30, Jun, 24

Wizards Releases Statement on Pro Tour Disqualification

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This weekend, Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 took place, and the event sparked a lot of discussion. The complete domination by Bant Nadu is extremely memorable and could very well signal the need for an upcoming ban. Meanwhile, the Player of the Year award was renamed the Kai Budde Player of the Year trophy, in honor of one of MTG’s greatest players of all time.

Perhaps the incident that garnered the most attention over the weekend, though, was the disqualification of pro player Bart Van Etten. A major error was made in a feature match between Bart and Javier Dominguez, one that went unnoticed in real time. While some argued it looked like an easy mistake to make, a disqualification was ultimately handed out to Bart after an investigation.

Notably, Bart has been under fire for cheating scandals in the past, so this issue happening on camera was certainly not a good look. Let’s go over the events that led to an investigation in the first place and the ultimate disqualification.

Goyf Error Strikes Again

Overrated-Cards-Modern-Horizons-3-Nethergoyf

The events that lead to the disqualification occurred in game three of round 13. On turn three, Javier cast a copy of Phlage, Titan of Fire’s Fury from his hand. When it entered the battlefield, he targeted Bart’s Nethergoyf to deal three damage to it and gain three life. At this point, Nethergoyf was a 2/3, as two card types were in Bart’s graveyard.

With Phlage’s triggered ability on the stack, Bart cast Not Dead After All targeting Nethergoyf. He then let Phlage’s ability resolve, returned Nethergoyf to the battlefield tapped, and put a Wicked Role token on the Nethergoyf. Clearly, this was used to indicate that the Nethergoyf had died and was returned to play via Not Dead After All.

The problem here was that once Not Dead After All resolved and went to Bart’s graveyard, Bart now had three card types in the graveyard. As such, Nethergoyf would be a 3/4, and would naturally live past Phlage’s trigger. This means that Nethergoyf should not have had a Wicked Role token attached to it in the first place. This can be a big deal in the game, especially considering how much of Javier’s removal is damage-based.

At the end of the day, it’s not exactly unusual for errors like this to happen, nor for them to be noticed mid-match by either player. Tarmogoyf math has led to many judge calls over the years, commonly when Tarmogoyf is targeted by a damage-dealing Instant such as Lightning Bolt. With this in mind, it makes sense why no disqualification happened early on.

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The Decision

Phlage, Titan of Fire's Fury

Despite the fact that the incident occurred in round 13, the actual disqualification decision didn’t come until midway through round 14. The issue at hand wasn’t actually pointed out to judge staff until during round 14, long after the match had already concluded. However, this prompted an investigation from judges.

Typically, investigations are used to help determine a player’s intent. The reality is, Game Rule Violations (GRVs) happen all the time in major tournaments. Something as simple as accidently drawing a second card for the turn as two cards stuck together would constitute a GRV. Most times, simple warnings are issued. From there, judges keep track of a player’s GRVs, since repeated offenses can result in a larger punishment. Where things get dicey, though, is if judges determine that you committed a GRV on purpose to try to gain an advantage.

This is exactly what happened in Bart’s case. While we obviously don’t know what happened during the investigation behind the scenes, it’s quite likely that judges asked both Bart and Javier for their sides of the story. Coupling this information with the footage of the match itself, and a conclusion can often be reached.

Some players speculate that Bart’s immediate willingness to attack for 4 damage with the Nethergoyf on the following turn played a role in the final decision. The logic there is that, by announcing an attack for four, Bart would’ve clearly recognized the three card types in his graveyard alongside the Wicked Role token, which shouldn’t have been attached in the first place. There’s definitely more to the story, but specific details were not made available to the public. What we do know is that Bart was disqualified due to his intent to commit a GRV, and that the result of the round 13 match was subsequently reversed.

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Player Reaction

Bloodstained Mire

When footage first surfaced of the inherent error, many players were quick to react to what they saw. From the initial clip alone, it makes sense why many players would believe this was nothing more than an honest mistake. Part of the reason this clip blew up on Twitter the way it did, though, was because of Bart’s previous run-ins with cheating problems on camera.

Years ago, Bart was seemingly caught cheating on camera on Twitch. After cracking Mishra’s Bauble and seeing that he had a mediocre card on the top of his deck, he cracked his Bloodstained Mire on the opponent’s upkeep in response to the Bauble trigger. He then semi-shuffles his deck in a very awkward manner, appearing to mess with the order of the cards himself. Afterwards, he did not offer the opponent the opportunity to cut his deck, then drew a copy of Terminate that helped him win the game.

This occurrence, along with others, had many players skeptical about Bart’s intent, believing he shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. Bart’s previous problems likely played a role in the thorough investigation that took place, as well as the write-up that was released to the public. A disqualification report like this hasn’t been done since the disqualification of Yuuya Watanabe a while back.

Cheating is unfortunately something that players and judges constantly need to be on the lookout for. It’s nice to see a written report get released to keep people updated on the situation at hand. This disqualification also showcases that action can indeed be taken long after the issue occurred originally. Players are not sure whether or not Bart really cheated, but whatever investigation took place did ultimately lead to his disqualification. Make sure to be cognizant of any ill intentions from your opponents, and don’t hesitate to get judges involved if anything looks suspicious.

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