, and there is
no pattern, when the decks are returned, ask the player to fix it for
future events. If there are some dings or scratches, ask the player to
fix those sleeves before the rest of the match proceeds. If sideboard
sleeves are of different condition than the main deck, make sure the
player is notified to switch the sleeves. Non-sleeved. Concern yourself
with the color of the back of the card - different editions, different
print runs - different colors on the back. The easiest part to note is
the color of the black border on all Magic cards. Non-sleeved cards also
show damage that can't be fixed. If the cards are equally damaged and
without pattern, it's okay. If you feel it would hinder or distract his
opponent (is his Prodigal Sorcerer going to fall apart this turn, or next
turn?) - recommend a fix for the situation. It is the player's
responsibility to fall within the rules.
e) Return the decks. If there is a penalty or concern regarding a deck,
keep the deck and have the player brought up. Having a debate about the
contents of his/her deck, or penalties discussed in front of his/her
opponent causes problems. Instruct the players they need to shuffle their
decks thoroughly and how much extra time they have for their match, either
noting it on the match result slip, or writing it down at the scorekeeper'
s station where the extra time is tracked. If there is a game loss
penalty attached, the toss is still random as to who chooses play/draw.
The total time should take about 7-8 minutes, if you have a staff for each
deck being checked. The more familiar that staff member is with that
environment, the easier they can identify cards, and the faster they can
process the check.
Any kind of warning or penalty, for offenses other than Cheating, should
be accompanied with a lecture on how the player can avoid this problem in
the future. It could be as simple as taking more time, counting his or
her deck before each game, or even taking a second to count their
Conducting the random deck checks - it is within tolerances to have the
same player's deck checked more than once in a tournament. (I would not
recommend more than twice, without reason.) You may decide to restrict
the checks to higher tables, on the assumption that a player might resort
to cheating to ensure a higher finish. Keep in mind though, a player at
any stage can make errors, and that you are present to run the entire
tournament in an even, fair-handed fashion.
Jimmer Sivertsen - Level 3, Seattle.
1999-2000 Universal Tournament Rules,
1999-2000 Magic: The Gathering Floor Rules, 1999-2000