Disproportionate header

Read the news about this here.

I’ve large­ly been steer­ing clear of the recent (Spoiler Warning for link) high-profile leaks that occurred with Magic: The Gathering Oath of the Gatewatch most­ly because the Mythics and the new super-double-dog-ultra-Mythics we are see­ing in the form of the Expeditions don’t real­ly tell us much about what the play envi­ron­ment will be like. The bulk of what you will see in Limited and across con­struct­ed for­mats will be made up of the Commons, Uncommons and Rares. Unless there is a big piece of news that alters how the rules, print­ing, or for­mat of the game plays, I will cov­er a new set when it is com­plete­ly spoiled or released, and I can get a coher­ent feel for it as a whole.

Oft times I’m not a fan of adding “-gate” to the end of every event, but per­haps we should be call­ing this “LeakGate,” since the reac­tion to the leaks is far more news­wor­thy and inter­est­ing than the leaks them­selves of cards that will most­ly not even be in Standard (for my opin­ion of the prac­tice of print­ing expe­di­tions see my “Fetch Lottery” arti­cle.)

dis side 1First, we saw Wizards of the Coast (WotC) throw them­selves what can only be described as a pity par­ty with the release of “Why Leaks Hurt” by Trick Jarrett, Global Content and Community Manager for Magic: The Gathering. I don’t object to his broad point, leaks do neg­a­tive­ly affect com­pa­nies and can some­times scrap a lot of hard work, but I do object to the over­ly dra­mat­ic and wal­low­ing tone of its con­tent. WotC aren’t some mom and pop oper­a­tion; this won’t stop them turn­ing a prof­it on the set when it is released. Watching a com­pa­ny that has a monopoly on a bil­lion dol­lar pro­duct be so melo­dra­mat­ic and expect a fur­ther out­pour­ing of sym­pa­thy is undig­ni­fied.

Find the source of the leak, cut them out of the loop and move on. Anything else is cry­ing over spilled milk. It’s fine to feel aggriev­ed by leaks, but the cor­rect respon­se is to qui­et­ly plug the leaks and get on with the show. We saw this in action ear­lier this year with Kotaku being cut out of the loop by Bethesda and Ubisoft; they didn’t give a pub­lic show of force or jump to an emo­tion­al respon­se. They just stopped doing busi­ness with the leak­er.

With the newest devel­op­ment, WotC at first seemed to have done just that. Two lev­el 3 judges who were direct­ly respon­si­ble for the leak of the cards had been given two-year sus­pen­sion. Wizards’s also banned a large chunk of judges from the Southwest US region — some of them also high lev­el — that were mere­ly in the Facebook group the­se spoil­ers orig­i­nat­ed from. This includes one of those who blew the whistle and brought the­se actions to the atten­tion of Wizards of the Coast.

This in turn caused anoth­er lev­el 3, James Bennett, to sus­pend his JudgeApps ser­vice and the judge resources at Magicjudges.org in protest to a move he says he is sure will result in his own sus­pen­sion. The infer­ence from play­ers is that Wizards is adopt­ing a “scorched earth” approach and ban­ning any judges even asso­ci­at­ed with the two leak­ers. I’m para­pras­ing events it here, but you can read the full sto­ry — along with Wizard’s state­ments — in our news piece writ­ten by the ever dili­gent Poryguy.

Here’s the prob­lem: judges are the unpaid labour that keeps Magic: The Gathering run­ning. You can’t have a com­pet­i­tive event with­out them. Hell, even large stores can’t run Friday Night Magic events with­out them. They are the grease that keeps the cogs of the machine turn­ing and they are one of the most over­looked but valu­able com­po­nents of this game. Competitive play is one of the main draws of Magic: The Gathering. It has a big­ger top-level com­pet­i­tive scene than any oth­er col­lec­table card game out there. Without judges, Grand Prix Magic, Regional Events, Pro Tour Qualifiers, the Pro Tour –- hell any sanc­tioned event above store lev­el — goes away overnight, Poof! And that bil­lion dol­lar prop­er­ty Hasbro owns gets a lot less valu­able.

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The glee­ful talk on social media, of a “dis­pro­por­tion­ate respon­se” on the part of WotC does not gel with their offi­cial state­ments. Their claim of “Theft of Intellectual Property” is also a gross exag­ger­a­tion. Violating con­fi­den­tial­ly? Absolutely. Breach of the trust placed in them by the DCI? Very much so. But Magic cards are phys­i­cal objects; this isn’t like the leak of a film or an album, this is no way vio­lates their IP. The state­ment issued is using strong words to shore up what is a very vague sequence of events. If Wizards of the Coast is going to regain the trust of the com­mu­ni­ty, and espe­cial­ly of the army vol­un­teers who run events, then they are going to have to offer more clear evi­dence of wrong­do­ing.

There are also a num­ber of unan­swered ques­tions that stem from Wizard’s side of the sto­ry:

  • If this stems from “leaks relat­ed to mul­ti­ple card-sets over a peri­od of time” then what were the­se leaks? I’m unaware of any leaks in the past few years unless some­one wants to cor­rect me.
  • If there have been leaks in recent years then why had Wizards not respond­ed before now?
  • Has Wizards been pre­tend­ing recent small­er leaks are spoil­ers to avoid embar­rass­ment?
  • How can we dis­tin­guish between what is viral mar­ket­ing and what is a leak?

If Wizards is gen­uine­ly wor­ried about this par­tic­u­lar Facebook group, or the­se speci­fic judges, and has no direct evi­dence of them dis­sem­i­nat­ing leaks, per­haps a more pro­por­tion­ate respon­se would have been to sus­pend their access to unspoiled cards? I know if I was test­ing a com­mu­ni­ty, I’d throw a few fake spoil­ers their way and see if any of it end­ed up in the pub­lic domain. If they’ve already iden­ti­fied and effec­tive­ly banned the two peo­ple who were active in the leak­ing of infor­ma­tion then why extend that to the Facebook group? What is desir­able about a “Disproportionate Response” that might well shut down or hin­der events?

Anyone who is even mod­er­ate­ly active in online com­mu­ni­ties dis­cussing Magic will, like­ly mul­ti­ple times per year, see spoil­ers of upcom­ing prod­ucts whose prove­nance can­not be read­i­ly deter­mined from the infor­ma­tion avail­able…” – James Bennett, Magicjudges.org

This issue is of great con­cern and blows Wizard’s mar­ket­ing posi­tion out of the water. We have this slow drip-feed of spoil­ers, some of them com­ing in unex­pect­ed or eccen­tric forms, to gen­er­ate hype and keep peo­ple inter­est­ed. If those involved in the Magic com­mu­ni­ty are para­noid of shar­ing then viral mar­ket­ing goes right out of the win­dow. We can’t live in a com­mu­ni­ty where every­one is con­stant­ly inform­ing on every­one else for fear of the arbi­trary wrath of Wizards of the Coast, espe­cial­ly when those peo­ple are the vol­un­teer judges who keep the game run­ning.

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I’ll say it again. Billion dol­lar fran­chise. BILLION. That’s nine zeros folks. This comes across as the rich mill own­er beat­ing the street urch­in for not shin­ing his shoes prop­er­ly to me. The respon­se feels more like an act of revenge for the leak, pun­ish­ing every­one even adja­cent to it, and enforce­ment of the rules seems to be being made up as it goes along. The reac­tion is less fix­ing a leaky ship and more just blow­ing up the whole boat. The mes­sage to judges is clear: we don’t val­ue the time you input to prop this game up if WotC decides to put you under the sword.

I have a hope that we as the Magic com­mu­ni­ty, and espe­cial­ly fel­low judges, can make a “Disproportionate Response” of our own that is able to gen­er­ate some account­abil­i­ty with­in Wizards, but I won’t hold my breath. This reminds me of anoth­er arbi­trary ban­ning, that of Zach Jesse, which saw a wiz­ards con­trib­u­tor pub­licly shame and attack a play­er for decades old offences, which effec­tive­ly end­ed his play­ing career for good.

Judges may make the rules of Magic more clear, but the rules of the DCI seem as unfath­omable as ever. Their motives range from want­i­ng good PR, in the case of Jesse, to seem­ing­ly act­ing as enforcers out of a desire for revenge on the part of a slight­ed Wizards of the Coast.

I doubt the judges sus­pend­ed are going to be ded­i­cat­ing their free time to this game after this (I wouldn’t) and the bad taste this leaves may put oth­ers off from doing the same. Competitive Magic just got that much less friend­ly and hard­er to orga­nize, and almost impos­si­ble in the case of the Southwest US for the next three months.

Leaks hurt, but they don’t hurt half as much as hav­ing no one to run your com­pet­i­tive events.

https://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Disproportionate-header.jpghttps://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Disproportionate-header-150x150.jpgJohn SweeneyTrading Card GamesTraditional GamesMagic The Gathering,Oath of the GatewatchRead the news about this here. I’ve large­ly been steer­ing clear of the recent (Spoiler Warning for link) high-profile leaks that occurred with Magic: The Gathering Oath of the Gatewatch most­ly because the Mythics and the new super-double-dog-ultra-Mythics we are see­ing in the form of the Expeditions don’t real­ly tell us much about…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.