3 Foolproof Ways to Cheat at Magic: The Gathering

Someday, someone will best me. But it won't be today, and it won't be you.

The world of professional Magic: The Gathering was turned on its ear recently, when legendary Pro Tour hall of famer Yuuya Watanabe was disqualified from Mythic Championship II, after Watanabe had already won several games. Judges at the global tournament, which took place in London at the end of April, alleged that Watanabe marked important cards in his deck by slightly creasing the corners on some of his card sleeves.

This is basically the Magic equivalent of saying that Shaq was actually wearing stilts the whole time, in terms of both ridiculousness and likelihood.

“It doesn’t make any sense for me to throw it all away at this point in my career. There is too much at stake for me to be thinking about cheating,” Watanabe said in a statement this week (via Kotaku). “The judge checked my deck a few times throughout the tournament, and I was told that there was no issue with my deck. I would’ve changed the sleeves right away if there were any marks on my sleeves. I trusted the judges when they told me there was no issue.

“I would like to reinforce that while I don’t have any explanations as to what happened to my sleeves, I can honestly say that I never made those marks on my sleeves,” the statement continues. “I did not see the marks until I was informed by the judge after the game.”

These same judges botched a rules call on another one of Watanabe’s games at this tournament, forcing the game into overtime, so I don’t have complete confidence in their ruling that Watanabe’s card sleeves had been intentionally marked. Watanabe himself released pictures of the cards in question, and while the bends shown are definitely there, anyone who’s used card sleeves before knows just how easy it is for this exact thing to happen on its own.

But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Watanabe (or you at home, perhaps) did want to cheat at the tabletop version of Magic: The Gathering. What are the best ways to do it? How can you avoid getting caught?

Flavored Cards

After putting your deck into sleeves, head to a secluded corner or bathroom where you can work in secret. Separate the most important cards from the rest of the deck into their own pile, and then pull out the bottle of vanilla extract that you’ve smuggled into the tournament grounds. Smear a drop of vanilla onto the back of each card in the “important” pile, and allow them to air dry. This step is crucial! If you shuffle your deck back together while the vanilla extract is still wet, it will rub off on non-vital cards and ruin the system.

Once the cards are dry to the touch, shuffle everything together and go about your business. Once the game begins, you’ll be able to lean down and lick the top card of your deck before you draw it — if you taste the potent burn of pure vanilla extract, you know you’re about to draw an important card! Ain’t nothin’ in the rules that says you can’t lick a card before you draw it!

Secret Friend

This method is more expensive than Flavored Cards and requires more personnel, but many would argue that it’s a far more effective system for gaining an advantage over an opponent. First, outfit yourself and a friend with a pair of two-way radios, as well as the smallest compatible two-way wireless ear-pieces you can afford. You’ll also need to purchase whatever high-powered telescope has the best ratings on Amazon, just make sure to use a site like Fakespot to avoid listings with bogus reviews.

Leave the actual radio in a purse or messenger bag that you keep on your person, and conceal the ear-piece by having extremely long, beautiful hair, or by wearing a knit cap like Spock does in the classic Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” or by wearing a sweatband like Spock does in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Once you’ve got that done, head into the tournament like everything is normal while your friend sets up the telescope on the hill one mile away. It is vital that this hill be within line of sight of a window from which your opponent’s side of the table (and therefore, the cards in his hand) can be seen with the telescope.

Getting the placement of the telescope right is the trickiest part of this system, and may require recon in advance of the tournament. Assuming you can get everything set up, your pal will be able to give you detailed information about your opponent’s hand through the concealed two-way ear-piece. Next stop: the finals!

If anyone asks your friend what they’re doing, they can just say that they’re completing a geological survey. Tie an orange ribbon around the telescope to make this excuse even more believable. And if your ear-piece is discovered by tournament officials, just say that you couldn’t wait to listen to the latest Cardi B. No further questions will be asked!

Brain Cheating

This is the most difficult and time-consuming method for cheating at Magic: The Gathering, but it is also completely undetectable. No judge, opponent, or Wizards of the Coast official will ever be able to tell that you’ve mastered Brain Cheating, let alone be able to prevent you from using it. It’s a complicated system, but stick with me here while we run through the basics:

First, become intimately familiar with the cards that you are likely to encounter in whatever your chosen format is. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Commander, Modern, or Standard, this step is always the same. Check the results from other recent tournaments online to see what decks performed well in your format, and then thoroughly investigate what cards were used in those decks. Make special note of any cards that appear often across multiple decks with different win conditions, and of the cards that show up most often overall.

Once you’ve gained access to this data, you can then begin the work of constructing a deck that is able to effectively counter the cards you will be most likely to confront during your tournament. This step involves an extended period of trial and error, as you play-test to see what cards actually work well, and what cards only work in theory. Devote as much time to this step as you did to sourcing the information obtained in step one.

Provided that you were successful in your attempts at completing steps one and two, you should now be in possession of a deck that will give you a strong advantage over your opponents, thanks to the extensive amount of pre-cheating that you’ve conducted over the last several weeks.

Once you’ve arrived at the tournament, judges and other officials will clear your deck as legitimate — thanks to the undetectable methods used above — and you’ll be able to participate in matches. This is where the real beauty of Brain Cheating comes into play. Not only are you in possession of a deck stacked tremendously in your favor, but you’ve also smuggled in an extensive list of cards inside your brain. With every card your opponent plays, you’ll have more and more data to cross-reference against the brain-list that you’ve sneaked past the tournament officials. This will allow you to Brain Cheat with a high degree of accuracy, since you’ll have a solid idea of what cards to expect and in what quantities, after just the first few turns. This difficult technique, when mastered, will give you a tremendous advantage over your opponent and pave the way to victory.

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Jordan Mallory

Jordan Mallory is a 10-year games industry veteran with more heart than sense. Lover of frogs and dedicated Girls' Generation S♥NE. Mr. August, Men of Game Development 2015.

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