Shuffling Dos & Don’ts

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One of the basic rules of Magic is that players are to start each game with a deck of cards in a random order. It's stated in the Universal Tournament Rules (UTR 21) that players are to sufficiently randomize their cards and while doing so, the card faces can’t be seen. Whether the deck is a 40 card limited deck, a 60 card Standard deck, or a 250 card Extended “Battle of Wits” deck, the players shouldn’t have a clue as to how the deck is organized.


Lee McLain, L3

There are many different ways that players randomize their decks. There is the riffle shuffle (also called a shotgun shuffle), there is the pile shuffle where a player makes several face down piles of cards on the table, rearranging the cards’ order, and there is the “mash” shuffle where a player separates a deck in half and then pushes the stacks back together. Some of these methods are known by different names and there are other types of shuffles but, when performed properly, they are all intended to do the same job; randomize the deck.

Another shuffling method used (although it is not a shuffle at all) is called a “weave” or “mana weave.” Commonly, players mana weaving will separate their deck into two piles, one for spells and one for land. At this point, they arrange the cards in a set pattern: two spells, one land, two spells, one land, and so on. In a 60 card deck with 20 land cards, this leaves the deck in a nice 2:1 ratio of spells to land and assures that the player will draw plenty of land.

If left as is, the deck in the above example is obviously not randomized; in fact, the cards are in a known pattern. Although the exact order of the cards is not known, there is a pattern of two spell cards and one land card repeating throughout the deck. Left in this state, this is a stacked deck and qualifies as Cheating. After going through all the work of mana weaving, the deck still needs to be randomized.

In order to sufficiently randomize a deck, a player must use a series of proper shuffles and cuts. Some players like a variety of shuffling methods during the course of their matches, mixing pile shuffles, riffle shuffles, and whatever else they are in the habit of doing. Even though they might be mixing up their shuffling methods, one thing must remain constant; they must randomize the deck. Mana weaving without further randomization is deck-stacking, pile shuffling alone is not adequate, and one or two riffle or pile shuffles are also inadequate. Pile shuffling as the final shuffling method is also not adequate.

When it comes time to shuffle, use different, alternating techniques, be careful not to damage or drop cards while shuffling, and be thorough. Remember that in between games you have three minutes, don't stop shuffling after only 20 seconds!

You may ask, “Why not just ban X shuffle method?” Since many of the questionable methods can be difficult to define precisely, it's better to define acceptable methods. If players use the above guidelines for shuffling, there is no need to ban any method of shuffling.

Insufficiently randomizing a deck is something that sends up a warning flag to other players and judges alike. In the Penalty Guidelines the penalty for insufficient deck shuffling is a Warning. That is the penalty for an unintentional infraction. If a judge determines that the infraction was intentional, it will be upgraded to Cheating, which will result in disqualification and an investigation by the DCI.

Lee McLain, Ohio, L3
mrlee@neo.rr.com

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