Cranial Insertion: Law of the Land

Cranial Insertion
Law of the Land
or, Now you have no reason not to know!

By Brian D. Schenck (sideboarded in for Eli Shiffrin, Thijs van Ommen, and Tom Fowler)

Yes, I am not your regular writer. No, this is not some weird cross-dimensional fold in space-time. While I will not regale you with tales of strange happenings with zombified monkeys nor sing opera to you in fictional dialects, I will educate you on something that you are expected to know, but probably didn't realize that you needed to know. However, I will first entertain a question from the audience…

"Who are you and where are our regular writers?"

Wait, you say you have no clue who I am? Well, who are any of us really? I mean, isn't this the quintessential question? Our reason for being as it were? Truly, isn't Socrates’s "Know Thyself?" one of the most important questions to ever have been asked, even in our time? And, if one doesn't know myself, then how exactly can one answer the question?

I'm not that kind of judge...
Okay, maybe I am.
Ahem, since I'm being prodded by Eli, Thijs and Tom to actually answer the question… My name is Brian D. Schenck, although you may recognize me by the handle "epeeguy" in the forums. I've been known to post occasionally in the Rulings Forum to answer a question. I'm a DCI Regional Judge (Level 3) in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area and have been a judge for a few years now. I'm normally the Editor for Cranial Insertion as well, though this week I decided to write the column. Apparently everyone else has "something else going on," so it'd be infringing on them some to ask them to write this week. Damn that short end of the stick!

On the upside, it allows me to do something novel. That is, I actually get to write this week's article and go over with you all the various DCI documents that have never really been covered in depth by us prior to this point. We've mentioned these documents before now, but we've never really gone into a lot of depth about them. So, I'll spend some time educating you as to these documents and what their purposes are.

Anyhow, let us begin our trek into DCI Policy Land… It's a lot like Candy Land really, except without the candy! Plus we have a zombified monkey!

What are they, and where can they be found?

Besides the Comprehensive Rules, there are three other important documents that all players are required be familiar with. Not just "should", but "required". That's part of what you should know as a player. These documents are the Universal Tournament Rules (which cover all elements of DCI policy for sanctioned events), the Magic Floor Rules (which cover elements of DCI policy specific to Magic) and the Penalty Guidelines (which cover violations of rules or policy at all DCI sanctioned events). The full quartet of documents make up all the rules and regulations that players are expected to follow and judges are responsible for enforcing. So, if a judge ever tells you something about what you should be doing, expect to find it in one of these documents.

DCI policy changes are based
on fairly complicated factors.
If you don't have a copy of these documents or have never seen any of these documents before, then the most recent versions are available from the Wizards of the Coast website in the Tournament section. You can download any of these documents by going to the following Web address:

Of course, it bears mentioning that DCI policy does change from time to time. And some policies have been announced to Judge-L (that's the listserv set up for judge discussions and the communication of policy) that have not been put in these documents yet. Perhaps the best example occurred shortly around the time of last year's U.S. Nationals regarding how "Looking at Extra Cards" was going to be handled. For those who've never seen this discussion before, you can click here to see a thread on the change that was made. Likewise, the head judge of the tournament is the ultimate authority on the application of DCI policy and can deviate if necessary. This is especially important as some situations do come up from time to time that merit a different solution than the "textbook" one. That being said though, let me explain these documents in some greater detail.

The Universal Tournament Rules

Our first stop in DCI Policy Land is with the Universal Tournament Rules (or UTR for short). This document defines the standards under which all DCI sanctioned events should be run, whether it be Magic, Duel Masters or even the newest game, Dreamblade. The UTR defines who is eligible for participation in the event, what you should bring with you, and what your responsibilities are as a player in the event. It also defines what the responsibilities of the Tournament Organizer are, as well as the responsibilities of the judges and head judge of the event. It also mentions what responsibilities spectators have, which is something not a lot of people know (and something that was recently actively discussed in the Rulings Forum).

I'm supposed to do WHAT exactly?!?
Other things that are probably very important to note include procedures that you should know when playing; for example, if a judge issues a ruling at an event and you disagree with it, you are entitled to an appeal. Likewise, if the ruling takes some time to be made, then you are entitled to extra time. The policy on shuffling (which we mentioned in last week's article) is also covered in the UTR as well. Not to mention the time limits you have on shuffling, both before and during the game. Concessions (and what you can't do) and withdrawing from an event are also covered, which is good to know so that you make the scorekeeper's job a bit easier and don't get into trouble with judges. Lastly, there are also specific comments on violations and what happens when a violation occurs, whether it be cheating, unsporting conduct, slow play or marked cards. These things have specific definitions regarding what each consists of, which will come into play when we get to the Penalty Guidelines.

Overall though, this is general information on the game and some of the basic policies that the DCI has instituted for sanctioned events. As a side note, the Elo rating system used in Magic is also described in there as well, for those with a mathematical fixation. More pertinent to players are the Magic Floor Rules.

The Magic Floor Rules

Our next top in DCI Policy Land takes us to the Magic Floor Rules (or the MFR). This probably has the most relevance to players. For example, this document actually defines the various formats and the ratings for each of those formats. For example, Standard, Extended and Block are the three formats that make up Constructed, and your performance in these events make up your Constructed rating. Likewise, what sets comprise each of these formats is also described in the document as well, with specifics on when new sets become legal and when older sets rotate out. For example, Coldsnap became legal for Limited on July 21 and became legal for Constructed on August 20. Time Spiral will become legal for Limited on October 6, which should be the day it goes on sale, and will become legal for Constructed on October 20, at which time all the sets from the Kamigawa block will rotate out of Standard.

Win? Lose? Draw!
Another element that is important for players are those rules that cover the match structure, play-draw rule, time limits for matches, and what you do when a match ends. For example, matches consist of three games, with the first player to win the majority of games winning the match. What is unusual about this is that if a game is drawn (say, you Char your opponent who is at 4 when you are at 2), then you still have to play another game even if it was your third one. Yes, you keep playing until someone wins the majority of the games! That is, of course, provided that you have time left in your match. If you don't and the game is unfinished, then it is recorded as a draw. Otherwise, you record and report all games that you actually played in the match.

Also of special note is the procedure used at the end of the match. If you are in game 3 and time is called, what happens? You finish the game, of course; but you only have 5 turns in total to finish it. If time is called during your turn, then your opponent gets turn 1, you get turn 2, your opponent gets turn 3, you get turn 4, and your opponent gets the final turn. If no one is the winner at the end of this turn, the game is a draw. But do note that life totals are not used to determine the winner of the match except in single-elimination tournaments (such as the grinders the day before U.S. Nationals). If you are in the Swiss rounds of a tournament and time is called, then you do not use life totals to determine a winner.

The procedures on deck construction and sideboard use are also laid out in more detail, with specific sections for Constructed and Limited. Likewise, the infamous Banned and Restricted lists are included in the MFR. For example, with the rotation of Extended last fall, did you know there are only 4 cards currently banned in Extended? Bonus points to anyone who can name those 4 cards without having to look them up in the MFR! The rules on Team and Multiplayer tournaments are also included in here, and if you are interested in qualifying for the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour next year, then you just may want to go over the rules for how this is handled.

So, that's the Magic Floor Rules in a nutshell. Pretty important stuff, and a very good document to read over. Next, we move on to the document that generates a lot of misunderstandings…

The Penalty Guidelines

We like to call it "fair".
Our final stop in DCI Policy Land is with the Penalty Guidelines (or PGs). This is the one document that most every player has probably had exposure to at one point in time, although more from the receiving end of the document. Most people also have the largest problems with understanding how this document works, especially in terms of what penalties are issued for certain infractions. Especially with what things constitute certain infractions.

The PGs are broken into categories for the various types of infractions. Deck Problems are very different from Procedural Errors, and both are very different from Unsporting Conduct and Cheating. So, it's important to know the differences between the types of infractions. Within each category are more specific infractions, which are defined in the Penalty Guidelines and examples are given to help judges identify which category an infraction belongs to. Given that judges first identify what the infraction is and then issue a penalty based on that, it is important to understand the fundamental differences between a Minor, Major and Severe Procedural Error. It is certainly not based on someone deserving a Game Loss. The philosophy behind the infraction is an important part of this as well, putting the specific infraction in context with other situations that may occur; since the list of examples isn't exhaustive, a judge has to understand what the infraction is meant to cover.

Which takes us to the last two parts of each infraction: the penalty itself and the recommended fix, if any. Each infraction has its own penalty listed, which may be dependent upon the Rules Enforcement Level (REL) of the event. For example, Drawing Extra Cards isn't always a Game Loss. It is at REL 3 and above, but at REL 1 and 2, it's actually a Warning. And there is a recommended fix involved for situations involving Drawing Extra Cards (I'll let enterprising readers look it up for themselves). A number of infractions have the same penalty at all RELs (for example, all the types of Procedural Errors have the same penalty across the board), but a number are upgraded when you get to higher level events.

Lastly, there are two important things to note within the penalty guidelines. Firstly is the policy on upgrades. Yes, if you commit the same infraction multiple times, then it can be upgraded to the next highest penalty. So, Drawing Extra Cards at an REL 1 event may be a Warning the first time, but do it again that day, and you will likely receive a Game Loss. Upgrades can even occur the first time you receive a penalty, though these situations are outlined in the specific infractions themselves. The other important thing to note is about deviation; that is, deviation from the penalty guidelines should be rare and in "significant and/or exceptional" circumstances. It's up to a judge to determine what is "significant and/or exceptional", but rest assured it is those situations that are not likely to happen regularly.

The note about deviation exists for two reasons: that all players should expect the same enforcement of penalties no matter where they go, and to remind us judges that we should follow the policy as closely as possible. It doesn't do players any good when one judge does things entirely different from another judge. Obviously, sometimes things happen that make it necessary to deviate, but in general the policy exists to ensure as uniform a standard as possible.

In Closing

So, these are the things you are expected to know about as a player. Are you responsible for memorizing them? Of course not, but a good working knowledge for most players is familiarity with the basic concepts of the documents and what each does. As well as some of the more pertinent things mentioned in the documents (for example, the section on "Player Responsibilities" from the UTR is a good one) would be good to remember. That way you have a good idea of what you need to do at tournaments and what you can expect to be responsible for when you participate in sanctioned events.


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