Magic tournament rules specify that players must be able to randomize their decks in an appropriate amount of time (three minutes for pre-game procedures).

As Matt Sperling points out, this may be difficult with a 250-card deck. I can't even shuffle a sleeved 100-card Commander deck without splitting it in half!

Yet Battle of Wits decks, in all their piled-high glory, have clearly seen real tournament play over the years:

A Battle of Wits deck at GP Milan, 2002

What shuffling techniques and procedural tricks do players use to make sure their oversized decks don't violate tournament rules for proper randomization, timely shuffling, and avoiding slow play?

Since Battle of Wits has been around for years, is there any consensus about how to handle this kind of big deck among judges?

  • 2
    Ha ha, good question. I'm not sure there's a good answer out there, but it brought some fun mental images of judges tearing their hair out into my head :) Imagine having to run a random deck check on THAT... Jul 4, 2012 at 7:15
  • I would say "an online" implementation, but that would just be snarky.
    – user1873
    Jul 4, 2012 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


Three minutes is your time limit for sideboarding, shuffling, and presentation.

2.3 Pregame Procedures

The following steps must be performed before each game begins:

  1. Players may exchange cards in their decks for cards in their sideboards. Players may only do this after the first or subsequent game of the match and not for games that are restarted or games that are drawn before any game actions are taken.

  2. Players shuffle their decks. Steps 1 and 2 may be repeated.

  3. Players present their decks to their opponents for additional shuffling. The sideboard (if any) is also presented at this time.

Players may not use more than three minutes to perform steps 1 through 3.

Additionally, there is a specific definition that is used for "shuffling"...

3.9 Card Shuffling

Decks must be randomized at the start of every game and whenever an instruction requires it. Randomization is defined as bringing the deck to a state where no player can have any information regarding the order or position of cards in any portion of the deck. Pile shuffling alone is not sufficiently random.

Taking the above two into account, the official rules state that you have 3 minutes to completely randomize your deck. There is no standing consensus for how to achieve this with a massive deck. Combining two methods, such as a pile shuffle followed by a quick riffle shuffle of ~80 card stacks is generally the accepted method. A 250-card pile shuffle should take a bit less than 2 minutes for a dexterous player, so time is really tight when sideboarding.

Another technique I have seen for shuffling massive decks is to do something similar to the following:

  1. Split the deck into 4 piles (a,b,c,d).
  2. Shuffle pairs of piles together (a+b, c+d)
  3. Repeat 1-2, but shuffle the resulting 4 piles in a different combination to not arrive at the same 2 piles again.
  4. Repeat 3 a few times, throwing an overhand shuffle or two in between.

The real danger becomes when you must shuffle during the game, since shortcuts such as only shuffling the top half are not acceptable for randomization. Presenting an non-randomized deck for your opponent to cut is an easy way to rack up warnings.

There will always be times when a particularly rules-lawyering opponent will attempt to call you on slow play at 181 seconds or for taking too long to shuffle in-game, but such is the danger of having a massive deck. Just play your fastest and you should have little trouble.

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    Your point about shuffling in-play is very important. My understanding is that Battle of Wits decks are loaded with tutors.
    – Alex P
    Jul 5, 2012 at 0:47
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    By this definition, asking a third party to acquire a card from your deck would remove the need to shuffle unless cards have been placed on the top or bottom of the deck. The definition does not specify that a re-ordering of cards must occur, only that no player can have any information regarding the position. If you never had any information regarding the position before, and you gained no information because someone else searched the deck for what you tutored for, then it stands to reason that the deck is still shuffled.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 9, 2012 at 17:52

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