Common cEDH Tournament Issues

Kevin Sugihara • February 21, 2023

Rules Lawyer by Dimitri Burmak

Hello again, everyone! Today we're going to talk about a topic that can easily be a source of anxiety for new cEDH players and that may just serve as a fun little 'peak behind the curtain' for established players.

Let's talk about common issues in cEDH tournaments!

I had the wonderful experience of speaking with the head judge over at Eminence Gaming, Max M (@iblamemax on twitter). He was the head judge for Silicon Dynasty in January, as well as the Mox Master's online webcam events. If you haven't had a chance to look into these events, I strongly suggest you do!

Without further ado, let's dive into the most common tournament pitfalls of cEDH players, from the perspective of a judge.

Priority Disputes

If you don't know what priority is, or feel like you could use a bit of a refresher, check out my article on priority.

"Players commonly respond out of priority order," Max says. "[This] can cause confusion in terms of where triggers may be on the stack and can cause errors in gameplay by resolving things out of sequence."

Priority is such an important part of cEDH. It helps us manage the stack properly, keep all our spells and abilities in order, and frankly it's a very strong strategic tool for players. If you're going to be going to a cEDH tournament, make sure you have good habits when it comes to managing player priority.

Max recommends, "Communicating clearly when passing priority and clearly indicating when and what is be being done are huge in maintaining a clean and consistent game state."

The best tips I can offer are:

  • Remain calm and collected throughout the game. Sometimes when you are excited about a play, priority does not get clearly communicated or passed. Remaining calm and collected is huge here and definitely a skill worth practicing.
  • Always practice passing priority. Even if you and no one else has an answer, practice passing priority properly. You may ask the active player if they are holding priority, then ask the next player if they have anything or if they are passing priority, and so forth until you're all the way around.
  • There's nothing to it but to do it. Once you know the simple act of communicating priority, all you have to do is do it. The hardest part is just fighting the excitement and remaining vigilant throughout a long game of Commander.

Game Rules Violation

"With so many players and permanents on the board, it's only fair to assume people will forget some of [the rules]." Max says. "Most commonly people forget about stax pieces and taxes. Drannith Magistrate and Grafdigger's Cage were the most missed."

Magic is a complicated game; it's a big reason why we all love it. Nobody is perfect, and we all make small mistakes, but sometimes those mistakes compound upon each other rapidly.

Max warns us that, "When the game state becomes broken, it becomes increasingly convoluted to fix when there are a number of Mystic Remoras and Rhystic Studys flying around and cards will constantly be drawn off the resolution of an improperly cast spell."

So what can we do about this? Well, luckily for all you tournament goers, trained and experienced judges like Max and his team will do their best to restore the game state to how it was before it was damaged. Make sure if you ever feel like you need help that you reach out to a judge, and the sooner, the better! Trying to apply game fixes without a judge could result in major problems for the game and the players.

Some things you can do to help your friendly neighborhood judge would be:

  • Track your stax and tax effects. Either have a whiteboard token with the stax and tax effects written out clearly, or organize your board in a way that helps everyone see and understand the effects.
  • Everyone should be paying attention to the game and helping maintain a proper board state. If you see something, say something.
  • When in doubt, call a judge. Board states are complicated, but we have a ton of tricks to restore games.

Missed Trigger

Missed triggers could be its own article (and likely will be in the near future!). This is a fairly common issue across all of Magic. Max and his team are prepared with just the solution for these problems, though.

In my conversation with him, Max told me, "Failing to remember these doesn't usually incur a penalty unless the trigger is detrimental. If it's considered detrimental, at that point it shifts back to the above [Game Rules Violation] since missing it has a greater impact on game state."

So, let's break this down just a little bit. When it comes to triggers, from a judge's perspective there are beneficial or detrimental triggers; a beneficial trigger being one that helps the player whose trigger it is, and a detrimental trigger being one that hurts instead.

If you miss a beneficial trigger, like your Rhystic Study trigger, no harm is done to the game. The trigger is simply missed and the game moves on (yes, it can get more complicated than this, but we aren't going to dive into edge cases in this article).

If you miss a detrimental trigger, such as a Pact of Negation trigger, then you've committed a Game Rules Violation, or GRV. The resolution can vary depending on the situation, but in general the opponents are asked if they would like to place the trigger onto the stack at that point. Then the trigger is resolved as normal, and you walk away with a warning for Missed Triggers. If the trigger for Pact of Negation is remembered during your turn, after you've tapped all your mana sources, you'd lose the game! So be careful...

For my recommendations for helping you remember your triggers, I have:

  • Players will often place a dice or token on top of their deck to remind them of upkeep triggers.
  • The more reps you have on a deck, the more experience you have with the triggers that deck will create.
  • It seems silly to say, but sometimes it's just about fundamentals; pay attention to the game!

Deck/Decklist Problems

I'll explain deck and decklist problems. The difference is very nuanced, but judges have tools to figure out the difference, and the resolution is slightly different for each as well.

A decklist problem is when a decklist does not match the deck that the player intended to play. An example of this is if a player decided last minute to slot out one card for another, but forgot to update their list. The player intended to play the 100 cards they have, but their decklist is incorrect.

A deck problem is when a deck inadvertently varies from the decklist the player submitted and intended to play. An example of this would be if the player only has one Mana Crypt and took it out to play in another deck and forgot to put it back before the event began. The decklist is correct, but the deck is wrong.

Deck problems can also be any issue involving the integrity of the deck itself. An example of this would be if a player has two different inner sleeves for their deck, and the thickness and feel is noticeable (such as normal perfect fits and sealable perfect fits). If this were to occur, Max told me that the fix is usually just to have the player correct the issue. If the judges think there is some significant advantage to gain, or something seems off, they may investigate for cheating as well.

When discussing deck and decklist problems, Max had this to say:

"This is increasingly less common now that we are using Moxfield for deck list submissions. [Moxfield] has become a great tool in both standardizing deck lists and making it easy to catch inconsistencies. Unfortunately, we still have players accidentally register 99 cards or 101 and need to verify what's missing or shouldn't be there or if they made last-minute swaps that they just forgot to update."

So the recommendation for to avoid these issues are:

  • Double check your deck and decklist before the event! I like to lock in my decklists a week in advance if I can.
  • Always use the same inner sleeves for all the cards in your deck.
  • When in doubt, re-sleeve your deck before the event.


Magic is complicated. Have I mentioned that? I feel like I have. But if not, let me say it again: Magic is VERY complicated. It feels like each card is designed to change the rules of the game. "Creatures can't attack the turn they come out. Except now they can, because I've altered the rules of the game with this card."

The larger the board state, the bigger the players' hands, and the further into the game we go, decisions get harder and harder. You maybe need a few moments to think about optimal lines and what to play around, but make sure you aren't taking too long. And yes, I know what you're thinking: "How long is too long?"

The short answer is that there is no definition of how long is "too long", and this is by design.

First of all, if you tell a player how long "too long" for each decision is, they will always take exactly that much time to make their choice. If every decision takes 2 minutes because that is what we told players the limit is, games would never be completed.

And secondly, "too long" means something very different on turn 1 than it does on turn 6. As a player, I would expect that you have your turn 1 player mapped out in your head when you keep your hand at the start of the game. Sure, a stax piece may change your plans, but not so drastically that you don't know exactly what your turn is within a few seconds.

A general rule of thumb I was given when judging 60-card formats was "If you're familiar with the format, stand behind the player and look at their hand and the board. Come to a decision as to what you would do, then give a little bit of extra time. If they still have no made a game action, ask them to please make a game action. After just a little more time, issue a slow play warning."

Over webcam, judges can't do this exactly. But at the same time, the game needs to continue. The end goal of any event is to have each game reach their natural conclusion, and part of that is ensuring no one is playing so slowly that it stalls the game out.

This is not only the hardest situation to judge, but also the hardest one to give recommendations on. But I'll give it my best shot:

  • When in doubt, call a judge. I'm sure you've read a tournament report or talked to someone who has said, "Yeah, I really wish I would have just called the judge right away. Oh well, you live, you learn." Learn from their mistakes. When you are in doubt or aren't sure or just frankly do not want to say anything to the player yourself, get a judge. Explain to the judge you believe the player is slow playing, and why, and ask them to please watch the game for a little bit. You may ask for a time extension, but you may not be granted one (as each time extension impacts the entire event).
  • Plan your turn out on other players' turns. They may do something that changes your turn, but always be thinking about what your next move is. No blindly spacing out into the distance and waiting until your main phase 1 to remember what you had in hand. Always be paying attention.
  • Get reps in with your deck. Goldfish, play online, watch game play footage, read the primers, or even write a primer. The more experience you have on your deck, the faster you'll be at playing it.
  • Ask the table to take shortcuts to make up for time that will be lost in the tank later in the game. On turn 1, say "I'm playing a Verdant Catacombs. I'm going to fetch up a Bayou. Is it okay with everyone if I just grab it after I pass the turn? Okay, great. I'll play a Birds and pass." Then you go get the Bayou. Small shortcuts like this, when possible to use, will help speed the game up.

Clean-Up Phase

That's a wrap everyone! Hopefully if you've never thought about doing a cEDH tournament, you'll consider it now. Or if you currently do participate in cEDH tournaments, you found it interesting to see the common issues judges see.

Once again, I want to thank Eminence Gaming, Mox Masters, head judge Max M, and his entire judge staff for giving us this amazing insight!

Kevin is a Husband, father of 2, and Magic Judge from Phoenix, Arizona. When he's not writing, he can be found running the Budget Magic Bounty contest over at r/BudgetBrews or playing cEDH over at the r/CompetitiveEDH discord server.