Academy Blog: Ambiguous Card Names

Welcome back to Academy Blog! Policy Champion Daniel Lee here, and today I’d like to dive into a situation that I faced back at the Hunter Burton Memorial Open last year. I was the Team Lead for Deck Checks. Decklists for this particular event had been mostly submitted online, a more and more common reality at large Competitive REL tournaments these days. We had a certain situation come up no less than four times throughout the day and the details make for an interesting exploration of a particular type of deck/decklist problem. Let’s dive in!

The Policy

We’re going to focus on this specific section of IPG 3.4, Decklist Problem:

“Ambiguous or unclear names on a decklist may allow a player to manipulate the contents of their deck up until the point at which they are discovered.”

Sometimes players are sloppy with their decklists. They’ll write hastily and leave out some words or slightly mix them up, but a lot of times we can figure out what they meant without too much issue. When we get into real ambiguity is where the potential for abuse lies. The next part is crucial:

“The Head Judge may choose not to issue this penalty if they believe what the player wrote on the decklist is obvious and unambiguous, even if not entirely accurate. … This should be determined solely by what is written on the decklist, and not based on intent or the actual contents of the deck; needing to check the deck for confirmation is a sign that the entry is not obvious.”


All of the following situations are similar. The player registered a card that they were not playing in their deck. In every situation, the registered card was legal in the format (Modern) and did not match the card they were playing in their deck. Also, every player had registered their deck online.

  1. The first player registered Force of Nature in their sideboard.
  2. The second player registered Boseiju, Who Shelters All in their main deck.
  3. The third player registered Heliod, God of the Sun in their deck, which also included Spike Feeder.
  4. The fourth player registered Blinkmoth Nexus in their deck, which also included Colossus Hammer.

These were not the order we found these problems, but in order of increasing ambiguity in my opinion. Take a moment to try and guess what four cards were played in these slots in each deck, then continue reading to see if you agree with my ordering.

Player 1

For the first player, I bet a lot of you didn’t even realize that Force of Nature was legal in Modern. We certainly had several judges on staff at HBMO last year that believed they knew exactly which card the player intended and did not need to check the deck to be sure. I understand this perspective and while I did not share it at the time, I believe that I would be more lenient were I to see the same situation today.

Registered: Force of Nature

Playing: Force of Vigor

Player 2

The second player is slightly more ambiguous since Boseiju, Who Shelters All has definitely seen some play in Modern decks. To be fair, though, it was not a ton of play and it certainly wasn’t recently. The card the player WAS playing on the other hand was all over the room and thus a pretty easy guess to make.

Registered: Boseiju, Who Shelters All

Playing: Boseiju, Who Endures

Player 3

The third one crosses something of a threshold. Just by looking at the decklist, you would have no idea that this card didn’t fit unless you knew the deck (and specific combo) this player was playing. Policy is intentionally written to not assume that any particular judge will have deep knowledge of a particular format, for consistency reasons. It is worth mentioning that while Heliod fits the definition of a “storyline character,” the fact that two versions of him are legal in Modern means that it is irrelevant for purposes of Decklist Problem.

Registered: Heliod, God of the Sun

Playing: Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Player 4

The fourth one is where a lot of folks shift, in conversations I’ve had since last April. Blinkmoth Nexus is a totally reasonable card to play in Modern and has seen some play recently. It’s not actively antithetical to a Colossus Hammer deck, and is in a lot of ways very similar to the card that was supposed to be here. In fact, you could legitimately envision a situation where a player played Blinkmoth Nexus in that spot because they just couldn’t find any copies of the actual card for that slot.

Registered: Blinkmoth Nexus

Playing: Inkmoth Nexus

The Problem

Policy refers to things that a player “wrote” on their decklist. These players didn’t “write” anything in the traditional sense. They entered the names on a computer or on their smartphone. This introduces typos and potential autocorrect or autocomplete issues that current policy doesn’t account for. Especially when submitting online using a smartphone: typing a card name usually offers a drop-down menu of cards you could be trying to write, and a slight mis-tap would fill the wrong one. This is a significantly easier mistake to make than writing an entirely wrong card name by hand. The relative ease with which a player can make this mistake normally calls for a gentler penalty, otherwise our tournaments will be rife with Game Losses. On the other hand, the players have a responsibility to ensure that their decklist is correct, and one careful reading of their decklist before submission would likely have caught these errors. This is the dynamic that a Head Judge must wrestle with when determining whether to issue these penalties or not (within the scope of IPG 3.4).

At the time, I chose to issue these penalties with the Head Judge’s permission. Over time, though, I think I have relaxed my position and would be more inclined to fix the decklists and move on with everyone’s day. What would you do? Is there another angle I haven’t though of? Continue the conversation on the Judge Academy Discord server! If you’d like to contact me, you can find me on the Judge Academy Discord server or by email to