Thinking it Through

Thinking it Through

Etiquette begins the minute you sit down and set up at the table. There are the small things such as introducing yourself to your opponent and asking how their experience has been, and there are more important things to be mindful of, such as keeping drinks off the table and making sure your playmat doesn’t creep into another player’s space. These conventions are out of politeness. The practice of sharing is a necessity for an honest game.

The Die Roll

When deciding who will go first, always share the die or dice. If a player doesn’t do this, it’s grounds to call a judge. I’m sorry if it’s your lucky die and if anyone else touches your die then it will lose its magic—I need to touch it. Cheaters will use weighted dice to make sure they always have the option. If you happen to have a lucky die that is honest but you don’t want to share, then leave it at home. It unfortunately won’t fly in a tournament setting.

This is pretty common knowledge. I would also wager that it’s common knowledge that players use a highest result when determining the winner of the die roll Many players announce this before rolling. Props to them for great communication, and I recommend that everyone does the same; however, in the event that someone doesn’t declare, the default is clearly a high roll. Don’t be the guy that tries to snake your opponent for not saying high or low and you rolled the worse result. If your opponent is a seasoned tournament player, he will just call a judge and both of you might end up with a communication violation or an unclear game state warning, or as I like to call it: “Failure to agree on reality.”

Don’t be that guy. Assume your opponent meant high roll.

“But this is the Only Way I Know How to Shuffle”

Don’t be this guy either. When each player presents their deck to their opponent, he or she has the right to shuffle instead of just cut. Always shuffle. It’s just good common practice to ensure an honest game; however, if you do shuffle your opponent’s deck there are some key ways of doing it to make sure you don’t come off as a cheater.

  1.  Keep the deck off to the side. Shuffling off to your side ensures that neither your opponent nor you can see where cards are being shuffled into the deck. If one of you could, that would destroy the integrity of shuffling in the first place.
  2.  Keep the deck above the table. Obviously shuffling under the table is a huge “no-no,” but even shuffling a deck not above the table is questionable. It could lead your opponent to think you might drop-kick** him. Worse, you could be an honest player and accidentally drop a card on the ground. If neither of you notice but a judge does, you receive a game loss immediately.
  3. Keep your eyes on your opponent. This serves two purposes. It shows your opponent that you are honest and aren’t trying to peek at their deck. It can also protect you by making sure your opponent isn’t sneaking peaks at your deck.

Time and time again I’ve heard people try and tell me that they can’t shuffle without looking at the deck. This might be true, but this is a competitive tournament. First place is free airfare, and last time I won WotC paid for a ticket costing $850. We’re playing for serious, so please respect the context in which we’re playing. I’ll trust you on your kitchen table or the local card shop to not cheat me, but at a KMC, I have to be skeptical to protect my interests.

If you honestly can’t shuffle without looking at the deck, then start practicing at home before playing in a high-level competitive event. It’s a skill that you just need to acquire if you want to perform on that stage.

I Choose You, Randomly Selected Card

With the advent of cards like Spire Puppet, players can start discarding cards from their opponent at random. For many games, there is a generally accepted way of handling this action across all high-level tournament play:

  • The opponent shuffles his hand then lays out the cards, face down, in a row on the table.
  • The player who played Spire Puppet assigns numerical values to the face down numbers.
    • Example: If the opponent has three cards in hand and you have a six-sided die, then two numbers can be assigned to each card.
    • Example: If the opponent has five cards in hand and you have a six-sided die, then they’re numbered 1 through 5 and the player rerolls on a six.
  • The opponent rolls a die to determine the result.

Why does this matter? The opponent shuffling his hand ensures that no one knows the order of the cards in his hand. This information could be somewhat public before playing Spire Puppet if the turn before you casted Mesmerize. Rolling a die—the same common die used to start the match—prevents you from feeling for a specific type of card. Foil cards are noticeably different. Even if you can’t feel for foils, just watching your opponent’s reaction as you hover your hand over each card can provide information. Either way, the randomness is decreased and invites other factors into the action that shouldn’t exist. The above practices are the fairest and safest way to produce a random discard for all parties involved. If someone has a problem with it, a judge will be called. It’s not that I don’t trust you; I just can’t afford to trust you. As Khaled Saad says, “If you give your trust to a person who does not deserve it, you actually give him the power to destroy you.”


**Drop Kicking is when a player sabotages his opponent by tricking the judge into thinking he never presented a legal deck. It starts with the player shuffling his opponent’s deck over his lap instead of the table. When his opponent isn’t paying attention, he purposely drops a card by his foot then kicks it over to his opponent. After this move is executed, he will pile shuffle his opponent’s deck and count how many cards it has (it will now count 39 instead of 40). The cheater then calls a judge. Eventually, the table will discover the missing card on the other player’s side, resulting in a game loss for that player for not presenting a legal deck.***


In no way am I promoting the use of the drop kicking technique. It’s cheating. Period. In no way do I condone drop kicking, or any other method of cheating. The explanation is meant to serve to purposes.

  1. To define the term so the audience would not feel lost
  2. To protect honest players from cheaters