Back Alley Oracle #5 Procedure and Penalty Guide

16th Jun 2022 Joshua Scott

From 27 June 2022, the new Procedure and Penalty Guide will take effect. In preparation for this, we have released a preview of the updated guide ahead of time so that players and judges have time to familiarize themselves with the new document ahead of the changes coming into force.

As part of our commitment to players "playing great games", we have spent the last few months taking a critical look at our guidelines for judges running events. Today we’ve released a preview of the new Procedure and Penalty Guide (PPG) that will be taking the place of our previous Penalty Guidelines (PG). We hope that by previewing the document early, players and judges will have a little more time to become more familiar with the new levels of rules enforcement and the infractions that can occur at each level before it comes into effect.

The infractions laid out in the PPG (as well as the procedures and penalties for each infraction) are still subject to change based on feedback from the judge community and will be finalized with the official publication of the PPG on the 27th of June. When the Procedure and Penalty Guide is published, it will be accompanied by an additional article that details many of the significant changes for players and judges alike.

Introducing the new Casual REL

Since the announcement of the tiers for Organized Play, both tier 1 and tier 2 events have been officially run at a Casual rules enforcement level (REL). This includes local and more casual events such as armories and skirmishes and the more regional and competitive events such as Road to Nationals and Pro Quests. It has been clear that the casual REL does not accurately reflect the actual procedures implemented in tier 1 events because the infractions are very rarely enforced, and it has diminished the competitiveness of the tier 2 events because they are run at the same REL as the casual events. As such, the LSS team is happy to share the new vision for the casual REL.

Casual rules enforcement is designed for local in-store play, where there is a low barrier to entry and low stakes, and the tournament environment is social and informative. More emphasis is placed on the education and enjoyment of players rather than the strict equity and integrity of each game.

While the details of Casual REL are specified in the PPG, here is a quick rundown:

  • There are no official infractions and no Warnings or Intellect Penalties. Only Cautions, Game/Match Losses, and Disqualification.
  • Players are encouraged to work out errors through mutual agreement before calling a Judge.
  • If there is no judge, the tournament organizer takes on the role of the Judge.
  • Minor errors are addressed by fixing the game state. The judge makes the call on what the game state should be as the players resume the game.
  • Judges are empowered to deviate from the recommendations, in order to service the expectations of their local community.

All tier 1 events will be run at Casual REL, including skirmishes, armories, prereleases, and world premieres.

What is the new Competitive REL?

The Competitive REL will be most players' first encounter with Judges and more strict rulings on how the game is played. It is designed to be an introduction into the world of competitive Flesh and Blood, to set up the expectation of what is expected at higher levels of play at the Professional REL.

The Competitive REL is designed for competition, where the barrier to entry may still be low, but there are higher stakes and the environment is focused on winning. Infractions are categorized and enforced more rigidly, and fixes and penalties are based on a balance of education and equity.

Players and judges familiar with previous Casual REL will find that the new Competitive REL will be taking its place. Infractions are categorized as gameplay, tournament, or conduct. Each category has separate upgrade paths for repeated infractions, and each infraction has a “base” penalty, with a recommended procedure and/or deviation from the penalty based on additional context.

Infractions, their categories, and their procedures and penalties have been reevaluated based on community feedback and brought more in line with what we hope to achieve with competitive events. Each infraction has been balanced based on our three guiding principles of education, equity, and mission, which you can read up on in the PPG philosophy section. Keep in mind that like many other documents, this document will continually undergo changes to better reflect the environments we strive for in organized play. Specifically, bringing people together in the flesh and blood through the common language of playing great games.

All tier 2 events, and day one of the Calling (tier 3), will be run at Competitive REL, including Pro Quest, Road to Nationals, and Battle Hardened.

What will change about the Professional REL?

The Professional REL will remain the first foremost rule enforcement for top competitive play. However, instead of creating a new series of infractions specific for Professional, it can be viewed as a more strict version of the Competitive REL (Competitive+). Specific infractions that differ between Competitive and Professional have their differences listed in the procedures and penalties section in the PPG.

The Professional REL is designed for the highest levels of competitive tournaments, where the barrier to entry is high, and the environment is very competitive. At this level, more emphasis is put onto equity than education. This is because players are expected to play at a level where they are knowledgeable enough about the game that education is less relevant in playing great games that the equity/fairness of each game. As such the suggested penalty for many infractions is increased.

All tier 3-4 events (except day one of the Calling) will be run at Professional REL.

What are the main changes (so I don’t have to read the document)?

We very much encourage anyone and everyone to read the document. That being said, the primary changes include:

  • Introduction of the new Casual REL
  • Updated previous Casual REL to Competitive REL
  • Updated Intellect Penalty (Major) from IP4 to IP3
  • Updated base penalties for infractions, including Improper Shuffling, Marked Cards, and Improperly Determining a Winner
  • Updated infractions relating to Decklist/Decks/Presenting
  • Updated infractions relating to Draft Procedure Violation
  • Updated infractions relating to Marked Cards

Quick Reference on Changes as of 16 June 2022

*Old base penalty is an approximation for each of the infractions in the new Procedure and Penalty Guide, as there is not a one-to-one relationship of old to new infractions.

Gameplay Infraction New base penalty Old base Penalty*
Game Rules Violation Warning Warning/IP2
Failure to Maintain Game State Warning Warning
Missed Trigger - Beneficial Caution Caution
Missed Trigger - Detrimental Warning Warning
Looking at Extra Cards Warning Caution/Warning
Hidden Card Error Warning Warning/IP2
Improper Shuffling IP2 Warning/IP4
Tournament Infraction New base penalty Old base Penalty*
Tardiness (Minor) IP3 IP4/Game Loss
Tardiness (Major) Match Loss Match Loss
Outside Assistance Game Loss Game Loss/Match Loss
Slow Play Caution Caution/Warning
Decklist Error IP2 IP2
Deck Contents Error IP2 As above
Presenting Cards Error Warning Warning/IP4/Match Loss
Draft Procedure Violation (Minor) Warning Caution/Warning/IP2
Draft Procedure Violation (Major) Match Loss Game Loss/Disqualification
Marked Cards Warning Caution/Warning/Match Loss/Disqualification
Insufficient Shuffling Warning Caution/Warning/Disqualification
Conduct Infraction New base penalty Old base Penalty*
Unsporting Conduct (Minor) Warning Warning
Unsporting Conduct (Major) Disqualification Match Loss/Disqualification
Cheating Disqualification Disqualification
Aggressive Behavior Disqualification Match Loss/Disqualification
Improperly Determining a Winner Match Loss Disqualification
Bribery Disqualification Disqualification
Wagering Disqualification Disqualification
Theft Disqualification Disqualification
Stalling Disqualification Disqualification
Improper Concession Match Loss Match Loss/Disqualification
Rules Sharking Warning Caution/Warning