Deck Check Team

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This write-up of the deck check teams was largely written by Richard Drijvers.

In this article I will quickly go over the main points of interest concerning deck checks at large events. Others before me have given you more specific information about deck checks. If, after reading this article, you would like some more insight into deck checks, then I suggest you read these articles by Daniel Kitachewsky, Diego Fasciolo, and Kevin Binswanger. Now, without further ado, the basics:


When you’re on the deck check team, you’ll be doing a lot of counting. Whether it is counting the cards on the lists, counting the number of lists, or counting the cards from a specific list is uncertain. What is certain is that you will be counting.

But counting is not the only thing done when you’re doing deck checks. Next to that, there will be some administrative duties which have to be fulfilled as well. One person in the team will need to be responsible for all communications with the score keeper. This person will also be dividing the different random tables between the other members of the team. The same person will then proceed to search the needed lists from the binder, so that they’re ready to be checked with the decks that all the other team members will be swooping. Typically when you remove a list from the binder there will be an insert so you can quickly return that list to the right place: know how the team will handle that for the day.


If you’re designated to be swooping decks, then you’re in business! You'll get a table number to deck check from the scorekeeper or your team lead, and then head on out.

In my opinion this is one of the most fun things in Deck Checks. You’re moving along the floor, approaching the table that will be checked, and then it comes: while you’re on your way you can either go “stealth” or “loud.” Obviously the stealth person tries not to be seen by the players and swoop the decks by surprise. I myself like to be more of a loud swooper, making sure everybody on the 10 tables in the neighborhood of the table that’s about to be swooped knows that we’re doing deck checks and that it could be them this round.

Once you arrive near the table you will have to look at how the players are shuffling, so that you can either confirm or rule out insufficient shuffling and/or manipulation of game materials. Then you wait until the players present their decks (and sideboards!), which is when you step in. Be sure to ask for their decks and sideboards, and confirm that you have only their decks and sideboards. If the sideboard was contained in their deckbox, you need to take their deckbox too in order to ensure no other relevant cards were available to them during sideboarding.

It’s usually best to check which deck is whose, so that you don’t have to figure that out halfway through the deck check. (Just imagine a mirror match with 60 out of 75 cards the same.)

If you’re swooping for a mid-round deck check, then you should also take the result entry slip, note down the time left in the round and take it with you so that you’re able to look up the deck lists.


When you’re checking the deck, you will not be checking the contents of the main deck alone. You will also be checking the sleeves and/or cards for markings, the randomization of the cards, the sideboard, detectable cards (such as a flip card without a checklist in non-fully opaque sleeve), and the legality of the cards.

Checking Order

Because checking a deck can be quite an intensive job, it is best to stick to a specific order. This way it is less likely you get confused and forget something.

In my opinion it is best to start with the sleeves. Just holding all the cards firmly together will enable you to see if all the sleeves have the same length, width and color. You could then proceed to see if there’s any reason to believe the player didn’t shuffle sufficiently. (This is mainly for when you weren’t the one swooping the decks. Make sure you always verify your suspicion with the person who swooped the deck.)

Now it is time for checking the contents of the sideboard, because this will immediately let you know whether or not the player forgot to desideboard. (Don’t forget that if you’re doing a mid-round deck check, sideboard cards may be in the main deck, making this check impossible.) Then you continue with the main deck. I find it easy to sort the deck quickly on colors and lands. This way it will be easier to find all the cards when moving down the list.

Second Opinion

If at any point during the deck check you find something that you think is fishy, but you’re unsure about it, please ask your deck check partner and/or your team leader to have a look as well. Also, if you’re about to hand out a penalty for a certain infraction, it is usually best to double check it with your team leader so that every similar case is ruled consistently.


While doing a deck check it is important to track the amount of time passed. Due to the fact that we give the players a time extension to compensate the time we spend on the deck check, it is important that we don’t have to give too much extra time. It is best to make sure that the whole tournament won’t be delayed for more than 10 minutes in case the players will use all the extra time given. The amount of time we give is the amount of time we spent on the deck check plus three minutes for shuffling. Therefore a deck check should be stopped after seven minutes, unless an issue has been raised.


When the deck check is done, or after the seven minutes have passed, you return all items you obtained from the players (decks, sideboards, and possibly deck boxes and the result entry slip). Also tell them to shuffle their decks sufficiently before they continue. If you need to assess a penalty, politely ask the concerned player to talk with you away from the table so you can appropriately and quickly investigate the incident.

Don’t forget to write down the extra time and to mention the fact that the players have to call over a judge when they wish to use the extra time, so that we can accurately keep track of the extra time.

Wrap Up

To wrap things up I’ll sum up the basics for you one more time:

  1. Prepare: Count lists, Divide swoops, Look up lists
  2. Swoop: Look at shuffling, Step in, Get extra information
  3. Check: Order:
    1. Sideboard
    2. Markings
    3. Randomization
    4. Contents
    5. Legality
  4. Second Opinion: Unsure? Ask!
  5. Stop: 7 minutes
  6. Return: Decks, Sideboards, Deck boxes, Result Entry Slip, Shuffle

Thank you for reading!

Further references