Blog Fanatic: Those Damn Cheaters! (Part 2 of 2)

Kirk (sarcastically):”Well now, isn’t it convenient that you drew four Swords to Plowshares by turn 4?”
Me (surveying the game):”Just about as convenient as you drawing four Hypnotic Specters by turn 4, wouldn’t you say?”
Kirk (averting my gaze):”Um oh, um, well, I guess we’re both lucky.”
Me (driving the point home):”Yeah, right Kirk. (Derisive) Lucky.”

Kirk and Andy began a series of bi-weekly Type One tournaments at the library in Metarie. Steve Curry and I missed the first couple of events because Kirk and Andy intentionally tried to stock the tournament with bad players. The big draw for these tournaments was sanctioning – these were among the first of the sanctioned tournaments ever run in New Orleans. The two would run the tournament in tandem – Kirk would run the tournament once a month with Andy playing, and Andy would run the tournament once a month with Kirk playing. Prizes were paid out to the top 2 in cash, with first place receiving 75% of the entry fees, and second placing receiving 25% of the entry fees.

You do not get any clues about who won the first two tournaments run at the library.

Steve heard about the tournament through Alan, who heard it through Serendib Jim, who heard it from Bob Brubaker, who had come into the comic shop to buy a bunch of cards for the tournament. Steve had worked a car out of his parents by this time, and so we were able to drive from Tulane campus to the suburbs. The first tournament was relatively uneventful – Kirk was judging and Andy was playing, and the format was double elimination. Steve and I finished first and second at this tournament, and split the money in the finals. So far, all was par for the course.

Two weeks later, Steve and I were ready to get out there and play again. Steve ran a Blue/Green/Red good stuff deck with Serendib Efreet, Kird Apes, Ehrnam Djinn, Lightning Bolt – just a whole bunch of undercosted creatures with efficient burn. I had my White/Green/Black Deathlace special For the life of me I couldn’t tell you the exact contents of this deck, but it had Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, White Knight, Order of Leitbur, Order of the White Shield, Whirling Dervish, Spectral Bears, and Deathlace.

I used to love my old Deathlace deck. I did some pretty sick things with Deathlace – it acted as a Counterspell against targeted removal, and worked as a way to remove blockers if my pro-Black creatures needed to bust through. Some of my fondest plays with this deck include using Deathlace to shut down Maze of Ith, and turning Whirling Dervish Black on the stack in response to Deathgrip when my opponent had no extra mana open to resolve the Dervish for the win. In short, the deck was a pile of trash that I enjoyed running.

It was Kirk’s turn to play that week, with Andy acting as the tournament organizer/head judge. I got paired up against Kirk in the second round. He took the first game under a flurry of Hymn to Tourachs and Hypnotic Specters – he was playing his signature Black/Red aggression deck, and it came out strong. The second game, I got off an early Armageddon and he never recovered. The third game got a little screwy.

Kirk’s first turn consisted of Swamp, Dark Ritual, and Hypnotic Specter. I responded with a first turn Plains/Swords to Plowshares. Kirk untapped, and played another Ritual and another Specter. I dropped a Forest, and hit the second Specter with a repeat Swords to Plowshares. Déjà vu, Kirk got down a third turn Specter. I pulled a third turn Plow out of my ass. The big man then proceeded to drop his fourth Specter in a row! I knocked on my deck and drew….my fourth Swords to Plowshares!

Kirk (sarcastically): "Well now, isn’t it convenient that you drew four Swords to Plowshares by turn 4?"

Me (surveying the game): "Just about as convenient as you drawing four Hypnotic Specters by turn 4, wouldn’t you say?"

Kirk (averting my gaze): "Um oh, um, well, I guess we’re both lucky."

Me (driving the point home): "Yeah, right Kirk. (Derisive) Lucky."

This was really my first conscious realization that there may have been monkey business going on at my opponent’s side of the game. After sideboarding between games two and three, I remember that Kirk Ape hadn’t given me the chance to cut his deck before the draw. I took that game and the match, but had a really bitter taste in my mouth from the experience.

Kirk was dropped into the loser’s bracket, where he was matched up with none other than my teammate, Steve Curry. Back in those days, spectators were not allowed to watch any other matches (it was considered scouting). I won my round handily, and settled down to hang out with Bob (and to help watch the dozen binders he had brought in, since he had left them sprawled out over several tables, leaving them very open to theft). Steve and Kirk’s match went on for a pretty long time, until it was the last match in the room. They had entered game three, and the life totals were very close – the third game had gone back and forth, but Steve finally seemed to get the upper hand.

Steve had Serendib Efreet on the board, while Kirk only had lands left. The life totals were nine to six in Steve’s favor. Kirk hemmed and hawed his turn, a single card in his hand after the draw. As he delayed, Andy came up behind Steve, so that only Kirk could see him. Kirk ended his turn. Steve went to his upkeep, and took a point of damage. Andy nodded to Kirk. Kirk cast Lightning Bolt during Steve’s upkeep, bringing the life totals to six-five in Kirk’s favor.

"That’s time. What are the life totals?"

Steve turned around to see that the source of this question was none other than Andy himself. "You’re kidding, right?", asked Steve, completely dumbfounded at the unfolding events. "No, I gave a five minute warning five minutes ago," Andy insisted. "No you didn’t Andy, this is bull****," said Steve, clearly angry. "Kirk, didn’t you hear me give the warning?" Kirk looked straight at the floor, as Steve turned to look him in the eye. Kirk could not meet his gaze. Andy repeated his question. "Kirk, you heard me call the five minute warning, right?"

"….yeah." It was a pathetic half-answer. Kirk knew exactly what had transpired. Steve leaped out of his seat and started yelling at Andy. This drew the attention of everyone in the room, since A) he was loud, and B) nobody in the room had ever seen Steve get angry before, much less angry enough to shout. "I can’t believe this!" Steve cried. "This is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever seen in my life. How the hell can you just sit here and cheat like this?" "I don’t know what you’re talking about Steve," replied Andy coolly. "Look, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Better luck next tournament." And with that, Andy walked away.

Steve sat back down to collect his cards, and I came over to see what had happened. He explained the situation – and Kirk just sat there looking ashamed. Finally, he mustered up the nerve to speak. "I’m sorry Steve. You shouldn’t have lost that way." "Lost that way? I didn’t lose, you guys stole the game from me. This is the biggest bull**** ever. We’re going to make sure that you guys never play Magic in this town again."

I ended up winning the tournament anyhow, which only lasted another round. Bob tried to calm Steve, but it was really to no avail – Steve was livid, and rightfully so. I collected my money from Andy at the end of the tournament. "Andy, you know that was complete bull****, right?" Andy shrugged. "All I was doing was following the rules. Time ran out, and Kirk won."

The whole car ride home was discussions about how Andy and Kirk had gotten away with murder. The worst part was that Kirk knew the snowjob was going down, and didn’t have the strength of character to do anything but defer to Andy. We swore we’d never go back to that tournament again, and that we’d do everything in our power to drive Kirk and Andy from the Magic community. I wrote to the DCI, and explained to them exactly what had happened in that match. Within a week, the tournaments were desanctioned. The library tournaments, without the draw of sanctioning, were quickly disbanded.

Shortly thereafter, both Kirk and Andy sold off their Magic collections and quit the game. Steve ran into them a couple of times after that over the following months. They were playing chess in the French Quarter pretty regularly. I myself bumped into Andy and Kirk years later on Maple street, at a sidewalk café. We exchanged the standard pleasantries – how are you, what have you been up to – but I really didn’t have any desire to talk to them. Even after years of being exposed to cheaters on the professional Magic scene, Kirk and Andy’s scam over Steve ranks as the number one most brazen case of cheating I’d ever witnessed.

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