I had a ruling on this by a L2 Judge at a TCG event in San Diego 2 weeks ago. I believe his ruling was wrong.

I played Praetor's Grasp

Mana Cost: 1BB
Types: Sorcery
Card Text: Search target opponent's library for a card and exile it face down. Then that player shuffles his or her library. You may look at and play that card for as long as it remains exiled.

I searched the opponent's library and pulled a Snapcaster Mage. The opponent asked if he could look through his library to determine what card was taken. I told him he could not, card doesn't say so and it violates the spirit of the card. The head judge was called and ruling was issued that a shuffle takes place in a hidden zone and that while cards are in a hidden zone they may be looked at by the owner as long as it doesn't take too much time.

I believe that the RTFC rules don't say anything about the opponent searching his deck.

  • "The RTFC rules"? Sounds like a Freudian slip. :)
    – Alex P
    Jun 25, 2012 at 18:09
  • +1 for being incorrectly ruled against by a supposedly clued-up judge at an important tournament. Believe me, I know exactly how bad that feels :) Jun 26, 2012 at 9:18
  • By that judge's logic, using a card like "Soldier of Fortune" would let you look at the target deck every time it is activated. Ludicrous. Sep 17, 2022 at 3:48

2 Answers 2


The ruling was sorely mistaken.

406 Exile

406.3 Exiled cards are, by default, kept face up and may be examined by any player at any time. Cards “exiled face down” can’t be examined by any player except when instructions allow it. [...]

Your "spirit of the card" argument is very much relevant, as it would make the "exile face down" bit meaningless.

As for your opponent looking through his library: Nope, absolutely not. A library is a hidden zone that may also not be looked through unless an effect allows one to. This is very basic stuff.

401 Library

401.2. Each library must be kept in a single face-down pile. Players can’t look at or change the order of cards in a library.

If your judge really said exactly that "a player may look at cards in one of his hidden zones as long as it doesn't take too much time", taken literally, would totally uproot the purpose of hidden zones, as it would allow me to, oh I don't know, look at the top 5 cards of my friggin' library, because, after all, that wouldn't take long, would it?

Ludicrous. People failing such basic concepts should not be judge.

I guess I understand where the judge is coming from. While your opponent shuffles, I guess it's ok for him to have a quick peek at his library, because he doesn't gain any information he is not privileged to. However, in this concrete situation, with an unknown card exiled, it still isn't ok, because it would give him an opportunity to circumvent 406.3 and part of the Praetor's Grasp effect. So you had every right to demand enforcement of 401.2 to the letter.

  • "Technically not even you may look at it (you must memorize or write down the name/stats of the card)" is a bit deceptive. Praetor's Grasp does explicitly allow you to look at the card; it has to, in order to allow you to cast it in a sensible way.
    – Alex P
    Jun 25, 2012 at 18:58
  • @AlexP Right, the card says so. Retracting that bit.
    – Hackworth
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:03
  • 3
    Sorry to be a pedant, but here is more pedantry: "While your opponent shuffles, I guess it's ok for him to have a quick peek at his library." When he searches, sure, but not if he's just shuffling independently (like with Emrakul or Elixir of Immortality). Players who look at cards while shuffling -- even just the bottom card -- are generally investigated for cheating.
    – Alex P
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:13
  • 1
    @AlexP Right again, and the rules clearly say it's not allowed. Though I'd say it depends on the type of event and the REL whether it's really a problem. I don't think I'd press the issue at a Prerelease or FNM. Looking at the bottom card after shuffling is another matter entirely, because one gains "forbidden knowledge".
    – Hackworth
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:23
  • 3
    This was at a Competitive REL. I specifically asked the judge if it's ok for me to shuffle face up (since it's in a hidden zone and by his rules I'm allowed to see) and note the position of the cards.
    – Hupperware
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:29

I'm not a judge; the ruling, however, seems obviously mistaken.

The statement that "while cards are in a hidden zone they may be looked at by the owner as long as it doesn't take too much time" is emphatically not true.

Cards in the library are hidden from all players:

401.2. Each library must be kept in a single face-down pile. Players can’t look at or change the order of cards in a library.

When you search a library, the rules allow you, the person taking the action, to look at its contents:

701.15a To search for a card in a zone, look at all cards in that zone (even if it's a hidden zone) and find a card that matches the given description.

Nowhere in the comp rules does it say that you get a free peak at a hidden zone when someone else gets to look at it.

All the MTR has to say is this:

... players may choose to reveal their hands or any other hidden information available only to them, unless specifically prohibited by the rules.

So, technically speaking, you may choose to show your opponent a library as you are looking through it, but are not obligated to do so.

  • Honestly, when I use Surgical Extraction, I nearly always show my opponent his library (as I am permitted to do -- see the MTR quote). It's just easier, and also part of the "make you wince" factor of the card. Praetor's Grasp is the opposite, though.
    – Alex P
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:29
  • The spirit of the card for Surgical Extraction would imply showing the cards, to prove you did only exile cards with the same name. It's actually odd that SE doesn't require a reveal before exile, as other searches with restrictions (in this case, with the same name) do, to prevent this very kind of cheating.
    – Andrew
    Feb 20, 2018 at 18:32
  • 1
    @Andrew Surgical Extraction does not say "exile face down" - so it uses the default, which for exile is face up. Exiled cards can always be looked at by anyone, unless they are specifically exiled face down. That's why SE doesn't need a reveal - your opponent can see the exiled cards freely.
    – Syndic
    May 3, 2019 at 8:01

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