As you might have noticed, Star City has started a new "Ask the Judge" area on the site. You can send your questions to me and I’ll have the answers posted up within a few days, complete with references. This further service from Star City is part of making this the absolutely best AND most popular site on the net. We have the best writers (we have Alongi, for Pete’s sake!), the best layout, and the best content. What more could you want? If there is (short of more naked pictures of Rizzo – I’m already feeling like I’m in "Oz," and not the L. Frank Baum version, Tin Man), let someone know. It doesn’t matter whether it’s me, Ferrett (those of us who knew him before he was a "playa" dropped the "The" ages ago), or Pete himself, just do it! I’m sure there’s plenty of listening going on.
You’ve also no doubt heard that our own Ferrett made good on his promise to qualify by pushing past several very good players in an interesting PTQ Top 8. I’ll let Ferrett tell the entire story when he chooses to. From my perspective, it was a decent tournament, with few warnings, little cheesiness, and an excellent atmosphere. Thanks to the folks from The Cyber Cup for hosting the event. I’m sure we’ll be back (actually, I know we’ll be back-we’re running a JSS Challenge there on March third).
Two things led me to think about all the horror stories I read about rampant cheating around the globe. First is the gentility of the Anchorage tournament environment. It would really shock me to find someone out-and-out cheating here. I’ve seen a little rules cheese every so often, but no "unintentional" drawing extra cards or other popular offenses. Second was the declaration from Anchorage player Joseph Whitney, who, after returning from his first Pro Tour experience in LA, simply said that "Everyone, even in the stupid Side Events, was cheating their ass off."
Anyway, It’s long past time to put a stop to it. If I’m going to be the one to lay out the plan, then so be it – call me the good guy. Or the bad guy. Depends on which color hat you wear, I guess. Unfortunately, I can only draw up the blueprints. I’m merely I. M. Pei; you’re going to need to be Bob Vila.
You’re probably beside yourself with despair at the moment. You’re thinking that if Judge Shel Bean can’t stop cheating, who can? I’ll repeat myself, Deputy Fife: it’s you. I might be the police, but I’m the one in handcuffs. The measures I can take are formalized and anaesthetized (I just like the alliterative qualities of the phrase; give it no special meaning). What I can do is strictly regulated by the fact that I wear the shirt with the cool logo (and that someone has insinuated in peoples’ heads that they have these weird things called "rights," which apparently come devoid of "responsibilities"). The cheaters know what I can and can’t do, and to some extent can use that to their advantage.
What they use to their advantage the most, however, is the fact that I can’t be everywhere. My nose is too busy sniffing out answers to questions and the like to frequently stick it in the business of the disreputable. Trust me, if I could watch every player all the time, there would be NO cheating. Of course, I’d probably be suicidal, but hey – sometimes we gotta take one for the team.
There are, however, more sets of eyes than I possess – and they’re in your heads. Don’t look the other way when you see it – use your mouth. Don’t take an "it’s not against me" attitude. Every time you see an example of sketchy play, call attention to it. If it’s in a tournament, call a Judge, even if you’re a spectator. If it’s in casual play – here’s where, if I was an advocate of violence, that I’d advocate violence – if it’s in casual play, simply refuse to play with those people until they confess their fault and beg your forgiveness. Or get that one really huge, frightening sociopath you know to handle things for you.
Magic is an extremely social game. Use that to your advantage. Ostracism from the local crowd can have a powerful impact. "Sorry, we aren’t going to draft with you because you’re a dirty cheater" is stronger than you might imagine. If, for reasons of Magic survival you’re forced to play with or work with such slime, then refuse to be social with them. "I work with you because I have to; if you want to have beers with me then stop cheating, sleazeball."
I suggested this method to a friend, and she said that if there’s a situation where the sketchy player is also popular, then the person pointing out the malfeasance could end up the pariah. I say that sometimes, as Lou the Charging Troll learned a few weeks back, you just have to make sacrifices. Call me an idealist, but right and popular are not always coincidental, and right is the way to go. Sometimes it just takes a little courage on one person’s part to affect a sweeping change. If it gets you kicked out of the local "in" crowd, take a little Klingon wisdom with you: It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.
You, who absolutely hate cheating, who are in the majority by the way, MUST take a stand. Too many people are getting away with too much, whether it’s drawing extra cards, slipping extra Zombies into their Sealed Deck, or whatever the latest vogue and net-worthy mise happens to be. Stand up and slap them down. Sometimes it’s only your word against theirs… But there will be a paper trail for the future and eyes will turn their way. Eventually, they’re going to get caught. If their DCI record is clean, they’ll get off easier; if not, how much Magic can someone forget in 24 months?
My earliest columns for Star City were high-level tournament survival guides. Now that the archives are working, go back and read them (our lovely, talented and Pro Tour qualified-editor will now link to the relevant pages). Know the kind of stuff people may try to pull on you. Your best defense is awareness.
Share your information with a friend. Have him tell two friends, and so on. You’ll end up with a shampoo commercial, that full-bodied shine that drives the guys crazy, AND FEWER DAMN CHEATERS. Embarrass them at every opportunity. These low-lifes depend on skulking in the shadows. It’s up to you to turn on the bright lights.
Here’s a quick synopsis of what you can do:
When you see it, talk about it. To everyone who will listen.*
Don’t associate with people who do it. If everyone’s doing it, be a loner.
Teach the younger players to not do it and to not put up with it.
Know what you’re likely to see and what people are likely to do.
If you’re a fabulous female Magic player, drop everything and move to Anchorage (guest rooms available, reasonable rates), where the Judges know how to treat people right.** (Well, depends on your definition of "right" – The Ferrett)
There is only so much that we, the huntsmen in black-and-white, can do. You are the pack of hungry, angry hounds that must run these few foxes to ground. Once they leave their spoor, you must mercilessly dog them until they drop or drop out. Only by your courage and determination can we drive these locusts from the field.
And that’s my Final Judgement.
* – Don’t be libelous. Don’t say "He’s a cheater," say "He cheated." Big difference in court, and a reason why lawyers wear expensive suits. And while we’re on the subject, don’t fat guys in Armani with that slicked-back hair and pinky rings just creep you out, too?
** – And where they’re extremely liberal about the definition of "fabulous." It’s not like you need to be a Pro or anything.