Back Alley Oracle #7: Penalty and Procedure Guide

27th Jun 2022 Joshua Scott

We are ecstatic to announce that the new Procedure and Penalty guide is published and is now in effect. All official Flesh and Blood tournaments from 27th June 2022 will be run under this guide based on their respective rules enforcement level. We encourage both players and judges to take the time to read through the new guidelines so that they are aware of the expectations and consequences of infractions for future tournaments. For starters, we have outlined the most significant changes here and some of the reasoning behind each change.

Allocation of 3 Rules Enforcement Level

While the allocation of the Rules Enforcement Level (REL) was outlined in the recent Tournament Rules and Policy update, here it is again as a reminder of how different events will be enforced moving forward. Of particular note is that your weekly Armories and more casual events will be enforced less strictly than Road to Nationals and ProQuest. In addition, day 1 of the Calling has also been downgraded to the Competitive REL. This is because we recognize that, unlike nationals, day 1 of a Calling event has no barrier to entry and often contains players competing at a higher level for the first time. Day 2+ will remain at the Professional REL.

Tier Tournament REL
1 On-demand / Play Anywhere Casual
1 Armory Casual
1 Prerelease / World Premiere Casual
1 Skirmish Casual
2 Road to Nationals Competitive
2 Pro Quest Competitive
2 Battle Hardened Competitive
3 Calling (day 1) Competitive
3 Calling (day 2+) Professional
3 Nationals Professional
4 ProTour Professional
4 World Championship Professional

Procedures and Penalties

Partially fixing the game state is now a recommended procedure in certain circumstances.

After a review of the procedures implemented by judges at high-level tournaments, we found that many judges were deviating from the Penalty Guidelines to implement partial fixes to the game state rather than following the prescribed procedure to the letter. In the majority of these cases, we found that it has improved player satisfaction while addressing the infraction more directly by removing the state advantage gained by the player. We understand that partially fixing the game state does not address all gameplay infractions equally, but we have now incorporated it into the procedures a judge can use as part of their ruling for an infraction and specifically included it into the procedure and penalties for Game Rules Violation.

Intellect Penalty (Major) has been decreased from 4 turns to 3 turns.

In addition, we have decided that the Intellect Penalty (Major) is still too harsh for the current competitive environment. Ideally, an Intellect Penalty (Major) is a significant disadvantage to start the game with (especially for Tardiness) but should not be completely insurmountable. The current results after being issued an IP4 have led us to believe that 4 turns did not achieve this goal so we have reevaluated the penalty to be 3 turns instead. We will be keeping an eye on the competitive and professional-level tournaments to see if this needs further adjustment. Furthermore, we are looking into how the Intellect Penalty, in general, is issued in different formats (classic constructed vs blitz and limited), but at this stage, the Intellect Penalty will remain consistent across all formats.

Disqualification is now primarily reserved as a penalty for major conduct errors.

The disqualification penalty has previously been used in tournament infractions as a harsh penalty for undesirable behavior. This is not in line with our core philosophy that allows players to make honest mistakes and still play great games. Previous infractions that have had the disqualification as a penalty have been re-evaluated and now disqualification is only used as a penalty for major conduct errors and situations where the tournament integrity has been irrefutably compromised (such as when a player has been winning with an illegal deck). The infraction of Cheating will remain the core infraction for players who intentionally break the rules to gain an advantage.

Game Rules Violation

There are only a few changes for the Game Rules Violation infraction. The most notable is the introduction of a double Game Rules Violation, Partial Fixes as a procedure (mentioned above), and additional philosophy and guidance on when and how to rewind the game state.

A double Game Rules Violation is issued when both players are responsible for the cause of the infraction. This typically occurs when one player introduces an effect that the opponent fails to account for. In this way, it is both the responsibility of the player that created the effect and the player that is affected by it, to ensure that the rules are being followed; failure to do so results in the double Game Rules Violation, as opposed to a Game Rules Violation and Failure to Maintain Game State.

Missed Trigger

The new PPG maintains that missing a trigger is the responsibility of the player that owns the triggered-layer, but shouldn’t be punished harshly due to the nature of how triggered abilities operate in such a complex game. This infraction has been rewritten to make it more clear when certain triggers are considered missed and how these triggers have been addressed. Most notably, allowing the opponent to put the triggered-layer on the stack up to a turn cycle after it was originally meant to trigger, and lowering the penalty for missed detrimental triggers that were ultimately created by the opponent.

Decklist / Deck Contents / Presenting Cards

The tournament penalties deck errors, in general, have been clarified and re-evaluated. One of the primary issues that has been addressed is the classification and disambiguation of storing cards that are not legally part of a player's deck, along with that deck. The definitions are as follows:

Decklist Error is when there is an issue with a player’s decklist not matching what the player intends to play, or when the decklist itself is illegal (i.e. the player intends to play with an illegal deck).

This is important for tournament officials to ensure that the cards a player is playing with match their declaration at the beginning of the tournament format. The infraction discourages players from intentionally swapping out cards during the format after seeing other players' decklists.

Deck Contents Error is when a player’s cards stored with the deck do not match the decklist provided.

This is important to ensure that players do not have a reasonable opportunity to use cards that are not specified on their decklist in a game. This infraction will most often apply as the result of a deck-check performed by a judge. It takes into account tokens, double-faced cards, and promotional cards received at the event. We will be continuing to monitor the frequency of this infraction and look at solutions to address any further issues that may arise from it.

Presenting Cards Error is when a player illegally presents cards as part of the start of game procedure.

This is important to ensure that players start the game in a correct state and that players do not gain an advantage from presenting an ambiguous set of cards to start the game with. Notably, there is an expansion of procedures for when a player presents an ambiguous set of equipment/weapons or presents cards that can not legally start the game in play.

Marked cards

The previous guideline for marked cards was both ambiguous and recommended too harsh of a penalty. While we have encouraged judges to deviate from the Penalty Guidelines when necessary to ensure a fair ruling, we understand that judges feel uncomfortable doing so, and by following the guidelines as written any criticism of the rulings moves from the judge onto the policy itself. As such, we have decided to address the issue with the Marked Cards policy directly by removing the distinction between minor and major, and shifting the disqualification penalty to the Cheating infraction.

Under the new Marked Cards infraction, players should most often receive a Warning for marked cards, with an increase to an Intellect Penalty for repeat infractions on the same day of the tournament. The judge may increase the penalty at their discretion if they think that the player may have gained a significant advantage from the cards being marked. This new distinction means that a subjective evaluation can be performed by the judge rather than having an incomplete and arbitrary set of criteria for defining a pattern to upgrade the infraction. We feel like this is a fair compromise between penalizing players for accidental/coincidental mistakes of having significant cards marked in their deck, and penalizing players who have intentionally taken advantage of the marked cards for which the judge only has circumstantial evidence. If a judge finds that a player has intentionally marked their cards, or has intentionally taken advantage of their cards being marked when they are aware it is prohibited to do so, then the infraction is considered Cheating, and the player is issued a disqualification.

Conceding and improperly determining a winner

Players may concede AS time is called, before resuming play.

The concession rules have been adjusted slightly to allow for concession AFTER time in the round has expired, but BEFORE either player makes an in-game action or decision that continues the game. Ideally, players would be keeping an eye on how much time is left in a round and concede before then, but realistically, players are too involved with their game to time their concession in this way. As such, we have made an additional allowance for players to concede AS time is called. Please note that standard concession rules apply otherwise; you can not ask for a concession at any point in the game, you can not concede after you resume play, and you can not determine the outcome of the game using another method.

The penalty for Improperly Determining a Winner has been downgraded.

In terms of improperly determining a winner, we have found that too many players are ignorant of the rules or have a lapse of judgment when it comes to determining the outcome of a match. Players are constantly pressured by their time and environment, and when time is called in a round, it is not uncommon for players to consider determining a winner based on the total life of the heroes or by flipping a coin. We stand by our decision to discourage this behavior, but those that have done so by ignorance will receive a Match Loss for the current game, or if the current game’s outcome has been determined, a Match Loss for their next game. This ensures that players have the chance to learn from their mistakes and still allows them to continue playing great games. Intentionally breaking the rules in this regard in order to gain an advantage is still considered Cheating.

Conspiring to have a player win a tournament to gain a Nationals or Pro Tour invite is considered bribery.

Finally, just a reminder that conspiring to have a player win a tournament through organized concessions is considered bribery. After some review, we’ve found that a number of top 8 cuts at tier 2 tournaments were simply not being played out and that the 8 players were conceding to ensure that one specific player received the professional tournament invite, and everyone gets an equal cut of the cash prize (or cash from selling the prize). This is antithetical to our philosophy of players playing great games. We are looking into providing additional positive solutions to address specific situations where this is more likely to occur (similar to how we allow players to transfer PTIs), but in the meantime, players should keep in mind that using incentives to determine the outcome of a match or a series of matches is considered bribery and will result in disqualification.