28, Jan, 24

MTG Regional Championship Judge Ruling Creates Massive Player Drama!

Article at a Glance

One thing players must always be on the lookout for, especially in a more competitive environment, is cheating. Obviously, your opponents do not have your best interests at heart when the goal is to win the match. However, some players will take this too far and try to gain an advantage in a way that is not tournament legal. There have been plenty of disqualifications over the years for cheating, and unfortunately, these scenarios continue to happen today.

Sometimes, though, situations aren’t as black and white as they might appear. This weekend at the Regional Championship in Ghent, a very controversial situation transpired while a player was shuffling their deck on camera. This situation was brought to the attention of the judges, and the head judge ultimately ruled that no cheating took place. This has led to a lot of public outcries as well as general confusion over exactly what happened. Let’s start by taking a closer look at what appears to happen and showcase why this was rather controversial in the first place.

An Unusual Situation

Polluted Delta

In what appears to be a typical match between Esper Reanimator and Amulet Titan, the debacle starts when Marco cracks his Polluted Delta. We are at a point in the game where Piotr is down to just five life. He’s staring down a Grief on the other side of the board but has multiple blockers available and had just searched for a copy of Urza’s Saga with Expedition Map.

From this information, it’s easy to see just how close the match is. After all, a removal spell from Marco means that Grief will be able to attack unimpeded once again. In this spot, every draw step matters. Well, while cracking the Polluted Delta, Marco appears to maneuver a couple copies of Grief from his library to the top of the deck before ultimately placing his Shockland of choice into play.

He then proceeds to shuffle his deck in a way that only heightens the controversy of the scenario at hand, before finally offering for Piotr to cut. Piotr obliges, simply cutting the deck rather than re-shuffling it himself. This is about as much information as can be gathered from the video itself. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a ton of discussion about the final judge ruling, the potential for cheating to have occurred, and whether malicious intent took place to begin with.

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Player Concern


Where much of the concern from the player base lies with the scenario as described above has to do specifically with the shuffling that took place. It is rather clear that multiple copies of Grief were moved towards the top of the deck. From there, the shuffling that takes place is not the clearest, as many players believe the top card of the deck (now Grief) doesn’t actually move.

This is where things could get very awkward. There have been instances in the past of players getting disqualified for “shuffling” their decks, when in reality, they are manipulating the top card(s) to try to gain an advantage. Most typically, the advantage would be to draw something important in a sticky situation. This is a big part of the reason why it’s important to allow your opponent to cut your deck or shuffle it, and similarly, for you to make sure to cut or shuffle your opponent’s deck after they have searched their library.

From here, though, Piotr still does cut Marco’s deck, which would move the copies of Grief to somewhere else in the library if they weren’t sufficiently randomized beforehand. In this case, even though it is unclear what Marco will draw for turn, many players have brought up the fact that, based on the board state, Grief is actually a pretty poor draw for the turn.

As such, some players believe that the decision to move Grief to the top was done under the assumption that Piotr would cut the deck, thereby removing some potential mediocre cards that could be drawn in that situation. Even though this might not change a ton statistically, if the top card of the deck deliberately doesn’t move on purpose, this is enough for many players to want action taken.

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A Complicated Scenario

What makes this ruling so difficult to make from a judge’s perspective, though, is that the idea is typically to showcase potential for malicious intent from the player accused of cheating. In this scenario, Piotr, Marco’s opponent, actually spoke up about the circumstance and believes the ruling was made correctly. He states that while it’s technically possible the opponent cheated by manipulating the cards in their library, the more likely explanation is that they were simply “unclumping” cards before shuffling.

Multiple players that talked to Marco afterwards, including Piotr, came to the conclusion that nothing was intentional. Marco supposedly stated that he was indeed trying to separate copies of Grief that were attached while searching via Polluted Delta. From there, he simply was trying to shuffle his deck like normal. It’s unclear if the top card actually did move while shuffling, but it’s entirely possible this is done by accident as Marco is shuffling rather quickly and nonchalantly.

If anything, this showcases just how complicated some of these situations can be, even if they look like cheating at first glance. Judges have a duty to uphold a tournament’s integrity while trying to gather as much information about each case as possible, and ultimately, it was deemed that no cheating occurred.

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