Jason’s Archives: The Audacity of Professional Jugglers/Cheaters, Reader Submissions & All the Decklist Analysis Your Prefrontal Cortex Can Handle

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Everyone, I have a confession to make. I don't know how to juggle, not even a little. If you gave me two objects, I could probably do a crude approximation of tossing them back and forth before they collided or I dropped one. It takes some work to learn how to juggle and I simply haven't put in the time.

I bet a lot of you don't know how to juggle either. You're not lazy, or bad people -- you just never developed that skill. Bearing that in mind, would you feel comfortable demonstrating your juggling prowess on camera?

Of course it's not juggling I want to talk about, but savage, unadulterated and audacious cheating.

Juggling on Camera

Back to the illustration I've set up. You have to show everyone how well you can juggle despite never having practiced before. There are several onlookers and your opponent in the juggling contest has his hands at his side, watching you from a foot away. How conscious are you of the camera pointed at you? I'm guessing the camera is not something you can block out or ignore. This is because you're probably not a very good juggler.

Conversely, to cheat on camera, it would take supreme confidence in your cheating skills to ignore the fact that you were on camera.

So what kind of person would even attempt such a brazen act?

The People's Exhibit A

This weekend at the SCG Open in Detroit, in a match between Jon Elden and Samuel Friedman, a play occurred that lead to the disqualification and, if there is any justice, future suspension of Jon Elden. In response to a Stoneforge Mystic activation, Friedman cast Vendilion Clique to send a Batterskull from Elden's hand to the bottom of his library. A few minutes later, Elden played a Batterskull and Friedman conceded. Almost immediately a rumor began to circulate, both around the room and on Twitter, that Elden had cheated.

The video evidence is quite compelling.

Even though we have a video of the event, we know what time the incident occurred, and we can pause and rewind the video, the cheat is easy to miss. Samuel Friedman, his opponent, has taken a bit of flak for not noticing what Elden had done.

Would you have?

Beginning with the resolution of Vendilion Clique and continuing through the next game of the match, Elden constantly attempts to distract Friedman. Adjusting his library, moving his deck around, failing to untap his Stoneforge Mystic to draw Friedman's attention to the board: classic misdirection techniques.

All of this was designed to distract from the final maneuver. Eventually Elden activated a Polluted Delta to search his library, leaving the bottom card (the offending Batterskull, put on the bottom by the Vendilion Clique) on the table and scooping it into his hand. Having played a Vendilion Clique of his own, he knew Friedman had no answer in hand to the Batterskull and that it would likely win him the game.

So He Cheated. Big Deal. (And What Was That About Juggling?)

The point is, just as you would only be at ease juggling nine bowling pins and a goldfish bowl on camera if you had spent hours and hours practicing, Jon Elden cheated on camera as nonchalantly as if he were playing a game of go-fish.

In under five seconds, without hesitating, he executed a complicated series of sleights of hand so well that he nearly got away with it. On camera. With Adrian Sullivan and Patrick Chapin commenting. The amount of dexterity required to pull off this caper I would equate to juggling.

At one point, using one hand, he attached a Sword of Feast and Famine to his Stoneforge Mystic and attacked with it, while simultaneously using his other hand to prepare the bottom card of his library to get scooped up. He didn't seem nervous, he didn't seem hesitant, he just executed.

One only attains this level of confidence by remembering his ABCs:

There is a real cost to allowing someone like Elden, clearly the Houdini of cheating, to keep coming to events. Even if his opponents spend all of their time watching him like a hawk, they're not concentrating on their own game. His presence at events is a distraction and undermines the hard work others have done testing matchups and learning to sideboard.

While I may admire Jon Elden's skill, he should be using it to preform tabletop card tricks for tourists, not to cheat his way into the Top 8 of Magic events. For most players, Sleight of Hand and Misdirection are cards to play in decks, not skills to develop.

I imagine the DCI will deal with him in a manner similar to how they dealt with the Pele of cheating, Alex Bertoncini. Elden may not have Bertoncini's history, but he certainly has the chops.

Could This Happen to Me?

Just like the guy who French Fried when he was supposed to Pizza, a Magic player who spends the whole match trying to catch his opponent cheating is going to have a bad time. Anyone who gets cheated out of a match they should have won likewise isn't happy.

Wait, how many explores did you play this turn?

There are a few things you can do to make sure you aren't bamboozled (unless your opponent plays Bamboozle, in which case you're in good shape because your opponent is playing Bamboozle) without making your opponent feel like you're trying to visually undress them.

If your opponent is darting their hands around a lot, manipulating their library or graveyard excessively or putting their hand face down next to other cards, they may be trying to pull something. Watch out. If they do something shady, don't be afraid to call a judge.

A lot of cheaters get away with it for so long because they just apologize to their opponent and play it off as a mistake and their opponent feels awkward about calling a judge. Don't. That's what the judges are there for, and if the cheater tried it on you, he will try it on someone else.

That said, don't sacrifice fun. Most people aren't trying to cheat you. Don't be a sucker, but don't be a nanny either.

Archives Time

I have a lot of great stuff for you this week, and all of it was recommended by you, my readers! I decided to collect all of the reader submissions into a section I'm calling:

Reader Submissions

Our first bit of goodness comes to us from Quiet Speculation's own Douglas Linn who thought of all of you when he came across a collection of land liable to reduce all your creature types to Esperzoa -- that's how jelly you'll be.

Power 40 > Power 9

That's a full set of Beta duals in all of their glory. For more sickness and other brags, check out the accompanying forum post.

If you don't already have Insider Access, and therefore can't read Doug Linn's weekly contribution, I would strongly advise you to consider it. Anyone with Insider will tell you that Doug's called shots have made many of us lots of money and his articles and both entertaining and informative. Good looking out for us, Doug!


If you cast a Brainstorm with Solomon Grundy on it, you only draw one and have to put three back, so be careful.

A fan of the Archives sent me an e-mail to to make sure I saw this gem on Reddit, submitted by Riddlefox. Artist Christopher Rush altered and signed these beauties. Unfortunately, I can't afford them because I dumped gasoline on all of my money and lit it on fire for no reason.


Perfect for tinerking with your sideboard in class

Another fan hit me up on Twitter to show me these custom deckboxes by artist Matt Milam. A little google fu revealed this webpage with more information about Mr. Milam.

If you want to hit me up on Twitter or hear about my called shots and speculations for the future I can be found @JasonEAlt.

And that's the news from the internets this week. Keep the suggestions coming and I'll do another user suggestion roundup in a little while. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Other Detroit Happenings

I opted to drive out for the day on Saturday and grind the binder a bit. I made a new friend when I traded him my entire collection for his entire collection over the course of two and a half hours. Taking up roughly half a table and drawing a crowd that rivaled some of the feature match tables, this trade made my weekend. I upgraded some of my cards and my trade partner was thrilled with what he got. It's always nice when everyone wins. Like I always say, every trade is a value trade.

But most people didn't go there to trade with me (I was busy doing that one trade anyway) and some of them did pretty well this weekend. Let's go to the deck lists!

Top 16 Standard Deck Lists

This seems like the right amount of Delver to me. Maybe it's some bizarre consequence of the 1950s feel of the Cobo Center or maybe it's the natural evolution of a format that's healthier than we thought, but the number of Delver decks in the top 16 was way under sixteen. It was three, in fact.

It would have been two if I hadn't spent an entire car ride back from Indianapolis convincing Ray Perez not to play RUG Pod. (To be fair, I did spend some of the car ride swerving so his head would bounce off the window when he fell asleep. If I can't sleep, no one sleeps.)

RUG Pod wouldn't have been a terrible choice, however, as Ray's teammate, up and comer Josh Glantzman, placed 16th with it. You may remember Josh from the Indianapolis Open last weekend, where he top-eighted both the Standard and Legacy portions.

Other notables include the UW Midrange deck, which has changed gears a bit. It added black and now it's going for the throat in more ways than one. Two copies in the Top 4 make this deck a force to be reckoned with, although its pilots may have had something to do with its success.

B/U Zombies also continues to be a worthwhile endeavor. It ultimately took home the trophy in the hands of Brad Eier, who managed to beat U/W Delver for all of the marbles (everyone else got money and boosters).

Bonus points go to Steven Kreuger whose "Infect Delver" deck managed a Top 16. Personally I would be too afraid my opponent would stabilize the game at 2 life and 9 poison, but Kreuger managed to win a lot more than he lost. Between Inkmoth Nexus and Blighted Agent as Invisible Stalker numbers five and six, this deck seems capable of switching gears and getting there with Silver-Inlaid Dagger or Runechanter's Pike in one or two swings.

Great job, all!

Top 16 Legacy Deck Lists

Do my eyes deceive me? Is this a ploy, a prank, a practical joke? Could the Lands deck really have won the Legacy Open?

Great Googily Moogily, it got there! Running an impressive zero copies of Griselbrand, this deck is a lot of fun for everyone but your opponent, everyone watching, and of course also you. Bobby Kovacs took down a field full of Elves and Maverick handily, bumming out a lot of people who took to Twitter to complain. If you can get people who weren't even at the event to complain about your deck, you definitely deserve a high five.

Having some experience with the deck myself, I can attest to it being worthwhile to learn. It genuinely tests skill and requires forethought to set up your win conditions. Only in Legacy can a forgotten deck like this come out of the woodwork and win first place in an event full of skilled players.

Elves was the only deck to put more than two copies in the Top 16, much to the chagrin of Delver enthusiasts everywhere. Maverick and RUG Delver had two Top 16 finishes and the rest were decks that appeared only once. In light of the recent clamoring for the banning of Griselbrand, he put an underwhelming zero copies of himself in the Top 16, pointing to how dynamic and adaptable a format Legacy can be.

I Got Nothing

Nothing else, that is. Have a great week and tune in next time for more of me, your fabulous archivist, and all the wonderful gems I'll dig up for you. If you run across something you'd like to see featured, hit me up on my e-mail or on twitter.

Until next time!

12 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: The Audacity of Professional Jugglers/Cheaters, Reader Submissions & All the Decklist Analysis Your Prefrontal Cortex Can Handle

  1. I think it's a little unfair to target and blast Eldon as much as you do. Yes he cheated. Either he juggled the card to his hand or he inappropriately snagged a card he erroneously thought was in his hand, then, went along with it. Fact of the matter is either is cheating (he should have called a judge on himself in the later case instead of playing along) and the outcome is the same but you can't know which was the intent without more compelling evidence than the same video I saw. Both players were rushing horribly, mostly to beat a ticking clock to get to game 3.

    1. Watch the video again. The Batterskull card is quite separate from his hand, and he does pull it in. That's no error, that's definitely a cheat. Furthermore, before that moment, whenever his hand goes face-down on the table, it's in front of him, by his lands. Only during the cheat does he decide to put his hand down right by his deck. It was clearly intentional cheating, not just a crime of opportunity.

    2. I am with steveexplosion; watch the video again. Or, like I did, watch it again, and again, and again. Pause it. Takes notes. Watch through once just watching his left hand, then again for his right. I take my editorial responsibility very seriously and I wouldn't publish lightly a criticism of a player like this if I was not prepared to stand behind it. The community has categorically denounced this guy, I'm hardly the first one to call him a pathological cheater.

      Do you happen to know him personally? I'm very interested in hearing his side of it, and Corbin and I mentioned on BSB last night we want him on the cast to tell his side. I'm very amenable to interviewing him for a followup article, also, so I'm obviously a little disappointed that you categorize what I consider a carefully-written, well reasoned article out of hand as "unfair"

  2. Here I am, just having obtained the 1st out of 40. I like how they're all Beta, in pretty good condition by the looks of it and unsigned. Exactly like how I would like to get them.

    No comment on the cheating itself, but I can highly recommend the book How to Cheat at Everything by Simon Lovell. Should give you good insight in the ploys that could be used against you.

    1. Good call. I may scour that tome a little and put some of the advice I glean from it if I manage to get ahold of Elden and do a followup article.

      Good luck on the 40 duals quest.

      1. I know at least at some point a digital copy was circulating the web. I very much like the dice game named 31 myself, also as an actual game. Confused the hell out of a friend of mine who studies math by winning like all 20 games we played as he knew there would have to be a pattern but couldn't quite figure it out.

        It's like a 10 year plan (if not more), just very happy to have finally obtained a Beta Bayou :).

    1. If I start getting into that kind of stuff my article loses any pretense to cohesion or motif whatsoever and I become just the hodge-podgiest article on the internet. Do people want to see me talk about M13? I think we do a pretty good job of covering that stuff on Brainstorm Brewery.

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