The Unwritten Rules of Magic

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Deadspin recently fielded the question, "What If Baseball's Unwritten Rules Applied to Real Life?" Ever since, I've been considering this question with regards to Magic. We obviously have a complex comprehensive rulebook, but the rules of the game aren't what unwritten rules are all about. Like in baseball, unwritten rules dictate what is and is not acceptable social behavior during games of Magic. I've compiled an initial list of these rules below, but I encourage you to add more in the comments.


In a just MTG society, any player found taking one of these actions would be subject to having one of his rares defaced with a Sharpie:

  • Trade sharking little kids or new players.
  • Making sexist remarks to female players.
  • Slowly pile shuffling in between mulligans with an already low round clock.
  • Bringing so much swag to tournaments that neighbors are crowded (assuming the TO is providing enough space).
  • Violently riffle shuffling an opponent's deck.
  • Announcing or showing an awesome pick during a draft with people you don't know.
  • Slow playing even after being alerted to it by an opponent, judge, or other interested party.
  • Saying "good game" as the winner, especially if it wasn't a good game.
  • Not taking care of borrowed cards as if they are your own.
  • Nagging players to trade cards or items they don't want to trade.
  • Acting as if you deserve a win because you're "a better player."
  • Pressuring someone to concede or split after they've already turned you down.
  • Outright dismissing a card, article, or something else related to MTG as having no value, even as others are stating they receive value from it.
  • Anthropomorphisizing your deck as an entity that is opposed to you winning.
  • Telling an opponent their win was due solely to luck.
  • Touching someone else's cards with visibly dirty hands.
  • Assuming a female player is there because of her boyfriend.

This is hardly an exhaustive list, so like I said, feel free to add your own additions to the unwritten rules of Magic. Really, though, each of these boils down to one simple adage: don't be a dick.

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Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the former Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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17 thoughts on “The Unwritten Rules of Magic

  1. One that comes to mind for me is offering unsolicited advice on a game you’re not involved in. It’s OK to spectate but I want to strangle guys who walk up, see that I’m running Karador as my commander, and then proceed to list off the “best” cards that should be in my deck. Trust me, if I want deckbuilding advice, I will ask you.

  2. •Saying “good game” as the winner, especially if it wasn’t a good game.
    While the other points you brought up were pretty reasonable, I don’t agree with this one in particular. I believe EVERY game is a good game unless one of the players isn’t being a good sport. I’ve met many players who say “good game(s)” at end of games/ matches, whether they win or lose, and honestly it’s just people being polite. Don’t be that person who interprets everything as sarcasm.

    1. I am personally bothered by the old “gg” after a particularly non-interactive game, though Reid Dike recently gave me some perspective. He’s basically the most good guy alive and says “good game” because he sees it as sporting. I try not to get bothered when people with intentions similar to Reid’s. It is tough to ignore both the sarcastic history of the expression and my tendency to take things literally though (ergo critically examine whether the game was in fact “good”).

    2. I say good game and shake my opponents hand after every game, win or lose. I actually had one guy refuse to shake my hand and just said no. This really is a game people…

    3. There was a good article written by Travis Woo ( on shaking hands after a game. As the loser, maybe I’m not in the mood to shake anyone’s hand. I know I’ve been there before, but maybe a minute later, after de-sideboarding, I’ll extend the hand and be gracious regardless of how good the game was.

      As the winner, I don’t want to make a bad situation for my opponent worse by sticking my hand in his face and pressuring him to do something he might not want to do. Again, after I de-sideboard, I’ll likely say, “Thanks for the games,” but I won’t expect anything back.

  3. “Saying good game as the winner, especially if it wasn’t a good game”
    Putting this on a list of things people shouldnt do is perhaps the most ridiculous thing i have seen on this site, and I’m dissapointed nobody else has said anything. I say good games at the end of every match, regardless of who won, who didnt draw enough lands, and so on. You can be a good sport after a win just as easily as you can after a loss. The most childish people i have played against are the people who get pouty, say something like “OH RIGHT LIKE THOSE WERE GOOD GAMES”, and storm off.

  4. “Announcing or showing an awesome pick during a draft with people you don’t know.”

    Or shouting during the opening of a sealed. “YESSS! X CARD!!”

    WTF? Seriously, STFU.

  5. You are so awesome! I do not believe I’ve truly read through anything like this before. So good to find somebody with a few unique thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!|

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