by George Macoukji (email@example.com),
DCI Certified Judge, Level 3.
One of the stranger rituals involved in professional Magic is the use of deck registration forms. Players hate these because they hear horror stories about what happens if you fill it out wrong. In fact, random deck checks (in which your actual deck is compared to the sheet you filled out) are routinely referred to as "Random Terror Checks" on the Pro Tour. The truth is that it's nothing so scary or difficult. Filling out your deck sheet is a simple process that helps to prevent cheating.
Overview of the Process
Let's take a look at the whole process, from start to finish. The procedure is different depending on whether you're drafting, playing sealed deck, or constructed.
No matter what format you're playing, the first thing you do with your deck sheet is to write down your name, team name if applicable, and DCI number. You'd be amazed at how many people do this wrong or forget it completely. Check your deck sheet carefully, and be sure you don't mix up the lines for first and last name. Some sheets reverse the order; others have them the right way around. Some sheets will also have a box for you to write the initial of your last name. This is so that the tournament staff can easily sort and file your deck sheet when you turn it in.
If you're issued more than one sheet (for example, a separate sheet for Masques, Nemesis, and Prophecy), then be sure to fill out your name and DCI number on each sheet. This way, even if the sheets get separated, the tournament staff will still know which person each sheet belongs to.
When filling out the sheets, always follow the instructions and write in clear, readable letters and numbers. This fellow, for example, is going to make the judge very angry: his last name and first name are swapped, his DCI number is illegible, and he's incredibly messy, crossing out mistakes instead of erasing them.
On the other hand, this person is much neater. His handwriting is very clear, and there's no confusion about his DCI number.
If you make a mistake when filling out the sheet, have the judge initial it before you turn in the sheet. If you forget to do this, a judge might not realize that it's an honest mistake, and end up accusing you of cheating. To prevent this, just call a judge over before handing in the completed form.
Filling out a Constructed deck list is a lot less complicated than Draft or Sealed Deck. First, you need to know that there are two types of deck sheets. For Constructed tournaments (like Standard and Extended), you use the type where you fill in the card names, and how many of each you're playing. Here's a sample of what such a sheet looks like. These are easy to fill in. You just write down what the card name is, and how many you're playing. Be sure that you fill it out in the right area. Typically, there's a separate block for your lands, and another one for your sideboard.
Always write the full name of each card, and use clear handwriting. If you're in a good mood and want to make life easier for your judge, separate your cards by color, then alphabetize them by card name. Of course, that's not necessary - it's just a token of respect for the judge who has to deck-check you. (Besides, if you do get deck-checked, would you rather the judge be happy at your clear handwriting and simple organization, or frustrated because they can't read your handwriting or can't find the card in that monster list you submitted? :-)
The second type of deck sheet is used for sealed deck and draft tournaments. Here's a sample of this type. This one is a little more difficult to fill in, because so many variations exist. Be sure to read the column headings carefully, and always, always follow the instructions the judge gives you when filling out the sheet.
The procedure for draft deck registration is the same whether you're playing Rochester draft or Booster draft. First, you're going to draft your cards. I won't discuss the details of the draft here; I assume you've already had some experience drafting in the past.
Take a look at your card sheet. Notice that there are two columns next to each card name. One is labeled "Total," and the other "Played." It's important you not confuse these two. "Total" is how many of that card you drafted. It doesn't matter if you're playing that card or not, you still have to mark down how many of it you got. "Played" is where you write down your starting deck. So, for example, if you drafted three Disenchants, but you decide to play with only two of them in your main deck, then you would write down 3 in the Total column, and 2 in the Played column. The last Disenchant would become part of your sideboard. You can swap it in between games, but the first time you play each new opponent, you must reset your deck to exactly what you recorded in the "Played" column.
When you're done drafting, sort your cards out by color, and then alphabetize them. Go down each column in the list and find your cards. Next to each one, mark the total number you've drafted in the column marked "Total."
When you've done that for all the cards you've drafted, you need to build your deck. I won't discuss that here beyond saying that when you're done, the cards you're not playing with become your sideboard.
If you take a good look at your deck sheet, you'll see another column labeled "Played." In this column, mark down each card you're playing in your main deck.
Notice that there's a separate section for basic land. The reason for this is that the sheets tend to be multi-purpose, designed for use in several different environments. For booster draft tournaments, here's what you do. Simply write in the number of lands that you will use for your first game each round in the "Played" column. Leave the other columns blank.
You need to think a little bit about the basic land in your deck. In draft, you can add as much land as you like to your cards. You can even add extra land between games. However, you must write down how much of each land you'll be playing in your starting deck. Remember that you must reset your deck to what you write down each time you play a new opponent. In the second and third game against each opponent, you can add or remove land at will. You can even go get more land if you need it.
When filling out a draft or sealed deck form, always use simple, normal numerals. Don't use Roman numbers, don't use a hash or tally system, and don't write in some foreign language. Remember, the judge has to read this, and he's going to be ticked off if he can't figure out what you're using. Here are some examples of how to fill it out right and wrong.
Once you've written down all your cards and which ones you'll be playing, proofread your sheet for errors, then turn it in.
The procedure for sealed deck is almost identical to draft. The two main areas of difference are deck swapping and basic land.
Deck swapping is an anti-cheating measure that's commonly used at high-level events. Here's the way it works. Each player is issued some amount of packs and starters. You'll open the packs and started, and fill in the "Total" column just like you would for draft. However, you'll only fill in your name and DCI number in the "Registered by" box, not in the "Played by" box. Also, you leave the "Played" column blank.
Then you'll put all the cards back in the box. Next, the judges will collect the decks and decksheets, and redistribute them at random. When you receive your new deck, the first thing you will do is check that the cards were registered correctly. If there are any mistakes, call a judge over. Otherwise, start building and recording your deck as described in Draft above.
The second difference is in the way you handle basic land. In sealed deck play, you're usually issued a starter, and allowed to add some number of lands. Depending on the format, that number is usually either three or five additional basic land of your choice. Occasionally, you'll also be required to turn in some land. This means that you need to record the basic land carefully so as not to confuse the judges.
So, here is how you fill out the basic land box. First, count how many of each land you have, and decide how many you'll want in your deck. If you're required to turn in unused land, write the number you're giving back in the "Out" column. Next, if you're allowed to add extra land, decide what you want, and write that in the "In" column.
Calculating the "Total" column is a little tricky. Count the number of lands you opened, add the number you wrote for "In," subtract the "Out," and write the result in the "Total" column.
Finally, decide what you're going to put in your starting deck, and record that in "Played." Here's a sample filled out box for a Mercadian Masques tournament. (Each Masques starter has exactly six of each land.) This player will play a green-white-blue deck.
Importance of doing it "Write"
Although filling out a deck registration form is easy, it's important you do it right. Once you fill out and hand in your deck form, the form becomes your deck. It doesn't matter what's actually in the physical deck, all that matters is what you wrote down. (This is the source of all the horror stories you've heard.)
So if you're playing a mono-white deck, and you accidentally mark down "20 Islands" instead of "20 Plains" - you're in serious trouble. Depending on the event and how mean the judge is, you might actually be forced to play with Islands instead of Plains. OK, any judge in his right mind wouldn't do that, but you'd still get a warning for it, and it would annoy your opponent, as the game must stop while you and the judge try to figure out what went wrong.
In the previous case, the error is obvious, and can be easily fixed. But what if you wrote down "4 Necro" ? It's much less obvious this time. Do you mean Necropotence? Necromancy? Necrologia? Or maybe you really meant Yawgmoth's Bargain, the Standard-legal replacement for Necropotence. In this case, the game would probably end up a loss for you as the judge tries to figure out what you meant.
Again, this is likely to be a misunderstanding. What about "4 Yawgmoth" ? Is that Yawgmoth's Bargain? Yawgmoth's Will? Yawgmoth Demon? Eye of Yawgmoth? You see how the misunderstanding could cost you the tournament.
Sometimes people will attempt to cheat by swapping cards in and out of their deck between opponents. The use of deck sheets helps prevent this. By randomly checking a few player's decks at the start of each match, the judges ensure that everyone is playing with a fair deck at all times, and that no one is cheating.
Hopefully, these tips will allow you to have a much smoother tournament experience. If you have any questions, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you're already at your tournament, just call over any judge. Good luck, and happy gaming!