New Phyrexia Leak: the Real Problem

Wizards of the Coast has announced that they discovered the source of the New Phyrexia leak.

Guillaume Matignon received a 3-year ban, while Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Martial Moreau, and David Gauthier all received a 1.5 year ban.

Matignon was the only one of the four who was supposed to have access to the full godbook, and the general understanding is that it went from him to Wafo-Tapa to the other two players.

This is troubling for a number of reasons.

The first is that Wizards of the Coast is continuing to use DCI bans as a bludgeon to punish people for doing things outside of the tournament world. This isn’t without precedent- but it undermines the integrity of the DCI every time it happens. This really should stop. What’s it say when someone who was suspended for Assault, Deck Manipulation, or Theft gets a 1-year ban, but spoiling cards gets a 3-year ban? Spoiling cards early may suck for Wizards, but it doesn’t screw over the integrity of a tournament or the DCI ratings system.

There are plenty of ways for Wizards to punish people for spoiling cards early – breaking the NDA is a contract violation and can be handled in a court of law. They could bar the person from ever working for Hasbro or having access to early spoilers ever again. That’s a bit obvious, but is at least a baseline. They could take it a bit further and bar any site or magazine they’re affiliated with from receiving early spoilers at all, which would effectively blackball them as writers- nobody would hire them as writers or sponsor them.

DCI bans should be reserved for people who actually cheat, steal, commit fraud, or otherwise ruin tournament play.

The second, and more troubling to my mind, is that this was even possible in the first place.

Matignon is a pro player, and was tied for Player of the Year last year, playing in a tiebreaker with Brad Nelson. He has been receiving godbooks in advance because of his association with Lotus Noir magazine. How long has this been ongoing? What kind of advantage has he received by getting additional time to test for tournaments with new cards?

Here’s an example.

Pro Tour: Nagoya is June 10-13, and is Block Constructed. The New Phyrexia prerelease is May 7th, and if the spoiler had followed the same timing as the Mirrodin Besieged one, it would have been released earlier that week.

In other words, we wouldn’t have a full spoiler yet- but Guillaume Matignon (and whoever else Wizards of the Coast has given godbooks to) would have been able to test since April 19 that we know of (the day the Godbook was leaked to MTGSalvation), likely earlier.

The rest of us would have to wait until May 4th or so, depending on what day the full spoiler was publicized. That’s a 2 week head start, and possibly longer – we don’t know when Matignon and the other pros got the godbook to begin with.

This is a ridiculous advantage at the Pro level, and even on the lower competitive levels. Matignon shared the spoiler with Wafo-Tapa, and according to Caleb Durward’s article, B-Boy (David Gauthier) had received the godbook from Wafo-Tapa. This group of players was already beginning to playtest the new format with the information they had that normal players didn’t get. Who else got information like this?

SCG Orlando is literally the week the set becomes legal, and SCG Louisville is the following week. Anyone attending those events who had access to the full spoiler early has a tremendous advantage over the rest of us. This is simply unacceptable.

There’s absolutely no reason why anyone outside of Wizards should be getting the complete set information ahead of anyone else- especially when the person in question is a Pro Player.

I understand that Wizards wants to do marketing. They obviously want to promote the new set. They’ve been sending out single cards to writers for years. That’s fine – people can’t make optimum decklists and play them against each other because they don’t know about all the other cards in the upcoming set. They just have to wing it with how that one card fits in, possibly in conjunction with earlier single-card spoilers, and move on. It’s not useful for testing purposes, and doesn’t give people a meaningful advantage since they only know one more card than other people. Even if a half-dozen writers got together and shared their spoilers with each other a week in advance, they still wouldn’t have a serious advantage over the rest of the playerbase. A complete set, however? That’s ridiculous.

The irony of it is that the spoiler getting leaked neutralized that advantage. That’s by far the best thing to come out of this – because of the New Phyrexia spoiler being leaked, PT Nagoya will be the first Pro Tour in what might actually be a very long time (but we don’t know just how long) to be held on truly even footing.

Wizards of the Coast should not continue giving certain players an unfair advantage. I’m not one to criticize without offering a solution, so here’s a rough sketch of a policy which would ensure that tournament play is fair going forward.

Starting with Magic 2012 and continuing thereafter, WotC needs to adopt a policy of not giving a single person outside of Hasbro and Carta Mundi access to the complete set. If this is unworkable for whatever reason, anyone who does get access to the complete set should be forbidden from playing in Competitive or Professional REL events until the next set is released. This is the only way to maintain tournament integrity while releasing spoilers of an entire set early.

Joshua Justice

Joshua Justice is a Magic player in Atlanta who's been to the Pro Tour twice. College put him on hiatus from the game until January 2010, and 5 months later he won his first Pro Tour invite with Super Friends. After a series of narrow misses in the second half of the year, Joshua won a GPT and used that to make top 16 of Grand Prix: Atlanta and secure his second Pro Tour invite in just over a year. While Nagoya was a bust, Joshua has been grinding points on the SCG Open Series, and is a virtual lock for the second Invitational. His focus is primarily on metagaming and deck tuning, and partially-open formats are his favorite playground.

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