Deck Checks

This week I am continuing the series on the different teams utilized at larger tournaments. Previously, there was a piece on Paper team. This week, let’s discuss the role of the Deck Checks team.

Deck Checks team has perhaps the most straightforward task of any team. They are the team responsible for checking decks for legality and for adherence to the submitted decklists for the event. Ensuring that decks match the submitted list a player provides to tournament officials at the start of an event helps to make sure that they are sticking to the same form of the deck throughout the day. The process of collecting, checking, and returning decks is fairly straightforward, but there are many variations possible within those tasks.

Collecting Lists

This task is actually one that is often performed by a large portion of the judge staff during player meeting. All of the decklists are collected from the players, keeping track of the order so they may be sorted, counted, and stored quickly. This is usually delegated row by row, or by larger section, depending on Team Lead and Head Judge preferences.

The Swoop

One of the most romanticized or discussed parts of a deck check is “The Swoop.” This is really just the process of waiting for players to present their decks to their opponents, and then “swooping in” to stop the players from proceeding, asking them to put their decks back in their boxes (or together with their sideboard) and hand them to the judge for checking. The swoop is often discussed and practiced because you want to be mindful of a few things during the process. One, you want it to be very visible to the entire event that deck checks are being performed, as the simple knowledge that judges are checking is a deterrent to cheating. Two, you want to also not make it known which particular table is being checked, as you don’t want to alert potential cheaters that you are about to grab their deck and look through it. These two things are seemingly working at odds, but in reality aren’t so. You simply want to remain mobile, walking around the area near the targeted table if possible, while looking around at all of the event.

Timing your swoop well and communicating with your deck check partner, if they are also nearby, can make this process go smoothly.

Deck Check Techniques

There are a lot of ways you can perform a deck check, and going through all of them is not my goal with this post. Many videos exist and can be found with a quick search. I’ll briefly go over some tips here, but I suggest digging around if you are looking for more detail.

One tip that I have found useful for speeding up my times is to sort lands out first. I just quickly go through the deck and drop all the land into a pile, then check those first. This makes sorting the remainder faster.

Briefly looking at the decklist to see if the deck is lots of four-of’s, or if it’s more singleton is a good place to start. Decks may be sorted most efficiently using different strategies (piles are better for four-of’s; marking each card one by one sometimes is better for one-of’s).

The most important tip I have is to practice whatever style you like best, and get faster. This is simple to do by just grabbing a deck you own, and practicing various sorting methods. Find what you are fastest at, and hone that skill.


The rest of the goals of a Deck Check Team are the same as all other teams: get out on the floor and provide coverage for the event.  Hopefully this brief description can help you know what’s coming if you are assigned to work deck checks but haven’t done so before. If you’d like even more depth, there are some other articles linked below. Until next time, keep watching for great stories to tell!


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