Serious problems

Some actions or behaviors are so disruptive for the community and the game itself, that they cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. Our goal is to prevent players from committing these actions, but if they do, we have to remove them from the tournament. Remember that all players should be treated the same way, no matter the age or experience they have.

Aggressive behavior

We want all tournaments to be a joyful experience for all players. Some players can be stressed or angry about the outcome of a match. This is not an acceptable excuse for a behavior that can spoil the experience for everyone else.

Directly insulting another player

If a player insults their opponent by their color, race, gender or religion, you should remove the player from the tournament and report them following: Disqualification Process, then have a firm talk with them and make sure that they never do it again. Be sure to make them understand that it’s not you who impose this conduct, but that this conduct has a very negative effect on people around them.

Example. A player, very angry about the outcome of the tournament, tells their last opponent: “Females should not even play magic, you are just a lucky sl*t who does not even know how to play!”

The most important thing is to make the offended player confident that this will never happen again and that they can rely on you to stop such behavior.

Violence or threats

If a player becomes aggressive, makes people around them feel threatened or in danger, or harasses another player, you should remove them from the tournament too. You should also have a talk with the tournament organizer who can remove them from the venue. Do not try to remove them from the venue yourself if they're not willing to go away.

Example. Here are some situations where removing the player from the event is advisable:

  • A thirteen year old boy tells his opponent that he will punch him in the face if he plays another Counterspell.
  • A player throws his deck at his opponent.
  • A spectator tries over and over again to convince a player to go on a date after being refused, even if the offended party was very clear with them, asking them to stop.
  • A player slaps another player’s back.
  • A fifteen year old girl physically kicks another player.
  • A thirty year old experienced player hits another player's backpack.

As you can see in the examples, who acts unacceptably is not relevant. Being male, female, new to the game or an experienced older player doesn't make a difference. Also notice that insisting with the same kind of unwanted behavior after being warned is not acceptable and that harassment is a serious problem, just like being aggressive.

The best way to prevent these kind of situations is to have a chat with problematic players before they cross the line, possibly in a moment in which they are not angry. If we are not able to prevent the problem, our priority is to calm the players and defuse the situation, not to give them a penalty.


A player is cheating if they intentionally break a rule or lie to a judge in order to gain an advantage. Sometimes players come to the tournament with the intention to cheat, but more often they just seize the opportunity on the fly.

Planned cheating

Planned cheating usually happen as a manipulation of one's or the opponent's deck during a shuffle.

Example. Alex, while shuffling his opponent's deck, he looks at the bottom card and makes sure to float it to the top if it's a land, in order to mana flood the opponent.

This is a clear example of cheating. A player manipulating their opponent’s deck. But there are other ways, more commonly used, to increase our chances of good draws!

Example. Johnny divides all lands from spells, than puts them together alternating two spells with one land. After this process, he shuffles his deck for five seconds, and presents it to his opponent. When asked about this procedure, Johnny says that he does not want to draw all lands, and mana weaves to avoid it.

In this example we have a player trying to improve his draws via manipulation of his deck. This is cheating. Stacking the deck this way is legal only if you shuffle it enough times afterwards, but if you shuffle it enough, there is no point in stacking it, because it will not give you any benefits. So there is never a good reason to mana weave.

Opportunity cheating

This kind of cheating is much more common than planned cheating. Many players notice a game rule violation they or their opponent did, and don’t point it out because they will get an advantage from the situation.

Example. Joker attacks with a Wall of Fire. Batman notices that it has defender, but says nothing because he really wants to cast his Swift Reckoning.

Notice that here Batman is the one cheating, even if Joker is the evil one the one violating the rules! Batman noticed an error and did not point it out because it could give him an advantage. This is cheating. Joker could be cheating too, but only if he noticed defender and ignored it on purpose. He is not cheating if he just forgot the wall has defender.


Sometimes a player lies to us, usually in order to avoid a penalty.

Example. John forgot to remove the Black Knight he sideboarded last match, but he is very tired and does not notice it. We are at the table, and we are sure that he does not play Black Knight main deck. When we ask him, he notices his mistake, but since he really wants to continue playing his match, without anyone bothering him, he tells us that he is playing it main deck.

Example. We suspect that Alex missed his own Dark Confidant trigger on purpose, because he was at one life. We ask him some questions, and we ask him if it happened to him to forget the trigger before. He feels that if he gives a negative answer it will not put him in a good shape, so he tells us that in that same match he forgot the trigger many times. It comes out that it was the first time he forgot that trigger, so he lied to us. Even if is still possible that he did not forget the trigger on purpose, he lied, and his intentions about lying are clear.

Example. Antonidas has some extra cards in his sideboard. We ask him why, and he tells us that his friend Sylvanas traded him these cards today and he had nowhere else to put the cards. These card are very strong in his sideboard so we are not fully convinced by his version and we go to ask Sylvanas. She tells us that she did not trade any cards today because she left her trade binder at home. Antonidas was clearly lying, so we need to disqualify him.

As you can see in the examples, sometimes lies are a little more innocent than others, but when we investigate we need players to tell the truth, so disqualification is always the correct penalty.

How to spot cheating

Cheating can happen without anyone noticing, and will usually appear as normal game errors. Asking some details to players who happen to gain big advantages from their own mistakes is a good way to check if something shady is happening. Go a little deeper if their version does not seem realistic and you will happen to have many different versions of the same thing by the same player!

Experts only! Catching cheaters is hard. Try not to become obsessed and see cheaters everywhere! If you're interested in useful investigation techniques, you can read these excellent articles by Eric Shukan: The Search for Collateral Truths - Part 2 - Part 3

Bribery and wagering

Offering incentives in exchange for a concession or a drop, and betting on any portion of a tournament is strictly forbidden.

Example. Here are some examples of this behavior:

  • A player offers his opponent a card he owns in exchange for a concession.
  • A spectator bets $1 on a player skipping his third land drop.
  • Two players are on the last additional turn of the last round of Swiss and their match is going to end in a draw that will leave both players out of top 8. One player asks the other to concede in exchange of half the prices they will eventually win during top 8.

We want players to play Magic at our tournaments. Betting on something that happens during a tournament gives spectators a really bad image of the game and the community. Magic is a game for children (13+) and adults. Gambling is much different and it is only for responsible adults. We never want people to look at Magic like they look at gambling, in many countries there are strict rules for gambling and Magic could be banned if it's considered gambling.

Also, we prefer it if the winner of our events is determined by games of Magic. We can't (for practical reasons) forbid a player to concede, but we must stay vigilant that nothing is offered in exchange. If two players agree on a concession in exchange for any kind of reward, all other players in the tournament are affected, especially the one that will end up ninth!

Please note that it is legal to ask for a split, and after it has been accepted by the opponent, conceding or asking for a concession. The problem comes when the two are connected.

Example. Jack: "This has been such a long and challenging tournament! It will be a shame if neither of us wins anything. Would you like to split any prize we eventually win?" Norman:"Yes, why not!" Jack: "Oh great! I will concede."

In this example what the two players are doing is perfectly legal.

Experts only! For more examples and a full explanation of what is or is not legal, you can read this old but gold article written by Sheldon Menery: FINAL JUDGEMENT: Concessions and Prize Splits

Rolling a die

Using any method other than playing Magic to determine the winner of a match is forbidden. This usually takes the form of two players rolling a die to decide who will win their match, but any random method is forbidden.

Example. Here are some examples of this behavior:

  • Two players are on the last additional turn of the last round of Swiss and their match is going to end in a draw that will leave both players out of top 8. One asks the other to roll a die to determine the winner.
  • Two players are tired and want to go home after a long tournament. One asks the other to flip a coin to determine the winner, so that they can go and have dinner.

Sometimes the result of a match does not help any of the players in their path to victory. Choosing a random winner will give them an unearned chance, removing it from another player who earned their victory by playing Magic. We never want this to happen. Being the final or a match between two players who have nothing to win will not change the rules, but we want to be more vigilant on players who actually have chances to win something. It is a good habit to stay nearby top tables at the end of last round since it is the moment when players will be tempted to roll a die or bribe the opponent. Remember that you are there to stop them from breaking the rules, so feel free to step in before something happens: most players don't know or aren't certain on what can and can't be done, and it's better to educate them before they say anything.


This includes stealing goodies from other players, from the venue, and replacing a card in a limited pool.

Example. A player opens a valuable foil in his pool during a Sealed Deck event, and wants to keep it without dropping from the event. He pretends to drop it to the floor, and then replaces it with a less valuable card.[1]

Some players like certain numbers or want to have a memento of a match they've played so take table numbers. This is theft of tournament material and is not allowed.

Let's recap!

A good store judge tries to prevent serious problems:

  • Spot potential problems in advance:
    • Talk often with players about gaming environment, community, and ask their opinion. They will help you a lot on spotting problems before they become... problematic.
    • Talk with the tournament organizer. They are always in the store and see a lot of things.
    • Look and listen: don’t just see the games and the players, don’t just hear them, look at them, listen to what they say. Sometimes we just don’t look or listen enough to see the signs of something possibly going wrong.
  • Prevent future problems with education:
    • Make announcements. Be sure that players know the rules. For examples, many new players don't know that it is forbidden to roll a die to determine the winner of the match. Remind players at all of your tournaments.
    • Be in the right spot at the right time. We stressed some of the situations that can cause problems more often; remind players what to do and what not to do just before they have a chance to do it. Situations with more prizes or rewards are always more critical than others.
  • If a problem still happens, deal with it immediately:
    • Talk to the person who caused the problem. If you did everything right, they will understand the situation and feel sorry about it. Disqualify them, and then follow the Disqualification Process to report the penalty to the DCI.
    • The word "disqualification" is harsh and very loaded. You don't need to use it when you tell a player they are done playing in the event. Tell them that you need to remove them from the event because what they have done has given them too big of an advantage, is not acceptable, or is bad for the community.
    • If you need to remove someone from the venue or the situation is quickly escalating, involve the Tournament Organizer as soon as possible. Never antagonize the player directly.

  1. This scenario will become obsolete with the new procedure at Sealed Deck events but is still possible in Drafts.