Hello Magic Community,

Welcome back to the Jester’s ReCap, where today we’re going to do things a little differently. These past few weeks there’s been a lot of discussion about cheating, largely prompted by the return to Pro Play for shameless huckster and waste of perfectly good human skin, Alex Bertoncini. Good old Alex managed to wait out his three year ban from the last time everyone noticed he was a pathetic shitheel and made his triumphant return. Presumably fueled by an absolute lack of shame, he went on to perform quite well until a hero named Ben Friedman stomped him out of the Quarterfinals. Still! Quarterfinals. That’s an hell of accomplishment. And we Magic players always like to analyze a winning “Strategy” so I decided to do something very different this week. We’re going to do a step-by-step breakdown on how to cheat in Magic: the Gathering. Why you should, how you should and what you can learn from truly moldy tongue scabs like Alex Bertocini. First though, a little housekeeping:

  1. MTGO Sucks, but Chaos Drafting is literally it operating at peak fan-pleasing levels, so it gets a pass this week. Chaos Drafting on demand will make me forgive anything. If my Ex-wife had taken her head from out between the legs of our old roommate and said “Wanna Chaos Draft?”, I’d still be married.
  2. Yes, we should probably talk about Hall of Fame ballots, but the whole thing feels so high school. Who do we like, who do we not like, who said what about who. God, I hate that shit. I’m Magic‘s Fox News, not Magic‘s Us Weekly. Plus, Halls of Fame only exist to give people something to do when they visit boring cities (Hi Cleveland!).
  3. Magic Game Night is a fairly interesting stab at “Make Magic a Boardgame” which has been a strategy four or five times now. It never works but at least this is actual Magic this time, which always better than when it’s Stratego or whatever.

Ok with that out of the way, let’s talk big cheats:

Cheating: Is It for You?

Players have been having discussions this week, and many times before this week, although with less topical weight, about what cheating actually is. But that’s the actual second question you should be asking yourself. The first thing to know is: am I a cheater? What are my priorities when I sit down at the table? How do I view fun and where it comes from?

Cheaters have to have a certain psychological make-up. Your instinct might be to say that all cheaters are just Spikes, whose competitive nature takes them to some mythical “dark side” where winning at all costs means even breaking the rules of the game. That is a naive fantasy. You are giving cheaters way too much credit. Whether a person cheats or not has nothing to do with how they approach the game of Magic and everything to do with how they approach other people.

Spikes, at their best, want to be playing against the best. It’s how they get their high. They want a challenge because that’s what gets their blood pumping. Spike will happily take a win in a competitive setting against a complete noob, but he will gain little to no pleasure from it. It’s a practical matter of preferring winning to losing, but it’s not what he was looking for when he sat down to draft or crack a sealed pool. There were no stakes, no great challenge, no dragon slain, no kingdom rescued. In a Spike’s mind, another player is a hill to climb.  Either a gentle mound which is not terribly exciting, or a ragged, treacherous cliffside which is a thrill and a half. Another player is a nation to conquer, whether a Hobbit Shire or a Helm’s Deep. The level of challenge provided by the opponent is largely how they are going to decide how much “Fun” they actually had.

Cheaters don’t want to to win, they want to “be winners”.  The actual win gives them nothing, regardless of skill level of their opponent. After all, when you starting palming cards and dropping extra lands you aren’t testing your opponent’s skill at the game anymore, merely their situational awareness. Cheaters want the accolades, or the prize, or to see their name on the rankings board climb up and up. They want interviews and stream highlights and any other kind of attention. They are shallow and obsessed with appearances. They’ve resigned themselves to failure from the get go, and so have fabricated a reality wherein the appearance of success is just as good as actually accomplishing something.

So, if you know you’re not good enough, hate self-improvement and hard work, and don’t mind the pity and condescension of every person you will ever meet until the end of your days, by all means move on to section two:

Cheating: Do’s and Don’t’s

Don’t – See your opponent as the “Enemy”. That’s Spike territory. Your opponent is your best friend. Their social anxiety and inherent personal shame will often prevent them from confronting you regarding your flagrant bullshit. Their desire to be liked and thought of as a reasonable member of the community will often prevent them from calling “Judge!” despite the fact that the community has been trying to combat that stigma for years. Best of all, your opponent’s desire to win fairly and ability to recognize a hollow victory will make it difficult for them to suspect you of your chicanery. After all, “who wants to win like that?“. You do. You totally do, because you’re an asshole the size of a neutron star.

Do – Encourage self-doubt and introspection in everyone you meet. At the end of the day, Cheaters benefit best from nihilism and cynicism. You want to spread around the idea of “blurred lines” and “Grey Area”. You want people to secretly suspect everyone of cheating and yet no one thinking of themselves as a cheater. When truth and fair play go from rock solid concepts we all learned in Kindergarten to murky, circular philosophical arguments with no real end game, then Cheaters have won the day.  You’d be amazed how many allies you’ll have from people desperate to write bullshit think-pieces or approach things from the position of pseudo-intellectual masturbation. Encourage these people and make sure people who thought they knew right from wrong yesterday aren’t sure today.

Do Vindictively and savagely attack anyone who dares accuse you of that thing you did. Defense is for losers and wholesome well-adjusted people. Cheaters are always on offense. Attacking will make you look right and just, and as we’ve established it’s more important to look like something than be that thing. Reality warps to fit our perceptions of it.  Someone asked how many cards you have in hand? Wave your hand back and forth and gesture as though to say “What you can count from over there?”. Nevermind they have a right to ask you that — if you cared about rules you wouldn’t have drawn 4 cards in two turns. Someone asks what turn it is, since you clearly have too many lands?  A snappish “Two Explores” is the perfect non-answer. That one comes from chickenshit Bertoncini himself. Some actually has the gall to call a judge and give compelling evidence you just under paid for a spell? Call him a pedophile and accuse the Judge of being his accomplice. Sure, that’s the act of a pathetic lunatic, but it will still play better and give you more defenders than apologizing, because humans are a fundamentally broken species.

Don’t – Do the same trick all the time. Magic players are pretty bad at the whole “standing up for themselves” thing, thanks to Wizards systematically destroying their sense of self-worth for decades. However, they are fantastically good at pattern recognition. So mix it up. Grab an extra card from your graveyard one game, “forget” to record some damage the next. Maybe stack your deck for game one, then sideboard in a card not in your pool in game two. Try to have fun with it. Remember, the game you are playing isn’t Magic. Magic has rules. You’re playing a different game called “I do whatever I want, because I’m special” which hasn’t changed its core mechanics since you were screaming your mother into post-natal depression and still shitting yourself. With such a repetitive structure, it’s important to improvise.

Don’t – Feel Shame. Shame requires a certain amount of self-worth. A nagging sensation that you’re “better than this”. You traded your self-worth for the shallow appearance of actual worth back when you decided to cheat. Nothing is beneath you, no one expects more of you. You are hollow and empty. Not sad. Sad requires more humanity than you actually have. So enjoy self-delusion and the wonderful bliss it provides.

Cheating: Are There Downsides?

Depends on how you look at it. One thing Cheaters often do want is the respect of strangers. Once you garner a reputation as a spineless Pus-Maggot, you’ll probably have way less of that. Still you can fall back on good old self-delusion and accuse the “haters” of merely being jealous of your inherent superiority. After all, if you’ve created enough self-doubt and controversy, at least some people are going to mistake what you did for “Strategy”. Hey, I just found a way to reduce variance? Isn’t that what all Pros do? I just happen to reduce mine by marking cards.

Another loss could be any personal relationships you were hoping to maintain. But let’s be real, if you’re cheating at card game you weren’t exactly Mr. Popular anyway. You didn’t have a lot of fun times with friends, or dates or parties to lose, right? Because you’re the kind of person who doesn’t distinguish from the appearance of having something and the earning of it. Which means you probably cruise on a lot of debt or your parents’ money, freeload people’s booze at social gatherings, think all dates with women are transnational arrangements for sex, etc. etc. You’re not a good person, you don’t value the right things and people tend to figure out you aren’t worth the time pretty quickly. If the few people who were still giving you a shot decide to cut ties, no big loss.

One final downside is Bans, but honestly this is rare and pretty minor. There’s no lifetime Ban in Magic so don’t see it as a punishment, just an enforced vacation! You spent all that time screwing over all those innocent people, you deserve a break! You could find some other game to cheat at, but it’s probably harder in games that aren’t as complicated and sprawling as Magic. If you wanted to work hard you wouldn’t be cheating. So do other stuff the easy way, regardless of who it hurts. Stick gum on a restaurant table instead of throwing it out and then leave no tip. Rob a mentally-unsound homeless person. Who’s gonna believe him? Steal credit for a colleague’s accomplishment at work. Take from the collection plate at church. Cat call a pretty girl and then call her a “dyke” when she rightfully flips you off. Do all the things, big and small, that prove to people that you don’t have a spine, that you have no work ethic, no relationships. No shame, no pride. You are a non-person, desperately screaming for relevance in the vast, empty void of your own life.

Conclusion

So yeah, a very different week at Jester’s ReCap this time, but I think we all learned something. And that something is that there are dregs of society that need to be scraped from the bottom of our boots.  Did I miss any tips or tricks? Did I invoke Poe’s Law, despite desperately trying to make my satire crystal clear? Could you say a nice thing, or a mean thing, to justify my own screaming for relevance? Any of that would be great. Have a good week and we’ll get back to normal once MTGO isn’t hiding from my wrath behind Chaos Drafts.

 

3 Responses

  1. Finn

    Thank you, this is the best article about cheating I’ve read! Finally I understand the true hardships one needs to go through to become a famous and successful cheater.

    Reply
  2. Goth

    One could argue this is the article our society as a whole needs to address so many behaviors similar to cheating, and empowering the alt-o-sphere and the various -gates.

    More please.

    Reply
  3. A. Fan

    Great article. Well written with a very colourful tone. The negativity on reddit seems to be completely unfounded. Keep experimenting. Based on this one article I have decided to bookmark this website and read more of your articles. More please/10

    Reply

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