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Posted by on Dec 27, 2012 in Articles | 37 comments

Riddle Me This: A Fool’s Question in the Aftermath of a Secret Judgment

Riddle Me This: A Fool’s Question in the Aftermath of a Secret Judgment

By my completely unscientific estimation roughly a billion writers before me have attempted to describe the critical factor that separates an adult from a child. For some it’s maturity, for others the ability to love romantically, and for others still, becoming an adult is all about exposure to life’s harsh lessons at as early an age as possible. These are all legitimate answers and to be fair the truth for each person lies in how they were raised and the experiences of their young and adolescent lives.

To me however the point when a child starts to become an adult is when they learn to shift away from reactionary, emotional thinking and move towards true critical thought. Real life is pretty much all about processing the information around you, reflecting on that knowledge and deciding what is true, what is partially true and what is false for yourself. Without the ability to think critically your life becomes a cascade from emotional response to emotional response and while we accept this behavior from children, society frowns upon it in adults. For those of you wondering how this relates to Magic let me remind you that every time you study the board, represent a spell, work out your opponent’s possible hand or call a bluff in Magic you are engaging in a type of critical thinking.

Magic players tend to be pretty good at critical thinking, and those who aren’t quickly develop the skill by playing the game itself. With this in mind I’d like to present to you the facts in what is quickly becoming known as “The Josh Meckes” incident:

On Day 2 of Grand Prix Toronto, during a televised match at the highest possible level of rules enforcement, a player “unintentionally” added a card from the top of his library to his hand. What’s more this card was added to his hand upside down and cameras clearly show him examining his hand immediately after the card is added. The player did not report the extra card to anyone and went on to lose the match.

You don’t have to take my word for it folks; everything I just said is recorded on videotape for all of the world to see. Start the video at 1:34:43 and run it through until about 1:37:30 or so. Watch closely, if you blink it can be easy to miss what’s going on here. Notice that the player repeatedly stops to adjust his deck for no apparent reason multiple times? Did you see the card get knocked off the top of his deck? How about the pinky finger that drags that card into his hand? Most importantly do you see the player staring at the upside down card in his hand moments later while the cameras roll?

Now let’s see what WotC had to say about this incident shall we:

Meckes Investigation Results
Wizards of the Coast
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

After investigating the incident involving Josh Meckes at Grand Prix Toronto, the Investigations Committee has determined that the infraction was not intentional. Wizards of the Coast supports and encourages players to express their opinions via public media, however we ask that such expressions avoid accusations and other demeaning language. We value fairness and fun, and urge anyone with concerns about the integrity of the game to contact a judge at the event, his or her local judge, or his or her Regional Judge Coordinator.

I have two problems with this statement; one minor and one that I consider quite serious. The minor problem I have is pretty simple to be honest; I believe they got the ruling wrong. As a critically thinking adult, and as a Magic player, I watch that video and I see someone adding a card to their hand through careful obfuscation. What’s more; even if somehow it was a mistake I definitely see a player adding a card to his hand at a high level event while on camera and then failing to report it when he noticed the extra, upside down card. You can spin your tired yarns about the possibility of not noticing an extra card in your hand all you like but as someone who’s played Magic for half her life I call bull-puckey. Any competent FNM player knows how many and what cards are in their hand during a match; I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the same out of a Day 2 Competitor at a 1000 person Grand Prix.

To be completely fair; while I count a number of DCI judges among my close friends, I myself am not a judge. Maybe there’s a subsection of the rulebook that explains away all of my concerns on this one, but I can’t think of what it could be. What I am aware of is that the DCI has stated that this incident was unintentional, the matter is closed and that there will apparently be no further penalty. While I certainly understand the difficulty in applying penalties after an event has ended, I’m incredibly scared of the precedent this sets. What’s more; as a player I feel like there is a vast “disconnect” between DCI rules enforcement at tournaments I’ve attended and this incident. I’d love to tell you this is a writer’s device but frankly folks I’m pretty confused. Let’s look at some examples I am personally aware of or have witnessed:

At an M11 Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) a friend of mine registered his sealed pool incorrectly. He’d been running out of time and while glossing over cards he likely would never play accidentally indicated that he had a Dragon’s Claw when he really had a Demon’s Horn. Unfortunately this wasn’t discovered until later in the day during a deck check and he promptly received a game loss which helped put him out of the tournament. While I wasn’t there I’m 100% sure that no sane, rational judge could think my friend was trying to cheat in this situation; he clearly had the Demon’s Horn in his pile of cards and had not added a Dragon’s Claw. This had virtually no bearing whatsoever on the decks he presented all day. I’m willing to bet the judge who issued the game loss even told him something like “I’m sorry but the rules are the rules. At this level that’s a game loss; good luck in your match.”

At a recent Grand Prix Trial I attended I happened to sit down with a young man who’d just won his first round. I’m not sure how old he was but I’d guess anywhere from 13-16 and he’s a very bright young man regardless of his age. Before round 2 started he was called over by the judge to resolve a deck registration error; he’d accidentally written down 59 cards instead of 60 on his decksheet. The judge carefully counted his deck and it was determined that the young man was in fact playing 60 cards; in other words this wasn’t a cheat, just an honest mistake. When the judge told the young man that he was going to have to give him a game loss in the next round I could tell that it hurt both of them. The kid didn’t complain and the judge did his job but I got the impression both of them wished they were in some other, happier situation at that moment.

Another friend of mine recently found himself in the top 4 of an important tournament that featured a variety of prizes. What interested him most of all was the championship trophy for winning the event. My friend plays Magic for both the good times and the sport of it; money and card prizes meant very little to him compared to that trophy. I can also say with some chagrin that he’s sorta new to big stage events and unfortunately his innocence and that lack of experience cost him the right to contend for that trophy. During casual conversation with his opponents he mentioned that all he really wanted was the trophy and a nearby judge construed that to mean he was proposing a bribe. Once again the concept of right or wrong wasn’t super relevant; to my understanding virtually every person in the area (including the judge) knew he didn’t understand how he was breaking the rules. The rules however, are the rules and he was disqualified from the event. Much headshaking, hugging and condolences ensued but all of his friends agreed that the DCI policy was quite clear.

So let me see if I understand; all kinds of other completely unintentional situations during competitive or higher level Magic events come with automatic penalties applied regardless of a judge’s opinion. In fact to my understanding if the gentlemen in question had called the judge on himself he would have received at least a game loss and perhaps an outright disqualification. Yet because he claimed that he did not notice, did not call a judge, and later explained it was all a big accident, there is no further penalty? Furthermore, there was no mention whatsoever of 3 other strange “incidents” that occurred on camera that GP including; a player putting 2 lands into play on the same turn, a player slowly migrating his Spreading Seas from a RB land to a GB one and finally a well-known player fishing a Stomping Grounds with a Marsh Flats. Is Wizards actively trying to encourage people to have “accidents”, forget how many cards are in their hand, and refuse to report their own rules violations or am I just a crazy woman? Why is it that the DCI has policies that force well-meaning judges to apply severe across-the-board penalties to clearly accidental behavior but on camera rules violations can be explained away by intent? Hey, I’m not a judge folks but this fool can read between the lines when she has to and the resulting message is incredibly confusing.

The sad part is that isn’t even the major problem I have with this statement. My real issue with Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC) letter is the part where they reaffirm their desire for me to talk about Magic on social media outlets but refrain from accusations (presumably of cheating). Read carefully; “Wizards of the Coast supports and encourages players to express their opinions via public media; however we ask that such expressions avoid accusations and other demeaning language.” They go on to recommend that if I have concerns about the integrity of the game I should contact the proper authorities. This is not only mildly threatening when packaged with an absolute ruling from the DCI but it’s also somewhat insulting to me as a critically thinking, rational adult. Calling someone a cheater or saying that someone has cheated at Magic is not a hate crime. Cheat is not a bad word and while the term is often thrown around too much there’s a fair time to use it; when someone is cheating at a game. Wizards doesn’t want people running around the internet saying “so and so is a cheater” during an active investigation but I’m not really sure they have any right to tell someone what to think after that person watches a video with their own eyes. I find it hard not to read this statement in the tone of a frustrated parent dealing with a confused child. I’m being told that video evidence and my observations mean nothing, scolded for making “accusations” and told to take problems to my betters next time. So which is it?

Am I free to tell a judge anything, ask any questions and report any rules violations I see?

OR

Do I refrain from accusations and talking about cheating because I might get in trouble if the guy is deemed innocent later?

Does the DCI or WotC really believe that they are the sole arbiter of truth and that without their clearance I can’t possibly determine what is and isn’t cheating at Magic? That can’t be right can it? I realize that transparency is not one of the strong points in the DCI investigation process but this is most certainly a little bit hard to swallow. “Move along, nothing to see here and if you complain about it on Twitter we’ll know!” How far does this extend? Does anyone really know? Can I call someone who actively cheated against me a cheater in the privacy of my own home or are you guys watching my every move? This is ludicrous but there’s only one way to find out just how ludicrous as far as I can tell. Here goes:

I think Josh Meckes cheated, I’m saying so right now in a social media setting and I am fully aware that the DCI ruled it “unintentional”. This means very little to me in the face of video evidence that Josh added a card to his hand and didn’t report as much to anyone in a position of authority. While I am prepared to accept the DCI’s ruling my own personal opinion was that this incident was a clear case of cheating and was improperly dealt with. If this makes me a thought criminal on the new Magical Internet then I am prepared to accept that judgment; so long as you understand that I don’t think said judgment is rational in the slightest.

With that very foolish statement I now propose the question that is the central premise of this article: “If I don’t agree with your ruling and my opinion is that this was cheating am I still allowed to play Magic?” I patiently await your answer Wizards.

- nina

  • StealthMountain

    @CardboardWitch I think you mean “sneak peek”

    • CardboardWitch

      @StealthMountain I do indeed; I blame Tainted Peaks for this :)

  • robotlarge

    What I have always found interesting is the lack of transparency when it comes to these “investigations”. Who actually takes part in them? What evidence do they consider? As you point out there seems to be a real disconnect between how the rules are applied by judges at the event, and how they are applied by this mystically “Investigations Committee”. Without knowing who was on the committee, and how each person voted (do they vote seperately? We don’t know.), we have no way of knowing if there is a track record of bias. These closed door type investigations only feed the fires of discontent and conspiracy talk.

    The last big event we held locally, I essentially took myself out of the tournament by reporting myself. I failed to de-sideboard correctly and discovered it in the middle of a match I had clearly in hand. For me there was no other option, even though it put me out of contention for top 8. I take a dim view of cheaters. It bugs me that I have little to no confidence in WoTC’s ability to govern thier own game.

  • robotlarge

    @CardboardWitch I even threw it up on G+ in the MTG community for you. :)

  • Jennimason0990

    @CardboardWitch I’m just ignoring the bit on what can be said, as far as I care, he cheated, even if unintentional, should be some penalty.

  • magic_gazz

    The ‘Investigation’ policy does need looking into. I was once at a Pre Release in London and a player there got banned for 3 years for being glassed. Thats right the person who got a glass smashed on their head got banned for 3 years. This is a guy who wouldnt hurt a fly. Wizards didnt ask the people who were standing there at the time what happend but listened to the account from the head judge who was not close at the time.
    Yes perhaps he shouldnt have been wrestling/messing around with the guy who was really drunk and destroying his deck boxes but a 3 year ban just seem stupid.
    On the topic of Josh Meckes, I think it is possible to draw an extra card and not realise. I dont know if thats what he did but I do belive the possibility that under the pressure of a big event he didnt notice. If players are capable of forgetting triggers and things I think its possible that someone might not rememebr every card they had in thier hand.

  • Palmer2theMax

    @CardboardWitch let me know when you get your message from Stealth Mountain – best account on Twitter :-)

  • JoshuaLemish

    @magic_gazz Your story is fine and dandy but take it into account about what Nina is saying. In all the examples given above the penalties were automatic. When people write down an incorrect sealed pool it was not their intention to “cheat” yet in events the penalties are quite clear and are often given out without a second thought.
    The next time ANYONE in an event does something even remotely like that, IE something unintentional such as an incorrect deck listing of a stupid non used card in a sealed pool can we not then turn around and POINT to this ruling and say that very thing. That it was unintentional and does not merit a game loss? I have seen severe penalties and warnings given out to people including myself for calling a judge after an opponent cast a spell using the wrong mana. In fact I myself was given a warning for reporting the very thing because i failed to maintain a proper game state (since I wasn’t sure exactly how to resolve it with my opponent I called a judge when a spell he cast was wrong due to me having Thalia in play if I recall)
    If WOTC will punish people for tiny errors that have less impact on a game yet wont go on to do anything in the situations similar to what Nina described then I worry that cheaters (Real ones or not) will continue and to my mind I think it would be better for us all if the following was in place.
    1)Cheaters know they will face punishment
    2)Players will avoid sloppy “unintentional” situations and play better.
    Both are good for the game and I think Nina is 100% correct.

  • Kerrydan

    I agree very much with Nina’s points about intent… how if intent is irrelevant in the cases of the incorrectly registered decklist or trying to “bribe” a tournament win just for the trophy, then it should be irrelevant in these cases of drawing an extra card, shifting an enchant land aura, or fetching the wrong type of land.

    However, there’s one glaring difference between these first examples, and the on-camera examples: time. The original examples were all caught by the officials during a timeframe in which they were still valid. The rest, even though they were recorded on video, were (somehow) not brought to a judge’s attention until long after the turn in which they were valid, and possibly even long after the match was over.

    Could someone who knows the DCI Infraction Procedure Guide tell me what the policy would be if, in these cases caught on camera, say, a spectator had pointed out the mistake to a judge *AFTER* the match? Wouldn’t they be the same, or am I incorrect in my understanding?

    There’s only so much that a rules arbitration organization can do about botched rulings after a match is over. Professional sports are full of this. Just ask any soccer club who loses a match because of a penalty shot called when none was needed or a goal deemed offside when the player really wasn’t. :-)

    • CardboardWitch

      Kerrydan You can’t change the game but pro sports most CERTAINLY apply retroactive suspensions based on actions on the field. Your team wins, then you (the offender) get suspended anyways. Care to try again? :) If policy says they can’t give him 2 weeks after the fact because it’s after the fact, POLICY is stupid. Also you made me break my promise not to comment on my own articles. HOPE YER HAPPY KYLE! :)

    • PV

      Kerrydan The thing is – Intent is not relevant when it comes to drawing an extra card. Intent is relevant when it comes to cheating. It’s obvious that he did draw an extra card, and he would have been punished, had that been caught during the game. You can’t retroactively fix it or retroactively give him a game loss, though. You can, on the other hand, ban him for something that he did at that tournament – cheating. Cheating implies intent, though, which is why it matters here and not in other cases. Misregistering a deck does not imply intent. The judge was actually using intent in that ruling – he concluded that your friend did not do it on purpose, to get an advantage and maybe play demon’s horn – had that been the case, he would have been DQed. So intent DID matter in that situation – it just mattered in your friend’s favor, so you don’t even know about it.

      • PV

        Kerrydan Just to clarify, I have no idea whether he cheated or not, I have not watched the video. I’m only pointing out why intent does, in fact, matter (and should).

    • telliott

      Kerrydan 
      “intent is irrelevant in the cases of the incorrectly registered
      decklist”. This is incorrect – intent is tremendously important here. If
      they intentionally misregister their decklist or become aware that they
      misregistered their decklist but don’t tell a judge, they get DQd. It
      exactly parallels this situation and was not a good section of the article.

      • Josh St Amand

        @telliott Kerrydan So not telling the judge when they become aware of the fact is a DQ? Hmm.

  • Khalman

    This is the first I’ve heard about this issue, so I only have the information you’ve given in the article.  That said, I am not as upset with the ruling as you are.  Based on investigations, likely including interviewing of the players involved and additional information that the general public does not have, the DCI concluded that it was an accident.  If it was an accident, what is the penalty for drawing extra cards?  A game loss.  It does not really make sense to carry a game loss over to the next event he is involved in.  I believe the IPG does carry match/game losses over if they happen during an event in which the person is not participating (unsporting conduct, etc.), but I’m not sure about it being relevant.  
    Dealing with the second part of the statement, I feel like Wizard’s was simply encouraging people to keep the conversation civil.  When Jackie Lee was disqualified at pro tour RTR, for example, there were quite a few hateful and sexist messages made toward her both on Twitter and her article about the event.  The phrase “accusations and other demeaning language” is definitely vague, but it also seems like more of a request than a threat.  
    To my knowledge, the only person to get in actual trouble for things he said on twitter was dr8sides, who posted event participants’ photos without their permission and made derogatory comments about them.  Wizards banned him, because some of the people whose photos he posted could have sued the company for damages.

  • Allannwgc859jk
  • Elijah Martincek

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything said in this article. It’s pretty obivious from the video that Josh cheated. While it is the Magic rules enforcment organization, the DCI oughtn’t be the be-all end-all rules monstrocity that it is. At the very least, a second opinion should be sought on something as important as a Day 2 Grand Prix.

  • Josh St Amand

    I totally agree with everything in this article. And whenever I watch the video and then read the DCI ruling, it pisses me off to no end.
    I made a deck reg error in a Legacy side event and received a game loss. No problem, that was my fault, I know the rules and know better than to do that. But Meckes got away with drawing a card and NOT calling the judge? Thats just confusing. 
    Double standard.
    This sends the message that it’s ok to cheat if youre good at lying about it. Why would you call a judge on yourself if the alternative is simply that “you didnt notice” and nothing happens.

    • CardboardWitch

      Josh St Amand This right here: “Why would you call a judge on yourself if the alternative is simply that “you didnt notice” and nothing happens.”
      This is why I haven’t been responding to people who say there’s no mechanism for applying the penalty later. I am FULLY aware there is no mechanism; that is the problem. I’m an honest person and I won’t cheat to win at Magic but breaking it down as simply as possible with NO moral judgment at all:
      Cheating and then saying it was an accident has much higher EV than reporting your own play errors. Period. That’s the message here and it disgusts me.

  • dzimet

    @CardboardWitch *groan*

    • CardboardWitch

      @dzimet lol, what’d I do this time? :)

      • dzimet

        @CardboardWitch you know what you did ;)

      • dzimet

        @CardboardWitch There are also feel-good moments to be found in player-judge interactions :P

  • JelgerW

    I pretty much disagree with everything in this article. 
     Saying someone is a cheater is very damaging to someone’s reputation and should in not be done in a public forum, unless you are absolutely sure that person is actually a cheater. Seeing one video where someone does something shady is not enough prove for this at all. People make mistakes. There’s a lot to think about when you are playing a game of magic, you might miss (seemingly obvious) things like what cards are in your hand, especially when playing in a big event and with the added pressure of having a camera on you. You need more prove than just one instance of something that might or might not be cheating.

    I very much agree with WoTC that if you suspect someone of cheating that you need to report them to the proper authorities. If someone really is a cheater, he/she will eventually be reported multiple times and the evidence will add up and lead to a ban. Going on Twitter or other public sites is definitely not the way to go. Sure, it’s possible you might play a small part in getting a cheater banned (though I doubt it does a lot more than just reporting it to the DCI), but the damage you might do to someone’s reputation (which is very important in a small-ish community like the Magic world), when all that person did was screw up once under pressure is definitely not worth it in my opinion.

    • Josh St Amand

      JelgerW Im not saying that Meckes is always a cheater. But he cheated in this scenario. Calling a spade a spade.
      But that said, I’m not about a witch hunt on the player. I’m saying the DCI set a bad precedent for cheating. They could have given him a token punishment. ANYTHING to promote honest play. Even a 1 month banning (that wouldnt have ended his career, but would have sent a clear message to everyone). All this did was empower the shady players.

      • john121212

        Josh St Amand JelgerW “All that person did is screw up under pressure”…

        Right.  Did you watch the video?  The guy is clearly a cheater.  How about the part where he TURNS THE EXTRA CARD RIGHT SIDE UP IN HIS HAND.  You’re telling me he didn’t notice he had an extra card?

        He should be suspened.  Hopefully Josh learns from this and doesn’t do it again.  However, its not a “witch hunt”.  He straight up, no doubt cheated.  Drawing an extra card?  sure, could be a mistake.  Not noticing an extra card in your hand?  Maybe.

        But the guy *FLIPPED A CARD TO HIMSELF WITH HIS PINKIE AND THEN TURNED IT RIGHT SIDE UP*.  Other than him saying “yeah, I cheated, what of it?” it is difficult to imagine any situation in which you could find cheating without a confession.

  • WJelger

    @CardboardWitch I disagree with pretty much everything in this article :)

  • Chris

    Detailing your personal history of incidents where the DCI rules make the game worse for everyone isn’t a great argument for increased application of discipline. It just makes people angry at the DCI. In particular the ruling that saying “I just want the 1st place trophy” is organizing a bribe is insane, but that’s another discussion for another day. 
    Watching the video, I don’t think he did it on purpose. Should he have reported it because he clearly noticed? Yes, but not everyone can be counted on to not take advantage of a lucky break that they don’t deserve.That’s the unfortunate part of dealing with human beings.

  • steve

    I read every single word up until woman, and promptly skipped the rest of the article.

  • GregSchwartz

    I’ve studied the video, and I believe that drawing that card was intentional, and I’m very disappointed in the actions of the investigation committee.

  • AbonCamus

    People are only encouraged by society to be critical if it supports the status quo/hegemony.

    • AbonCamus

      Beginning articles with an observation that is not only shallow, but contrary to about sixty years of critical theory/philosophy/history texts, is a questionable way to win anyone over.

  • JRich

    i don’t understand why this was written, seems to be a bunch of useless
    information then being like come at me dci he’s a cheater

  • JonStern

    I think it is pretty clear that you will not get in trouble for writing this article. That seems like a silly point to have to make, but it is the answer to what you claim as your main point. I believe that WotC was simply trying to mitigate the amount of harassment Josh would have to endure by making it clear that if you go overboard with it, you might be subject to penalty. Better to warn people ahead of time than have to ban someone later for being an idiot.

    I’m generally in favour of harsh penalties even in cases where intent can’t be completely proven. Suspending people for a short time for unintentional sloppy play still seems preferable than allowing cheaters to prosper. That said, WotC has to be careful. Why would anyone sign the waiver to be on coverage if an accident can lead to a witch hunt and possible banning?

  • CardboardWitch

    Thanks for all the comments, even those who don’t agree with me. Unfortunately work is something I still have to do at this point so I can’t reply to all of you today. In fact it’s been suggested by various editors and friends in the writing community that I stop responding altogether. To be fair they’re probably right; mostly because I can write a well crafted argument if I’m calm but when I’m arguing in the comments I come off like a loon.
    The only thing I’d like to say is that this wasn’t meant as an attack on judges in any way; I love judges and really do have a number of friends who’re part of the program as it were. No rational person gets mad at judges for applying obligatory penalties. My only question is considering how “serious” the penalties are in the “mundane” examples provided why is this something that deserves no penalty? To me, there’s a huge disconnect there and based on the comments and my Twitter feed a lot of people agree with that.
    If you don’t, that’s cool too. Op/Ed pieces are about sharing my opinions on a relevant subject with others; not convincing every single reader that I’m right. Thanks for reading guys but I gotta go get paid now.
    -nina

  • john121212

    I’m not usually the biggest fan of your articles, but I think you nailed this one.

    The guy 100%, absolutely straight-up cheated.  Its like that guy cast brainstorm through a Thalia a few months ago on camera.  Everyone said “oh, hes a nice guy, he’d never do that blah blah blah” but if you look at the tape, it doesn’t lie.

    As you said, drawing an extra card, maybe.  Not noticing this extra card in your hand?  More dubious, but again, maybe innocent.  This guy *flipped a card to himself with his pinkie, then turned it right side up in his hand*.

    If you don’t call this cheating, it is difficult to imagine what “cheating” is.  Right on Nina, you said it very, very well.

    The purpose of those other incident was to show that intent is irrelevant under some (read: most) DCI floor rules.  Shes totally right that stupid technical violations have harsh penalties while *blatently* drawing an extra card is fine.

    It is 100% higher EV to ignore any mistake you make (drawing extra cards, etc…) and then claim ignorance.  The only way you get caught is if you admit it, it seems.  What a poor decision by WoTC.  Suspend this guy – get him out of the community.

  • Gabriel Chase

    Excellently written article, very well expressed. For what it’s worth, after watching the video, I agree with you on the Meckes incident.