The great Sheldon Menery, expert Judge and community advocate, explains some important things that certain members of our culture need to read, hear, and reflect on.

Today, we’re going to go a little more meta than just the mechanics of the format. Two things worth talking about have cropped it, so I’d like talk about
them. The first is proxies, and the other is a discussion on social behavior.

Before we get there, I’ll tell a brief story about what Monday Night Gamer and Armada Games regular Todd Palmer called “one of my favorite ways ever to get
blown out.” During fellow RC member Scott Larabee’s recent visit, we were playing a game with Todd and Anthony, another Armada regular. He’s a good man and
someone I’ve mentioned multiple times on these pages. Anthony was playing his new “Zero X Spells Kruphix” deck, Todd was playing Rith, the Awakener, Scott
was playing Ghost Council of Orzhova, and I was playing Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind. The Lazav deck is this week’s
updated deck, below. I had already copied Anthony’s Kruphix, God of Horizons and his Prophet of Kruphix. I had a total of thirteen creatures. Todd had
already played Avenger of Zendikar and had a total of eleven creatures. He shrugged, said “game’s gotta end sometime” (we were deep into double-digit turns
by this point, so ending the game was fine) cast Tooth and Nail entwined, and got Craterhoof Behemoth, and something not relevant to the play. He battled
me with enough to kill me (given the board state) and then Scott with the remaining few. I’ll confess to slow-rolling him just a little for dramatic
effect. Via Prophet, I flashed in Evil Twin, copying the Craterhoof Behemoth. All my creatures were bigger than his, so I blocked with favorable results.
Anthony killed him on the crack back. Todd said he’d remember it forever.


For the purposes of this discussion, there are two basic types of proxies: the Sharpie’d basic land and the elaborate print job. The Sharpie’d land is
pretty self-explanatory—it’s a card name and text on a basic land (or other low-value card; if I had a Pro Tour team, I’d do it with Aeolipile). This is a
common technique for players testing multiple decks before they build them so that they don’t have to take the time to swap cards around. Teams will also
proxy up gauntlet decks which they want to test against. It’s easy to understand why they wouldn’t go to considerable time and expense acquiring copies of
cards they don’t intend to play with. Nonetheless, they intend to acquire the real cards for the decks they’re going to play. They have no intention of
trying to get around paying for cards.

In the era of inexpensive high-quality color printers, the elaborate print job is easy. It involves making a print (or copy) of an existing card and then
attaching it to a real Magic card back. I’ve occasionally seen people use this technique for playtesting, but for the most part I’ve seen them use it
because they simply don’t want to pay for a card. Their intent is to use it permanently in lieu of a legitimate version, and to me, that seems like
counterfeiting (with the standard caveat that I’m not a lawyer or Treasury Agent).

There are two other types of cards that might fall into the proxy category, but in my mind actually don’t: the gold-bordered card and the
tournament-illegal alter. The gold-bordered card is a genuine, produced by Wizards of the Coast card, such as the Collector’s Edition or the World
Championship decks. They’re not tournament legal cards but are otherwise legit. I’ll refer you to the Magic Tournament Rules (MTR), Section 3.3 for the
description of acceptable alters:

Artistic modifications are acceptable in Magic tournaments, provided that the modifications do not make the card art unrecognizable, contain
substantial strategic advice, or contain offensive images. Artistic modifications may not obstruct or change the mana cost or name of the card.

If we were to take an official stance on the use of proxy, it would be in line with the MTR, sections 3.3 and 3.4. If an organizer is doing a Commander
event which doesn’t specify a proxy policy, they’re probably going by the MTR definition by default. If you have a card which you think may fall into the
gray area, check with them.

Personally, even in the most casual games, I wouldn’t allow the first two types of proxies, even with what might seem like a good excuse. I happen to have
a good local example of one of those circumstances. One of the Armada regulars sent seven or eight cards to an artist to have altered. This is an effort
which was going to take some weeks, if not months. When he brought up the idea about using proxies, I said that I’d prefer he didn’t. He said, “yeah, I
actually don’t want to be that guy.” He simply used other cards while his alters came back. There are more good cards for a Commander deck than there are
slots in the deck. He still had loads of fun with his deck while he waited for his other cards.

If you want to use a proxy version because you simply don’t want to pay for a card (even if it’s merely because you feel the price of a card is unjustly
high), then I’m going to say no. The primary reason for this is that I support the business of Wizards of the Coast, whose blood, sweat, and tears have
gone into creating, producing, and distributing the game; I support the reputable online retailers, and I support the legion of game shops which create the
spaces for us to enjoy our hobby. The secondary market for cards is a significant part of the income stream for shops, many of which may not be able to
exist without it. Second, I believe in meritocracies. I believe in earning what you have and having what you can afford, not just in Magic, but in life. If
you can afford to drive an Audi, great; if you can afford a Honda Civic, then that’s what you drive. If you can afford a Badlands, great; if you can only
afford Dragonskull Summit, then that’s what you play (I know the analogy breaks down a little since you can’t really Sharpie up an Audi). I assign no moral
value in what you can afford (or are willing to pay—I’m sure I can pony up the $3.99 for that movie on HBO On Demand, but damn it, I already pay a
subscription fee and have two other streaming services, so WTH?), we simply are where we are in life. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to spend
your cash on that Badlands, a bottle of Blanton’s (actually, closer to a year’s supply of Blanton’s), or the
rent. The real bottom line is that if you’re playing with me, I’d like for you to be playing real Magic cards.

The other two types are a different story. Gold-bordered cards are WotC products. They’re fine for use in this unsanctioned format (an opinion which I’ve
come around on after some discussion in the forums for last week’s article). For the alters, the answer is effectively the
same. If it’s a WotC-produced version of the card you’re representing, then fine; if it’s a Plains painted up to look like a Badlands, then no dice. No
dice also for offensive stuff. If your alters promote misogyny, sexism, or bigotry of any kind, then in addition to not consenting to let you play with
them, I’m likely to simply not play with you. Hopefully, most folks are enlightened enough for this to never be an actual issue. This segues quite
nicely into the next thing I want to talk about.

Behavior and Social Groups

We are human beings. We are flawed and fallible. We make mistakes, we get wrong impressions, and sometimes we’re simply not always at the top of our games.
What I want to talk about here isn’t mistakes or slips of the tongue, but repeated anti-social behavior and what must be done about it. I’m talking about
repeated incidences of hateful action or speech, or single incidences of what is obviously an ingrained thought process. I’m talking about things which in
reasonable society we deem bad behavior, like using offensive language, physically aggressive action, posting inappropriate pictures, and the like. First,
please don’t do it. Second, when you see it, identify it and do something about it.

The reason we get so much bad behavior these days is that we don’t call it out enough, and when we do, the caller is vilified instead of the perpetrator of
the original behavior. The caller needs to be humane and diplomatic, not inflammatory, but the identification of socially-unacceptable behavior is the
responsibility of all members of the community, not just leadership. In order for systems to work, you can’t wait for them to work, you have to make them. That involves active participation. In organizations, that most often involves the chain of command, but sometimes it means taking
provocative action as an individual. In a social group or community that doesn’t have a formal hierarchy, it is without question the responsibility of the
individual of good conscience to take action. It is not something one does casually, lightly, with self-satisfaction, or frequently. It is, however,
something we must have the courage to do when it needs to be done.

I’ll be clear that I’m not saying that people can’t engage in socially-unacceptable behavior. I’m not trying to infringe on your right to free
speech. One must realize that free speech doesn’t mean consequence-free speech. If you spout garbage, I expect someone in the community to clean it up.
I’ll go so far in defending your right to free speech that I’d rather that people say every offensive thing that’s on their minds. That way, we know who
the bigots are, and can avoid socializing with them. Just because you’re allowed to say what you want doesn’t mean that we have to put up with it. If you
demonstrate that you’re anti-social, you can’t complain when people don’t want to be in your company.

While I’m predominantly talking philosophically here, I’ll hit one specific. Please stop using “gay” as a pejorative. It doesn’t matter that you might
think it’s harmless or that all your friends say it too. It’s not harmless. It reinforces a negative idea (gay = bad) which is counterproductive to the
kind of accepting culture we would like to promote. No one is asking you to change your belief systems (okay, if you’re a super bigot, I’m asking you to
think about changing that part of your belief system), just your behavior. You’ll find that thinking about how others might feel about what comes out of
your mouth might help you learn a thing or two. I’m also not talking about rolling over to the idea of political correctness. I’m talking about avoiding
hateful speech, both actively hateful and passively hateful (the latter of which is the most insidious). Examine the words that you say and the ideas that
they express, intentional or not.

Most of the time, the best way to deal with poor behavior is to do it quietly. There is a leadership sawhorse of “praise in public, admonish in private,’
which also extends to peer-to-peer relationships. Take the person aside (or PM them, or whatever the appropriate communication mode might be) and simply
ask if they realize what they’ve said or what they’re doing is harmful or hurtful. There’s a chance that they may not. It’s a perfect opportunity to
educate them, to show them that what they’re saying or doing promotes an idea that violates the tenets of good social behavior. You don’t have to be
unpleasant about it. You can always keep the level of discourse high. If they know that what they’re saying or doing is offensive and don’t care, you can
warn them that continuing such behavior is likely to get them removed from your social group. What they do with that information is then up to them.

Sometimes, doing things in private isn’t enough. Especially in public settings, other people in the group might be leery about speaking up or taking
action. If the offense is public and sufficiently inflammatory, then the response needs to be public; the person has to know certain actions will simply
not be tolerated. For example, I was once Head Judging an event where many nations were represented. During a draft, which is a reasonably quiet period, a
judge made an audible comment deriding one of the countries represented. The only reasonable thing for me to do was to immediately and very publicly assert
that this was not the kind of attitude permitted in the program. Did I embarrass the judge? No, he embarrassed himself. I simply reminded him (and everyone
around) that we considered this poor behavior and we wouldn’t allow it. It was both a warning to anyone else who might be inclined to such rudeness and a
reminder to everyone else that we had their backs.

Calling people out for bad behavior is not bullying. Before you ask “who gets to decide?” I’ll say that in general, cultures already have—it’s not like we
need a vote to decide the N-word is bad. I’m also not setting up myself as the arbiter of all behavior; once again, the culture already has. Calling out
people for bad behavior (again, diplomatically and humanely) is part what gets it to stop. It’s incumbent on each of us to do it when the need arises—and
the need arises every time we see it. Tolerance is a funny thing. It involves letting people do whatever they’re going to do, and then holding them
accountable for it. Let’s try to be excellent to each other.

Here’s the Lazav deck mentioned in the beginning:

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987), ask for an invitation to the Facebook
group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”

Here is the latest database version of all my decks: