Despite the IPG being very exact in its nature, sometimes some ambiguity in the language can lead to misinterpretations. In this case we’ll be taking a look at one of the more common presentations of Deck Problem at Competitive REL events. Here is the relevant text of the IPG:
IPG 3.5: Upgrade: While presented to the opponent for pre-game shuffling or during a deckcheck, if it is discovered that a deck contains an invalid number of cards (and any missing cards are not in the opponent’s deck) or a sideboard contains too many cards, the penalty is a Game Loss.
There is discrepancy among judges about the meaning of the word “invalid” in the policy. Author Toby Elliot has clarified that it is only intended to refer to a total deck count that is illegal for the format. Specifically, less than 60 cards in Constructed or less than 40 cards in Limited. This does not apply to any other situation.
Let’s look at some examples and assume that all of these errors are found during a deckcheck:
Ada’s Pioneer deck as registered is 60 cards with a 15 card sideboard. In Ada’s last match, they sideboarded in four Leyline of Sanctity and sideboarded out four Arboreal Grazer . They failed to return these cards before their next match. The error is found during a deckcheck at the start of Game 1.
Result: Warning, no upgrade, return the cards to their appropriate places. The deck contains a valid number of cards (60) and the missing cards are not in the opponent’s deck. Ada’s sideboard does not contain too many cards. The upgrade does not apply.
Ari’s Limited deck as registered is 41 cards with the remainder of their pool as their sideboard. In Ari’s last match, they sideboarded out one Negate and failed to return the card before their next match. The error is found during a deckcheck at the start of Game 1.
Result: Warning, no upgrade, return the card to the main deck. The deck contains a valid number of cards (40) and the missing cards are not in the opponent’s deck. Ada’s sideboard does not contain too many cards. The upgrade does not apply.
Aron’s Modern deck as registered is 80 cards with a 15 card sideboard. In Aron’s last match, they sideboarded in three Veil of Summer and sideboarded out three Supreme Verdict . Aron returned the Veils of Summer to their sideboard but neglected to return the Supreme Verdicts to their main deck before their next match. The error is found during a deckcheck at the start of Game 1.
Result: Game Loss upgrade. The main deck is now 77 cards which is a valid number of cards, but the sideboard now contains too many cards (18). The upgrade applies. (Note: There is also likely a companion restriction violation since an 80 card deck is almost certainly a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck, but the Game Loss makes the prescribed fix for that error irrelevant to this situation)
While this infraction has a relatively simple fix and is usually an innocent mistake, don’t forget to do your due diligence and investigate for cheating. Are the cards that were removed bad in this match-up? Are the cards that were added good? Did the player have a way of knowing what deck their next round opponent was playing? Investigation is always implied and required when discussing policy scenarios, and the above examples all assume no cheating.
I hope this clarification has helped! Continue the conversation and keep discussing these situations 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 [email protected]