by Mark Tidd
I LOVE Magic Online. It could be the perfect vehicle for casual players around the world to play competitive Magic. The pricing structure of Magic Online is fine, if average players could compete with any real chance to win.
The potential of Magic Online has been limited so far by the takeover of the Premier Events and nearly all eight-person booster drafts by the pros and near-pros.* This takeover has left average and casual Magic players with only one option for fair, competitive play – the 256-person Seventh Edition leagues.
I HATE writing this article. I do so only because someone recently found a way to win top prizes in Seventh Edition leagues on Magic Online - by cheating.
In order to understand how this person (or persons) is cheating, a little information is necessary about leagues on Magic Online. The current leagues are Seventh Edition, Onslaught, and (occasionally) Odyssey Block. Each league takes four weeks to complete. The first five matches each week count toward your “league points” and final ranking, while every subsequent match that week counts only toward your tie-breaker points to separate players with the same number of league points.
The league winner gets 27 booster packs, second place gets 21 packs, third and fourth place both receive 15 packs, fifth through eighth place get 9 packs each, and ninth through 16th place are awarded 6 packs each. The other 240 players in the league get three or fewer packs, and 128 players get no prize at all.
A pro won’t bother using eight Seventh Edition packs and playing five or more matches each week over a four-week period, when even an excellent ninth-place (out of 256 players) league finish means that he will win fewer packs than he can win in a single booster draft. A pro will use the Onslaught leagues to hone his skills for PTQs and other sanctioned events with an Onslaught limited format, but the Seventh Edition leagues aren’t useful for that purpose, either.
That’s why the Seventh Edition leagues have become the competitive refuge on Magic Online for the rest of us. But then a strange thing started happening.
A group of nine Star Trek-sounding players registered for Seventh Edition League No. 96677. They almost always played in the middle of the U.S. night, and they almost never played any player outside their group during their five league matches each week. The “good” players in this group were “uss enterprise,” “klingon420,” “design_x,” and “fed empire.” Their foils in league games were “klingon council,” “zippy1,” “Nelvibus,” “PlatinKing” and “romulan empire,” as well as each other when the winner was playing an important league match and the loser was playing only a tie-breaker match.
Sure enough, when League No. 96677 ended on February 1, four players from the suspicious group were among the league’s top nine finishers. The winner was “uss enterprise,” “klingon420” was second, “design_x” was fifth, and “fed empire” was ninth. These four players won 63 Seventh Edition booster packs from Wizards.
This suspicious behavior in League No. 96677 appears to have become obvious cheating in Seventh Edition League No. 107645. All nine of the collaborators from League No. 96677 were also in League No. 107645, and two more players (or duplicate accounts) joined in this scheme.
In the first week of League No. 107645, every one of the 28 matches between two players of this group had a match score of 2-0 AND a player playing a tie-breaking match ALWAYS losing to a player playing a league match.
On February 5, I sent my first e-mail to Wizards’ Organized Play and the Magic Online Player Conduct section, which contained all of the evidence for League No. 96677 and for the first week of League No. 107645.
At 11:30 p.m. (EST) on February 10, none of the six undefeated players from this group had played any of their league games for the second week of League No. 107645. Seven hours later, all six players had completed their five league games and all six continued to be undefeated.
In the second week of League No. 107645, every one of the 31 matches between two players of this group occurred in the middle of the night on February 11, the match score was always 2-0, AND a player playing a tie-breaking match ALWAYS lost to a player playing a league match.
At the end of the second week, this group occupied each of the top six spots in League No. 107645. This would net them 96 more booster packs from Wizards, if they kept their positions after the league’s final two weeks.
In another Seventh Edition league (No. 110638), brickmozart, fed empire, klingon420, Light Crusader, Nelvibus, and zippy1 had perfect records at the end of the first week, and PlatinKing, romulan empire, and uss enterprise each had 9 league points.
It was obvious that this gang intended to steal the bulk of the top Magic Online prizes in Seventh Edition leagues as long as possible.
On February 11, I sent my second e-mail to Wizards’ Organized Play and the Magic Online Player Conduct section, which contained all of the evidence for the second week of League No. 107645 and for the first week of League No. 110638.
What would Wizards do to stop this cheating? How long will it take Wizards to stop this cheating? How will similar cheating be prevented in the future?
It would be very easy for Wizards to review the actual matches played between two players of this group in these leagues. My hunch is that very few games, if any, were played. The “Concede Match” button was used far more than the “OK” button.
Fortunately, Wizards was listening and took action to stop this cheating. On February 10, I received this response to my first e-mail from Paul Quinn, Magic Online Community Manager:
“Hello Mark, I wanted you to know that your emails are being received and seen
by the appropriate people.”
On February 12, Mr. Quinn promptly responded to my second e-mail with this:
“Hello Mark, I have been in touch with the DCI team and I think we have a way
to deal with this situation. With our current system nothing is going to be
bulletproof, but I am pretty sure we can put the kibosh on most of these
shenanigans. I should be able to implement this very soon. Thanks for bringing
this to our attention and your diligence in watching out for the Magic Online
Apparently, Wizards has banned these eleven cheaters from all league and tournament play on Magic Online. It was important that Wizards clean up this mess, immediately and decisively. Wizards did exactly that.
But even more important - Wizards must never let this happen again. The Seventh Edition leagues must be monitored carefully to preserve the last place on Magic Online where casual players can compete and win.
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