Identifying Moving Violations

From Judge Wiki (English)
Jump to: navigation, search

Find other articles in the Judge Article Index.

AuthorDavid Hibbs
Date Published2011-03-08
Original SiteDCIFamily
Recommended for Leveljudge candidates, 1, 2
AbstractDavid Hibbs discusses the category of Game Play Errors, including a handy rubric for determining what infraction is appropriate for a situation.


Magic, as we all know, is a game of moving cards. Cards move from the library, to the hand, to the battlefield, to the stack, to the graveyard… sometimes all during the same turn! Needless to say, this movement leads to a large number of judge calls.

Pause for a moment and reflect on the Game Play Error category of infractions from the MIPG. How many of the infractions in this category can be considered “moving violations” due to some connection to movement of cards?

The answer, of course, is all of them! Like driving a car, it is unlikely that you will collect a citation for something done while you are stationary.

Four of these common infractions are very similar at first glance: Looking at Extra Cards, Drawing Extra Cards, Improper Drawing at Start of Game, and Game Rule Violation. While these occur often, it is not always apparent which of these four infractions is most appropriate. This article seeks to help streamline the identification process.

Infraction Identification

Often, the initial explanation of a problem by a player will be enough to indicate to you that something happened while moving a card. Active words – like those used in the specific infractions – will help to cue you to this fact. If a player says something like “saw,” “drew,” “dropped,” “revealed” or something similar in connection to one or more cards, it’s a good clue that a moving violation has occurred.

Assuming no shenanigans by the player, the strictest infraction (and harshest penalty) of those we are studying comes from Drawing Extra Cards. There are a number of questions that can be asked to either determine this stricture is appropriate or to apply a lesser infraction.

Moving from the least problematic to the most, let’s look at a process and a few questions that you can use to determine the proper infraction.

Hibbs IMV.jpg

Question 1. Was the card seen or was the card drawn?

This next question usually has an obvious answer, but the answer is very important. The IPG makes it quite clear how to determine whether a card is considered drawn.

Question 1a: Did the card touch the cards in the player’s hand? Question 1b: If there were no cards in hand previously, did the player bring their hands together?

If the answer to both of these is “No,” the card was not drawn, and is instead considered to have been seen. Note that these tests are specific toward determining whether the card was drawn. If the card was not drawn, then consider it as having been seen -- even if you believe it impossible for the player to have done so.

If the cards were simply seen (and not drawn), then the infraction is Looking at Extra Cards. Otherwise, move on to the next question.

Example: A player knocks several cards from their library onto the table and his opponent calls a judge. All the cards are face down. Call this one looking at extra cards anyway, and explain that this is because you have no way of knowing if they were seen as they fell.

Example: A player casts Preordain. He puts his hand face down on the table, then picks up two cards in his right hand from the top of his deck for the scry portion of the effect. He then picks up the cards from his hand, mixing them with those for the scry effect. His opponent calls for a judge, and because the cards were put together in his hand the ruling CANNOT be Looking at Extra Cards, we MUST consider other infractions.

Question 2. Is the game on Turn 1 (or less) ?

The next question to ask is what turn the game is on. If the player committing the infraction is on their first turn, then we can ask ourselves some clarifying questions.

2a: Did the problem happen when they drew their opening hand? 2b: Did they draw even though they were playing first?

If the answer to either of these questions is “Yes,” then the infraction is Improper Drawing at Start of Game. Conversely, if the answer to both of these questions is “No,” then we need to keep thinking about our ruling!

It is important to note that these questions can be applied even once mulligans are complete. If a player electing to play first draws a card for their turn, it is still the first turn of the game and the infraction is still Improper Drawing at Start of Game.

Example: The player who wins the die roll elects to play first. He draws his first hand, elects to keep it, and his opponent takes a mulligan. During this time, the first player forgets his decision to play first and draws a card on his first turn. The infraction here is Improper Drawing at Start of Game.

Example: The player going first takes a mulligan, then accidentally draws 7 cards and calls a judge when he looks at his hand and realizes his error. This is a common case of Improper Drawing at Start of Game.

Question 3. Is there a Clear Root Infraction?

This final question is by far the hardest to answer. This question in itself has two somewhat abstract questions you can ask yourself to get the answer you need.

3a: Should the game state have prevented the action? 3b: Would you have intervened due to an infraction before the cards were drawn?

Was there some effect that said the player could not draw? Was an ability activated illegally? These situations come up surprisingly often, so don’t let them fool you! If the answer to any of these questions is a solid “Yes”, then you can apply a Game Rule Violation.

Example: The non-active player controls a Pithing Needle with Jace, the Mind Sculptor named. The active player controls Jace, and activates his 0 “Brainstorm” ability and quickly draws 3 cards. The non-active player immediately calls for a judge. In this case asking whether the game state prevented the action gets a specific answer. Similarly, if a player activates Jace in this situation and you catch him as the cards are being counted (but have not been drawn yet), you could clearly intervene. So, in this case, the correct infraction is a Game Rule Violation.

Example: The active player casts Tidings and draws 4 cards. After the cards are drawn, both players realize that the active player only had 1 blue mana available. In this case, asking whether you would have intervened prior to the cards being drawn reveals a clear answer. The spell was illegally cast, so the infraction is a Game Rule Violation.

Question 4. Is there an extra card in the player’s hand?

This question is basically a confirmation of what you already know if you’ve reached this point: the player put a card in their hand that they shouldn’t have. This may be because they misunderstood an effect, because cards stuck together, or for any other reason not previously discussed. If you can’t find an obvious explanation and the player simply has too many cards in hand, you have reached the end of the flow chart (and effectively the game): Drawing Extra Cards.

Sometimes the source of this error is very clear and you can jump directly to this point. If the player draws more cards than instructed, it’s usually evident that the infraction is Drawing Extra Cards. If the player draws two cards for their turn, that’s drawing extra cards. If the player drew a card without an instruction to do so, it’s drawing extra cards.

Example: A player casts Tidings using one of the textless cards. His opponent says OK, so he counts out five cards from his library and puts them into his hand. The opponent calls you over, and it becomes clear the player thought Tidings’ effect was to draw five cards. You can clarify the function of Tidings, and the infraction is drawing extra cards.

Example: A player calls you over and says his opponent has too many cards. The game is on turn 3. The player has 3 lands on the battlefield, nothing in the graveyard, and 8 cards in hand for a total of 11 cards so far. No other cards have been played. Even if the player opted to draw for his first turn, he should have 10 cards at the most. You can’t arrive at a definitive answer of when the extra card was drawn or why, so the infraction is Drawing Extra Cards.

Example: A player casts Preordain. He puts his hand face down on the table, then picks up two cards in his right hand from the top of his deck for the scry portion of the effect. He then picks up the cards from his hand, mixing them with those for the scry effect. His opponent calls for a judge, and because the cards were put together in his hand the proper ruling is Drawing Extra Cards.


As you can see, the Game Play Error category of infraction has several entries that can be closely related. If you take some time (and perhaps carry with you a simple flow chart), it becomes much easier to determine which infraction is most appropriate.

As for any officer of the law, it is important for a judge to know the difference between these violations and observe the flow of cards during a game.

Take some time investigating and ask yourself some questions about what happened. If you don’t know the answer, then ask the players more questions. With a little time and effort, the differences between these infractions will become more intuitive and you will become more consistent and clear with your rulings – something that makes life easier for both you and the players!