The Justice League - The 51% Rule and the Tale of Two Cities
In our society you are innocent until proven guilty. But just how much proof do you need? I've never watched a trial (I slept through that field trip... And most of my law classes) so I don't have an in-depth understanding of the court systems. I do know that to be found guilty there needs to be some very solid concrete evidence that can prove for sure that the accused did it. A judge or jury can't punish you without being sure you deserve the punishment.
That’s not the way it works in the world of Magic. Some may find that odd.
Granted comparing the two is just a little absurd. You get unjustly punished in the judicial system and you wind up in jail. Getting disqualified at a PTQ when you've done nothing wrong really can't compare. This is part of the reason why we haven't resorted to polygraph testing and fingerprinting in DCI investigations... Yet.
Before I go on I just want to clear the air. If you think I'm talking crazy talk here or have been confused when hearing of disqualification stories when the judge had no physical proof here is the relevant text from the IPG.
“Disqualification can occur without proof of action so long as the Head Judge determines sufficient information exists to believe the tournament’s integrity may have been compromised.”
So there you have it. The green light given to us by the higher powers.
The classic way of describing when a judge should disqualify somebody is when he or she is more than 50% sure that the player is guilty of the offense. I call it the 51% rule.
So why does the DCI find it acceptable to remove players without concrete evidence?
The most severe thing that being disqualified can cost you is a relatively large sum of money and that’s the very worst. People on the Pro Tour generally seem to get disqualified for blatant cheating anyway. This doesn't mean that we feel disqualifications aren't a serious thing for the receiving player. Judges recognize the severity of a disqualification even from an FNM.
The main reason our disqualification process works the way it does is over the years we've found it is the best way to keep tournaments fun fair and safe. I'll admit that a few people will get handled in an unfitting fashion but the number of dirty players we are able to remove with the 51% rule greatly outweighs the cons that come with the philosophy.
I don't want you to think we're kicking people out of tournaments with nothing but a strange feeling in our stomachs. This is generally how the investigation gets started though. A situation is brought to our attention that appears at first glance to be normal. Something said or done by the players - or something that has happened in the game - will jump out at us and start the warning siren in our head. From there we'll dive further into the investigation and try and figure out if it was just a normal mistake or if something very bad was done very intentionally.
Just because we don't have video footage of the infraction doesn't mean there aren't other techniques and strategies we can use to get to the bottom of something.
What are these methods? You would think revealing them would be a bad idea but I could tell you all about it and it would make no difference if you are guilty. The main way catch someone cheating without proof is determining whether or not they are lying to us. You may think that you're a great liar and can fib your way out of danger but the body is doing so many things when you lie that if you really can do it with absolutely no tells then you should stop cheating at Magic and just go play poker. On a related note if you sincerely think you're innocent and a judge is investigating you just tell the straight up truth. Don't leave a thing out or sugar coat anything. We won't buy the “there is no way I stole that stuff in the corner. I was off in the other corner saving orphans from cancer.” If you do start lying during an investigation there's a good chance you will reveal you're lying but the judge will have no idea what you're lying about and will probably give you the boot. Just be straight with judges and if you're innocent you should be fine.
With this system in place there must be a few wrongfully placed DQ's every so often right? Unfortunately yes there are. I've heard a few judges say they've disqualified a few 51's that they later figured out shouldn't have been removed from the event and they do sincerely wish things had gone differently.
They also wouldn't change anything about the disqualification system.
The reason for this is again that it is the best way of keeping things fair.
Let’s say a player shows up to a prerelease that doesn't use decklists. His opponent tells you that he finds it suspicious that the player’s deck has 4 Lightning Bolts 2 Fireballs a Shivan Dragon Siege-Gang Commander Earthquake Chandra Nalaar and a Bogardan Hellkite. A perfectly legal and possible outcome from 6 packs of M10.
It’s possible that this individual is cheating and if he is it’s possible that he's been rigging prereleases since decklists went out of style. I can't help but feel that if there is a good reason to suspect him then disqualifying him would not only make that event better but it would make future events better by deterring him from further inappropriate actions and send a message to others.
It just seems like there is too much at stake to not have a system where there are rare instances of innocent people getting DQ's.
The times they are a-changing.
I was fortunate to be a part of two huge debuts in the last couple weeks. The first one was Canadian Nationals. This was the biggest debut of the new policy changes and also the second debut of the new mulligans a.k.a. the Montreal Mulligans.
(For those unaware of what I mean. Last year at Canadian Nationals the head judge was under the impression that the new mulligan rules were coming up much faster than they actually were so he decided to implement them. Turns out he was a little ahead of his time. This particular Nationals was held in Montreal. Hence the name Montreal Mulligan.)
I thought the new changes went over well. I saw a few players utilizing sideboard notes and saw no one getting in trouble for thinking that outside notes were allowed at any time.
Using the new mulligan rules a week early was a bit touchy for some players. A few complained that they thought it was unfair that we were implementing new rules before their proper debut date. This is certainly a just complaint and if anyone has an opinion on it I'd love to hear it. The reason why the head judge decided to use this new rule a week early was for two reasons
1. The new mulligan rule does feel like a new policy rule anyway and it seemed appropriate to bring it in with all the other new policy changes. It feels like the only reason it was clumped in with the new rules rather than the new policies is because all players use mulligans whereas only tournament players read the policy documents. Were it not for that fact I'm sure the entire world would have been on the new mulligan system on July 1.
2. The entire purpose of the new mulligan system is the speed up games and events. It seemed like making both the players’ and the judges’ days go faster was better for everyone.
We only had a few comments of any kind regarding this decision which makes me think it didn't affect how games played out very much. It’s also very possible that players would have been using this rule without us even asking them.
The other huge debut was one that a lot of us got to experience. Of course I'm talking about the M10 prerelease and the end of mana burn damage on the stack and all those other recently deceased rules.
The prerelease and its changes also went very well. There were lots of questions to keep the judging staff busy which was great for the new guys. I am happy to say that even amongst the confusion of new rules everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Any time a player that was unfamiliar with the changes came and talked to me asking me to explain things them they all left with a look on their face that said “that actually makes a lot of sense.”
I wasn't expecting riots or anything but I was anticipating a few rogues trying to play by the old rules or maybe some people asking for the Wizards of the Coast customer service phone number so they could phone and complain. None of that though. Just good old fashioned prerelease fun.
If anyone else had a very different prerelease experience please share them with us. There must have been one guy out there with a t-shirt reading “VI Edition rules!” If your prereleases story is painfully similar to mine then share it anyway. As someone who was apprehensive to the rules changes it’s interesting to hear about how it affected things on a larger scale.
Until next time stay out of the penalty box.