Everyone wants to win. Magic has a lot of draws that appeal to a wide array of people, but the biggest pull for competitive mages is the thrill of victory.
Winning matches in Magic provides money, prestige, and a level of fame that many yearn to attain at some point in their life. There are other reasons that
the game is amazing, which include hanging out with friends, having fun playing cards, seeing the sights, eating awesome food during travel, and the list
goes on and on. The causes for Magic’s card game superiority rests in the glory camp, where players like you and me do our research, build our decks, and
fight to become king of the hill in any tournament that we attend. The competitive nature of the game has its negative aspects as well, which we all see on
a day to day basis.
The ugly side of the game can be linked to the extensive prizes, both cash and fame, that exist at the end of the tunnel. When people are competing for
thousands and thousands of dollars in combination with notoriety then there will be some that seek to undermine their fellow mages in the shadiest of ways
to achieve victory. Cheating is the obvious move that the desperate make in order to win on a regular basis. The term cheating is broad and can mean a
multitude of different offenses. Those who cheat can do it boldly with crowds around them and some do it at their local FNM in order to win that shiny
promo. We all know of people that do it around us, are suspicious of others that may do it, and are completely unaware of a few that do it right under our
noses. It is a sad state of affairs because eventually those who engage in such activity will be caught. They only hurt those around them in the meantime.
Drawing extra cards, playing an additional land here and there, misrepresenting the board state on purpose to gain an advantage, and stacking decks are a
few of the different ways to cheat in Magic, but cheating isn’t the only problem that affects the integrity of the game.
We all know cheating is wrong. That gives us a keen responsibility to look out for these types of activities and stop them at every level. I want to take a
step away from the control manifesto that I usually love to write about and talk to you guys about the secret killers of Magic that rest in the bad
sportsmanship that exists online and in live play, angle shooting, and dishonesty; the primary plagues of competitive Magic.
Be a Good Sport
I offer my hand at the end of each match regardless of how painful the loss was. There are some known pros that will not, under any circumstance, offer a
handshake and that’s okay. The theme of this article is an opinionated editorial that I believe would make the game a more enjoyable one for players across
the board. A player in my area, for example, was paired against a big name pro, and he was berated at the beginning of their second game about how subpar
his play was. That talk only took place because the pro was losing. I watched this unfold with my own eyes, and there is no advantage to be had by telling
your opponent how terrible he or she is at the game. If you feel instruction or teaching is appropriate and that your opponent will be receptive to it, at
least wait until the conclusion of the match. Magic can be an emotional game with a lot of passion invested, which leads me to my next point. BBD mentioned
that he sometimes needs a little time to himself after a loss and can be an unpleasant person to confront before that time concludes. That is perfectly
understandable, and he isn’t the type of player that I’m talking about.
We all pay these entry fees, prepare heavily for these tournaments, schedule rooms, dinners, hangouts with friends, and play the game we love. We don’t go
through all of this trouble to hear some guy rant about how bad we are at the game, have our hand pushed aside, and to be told turn after turn how lucky we
are. Instead, we play to meet people, enjoy the game, and of course, achieve nerd fame. I used to be a bad sport. This can turn into a “back in my day”
lecture, but I’ll spare you all of the details. When I was younger I had this feeling that every loss I racked up (which was quite a few) was the luck of
my opponent or the bad luck I endured. This feeling caused me to be less than hospitable to opponents as I signed the slip and headed off to my camp to
talk about all of my bad beats. This affected my game and me as a person. Once I decided enough was enough years ago, I took every loss quite well and gave
my opponents no reason to ever dislike me as an adversary or as a human being. This led to more success, more networking, less anxiety when playing, less
aggression when losing, and a plethora of other fiscal and social benefits.
This segment is for players that are in the same boat that I was. Think about that player across from you, the people watching you play, and the network of
friends that can come from this game. That network leads to playtesting groups, bouncing ideas back and forth, and even professional teams adding you to
their roster once you qualify for the big game. Anyone who travels to Magic tournaments knows that there is a family aspect to the game. I could write an
article that gives a shout out to all of the great people I have met in my travels, but suffice it to say that out of my three best friends in the world,
two of them I met while battling with spells. Magic is a social conduit for many of us, and if you play clean you’ll attract good people.
The term “angle shooting” has been around in Magic since I started playing. It’s commonly referred to as the act of using every legal trick in the book to
win a match of Magic which includes strategies outside of the game. These strategies could be a keen eye on every move your enemy magician makes in order
to find a technicality to win through play error, talking opponents into misplays, using judges in a variety of ways to entice game losses for your
opponents, and any other way you can think of to win besides actually defeating your opponent with the power of your cards versus theirs. I have been a
staunch advocate against angle shooting, but I understand its place in the game. There is nothing illegal about calling a judge and insisting that your
opponent forgot triggers if he or she was a bit slow to putting the counter on their heroic creature, constantly keeping track of cards drawn by your
opponents every round, or apparently, the one scenario that gave me the idea to write this article: straight up lying.
The scenario was that there was an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite in play on one player’s side of the battlefield. His opponent cast Chord of Calling and said
that they were going to get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and make a million angels to win the game knowing full well that they weren’t able to do that. The
other player conceded despite having Elesh Norn to defend against such a combo. The debate was on Facebook where the legality was questioned using the
precedent of misrepresentation. A couple of judges in the level two realm said it was legit, but does that make it right? I find this type of play to be
damaging to the fabric of the game and a prime example of angle shooting. You will play so many matches of Magic in your life. Is it worth it? The guy will
find out from his friends, word spreads of what you did, and if it doesn’t immediately, eventually something similar will catch up to you. We all know what
players perform this type of maneuver on a regular basis, and it’s something prevents me from being great pals in the Magic world with them. This is just a
humble opinion from an old veteran, but I understand many of you would disagree with me on this sort of thing. There is a mentality in the Magic world that
doing everything possible within the rules is acceptable to achieve victory, but I humbly disagree.
I believe the use of judges to win matches is abused by some. When a judge is told false statements by a player, that is illegal with the penalty of
disqualification, but some players are just very good liars. I’ve witnessed some bold tales spouted by players, and sometimes the judge staff is equipped
to call them out. Other times the evidence just isn’t there. I had a player draw an extra card against me at the last Legacy Open, and I called a judge to
rectify the situation. That is something that has to happen, but when the judge call option is used regularly when there is little to no foul play
occurring on the other side of the table, then we have a problem. This situation reminds me of sports when the announcers yell at the referees to just let
them play. Continue to call judges when your opponent is committing illegal acts or to clean up errors on both sides, but be mindful of opponents that are
more focused on you slipping up in the technical sense rather than their own ability to win.
Dishonesty in Magic
There are some players that have been banned, disqualified, or warned regularly for dishonest acts on and off the field of battle in Magic. I have never
been on the other end of a judge disqualification, but I know they only do it to players that commit gross violations of the rules and deserve that end
result. Judges don’t take pleasure in removing players from the tournament, but they do it in order to ensure a positive play environment for the rest of
us. Dishonesty is something I take very seriously when identifying players that I want to be buddies with, room with, or even go out to dinner with. There
are a few big names that have achieved the dishonest label, and I’ve since disassociated myself with them. You never know with some people you meet while
traveling from tournament to tournament. They seem nice and friendly, but when battling, the gloves come off. When there is this much money and fame at
stake, morality becomes a bit less important for some. Straight up cheating goes in the column of dishonesty, and as players are found guilty of this, the
game gets a little better each time.
There was a lot of discussion by the big dogs about Saito’s chances to get into the Hall of Fame. This article and column isn’t about the debate on
rehabilitation, but on the current threat that exists in the game. I think people can change and become better ambassadors for the game than they were in
the past. That is an entirely different discussion on whether someone who was a cheater will always be a cheater. The fact remains that people lie to
judges, misrepresent gamestates to gain advantages, knowingly wait for you to draw cards off of a Brainstorm when your Spirit of the Labyrinth is in play
when they could have easily pointed it out…All of this just so a judge can end the match pre-emptively. These are all detrimental to the game in my
opinion. I truly believe that clean play, honest Magic, and a high level of sportsmanship combine to make tournament Magic great.
I appreciate you guys hearing me out on a topic that was sparked by a Facebook discussion, but it is something I believe in. The last article I released has my current, up-to-date Esper Control list
that I’ll be using in Washington D.C. this weekend. The Season Three Invitational is the following weekend, and I plan on battling with Esper in both
formats yet again. The goal is to get that token that has eluded me thus far, and I’ll try to get it the only way I know how.