To Kill a Magic Player – Avoiding Thievery

Most everyone that you’ll meet in this world has had something stolen from them at one point or another. It’s sad and unfortunate that it’s a common occurrence in daily life, but some people can’t help the personal gains presented to them. I’m not talking about just regular thievery however, people can get robbed in any regular game of Magic through cheating. Cheating and thieving are the two largest problems that plague the Magic community, and by taking proper steps of avoidance as well as educating yourself on how to spot when such things are happening, you can go about your daily M:tG life without having to experience what this is like.

The first of the two issues that I would like to go in depth on is thievery. This can happen to anyone at any time, and you should be wary of it. That’s not to say you should be living in fear of it, as diligence and perception are sufficient enough skills to keep you safe. The most common way how thievery occurs in the Magic community is from unattended items. This could be backpacks, deck boxes, binders, single cards residing on a table, anything that is not being watched and is not strapped down can be taken. This is a huge problem at large events such as Magic Fests, but can still occur inside your LGS.

To avoid this, constantly keep an eye on your belongings. Keep all of your possessions in a small and condensed area (such as a backpack) and keep it in a location that would be difficult for others to access without you noticing. Not only is this great for ensuring you can’t be stolen from, but it is also just common courtesy to take up as little table space as you need, leaving room for anyone who might need the table space. When trading with other players, only ever have one binder out at a time. This ensures you can keep proper attention on the binder as well as the player.

And when trading, always remember to double check the numbers to ensure its a fair trade! Back when Born of the Gods was around, Sorin Markov was around the $10.00 price tag, but a player at my LGS had me convinced it was a $40.00 card, which I then traded away $40.00 worth of cards for. Luckily, the following week I saw the player again, who I confronted about the bad trade. He claimed he had no idea and we were able to undo the trade, but not everyone gets this lucky. Always run over the numbers with the other player, and if you see a new player on the wrong end of a bad trade deal, always make sure they understand the value that they are losing. Looking out for each other is one of the big strengths of this community, and it is important to make sure that our strengths are greater than our weaknesses.

At any event where you carry around a backpack with you, take your deck box out for the match, and keep your backpack zipped up on the ground underneath the table with one of the shoulder straps around one of your legs. This is by and large the safest place for your backpack during an event. Nobody can move the backpack without disturbing you.

I would now like to reiterate the major points on avoiding thievery. Keep your possessions in an enclosed area.

  • Never leave your possessions unsupervised.
  • Make sure both players understand the value of trades.
  • Keep your possessions as physically close to you as you can at all times.

By staying mindful of your possessions and of the situation, you can avoid ever being stolen from.

Now I want to transition to the other side of the spectrum of thievery; cheating.

Why players cheat has always boggled me, personally. How could you ever feel good about winning a game if you had to cheat to do it? You didn’t earn anything. You didn’t play better than your opponent. You didn’t even get lucky and pull the win out of nowhere. You cheated by breaking the rules to gain an unfair advantage. When you cheat, you don’t actually play Magic, you just force somebody else to not play.

One of the more infamous cheaters in the game is Alex Bertoncini, who has been a known cheater in the game since 2012, only receiving a lifetime suspension from the DCI seven months ago, after previously being temporarily suspended twice. He’s most known for playing an extra land in an SCG event, with his famous “Two Explores” video. Twelve months ago Alex wrote an article attempting to explain and justify his actions, which has since been deleted unfortunately, but the main talking point for him was that he was addicted to winning and the gratification he felt by the support of his peers when he won.

I still can not understand how anyone can think that they won when they cheat, when they didn’t even really play a game of Magic.

So, what can we do against these cheaters? Watch very carefully, and pay close attention to what they are doing. It is much easier for a judge to resolve issues with cheating or miscommunication if a judge is called immediately, rather than two turns later when the issue is finally noticed. The most common place cheating I feel is marked cards. This can happen in many different ways:

  • Some cards in a deck are in perfect fit sleeves while others are not.
  • Some cards in a deck are warped while others are not.
  • Some sleeves have corners creased or damaged in a specific way.

You can inspect your opponents sleeves while you shuffle their deck for the cut to try and spot any obvious markings. You can also look at the deck once it is on the table, checking to see if any specific sleeves stand out more than the others.

I want to be very clear for a moment however, damaged sleeves do not always equate to marked cards. Sometimes it is a hard decision as whether damage on a sleeve is intentional, but there are red flags to look for when inspecting further.

  • Are the damaged sleeves all on a specific card/ set of cards?
  • Does the damage look like genuine sleeve wear, or intentionally placed?
  • Are the only foils in the deck lands/ non lands/ specific cards?

Past marked cards, your opponent stacking your deck is another method of cheating that can get less aware players. This is rather easy to avoid, make sure that you hold eye contact with your opponent any time that they cut or shuffle your deck. In order to stack a deck, you have to be able to watch what you are doing. If your opponent is looking anywhere but your deck while they shuffle, they’re good and you can safely assume they are not stacking your deck. When a player watches the deck they are shuffling, and do so in a way that lets them see what cards are in the deck, call a judge. By paying close attention, you can keep your odds of someone successfully cheating against you as low as possible.


It’s extremely unfortunate that there are precautions we have to take in order to avoid being stolen from, but we’re lucky that cheaters are few and far between. But let’s put ourselves in that situation, what if you suspect your opponent of cheating? Call a judge. If you don’t feel comfortable directly addressing the issue to your opponent, step away from the table and inform the judge of your suspicions, and they will watch the match when they can to help deter a cheater.

If you get stolen from, immediately contact every LGS in the area to inform them of what’s been stolen, giving a full description of the sleeves and deck box that they are in, as well as any cards that would stand out (specific high end cards, premium foils like Expeditions or Inventions, Judge Promos, etc.). Unfortunately, due to the nature of Magic: the Gathering, law enforcement can’t do anything when a player is suspected of stealing cards. There are too many duplicates of the same cards for there to be a way to trace them back to their original owner from their perspective. Luckily, LGS employees tend to keep a sharp eye out for these kind of things.

For further security, Game Grid requires a full name, email address, and a phone number in order to have an account to trade cards with us, making the tracking of where specific cards come from extremely easy. We were able to return a card that was stolen from its original owner three weeks after it was traded in when the owner noticed it was missing and that we also had the same card in stock.

Keeping a sharp eye on your things and the people around you will save you a lot of headache and money in the long run, so long as you take the proper precautionary steps to keep yourself safe from thievery in any way. If you ever have any suspicions, call a judge or contact your LGS. We are always trying to help in whatever way we can, as it is literally our job to nurture the community in a healthy and progressive manner.