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Loose Decklists Sink Ships

I had a different article planned for this week, but as a tournament organizer and head judge for our Cup series, there is a more pressing issue that is costing people games (and will cost people more games in the future): your decklists. This weekend we had a second top 8 in the tournament’s history to have a top 8 game loss due to deck errors that may have fundamentally changed the course of the top 8 due to player error. The Wild cup format (to be announced on this week’s 2 Turns Ahead podcast) will highlight how important it is to pay attention to your decklist.

When I first started playing competetive TCGs, one of my early rounds left a lasting impression in my mind about properly preparing for a tournament. Randomly, after my opponent presented the deck for me to shuffle, a judge walked up, took the deck, and then came back and issued a game loss to my opponent for presenting an illegal deck. The judge was doing a random deckcheck and my opponent had mis-written one of his cards in his deck. I went on to win the match in the next game and I quickly learned that double checking my decklist earlier in the day was not only warranted, but I began to triple check the card names I wrote down and made sure that I put in the correct number of cards in my lists.

In physical TCGs, one good way to increase your performance is to systematize the things you do in a game. One reason to do this is to prevent missed triggers and other errors that can result in an advantage for your opponent or a rules violation (drawing at the wrong time) that can result in a game loss. There are a few things like this in Hex (like not brainlessly hitting F10 when you have a counter in your hand), but not nearly as many processes need to be systematized by the player, as much of the game is automated. One thing you do have consistent control over is your decklist. Your decklist should have no errors in it when you submit it. Any errors in it are entirely the player’s fault.

The FiveShards Cup series is a community-run tournament series that requires submission of decklists prior to participation. We are not the only tournament series that has required decklists and it is an important part of the game. For the community, it helps us to define the meta after every event so we can see how many people were running what, what matchups ended up working, and what ultimately made the top 8 and finals of the tournament. For the tournament, it enables a check on players to limit the benefits of large teams, scouting (gathering information about other people’s decks), and allowing people to effectively change their deck before the match to increase their win percentage. Your decklist is your bet upon a particular tournament in what you think you can play consistently enough to beat what other people chose before the tournament; not what deck they chose after a teammate played against you.

With a decklist, you are required to submit the count of each card you have in your deck, the name of the card, any socketed gems in those cards. Your main deck count must add up to at least 60 cards and your reserves must be 15 cards.  We recommend this format for your deck submissions:

Template for Decklist


4x Card1
4x Card2
4x Card3
2x Card4 (Prime Ruby of Destruction)
So forth

4x More cards
4x More cards

Throughout the tournament, if an opponent suspects that the cards you are using are not in your submitted decklist, they can request a deckcheck on some subset of cards that they have seen played and suspect to deviate from the official decklist. The deckcheck rule states:

 Deck Checks: If a player suspects that an opponent is playing with cards that are not in their original configuration for game one, or if they are playing with cards that are not in their decklist or reserves, the player can immediately ask for a deck check. A tournament judge will then cross-check the suspected cards with the submitted decklist. If the player is found in violation, they automatically lose the game. If a player is found to make the mistake a second time, we will escalate the penalty to a match loss. Players may request two deck checks throughout the tournament and checks resulting in penalties will not count against the player’s total number of checks.

Additionally, we do an automatic check of all submitted decks for completeness once we know the top 8. Any decks that are submitted incorrectly may result in a game loss and replacing offending cards with shards.

Deck checks can include gems used on particular cards and, if the gem does not match the shard listed in the decklist, this is a game loss. If a player submits a decklist without the appropriate gems listed, and they are using gems in their main deck, this will result in a game loss. This includes cases where no gems are listed and the player is using gems in game 1. In game 2, you can sideboard gems and cannot get a game loss for gems at that point. The number of players who fail to specify gems is staggering at this point and we try to get players to correct this error early, but we rarely find and correct all errors.

If we find that you have illegal cards in your deck at any point in the tournament, including less than 60 cards in the main deck or less than 15 cards in the reserves, you will receive a game loss in your current game or, if no game is ongoing, the first game of your next match. Additionally, you must replace all offending cards with basic shards or fill up your deck with basic shards until you hit 60 main deck cards and 15 reserves cards. This means that if you had other cards in those slots (which of course you did), you now lose those cards in your deck.

Finally, we do some courtesy checks before a tournament starts, but this is purely a courtesy and neither systematic or reliable. As such, your submitted decklist is your own responsibility and you should take care in submitting it. Double check it. Triple check. Have a friend check it if you are worried or if English is not your first language.  You may be keeping track of your decklists in a spreadsheet already, so using that for verification may be optimal for you. A poorly written decklist can cost you more games than accidental play mistakes and you should plug any holes you have in your deck submission game.

Of note, there are some people working on deck-export tools from the client for tournaments like the FiveShards series. Even if these become easy to use and succesful, you should always make sure your deck is complete and accurate. The burden is on you.

Michael Allen is a competitive HexTCG player, co-host of the 2 Turns Ahead podcast, and founder and moderator of the Hex Subreddit.

4 Comments on Loose Decklists Sink Ships

  1. I use the HexTCGBrowser deck sync feature to facilitate deck lists. Synced decks are private by default so you don’t even have to worry about top secret tech being leaked out. After every change in game, the deck is synced automatically to the website. So whenever I am satisfied with the final list, I simply export the deck to a text file and copy/paste the contents.

  2. I do the same thing as Winged Nazgul, but I have noticed it does not always properly state what gems you are using.

  3. Always make sure to use the full title of a card. Saying just “4x Darkspire” isn’t useful. This is going to be less and less a fixable mistake as time goes on and more cards on the same theme get released.

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