Mining The Crystal Quarry: The Basic Rules Of Conduct

Morality and ethics debates aside, there’s only one conscionable way to behave – and that’s properly. Unlike the debate on a casual banned list, ethics and morals are pretty one-sided and black and white… And I think it’s about time I listed the basics of ethical behavior for you all.

Tony Costa has touched on a very, very sensitive topic, and something that should be true at any point and time in one’s Magic-playing lifetime. You know it, I know it, and Matt* from my previous article knows it. Keep it clean and honest. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve gotten the good end of a deal before, like a Ravenous Baloth for a Krosan Cloudscraper. I’ve”accidentally” drawn an extra card in a casual game after taking a Paris mulligan. My most egregious act was keeping a rare that I found on the table, instead of turning it in to the front desk, since everyone else had left.

But for all my sins, I’ve since confessed and converted. I still try to get a good trade, but never will I rip someone so badly as others and I have been ripped before. The problem with Magic is that there are, and always will be, inequities of information. But as my old roommate knows, I believe that there are absolutes in the world – in ethics and behavior. I read StarCityGames religiously (partially because sometimes, there’s nothing better to do at work) and since have gotten a bigger image of the multiplayer, casual, and tournament scene. I know I’m a little late to the table, but these are my two cents.

From what I’ve seen, the competitiveness and rules lawyering in tournaments and pro-level Magic can’t be helped. When the stakes are high, what needs to be done – or what one thinks needs to be done – can vary. I wish every competitive player luck, and despite what goes on, I hope that you can take the following and make the Magic world a better one.

But another aspect of Magic has raised its head – the perception and acceptance of Magic by the outside world. The standing stereotype is the geek gamer, single, dateless, perhaps overweight and maybe a little… Gamey. Now, let me be clear in that I am single, overweight, and a bit of a geek (but I have excellent hygiene, thank you very much). Why is that the case? Regardless of the situation or the reality, behind every stereotype is a little bit of truth. The question is, just how much of it is truth, and how much of it is generalization? I’m sorry that I can’t help dispel the myth, being self-described as matching the profile (minus the smell**). But as it stands, remember that no one really actively persecutes Magic players – minus, of course, school bullies, jocks, and the religious right. We all know the type. And despite the risk of perpetuating another stereotype, most bullies and jocks are going to be wasting their lives anyway.***

All that aside, I’m going to make this short and sweet, as it should be. Morality and ethics debates aside, there’s only one conscionable way to behave – and that’s properly. Unlike the debate on a casual banned list, ethics and morals are pretty one-sided and black and white. There’s good, and there’s bad. Period. Earlier, I made the statement that inequity of information is a cause for bad, rip-off trades. I, on the other hand, contend that it’s a basic matter of morality.

An exception needs to be made for the difference between strangers, and a close group of friends. Amongst friends, things are going to be a little more laid back, and you’re going to see a lot more messing around, verbally and physically. The basic truth, however, is the same. There are general principles underlying that basic proof.

The Basic Rules of Conduct

  • Never touch someone else’s property without their express, clear permission.

  • Never touch another person inappropriately.

These are the most basic of laws, and this avoids many, many problems in the realm of theft and assault.

In basic law and civics, there’s a concept called personal space. You never enter that space, and that’s just common sense. The second you lay a hand on anyone, that goes to Assault. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t hit him or even damage him; just plain contact is assault. My choice of words in”inappropriately” may seem strange and imply molestation, but we all know what this means. If you don’t know the guy, don’t put your hand on his shoulder or anything. This is so for many reasons, from cultural to personal. We may not be touchy feely, or perhaps personal contact is something that is frowned upon in a person’s culture.

Additionally, not taking cards without permission is the very single basis of theft. No, duh, right? Theft is not a matter of possession; it’s a matter of principle. In other words, those who steal may do so partially because they have not, but mainly because they have no principles.

Another aspect of conduct in Magic: Aside from the physical contact rules, there are basic rules of courtesy and manners. I’m going to say that the biggest reason that Magic has an image problem is because of the immaturity we see day to day.

The Basic Rule Of Courtesy:

  • Treat each other with respect.

In particular, there is one insult, or set of insults that gall me, just out of principle – racism and sexism have been recognized as inappropriate remarks, so why would someone who doesn’t truly believe it use sexual orientation as a slur? Without going into a long philosophical discussion,”gay” is not a slur, and nor should it be. Most people use it mindlessly without understanding its real applications, and I know that the Ferrett has touched on this before.

I’m fortunate enough to not have to deal with the anonymity that is Magic Online that allows people to curse and act like immature punks. Consider the recent Brainburst article on manners on Magic Online. How many times have we seen such behavior in real life?

Ever met that annoying kid who just talks s**t all the time, who acts like he’s all that? The one you wanted to punch, but couldn’t? You’re a better person for not punching them.

“Gay” as a slur is unacceptable and should be refuted whenever you hear it, as a matter of principle. If you believe that being gay is evil, then use the word evil instead. No one wants to hear the intolerant spew that comes out of your mouth like crap blue cards out of Eighth edition.

Getting back to the subject, name-calling when dealing with someone you don’t know on a personal basis is unacceptable. Magic has a basic code of conduct, which I’ve started to elaborate on. Those three are the cornerstone of basic human behavior. But that’s just the basic set of rules – there are more.

Actually, the exception needs to be made for friendly trash talk. There is a line, even then, however – a good rule of thumb is to just plain not address the other player in a negative sense. Along those lines, talk about skill, deck complexity, and originality should definitely be kept to a minimum.

Craig Stevenson wrote a very passionate article stating the exact sentiment I feel. Deck choice doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s how you handle yourself when you select and play that deck. Carry yourself appropriately, and treat everyone as equals.

In terms of the image and acceptance of Magic and Magic players by the general populace, I’ve read the posts and seen the articles. As Jesus said in the Bible:”If they are not against us, they are with us.” If people don’t understand the game, that’s perfectly fine. Consider Curling, or even Yu-Gi-Oh, and one can quickly see how it feels to see something foreign and strange. People are cautious of new things, and things they don’t understand. That’s just how it is.

I’m about to make a Christian-centered reference, though it’s a pretty simple message in terms of how it should be taken. All the basic rules above tie into a single simple rule –

The Guiding Principle:

  • “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Trade fairly. Don’t injure anyone. Don’t mock anyone. Have fun. Relax.

There are people who are going to be jerks. There are people who don’t want to change, who would rather stay uninformed, ignorant, and prejudiced. There are people who choose to be irritating, annoying, and downright evil.

Regarding Trade Rip-Offs:

This is a matter of honesty, people. Moreover, if you don’t rip someone off in a trade, it’s more likely that they’ll trade with you again. Bad things will happen – but for pity’s sake, be a good person. A suggestion is to just carry around the cards you don’t want, or would be willing to part with in a trade. That way, your prize cards won’t even be in the line of fire – and moreover, should you make a trade for something you want, you’re guaranteed to not lose anything to precious to you.

Regarding Arrogance And Condescension:

It’s true that some decks will require more choices to be made. The win condition may be achieved through more steps than others, but playing any particular deck doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, or anyone less skilled than you. Even if it’s The Deck.***** Everyone who makes this contention, please step down from your pedestal.

As for the issue of netdecking, play casual sometime. The price of competitive play is the loss of variety, as only the best of the best decks will see play. And as it stands, some things will always be more powerful than others. (That is the crisis facing competitive Type 1 play, incidentally – the investment that needs to be made to be competitive.)

Regarding the perception of Magic and our portrayal of it: As I’ve stated, people will always be uneasy about new or unfamiliar things. The easiest way to deal with it, as opposed to instantly by reflex spouting,”We have a Pro Tour where we can make money!” is to simply treat it as it is – an activity that needs to be learned to be appreciated. Magic is deep and complicated. It’s not something someone can just jump into.

Magic is simply this: A very popular card game, with a long set of rules. It’s a lot of fun for those of us who play it. Offer kindly to show some of the basics or to demonstrate if they wish, but don’t be angry, arrogant, or patronizing. As for the stereotype, so what? Who among us is not guilty? He who is without sin, cast the first stone. Stereotypes will happen, and all we can do is be the best people we can be.

I know I’m getting preachy, and I know I’m delving into the clichéd – but even though it seems to be on a grand scale, Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. There are two things we should be doing when we’re out and about:

The first thing that all Magic players should do is to be good people. Sure, everyone wants to come out better in a trade. After all, that’s the whole point of the endeavor. If you’re not comfortable trading, don’t bother, and instead, buy the single instead. I wonder where they can do that? Any ideas from the editor? Don’t steal things, for that matter.

The second thing all Magic players should do… Is freakin’ bathe, people! For those of us who don’t have that hygiene problem, more power. For those who don’t, you know who you are. And for pity’s sake, if it’s a matter of rebellion or standing up against the man, do it downwind.**** I will make this perfectly clear – we are not watching our hygiene to try to impress the outside world, we should be doing this as a courtesy both to our fellow Magic-playing brethren and ourselves. And hey, if the whole hygiene thing leads to better social interaction and relations, more power to us.

John Liu

My first trade: Anurid Brushhopper, two Rootwater Thieves, three Tempting Wurms, and a Mystic Snake (among other cards) for an EX Spiritmonger. Yeah, I got jacked. Don’t remind me.

* – Once again, name changed to conceal the Assaholic. PM me on the forums if you want his real name.

** – If it seems that I’m trying to emphasize that I don’t carry the”Magic Player” smell, that’s because my first experience at a mass Magic Event nearly overwhelmed me and made me lose my lunch. Okay, maybe it did overwhelm me.

*** – And besides, you’ve never seen news stories where jocks went on a shooting rampage because of the abuse that the nerds and geeks gave them.

**** – At the Scourge prerelease, for instance, there was this… Girthy Goth, complete with black nailpolish and makeup, spike collar and black clothing. He certainly smelled like a ghoul. Is that part of the Goth deal? Goths out there, please tell me that isn’t part of the subculture.

***** – For details on The Deck, just search for Oscar Tan name on this site. It also goes by the name of Keeper, and is a powerful Type 1 deck requiring hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in investment.