With paper Magic becoming increasingly popular following the Covid Pandemic, many players are taking competitive MTG to the offline tables. Unfortunately, the competitive experience is never perfect, but the problems players encounter online and offline are very different. When online, you can run into disconnections, as seen during the recent Arena Championship this weekend. Alternatively, a game-shattering bug can stop your new competitive idea from even being playable on the client.
One nice thing about online MTG is that, outside of the odd case of bug exploitation, it’s tough to cheat intentionally. In-person events can lead to a lot more chaos in this way. Many players’ cheats are unintentional like someone registering their decklist incorrectly or having too much wear on their sleeves. Unfortunately, however, for the few who feel the need to cheat, it is not very difficult to do so. Fortunately, apparent attempts at cheating can still be thwarted, like this MTG cheater who is trending across the internet.
Always Cut Your Opponent’s Deck!
Its pretty difficult to miss the obvious cheat going on in this game. Dubbed ‘shuffle cheating’ by many of the MTG players who responded in the comments, the player to the left of this video is doing a messy job of stacking his deck.
He appears to be on the Lotus Field combo deck that is popular in the Pioneer format. This deck plays a lot like Tron in the early game in the sense that you need to find a specific combination of plans to get the deck into combo mode. As such, there is a huge range of feast vs famine opening hands for the deck. A good opening hand can be almost impossible to beat, but the deck commonly mulligans down to five and four because of easy it is to open an unplayable hand. As such, this ‘shuffle cheat’ can guarantee an unbeatable seven, which is blatant cheating.
According to Twitter user @StevenMayen, this occurred at a local game store in Ontario. While the name Alex has just been left at that, he was also a level two judge prior to this offense. He also points out that the opponent cutting, or shuffling, Alex’s deck would have mitigated the effectiveness of this cheat.
What to Watch Out For
Shuffle cheats like this one are pretty common amongst the MTG players who do cheat in the community, but many are executed a lot cleaner than this one. Watching your opponent’s eyes can be a bit of a cue that they’re trying to do this. If a player is taking quick glances at their deck, this can be a worrying sign that they are trying to shuffle cheat. At that point, calling a judge and talking to them away from the table about your concern is the best option available to you.
A great example of proper shuffle etiquette can be seen in the above-translated graphic from Twitter user itsjulian23. While shuffling your deck, the most appropriate thing to do is turn your gaze away from your deck. Looking towards your deck in any way doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re cheating, but it does suggest that you could be cheating.
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Did This MTG Cheater Know He Was Cheating?
Two things were made extremely apparent by many MTG players replies to this video: cheating is never an acceptable way of play the game, and this is perhaps the most obvious attempt of MTG cheating ever caught on camera.
“Either I’m dense and missing something or this is the most obvious, telegraphed, not even trying to hide it cheating I’ve ever seen. Like I kept waiting for them to actually start shuffling bc they were so obviously shuffling face up and moving individual cards.”AikadoLoR
“I’m the least observant person in the world, I’d sleep through an earthquake and not notice you dying your hair a completely different colour. This was obvious even to me.”UwURainUwU
This MTG cheater is so evident that some MTG players aren’t sure if the player in question is even aware that he is cheating. This is, perhaps, a good opportunity to point out that Alex was also a level two judge prior to this, but there is, regardless, a common misconception pointed out by some community members regarding mana weaving:
“The first GP my teen playgroup attended, a friend had a “reset chart.” It was his ideal stacked 60 that he presented every round. It was on a printed paper in his deck box. We all just thought “wow that’s smart.” Weaving is so common in casual, many don’t know it’s cheating.”@BoshNRoll
“This looks so bad that it makes me think the player didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. Like a player mana-weaving at pre-release. It’s obviously not okay. But they don’t get that it’s not okay. I don’t know anything about the situation outside this video though. Wild”@AndyAWKWARD
Mana weaving is a common technique employed to ensure that a player doesn’t draw an abundance of land or nonland permanents. Unfortunately, weaving lands and nonland permanents equally throughout the deck is also considered cheating, even if the player isn’t intentionally breaking the rules.
How Did it Play Out?
For those wondering what fate this particular MTG cheater suffered, the original person who tweeted this video confirmed that they were punished for their actions:
“For context: Alex was one of Julian’s L2 mentors before JA and made him an L1. I’ve personally been acquaintances with Alex for ~10 years. A random on Twitch happened to tune into the stream that night, caught the cheat and dm’d our local who brings their equipment with them.” “He was DQ’d from the event, the TO has sent all the necessary paperwork and an L2 that was there also submitted a report. He has been banned from the store and local stores from my understanding.”@StevenMayen
Fortunately, this blatant attempt at cheating ended well, but not all cheats like this are caught successfully. If it weren’t for the random viewer who tuned in on the stream, there’s a good chance this would have gone unnoticed. If, as a new competitive player, you ever wonder why a player will shuffle your deck on your behalf, it’s to make stuff like this more complicated to pull off. While this individual was very obviously cheating by stacking his deck, there are players out there that are much better at doing this discreetly.