Published on 08/15/2005

Welcome to the Fold

Sanctioned Tournaments Are Fun!

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Note: This article is over two years old. Information in this article may be out of date due to subsequent Oracle and/or rules changes. Proceed with caution.

Hmm. It's that time of the month where we do one Cranial Insertion article on a single topic. But next week should be about tournament questions, and Thijs hates those... I know! I'll combine them! This week's article shall be all about tournament questions.

/me watches the casual players leave. :(

Aw, don't worry, it won't be boring. Anyway, here we go!

Q: If I show up late for the tournament, can I still play?

A: That's the head judge's decision, but very often yes. You can be enrolled late, and given a bye or match loss for the first round, or even put right in if it's early enough and the tournament is low-level enough.

Remember, though – if the head judge says that you're too late, you're too late. Don't tell him that I said it's okay because I didn't. Not that I have any influence outside of Magic Tower Games.

Q: What is a REL?

Look, a funny!
A: Rules Enforcement Level. They determine how strictly the players must adhere to the rules. Friday Night Magic and prerelease tournaments are REL 1 – you won't get a game loss for a little mistake. PTQs are REL 3, where a big enough mistake will carry stricter consequences. The World Championship is REL 5, where you better know just what you're doing.

Q: I'm missing one Kokusho from my deck. Can I make a proxy?

A: You can, but you'll get a game loss for an illegal deck, if not worse. Oh, you mean if you *may* play with a proxy? No, you may not. All of the cards in your deck must have a black or white border and a standard Magic back to be legal. And don't print out a card and glue it to another card – counterfeiting is an instant DQ.

In some circumstances, the head judge may create a proxy for you. If you bring a card to the tournament and it is damaged during play, the HJ can proxy it. During a limited event, where the cards are provided for you, the HJ can also proxy a card that is opened in a damaged state.

Q: Is it true that I can get a match loss for leaving trash at my table?

A: Normally, no. Littering counts as a Procedural Error – Minor or Major depending on how much trash it is; those are penalized with a caution and a warning, respectively.

However, listen up at the start of the tournament: in some extreme situations, the head judge can raise the penalties. For example, if your tournament is taking place in an area privately owned, the head judge has a vested interest in not upsetting the owner with lots of garbage, even if the judge team is going to clean up after everyone else has left. If trash has been a major problem in past tournaments, the penalties may also be raised.

But normally? You're not going to get a match loss for leaving your life total paper on the table.

Q: Why can't I keep track of my life with dice?

A: *bumps into table* Oops, you just went from 20 to 1. That's why. Dice are a legal method of keeping track of your life, but very strongly discouraged. You won't get in trouble for using dice, but you'll be very strongly asked to find some paper.

Q: Can I use anything I want for a token?

A: Aaaalmost. You can use anything that does not otherwise disturb or confuse the game state. For example, you can not use cards for tokens if they're sleeved and your deck is sleeved or if they are unsleeved and your deck is unsleeved. Them ain't tokens – them face-down critters! This isn't as important as it was during Onslaught block, but it's still a bad thing.

Coins are very popular for tokens, but you must be able to clearly represent whether or not they're tapped. If you can do this in a way that you, your opponent, and passing judges can easily understand, go for it. If not, stay away from coins, please.

Playing cards are good. I attack with my Jack of Spades.
Action figures are good. I block with Omnicron.
Coffee mugs are legal, but watch out for Shatter.
Pillows are a little too big. They disturb the game.
Playboy cutouts are bad. It's mean to distract your opponent like that.
Playboy bunnies are bad. Why are you playing Magic if you have a Playboy bunny hanging around with you, anyway?
Real bunnies are bad. Tokens should not randomly walk away and munch on your sideboard.
Monkeys are very bad. Let's not go there.
Bananas are good.

Moving on!

How many Loxodon does it take
to screw in a lightbulb?
Q: Will I get in trouble if I draw on my cards?

A: The rule for artistic modifications is that the art must still be recognizable. It's strongly suggested to have the current Oracle wording for any cards whose text is also covered, but not required. So those signatures on your cards are fine. The Magneto Simulacrum passes the test since the figure is still recognizable, although if it's too badly obscured, it's not good anymore. The solitary Loxodon to your left should also be okay, since the bolt of light hitting the elephant is the defining image of the card, but this one's pretty iffy - as usual, the head judge has the final say.

Q: I'm broke. Can I bring three booster packs to draft instead of buying them there?

A: Ooooh no. For one thing, tournament fees are almost always more than the cost of the cards themselves for limited. This helps to cover the cost of the employees at the store or to rent the location, as well as prize support. But even if you pay that, you can't just bring cards.

The biggest consideration is cheating with resealed packs. Not that you'd cheat, my devoted reader, but if you brought cards, someone else would want to, too. And what if they don't read Cranial Insertion? They might be some kind of dastardly fiend! Or a garden-variety cheater. Whichever.

Q: Our store's tournament organizer isn't a judge, and we don't have any judges around. How can we run a tournament?

A: Just grab any old bum off the street. Er, maybe not, he stinks.

For a tournament with a K-Value of 16 or less (that includes FNM and ordinary tournaments), you do not need a certified judge. It's a good idea to have one, or at least someone who's good with the rules, but your store owner can act as the head judge. But then he can't play, or the DCI will be quite upset.

Q: My opponent playing Goblins narrowly defeated my Solitary Confinement deck game 1. Next game, I Cranial Extractioned his Naturalizes and then set up a lock. Having seen his deck and hand, I knew he had no answers, but he continued to play until time ran out. Is this legal?

A: It's legal, but not particularly nice. You know what's in his deck, but what if you missed something - maybe he had a Naturalize that you flipped past! On top of that, not having an answer in your deck does not require that you concede.

However, if he wasn't just playing hopelessly but playing slow, that's another problem, one that can receive warnings and more.

Q: I'm a woman who plays Magic. If the local laws allow me to go topless, does the DCI say anything about taking off my shirt for an advantage during the tournament?

A: O_O

Local law supercedes DCI rules, and the DCI says nothing about stripping. However, nine out of ten head judges say that that is a little too distracting.

The tenth is too busy staring at you to care.

Q: I broke my arm and I can't shuffle. Will the judge shuffle for me?

A: That's not a good assumption to make, especially at a larger tournament. The judges have all of the players to help out, not just one. You can bring a friend to shuffle for you, or if the tournament is small enough, a judge may be able to do your shuffling – but ask before you sign up. In a more casual environment, like FNM, your opponent might shuffle for you.

If nothing else, pile shuffle in piles of seven a few times, then ask the opponent to do a quick shuffle. Remember, at REL 3 and up, you're technically obliged to shuffle your opponent's deck after they do!

Q: During a booster draft, we passed left for the first pack, but then forgot and passed left for the second pack, too. What should we do to fix this?

A: Just pass the third pack to the right. There would be a greater chance of something going wrong if you did anything else to try to repair the draft, and it's definitely not worth restarting the draft over the passing error.

Q: Judge! They're bothering me. Make them go away!

A: Hey, it's been a while since we got a non-question. This brings up a good point that I see all the time, and I'm sure a lot of you do, too. It's the final round, time is called, and you have two turns left to win. Spectators are hooting and hollering and speculating instead of just spectating. You get distracted... and shock the creature instead of the player at 2 life.

Remember, you always have the right to request that spectators go away. It's best to ask them nicely first, but if they won't, call the judge. It doesn't matter if your opponent wants them around; if they're just watching, they can be shooed away.

Q: Can I play with an Ice Age Stone Rain at a Standard tournament?

A: Sure! It's a Magic card, it has the same name as a more current version, it's good to go.

Note that I said that it's good because it's a real Magic card. If it's gold bordered, or if it doesn't have the standard Magic back (or if it's a printout taped onto an index card, for those who skipped the proxy question above), it's not a legal Magic card.

Q: I know that games that end when time is called get five extra turns and then it's called a tie if no one wins, but what happens in a single-elimination match? Do we start the match over?

A: That would make judges very, very tired and very, very sad. After the five turns of single-elim, if no one has won, the player with the higher life total wins. Simple as that.

Oh, you're tied at 20. What have you two been DOING all game?! Well, now you play until someone's life changes. As soon as that happens, and you aren't tied anymore, the player with the higher total wins as a state-based effect.

Q: In the first 20 minutes, my opponent and I each won a game and then we tied. So we're 1-1-1?

A: Yes, for the moment – you're not done yet! Ties do not count towards “the best two out of three” matches. So sit back down and play a fourth. And possibly a fifth. But if you get up to a sixth, I'm going to start giving you funny stares.

Q: The judge made a really dumb ruling yesterday; what can I do when that happens?

A: That depends – is the judge the head judge? If not, you have the right to appeal to the head judge, who will hopefully give you the correct answer.

If the judge is the head judge or the only judge (ergo head judge), you're stuck. Don't argue, or you can receive penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. Ask if you can discuss it after the match or something. Consider that you might be wrong, but also remember that the head judge is the final authority. Nothing can overrule the head judge at his/her own tournament.

But what if you know you're right? First thing is to check someplace like #mtgjudge or our rulings forums where several people will simultaneously, within seconds very likely, give you an answer with comprehensive rules quotes. If you're correct, you'll want to discuss it with the judge if possible. If it's not possible, you might want to report it to the DCI. Keep in mind that judges are only human. For a really complicated, confusing ruling, have a heart. But if it was something ridiculously simple that could be answered by reading the card, definitely report it to someone.

Okay, that was a fun merging of weeks. I'm sure Thijs will come up with something to ramble about next week that's even more interesting and which will possibly involve llamas.

Until next time, remember: emus are not suitable for tokens.

-Eli Shiffrin, L1 DCI Judge, Tucson, AZ

About the Author:
Eli Shiffrin is currently in Lowell, Massachusetts and discovering how dense the east coast MTG community is. Legend has it that the Comprehensive Rules are inscribed on the folds of his brain.


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