Jon Elden Deserves a Lifetime Ban From Magic

At Star City Games Detroit 2012, Jon Elden was playing in the sixth round of the Legacy Open when he was down 1-0 in a best of three match. His U/W Stoneforge Mystic deck served him well so far, but he was not in great shape. He had found a way back into the match with a Stoneforge Mystic getting a Batterskull. His opponent, Samuel Friedman, was playing “good stuff” BUG and was seemingly winning the matchup of two aggro-control decks.

Here is a video of the cheat. Lots happening in a short space of time, so I will break it down action by action. All of the timestamps below imply “08:” hours into the clip, the timestamps are mm:ss format…

10:50 Elden casts Stoneforge Mystic, fetching Batterskull. Passes.

11:00 Friedman Brainstorms, plays a land, passes with 3 mana open.

11:20 Elden untap, draw, passes with 5 mana open.

11:30 Friedman untap, draw, plays 5th land, passes. During Friedman’s end step, Elden activates Stoneforge Mystic, and in response Friedman casts Vendilion Clique. We see Jon Elden’s hand: Batterskull (which was tutored for a moment ago), Sword of Feast and Famine, another Stoneforge Mystic and a Vendilion Clique of his own.

Friedman chooses the Batterskull, which forces it to go to the bottom of the deck at 11:40. Elden draw a card as part of the Clique’s ability too (11:45), and now finally the Stoneforge Mystic ability resolves and Sword of Feast and Famine comes into play. (11:52)

11:57 Elden draws for his turn (forgetting to untap his Stoneforge Mystic, which Friedman does for him). Elden then taps two lands, plays a third one tapped, then plays his own Vendilion Clique (12:04). It is a legend, killing his opponent’s Clique and his own, but first Elden’s Clique’s ability goes off. Friedman’s cards are two Flusterstorms, and they don’t matter.

Here is the setup of the cheat: At 12:10 Elden places his hand of two cards down next to his deck and quickly adjusts his deck. He’s not drawing cards here, but he is sliding the deck towards his hand a bit, then sliding all but the bottom card of his deck slightly back where it was.

The important thing is that while Friedman is putting his hand back down on the table (because Elden was through with his Clique’s ability), it was at that moment (12:12) when Elden cracked his Polluted Delta to search his deck. And when he does, he picks up his entire deck except the bottom card. That bottom card is the Batterskull which was put on the bottom of his deck a moment ago. Notice that the Batterskull is sitting there on the table next to his hand of cards.

This is the moment before the cheat. The card above Elden’s left hand is the Batterskull which should be in his deck, which is being cut by Friedman. Below Elden’s left wrist is his two-card hand. The swipe happens right after this.

Here is the execution of the cheat: At 12:18 he gets the land from the Polluted Delta into play from his deck and he shuffles… at 12:22 he presents his deck to his opponent. Both of his hands are free as his hand of cards is on the table, next to the Batterskull (which by now surely Friedman just thinks is a card from Elden’s hand). In less than one second — while Friedman cuts the deck (at 12:24, to prevent cheating, you know), Elden uses both hands to quickly equip the Sword onto the Mystic and attack. He then uses his right hand to tap the two mana to actually have equipped the sword while using his left hand to touch or adjust his graveyard, which is sitting above where his deck will go.

At 12:25 Friedman has to discard a card (from the Sword’s ability) and while that happens Elden takes his deck back with his left hand, drops it back where it was, while scooping up his hand of cards and the Batterskull which should have been on the bottom of his deck before with his right hand at 12:26.

Elden now slows down his play, untapping all five of his lands (Sword), thinks about playing a card, shuffles his hand a bit, then plays… Batterskull. (12:40) “Wow,” says commentator Adrian Sullivan. “He actually drew the… yah, that’s it” as Friedman then drew a card for his turn, saw he was dead on the board, and conceded.

When I started writing this article, I was also wondering why his opponent didn’t see what happened. I mean, the cheat was not obvious — in the moments before the Batterskull cheat Elden did draw two cards (one for Vendilion Clique, one for the turn) which means it was possible he could have naturally drawn the Batterskull — maybe a second copy was in Elden’s deck or something? Seems plausible. Not likely but plausible.

When I started writing this article, I thought that Elden deserved a one-year ban. But after going through all of the details I have determined that Elden is a master cheat. I recorded the video of the twitch stream I linked above onto my ipad so I could easily rewind the section involved over and over. And only through looking at this 20 second slice of time for an hour can I see all of the little things he does to make this possible:

  • Elden was making little errors to force his opponent to worry about the board more than he should (order of tapping cards, forgetting to untap things)
  • Elden’s placement of his graveyard above his library allowed him to shield the final critical steps of the cheat.
  • Elden’s critical cheating steps all took place during split-seconds of time his opponent would need to be doing something that required any amount of attention. Like revealing his hand, discarding a card, shuffling a deck…
  • Elden’s frequent habit of touching seemingly random things at random times made doing things that would seem like cheating “normal” in the context of the match.
  • And to top it all off: All of this cheat happened in the span of six seconds. He does six things in six seconds with surgical precision — his skill is that of a professional who has spent thousands of hours perfecting his craft. Cheating.

Jon Elden deserves a lifetime ban from Magic. He is a blight on Magic the Gathering’s competitive game scene, and should be removed from it for good. This is clearly not the first time he has cheated — he is far too skilled to have done that only once. Ban him for good.

(This blog post was updated to correct a typo: “but he not in great shape” became “but he was not in great shape”. It was also updated to correct an error: “We see Friedman’s hand” has been corrected to “We see Jon Elden’s hand”.)

One more thing: I obviously cannot verify the accuracy of anyone’s feedback they leave below. I’m approving basically everything that is not a spam link, unless I have reason to suspect otherwise. Thanks.

After more than a week, this conversation continues… but the vast majority of new comments are spam. (Something like 25 to 1 at this point.) So this blog will timeout new comments after 7 days. Great feedback everyone.


74 comments on “Jon Elden Deserves a Lifetime Ban From Magic

  1. Not only that but Adrian seemingly disappears after saying “He actually drew the… yah, that’s it” leaving Patrick to commentate alone for at least a couple minutes. In this time frame, I assume Adrian is telling someone of the cheat he just witnessed.

  2. While I am inclined to agree with you, I feel we must stick to Innocent until proven Guilty. Clearly he was guilty in this instance, but to call it truant or habitual…
    This is folly
    Of course this is only if you hold the belief that it is better for a guilty person to go free than to have an innocent persecuted.

      • Pretty Obvs based on what Proof? I’m not saying I don’t think the guy is a huge cheat, but you have to have EVIDENCE to say he’s cheated in other situations.

        • That’s some very good sleight of hand. If he was a magician or some sort like that I could see it being the first time. BUT he has the marks of a card shark, the forethought to fuck up the other guys game (not untapping stoneforge), preplanning (placement of board elements) and foreaction (habit of touching the board).

          • Even if he looks like he cheats all the time, we can only charge him for this one we have in front of us.

    • Any cheat should have a VERY hefty punishment. Anything less than a three year ban would be terrible. Like Thomas said- the sleight of hand there is pretty great.

  3. Very good analysis. I watched it myself a couple of times before reading your blog and I couldn’t catch it. People like this practice this method of cheating for hours to perfect it and it’s very hard to catch.

  4. D. Mantel: Actually, we can legitimately ban him for life for savage cheating and not worry if it is habitual or not. For the record, I would suspect habitual for multiple reasons, some listed above, some due to personality types.

  5. Your argument that he is a professional cheater is all subjective . A life time ban should only occur after repeated and conclusive infractions. I think the dq was fair a life time ban is not.

  6. I’m think a lifetime ban is excessive, Bertochini(sp?) got 18 months and he was caught on camera multiple times, I am fairly certain they only issue lifetime bans when a player assaults a staff member or threatens to do so

  7. Glad it was caught and he was DQ’ed. I would like to see him suspended for 12-18 months, with the caveat that if he gets caught again it is a lifetime ban.

  8. One year ban seems fine, lifetime may be a little much, we’ll let the DCI work this out. Also, I like that you are bringing this to the attention of the public, but not trying to burn him at the stake. We as Magic players have a tendency to see a cheat and go on a witch hunt. Sometimes that is warranted, sometimes it isn’t, but you did an excellent job of presenting the information and letting us know that when we play against this guy to be extra vigilant. If this gets out like it think it will, any Open Series player will know what he is capable of and can call a judge to watch the match. Bravo Andrea!

  9. I think to call him a “master cheat” is pretty loose. I mean… A master wouldnt cheat on camera with thousands watching and video evidence.. or maybe hes just not very bright.

  10. not trying to defend a cheater but is there any chance that jon eldon just screwed up there? there seems to be no reason to cheat because the other guy has nothing and he can fetch up batterskull for the kill next turn.

    although what gives it away is that he casts the batterskull instead of calling a judge and he would have definitely noticed that the batter was not in his hand, he might have saw it and then panicked and try to play it off.

  11. I do not understand how people can possibly jump to the defence of a person who can pull off such a skilled cheat as this. This is the kind of cheat that is almost impossible to catch. The fact that he did it, in a feature match, on camera, does not show that he is stupid. It shows that he is incredibly skilled at this sort of thing and has gotten away with it many times before. The evidence against Bertoncini was much less concrete than this. This guy is a blight on the game and I am happy to see him gone.

    • Bertoncini also had several instances of cheating to which to reference. I must reiterate that I am in no way condoning this behavior. I am merely stating that we currently have/know of only ONE instance

  12. @Seth Burn: I said nothing impying he cannot be banned for life. I said that to do so would be to do so for this one infraction not for a habitual practice. The cheat is obvious in this one instance, but unless more evidence of past instances come up, it is JUST this one instance. The smoothness of this instance leans towards several things, but there is no evidence to support it. Of course, this is with the information that I have, there could be other instances on the record or he could’ve been DQed before, which would change things.
    I am saying that without further evidence then to claim habit is nothing but supposition.

  13. Andrea,

    I’m glad there are people like you in the Magic community. I am extremely proud of how what used to take 2 years now takes a few hours. Because of my place, I have to refrain from saying everything I’d like to about incidents such as this one, but fortunately, there are people like you to say it for me.

    As far as we can tell, the cheat wasn’t caught by anyone except several members of Twitter. The table judge and commentators really aren’t too blame, they have to look at a lot of things and quickly at all times. I saw the outcry on Twitter about the alleged cheat and assumed our coverage team at some juncture would see it. Unfortunately, the claims petered out very quickly and were replaced by “normal” more current event tweets before anyone in Detroit saw anything.

    I was on my way out of the house and assumed someone would catch it. Later, just to be sure, I called David McDarby to ask him if he could confirm that the guy was tossed. Unbeknownst to me, David was stepping in on camera to give Patrick Chapin a break and couldn’t answer his phone. I sort of letting sleeping dogs lie and moved on with my Sunday.

    A few hours later I got home and casually checked standings. I saw that you-know-who was in Top 8 contention still and thus had not been DQed. I quickly got in touch with Glenn Jones who was available to take a second to review the video and present it to the head judge. Fortunately, we were able to get him before Top 8 started. I’d love to hear from 7th/9th place Teresa Buss (I believe is her name?) to see her feelings on the matter. I hope she is able to attend an invitational and that she is grateful the cheater was caught and removed although I am terribly frustrated something wasn’t able to be done sooner.

    Infinite thanks to Twitter and the community. What happened yesterday was a big sign of where the anti-cheat/anti-theft movement in this game is.

  14. Pingback: Trash for Treasure: Trades 58 through 69 | Matt 'DC' Tedrow

  15. the only people have the moxey to cheat on camera are people who are well practiced at it and believe they are that good that they can fool the camera. drop the ban hammer on him for life.

  16. Some of the guys posting are ridiculous. I agree he deserves a lifetime ban. If he did this accidentally, he would have A. put it back into his deck or B. he would have told the judge he has an extra card in hand. He did not do either, but lets assume he slid it accidentally; he is still guilty of playing it, since he is fully aware of the contents of his deck. It is not his opponent’s responsibility to make sure he plays truthfully, only to call a judge if he is cheating or performing illegal actions. If you know cheaters, then you would know that they practice their craft to make it look perfect, just like this one. No one noticed this, until after the match making it a very good cheat. Try doing this cheat next time you play, and see how hard it is to perform it flawless.

    If Bertoncini got 18 months for a bunch of suspicious plays or illegal actions, then he deserves at least more than his. He did this cheat right in front of a table judge, so clearly the Elden could careless of the consequences if it means cashing.

  17. People are nitpicking the small things. There is an obvious tell he is a cheat.

    * There was an obvious discrepancy with his hand.
    * A judge was not called the moment the discrepancy was detected.

    It doesn’t matter if it was habitual, calculated, accidental, or opportunity. He is a cheat the moment the judge is not called.

    Personally, I think “lifetime” should be saved for only the most absurd infractions (ex. Assault). I’m fairly sure a 3-4 year suspension is more than sufficient to communicate to Jon that WotC doesn’t want him playing their games anymore.

    • I think that a precedent has already been set for these type of violations, more than doubling the previous ban seems a little much.

  18. I was spectating the match in person and standing behind Jon for all 3 games. Granted the control mirror is hard to watch, so there were several times I turned away to glance at another feature match or check how much time was left in the round. So I wasn’t completely focused in, especially after the Clique revealed Sam’s hand and it seemed obvious we were going to game 3.
    From what I could tell, I thought Jon had honestly forgotten to pick up the entire deck to search from the fetch land, then handed an incomplete library to Sam to cut after the search. Sam or the table judge didn’t say anything, so I thought I might have been wrong. Then when Jon brings the library back, it becomes clear that he noticed the “extra card” and slid it into his hand. I felt it was an honest mistake in that the guy did not appear to be bright enough to pull that off. However, instead of reporting to the judge that he accidentally drew an extra card, taking a game loss that costs the match, he hesitates (as seen on camera) and plays batterskull. Not playing it in that situation would be even more suspicious!
    From the time he picked up the card from library to Sam scooping could not have been more than 15 seconds and seemed even shorter in person. I had to do a double take, not believing what I had actually seen – why would you do that on camera?!? So I talked to the table judge (this is the part after the match where Sam looks to the side for a few seconds) and told him that it appeared as though Jon did not offer his entire library to Sam to cut and slid the bottom card into hand which was the batterskull he played. The judge nodded and did nothing else.
    Talking to Sam after the match, he did say it was expected for Jon to board in extra batterskull(s) in this matchup so he thought it was drawn off the top. Sam did not notice the one card left behind from searching the library or any of the sleight of hand.

  19. It doesn’t matter what ban he gets, he’s not going to show his face in Magic circles for a very, very, long time. I don’t take this game seriously enough to care about cheating, but if someone cheats me or if I know someone is a cheat then its a whole new ball game!

    If he does come back, I am sure all of his future opponents (if any) will and rightfully so ask for a judge to sit in on the games and ask for spectator support to watch for any cheating. So, if he does come back he will be treated with such disdain that he will stop playing by himself. I mean who wants to play with a cheater? I know I don’t.

    • I agree. I would say the best line of play will be to equip the sword, play the other stoneforge mystic from his hand to search up for the battleskull, swing, untap all his lands and he has all the mana needed to play the battleskull and will still win that way.

      Very sloppy way of playing and cheating.

  20. This blog post is a good resource if you want to find out about the Batterskull incident at #SCGDET – thank you for the analysis and write-up. I do agree that it is without a reasonable doubt impossible to perform this sequence of actions without cheating (deliberately, opposed to making an honest mistake) at some(!) point.

    I do, however, strongly disagree with the points following the paragraph that starts with “When I started writing this article, […]”. If you believe that this is Jon’s habitual way of “dealing” with Vendilion Cliques, this was certainly some solid sleight of hand, although I would not call it masterful by any means. The suggestion that Jon must have practiced cheating for thousands of hours is completely unfounded.

    If we assume that he planned this cheat from the moment he put the Batterskull on the bottom, everything Jon did suddenly looks suspicious. I don’t know about his cheating practice in terms of hours, but it’s fair to say that most people appearing on video streams of live MTG coverage have practiced quite a bit of Magic, including card manipulation, cards changing zones, searching, and shuffling. This also extends to the use of shortcuts and both verbal and nonverbal communication, and even nervous habits, timings and questions of card placement become hardwired into your brain after some time.

    For example, when you look at the potential explanation in the comment by Michael Friedman, it is certainly possible that Jon did not cheat until he intentionally took the face-down Batterskull into his hand, or alternatively, until he realized that he accidentally put Batterskull into his hand. This would give an alternative interpretation of why Jon slows down the game at this point. His hands are shaking as he decides if to put down the Batterskull that shouldn’t even be there and what you describe as a masterful ploy could just be the nervousness of somebody that isn’t sure how to deal with this situation.

    By no means do I want to iconify previous cheaters that I have witnessed in person or in live video coverage (guess who), but I have seen far more impressive displays of sleight of hand, pace adjustment, distraction tactics and creating rapport. I trust that the DCI will analyze Jon’s report, cross-reference his accumulated penalties, and arrive at a decision. It is simply unreasonable to call for a lifetime ban if we compare the DCI penalties for similar offenses, even ones with habitual cheating.

    As a final point, these incidents suggest that cheating is quite widespread at US tournaments of private organizers, but it could be that they are the ones that are made public especially due to video coverage and social media. My personal opinion is that the first step to prevent cheating is to be very clear about everything that happens, expect the same from your opponent, and always call a judge if something needs to be sorted out. The amount of sloppy play we get to witness, especially in Legacy, is astonishing. Contrary to popular belief, I do think that you can be less sloppy and playing faster at the same time, especially when it comes to card manipulation.

    @simongoertzen on twitter.

  21. Practiced deliberate cheats deserve long bans. Bertoncini was given too light a punishment, which sent a message to other cheaters. The risk isn’t high enough to serve as a deterrent.

    I supported 5 years for Alex, and I support 5 years here.

  22. Excellent and thorough analysis. However, I believe your conclusions are not justified. All manner of post-hoc reasoning can be used to explain someone’s mind state in a situation like this, but each of those signs a masterful cheat can have an innocent explanation, as well.

    I’m not saying Elden did not cheat, and I do believe the incident should be punished. But I think a pattern of cheating needs to be established before a lifetime ban could even be considered. Taking such an extreme measure based off an individual incident is a scary proposition.

  23. Thanks for the write up. I missed the match live, but caught the link later in the finals. At the time I watched, I didn’t know what happened & wanted to try to catch the cheat myself. This does mean I had the edge of knowing something was about to happen.

    I started watching a few minutes before the cheat, and the thing that hit me the most was the way he kept placing his hand next to his library – it was awkward placement. That clued me in where to watch for the next few minutes. I didn’t go back to see if he always did it (will check later), but if he always puts his hand there that would imply that he steals a card (even if random) quite often.

    For me any presumption of innocence is thrown when he picked up his hand, saw the skull & didn’t call a judge for a card he knew should not have been in his hand. In the Alex cheat’s there was still a shred of ‘maybe this is an accident.’ In this case, it was a clear intentional act of cheating.

    I’ll leave it to other to try to figure out *why* he did it on camera in a game that was probably won anyway, as well as to try to look up other matches he may have on camera.

    I would say at least 18 months if no other evidence is found for blatant cheating, probably 2 years. And if more similar evidence shows up, I’d have no problem with a lifetime ban. Always wondered how there were’t real problems of a semi-pro sleight-of-hand card manipulator in the game… maybe there are & we just haven’t caught them yet 🙂

    • I can tell you exactly why he did it on camera – he wanted to see if he could. Many criminals commit crimes just to see if they can get away with it. Naturally, many cheaters will also have this complex. I imagine this is probably a named syndrome or something, but if it is I don’t know it.

  24. What I noticed, after watching the match from start to finish, is there there is a lot of sloppy play going on by both players, and what I think needs to be addressed at some point is players doing multiple things at the same time. The fact that one guy is shuffling and resolving a fetchland, another guy is resolving another spell, the first guy is forgetting to completely untap, etc. just lends to cheating by people who are skilled with fast hands. There is nothing wrong with resolving things as they come and waiting until it is complete to move on. You get 1 hour for 3 games. This is not a new concept. We have been doing this for 25 years.

    Slow down and watch your opponent. If you really think about it, it is the player’s responsibility to police the game state, not the judge. If the judge wasn’t standing there, it would be player policing player. That said, Friedman could be considered guilty of not paying attention enough to the game state because he was preoccupied doing other things.

    The other thing that I would like to see in the future is to embarrass the guy on TV. Let’s not wait for the game to finalize. If you see something like that, stop the game, do a deck check, figure it through and DQ him in mid-match, on TV, for everyone to see. This is what happens when you get caught cheating. Additionally, his response to this would be telling. He would either be highly defensive or absolutely shocked and humbled. That response tells the public what his mindset was and how much of a punishment (if any) is required. I think that a one year ban is fair for this, assuming that he didn’t have any prior offenses. If he has, then maybe he should lose a year for each offense.

    @Andrea: Great commentary.

  25. People suggesting a lesser punishment than perm-a-ban are making an assumption without acknowledging it. In the light most favorable to Elden, we can assume that he accidentally put that card into his hand, recognized that it shouldn’t be in his hand, and then nervously continued.

    EVEN IN THAT SCENARIO… you must then acknowledge that he willingly chose to play a card that shouldn’t have been in his hand. At that moment, he had a choice, even in this unreasonably favorable-to-Elden light, and he made the choice to take advantage of his cheat, and doing so after the fact he is just as culpable as planning to do it; the result is the same.

    Think about the alternative scenario, he realizes the card shouldn’t be in his hand, he acknowledges it, states to his opponent what happened, lays the card down, and fixes the game state (the game state could have been repaired). At most he gets a warning.

    Instead, he chose to take advantage of a serendipitous accident and win the game. That is a choice to cheat and depicts a personal character trait of a person who is not adverse to cheating when the opportunity presents itself.

    That is the type of person that the perm-a-ban is reserved for [IMHO] as there is a pattern of cheating that is associated with this character trait. Must a person be caught multiple times in order for there to be a pattern of behavior? Can a pattern exist outside of being caught? I think so.

  26. Here is the thing I see most of you saying “we need to prove a habitual cheating has occured” how do you prove that if hes not on camera? That was how Alex got caught, he had a lot of on screen matches, and a lot of video taped events from other players… If this guy doesn’t have that same kind of footage, how do you prove it? Or how do you disprove that he wasnt doing it ALL along, but never got caught cause it wasnt on camera. I showed this video to 4 people, who play magic, but did not know this was going on, and 2 of them watching didnt even see it… they werent paying close enough attention… Without this guy having been on camera before, it would be really hard to tell that this was habitual or not, but with the precision he does it, makes it pretty clear he knew what he was doing.

  27. As a lvl1 judge and person who believes in the sanctity of the game I always err on the side of harsh enforcement. In my estimation you make an example out of anyone who dares sully the game, you made the call to cheat. You made the decision to break the rules and thus destroy your credibility and right to play the game. Further more to show others that you should never do this, Lifetime Ban. 12-18months is just a break from the game. I have missed multiple blocks to come back and play at high level. Pros have done the same Jon Finkle took a long stretch away from magic and came back to compete at the high level. A forced time out, in my opinion, does not send a strong enough message that blatant cheating will NOT be tolerated. If I cheat on my wife, there probably will not be a trial separation, I will lose my marriage for good. If i cheat at a casino in vegas they will ban me from that casino forever, and ill probably do some jail time. Harsh response is my opinion, he chose his fate when he chose to cheat.

  28. My only problem with a lifetime ban: Everyone has a bad day & does something stupid that they wish they could take back. Assume for a moment (however unlikely) that this one time was the only time that he ever cheated. For reasons unknown, his brain slipped a gear or something & one time in his life he did something stupid. Still warrant a lifetime ban?

    I would have no problems with it, but would really love to see 1 more time where it happened – or a bunch of players all reporting similar cheats (didn’t they ask other opponents in the Alex case?)

  29. I think the evidence for Alex deserved a lifetime ban. He was caught on camera so much, he cheated more than he won. And those were the things on camera, never able to prove how many times he cheated off the camera.

    I think with Jon Elden, this being his first offense CAUGHT on camera, he deserves 18-24 months, and a note made, that if he is ever caught cheating, he will get a lifetime ban. 2 years of no competitive magic, NOT by choice… can be an eye opener for him, but the message also needs to be strong enough to other players. I guarantee if Alex had gotten a lifetime ban, we wouldnt be having this conversation about Jon, because he would have been to afraid to cheat.

    The FEAR of the punishment has to be severe enough to scare people away from cheating. If you knew you could cheat on ur credit cards, and taxes and only get told “dont do that” you would probably cheat… or at least some of the people would. But its the fear of losing everything and or going to jail that says…uhm no i dont want to do that its too risky.

  30. There is no fear of being caught for Elden. I have played at the local store that he plays at and left due to him and one of his friends that are regularly rude and are often considered “very lucky topdeckers”. Someone mentioned that they were giving him the benefit of the doubt during the match because he didn’t seem smart?? Anyone who has talked to him for more than 5 minutes realizes it is quite the opposite. He is VERY smart but does not seem to think that the rules and general courtesies of life apply to him. He deserves a to be banned for at least 2 years.

  31. Andrea, I am a player from that local region and I don’t get me wrong I do commend you for bringing this matter to light in a well laid out fashion. However, my problem with this blog post comes from the apparent witch hunt that is being represented. Don’t get me wrong there was most decidedly cheating taking place, however, many of your claims are unfounded, especially the surgical precision. His hands were shaky much of the match and I see nothing he does, minus the search for a land off the fetch, as fast paced to me. I do agree there should be some kind of punishment, and there was cheating, but the only cheating that can be proven is that of his knowledge of putting the card in his hand, accident or otherwise, and not revealing that this happened. Many players cheat at one time or another. They may be minor or they may be major, but there are plenty of players who will let missed triggers be missed and such. While this information was well needed to be brought to light, there was no need for the now apparent witch hunt I am seeing take place here and in the local area Elden resides from.

  32. It looks to me as if Elden doesn’t draw for his last turn (12:36-39). Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • I see the same thing as Kat, I don’t see him drawing for his last turn, he untaps and plays Batterskull.

      My jaw hit the floor with that cheat. Ridiculous.

      • He Untaps off the sword of feast and famine Trigger and plays Batterskull which is why you dont see him Draw just before.

  33. I watched the match over after this, even though i noticed the card lying there during, when re-watching the statement that there could be innocent explanations is true, but a long stretch. Lets look at some things. While not all players position their deck perpendicular with the table, most do, this cheat is impossible or much harder if his deck is positioned the typical way..this is something he may have done to prepare for the cheat. During the game he left cards that were none commodities face up on the table. While this could just be sloppy shortcutting, it could also be some sort of way to confuse the other player, it could go further, it could be a way of offering up information that may have been forgotten in a way that makes it clear, suggesting he is a trustworthy guy and wants you to absolutely know whats going on.
    As far as manipulating the deck prior to the cheat, its clear he did. This makes it being accidental simply not believable. Also picking up his deck with one hand while sliding the cards up with the other simultaneously is clear diversion.
    While i don’t agree that leaving the card lay there is masterful(as if you think he might be cheating that is a glaring white sleeve slightly separated from whats in his hand), all the activity leading up to it suggests that he has practiced this move and would assuredly do it again in the future considering his opponent didn’t notice.

    5 year ban…..effectively lifetime.

    • I dont know about you but me and almost all the players in my play group and those that go to the FNM around me…all set our decks either crooked or horizontal its not that odd that could just be how him and his group set there deck it doesnt mean anything

  34. Playing magic in the DCI framework isn’t a right. How many others were cheated that day? What benefit does allowing him to play again provide for clean players, the DCI or event runners like SCG? He adds no value.

  35. This blog entry is clearly written as in purpose of manipulate readers emotions towards Elden’s actions as he was a hardcore cheater without moral spine. As Simon Goertzen said seems like the cheating part was mostly the fact that when he realized that batterskull shouldnt been in his hand and still continued to play without informing the judge about the incident.

    If you think logically what clear game breaking difference would have Elden gained by getting batterskull in his hand? He had second stoneforge mystic to fetch up the batterskull back into his hand and his opponent didnt have any board position and clearly didnt have anything. Why would you risk it all and perform such a skillful cheat at this point of the game during a feature match unless some part of it wasnt unintentional? I am not defending Elden and some punishment would be in order but seriously life time ban is not the correct answer imo.

    • There were many potential answers in Friedman’s deck or hand — remember he hadn’t seen the hand until the cheat was underway — that could have wrecked him. He has a window to win the game by cheating, and he was already down 1-0 in the best of three match.

      But all of that is my analysis. Facts are what they are, and I lay out those facts in the main part of the article. I write with a passionate style, but I’m not trying to manipulate anyone. (Or, alternatively, I’m not trying to manipulate anyone more than anyone who writes anything. =) )

  36. What is being discussed here is actually several different problems. they are not necessarily connected. Firstly; what deters rule breakers (cheaters, criminals) is not the punishment but the risk of getting caught. Watching games online and report cheating is good and necessary work (kudos to you who do that!).
    Secondly the function of the punishment. It must hurt or else people will cheat no matter the risks, right? For most of us the embarrassment and social stigma of being called cheater is enough, but others are less sensitive to the normal mechanisms for social control (for various reasons). Those may need to be removed from the game completely. And why not? Playing magic is not a Right, but a pasttime only.
    We can afford harsh measures if we want them.
    (a life time ban is not jail for life after all)

  37. Another thing, Elden played Stoneforge mystic fetching batterskull, shuffled, then placed his deck back without letting his opponent cut. He could’ve easily placed a desired card on top of his library doing so.

  38. First of all, great article. I was not watching the coverage of the event at the time so after all the hullabaloo on Twitter I was faced with trying to guess when in round 6 it had happened. I think you’re spot on when you suggest that this implies that he’s a practiced cheat and while a couple of your examples *could* be construed as “simply nervous behavior” taken as a whole it seems pretty clear that the player in question is trying to cheat. Why is a question for the philosophers as it were.

    With that having been said Andrea; a lifetime is a very very long time indeed. This man has at worst stolen someone else’s chance at earning prize money and made SCG look a little bad at the time. To be fair the PR issue isn’t even that big of a deal because they did act before the tournament was over. I feel bad for anyone Jon played that day but lifetime ban? People make mistakes, people make bad decisions and when you throw away the key you don’t give them a chance to change.

    I feel like a long ban is warranted; more than a year. That having been said I’m not sure cheating will EVER actually justify a lifetime ban; and certainly not a single proven instance of it. If you have more video evidence you’d like to share….? Otherwise I think I have to agree with your article but disagree with your conclusion re: the length/severity of ban/crime.


  39. Thank you for the explanation, as a casual Magic player myself I couldn’t even follow what was going on. In the future, though, please learn how to take screenshots (print screen button) instead of taking a picture of your screen.

    • This was done quickly from my ipad. You cannot pause the stream to take screenshots from it. I should probably edit the picture a bit, though… I love the “please learn how” though.

  40. There was nothing masterful about the cheat… he left the bottom card on the table when he shuffled and passed his deck that’s it. the only risk in the whole “sleight” is actually sweeping up the extra card, if he gets caught before he sweeps the card it just looks like an honest mistake. he then hesitated sweeping the card up several times before just going for it. Forgetting to untap his stoneforge and missing the honest line of play are signs that he was nervous, and maybe considering the cheat, not masterful distractions. It was a clear opportunistic cheat by someone who maybe did a couple card tricks in his life. Oh and if he was a habitual cheater why use bright white sleeves? thousands of hours of practice? Ha! a two year ban is fine for a first infraction. He took a chance now he’ll pay.

    • To clarify I do believe he left the card on purpose. It just looks like an honest mistake if anyone catches him.

  41. Thousands of hours of slight practice? Are you kidding? He represented Batterskull no matter what that turn. I SEVERELY doubt someone with the incredible cunning you describe here would wage psychological warfare with his board state and pull a masterful slight to gain a meaningless amount of card advantage in an already won game. If his opponent had played out Jons next turn when he Cliqued (like you should always do when you Clique), he would have scooped right then. If Jon was TRULY the mastermind you say he is, he wouldn’t have bothered. You focused on 20 seconds of the game, as you said, and from that you have totally demonized the guy. Did you bother to rewatch all three games and see the guy shaking like a leaf the whole time? Did you notice how inconsistently he set his deck and hand in the same spots. The deck was arranged in a huge number of angles and his hand was placed in various places during searches, including behind his deck even when he DIDN’T cheat.

    I think picking up the card was an accident, I think not reporting it was wrong.

  42. Pingback: The Batterskull “Cheat” – Unlocked | mtgelden

  43. Ok a lifetime ban is a little much. Thats alot of foresight considering all the things that needed to be in place for it too work. Why would he set up a cheat if there was no reason too? What was the chance that he set up this cheat to get a card from the bottom of his library…who is too say he would even have anything useful down there?? I mean honestly it seems like an honest mistake. And on the whole he set it up if you notice in game 2 and three HE ALWAYS SET HIS HAND BY HIS DECK why would he continue to do it if there was nothing to earn from it. so all im saying is not a lifetime ban.

  44. I’m sorry, but why would he cheat? He was 10 to 1 to win the game anyways.

    This accusation just seems dumb.

    • He was down 1-0 in a control matchup, with 15 minutes left. His opponent had many cards to draw and reset the game state with. Yes, he was favored at that moment for that game, but I believe he was trying to seal the deal as quickly as he could. (Remember: he didn’t know his opponent’s cards in hand when the cheat got going.)

  45. Pingback: Monday Night Magic #316 – GP, HoF, MTGO, SCG, M13, and Other Initials | MTGCastMTGCast

  46. Master cheat? You gotta be kidding me. Lifetime ban? Now this is comedic gold! I think it’s pretty obvious the dude made a stupid mistake and handled the situation like a schmuck.

  47. He likely didn’t see the line of play because he was demoralized by the ‘clique and considering stealing the batterskull back. I think it was intentional just not “masterful” and requiring “thousands of hours of practice” I tryed it yesterday with a friend and asked him after the match he missed it. I’ve only done a few magic tricks before, I’m far from a master.

  48. after all the comments, i’m only left to wonder how many times might he have done something like that before he arrive at the 10-1 record it was mentioned…

    … the fact he wasn’t afraid to pull that one off *knowing there was a camera checking his moves just puts a dent on professional magic…

    … for little noobs like me that enjoy our 50quid decks on FNM, this is a heads up if we ever think about trying to play a *bit better to step up on a competition: i’ve no chance against top-league– cheaters or not 😀

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