There are quite a few Magic players who will go their entire Magic career without ever being investigated for a disqualification, much less actually disqualified. However, there are times at most events (and probably every single GP, just because of the number of players) when a judge has to disqualify someone and that player didn’t know what he or she did was against the rules.
At competitive and professional REL (Rules Enforcement Level), a player’s lack of knowledge about wrongdoing doesn’t prevent a disqualification. The one that happens every time, even with multiple announcements about how you shouldn’t do it, is rolling a die to determine a winner. We are going to go through the list of disqualification offenses in the same vein as the article from last week about offenses that earn a game loss. I’m going to explain each infraction, how it can happen, and some best practices to make sure you aren’t going to be involved in an investigation that you don’t want to be involved in.
For readers who are using their own copies of the IPG, these infractions are going to come from the Unsporting Conduct and Cheating categories, which are the last two categories of the current IPG.
Unsporting Conduct – Aggressive Behavior
This one is pretty hard to do “accidentally,” but there have been times when a normally calm player has let something really get to him that shouldn’t have, and temporarily loses control. This infraction covers both aggressive actions toward another player or player’s property and threats against another player or player’s property as well. Saying things about physically harming another player or his or her property, even in a jocular tone, is not tolerated at any events of any REL and will earn you an immediate disqualification along with probably being asked to leave the venue.
Some best practices for this are pretty commonsense. Maintain self-control; do not rage at any player or any player’s property. If you feel yourself getting to a point where you think you might lose control, ask a judge to let you step away to the bathroom and splash your face with some water and take a second to compose yourself. This is a very emotional game sometimes, especially at the top tables; don’t get disqualified just because you lost control for a split second.
Unsporting Conduct – Bribery and Wagering
This infraction is actually a lot more likely to be accidental. Many players don’t know that you can’t talk about bets with friends or offer to do an uneven prize split with another player in exchange for a concession. This infraction covers bets being placed on matches by the players or the spectators. It also covers any kind of incentive being offered for any match result, including an intentional draw! There is a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of talk, once again even if in a jocular tone, about any kind of bribe or wager surrounding any match of the tournament.
Some best practices here are to know what kinds of things you can (and can’t!) joke about with your opponent. Saying things like “I’ll bet you twenty bucks this match goes to three games, this matchup is tough” may sound innocent, but if overheard, will lead to a pretty immediate disqualification. Think before making an “innocent” joke that can be taken as a bribe or a wager on the match. There have been a few prominent disqualifications involving this infraction that shows you the zero-tolerance stance WotC has on bribery and wagering.
Unsporting Conduct – Improperly Determining a Winner
This is the one that a lot of players trying to break out onto the tournament scene learn the hard way. Your match must be determined by you either deciding between yourselves to intentionally draw (without using an outside medium like a die or rock/paper/scissors) or by reporting the result of your match after you have played it. There is zero tolerance on rolling a die to see who wins, having a staring contest, playing a different card game instead, playing chess for it—well, you get the picture. Regardless of whether you do it all the time at FNM or have never heard the rule before talking to the judge, we have to disqualify you. We do not have a choice, so play your game or draw your match the proper way!
Best practices here are pretty self-explanatory. I think I’ve repeated it a few times, but it bears repeating again. Either quickly decide to draw and turn your slip in, or play your match and report the correct result.
Unsporting Conduct – Theft of Tournament Materials
From this point forward, the infractions are going to become obvious bad ideas. This one should be pretty obvious. Don’t steal! An example of this is if you see a sweet foil in your draft, pocket it, and still pick a card for your deck. This will be found out as the pack finishes and will be investigated at Competitive REL or higher. A judge is going to have a very hard time believing you made an honest mistake and somehow dropped it into your pocket. If you want the foil that badly, take it as your pick. Don’t take cards that don’t belong to you. If you notice a card from your opponent’s deck somehow got mixed in with yours, call a judge and return it. We take theft pretty seriously and investigate it as thoroughly as we can. If we have to come to you to find the card and you have it, you are probably going to be disqualified.
Best practice here might be the shortest one of them all: once again, don’t steal!
Cheating – Stalling
I have heard that players are not really aware of this one, although it seems pretty obvious. Since our philosophy is that we want matches of tournament Magic to play out as organically as possible, we would disqualify people using the clock to advantage. Examples of what Stalling looks like versus Slow Play are: Slowing considerably after you are ahead on games, taking excessively long pregame procedures after the record is 1–0 in your favor or 1–1, and slowing considerably once you are in a losing position to turn a loss into a draw. Slow Play happens; sometimes you get caught up in a long decision tree, or sometimes you are bluffing to your opponent that you have counterspells or responses. However, when you are in a position where manipulating the timing of the match will put you at a clear advantage, we are going to investigate for Stalling.
Best practices here are: Be aware when timing could benefit you and make sure you are maintaining a reasonable pace of play. This infraction does not mean you can’t take time to think of your next move when you are up a game in a match. This infraction does mean that if you are obviously using the clock to your advantage, you are going to be disqualified.
Cheating – Manipulation of Game Materials
This form of cheating deals with physically manipulating any game materials; mostly, this means the deck itself. Adding cards from to your sealed pool or draft deck that you didn’t open or draft, drawing cards when your opponent isn’t looking, and putting cards in certain positions in your deck and not sufficiently randomizing it afterward are great ways to earn a disqualification at any event.
Many players are unaware that you can actually mana-weave all you wish—you just have to sufficiently randomize the deck afterward. If we are doing a deck check and see a perfect spell-spell-land distribution, or very close to it, trust that we will be coming to see you, so make sure you are randomizing properly. The other examples are pretty blatant cheating, so they don’t really bear any additional explanation.
Cheating – Hidden Information Violation
This one also has to do with what we are doing with our cards, except instead of handling them properly, this infraction makes sure we are being appropriate with our eyes. Some good examples here are revealing your draft picks to other players at a draft or peeking at your neighbor’s cards while he is making his selections. These are usually handled with a stern chat at Regular REL, but at Competitive and Professional, these will warrant a disqualification. Usually, drafts at the Competitive and Professional RELs have large prizes on the line, so we are very serious about maintaining proper draft procedures—especially dealing with information that should be hidden.
It’s important to note here that looking at your picks before the designated review period used to qualify for Hidden Information Violation; now the information has to not have been previously available to you. It’s still a Draft Procedure Violation to look at your picks early, but it’s not a DQ like it used to be.
Best practices here are not to look at opponents’ cards that should be hidden from you. Anything exiled face-down needs to stay that way until any requirements are met for that card to be revealed. Any cards in your opponent’s hand need to stay there unless an effect allows you to look or your opponent is showing cards to you to try to elicit a concession or something like that. Basically, you can’t take it upon yourself to help yourself to information that you shouldn’t have. That’s cheating!
Cheating – Fraud
This is the most common cheating infraction given out, in my experience. This is the one that encompasses most well-known “cheats.” If you are knowingly using a fake or alternate DCI number to enter an event, changing a match slip after your opponent has signed it, lying to judges, lying to your opponents about free information like life totals or how many cards are in your hand, seeing infractions happen but staying quiet because they benefit you, lying to a judge to help another player get out of being disqualified, or doing anything else that has to do with lying, misrepresenting information, or not calling a judge when you are supposed
Best practices to avoid this happening to you—other than the obvious, which is don’t intentionally try to cheat your way into a tournament or a match win—are to make sure that when you talk to judges, you are completely honest, and make sure you call a judge if you’ve made or noticed a mistake. You are always better off telling the truth and receiving a game loss for a lesser infraction than trying to lie your way out of a penalty, which will earn you a disqualification. And in some cases, if you call a judge on yourself, the head judge has the opportunity to downgrade the penalty you receive—but if you try to avoid calling a judge (on yourself, or on your opponent if you’ve noticed an error but it’s something that benefits you), you’re going to be disqualified.
This has been a walkthrough of all of the different variations of the DCI’s definition of Cheating and other disqualifiable offenses. As you can see, most of them are no-brainers; they revolve around being shady and “running the cheats.” Judges are here to provide a fair and fun environment, so all of these things that harm the integrity of the tournament are punished quite harshly. When players cheat or commit disqualifiable offenses, they aren’t just hurting themselves, they are hurting the entire tournament, because tiebreakers are messed up and the math behind the Swiss pairing algorithm changes. So keep it clean out there!