Over the past few years, the prevalence of cheating within Magic: the Gathering has grown considerably. The public opinion on that type of gameplay is so negative that people are ostracized even before a fair hearing can be held. Due to cheating becoming such a hot button issue, the concept of being a victim to it lingers in the back of every player’s mind. This hyper awareness instilled in players causes regular players to become much more vigilant, or risk being swindled. Rather than viewing that as a negative, however, I see that environment as one which builds character, as players learn to properly identify different types of people. There’s a vast distinction between a person who intentionally cheats, and a person who’s unaware that what they’re violates the rules.
Dishonesty between players adds another dimension to the game itself. While attention is necessary to be fully aware of the game state, another portion of the mind needs to be paying attention to the legality of what is occurring. This forces players to properly memorize the rules and become capable of scouting out foul play.
As an alternative to memorizing to heart every inch of the MTG rule book, one may hire a judge to oversee a match. These judges are terrific because, by learning all of the minutia in the stead of the players, players can just focus on playing the game. Not only do they rectify dishonest players moves, but the sloppy or new ones as well (even when the line is blurred between them). Again, this enhances everyone, both as players and as competitors.
However, the amount of discretion that a judge can reasonably use is more than one might think. Judges tend to tread lightly when it comes to ruling on skilled and well-known players. To be incorrect on a judge call would the realization of the largest fear for the judge, as not only would there be some type of backlash on social media, but their credibility as reliable third-party intermediaries would be called into question. It’s happened in the past, and it could happen again. What’s more, the process of reporting offenses within a game is often difficult, tedious, and time consuming. Therefore, judges may use their powers to demote an infraction to a warning, such that it better fits their own needs. The most important downside to that kind of laziness is that players are left without the full list of infractions tied to them. Indeed, judges are just as easily influenced as the players, which creates a chaotic vortex of confusion.
Whenever a player IS banned there’s an announcement by Wizards of the Coast to the community detailing the technique and advantage that the player was caught abusing. With this, not only are sly players who are looking for an edge are given the keys to the house of cheating, but others are made aware of their tactics and can better identify them. Because of that, innovation is necessary within the realm of cheaters, and new tactics must be created. This breeds another generation of even better cheaters. The ease of access to strategies of cheating seems to be a detrimental source of information to uphold the integrity of the game.
Players need to be well skilled in both playing the game and detecting another player's dishonesty simultaneously. While there is a strong negative stigma on the idea of cheating, it can breed a stronger community. However, if left unchecked, it can fester and breed more and more cheaters who are better and better at what they do. It is a paradox, to say the least.