Magic the Gathering: Zachary Jesse Receives Ban From Organized and Online Play

Pory is with us today to discuss the life time ban Wizards of the Coast gave Zach Jesse, and the dangerous precedent set that some players are criticizing.

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(Author’s note: The con­tent of this ar­ti­cle con­cerns it­self with the ac­tions of Wizards of the Coast and pro play­ers, not with the le­gal rul­ings of Jesse’s case, and does not take a stance on his ver­dict.)

On May 10, oth­er­wise nor­mal cov­er­age of Grand Prix Atlantic City – one of Magic: The Gathering‘s (or Magic, as its also called) pop­u­lar open events – was in­ter­rupt­ed with a sin­gle tweet by Drew Levin, writer for StarCityGames.com, con­cern­ing one of the play­ers in the event’s Top 8.

The tweet’s — pic­tured above — sub­ject is Zachary Jesse, who in 2004, plead guilty to ag­gra­vat­ed sex­u­al bat­tery.  He was sen­tenced to 3 months of an 8 year prison sen­tence, and was re­quired to have no con­tact with the vic­tim and to with­draw from their mu­tu­al uni­ver­si­ty un­til she grad­u­at­ed.

Aside from heat­ed de­bate and crit­i­cisms lev­eled at sup­port­ers and de­trac­tors, fur­ther in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing Jesse did not sur­face un­til last week.

Pory magic side 1On July 2, a post on /r/magicTCG – reddit.com’s sub‐forum for Magic – no­ti­fied the com­mu­ni­ty that Jesse had re­ceived a ban from or­ga­nized play.  Any tour­na­ments, Grand Prix, Pro Tours – any­thing that re­quired Jesse’s of­fi­cial reg­is­tra­tion num­ber, he could no longer play in.  In ad­di­tion, Jesse’s ac­count on Magic: The Gathering Online – the of­fi­cial on­line client for game­play – was ter­mi­nat­ed and his vir­tu­al col­lec­tion seized, al­though Wizards of the Coast (WotC) agreed that they would liq­ui­date his ac­count and re­im­burse him for it (not with­out stress­ing that this wasn’t some­thing they had to do).  Both bans will ex­pire in 2049 which is, as the com­mu­ni­ty has not­ed, es­sen­tial­ly a life­time ban for Jesse.

WotC has not is­sued an of­fi­cial state­ment from any of their so­cial me­dia ac­counts, but a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the com­mu­ni­ty was au­tho­rized to post the fol­low­ing mes­sage to a thread in /r/magicTCG:

We work hard to make sure all play­ers feel wel­comed, in­clud­ed and safe at our events so that they can have fun play­ing Magic. We don’t gen­er­al­ly com­ment on in­di­vid­u­als or pro­vide po­si­tion state­ments in the ab­stract, but we take ac­tion to ad­dress play­er is­sues and com­mu­ni­ty con­cerns when we feel it is nec­es­sary.” – https://archive.is/IGBje

Community opin­ion of the ban­ning and the sit­u­a­tion lead­ing up to it has been di­vid­ed, but the gen­er­al con­sen­sus has been that Jesse’s ban sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for or­ga­nized play.  Some users have ex­pressed con­cern that they will also be banned for hav­ing a crim­i­nal record, even if it was for some­thing that hap­pened years ago.  Others have ar­gued that Jesse’s ban has noth­ing to do with his crim­i­nal record, in­stead hap­pen­ing as a re­sult of the out­cry on so­cial me­dia dur­ing GP Atlantic City; they note that Hall of Famer and pro­lif­ic Magic writer, Patrick Chapin, also has a crim­i­nal record for the sale and pos­ses­sion of ec­sta­sy, yet not only is al­lowed to play but serves in many ways as a pub­lic face for Magic’s com­pet­i­tive scene.

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A few have made the sug­ges­tion that Jesse’s ban is due to WotC try­ing to clean up their pub­lic im­age and make Magic a safe space, some­thing that seems to be sup­port­ed by WotC’s only pub­lic re­sponse to the Jesse ban, and ar­ti­cles on in­clu­sion re­leased by high­er ups with­in the com­pa­ny.

This isn’t the first time an up‐and‐coming pro play­er has re­ceived neg­a­tive pub­lic feed­back from oth­er pro play­ers.  A sim­i­lar in­ci­dent oc­curred in May at Grand Prix Las Vegas Modern Masters 2015 Draft, where Pascal Maynard was pub­licly crit­i­cized on Twitter by pro play­ers and ChannelFireball.com co‐writers William Jensen and Owen Turtenwald for pick­ing a foil Tarmogoyf in his sec­ond pack first pick.  Picking the card, worth about three hun­dred dol­lars in near‐mint con­di­tion, led to Jensen and Turtenwald dis­miss­ing Maynard for “dis­grac­ing com­pet­i­tive Magic” by not tak­ing an­oth­er card that worked bet­ter with the cards he had al­ready picked.  Maynard went on to place fifth over­all in the event and auc­tioned off the card on eBay with the in­tent to keep part of the mon­ey and do­nate the rest to the char­i­ty Gamers Helping Gamers (the card sold for $2007).  Jensen and Turtenwald both is­sued pub­lic apolo­gies and con­tin­ue to write ar­ti­cles for ChannelFireball.

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The sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween what was termed on so­cial me­dia as “GoyfGate” and the ban­ning of Jesse are eas­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able.  In both sit­u­a­tions, up‐and‐coming play­ers were pub­licly crit­i­cized by writ­ers for pop­u­lar Magic web­sites who seemed to have suf­fered no penal­ties for do­ing so; in both cas­es the crit­i­ciz­ers were even ap­plaud­ed by some with­in the com­mu­ni­ty for their ac­tions.  Professional lev­els at any sport are very much clique‐ish, and Magic is no dif­fer­ent.  Some vet­er­an pro­fes­sion­al play­ers do not like to see “fresh blood” come in and usurp po­si­tions that they’ve held for years.  It’s pos­si­ble that some of these play­ers who shamed Maynard and Jesse did so to dis­cred­it or down­play the achieve­ments they’ve made in the com­pet­i­tive Magic set­ting.

Time will tell if WotC will re­verse its de­ci­sion in the face of calls to boy­cott the com­pa­ny, but as some peo­ple have said: if this ban was an at­tempt to make us feel safe to play Magic, it just isn’t ac­com­plish­ing that.

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