In the (opposite of) the holiday spirit, I'm here to talk to you about all the horrible, evil, and morally reprehensible crap that goes on in Magic these days. Now, don't get me wrong; I think that the vast, vast majority of Magic players are lovely, good, and honest. I don't thing we Have A Problem In The Community, on the whole. I don't think there is some sort of epidemic, or systemic problem.
But I do know there's a lot of garbage that goes on, and in a game with 13+ million people, that's basically inevitable.
We might not be able to put an end to it for good, but we can at least educate ourselves about it.
Counterfeit, Fake and dubious "Proxy" Cards
Dot patterns on fake cards are usually much less intricate. This is one of the easiest things to look for when checking older cards (though to see the dot patterns properly you’ll probably need to pick up a jeweler’s loop). It is important to keep in mind that dot patterns will vary from set to set. It is a good idea to have a common that you know is legitimate from the same set when doing side by side comparisons.
Another printer discrepancy that may indicate a fake is a minor difference or variation in the card or artwork itself. Many fakes will display differences in the artwork or text such as in the picture below (the card name text is clearly off).
Be careful when ordering online. If your card is worth more than about $30, make sure you test the card to make sure it’s genuine. The light test is a very good quick and dirty test to see if a card is genuine. However, not to worry. The fakes are not getting that much better. This card apparently felt much different and the typeface looked off. If you do buy a fake card on TCG Player, contact them and they will investigate. If the seller is knowingly selling fakes, they will be dealt with.
What I do suggest is educating your friends about these. I saw a Craigslist post earlier about someone selling these as “proxies,” and that’s just not okay. Whether there’s any ill intent on the side of the buyer or the seller doesn’t matter; these shouldn’t be in circulation. There are no laws that I’m aware of that prevent this, but the fact is more of these out there do not help our game. Rather than just berating anyone who may think the concept is cool, I would suggest simply educating them about the fact that while it may seem cool to get “Power” for cheap, in the long run it has the potential to destroy the game, and there’s no point in having cheap “Power” if you aren’t able to play it.
Cheating and Lying
Eighteen years ago, tournament Magic was a different animal. There were many players that believed that cheating at Magic was akin to fouling someone in basketball. If you get called for it, you pay the penalty, but that's just part of the game. Some even glamorized it, believing that it was using your intelligence to beat the house, like a group of students beating the casino at Blackjack by counting cards.
In my estimation, somewhere around a third of early Pro Tour players were cheaters. That is an absurd amount. Imagine playing in a tournament, knowing that you were likely to face multiple people a day that were actively trying to cheat you.
I was cheated against in my very first Pro Tour.
The video evidence is beginning to add up quickly. Allegations of Humphries using the opportunity to shuffle an opponent’s deck (ironically, to prevent the opponent from stacking their deck) to put non-lands on top, forcing repeated Mulligans have been coming in. There is a pretty decent reddit thread devoted to the topic.
The community is abuzz with the latest cheating scandal from last weekend. I’m sure aficionados of shady play will say this method has been around for a while, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it done by someone who knows what they’re doing. And even when word first got out and I knew there was something to watch for, it took a few viewings and some well-timed stills to really catch the cheat in action.
Robbing others of their wealth doesn’t occur solely at the play tables these days. We’ve got scammers on eBay. We’ve got counterfeit rings undermining the financial integrity of the secondary market. We’ve got people committing actual heists, stealing tens of thousands of dollars in Magic cards in mere minutes. And there’s some Faithless Looting occurring at the trade tables every weekend.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, this is the year of the horse. People born in the year of the Horse are great at communicating and enjoy the spotlight. Horses should avoid marrying rats and rabbits because they would kill their spouse attempting to consummate the union. Even though 2014 isn’t officially the year of the rat, it’s starting to feel like it. Alex Bertoncini. Trevor Humphries. Jared Boettcher. A lot of high profile players were found out to be cheats and frauds this year and there is still nearly an entire month left for us to ferret out a few more cheats. The hits kept coming this week as we had a high-profile disqualification at the Player Championship. Wizards released a statement that mentions that Marcio Carvalho received a disqualification for presenting an illegal deck but it doesn’t really delve too much into what happened. I had to go to social media to find out a bit more.
Within 24 hours of each other, two investigations into allegations of cheating concluded very abruptly and before anyone knew it, justice was done and two pretty savage cheaters had bitten the dust. We found out about one of them before the DCI made an official announcement due to a pretty epic meltdown on Facebook, posted, edited, deleted but ultimately screencapped and posted to Facebook by Frank Lepore and others.
Despite this depressing roster of scumbags and wrongdoings, Magic is still as strong as ever. As more events are played under the scrutiny of feature matches and broadcast globally, archived forever, and watched and re-watched, more cheaters will be caught. More cheats will become common knowledge. Maybe one day we'll see lifetime bans for cheating at Magic. Personally, I see no reason for a "convicted" cheater to ever be permitted back in the game, but I'm sure Hasbro doesn't want the DCI just hell-banning people for life. Even if it might be good for the game.
Happy holidays, everyone. Be nice to each other.