Judge of Will – Penalties and Infractions

Judge of Will – Penalties and Infractions

Thanks again for readers following the Judge of Will Series!


The following contribution was an in depth look at the Penalty guidelines by Alex Muhich, one of the judges from Houston who has had previous experience in other games.  Without further ado:


An In-depth Look at the Penalty Guidelines for Players

By Alex Muhich


Hi, I’m Alex Muhich. I’ve been a Magic: the Gathering player since 2006 and a Magic Judge since 2011. I passed the Rules Advisor test for Force of Will at the Houston Grand Prix and am very excited to work at future FoW events. I’ve been playing Force of Will since just before MPR came out in the States and have dove right into this game with fervor. I went 5-2-1 at GP Chicago and decided to judge rather than play at Houston. I’ll hopefully be able to find a nice balance between judging and playing at events to scratch my competitive itch. This article is hopefully the first of many to try and help players understand the rules documents better.


Hopefully you will never receive one of penalties listed in the guidelines and hopefully your opponents who deserve one of the penalties in the guidelines get them. In this article, I hope to better educate players of the Penalty Guidelines in order to avoid committing the infractions and to be more aware of when your opponent commits an infraction. One of the reasons I became a Magic Judge was to embody a part of MTR 4.1 “a player should have an advantage due to better understanding of the rules of a game”. Part of understanding the rules of the game is understanding what happens when a rule gets broken, either accidently or maliciously. The last thing you want is to get a Game Loss for something you could have avoided or your opponent getting away with something that they shouldn’t have.

The incoming information is based on the Penalty Guidelines that went into effect on August 4th, 2015.

There are two rules levels in Force of Will: Standard, and Competitive. Standard level events are your Local Game Store events such as weekly tournaments, leagues, or release/prerelease events. These events tend to be more casual and as such have less severe penalties than a Competitive event. Competitive events are going to be your Regional, National, and World Grand Prix as well as the trials to said events. These events tend to have more expensive prizes or prestige on the line and as such, the players are held to a higher standard of play than at a Standard level event.

***It is important to note that while judges give players penalties, it is because the player earned them. We don’t particularly want to give out penalties because they are pretty feel bad. But if a player has done something that warrants a penalty, we will have no qualms about giving them out. We are here to keep the game fair, but also keep it fun. If you ever have any questions, if anything seems confusing or shady, CALL A JUDGE!!! Also remember that if you are not satisfied with a floor judge’s ruling you ALWAYS have the RIGHT to APPEAL to the Head Judge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had players come up to me after an event complaining about a floor judge’s ruling and say they didn’t appeal.***

Most questions that get answered by judges take less than a minute. Usually they are yes/no questions about how a card works. But sometimes we get a real brain-buster and we need to take some time to think about the question or situation, especially if we are not immediately sure of the answer or how to resolve it. During these longer rulings, judges give out additional time for the time it took to give the ruling. The cases where we wouldn’t give out extra time are those short questions or if a Game Loss was given for tardiness or some other ‘game hadn’t started yet’ reason, as there is one less game the players would need to play. When I give out additional time, I often tell players that the time is there is they need it, but feel free not to use it.

There are four types of penalties that players are able to earn. They are Warning, Game Loss, Match Loss, and Disqualification. Warnings are used to track minor errors like violating a game rule, looking at extra cards, or playing a little too slowly. They also allow judges to track patterns of problematic behavior if many warnings are given out to the same player.


Game Losses end the current game or if caught in-between games/matches, the next game to be played, and are primarily used for issues that affect the game in an irreparable way, such as drawing extra cards, tardiness, and marked cards that have a pattern. If a player receives a Game Loss before the match has started, the players will not be allowed to sideboard for the “second” game of the match.

Match Losses are really only given as part of upgraded or downgraded penalties, or if a player is very tardy. Finally Disqualifications are reserved for cheaters and players who just aren’t learning (upgrades). DQ’s have the player dropped from the event. They are with or without prize depending on the infraction. Sometimes DQ’s come with a suspension from tournament play depending on the reason for the DQ.

We understand that the infractions have varying levels of potential for abuse and varying levels of difficult to commit. As such the penalties are scaled with that in mind. Drawing Extra Cards is easy to do and has a high potential for abuse and as such is a Game Loss. Whereas Missed Triggered Automatic Abilities is also easy to do, but has a much lower potential for abuse and is only a Warning.

Sometimes a player will make the same mistake multiple times during the event. These are typically things like looking at extra cards or missed triggers as they are relatively easy to do. When this happens, the penalty may be upgraded based on what we call an upgrade path. Every penalty except for Failure to Set Lifebreak Area has the same upgrade path.

Warning > Warning > Game Loss > Match Loss > Disqualification with Prize

Failure to Set Lifebreak Area cuts out that first Warning, so on the second offense a Game Loss is given.

***It is important to note that penalties are only upgraded if they are the same kind. So for example a player could have 2 Warnings for Slow Play, 1 Warning for Looking at Extra Cards, and 1 Warning for Missed Trigger Automatic Abilities. If in this case the player would receive another Slow Play Warning, then that Warning would be upgraded to a Game Loss.***

This next part is going to cover the specific infractions in the Penalty Guidelines. There are 31 of them. I have clearly labeled the sections on the infractions, so if you want to skip to a specific infraction and read about that one in particular, it will be much easier to do so.

There are 5 infraction types: Game Errors, Tournament Errors, Deck and Decklist Errors, Unsporting Conduct, and Cheating.

Game Errors

GE1 – Game Rules Error

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to follow game procedures or rules correctly. This generic infraction only applies when the error does not fall into another more specific infraction.”

These are the most basic kind of errors a player can make and aren’t particularly difficult to commit and are very noticeable by the opponent. As such they are only a Warning at both Rules Levels. Depending on when the error was discovered, the judge may be able to rewind until just before the error had occurred. When a judge rewinds a game, we either rewind everything or nothing. There are no partial fixes. We won’t rewind when the situation is overly complex or backing up would affect the course of the game. If not a lot would change by backing up, we are more likely to do so. If cards need to be undrawn, we take random cards from the hand and put them on top of the deck. Examples of this infraction include playing cards with improper will such as casting a Split Heaven and Earth for <Wind><Wind> instead of <Fire><Fire> or targeting a Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant with a Return to Stories.

My favorite Game Rules Error situation, that happened on camera at GP Chicago even.

Q1: The Turn player (Terry) cast a Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant into a board of his Blazer, the Eater of Dimensions and the Non-turn player’s (Nigel) Realm of the Dragon King. Terry resolved their draw effect of Cheshire Cat putting a card (Tinkerbell) back and then it being destroyed by the Realm of the Dragon King effect. Terry shuffled Cheshire Cat into the deck, forgetting about Blazer’s remove from game effect. Then passed the turn. Nigel had drawn a card for the turn and then as they were pitching a card to Grimm, the Fairy Tale Prince, both players realized that the Cheshire Cat shouldn’t have been shuffled back into the deck. As a judge, what would you do in this situation? Check the end of the article for the answer and reasoning.


GE2 – Illegal Game State

“This infraction results from a prior misplay not caught by either of the players.”

There are really only two types of things that will result in players getting an Illegal Game State penalty: a card being somewhere or attached to something it is not supposed to be or be on; and a choice that needs to have been made, was not made. Examples include having an [Addition:Resonator] on your J-Ruler or not having chosen an attribute for Little Red, the Pure Stone. Judges should basically only use Rule Process to fix the game state and make it legal again. Rewinding is not how these errors should be fixed. The player who made the error that caused this illegal game state has committed this infraction and should receive a Warning at both Rules Levels, and the opponent of said player should get a Failure to Maintain Game State for not noticing the mistake before another action was taken.


GE3 – Missed Trigger Automatic Abilities

“This infraction occurs when players miss a trigger in the game and fail to perform actions that the trigger requires”

Triggered Automatic Abilities are abilities that typically if not always start with When, Whenever, or At. There are two kinds of triggers: Optional and Mandatory. Optional triggers will say May or Can and if missed are treated as though the player chose not to do them. Mandatory triggers do not include such words, must be resolved, and are the responsibility of both players to be resolved correctly. The opponent is not required to point out the existence of the trigger until an action is taken that suggest the player has missed their trigger, including but not limited to passing the turn, calling a stone, or playing a card.

If the trigger has a default action, the judge resolves that default action immediately unless that would cause some spells or abilities on the chase to have illegal targets. In which case we rewind to remove those spell or abilities and then resolve the default action. Otherwise the trigger is put onto the chase and players are then free to respond to it like normal. The player who controlled the card that created the trigger that was missed receives this infraction, which comes with a penalty of a Warning at both Rules Levels, and the opponent receives a Failure to Maintain Game State if they hadn’t noticed the missed trigger before allowing another action occur. Examples include forgetting to banish another resonator while controlling a Mephistopheles, the Abyssal Tyrant, or not destroying a resonator with no addition via the Enter of Hastur, the Unspeakable.


GE4 – Failure to Maintain Game State

“This infraction occurs when players fail to notice a rules violation committed by their teammate or opponent”

This infraction is almost exclusively used as a counterpart to other Game Error type infractions. I could maybe imagine a scenario where a player would get this independant of another Game Error, but I am having trouble doing so. This infraction is given out when a player could have noticed an error but did not. The penalty is a Warning at both Rules Levels and should never be upgraded as it would discourage players that discovered the error from calling a judge. An example of this is not noticing a player targeting a resonator that cannot be the target of spells or abilities until after another action has taken place.


GE5 – Looking at Extra Cards

“This infraction occurs when a player accidentally sees cards from any deck when they were not supposed to.”

This most often happens when a player is shuffling a deck and accidentally drops an opponent’s card and sees it or was reasonable that they could have seen it. The judge first determines the known portions of the deck and separates them from the unknown portions, leaving the relative layout of said stacks intact. Then randomizes the unknown portions with the cards that shouldn’t have been seen mixed in. Afterwards, combines the known and unknown portions back together in their proper places. If a judge was not able to determine the known vs unknown portions of the deck, unlikely but still possible through complicated board states and players not keeping good notes, the judge should randomize the whole deck and issue a Warning, if at a Standard RL, or upgrade the Warning to a Game Loss at Competitive RL.

Additional examples of Looking at Extra Cards include going to draw a card for the turn and having the top two cards stuck together because of dirty sleeves and seeing the second card or looking at the top 6 cards instead of the top 5 from Perceval, the Seeker of Holy Grail.


GE6 – Drawing Extra Cards/Breaking Extra Cards

“This infraction occurs when a player incorrectly draws extra cards or reveals extra cards from his Lifebreak Area.”

The line we draw between Drawing Extra Cards (DEC) and not Drawing Extra Cards is the cards physically touching the rest of the hand. If the cards haven’t touched the rest of the hand, the infraction is instead Looking at Extra Cards. This infraction may be downgraded to Looking at Extra Cards if “the judge is able to deduce through the circumstances of the game what extra card the player drew”, this most likely will happen from the drawn card being the only card in your hand, or a player draws a card that was revealed and notes were taken down about revealed cards. If a player drew too many cards at the start of the game or drew when going first, take random cards from the player’s hand until they have as many as they were supposed to have and shuffle those extra cards back into the deck and the penalty downgraded to a Warning. If the card was drawn immediately as a result of a Game Rules Error, then it is still Drawing Extra Cards. If there is a delay from the Game Rules Error and the draw, then it is not Drawing Extra Cards and the infraction would be that Game Rules Error instead.

For example, if a player drew 3 cards from Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant, it is DEC. Whereas if the Turn player attacked with a Hansel while the opponent controlled a Scherezade, the Teller of the Crimson Moon having chosen Fairy Tales, and drew a card from the triggered ability of Hansel, then the infraction would be a Game Rules Error for not following Scherezade’s ability and not DEC.

At Standard Rules Level events, the extra card(s) (not caught at the beginning of the game) should be randomly taken from the hand and placed on top of the deck. If a card was known to be in the hand from a reveal effect, exclude those from being randomly placed on top of the deck. Also at Standard Rules Level events if a card is illegal break’ed or revealed from Lifebreak area, those cards are to be shuffled back into the Main Deck and that many cards from the top of the Main Deck are to be put on top of the Lifebreak area. The penalty for DEC/BEC is a Warning at Standard RL and a Game Loss at Competitive RL.

Over the years of Judging Magic, I’ve had to deal with situations where players had taken actions before drawing their card for the turn and then forgot if they drew their card.

Q2: How would you go about determining if a player had drawn their card for the turn?


GE7 – Failure to Set Lifebreak Area

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to set his Lifebreak Area before a game starts.”

While this infraction is basically worthless for players in the United States, it’s still in the Penalty Guidelines and could become relevant in the future if Origins with Valhalla lifebreak becomes a thing. This is a pretty low key error as it doesn’t effect the game that much. The judge takes the top 4 cards of the random portion of the deck, no you can’t stack your Lifebreak area with Cheshire Cat, and sets them in the Lifebreak area. If this is caught before the game has started (drawn a card/manipulating main deck with an effect), then it should be treated as a Game Rules Error instead. At Standard RL events, if the judge can’t determine the random portion, much like Looking Extra Cards, the whole deck should be randomized and then set the Lifebreak area. At Competitive RL events, if the judge can’t determine the random portion, the penalty should be upgraded to a Game Loss. Normally thought this will just be a Warning at both Rules Levels. This is the only infraction with a different upgrade path. Warning > Game Loss > Match Loss > DQ w/Prize.


GE8 – Failure to Set the Ruler Card

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to set his or her ruler before a game starts.”

To fix this error, the judge should have the player set their Ruler card. If it was shuffled into the Main Deck on accident, the judge should find the Ruler in the Main Deck and set it in the Ruler Zone, or have the player set the default ruler (the card that is listed as the main ruler on the decklist).

If the opponent of the player who forgot to set their Ruler doesn’t notice this before a card gets played, they have committed Failure to Maintain Game State. Failure to Set the Ruler Card is a Warning at both Rules Levels.


GE9 – Failure to Reveal Cards

“This infraction occurs when a player incorrectly puts a card into his or her hand (or into a hidden zone) without revealing it, despite he or she was supposed to do so according to a “search” action instructing to take a card with specific traits.”

Basically, if you were supposed to reveal a card and didn’t, you Failed to Reveal Cards. If the judge is able to deduce through the circumstances of the game what card the player put into his or her hand, this infraction should be downgraded to a Game Rules Error infraction and he should instruct that player to reveal that card to his or her opponent. Another option is for the player to reveal their entire hand if all cards in the hand could have been searched by the search effect. For example, if a player banishes a Rukh Egg and searches for a red resonator and puts it into their hand without revealing it, but their entire hand is red resonators, they can have their hand revealed and the infraction downgraded to a Game Rules Error. The penalty for Failure to Reveal Cards is a Game Loss for both Rules Levels.

Tournament Errors

TE1 – Official Policy/Announcement Violation

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to follow Official Tournament Policy, or fails to follow general announcements during the tournament.”

Player are expected to know the Tournament Policy and must listen to the general announcements made by Tournament Officials. Failing to do so can be disruptive to the event or create an unfair playing environment for others. This penalty is most often given for exceeding time limits in deck construction in increments of five minutes. So 10 minutes after time has been called will get you two warnings. Although at that long after you should be done, you should have called a judge over to get some help and we’ll likely help you out because we want to get the tournament rolling. There is no penalty for this infraction at Standard RL events, however repeated infractions may be penalized. At Competitive RL events, the penalty is a Warning. Another example of this infraction is being told no food and drink on the tables in a general announcement and later having food or drink on the tables. You wouldn’t want your Vlad Tepes to become Vlad Tapas.


TE2 – Failure to Follow Direct Instructions

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to follow specific Tournament Official’s instructions aimed specifically at that player.”

Players are expected to follow direct instructions from officials. If the player believes the instruction to be unreasonable or misguided, they are encouraged to appeal to the head judge. Judges are people too and sometimes we make mistakes, but on average we were selected as judges for our knowledge and professionalism. As not listening to judges undermines the authority of us as tournament officials, this penalty is relatively severe at a Game Loss at Competitive RL events. This is Warning at Standard RL events. Examples include a player being told they need to replace their marked card sleeves in between round and later a judge finding out they have not done so.


TE3 – Insufficient Randomization

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to randomize their decks in such way where they do not know the distribution of any specific cards, or card groups.”

We aren’t looking for perfectly random as that’s impossible. We’re looking for sufficiently random. If neither player can know the order or location of any cards in the deck, we’re good. As soon as a player sees a card in the deck whilst shuffling, the randomness is undone. So I strongly recommend not shuffling your cards with the faces upwards where if you were to look down or use your peripheral vision you’d see the card faces. Pile shuffling as it’s called is not shuffling. There is no random element to stacking the piles. Pile stacking (as it should be called) is a great way to make sure you have all your cards before the start of a game, but that’s about it. If you are pile shuffling in order to gain an advantage by de-clumping your cards, that is not too far off from cheating. Intentional insufficient randomization is Cheating – Game Object Manipulation. The penalty for Insufficient Randomization is a Warning at both Rules Levels. Examples include only pile shuffling before presenting your deck or riffling once after doing a search effect.


TE4 – Tardiness

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to arrive to his seat before the round started.”

If a player has not shown up to their seat after 3 minutes into the round, the penalty is a Game Loss. The player who was tardy decides who shall play or draw for this second game and neither player gets to sideboard for this game.

If a player has not shown up to their seat after 10 minutes into the round, the penalty is a Match Loss. the player who was tardy will be dropped from the event and has until the next round is paired to get themselves re-added to the tournament.

If you are going to the restroom and think you may be a while, let a judge know and get their name for when you come back. People need to use the bathroom and we don’t penalize for that if you make us aware you might be tardy. If you lost cards and are replacing them, this 3 minute buffer is what you have to replace the missing cards. If you are unable to find replacement copies of missing cards, CALL A JUDGE!!! and we’ll get that issue sorted out (see Illegal Deck).


TE5 – Playing the Wrong Opponent

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to correctly identify his table number on the pairings, and sits at the wrong table.”

This infraction is identical to Tardiness for the player who was sitting at the wrong table, except that at Standard RL events, it is a Warning and the players will be paired for the round how they sat. There is a decent amount of advantage to be gained by “accidentally” playing a weaker opponent, but it is very easy to get caught, so the penalty is just a Warning.. Players at the correct table that didn’t confirm who their opponent was have committed the Official Policy/Announcement Violation infraction. The best way to avoid this infraction is to take a picture of your name, table number, and opponent on the pairings board or to memorize that information before getting to your seat.

I was playing in a tournament and read my pairings for Round 2. I took a few steps away from the board and instantly forgot what my table number was. Rather than go back and check, I thought about it and a number popped into my head that I thought was my table number. I went over to that table and an opponent was there. Neither of us had bothered to check who we were playing against to make sure we were at the right table as we were both sure that we were at the right table. After I quickly lose game 1, a judge comes over and explains that I am at the wrong table because the person across from me is going to receive a Match Win because their proper opponent was disqualified Round 1 for improperly determining a winner. I moved over to my correct seat which was 2-4 tables to my left. I luckily hadn’t been tardy for more than 10 minutes and was able to try and win my match, albeit down a game. Even though you might think that the proper opponent will come by if you accidently sit at the wrong table, still double check the name of your opponent and the table number to make sure and confirm with the person sitting across from you. You never know when the real opponent was not dropped from the event and won’t show up because they got DQ’ed.


TE6 – Slow Play

“This infraction occurs when a player unintentionally causes a delay of the game.”

This is one of the most difficult infractions for a judge to assess. What constitutes a delay of the game? There isn’t a specific amount of time as the game state could have become really complex really quickly and sometimes 30 seconds is way too long if the board is very empty and few cards are in hand. If I am able to see your hand, as a judge, and determine several lines of play and you still haven’t made a decision, it’s Slow Play. If it feels like Slow Play, it’s probably Slow Play. It’s all about what is a reasonable amount of time to take game actions. Also since Slow Play follows the standard upgrade path, you can Slow Play two times before it actually matters. I am not advocating Slow Play, but if you only get one Warning for it and you play faster afterwards, you’re fine and there’s nothing to worry about. It’s the habitual Slow Players that need to worry. The penalty for Slow Play is a Warning for both Rules Levels. If a Slow Play penalty is given, two additional turns are to be added to the end of the match if it goes to time.


TE7 – Marked Cards without Pattern

“This infraction occurs if a player has cards or sleeves that are easily distinguishable from other in the same deck.”

Marked cards offer a significant advantage once a player has noticed the markings. Marked Cards without Pattern is for marked cards that have no discernable pattern to them. So if your have 3 sleeves with pretty dented corners, but they are Thunder, Xeex, and a Stoning to Death, you have Marked Cards without Pattern. The judge will ask you to replace the sleeves. You are not forced to do so, you may instead drop from the event. I’ve never seen anyone drop instead of buying sleeves, but those are your options. Sometimes the judge will have you resleeve the entire deck after the round or if there are only a few cards that are marked, those. The penalty for Marked Cards Without Pattern is a Warning for both Rules Levels.


TE8 – Marked Cards with Pattern

“This infraction occurs if a player has a significant number of cards marked and it appears that there is an unintentional but noticeable pattern among them.”

This is the more severe version of Marked Cards without Pattern. When all your foil Thunders have a slight curve to them that the rest of your deck doesn’t have, we have Marked Cards with Pattern. Intentional marking of cards is Cheating – Game Object Manipulation. The penalty for Marked Cards with Pattern is a Game Loss at both Rules Levels. The offending objects, cards or sleeves, will need to be replaced before the next game/match.


TE9 – Outside Assistance

“This infraction occurs when a player seeks advice from others once they have sat for their match. This infraction also applies to anyone who gives advice to players who have sat for their match.”

Notes referenced during a match that were made prior to said match also count as Outside Assistance. Additionally, no notes may be taken during a draft. If you are playing a match next to someone who has a question about something, just tell them to call a judge. Giving them official card text is also considered Outside Assistance. The penalty for Outside Assistance is a Warning at Standard RL events and a Game Loss at Competitive RL events.

I was watching a Competitive RL match that the players were being pretty jovial and having a good time. This feel-good atmosphere spread into the spectators as well. A player forgot to attack with a resonator that they weren’t required to attack with, but strategically there was no reason not to, and as they passed the turn a spectator asked them light heartedly, why they didn’t attack with that resonator.

Q3: As a judge, what do you do in this scenario?

Deck and Decklist Errors

These are the types of errors that are the most avoidable as they don’t really happen if you put any amount of effort into them. Fat fingers don’t really cause you to fill out a list incorrectly, especially when there are multiple opportunities to catch your mistake before it would matter.


DE1 – Registration Error

“This infraction usually occurs when:

  • A player forgets to write their name on the decklist.
  • A player forgets to register a ruler on their decklist.
  • A player fails to correctly register his limited card pool before passing it to another player in the tournament.”

There isn’t much fancy going on for this infraction. It’s pretty straight-forward. Note that if you receive a list that was not filled out correctly in a limited event and you fail to notice the error until later, you’ll get an Illegal List infraction. No penalty exists for this infraction for Standard RL. The penalty for a Registration Error is a Warning for Competitive RL.


DE2 – Illegal List

“This infraction occurs when the decklist does not meet tournament rules for deck building.”

This will most commonly be having banned cards, improper quantities beyond maximum, or too few cards on the list. In situations where both the deck and the decklist are illegal, judges should only issue the penalty for illegal list. If the list is illegal, but the deck is legal; change the list to match the deck. If the list and deck are illegal, make the minimum adjustments necessary to make the deck legal, then make the list match the deck. The penalty for Illegal List is a Warning at both Rules Levels.  An example would be having 5 Thunder on your list. Or 38 cards in the Main Deck.


DE3 – Illegal Deck

“This infraction occurs when a player has a deck that does not match their legal decklist.”

The most common infractions are opponent’s cards in your deck, lost cards, or when the deck doesn’t match the decklist. Cards in the same location as the side deck are treated as though they are in the side deck. So if you bought some sweet foils for your other deck, keep them out of your deck box at a Competitive RL event. If you realize that you have an Illegal Deck before either player has played a card and call a judge on yourself, the Head Judge may downgrade the penalty to a Warning if it was your first time committing this offense. We would fix this infraction by making the deck match the decklist.

If no decklists are being used, and this is a Standard RL event, the player must remove all illegal cards from all zones and replace them with legal cards. Those legal cards are then shuffled into the randomized portion of their deck. Then, based on where the illegal cards were found, the player will perform one or more of the following actions:

  • If an illegal card was found in play, the Deck, the Graveyard or the RFG zone, then nothing more is done and play continues as normal.
  • If an illegal card was found in the player’s hand, then that player will put cards from the top of their deck into their hand until they have replaced the same number of illegal cards.

The penalty for Illegal Deck is a Warning at Standard RL events and a Game Loss at Competitive RL events.


DE4 – Failure to De-Side Deck

“This infraction occurs when a player fails to return their deck to the original configuration for a new game.”

If you have sideboard cards in your Main or Stone deck that shouldn’t be there because you are playing game 1, you have Failed to De-Side Deck. Similarly to an Illegal Deck, if you call a judge on yourself before a card is played and this is your first Failure to De-Side Deck infraction, the Head Judge may downgrade the penalty to a Warning. Normally this would be a Game Loss at both Rules Levels. We would fix this issue by making the deck match the decklist.

Unsporting Conduct

A lot of the Unsporting Conduct infractions are worded a little vague for my tastes, but examples are given and most of the time, common sense/our best judgement is used to determine what is considered the various degrees of Unsporting Conduct.


UC1 – Minor Unsporting Conduct

“This penalty is appropriate for minor examples of unsporting conduct, the most common of which are swearing out loud at no particular person, leaving trash in the player area, or inappropriate gestures.”

The penalty for Minor Unsporting Conduct is a Warning at both Rules Levels. The general vibe for UC – Minor is that it is for things that could make someone else uncomfortable at the event. Messing up the play area by leaving trash and inappropriate language are prime examples of this.


UC2 – Major Unsporting Conduct  

“This penalty is appropriate for major examples of unsporting conduct.”

Here is where the vagueness I was talking about kind of kicks in. The definition of UC – Major doesn’t really talk about what it is and we are left with the examples to give us insight as to what constitutes this infraction. Profanity directed at a person, throwing objects not directed at a person, player refusing to sign a result slip or ripping it up, are the examples given. Mild aggression not directed at a person and directly potentially making a person as opposed to the general public uncomfortable are the types of things that would be considered Major Unsporting Conduct. The penalty for Major Unsporting Conduct is a Game Loss at both Rules Levels.


UC3 – Severe Unsporting Conduct

“This penalty is appropriate for extreme examples of unsporting conduct.”

A person doesn’t need to be in the tournament to receive this infraction. You might think, why would this matter if I’m not in the event? The reason is for record keeping and tracking players that have behaved in ways unacceptable for tournament play. Examples include: writing on tablecloths/defacing tournament area, verbally threatening someone, intentionally causing damage to the site or someone else’s property. These types of things fall under physically damaging property or non-physically damaging people. The penalty for Severe Unsporting Conduct is Disqualification without Prize at both Rules Levels.


UC4 – Theft

“This infraction occurs if a player steals something at or around the tournament site.”

This is pretty cut and dry. If you take something that isn’t yours on purpose, you’ll be Disqualified without Prize for Theft at both Rules Levels. To protect yourself from theft, we recommend keeping your backpack physically touching your body or wrapped around your leg. And always keeping a vigilant eye on your things.


UC5 – Aggressive Behavior

“This infraction occurs if a player is openly aggressive towards other players, spectators, or tournament officials. The safety of tournament participants is of highest importance. There is no tolerance for players violating this rule.”

I cannot stress how unacceptable it is to be aggressive towards other people, in general and especially at Force of Will events. You risk being banned from Organized Play for life as well as potentially charged with a crime depending on the circumstances. Just don’t do it. If you are lividly angry at your opponent, take a deep breath, walk away, do what you need to do to cool down. Hopefully a judge was able to deescalate the situation before it would get this far. The penalty for Aggressive Behavior is Disqualification without Prize at both Rules Levels.



Cheating has a very specific definition and I see many people use cheating incorrectly from a TCG standpoint. To cheat you know you are doing something wrong and do it anyways. Intent matters. If you just broke a game rule, but didn’t do it on purpose, it’s not cheating.

“A player is Cheating when they intentionally commit an infraction to gain a significant advantage or allow an infraction to be committed knowingly and results in a disqualification without prize.

In Standard Rules Level tournaments, both players may legitimately not know that some of these offenses, such as bribery and random match outcomes, are against the Tournament Policy. In such cases, and only at tournaments with Standard Rules Level, the Head Judge may downgrade the penalty to a Match Loss if he feels the offense was taken without malice or preplanning.”


CH1 – Manipulating Match Outcome

“This infraction occurs when one, or both, players attempt to manipulate or randomize the outcome of a match.”

***Intentional draws are not allowed at Force of Will events.***

***You may not offer anything for the outcome of a match.***

***You may not roll a die or use some other random method for determining the winner of the match. Play Force of Will to determine the outcome.***

If you want to prize split or find out about the rules for splitting prizes, call a judge and ask them away from the table what is and is not appropriate to say or do. The penalty for Manipulating Match Outcome is Disqualification without Prize at both Rules Levels.


CH2 – Game Object Manipulation

“This infraction occurs when a player manipulates cards, or game mechanics. This includes, but is not limited to, intentionally drawing extra cards, changing the game state, or marking cards.”

Simply put this is the cheating version of the other penalties. If you have intentionally broken a game rule, then you have most likely committed Game Object Manipulation. The penalty of which is Disqualification without Prize at both Rules Levels.


CH3 – Misrepresenting Information

“This infraction occurs when a player intentionally misrepresents public information to their opponent, or any kind of information to tournament officials.”

“While bluffing is a component of trading card games, players may not lie about public information to their opponents and may never give incorrect information to tournament officials.” The penalty for Misrepresneting Information is Disqualification without Prize at both Rules Levels.


CH4 – Stalling

“This infraction occurs when a player intentionally plays slow during a game to gain an advantage”

This is the cheating version of Slow Play. The penalty for Stalling is Disqualification without Prize at both Rules Levels.


Whew, that was a lot to go over. The vast majority of penalties are going to happen by players who are temporarily absent minded or have fumbly fingers. Many of them will be accidents and mistakes, so there isn’t much advice I can give to prevent those beyond be careful, practice, and communicate clearly to your opponent. The Unsporting Conduct and Cheating infractions are for when there is some ill will or scumminess involved. Cheating requires knowing what you did was wrong, and doing it anyways. I hope that this article has given you better insight to the what, why, and how of the Penalty Guidelines.


Until next time,

Keeping it fair and keeping it fun.

 – Alex Muhich

Answers to Scenarios:

Q1: Terry committed Game Rules Error for forgetting to apply Blazer’s replacement effect. Nigel committed Failure to Maintain Game State for not noticing it before another action was taken. So Warnings for both of them. The first thing I would think about in terms of fixing this game state is what would the actions of rewinding this game state look like. We would recover the will used to activate Grimm’s ability and put the discarded Fairy Tale back in Nigel’s hand. We’d then undo the damage and shuffle effect from Realm and Cheshire Cat. The Cheshire Cat should be put into the Remove from Game area. We now hit a point where we can’t rewind fully anymore. We can’t know what card was put back by Terry. As such, I wouldn’t rewind at all as this situation is overly complex. A friendly reminder to both players to pay attention to all the abilities of cards in play and give them however much extra time that this investigation took.


Q2: The main way I determine how many cards each player should have seen is comparing the cards each player has seen or is not in their deck at that moment. We add up all those cards and subtract a number of cards equal to the number of cards drawn from spell or abilities beyond the draw for turn (such as Cheshire Cat, the Grinning Remnant). Take into account any mulligans and who played first. If the number is the same as the opponent’s respective number, if they were on the draw, then they haven’t drawn their card for the turn. If they were on the play and their number was one less than the opponent’s, then they haven’t drawn for the turn. The issue with this technique is if the opponent is cheating and “forgot” to draw a card when they should have, making it look like the accused player has drawn an extra card. If the count is off in such a way where they have drawn an extra card(s), we talk to both players separately to investigate for cheating.


Q3: I told the spectators that there would be no more talking during the match. I pulled the player who asked about the lack of attack aside and told them although the jovial atmosphere is fine and the players of the match asking those types of questions is fine. A spectator asking a questions and commenting on the match in that way is Outside Assistance as they have basically made the player aware of a play that maybe they weren’t aware of. I told them that the penalty for OA is a Game Loss and that they’d be starting their next round down a game.


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