Judge And Jury

Mark Nestico puts on his serious cap for this week to discuss one of the most unpleasant scenes he’s ever witnessed at a Magic event. Join Mark as he gives you tips on how to make your judge encounters go smoothly!

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!


I was super-excited to write about Commander this week because it’s something I’ve never done before. Expect that to come in the next few weeks because it’s my favorite format, I adore it, and I’d love to reach out to a new audience. Next week will be about my adventures playing in #GPDC with a couple of my close friends for the Team Sealed Grand Prix, and that should be absolutely delightful.

Then I was talked into discussing the Mardu Green deck I’ve been playing the last week to help players gain a deeper knowledge of it.


I can wait to talk about Commander for the sake of Standard.

But then it happened.

My PPTQ this weekend was rather unspectacular in the sense that I didn’t do well due entirely to poor play and lack of focus. Work this, buying a house that, school this, whatever. No excuses. Play like a champion always, all the time, always.

What was spectacular, however, was easily the single most insane disqualification I have ever witnessed in my life. Literally the events that unfolded were a manifesto of what you should never do when it comes to dealing with a judge, lying, cheating, or whatever else you should partake in when it comes to playing a game of Magic. Good Lord, it was ridiculous. I made a comment about it on my Facebook and interest was piqued. I left it up to the fans, who overwhelmingly voted that I should create a compendium of what to do and don’t do when dealing with a judge.

In short, I have a ton of judge friends. I’d humblebrag and say I have more than most people. It’s definitely something I want to be competitive about. I want more judge friends than you. I will win this battle. It wasn’t something I planned, but as it turns out a lot of my pals just ended up judges and we’ve maintained cordial relations over the years. When they have a plight, by proxy I have a plight. When good friends were suspended over a leak late last year, I took up the sword. When they were unbanned…you know…because they weren’t guilty…I celebrated with them.

So when I see a judge getting trash-talked, my immediate reaction is to think less of the person losing their cool. Losing in Magic sucks. Getting a game or match loss sucks even worse. A disqualification is terrible. Being banned must really bite.

This doesn’t mean judges are infallible, because they aren’t. A good friend of mine took a banning that, for all intents and purposes, made absolutely no sense and other judges I know disagreed with it. The system isn’t perfect, but I’ll be damned if people who spend their weekends ensuring you have a habitable place to play Magic should be the butt of every joke or looked at like they’re inferior. This is serious Mark right now.

The treatment of a lot of judges is terrible and needs to get better.


On to the main event.

The short of it was this person decided during a match to pull out his phone to consult a “picture of sideboard notes.” His opponent told him that using a phone during their match is illegal, so he called a judge. The judge pulled up the ruling, explained to him why using an electronic device unless it’s for an important call is prohibited, and issued the match loss because of it.

The plot thickens.

Our friend then shifted his story around until the other judge commented, “So you’re admitting that you lied to a judge,” to which he replied “I guess so.” Excellent! So you’ve created a shovel that can simultaneously dig graves while burying you in them! Ingenuity at its finest!

But wait. There’s more.

You’d think blatant cheating and admitting that you’ve lied were good enough, but nah, this is Inception…we need to go deeper. He began spewing numerous swear words, and I promise you none of them were “melon farmer” or “fudge.” The judge, who I think during all of this accidentally broke the world record for “Single Most Patient Moment While Dealing With Someone Irrational In Recorded History,” was still trying not to disqualify this person by sending out text messages at 1am to higher-ranking judges to see if a downgrade is possible. (Spoiler alert: they were sleeping.)

He upheld his own disqualification and then began asking people who were watching to recount their story on paper for the sake of the disqualification. Many were happy to oblige. Our hero, however, made sure to break out platinum hits like “you don’t have to do this,” and “no one is making you turn in those stories.” He also made sure to drop a few homophobic remarks for good measure, yet somehow- the store owner/head judge allowed him to take all of his store credit from the Top 4 and apply it to purchases while being told “I will never come back here.” He left while reminding his previous opponent, who had moved on to the finals, that he would have lost had they finished the match.

That person went on to win the whole thing, hilariously enough.

I kept playing this song in my head. Y’all are probably like “that went from 0-100 really fast.” You’d be right. This horror show was the Bugatti of nonsense.

This was no corner-case. This was legitimately the most ridiculous bit of nonsense I’ve ever seen and a complete overview of what you shouldn’t do if you’re caught cheating.

In light of this, I have created a compendium to help those of you who might be confused in how to deal with this situation should it ever happen to you.

Judge Do’s and Don’ts

Judge Do: If you have been caught in a compromising position, accidentally cheated, or are witnessing your opponent cheat, politely stop the match and raise your hand whilst shouting “Judge!” This will get their attention.

Judge Don’t: I probably wouldn’t tell your opponent to “be cool” or that it’s “no big deal.” When they call a judge, don’t roll your eyes, sigh loudly, call them names, or begin throwing a tantrum.

Judge Do: When approached by the judge, allow the other player the courtesy of telling their side without interruption. This will prevent the judge from being confused by cross-talk and will keep the details of what happened from getting muddled.

Judge Don’t: You should refrain from trying to talk over the judge or player to defend yourself, and don’t throw around terms like “liar” or outright say your opponent is not telling the truth. Ad hominem doesn’t make people take you seriously.

Judge Do: Tell the entire truth as it happened. Don’t leave out details that make you look bad. Be 100% forthcoming with the entire situation.

Judge Don’t: I would advise against telling a completely fabricated variation of the story meant to make your opponent look bad. A judge, contrary to popular belief, is almost always a very intelligent individual that will discern if you’re fibbing or are being truthful.

Judge Do: Be respectful of the situation.

Judge Don’t You shouldn’t spend the entire time being belligerent, confrontational, contrary, and rude.

Judge Do: If you truly feel that the situation is being misrepresented, ask the judge to step away from the table for a moment so that you may speak to them in private. Don’t be pressured by people watching to change how you answer, but those types of situations are sometimes uncomfortable for people.

Judge Don’t: Telling the judge you think they’re wrong or incompetent and that you demand to speak to the head judge is also one of the worst things you can do. Believe it or not, Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties exist, and acting like…pretty much all of the above can easily get you one.

Judge Do: Ask to speak to the head judge when you believe all avenues have failed. Maintain the truth at all times.

Judge Don’t: Don’t lie to the head judge. By golly, if you thought lying to a table judge was a bad idea, this one takes the actual cake. If you’ve broken a rule, own up to it. If you’ve been on the bad end of cheating, express the seriousness while still remaining calm.

Do all of these seem hard to you? Are they complicated? Are they furiously difficult?

Then why are we having this talk?

Rules exist because someone has done something dastardly.

Judges exist to prevent players, new and old, from being victims of foul play.

Articles like this exist because cheating exists. It’s a pretty disgusting relationship.

In the end, play fairly, accept the consequences of your actions, and be responsible for the well-being of this game. Without order, there is chaos. Without judges, there isn’t Magic. We don’t need to degenerate into worse communities. I like my backpack. I don’t want it stolen. Shots fired or whatever.

I really would have preferred to talk about Commander.


So anyhow, here’s that deck I mentioned earlier.

Over the last few days I’ve played and tested Mardu Green online because Brian DeMars’s list looked really good. The natural evolution of the deck over the last couple of weeks to include Sylvan Advocate, a card I have long been advocating, seemed excellent. It also gave a deeper incentive to play Needle Spires to fix your mana, and it provides a great threat later in the game.

His sideboard was pretty by-the-books, but I hate cards like Infinite Obliteration. They’re inherently weak when it comes to answering the multiple threats in Ramp, so I cut the multiple copies down to one and played with a creature that I’ve been trouncing Eldrazi Ramp with online: Pitiless Horde.

The loss of life is completely arbitrary in the stages of the game where your development matters more than theirs. While they ramp, you smash in for huge chunks of damage. This allows you to put the squeeze on them and pressure them in ways they aren’t used to from a Mardu Green deck. So far I’ve found it far more proactive and impressive than Infinite Obliteration. I might just cut Infinite Obliteration altogether.

Take that for what it’s worth.

As always, I welcome discussion on this topic. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Now back to working on my Daxos the Returned deck. It just isn’t quite where I like it.

Grand Prix Washington, DC: March 11-13!