Serious violations at prerelease!

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Hello, all. I have had several players come to me and tell me about a prerelease they attended in which the store owner/T.O. made some critical errors which include (but may not be limited to):
1. Allowing some players to open their packs and trade cards three hours before the start of the event;
2. Granting byes to at least three players in round one;
3. Ran the event as single elimination and then allowed two persons to join in round two (not sure if this is a violation, but seems unfair since the people joining in round two avoided getting eliminated in round one, giving them greater chance of making top cut);
4. Allowed at least one player to go out to his car and build a 60- card constructed deck containing a play set of Goldnight Commander and multiple copies of Temporal Mastery;
5. He allowed players to triple Soulbond creatures (three creatures bonded together).

I am still gathering information independently from the players as to what exactly went on. They want to make a formal complaint to Wizards about this. This is apparently the owner/T.O.'s first prerelease event, but these experienced players are telling me that they tried to warn him that these things are not allowed and he wouldn't listen to them, so they left, dejected and frustrated.

I have been a T.O. for about four years now and I have never had to deal with this sort of thing. I have searched for a way to make a formal complaint, but all I have found is the online appeal form and Wizards Customer Service email. Are either of those the proper channel, or is there another?

Thanks.
Those things are all pretty bad, but I wouldn't go so far as to report it to Wizards. This might just be from the rumor mill, but I hear that WotC can be pretty anal about that kind of thing, and they might revoke their sanction or even stop selling cards to the store.

If it was their first prerelease, it's pretty likely that they were just trying to be accomodating to casual players and "laid back," without realizing the effect it had on experienced and more serious players.

I would talk to the TO and try to find out why he was allowing those sorts of rules violations, and explain to him the negative impact they had. If the store still refuses to listen at that point, let them know that Wizards is serious about the tournament rules and that you will have to make a formal complaint if they will not play by the real rules.

Failing that, just take your business elsewhere and let these guys run their store the way they want to run it.
I have discussed those things with the players who want to file the complaint, but they are adamant about it. I have also learned since starting this thread that one of the guys who was allowed to construct his deck outside before the event (with cards from an earlier prerelease) has been caught doing this at prior sealed events, so he appears to be a habitual cheater.
I plan to talk to the T.O. myself and see what he has to say about it and get his side, and I'll probably take your advice on warning him how serious sanctioned events are and how they should be handled properly instead of "willy- nilly".
These players, however, are pretty upset that they spent their hard- earned money on a prerelease that was a sham. I don't think they're going to reconsider filing a complaint. =/ Thanks for the advice.
Those things are all pretty bad, but I wouldn't go so far as to report it to Wizards. This might just be from the rumor mill, but I hear that WotC can be pretty anal about that kind of thing, and they might revoke their sanction or even stop selling cards to the store.

Boo hoo. This is blatant lack of professionalism and at least borders on fraud. I doubt WotC would go as far as not selling cards to him for a first offense (I'd expect them to give him at least one chance to clean up his act, especially since they've got a financial interest in his continued business), but what if they did? He gets forced out of a line of work it sounds like he has no business being in in the first place.

If anything, I'm pleasantly surprised to hear WotC takes such things this seriously.

Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
An accidental violation here or there for a first time TO would be one thing. However, as Jeff pointed out, this looks like fraud.

I'm also a bit curious as to why Bowshewicz thinks WotC would go so far as to revoe their status to run tourneis or worse. Last I knew (and this was a decade or so ago, so times might have changed), WotC would investigate to some degree and then take action. But the actio would usually consist of a phone call that says, "Hey, we'd like you to please abide by the rules. We've gotten complaints you haven't. if this is true, and it continues, we might take some sort of action against you." Again, maybe times have changed, but it used to be a slap on the wrist.
This is not my sig.
Also just learned that the T.O. in question here claims that he is justified in giving out packs to a couple of players three hours prior to the start of the event because "there is no rule that says players must open packs at the same time". Oddly enough, I can't find anything specific on this in the Tournament Rules PDF, but it is implied by rule 7.3 ("Cards must be received directly from tournament officials. This product must be new and previously unopened.") and the statement on deck contruction time limits on page 38 ("...30 minutes for deck construction"). Also, I think it's pretty obvious why it is called a "Sealed Deck" tournament. It's not very "sealed" if a few players get to open their packs three hours in advance.
Also just learned that the T.O. in question here claims that he is justified in giving out packs to a couple of players three hours prior to the start of the event because "there is no rule that says players must open packs at the same time". Oddly enough, I can't find anything specific on this in the Tournament Rules PDF, but it is implied by rule 7.3 ("Cards must be received directly from tournament officials. This product must be new and previously unopened.") and the statement on deck contruction time limits on page 38 ("...30 minutes for deck construction"). Also, I think it's pretty obvious why it is called a "Sealed Deck" tournament. It's not very "sealed" if a few players get to open their packs three hours in advance.


If that's his entire justification, then he basically doesn't have one. The mere lack of an explicit rule against doing something is necessary for it to be okay, but by no means sufficient.

Even if they somehow only got the same 30 minutes to build their decks as everyone else, which I strongly doubt (i.e. they were timed when the cards were given to them, and not allowed to make changes at any later point prior to the first round, particularly the deck construction period everyone else got), how are other players supposed to know that and trust that the tournament is being run fairly? I can imagine circumstances under which I'd consider making an accomodation along those lines, if I were in this TO's shoes, but there'd have to be a very good reason for it. "Because they're my buddies" or "because they're good customers" aren't even close to good enough. Compromising the appearance of trustworthiness, even if that's all that happened (which, I reiterate, I doubt) is a pretty serious matter in itself.
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
Agreed, Jeff. I'm not sure what the motivations were for all of the infractions, but the disgruntled players obviously think it was that the T.O. was catering to certain players, especially the ones he gave round one byes to in a single- elimination tournament and the one he allowed to enter the event in the second round after half of the field was eliminated. I also don't understand why he was ruling that players could Soulbond three creatures together when the rules text on the cards clearly reads, "...with another unpaired creature...". This type of T.O. shouldn't have Core status yet, imo. He apparently got it by having his teenage son sign a bunch of high school kids up for DCI cards in a single- elim tournament and then having some kind of raffle at a school function. Also, from what I understand, he only has one six- foot table in his 11 x 11 building. I am going to confirm this when I go over and talk to this guy. I just wonder how a store that small can host premium events like a prerelease. More specifically, I wonder how he photographed this small building when he applied to be a WotC dealer, particularly the inside! It all seems sketchy if true...
Some store owners are so oblivious to MTG rules that they kind of rely on the players to "judge themselves" if you will. This isn't good. Some shop owners have regulars they don't want to upset in fear of losing their business. This is not good. And some just give prefer treatment to the regulars and "shaft" people they don't really recognize because the regulars give them business and the others do their business elsewhere (likely case in my 1st tourney). This is not good.

I would approach the store owner at a time when there's not many customers (perhaps if you could be there right at opening or something). Address this list of violations with him. I would address in a manner of (for example) "giving certain players extra time to build their decks creates an unfair advantage to others because they have more time to think and playtest. Letting a guy who is known throughout the community to be a cheater open packs and deckbuild in his car creates uncertainty for other players on the validity of his deck". etc etc. From there, I would follow it up with something like "if you are unsure of how the tourney is supposed to be ran, you should bring someone in or even ask for help to help you learn. You can make a lot of money between the tournaments and the return customers if things are done right and fair". 

I would put it like that because as much as you want to attack him, you shouldn't...yet. If he is new to running tourneys, being attacked may make him feel like the hassle just isnt worth it and not run anymore, when the problem could be as simple as "he just didnt know" or think there was a way to cheat or that the little things he did could make such a big impact. As players, I feel we are the #1 method of advertising for MTG. I guarentee more people got into playing Magic because of a friend who played, or seeing others play, than there are those who got in just cuz a FNM poster looked cool. So if there's a guy, while "new" to how things work, who's willing and has the resources to promote the game and give players a place to play, see if you can help him in a positive manner first.

For anyone who cares
My 1st tourney was Coldsnap. A guy drafted heavy Ripple like Surging Flame, then after picking, had the TO announce that for Ripple cards you didnt have to pick Targets until after you did the Ripple effect (revealing the 4 cards). A few of us went to the judges and pleaded the case that Ripple clearly states "When you cast this spell" and if targets are required, choosing targets is a requirement before you casta spell. They blew me off, I later realized the guy is a shop regular, and since then I personally spent A LOT of money at a different shop I have to drive an extra 15 mins to get to.


My 1st tourney was Coldsnap. A guy drafted heavy Ripple like Surging Flame, then after picking, had the TO announce that for Ripple cards you didnt have to pick Targets until after you did the Ripple effect (revealing the 4 cards). A few of us went to the judges and pleaded the case that Ripple clearly states "When you cast this spell" and if targets are required, choosing targets is a requirement before you casta spell. They blew me off, I later realized the guy is a shop regular, and since then I personally spent A LOT of money at a different shop I have to drive an extra 15 mins to get to.


Don't forget to TELL the store owner that you're spending good money ELSEWHERE because of his fraudulent behavior.

If I steal a hundred dollar from a loot of one thousand, people might notice;

If I steal a hundred dollar from a loot of one million, I might get away with it;

If I wish to steal even more and still go unnoticed, I need to make the loot bigger.

 

Now you know why taxes always go up.

 

Looting: ''the plundering of public assets by corrupt or greedy authorities'' (Wikipedia)



I would put it like that because as much as you want to attack him, you shouldn't...yet. If he is new to running tourneys, being attacked may make him feel like the hassle just isnt worth it and not run anymore, when the problem could be as simple as "he just didnt know" or think there was a way to cheat or that the little things he did could make such a big impact.




I have no intention of "attacking" him. I am trying to mediate between him and the upset players. I do feel it may be necessary to caution him about allowing some players unfair advantages, and I definitely feel it necessary to explain to him what "Sealed Deck" means! lol If the upset players want to file a formal complaint, I don't see how that is an "attack" unless it is very poorly worded.
If the upset players want to file a formal complaint, I don't see how that is an "attack" unless it is very poorly worded.

Any «attack» you may seem to perform is actually an act of self-defense.

Alas! So many people have the nasty habit of confounding the attacker with the attackee!
Attackers oftentimes do their deeds under the cover of darkness: they pass by unnoticed. Smiling even.
The attackee is «crying wolf», trying to expose the unacceptable behavior of the attacker. Not smilng at all.

(Dumb) people shoot at the noisiest target. ( «because they are making trouble; because they are making a fuss» )

That explains why so many crimes go unpunished: victims are incited, by peer pressure, to shut their mouths.

 

If I steal a hundred dollar from a loot of one thousand, people might notice;

If I steal a hundred dollar from a loot of one million, I might get away with it;

If I wish to steal even more and still go unnoticed, I need to make the loot bigger.

 

Now you know why taxes always go up.

 

Looting: ''the plundering of public assets by corrupt or greedy authorities'' (Wikipedia)