Updating Unsporting Conduct – Major

Unsporting Conduct – Major underwent a significant update in the latest Magic 2015 iteration of the Magic Infraction Procedure Guide. Rather than illustrate it with a whole bunch of saucy stories about players and spectators and judges being jerks to one another, I want to take this opportunity to talk about the policy itself in more depth. Next time will be story time, I promise.

Let’s start with the definition:

A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked. This may include insults based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. Threats of physical violence should be treated as Unsporting Conduct – Aggressive Behavior.

It is possible for an offender to commit this infraction without intending malice or harm to the subject of the  harassment.

A couple things should jump out at the careful reader here:

1. We’re looking at the cause, not the effect. “Did someone feel uncomfortable?” is not an effective way to determine whether this infraction applies. Though many instances of Unsporting Conduct – Major will start with a complaint from a player, we don’t rely solely on a victim taking the sometimes extraordinary effort to speak up. When we see something awkward or suspicious, we need to act.

2. You can commit this infraction without intending to harm someone. My guess is that many times when this comes up, the person committing it won’t actually understand how they’ve created a toxic environment or why they’ve caused someone else harm. Our position and our remedy allow us to educate here, but the damage is done and the infraction should stand.

So why is it a match loss now?

Under the previous system, we relied on organizers to step up and remove players who created a severely unwelcoming atmosphere and ending those toxic interactions, but leaving that up to organizers created a hole in policy.

In theory, I could sit down across from my opponent, tilt him or her with a racist or sexist insult and be awarded with a game loss for the first game of my match. My opponent would then still need to sit across from me and play at least one game with me. There would even still be a chance that I could beat him or her, driving home the insult. When it does come up now, the interactions are simply ended. Both players have a round to cool down and perhaps apologize or un-tilt.

Obviously, this is a strange corner to get to, and many organizers would simply ask the player to leave the venue. But this change makes the responsibility for a safe, welcoming environment more clearly “because it’s a Magic event” and not just “because this store owner wants to create a safe environment.”

This is also characteristically different from other things which can earn game losses. If I draw an extra card in a moment of absent-mindedness or forget to list one of my cards on my decklist, losing the game resets the impaired state and penalizes me in a way that’s on par with the disruption. Unsporting Conduct – Major is clearly a step above those in disruption and a step beyond them in scope. Behavior that enables a toxic environment often impacts others well beyond the one player I’m paired against, and the penalty’s severity reflects that now.

Next, let’s break down the examples a little bit:

A. A player uses a racial slur against his opponent.

Nothing new here. It’s simple and direct, unlikely to change.

B. A player takes inappropriate photos of another player without express permission. 

Yes, there’s an obvious case here some people will point to where the monumental efforts of hundreds of Judges and thousands of players were reduced to a series of embarrassing photos. And no, we are not going to start asking for your phones to inspect the photos contained therein. Just no. However, this behavior impairs the comfort of our players and the safe, welcoming environment we are responsible for creating and promoting, and it bears being called out specifically.

C. A player asks a spectator for a date, is denied, and continues to press the issue.

D. A player purposefully obstructs another player with the intent of inducing physical contact.

Sexual harassment has many forms, and these are just a couple examples. We have a responsibility to create safe event environments for everyone who might be interested in this game. (I hope you’re sensing a theme here.)

The first example might even seem tame to some of you reading this, or somehow not deserving of such a strong penalty. If this is how you feel, let’s talk about it. Really. Send me an e-mail (seancatanese@gmail.com) and let’s talk. There’s a lot that needs to be said here on male privilege and other kinds of privilege and culture, but that’s really less about this policy and more about the environment we create, so I’ll save that broader discussion for another time.

Note that we don’t identify the genders of the offender or victim here, though. These examples don’t just pertain to men and women interacting, they are meant to illustrate unacceptable behavior between any two people.

E. A spectator uses social media to bully another player.

This is fairly straightforward, but it needed to be said more directly than it had been in the past. Competitive, not-quite-sporting behavior is still totally fine, but when it’s goes beyond competition and into actually intimidating another participant, it crosses a line.

Keep in mind that these are examples only. As with the other examples elsewhere in the IPG, they illustrate the infraction in action, but they are absolutely not a definitive, complete list of actions which are deserving of this infraction.

OK, with examples out of the way let’s move on to philosophy!

A safe environment is a basic expectation of any tournament attendee. Harassment undermines the safety and integrity of a tournament. Players who purposefully create harmful or unwelcoming situations in an event are expected to immediately correct the behavior and demonstrate remorse or be removed.

Well, this seems rather obvious: Safety first. Fix it or get out.

Because of the confrontational nature of this infraction, judges need to end any match in progress and separate the players. Care should be taken not to escalate the situation if at all possible. The offender will be removed from the area to receive the penalty, and education about why the behavior is unacceptable regardless of excuse. They may need a few moments to cool down afterwards. Apologizing is encouraged, but the desire of the other individuals to  not interact with their harasser must be respected.

As we discussed already, we simply want to end the interaction and give everyone some space to breathe. Use your conflict resolution techniques (like the ones I discuss here!) The last bit here is important, too. If I’ve been harassed, it’s very likely that the last person I want to hear from is my harasser, however remorseful he or she might be, and we accommodate that interest.

Officials must investigate these matters as soon as they are brought to their attention. If they determine that the infraction does not meet the criteria for Unsporting Conduct – Major, it is still recommended that the players be talked to to avoid future misunderstandings.

This should also be fairly obvious but it also bears stating. “Boys will be boys” or a similar dismissal is not an adequate investigation here. We have a responsibility and we need to uphold it.

And now let’s move on to the additional remedy at last:

The player must correct the behavior immediately. If the offense was committed with malicious intent, the player displays no remorse, or the offense is repeated at a later time, the penalty is upgraded to Disqualification and removal from the venue.

The short version here is, “No, really, fix it or get out. Oh, we told you already? OK, just get out.”

If the offense occurs at the end of a match, it is acceptable for the judge to apply the penalty to the next match instead.

This is simply practical. I don’t get a free chance to commit this if I’m about to lose the match anyway. We apply the penalty in a way that matters.

So, what about examples B & C in the old version?

Unsporting Conduct – Major was edited in the Journey into Nyx update in May, too, when we moved failing to follow a direct instruction from a tournament official over to Minor. This left us with just three examples in Major:

A. A player uses a racial slur against his opponent.
B. After losing a match, a player throws his cards onto the table and knocks his chair over in anger.
C. A player picks up one of his tokens that has been exiled and tosses it across the room.

Example A is still with us, for reasons we’ve discussed above. Examples B and C, though, aren’t. The refreshed examples represent a modest re-framing of this infraction. Unsporting conduct is about interactions between people. Our former examples B and C were about objects.

Removing the old Examples B and C was admittedly tough. They have a good, simple “I know what this is and what it looks like” feel. But they’re more outcome-oriented than action-oriented. To understand what I mean, compare them to these examples in Aggressive Behavior:

A. A player threatens to hit another player who won’t concede to him.
B. A player pulls a chair out from under another player, causing her to fall to the ground.
C. A player makes threats against a judge after receiving a ruling.
D. A player tears up a card belonging to another player.
E. A player intentionally turns over a table.

The main difference between Major under the old B and C examples and these in Aggressive is outcome. In all of these, the offender takes physical actions with a degree of violence which jeopardize the safe environment of the event, and the dividing line is “Did my actions actually harm someone?” (Aggressive) vs “Did my actions merely risk harming someone?” (Major). This put us in a strange position. If two offenders behave in identical and inappropriate ways we want to sanction them comparably, not based on whether the aerodynamic qualities of a chair in motion lead it to strike a person or a wall before coming to rest.

Keep in mind, too, that these are just examples. We can’t capture every interaction between people, so we don’t. We pick scenarios which illustrate the definition and philosophy in terms someone reading the document can easily understand.

If you really need a box in which to put all your careless card throwing and chair pushing incidents, try putting yourself or someone you care about in the position of the person being affected and watching the scene unfold. Is it physically threatening, directed at someone? Aggressive. Does it feel like it generally makes the event unsafe but isn’t threatening to anyone specific? Major. No, just disruptive? Minor.

 Many thanks!

The team who helped with these changes to UC-Major included:

  • Cristiana Dionisio
  • Toby Elliott
  • Kim Warren
  • Tasha Jamison
  • Eric Shukan

Everyone on this team provided an important perspective, and their efforts represent a significant step toward promoting safer environments at competitive Magic events, and setting examples and expectations for everyone in our community.


This entry was posted in Public Image, Tournament Policy, Uncategorized, Unsporting Conduct. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Updating Unsporting Conduct – Major

  1. Rob McKenzie says:

    Cody, tournaments are usually not held in public places, as you are thinking of them. All the venues I have ever been in are private places, in that the TO and/or the owner of the venue can remove people at their discretion, and aren’t obligated to allow activity they don’t want within the venue. The tournament rules (including the IPG) are essentially a private code of conduct for a private event held in a private venue, and can say whatever they want about photography, language, and other behaviors.

    All that said, you also dropped the key word from the example “inappropriate” – this is meant to cover things like taking photos of a woman fixing her top, photos of a guy with an undone zipper, photos of a cosplayer expressly to post and jeer at them, etc. Normal photos aren’t the issue. Taking a photo for the express reason of mocking someone is not OK. We want people to feel like the tournament is a safe space, and that they won’t be marginalized or mocked publicly just for showing up.

  2. The only rule I have a problem with is the ‘photo …. without express permission.’ Players are in a public place, and therefore should be expected to be photographed at any time and for any reason. The camera is a powerful tool to document behavior and should not be denied.

    I can foresee the jerk opponent asking for the upstanding opponent to be DQed, simply for documenting jerk behavior. How is the judge to know if (for example) a photograph of a player picking that player’s nose represents a one-off snapshot of a shameful moment or documentation of obnoxious behavior?

  3. Gabriel Stoffa says:

    The ability for judges to penalize a player for “unsportsman-like conduct” seems too open.

    It should be written in as mandatory that the alleged and aggrieved sides are both taken into full and equal consideration to establish the context of the situation; that of bystanders what heard/viewed an alleged incident as well.

    Though “malicious intent” is used for establishing what is or is not creating a “toxic environment,” the line, “It is possible for an offender to commit this infraction without intending malice or harm to the subject of the harassment,” grants an odd leeway for match loss penalties that need not have occurred.

    For example, as written, I have a chance to be given a match loss if I sing Queen’s “We Will Rock You”: “Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day You got mud on your face You big disgrace Kickin’ your can all over the place.” I can be given a match loss and due to what I am likely to perceive as it being irrational, and therefore no remorse, ejected. Though it might seem unlikely to some, such friendly “ribbing” can feel like harassment or bullying to someone; and that feeling of bullying might also be heightened should the potential aggrieved be bordering on uncertainty as to their position in the match.

    Now, perhaps it is the intent of Wizards to eliminate “trash talk” or “ribbing” from the game. If so, that needs to be spelled out clearly for judges to understand that that aspect of most competitions is not allowed in the game of Magic: the Gathering.

    However, I am under the impression that light “ribbing” is permissible — as referenced in the article for some competitive table talk to still occur — and therefore judges must be expressly aware of such so as to take into consideration the potential for light ribbing being misinterpreted as something grander by equally listening to and weighing all sides before reaching any decision.

    Though it seems intuitive for judges to listen to all sides with equal weight and make rational decisions based on all information, the language for the match loss does not clarify for all judges that judges must “consider equally the ‘reasonable-ness’ of the situation with the understanding ‘offensive/threatening language’ complaints can vary a great deal from case to case, person to person.”

    We want a fun and welcoming environment for all, and to keep that the aggrieved’s and alleged’s explanation as to “reasonable-ness” of an action require equal consideration, as “equal” weight to both sides is not currently wording in the current language of the new definition and should likely be spelled out.

  4. Matt Sauers says:

    Thanks to Brian and Brian for your comments and insight! I accept that my views may be hyperbolic and somewhat reactionary, so I imagine I will learn more as I observe this behavior. Luckily this is kind of “auto-appeal” as it contains a ML which only the HJ would administer. If my first experience is as a HJ, then I will likely convene my other L2s on the event to reach a consensus on the call. I fully intend to support policy in the direction it is intended, and I should hasten to add that USC Major I feel overall is best served with a ML for the reasons stated.

    As the new policy makes me uncomfortable, I issue a ML to SeaCat for his next match. 😉 just kidding!!! I look forward to more discussion over this topic and I hope I continue to learn that middle ground of correct application.

  5. Brian Schenck says:

    @Matt Sauers: “Sorry, I am already a parent, and I already raise my own kids as best I can. I don’t need to take care of the over-privileged children of other parents.”

    I think this is a false dichotomy. We don’t need to “raise” the players who participant in our events, but we should certainly educate them against various negative behaviors. We can do that in a variety of ways, such as during the pre-event announcements, posting signs/flyers explaining behaviors to avoid, and even through the penalty itself. (See MIPG 1.) Obviously the penalty is a last resort, and you could certainly disagree with the philosophy that a penalty can ever be educational, but there are measures that can be taken well before that point.

    As for the logic of punishing people who didn’t intend harm, I think the article addresses that. You don’t have to intend harm in order to actual cause harm. Whether that is to the event itself, or even to other participants in the event. I don’t think that’s much different from either UC-IDaW or UC-BaW. Both those infractions can apply to players who didn’t know the behavior was illegal and/or didn’t understand the harm the behavior causes to the event. That seriously sucks, especially at one’s first CompREL event (something that is probably as common as your experiences at GenCon with the hypothetical scenario), but it is still something we have to handle per policy. And we can educate players against the behavior before it gets to that point.

    That being said, I’m not 100% certain your hypothetical qualifies as UC-Major. To satisfy the requirement there, it still needs to meet the definition of “A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked.” and I don’t know that this fully meets the criteria spelled out here. Of course, I’m still digesting the MIPG updates myself, but Sean’s “Did someone feel uncomfortable?” or even the “create a toxic environment” point doesn’t lead me to see this as more than UC-Minor.

    That being said, such a situation might still very much be a YMMV and depend on other aspects of the interaction.

  6. Brian says:


    There is a large difference between the group of teenagers who are making fun of someone and don’t realize it is harmful/hurtful because they say something like “That’s SO gay, I can’t believe you topdecked that!” and a naive 12 year old who is genuinely curious about TG people.

    I strongly suspect that clause is written for the former, and not the latter.

    I am also a parent, and I share your feelings on the need to educate other people’s children. At the same time I am glad this policy is in place so that I know that my kid won’t be a victim, should a circumstance arise.

    Overall, I like the changes here. It may need some touching up down the line, but I like the new “spirit of the law”, even if “the letter of the law” isn’t exact yet.

  7. Cameron Leehey says:

    Viv. L. & Eskil Myrenberg:

    I do not think that judges should ignore the alleged victim’s side, but rather, that judges should be able to take the alleged offender’s intent into consideration in some cases where the language used isn’t per se impermissible.

    I did not employ the term “subjective metal state” to suggest that the thoughts of the alleged victim do not matter, but rather to demonstrate that if the reasonableness standard of this rule is determined by what the alleged victim experiences within his/her own mind, it will be a different reasonableness standard for each different individual, which is to say, no standard at all. Because each person does not manifest a reaction to, what is in that person’s mind, offensive conduct until after the conduct has occurred, the subjective nature of a standard based on an individual’s mental state will necessary lead to inconsistent outcomes. As I mentioned in my previous post, it is not clear that this is the even the reasonableness standard to be used.

    I do not mean to create an insular group called “highly emotionally sensitive,” and then dismiss the legitimate grievances of that group. When I said that there are some people who are highly emotionally sensitive, I didn’t attach normative value, I stated a fact. Relative to others, some people are highly emotionally sensitive. The significance if this reality is that, absent an objective reasonableness standard, the rule goes from punishing conduct to punishing consequences. That is to say, if the judge looks to the reaction of the alleged victim to see if the statement made by the alleged offender could reasonably be expected to cause feelings of being bullied, and then determines that because the alleged victim is upset this must be true, the consequence of the alleged victim being upset determines the standard of conduct to which the alleged offender was held, but it determines that standard after the fact.

    I find this problematic, considering that the rule is designed to deter and punish certain kinds of conduct. If the rule is applied to a reasonableness standard of the subjective mental state of each person (and that isn’t saying anything negative, we all have a subjective mental state), application of the rule lacks foreseeability and the rule becomes consequentialist in nature. This means that the rule, as formulated, can have little value to deter or punish. The only way for a person to successfully avoid breaking the rule, if the reasonableness standard is subjective to the alleged victim, is to be polite on a level that few are capable of, i.e. ‘walk on egg shells.’

    I’ll offer my suggestion for the reasonableness standard: “The standard of reasonableness for this rule is what an average attendee of the given event would reasonably expect to cause feelings of being harassed, bullied, threatened, or stalked.” This is not a polarizing standard, and it reflects the environment of the tournament, since we look to the average attendee of this State Championship, this Grand Prix, this Pro Tour, etc.

    I do think, however, that there needs to be some kind of reasonableness standard elucidated by the Rules Team, because absent such a standard, the judge will have to make it up on the fly, which means different judges will measure this infraction using different rulers. I’m not saying that the judges shouldn’t have discretion (discretion is a necessary consequence of the system), I’m saying that the judges should be applying as much uniformity as possible in measuring what conduct is and is not permissible at these events.

  8. Matt Sauers says:

    You say:

    “You can commit this infraction without intending to harm someone. ”

    Am I the only person who views this statement as extremely illogical? If there is no intent to cause harm, are we now punishing the socially awkward, ignorant, or uneducated (as gamers tend to be — speaking from my own personal problems viewpoint here) with a match loss to “teach” them how to be more socially acceptable?

    I thought my job as a judge was to deal with bad play and bad people. Punishing the ignorant with match losses seems like poor customer service, whereas educating the player to be more respectful of others seems the correct path. The offender would always show remorse in the case of ignorance.

    So, now, when a new 12-year old player asks a TG person (my apologies to my TG friends, this is just an example which is not uncommon) “what {equipment} were you born with?” (which is an extremely gauche question, for those who don’t know), this person being their first time meeting a TG person, I am to end the match, award a match loss to the 12-year old, and then proceed to teach them about how to address our TG players? If you think this is a corner case, please come to GenCon any time during the day.

    Sorry, I am already a parent, and I already raise my own kids as best I can. I don’t need to take care of the over-privileged children of other parents.

    I’m not going to say this is a bad update, but I am going to say that this update is the first one I’ve seen where we actively seek to alienate players based on ignorance. Sure, ignorance of the law is no excuse; not knowing it’s illegal to shoot someone doesn’t make it OK. But not knowing that a question is gauche, or that it’s gauche enough to be offensive to some, and to “teach” them a “lesson” with this kind of penalty — what kind of message are you sending? Are you interested including gamers or excluding them? Because this really feels like exclusion criteria to me, which is the most offensive and obscene thing I’ve seen gamers do to each other in my 32 years of gaming.

    I got into gaming because people told me I was too brainy for them, or too fat to play with them, or too socially awkward to come to their parties. Now you ask me to enforce a way for me to exclude players who are already otherwise excluded from other activities, because they might not be aware? Sure, I understand that this penalty is also the nail-bat we want to grab when there is actually a player seeking to disrupt others or is just generally an a-hole, but that we can all be OK with using it on unsuspecting victims as a tool of social conformance, amongst individuals who are already socially-nonconformist, is beyond alarming — it actually damages the overall integrity of gaming. This is unacceptable.

  9. James WS says:

    MH: “And commenters, please, please stop acting like this somehow excludes transgender insults.”
    If we’re going to include a list of specific types of always-unacceptable insults, then we should include gender identity in that list. Any argument against specifically including it applies to specifically including any of the items on the list, and we clearly don’t want to remove any of those.

    In fact, it’s arguably more important, since this is an area where players may be less likely to be aware that they’ve done something unacceptable, so it helps to have the IPG explicitly backing the judge up.

    This is a serious omission, especially considering that the line about some jurisdictions having other protected classes is no longer included.

  10. Eskil Myrenberg says:

    This is an important update. It is also an update
    that can create a lot of strong feelings.

    I’m going to ask a few questions that occur to me
    when reading some posts here.

    CML: Does this mean you do not trust judges
    to arbitrate other situations that arise during
    a tournament? Or do you mean only that you do
    not trust judges to be able to arbitrate this
    very specific infraction but you trust in their
    ability at other times?
    I’m also curious what you base your witch hunt
    comment on? Have you had experiences of witch
    hunting by judges?

    Jeff Zandi: You believe that inappropriate behaviour
    is not something we should deal with until we codify
    these matters?
    Do you also have a concern and firm understanding about the issues this
    update attempts to fix and have a proposition on how we
    handle those, or do you believe the damages the current
    system has to be less than the potential ones you worry

    Cameron Leehey: You do bring up an issue in that it
    can be hard for judges to know how to properly assess
    situations with this penalty, especially at first.
    There definitely needs to be articles and seminars on
    the issue to help clarify these things.
    Needless to say, this is an infraction where the judge
    needs to apply judgment. We won’t get around that, so
    we can bring up countless examples and each one can be
    a discussion in itself. It can certainly help clarify
    policy to have those discussions, though, so I do not
    believe they are wrong to have, although worth keeping
    in mind that they can derail the topic into a series of
    more or less applicable scenarios. Might be better to
    have on a policy forum at Judge Apps :).
    So although I have thoughts on both your scenarios, I’m
    going to hold of on discussing them. You are welcome to
    mail me too if you’d like to hear my thoughts 🙂
    I do have to ask though: what leads you to believe that
    the “group” that might be defining this change should be referred to
    as “highly emotionally sensitive”? It seems to imply that
    this group should not be tailored to because they are
    reacting so much stronger than “the rest of the groups”.
    Or are you picturing a scenario where judges cannot use
    judgment to determine when the situations reasonably apply
    and will somehow be governed by those without judgment?
    If you could clarify this concern of yours :)?

  11. Stephen Hagan says:

    “I didn’t see any sort of ‘burden of proof’ regarding the behaviors in question. Is it within the discretion of the judge to believe one of two conflicting stories when those accounts are the only evidence available? ”

    This is always the case. There is no burden if proof in Magic, it is not a court.

  12. Sorry – I’m slightly curious as to how this will be applied:

    E. A spectator uses social media to bully another player.

    What if this happens after the tournament, which is something I have seen repeatedly in another cardgame? Because – like the picture taking guy – you are only going to know about it the following week when it blows up. In the case of the picture taking guy, we all know action was taken. Are we going to start taking seriously cases of player on player harassment through social media outside of tournaments?

  13. Lasse Kulmala says:

    I have to agree with Leon Kornacki.
    These two examples:
    A. A player threatens to hit another player who won’t concede to him.
    B. A player pulls a chair out from under another player, causing her to fall to the ground.
    Unequally paint men as agressors and women as victims.
    Gendered descriptions of unwanted behavior are never a correct direction to take.

  14. Jen Wong says:

    @ Leon Kornacki

    How, exactly, is the MTR “written incorrectly” when it alternates between using male and female pronouns in examples, as it has been doing for the past several years?

  15. MH says:

    There’s a lot that needs to be said here on male privilege and other kinds of privilege and culture, but that’s really less about this policy and more about the environment we create, so I’ll save that broader discussion for another time.

    Then why did you bring it up in the first place? I applaud the sentiment behind this change, but I resent the fact that you felt it necessary to drag unrelated issues into this discussion.

    This is supposed to be about making Magic tournaments a safe place for everyone where they can expect politeness no matter what, and they’re also expected to behave politely themselves. Why drag old, tired arguments into it?

    This may include insults based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation

    And commenters, please, please stop acting like this somehow excludes transgender insults.

  16. Viv L. says:

    Cameron, I can understand your concern that with the huge variability between possible cases, some players may be punished without intending harm or knowing that they have harmed someone.

    However, I contest that if we do not listen to an alleged victim’s side, because they might have a “subjective mental state”, then we run into the risk of ignoring a valid claim of harassment.

    Who gets to decide of the alleged victim is too “emotionally sensitive” to claim harassment? Is the burden of proof, then, upon the victim to show that they are reasonable? Right after a specific incident where they are the victim, that could get pretty stressful, even if they had a reasonable claim, but may not be capable of presenting it as such in a stressed state.

    Fixing your concerns may also lead to different ones where victims are ignored due to being labeled too sensitive.

    In determining reasonableness, we should also take in account first and foremost that harm is committed, and should be ameliorated–though to which degree still warrants some discussion.

  17. kimwarren says:

    Hey guys.

    I had one quick comment that I wanted to interject in response to people who are worried about overzealous judges handing out lots of penalties. That is, up until today, Unsporting Conduct – Major and Unsporting Conduct – Minor were already infractions. While we have changed the focus of the two penalties and the consequences of USC – Major to fit with this, the tools already existed to penalise the same kinds of behaviour. I have never heard of a judge giving out Game Losses en masse because they did not like the not-particularly sporting language that players around them were using, so I don’t think that we need to worry too much about this being widely applied inappropriately.


  18. Viv L. says:

    Evan, I think your example would still fall under the definition:
    “A player takes action towards one or more individuals that could reasonably be expected to create a feeling of being harassed, threatened, bullied, or stalked.”

    Notice that an insult based on race/gender/sexual orientation/etc. counts, but any infraction is not exclusive to that. “This may include insults based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.”

    However, it would definitely be nice to see some more illustrative examples (what about touching a person without consent? and misgendering/harassment of transgender people?), and more clarity on what counts and what doesn’t count as an infraction–and exactly by whom and how that is determined.

  19. Natahlia Lysse Zaring says:

    “This may include race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation .”

    I think the blaringly obvious oversight is harassment based on the status of an indicidual as being transgender or not. While I know (from personal experience) that many judges will rule such behavior in a similar way, it seems like a major oversight that a phrase of this nature isn’t added to the above statement: “…disability, sexual orientation, or gender presentation (or gender identity).”

    I believe that such a statement would clearly account for all persons under the transgender umbrella, and would similarly account for cisgender persons who prefer to present in a way outside gender norms (think tomboys, etc…) but who are not actually trans*. This would make such discrimination clear in the ruling text, rather than just an informal rule to which most judges apply rulings.

  20. Kainoa Pestana says:

    @Evan Jamieson: “player A unleashes a verbal torrent on Player B telling him how bad he is and that is deck is crap, but does not use any racial slurs. Player A is still being abusive, but according to the guidelines there is no punishment.”

    Players who purposefully create harmful or unwelcoming situations in an event are
    expected to immediately correct the behavior and demonstrate remorse or be removed.

    Did you actually read the entire entry? It’s pretty clear that Player A is creating a “harmful or unwelcoming situation in the event” and will be given a penalty and all additional remedies will be followed.

    It makes me wonder why there are so many people eager to defend bad behavior and preserve the status quo, #male privilege. It’s been laid out plain and simple, you do not have the right at a WOTC event to treat any other player with anything other than respect and dignity, regardless of your personal opinions about that player. Keep the trash talk at the school cafeteria and dining room table where it belongs.

  21. Cameron Leehey says:

    Dear UC-Major Rules Team,

    RE: Unsporting Conduct rules change

    There are several things I noticed while reading this that raised questions for me:

    I didn’t see any sort of ‘burden of proof’ regarding the behaviors in question. Is it within the discretion of the judge to believe one of two conflicting stories when those accounts are the only evidence available? Is a judge to begin with the state of mind that there hasn’t been an offense until reasonable evidence of an offense is offered (such as a third party witness)? Is a judge to assume that, given that the rule looks to the subjective mental state of (presumably?) the alleged victim, and given further that the rule does not look to the subjective metal state of the alleged offender, any allegation of offense is in fact proof positive of offense?

    I doubt this outcome is the intent of the team but under the language of the rule itself, the outcome of a literal application of the rule may be that a person who is unreasonably but genuinely offended/fearful due to another player’s statement will trigger the alleged offender’s match loss. I appreciate that the language of the rule uses the term “reasonably,” but what is the standard of reasonableness here? Is it the standard of a reasonable, well-adjusted adult, the standard of what is reasonable in the context of a particular local community, or the standard of what is reasonable given the subjective aspects of the alleged victim? (Or some other reasonableness standard?) I understand that you may find my line of reasoning nit-picky, but given the lack of something like a ‘burden of proof,’ coupled with the ambiguity of the reasonableness standard of the rule, it seems to me that the rule is vague to the point that whether a given alleged incident constitutes an offense is functionally a pure discretionary matter for the attendant judge. In essence, the only compulsory element of this rule, from a judge’s point of view, is application of the match loss penalty in those situations where the judge deems the rule has been broken, i.e. whether the rule has in fact been broken seems to be completely up to the reasonableness standard subjectively applied by that particular judge. This may lead to widely inconsistent outcomes in application of the MC – Major rule, which, given the underlying policy of the rule, seems especially undesirable when compared to other inconsistent rule-application results.

    What if, for example, during a match between two best friends, Eric and Kenny, Eric says to Kenny, “of course you’re playing white border cards, you’re poorer than M.C. Hammer!” Kenny and Eric both laugh. Kenny then mumbles something about Eric being fat and eating too many hamburgers at the event. Again, both friends laugh as they continue their match. Kyle, meanwhile, overheard this exchange and summons a judge. What is the result? Are both Kenny and Eric given match losses because their statements, in general, could reasonably be expected to create the feeling of being harassed or bullied?

    If there is no subjective mental intent element required on the part of the alleged offender during the determination of whether an infraction has occurred, why is there such an element present in subsequent behaviors of the offender once initial guilt has been established? I do not subscribe to “boys will be boys,” but when we’re talking about hurt feelings over misspoken words, sometimes “no harm, no foul” is a valid policy. I argue that intent should be considered, at a bare minimum, if it has an ameliorative effect on the situation, such as in the example above, where two friends are playfully exchanging verbal barbs.

    Another example of where the ameliorative intent of the alleged offender should matter might include something like the following: Randy, intending to be humorous says to his opponent, Shelly, “I guess I’d better be careful, you’ve got the face of a cheater.” Shelly, reasonably offended by Randy’s awkward failure at humor, yet unaware of Randy’s intent, calls the judge. The judge determines that, since Shelly has bad acne, the comment about her face could reasonably be expected to cause the feeling of being bullied. Tracking the language of the rule, the judge gives Randy a match loss. Randy, meanwhile, is bewildered and humiliated as the judge politely informs Randy that what he meant does not matter in this analysis. Randy, now tilted, is expected to show remorse if the judge decided that Randy violated the rule intentionally or with malice, or if this isn’t the first time today that Randy put his foot in his mouth. (I don’t think that such situations are rare; socially awkward, but innocently-intending, Magic players are, if we’re being honest with ourselves, plentiful.)

    It seems that we don’t care what Randy thinks until it has been determined (again, by an ambiguous standard) that Randy has done wrong. Now, subsequent to a judge’s determination of Randy’s wrongdoing, there are certain things Randy is forced to think and manifest, if he is to avoid disqualification. I don’t think it is unreasonable to foresee that Randy could become frustrated and angry by this situation, resulting in his disqualification because he fails to show remorse to the judge’s satisfaction. After all, from Randy’s point of view, he didn’t do anything wrong or use any language that is per se impermissible. If, however, the judge were permitted to consider Randy’s intent as an ameliorative factor, this whole situation could be avoided, and it is conceivable that Randy and Shelly could come to an understanding of mutual respect. Many friendships begin this way.

    I am not advocating for the use of the alleged offender’s subjective intent as an ameliorative factor in all situations, though. If a player says something overtly hostile, such as a racial slur, vulgarity, or threat, I agree that the judge should flatly disregard that player’s subjective intent. In situations where a player says something that could reasonably be construed, under whatever standard of reasonableness, to cause feelings of being harassed, bullied, etc., BUT the actual words the player uses AND the context in which the words are used indicate that the alleged offender intended mere conversation rather than malice, the intent of the alleged offender should factor into whether that player has actually committed Unsporting Conduct.

    Whether the Rules Team elects to elucidate with particularity the reasonableness standard which a judge is to use (which would be beneficial, given the sensitivity of this subject), the Team should at least give the judges discretion to examine the ameliorative intent and circumstances of alleged offenders in determining if Unsporting Conduct has actually occurred. The game of Magic is populated by all sorts of individuals. Some are adults. Some are minors. Some are crass. Some are awkward. Some are highly emotionally sensitive. I don’t think that the latter group only should define Unsporting Conduct. My concern is that, under the present formulation of the rule, that may be the case.

  22. Tom D. says:

    Thank you so much for this very much needed update. The only thing I would hope for you to add is something regarding transgender people. Perhaps adding gender identity to your “protected” identities. I know it can be very discouraging to play in a tournament and be continuously disrespected by other players who refuse to use your preferred gender pronouns or who asks invasive questions and whatnot. I know that your transgender players may not be your largest demographic, but we are a part of the community too. Thank you again!

  23. CML says:

    I can’t wait for all the awesome witch hunts.

    I think I speak for most competitive players who’ve run afoul a judge when I ask: who trusts Magic judges to arbitrate these matters?

  24. Jeff Zandi says:

    I’m concerned that over-zealous judges will overreact to s small amount of not-particularly-sporting language and use the rules to justify handing out fairly severe penalties. I know the difference between players running their mouths a little and actual threatening behavior, maybe another judge does not. He may feel justified by this new approach to hand out a bunch of match losses and maybe DQs. There is a great opportunity for a party , not actually feeling threatened, to needle their opponent into some bad language so the unharmed party can get the other guy in trouble. Which of these verbal insults requires giving a guy a match loss? “Die in a fire.” “Bite me.” “Screw you.” “Up your nose with a rubber hose.” I think these matters are more delicate and subjective than we’ve yet figured out a way to codify.

  25. Only girls can have their chairs pulled out from under them?

    I do like the new rules changes, that one example was written incorrectly.

  26. Laura says:

    C. A player asks a spectator for a date, is denied, and continues to press the issue.

    The key to this, I think, is the last six words: “and continues to press the issue.” It is still totally okay to ask that talented and gorgeous Magic player out. It is NOT okay to keep pressing after you are turned down. No means no, accept it and move on with your life.

    This new policy looks awesome. I hope it makes events safer and more welcoming for everyone.

  27. Sorry but not only are these changes not well written but there is no clear definition for things outside clear harassment. For example it’s the end of match a player A needing a win for a “win and in” loses to player B. Enraged at having lost to what he feels is an inferior player and deck player A unleashes a verbal torrent on Player B telling him how bad he is and that is deck is crap, but does not use any racial slurs. Player A is still being abusive, but according to the guidelines there is no punishment.

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