GP New Jersey 2014

Watch the Game, see the cheats


A guilty pause


If you’ve read my GP LA report, you may have a feeling of déjà-vu

During GP NJ, a judge was watching a game and witnessed the following:

  1. AP casts a creature.
  2. NAP says “counter this” while pulling a card out of his hand.
  3. At the moment AP puts his creature to the graveyard, NAP makes a subtle pause…
  4. Then proceeds to tap an Island and pull the Spell Pierce out of his hand to put it in his graveyard.


Let’s be clear, I do not believe that AP intended to cast Spell Pierce from the beginning. He likely knew he had a counter and said “counter this” out of reflex. No, what made it wrong is that he realized this was a Spell Pierce but nevertheless proceeded to cast it.

How do I reach this conclusion? Something in his body language, that small pause as he was pulling the card out. He very likely realized at that moment that the counter he indeed had in his hand was NOT the one he thought he had. But since AP was putting the card in his graveyard already, he went on.

Without this, that was nothing (he would not have committed an infraction had he said “oooh sorry can’t counter that” on his own) but that hesitation made the difference, and the fact he went on constitutes Opportunistic Cheating.


How can I be sure? I can’t. This is based on feelings, on impressions. There are no hard proofs.

Had there been no judge at the table but the opponent called a judge, unless NAP said “I cheated”, there would be no way to establish Cheating.





Here’s an exchange heard at the end of a match:

  • Good luck at the PT
  • Thanks, enjoy these 200 dollars



That’s the kind of sentence that should automatically make you trigger that there has potentially been something wrong going on. Potentially only? Indeed!

  • It is not illegal for players to split prizes.
  • However, such a split can’t be linked to an alteration of the match result (either a draw or a concession).

How can we know that? A few things to consider:

  • How long did it take for the match to finish?
    [i]The shorter it took, the weirder it is.[/i]
  • Can both players describe the games as they went?
    [i]If they can’t or they don’t describe the same, they likely didn’t play it[/i]


In this case, there was a judge watching the match and they clearly played it out. He even said it was “a great game to watch”




In both cases, the judge was there and that made all the difference.

In the first situation, the judge saw something: What he did see cannot be reproduced, but is the key element. Without a judge at the table, nothing would have happened. Either the cheat would have worked or the player would have gotten a mere Warning. That’s a decent start, I mean, it’s tracked, but that’s unsatisfying.

In the second one, the presence of a the judge avoided a tough investigation. He could witness they played great Magic and simply wanted to make things more even.




You can’t know what if you don’t know why.


Ponder and Fetchland


A Judge is called at the table to handle the following situation:

AP cast Ponder, rearranges the top 3 cards then sacrifices a Fetchland and draws a card. NAP calls the judge as he doesn’t understand what happened.


The judge comes to me to ask me if that can be DEC. I reply that this can’t be since sacrificing the Fetchland in the middle of the Ponder is a GRV.

That situation seems nevertheless super weird, and I ask the judge whether he asked AP why he did sacrifice his Fetchland rather than just shuffling his deck with Ponder. The judge goes back to the table and here’s AP’s answer: “Oh… wait… I drew the Fetchland off the Ponder, but since I didn’t put the Ponder in the graveyard, I thought I still needed to draw”
Hence he drew another card.


The player seemed super honest in his reply, no Cheating there. The interesting part is, by asking for reasons, we discovered that this was actually DEC… which we had excluded at first!



There are many times when the situations are weird. I does help a lot asking the player “can you tell me what you were trying to achieve by doing this?”

If you aren’t trying to understand why things have been happening, you can’t understand exactly what happened. From almost identical situations, we can issue a W, a GL or a DQ. It’s important to make the best possible decision.


This report does not contain Judges of note. Not that there weren’t, just that I wrote it so late that I forgot who they were. Hence, be better than I and prepare for the next Exemplar Wave by making notes whenever you can, not when it’s too late!