Deck and Decklist Problems


Up until recently, all errors with either a deck or a decklist, were covered by a single infraction with a GL penalty. As time passed, more and more downgrades were introduced, splitting the infraction into different paths with different penalties for different players. The branching caused some weird results that weren’t very consistent and sometimes unfair.


To remedy this, the policy was reverted to a time where these problems were separated into two different infractions: deck problems, and decklist problems. The sideboard is considered to be part of the deck for these infractions.

The Infractions

Any problem a player has with their deck or decklist, falls under one of these infractions:

  • Decklist Problem (GL): deals with the technical problems regarding a deck or a decklist (the deck, as intended, is not legal; the decklist doesn’t correctly represent the deck; or if a change has to be done to the decklist)

  • Deck Problems (Warning): deals with any problems that occur because of how the deck is used (cards missing, excessive cards, sideboarding problems)

Decklist problems are awarded with the harsher GL penalty because the decklist represents the deck in its unaltered form, and if the decklist isn’t reliable, it may allow players to change the decks throughout the event as they see fit. A penalty for a decklist problem is given if the listed deck is illegal (contains banned cards or cards not in the format; or breaks deck size/number of copies limits), if some entries are ambiguous (listing “Jace”, for example, can refer to a number of legal cards in a given format), or if the deck has to be changed to fix any kind of problem.

With all that said, a decklist is supposed to represent the deck as intended by the player, and if the decklist doesn’t match the intended deck contents, it should be corrected (a GL is awarded to prevent abuse by players who wish to modify their decks to gain an advantage, but a player is no longer forced to play the deck as listed like it was in the past). Any changes made to a decklist because of missing cards can be undone later with no penalty if the player found replacement cards.

A deck problem, on the other hand, usually happens during gameplay and is not as abusable as an erroneous decklist. With a few exceptions, these problems are easily fixed with no major effect on the game. A penalty for a deck problem is given if a deck contains less (or more) cards than required (in case a card fell on the floor or an opponent’s Pacifism was shuffled into the deck, for example), or if sideboard cards are found in the deck when a sideboard can’t be used.

To fix a deck, any excessive cards should be removed, and any missing cards should be shuffled into the deck. If the deck is still missing cards, add non-Waste, non-snow basic lands until you reach the minimum deck size. If it’s a non-sideboard game, and the missing cards are in the sideboard, shuffle them into the deck (don’t put them back into the hand or the set they came from). If the game allows to use a sideboard, choose from the sideboard at random.

There are three potential upgrades to a deck problem (all are upgraded to GL):

  • A player presents an illegal deck, and any missing cards are not in the opponent’s deck (this upgrade is available during presentation only)

  • A sideboard card is about to be revealed, or is discovered by a judge

  • Extra copies of a card that’s listed in the main deck

When players present their decks, they declare that their deck is legal. Any further errors may have occurred during gameplay, but up until the presentation, a player has the time and means to ensure a deck is legal.

The second upgrade discourages players from keeping to themselves known problems, until they’ll be revealed by someone else. In addition to an upgrade, this behaviour is very suspicious, and it requires an investigation for cheating.

The third and last upgrade deals with cases where a player has more copies of a card in the main deck than what is registered in the decklist. If extra copies of a card were accidentally introduced into the deck, there’s no way to know which of the copies should have been in the main deck and which shouldn’t, and which of those copies should not have been drawn.


Before you proceed to the questions to prove to the world that you’re a master deck checker, a quick read of the following is advised:

Tournament Error – Decklist Problem (IPG 3.4)

Tournament Error — Deck Problem (IPG 3.5)
Deck Registration (MTR 2.7)

You can also read Toby Elliott’s blog for more details


Let’s fix some decks! For each situation, please answer these three questions:


  1. What is the infraction (and why)?

  2. What is the penalty (and to which player)?

  3. How do you fix it (and why)?

1. Situation 1


While shuffling, AP notices a card is missing from the deck.

2. Situation 2


While shuffling, NAP notices a card is missing from AP’s deck.

3. Situation 3

During a deck check, the decklist has four copies of Nissa’s Oath, which is not a legal card’s name.

4. Situation 4

AP casts Duress, targeting NAP, who immediately calls a judge and says he has a sideboard card in his hand (it’s the first game of the match).

5. Situation 5

During a deck check, a gold-bordered card is found in a deck.

6. Situation 6


While shuffling, NAP notices a card is missing from AP’s deck, which is an Aether Meltdown that NAP accidentally shuffled into their own deck when the game ended.

7. Situation 7

AP approaches a judge, asking to change his decklist. On a previous round the player was missing some cards and replaced them with Mountains, but now a friend found the cards needed.

8. Situation 8

While drawing for the turn, AP flipped the second card from the top of his library, and called a judge. The player claims that while sideboarding for the game, he put this card into his deck instead of a different one, and this should be in the sideboard.

9. Situation 9

AP calls a judge, claiming that he drew a Heart of Kiran that should be in his sideboard (this is the first game of the match). The decklist lists  three copies in the main deck and  one copy in the sideboard, and this is the fourth Heart of Kiran drawn this game. The player claims he knows this is the one from the sideboard, because the ones in the deck were foil, and the one in the sideboard wasn’t.

10. Situation 10

During a deck check, the decklist contains four copies of Adarkar Wastes, but the deck has four copies of Hallowed Fountain. The player claims that the decklist was written last night when they had no Hallowed Fountains, but this morning they managed to buy some from a vendor and forgot to update the decklist.