Today, I wish I was writing about a deck, a tournament report or even a specific card that is helping shift the metagame. Today, I am talking about a major issue that we are encountering way too often on the worldwide competitive circuit. This is not about making accusations, pointing fingers nor judging people. This article is about how, as players, we can improve this issue.
Magic is far from being an easy game. It takes patience, dedication and sacrifices to become proficient at it. Accordingly, in the past decade, prizing became more and more attractive on both the professional (Pro Tour/SCG Invitational) and amateur (Grand Prix/PTQ/Open Series) circuits. We idolize players for their performances during high-level tournaments, and, in my honest opinion, they deserve it.
Unfortunately for us, every medal has two sides. For every exemplary athlete that raise himself above the fray and proves the extent of his skills and knowledge of the game, we encounter the possibility of an unworthy, cheating individual rising from the rank without being caught and dealt with. This is what I think we should talk about.
First, let put some guidelines. I see major differences between gameplay errors, mistakes and intentional cheating. No one is perfect, and gameplay errors are a common occurrence. Some interactions between cards are quite strange. This is why we have judges at events and rules advisors at your local stores. Magic is a game, first and foremost, and a better understanding of the rules allows players to enjoy this game even more. Making errors and mistakes, then learn from them is what helped us grow as a player.
Then, there is the context. Friday Night Magic or some local Grand Prix Trial can’t be compared to Pro Tours, Grand Prix or any SCG events. The rules enforcement level (REL) is quite different. Nevertheless, we should address this issue equally anytime we encounter such instance.
Turning a blind eye to such occurrence not only affects the outcome of a tournament, but also provides a negative image of our community to more novice players and spectators. Unfortunately for us, we did turn a blind eye on this for too long and we are now facing an issue that needs to be dealt with. It is almost like a cheating culture developed itself over the past years, where individuals with shady motives tuned their skills in order to spar against the best of rule-abiding players. It is a real problem we have to deal with, but the stance of the community seems to be to wait for the DCI Judging Committee to sit and wait for their statement in such occurrence.
I know that, as players, we despise cheating individuals. And I do believe this is where actions need to be taken in order to fix this issue. Let’s look at what organizations across the world are using to deal with real issues. When faced with a problem, the first weapon they use to limit the expansion of the problem is education. They inform the public about the issue, what is at risk and how simple actions can help get rid of it. It is not by the sheer strength of one single organization that major issues are solved, but the combined might of a community.
For the sake of our game, we can work towards ensuring the next generation of competitive players won’t have to deal with such issue. It is up to us, local competitive, grinders and other players to instill the basic values of sportsmanship and respect to the up-and-coming players from our areas. Our main weapons against the cheating problem our game is facing is education and the ability older, more experienced players have on teaching correct behavior to their player base. It’s about not to be afraid to call a judge when you made an error yourself, no matter what the outcome could be. This simple behavior displays such an amazing respect not only to your opponent, but to the game as well.
I once got told an amazing story about such situation. It involves a high level; well-known player against an unknown opponent. An acquaintance of mine was judging a Super Sunday Series event at a Canadian Grand Prix. After chatting with his opponent, the famous player noticed that he was attacking for multiple turns with an inactive god. At this point, the match slip had already been handed to the scorekeeper. The famous player then asked to the judge if there is a way, to correct the result of the match. No matter what was the outcome, the players both wished for a fair and square match. This kind of behavior is what we wish to pass onto the next generation in order to create a better, stronger community. The integrity of the game should matter more than our thirst for victories. The fact that he asked to correct his mistake, even if it was detrimental to him, is a perfect example of what behaviour should be encouraged in our communities.
It could be too late to help those who, unfortunately, already have those habits encrusted into them. I am a strong advocate of providing second chances to people, and I always been taught that leading by example is the best way to display what the correct line of action is. It’s up to us, rule-abiding players, to display sportsmanship and respect to a higher level. Used in conjunction with educating our player bases, communicating with judges and ensuring the integrity of the game we all love is maintained. This is what needs to be done, at every event, whatever the REL or the payout is. It all grows from one single aspect, respect. Respect for your skills as a player, respect for your opponent, but first, respect for the game. Then, if our actions don’t improve the attitude and behavior of those individuals, higher instances can be contacted.
We, as players, are guardians of the integrity of the game we love. If we can’t maintain it, the DCI formed, over the years, an amazing cohort of individuals with strong knowledge and ethics to enforce the rules and help sanitize the community of issues such as cheaters or bullies. It is not only up to them, but to everybody enjoying and sharing a passion for this game. We don’t support bullies or even aggressive acts on venue or during events. Why should we tolerate such things?
This could be the first symptoms of something bigger we need to address as a whole community. The DCI is the main authority in regards to this kind of venue, but the DCI couldn’t exist without the ever growing player base we, Magic players, are. If player awareness and education is failing at preventing this trend of expanding, should the rules and penalty guide be reviewed to new standards?
As I stated before, it is up to us, players, to be the first line of defence against such treat. But, we shouldn’t be as quick to judge individuals. This is where the educational factor should take place. By instructing the faulty player of his mishaps and providing him with an opportunity to correct his mistake, we open the possibility of having a probable cheater turning into a respectable player.
On this, never stop improving your own player community.
Until next time!