Judge School MTG
Shuffling the deck

Shuffling the deck Russian

Last Modified 03.03.2019

Today we shall take a deeper look at a rather technical aspect of the game — shuffling the deck. Players constantly ask questions on this subject, and novice judges do not always answer correctly. So let us figure out together what it is like. Now that, in fact, any game of Magic starts with a thorough shuffle.

103.1. At the start of a game, each player shuffles his or her deck so that the cards are in a random order. Each player may then shuffle or cut his or her opponents’ decks. The players’ decks become their libraries.

What to shuffle?

At first, let us sort the terms out. What does it mean to “shuffle”? Previously, the Tournament rules contained definitions of “cut” and “shuffle”. The current edition of the rules only has one definition, moved to the Comprehensive rules:

701.19a. To shuffle a library or a face-down pile of cards, randomize the cards within it so that no player knows their order.

Who shuffles?

Owner: No doubt, every player knows that he or she is supposed to shuffle their decks before each game begins. And also that the effects of some cards instruct to perform this, in fact, not so hard an action.

Mind's Desire, Extirpate, Primal Command, Red Sun's Zenith, Stoneforge Mystic, Wooded Foothills.

Opponent: Each time a player shuffles his or her deck, he is supposed to present it to his or her opponent to shuffle. After the opponent shuffles the presented deck, no actions are taken.

Until not so long ago, the rules allowed the deck owner to give a final cut to his or her deck after having it cut by an opponent. That is no longer allowed, but despite that players sometimes still cut or even shuffle their decks automatically after getting them back. What does that threaten to? At the first occurrence, nothing worse than a “Do not do that again” caution, as long as the head judge had not forbidden this kind of action explicitly at the start of the tournament. Unfortunately, repeated instances of such action at Competitive and Professional REL suppose a Warning for “Unsporting Conduct — Minor” (a judge has given a personal instruction to a player not to take an action, which the player has disobeyed, i.e. ignored the instructions of an official). Subsequent Unsporting Conduct — Minor infractions, even for different offenses, will result in a Game Loss.

There is another thing that gets on the players' nerves while the opponent is shuffling their deck:

— My opponent has pile-shuffled my deck! Is that legal?

— It is. There's nothing infernal about that. You are responsible for the initial randomization. You have shuffled it thoroughly, haven't you? So then, let us thank the opponent for performing an extra manipulation. The deck continues to be randomized.

Judge: A player may request a judge to perform a deck shuffle instead of the opponent (whether to perform it is entirely at the judge's discretion). Besides, the judge must shuffle the deck, or its randomized part, when fixing certain errors committed by players.

For example, if a player drew 7 cards instead of 6 while mulliganing, at a Competitive REL event the player is supposed to reveals his hand and his opponent selects a card that should be shuffled it into the deck (Ref. “Gameplay error — Hidden Card Error). At Regular REL, only the extra card(s) are removed.

Or, if a player has forgotten that Counterbalance is no longer on the battlefield, then in order to restore the global justice, the randomized part of the player's deck must be shuffled. (Ref. “Gameplay Error — Looking at Extra Cards”).

Note that there are cases when a looked-up card does not get shuffled. Homework question: When does that happen?

Should a player attempt to use this action of the judge to get a card he doesn't want do draw to get shuffled into the library, he would be disqualified for “Unsporting conduct — Cheating”.

Most of this is laid out in the Tournament rules:

3.9 Card Shuffling

Decks must be randomized at the start of every game and whenever an instruction requires it. Randomization is defined as bringing the deck to a state where no player can have any information regarding the order or position of cards in any portion of the deck. Pile shuffling may not be performed other than once at the beginning of a game to count the cards in the deck.

Once the deck is randomized, it must be presented to an opponent. By this action, players state that their decks are legal and randomized. The opponent may then shuffle it additionally. Cards and sleeves must not be in danger of being damaged during this process.

If the opponent does not believe the player made a reasonable effort to randomize his or her deck, the opponent must notify a judge. Players may request to have a judge shuffle their cards rather than the opponent; this request will be honored only at a judge’s discretion. If a player has had the opportunity to see any of the card faces of the deck being shuffled, the deck is no longer considered randomized and must be randomized again.

At Competitive and Professional Rules Enforcement Level tournaments, players are required to shuffle their opponents’ decks after their owners have shuffled them. The Head Judge can require this at Regular Rules Enforcement Level tournaments as well.

How to shuffle?

Now's the time for the juiciest. How should a deck be shuffled?

The shuffling of a deck must occur so that the player doesn't see the face of the cards. Also the cards may not be shown to your opponents and teammates when shuffling. Should it happen that a card is revealed during shuffling one's own or the opponent's deck, we deal with “Looking at Extra cards”. If a player does it deliberately, I'm afraid, the judge will go through a lot of paperwork about disqualifying the smarty-pants for “Unsporting Conduct — Cheating”.

What does the word “Randomization” namely suggest? A player's deck is not sufficiently randomized if the judge believes a player knows the position or distribution of one or multiple cards in the deck. It is considered that before a player sets to shuffle his deck he knows the distribution of cards in it. Weaving or stacking of the deck is allowed, as long as the deck gets thoroughly shuffled afterwards.

What is to be done when a player watches his opponent thoroughly stack the lands one after two nonland cards? The temptation to take his deck and to pile-shuffle into three piles to get him flooded/screwed is huge, no doubt, but see above: “If the opponent does not believe the player made a reasonable effort to randomize his or her deck, the opponent must notify a judge”. Stacking a deck without further randomization, as well as marked cards, fits the “Unsporting Conduct — Cheating” category, which leads to Disqualification.

Regardless of the methods chosen, the deck must be completely randomized. Patterned pile-shuffling alone is not sufficient to consider a deck properly randomized (since, as mentioned above, it is considered that a player knows the distribution of cards in his deck). A player should shuffle his or her deck using multiple methods. Here is a good example of shuffling:

Finally, let me remind you that when a player presents his deck to the opponent, he or she confirms that his or her deck is correct, legal and sufficiently randomized.


How do triggered abilities going off at the “shuffled the deck” event work? The following set of rules decribes this:

701.19b. Some effects cause a player to search a library for a card or cards, shuffle that library, then put the found card or cards in a certain position in that library. Even though the found card or cards never leave that library, they aren’t included in the shuffle. Rather, all the cards in that library except those are shuffled. Abilities that trigger when a library is shuffled will still trigger.

701.19c. If an effect would cause a player to shuffle one or more specific objects into a library, that library is shuffled even if none of those objects are in the zone they’re expected to be in or an effect causes all of those objects to be moved to another zone or remain in their current zone.

Example: Guile says, in part, “When Guile is put into a graveyard from anywhere, shuffle it into its owner's library.” It's put into a graveyard and its ability triggers, then a player exiles it from that graveyard in response. When the ability resolves, the library is shuffled.

Example: Black Sun’s Zenith says, in part, “Shuffle Black Sun’s Zenith into its owner’s library.” Black Sun’s Zenith is in a graveyard, has gained Flashback (due to Recoup, perhaps), and is cast from that graveyard. Black Sun’s Zenith will be exiled, and its owner’s library will be shuffled.

701.19d. If an effect would cause a player to shuffle a set of objects into a library, that library is shuffled even if there are no objects in that set.

Example: Loaming Shaman says “When Loaming Shaman enters the battlefield, target player shuffles any number of target cards from his or her graveyard into his or her library.” It enters the battlefield, its ability triggers, and no cards are targeted. When the ability resolves, the targeted player will still have to shuffle his or her library.

701.19e. If an effect causes a player to shuffle a library containing zero or one cards, abilities that trigger when a library is shuffled will still trigger.

701.19f. If two or more effects cause a library to be shuffled multiple times simultaneously, abilities that trigger when that library is shuffled will trigger that many times.



— Are there situations when shuffling a deck may be omitted?

— Yes. When storm triggers off spells like Mind's Desire or Dragonstorm, it is allowed to skip the shuffling between resolving the copies.

— An opponent plays a spell that allows him to see cards in my library, but I have just resolved Brainstorm and I don't want him to see which two cards I have put on top of my library. May I shuffle my deck before presenting it to my opponent?

— No, that's illegal. You may not just shuffle your deck without any reason to. That is “Gameplay Error — Game Rule Violation”. In tournaments at Competitive REL you will get a Warning at the very least. However, a much harsher fate is likely, since a deliberate violation of the game rules to get an advantage is treated as “Unsporting Conduct — Cheating” and punished with Disqualification.

— What is to be done when a card gets damaged?

— In case of such an unfortunate event, a judge may issue a proxy or demand a player to use sleeves (if there were none). If the judge produces a proxy, it is placed into the player's deck replacing the damaged card. The card itself must be face down in course of the game, within reach. Each time the proxy is played, the player replaces it with the damaged original. When the original card has to be placed into the player's hand or library, the reverse replacement is made.

As you can see, proxying is a troublesome affair, so it is rarely recurred to. Aside from a card getting damaged in course of the tournament, another occasion to proxy a card may be a defective card in a sealed product during a Limited tournament. The rules have no other pretext to proxy.

— What happens to the “party at fault”?

— If it happened accidentally... I think you already noticed that I am repeating this phrase a lot today. This time, if it wasn't accidental, we face Disqualification where the judge deals with “Unsporting Conduct — Aggressive Behaviour”.

This is where my narration about peculiar deck shuffling ends. I wish you to learn to shuffle your decks quickly, elegantly and correctly in terms of Magic rules.

Translated by Witas Spasovski