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PDtamer Judging Article - The Deck Check
June 28, 2010

Hey, PDtamer here.  I have experience judging at championship level events, like the Shonen Jump Championship Series, and the Yugioh Championship Series, and I'm going to be starting a series of articles about judging procedure, and how you can avoid penalties in various situations.  Our first topic will be on.....

....The Deck Check.  (Dun Dun Dun)

No other activity strike more fear, or gets more moans and complaining than this one bit of judging.  It ruins chances of topping, it outs cheaters, and it's a completely necessary evil.  This article is going to explain step by step what judges look for, and how to prevent as many penalties as humanly possible.  First, let's look at the collection process.

1)  Collection of Decks

During every round, judges for the Deck Team are assigned a table to collect decks from, and check the deck against the deck list that the player submitted.  When both players present their decks, a judge swoops in, and takes both players' main, side, and extra decks.  At this point, the decks are taken back to the judge's station, and the check begins.

2)  Deck Check - Initial Inspection

When the decks are taken to the judge's station, each judge is handed one deck to completely examine.  They are given a limit of 7 minutes in which to do this.  The first 2-3 minutes are broken up as follows:

a) Taking the deck, side, and extra from the deck box, and immediately drawing the first 5 cards of the deck, to see if there's a completely "broken" hand.  (Example: Exodia and his limbs, An OTK, etc.)  If we assume that it's a broken hand, we'll attempt to "re-stack" that same hand.  If we can, then we have a serious issue (Possible Disqualification).  If not, then it's a luck of the draw.

b) Holding the deck up, and checking the cases for imperfections, and seeing if any card is bent far enough that it can be picked out from all others in the deck (Hobby league holos are notorious for this).  If we see a marking that goes through all of the sleeves, it is deemed a factory defect.  If there are small markings on a few cards, we shuffle and try to stack those cards to the top of the deck, and if we do, we see if the card will have a game changing effect.  (Example:  JD with a blemish would raise more flags than a Garoth with a blemish)  We also check the side deck for any patterns, such as all of your D.D. Crow cards marked with a slightly bent corner.  We also check for intentional cheating, such as upside down cards.

3) Checking the deck against the list

This is where most penalties come in.  More than 50% of them in fact.  This is also the easiest part of the job, as all we have to do is compare list to deck.

a) We seperate the side deck and main deck into Spell, Trap, and Monster.  (Extra Deck is always "just monster")  We then put your deck in order as it's written on the list, checking the quantity of each as we go down the line.  If there's an inconsistancy, it's a Game Loss or Match Loss.  Simple as that. 

4)  Return of the decklists, and assesment of penalties

After we've checked your deck, we take the decks back to the table and assess penalties based on the infraction.  The penalties have ranged from a minor warning to a full blown DQ.  Here's a small chart to go by:

Marked Cards - Minor (Unintentional Marks on cases, no pattern, may be factory defect) :  Warning, must change cases before the next round.

Marked Cards - Major (Unintentional marks on cases, somewhat of a pattern, or on kill cards) :  Game Loss, must change cases before play

Decklist Error - Too many cards : Game Loss, must change deck to match decklist

Decklist Error - Illegal Decklist (Less than 40 cards, illegal amount of forbidden/restricted cards) : Game Loss, cards must be taken out/added in and changes must be updated to deck list.

Marked Cards - Intentional (Intent to cheat, pattern on cards that will lead to certain victory, and are easily distinguished from other cards in the deck, and therefore can be stacked.) :  Disqualification Without Prize

5) Mid-Round Deck Checks

Say hello to the most annoying thing that can happen to a player.  After game 1, and after both players have side decked, the judges come in and perform a very quick mid-round deck check.  These are assigned to some of the shadier players, in an attempt to catch them cheating.  This time, however, we don't sort the cards into a Monster-Spell-Trap line-up, but instead look for intentional cheating.  All penalties given out during this time is a Game Loss or higher.

So now you should be familiar with the deck checking process, and the penalties we can and will assess.  There is a bit of wiggle room from judge to judge when it comes to penalties, but usually we come to the same decision if a Game Loss or Warning is in dispute.

So what can you do to minimize your chances of getting a penalty you may not deserve?  Here's some helpful hints:

1) In Championship-level events, meaning YCS, Nationals, and Worlds, the condition of your card cases should be top priority.  You need to attempt to keep your cases in pristine condition throughout the event.  My personal golden rule, however, is to change cases after 5 rounds of play.  After about 10-15 games, especially with Player's Choice Cases (White-colored ones, in particular), they start to show wear, and little bends on corners that could lead to a game loss.  Another problem I've noticed with KMC and Player's choice is that Ultimate Rares tend to wear a pattern into the back of the case, making it a prime candidate to get you a game loss or DQ.

2) Just like your cases, keep your cards in very good condition as well.  If we see warped cards, or cards that are heavily damaged on the top edge, that's also a candidate for a marked cards violation.

3) Be sure to de-side after every round, and that all of your cards are facing the same direction.  Failure to de-side is a game loss, and cases turned backwards is usually a DQ if caught.

(And here's a note to everyone who may have a question in how we can "re-stack" hands.  Most judges that work these bigger events know what stacks look like, and are able to stack in many different ways, much like crafty players.)

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into how the deck check process works.  If you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject, feel free to email me at PDtamer02@hotmail.com.  I love feedback, and the next couple of articles I have planned are about other situations in tournament play, from a judge's perspective.

Until next time,


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