The Magic Show #232 – The Banning of a World Champion

Hello everybody and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week, those who leaked New Phyrexia were revealed. You ready to go over this and what it means for our game? Let’s go!

Hello everybody and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week, we’re forced to get serious once again as one of the most significant bannings in the history of the game happened this week. The New Phyrexia leaks were revealed to come from none other than World Champion Guillaume Matignon and runner-up Guillaume Wafo-Tapa. You ready to go over this and what it means for our game? Let’s go!

The Banning of a World Champion

So…where to start this week. Well, let’s begin with the facts.

Many years ago, there were these things called Magic magazines, made of dead trees and ink, and people in the US actually bought and read them. Perhaps you’ve even done so yourself, to feel ‘old school’ and ‘retro.’ When these were relevant to Magic, back in the 90’s, they were huge. I remember eagerly tearing into my Inquests back in the day, hoping to read the tech earlier than anyone else at the store.

Now as you may or may not know, printed publications need serious lead-up time to hit street dates. We’re normally talking six weeks, or at least four weeks, from written word to publication. That’s a pretty long time, especially for those writing about Magic, a game which changes so frequently. So what did WotC do? Well, they would ship the publication a copy of the Godbook, a document consisting of the entire list of cards. Writers can’t write about a format where they aren’t aware of the meta-shaking cards in the new set. As time went on, this became a PDF that had the full card images too.

Now as print magazines in the US slowly died off, a shining beacon has been Lotus Noir, which in French is of course Black Lotus. This magazine has been with Magic since its inception in 1995 and is popular in France.

At some point a few years ago, Guillaume Matignon began writing for them. I don’t know the first issue he appeared in, but according to his confession, he’s been doing so for years. Regardless, the fact is this: Matignon has received the entire Godbook for sets for years, weeks before any official spoilers begin, in order to write articles about upcoming formats.

For New Phyrexia, Wizards did the same thing they always did, shipping the file to Lotus Noir who shipped it to Guillaume Matignon. He had write about the format as if New Phyrexia was already out, so of COURSE he needed complete access, right? Well, he shares it with Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, his roommate and best friend, who then gets a little fast and loose with the info. He gives it to at least one other person, who gives it to another, who then casually boasts about it in IRC, then casually spoils the entire set early.

Soon after the hammer comes down, and the two friends and Wafo-Tapa get bannings until October 2012 and Guillaume Matignon is banned for THREE YEARS. This is a big deal. This is the banning of a World Champion. Let me try to explain how this might be a much more scandalous situation than we first imagined. Let’s dive in.

First, I want you to imagine that you have this information early. Yes, you are to write articles about the set in question and its impact. But to do that, you may want to build some decks and try some cards, right? What if your roommate is another Magic Pro? Surely you guys would test the cards together to see if they really work as well as advertised.

Let’s say you find a fantastic card before anyone else. The easiest example is Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Imagine knowing what Jace does WEEKS before anyone even knows he’s in Worldwake. How would this impact your deckbuilding decisions, your choice of deck, your gauntlet of testing? But let’s get uncomfortable: How would this impact your preordering habits?

Let me make this clear before we go forward: I’m not saying that Guillaume Matignon or Guillaume Wafo-Tapa took financial advantage of their prior knowledge. But the fact that they have access requires us to ask the question. My point is that it is a terrible, horrible, no-good idea to ship out the entire godbook early to a print publication, because they have to ship it to writers who know what they’re looking at, aka Pros, and that in turn forces these types of questions raised when this gets out.

All of these uncomfortable questions lead us to a conclusion: Wizards, I hope, will now institute a policy of never, ever sending out Godbooks to anyone that isn’t an employee or Carte Mundi, the people who actually produce the cards. StarCityGames has never gotten a copy of any godbook, and neither has any other website as far as I know. We are given strict guidelines and embargo dates with one or two spoilers tops. Providing godbooks to print magazines is a stupid, grandfathered-in program that needs to stop immediately. The idea that the Guillaumes and their buddies had a two week head-start on the Pro Tour Paris metagame is a real, actual fear that could have a real impact on a tournament that gives away a quarter million bucks. Again, there is no evidence, but just having access makes us all wonder, and we should never ever have to wonder about this in the future.

So the question is – what happens now? Well, the Guillaumes won’t be writing for StarCityGames until they’re unbanned. Both of them just completely wrecked their chances for Hall of Fame inclusion this year, if not forever, and lost a ton of trust and respect from Wizards and Lotus Noir. The community is arguably worse off for knowing the entire spoiler, with excitement and hype dampened by this leak, and Guillaume Matignon has essentially thrown himself at the community’s mercy with his confession to Wizards proper.

What do you guys think? This week’s episode is more a thinking man’s piece than anything else, and your thoughts on the matter are appreciated.

This week is a bit short as I’m going to be filming the complete New Phyrexia video set review with Brad Nelson, something I’m super excited about and I hope you guys are too.

Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards…so you don’t have to.

[ Richard Castle’s Inside the Deck – Live at the Grand Prix Providence Trial ]

Evan “misterorange “Erwin