8, Jan, 24

MTG Tournament Creates Massive Drama Over Counterfeit Cards!

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Article at a Glance

This weekend, there were a handful of major tournaments run through Star City Games at Cincinnati. From the main event with a $20,000 prize pool to a Modern 10K, players were given the opportunity to compete in a few highly competitive events. While many of these tournaments don’t always draw the same level of crowds as in previous years, it’s still nice that invested players are able to battle for glory and prizes post-pandemic.

Unfortunately, though, this event was filled with drama as multiple players were given game losses, disqualifications, or were told to replace specific cards resulting from the use of counterfeit MTG cards. Unsurprisingly, players in these major tournaments are required to play with authentic MTG cards and can be penalized otherwise.

The awkward part, however, is that in some cases, players end up unknowingly utilizing fake cards. Even worse, sometimes these counterfeit MTG cards come from on-site vendors that failed to recognize their illegitimacy. Given just how many incidents occurred at this event, it’s important to dig deeper into the issues at hand.

Discipline for Using Counterfeit Cards

Let’s start with the most drastic measure taken at the Star City Games convention first. One MTG player in particular was disqualified for using counterfeit cards during the main event. Unfortunately, this comes after the player had made it to the top 8. Barring something unusual happening, this should have guaranteed a hefty payday. Unfortunately, however, after a lengthy deck check from a judge, this disqualification ruling would ultimately put an end to their tournament.

What started the deck check in the first place had to do with the player seeing all four copies of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in game one. While this is absolutely a real possibility to happen normally, this can sometimes be a red flag that the player has intentionally marked their cards.

Playing with marked cards can sometimes give a player a massive advantage and, as such, should not be taken lightly. A rather well-known example of a player being disqualified for marked cards occurred years ago when former MTG Hall of Fame player Yuuya Watanabe was removed from a Mythic Championship. Playing Tron in Modern, his Tron Lands differed from the rest of his cards in a way that made them visibly unique. The judges determined this didn’t occur from regular wear throughout the tournament, and action was taken as a result.

This was a clear example of how seriously cheating can be taken in paper Magic tournaments. What’s interesting about the disqualification in question this weekend, though, was that the player wasn’t actually disqualified for marked cards. Instead, while checking, the judges determined that the playset of Ragavan were all fake.

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Course of Action

Where things get a bit more unclear, however, is with regard to the intent of the disqualified player. Generally, the correct policy enforcement in the case of someone using counterfeit or fake cards is that the MTG player must try to find legitimate replacements in a short period of time. This can typically be done by purchasing cards from vendors at the event.

A game loss can be instituted if the player can’t find replacements and basic Lands are used to replace the previous slots. The way a player is disqualified, however, is if they are deemed to have played with the fake cards on purpose. In this particular case, it’s unclear exactly how the disqualification process took place. It can also be quite difficult to prove or disprove intent in situations like this, which only further complicates the scenario in question.

What we do know, though, is that counterfeit cards have become increasingly problematic over the years. Back in 2018, Pro Player Andrew Jessup was given a game loss at a Grand Prix for using fake cards despite buying these cards on TCGplayer. The reality is, over time, counterfeit cards have become increasingly more realistic and, as such, sellers of these cards in the first place often don’t even recognize that they are fake.

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Increase in Problems

To make matters worse, there was even another incident at this event that showcased just how realistic counterfeit cards can be. One player supposedly was told to replace a copy of Blood Crypt from their deck that was deemed fake but was later told by multiple vendors that the card was indeed real. This is a huge deal, as at minimum, it implies that even purchasing cards from reputable vendors at the event won’t always be reliable.

If that weren’t enough, there were even more issues with players purchasing real cards from vendors on-site and still getting punished. Despite purchasing foil serialized copies of Wurmcoil Engine to put in a completely foiled out deck, these Wurmcoil Engines in particular curled enough to be regarded as marked cards.

Unfortunately, “Pringling” is nothing new, and can make it extremely difficult to register foil cards in any capacity in a competitive setting. Not to mention, the curling of Secret Lair cards can be taken advantage of, as players can become aware of potential upcoming draw steps prematurely. There have already been issues with Secret Lair cards in the past where disqualifications occurred as a result. Given that some foils, such as the Secret Lair cards shown above, curl more than others, having a deck made entirely out of foils may not save you from suffering the consequences of registering marked cards.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

Recently, there has also been a ton of discourse regarding the idea of proxy usage, which only heightens the concerns about card authenticity moving forward. To be clear, proxies and counterfeit MTG cards are separate entities that should be treated as such. However, it is worth reiterating that, while the card quality of real foil cards has seemingly become increasingly detrimental, the overall quality of both proxy and counterfeit cards has increased dramatically. As a result of this, we’re reaching a point where it’s not always easy to spot if a card is fake.

Additionally, judges themselves have an exceptionally difficult job already upholding the integrity of a tournament setting. The increase in fake card usage is not just bad for players, but also for judges who have to try to give accurate rulings based on policy. Ultimately, it can be difficult to crack down on cheating and counterfeit card usage while simultaneously recognizing that many players are completely unaware that they are using them in the first place.

If anything, this situation should shine a light on the complexity of enforcing rulings. There aren’t necessarily any easy solutions, either. These problems should continue to be monitored, and hopefully, future Star City Games tournaments won’t lead to quite as many debacles.

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