The first big tournament that I judged at was a Regional Qualifier in September 2013. It was the best thing I’d ever gotten to do. Between helping players and learning how to improve as a judge, I also got to see things that were rare in tournaments or that I hadn’t considered.
But there was one issue that was highly controversial during the entire event, and that was the issue of card sleeves.
According to the tournament policy documents, players must use the same card sleeves for the Main, Side, and Extra Decks. This is not a new rule and has been there for a very long time. It seems that players (and judges) were only just now noticing it due to recent enforcement. A lot of players were wondering why it even mattered.
Believe me when I say that it matters a lot. There are a few very good reasons why this rule is in place.
Argument from cards
The first argument I’d like to present is one that uses specific cards as examples. Let’s start with Magical Hats. This is a Normal Trap that is activated during your opponent’s Battle Phase. You select two non-monster cards from your deck and shuffle them with one of your monsters, then Set the three of them in face-down Defense Position (the non-monsters are treated as Normal Monsters with an ATK and DEF of 0, but no Type, Attribute, or Level). Your non-monsters are destroyed at the end of the Battle Phase.
Now, suppose you have a Synchro Monster in play. Your opponent attacks it and you activate Magical Hats to hide it. If you’re playing with different sleeves for your Extra Deck monsters, your opponent’s going to know what it is anyway and destroy it. Strategically speaking, this puts you at a disadvantage.
(Unfortunately, Xyz Monsters aren’t as easy to hide since the Xyz Materials must be put underneath the monster when you’re done shuffling the three “hats”. This ruling is still being debated by some judges, but it makes the most sense with regards to the rulebook and other cards.)
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But nobody plays Magical Hats! Using that as an argument is like saying you shouldn’t mess with the Graveyard in case someone plays Question!”
And to that, I have a few things to say. First off, I’m genuinely surprised that Geartown decks don’t play this card. It would be a very fast way to instantly summon two copies of Ancient Gear Gadjiltron Dragon. Under ideal circumstances, your deck becomes thinner by four cards, and you have two huge monsters in play! Ojama decks can also benefit from this card with Ojamagic. Two copies get sent to the Graveyard, and your hand size suddenly increases by SIX CARDS. Granted, they’re all relatively weak Normal Monsters, but Ojamas have their own tricks.
Second, Question is a perfectly valid reason for not messing with the Graveyard. So what if it never tops? If we only took into account the cards that topped, a lot of judges would be stumped on less powerful stuff when it inevitably came up- because not everyone has the money to play meta, and some folks just don’t want to anyway.
Third, as I hinted above, we have to take everything into account. The rules must encompass all situations. Using cards as examples for why a rule is in place is a perfectly valid argument, no matter how obscure it is. Why? Because the card exists and is tournament legal. That means it CAN show up in a tournament, and occasionally it will.
Argument from expediency
Did you know that you can put Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz Monsters in your Side Deck? That’s right. After the first and second duels, you can swap out cards in your Extra Deck for other such monsters in your Side Deck.
But if you’re playing with different sleeves on your Extra Deck, this is going to take up extra time that could be used for other things, like shuffling or finishing the match before time is called. You have to take your Side Deck monster out of its sleeve, your Extra Deck monster out of its own sleeve, and then switch the two, putting them into each other’s sleeves. This is an enormous waste of time. You might not think so, but those seconds really add up. If you have to do this twice in a full match, you could end up using several minutes’ worth of time. It would be far better spent SUMMONING those monsters instead of having to switch their sleeves.
Argument from uniformity
It’s actually rather rare for two opposing duelists to have the same sleeves on their cards. With this in mind, mixing them up is often a simple thing to fix. If your opponent takes control of one of your monsters with Number 11: Big Eye, or maybe switches one of his for one of yours with Creature Swap, then it’s most likely going to be an easy thing to get these cards back to their owners after the duel is finished (if they didn’t end up in the Graveyard during the duel anyway).
I won’t deny that sometimes two people dueling each other will have the same sleeves. If this happens and your cards get mixed up, my advice is to use your deck lists to sort it out. Before going to any tournament that requires deck lists, write up a second copy for yourself. I advise that you also write the Set Numbers and rarity of each card on the list to further help in case of a mix-up.
Argument Against: That Card Doesn’t Go There!
The most typical argument- and really the only one I’ve ever seen- against this policy is that Extra Deck monsters can easily get mixed up in the Main Deck if all of your cards have the same sleeves. Yes, this happens, but it is still your responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t. You cannot blame the tournament program’s designers for this. It’s happened to everyone, even people who don’t have uniform sleeves. In the end, it is YOUR responsibility. So take my advice and CAREFULLY sort through your Graveyard, your banished pile, and your other cards before shuffling your deck. Make sure that your Extra Deck and your Side Deck both have the correct number of cards that they started with and you should be good to go.
I hope that this article is both enlightening and helpful to you. I’m researching other things right now, but if I don’t find anything, then I’ll just write up articles on the TCG exclusives from Shadow Specters when they are announced.
Until next time, keep dueling!