Thursday, 12 January 2017

Things every Magic player should know ...but some probably don't

Hello readers, and welcome back to exile!

Today I'm going to talk a little about some helpful things for all Magic players (and judges!) to know, that often times people might not be aware of.  Reading this post today may just help save you some time in the future, or at least help to make sure you are able to get a snack in when the opportunity arrives!   But for now, let's just jump right into our first topic of the day.

When will I need a decklist?

If the event you are planning to play in is Competitive Rules Enforcement Level event, or 'Comp REL', then you will need to have a decklist filled out before you can start playing Magic.  By default this includes all Premier level events - think GPTs*, PPTQs, RPTQs, SCG IQs, SCG Invitationals and Opens, and Grand Prix main events.

*regular REL GPTs  not included, additional shipping and handling may apply.  Not available in Vermont or Mexico.

*PROTIP!*    Make your deck list super easy to read (and help keep your judges super happy!) by using the totally awesome website to fill out your deck list ahead of time.   It saves you a lot of writing as you can simply copy and paste a decklist from your favorite program or website right into their form, and then once you've entered in your name and DCI number, you will be ready to print!  As a side benefit of using their website, the form will automatically total up both your main and side board for you, helping to reduce the chances that you might forget to list a card by accident.

I finished my game early, can I grab something to eat now?

We've all been there before.  Maybe the Gods of poor shuffling caused you to not draw any lands for two quick games in a row, or you ran into a hyper fast aggro deck that you just weren't prepared to deal with.  Either way, your round has finished a lot quicker than you expected and now you are wondering if this is a good time to try to sneak out for a quick bite to eat.  A lot of players I know have often been scared to risk going out for food because of one dreaded question:

"What if everyone else has quick games too, and the round ends early while I'm gone?"

Fear not hungry Planewalkers, for I bring you good news!

The policy regarding player tardiness (read: being late to your match) that we as judges enforce recognizes that it would be unreasonable to punish someone for being late to a match that unexpectedly started ahead of schedule.   

Once a round has begun, if a player leaves the tournament area and then returns before the next round was scheduled to begin, they cannot be penalized for being tardy.  Let me break this down for you with a handy example.

You're playing in a PPTQ, and round 3 began at 3pm.  Each swiss round in this tournament lasts for 50 minutes.  This means that round 3 will be ending by 3:50pm.   If your match in Round 3 ends early, say at 3:15pm, you can totally go next door to grab some food without worrying - just be sure to be back by 3:50pm, when your round was orignally scheduled to end.

"But what happens if the round ends early and they start Round 4 while I'm gone?" 

This can happen occasionally, but it's not something to stress about.  If a round begins ahead of time due to the previous round ending prematurely, then all players still present will begin their matches when the head judge announces the next round has begun.  As for you, when you arrive back at the tournament (now feeling refreshed from your delicious meal), a judge will provide you (and your opponent) a time extension for your match so that the two of you will still get your entire 50 minutes to play Magic that you are entitled to.  

Important fact:  Everyone should be aware that the penalties for being late to a match are often an immediate game loss once the round has begun, and a match loss (and usually being dropped from the tournament) if more than 10 minutes into the round have passed and you still not have arrived at your match.   

In the previous example, this would mean that if you came back from your food break at any time before 3:50pm there is no infraction.  If you return between  3:51pm and 4:01pm you likely would be receiving a game loss for being less than 10 minutes late to the originally scheduled start of round 4.  At 4:01pm your opponent would be awarded a match win for round 4, and you would be dropped from the tournament as a 'No Show".   If you return before Round 5 begins you can ask the scorekeeper to 'undrop" you and place you back into the tournament if you wish to continue playing.

*PROTIP!*  Before you leave to go grab food (or to pay your taxes, or pick up your dry cleaning, or smite your enemies - whatever!), be sure to check exactly how much time is left in the round, either by checking the round timer or by asking a judge.  Then set an alarm on your phone to go off when you need to start heading back to the venue.

An Alter-nate Choice

One of the greatest things about the game of Magic is that it is constantly providing players with new ways to customize and personalize their Magic decks so that each one feels as if it was tailor-made just for it's owner.  Some players like to make sure all of their lands have the same art.  Some like to use the very distinct unhinged or unglued lands.  Others prefer to foil out their decks and make them shiny. The card that features my absolute favorite art originally looked like THIS, before it recently was released as the glorious masterpiece that now looks like THIS.

One of the more creative ways that people have been utilizing to truly give their decks a one-of-a-kind feeling is by having the artwork on their cards physically altered, often by the actual artists who painted the card's original artwork in the first place.  

What a lot of players may not realize though is that not every alter is okay to use in magic tournaments.  Here are some things to be aware of:

Altered cards are illegal for tournament play if they are distinguishable from non-altered cards (ie. due to being thicker, heavier, or being warped or bent)

Section 3.3 (Authorized Cards) of the MTR states "Artistic modifications are acceptable in sanctioned tournaments, provided that the modifications do not make the card art unrecognizable, contain substantial strategic advice, or contain offensive images.
 Artistic modifications also may not obstruct or change the mana cost or name of the card."  See an example HERE.

Judges can have differing opinions on what alters are suitable for tournament play.  The Head Judge of a tournament is always the final authority of whether an altered card is allowable for play in that tournament.  Always get your alters approved by the Head Judge before a tournament begins or you might find yourself being issued a game loss for marked cards!

Top Decking - Quick Hits and Important Reminders

*1.*  The only way you are allowed to determine the winner in a game of Magic is by actually playing Magic.   You CANNOT EVER offer to role dice, offer a gift or incentive to your opponent for a concession, or look at the next few cards in your decks to 'see who would have won'.   If you do any of these things, you will be disqualified.  Now I know that this may be surprising to some readers, so let me state it again in very plain terms.

  • Offering to role some dice for the win after your 5 extra turns is done at FNM?    That's a DQ.
  • Telling your opponent that you'll give them a pack of cards if they concede?  That's a DQ.
  • Both you and your opponent showing your next 3 cards and seeing who would have gotten to an Emrakul that would have won the game? 

...and a DQ.  Remember, even at FNM these are DQ offenses every time.

*2.*  If you are using dual faced cards in your deck, you must either use checklist cards to represent them in your deck, or use sleeves that are completely opaque.   And by opaque, I mean that we better not be able to see even a *hint* of a non-standard magic card backing through it.  You would be amazed at how many players take it for granted that their brand new sleeves will be fine for playing dual faced cards.   It's a real problem.

*3*  Got a smart phone?  I do, and I use the 'Decked Builder' app on mine for all my deck building needs.  It is AWESOME.  I can even export my decks out from it into lists that I then conveniently copy and paste into (You remember that site?  Of course you do!), and then I get my new deck lists printed out in no time, with almost no effort.

*4*  I know that wearing giant sized music headphones is all the rage these days, but if you are playing in a Comp REL event you will be asked to remove them while playing.  Similarly. no electronics are allowed on the table during your matches.  Text messages from your "bae" will just have to wait until between rounds.

End Of The Road

I think that we've covered enough material here for another post, so I'll just take this time to wish you all well, my dear readers, and to say that I look forward to chatting with you again the next time that you join me here, on my Path to Exile.



  1. Interesting blog Jason! I'm curious about the 'no electronics' rule; many players have taken to using smart phones for life counters, is this against the rules or an exception?

    1. I'll post my previous answer here as well, in case any future readers wonder the same thing. The 'no electronics' rule is primarily enforced at Competitive REL events. People do commonly use apps on their cell phone to track life totals at Regular REL events where things are kept more casual, but for Comp REL we need to be more strict to ensure that there is no unnecessary risks of players using their phones for outside assistance.