DEEPER DOWN THE MAGIC HOLE

Hello there.

It's been a long time since I've written anything Magic: The Gathering (MTG) related (or anything for that matter), and while I don't delve too much into finance and/or deck lists, over these past few months I have missed some of the more controversial topics that I enjoy discussing. Some of the most recent involve various bannings, both of cards and Magic Judges (those who oversee and uphold the rules/regulations of sanctioned events/tournaments).

 Judge the Unworthy or Unworthy Judges?!

Judge the Unworthy or Unworthy Judges?!

From what little I gleaned about the Judge bannings, it seems that a large number were effectively clumped together and punished over leaked information, something Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has made announcements about cracking down on, but that many were innocent of any wrongdoing, and WotC were forced to back-peddle. As usual, many ridiculed Wizards of the Coast, calling them babies and that their concerns about the leaks was nothing more than pointless whining, while others supported them and were very sympathetic.

I'm not really sure where I land on that topic. On one hand, I guess I've just always been accustomed to leaks existing in most facets of the entertainment world, whether it be gaming, music, movies, etc. It's just something that happens and over the years it seems more and more companies are just rolling with the punches now, rather than bitching. On the other hand, as much as I have been in disagreement with some of their policies and how they've chosen to handle themselves as a company, I can see where WotC is coming from and how product leaks could (does?) hurt them.

Whispers of the Future

Regardless of where you stand, I'd like to think that those who were dismissive of the past transgressions took it to heart once, supposedly, more evidence of leaked information was presented, naming specific Modern decks being targeted for specific key card bannings and a future, yet unannounced, set. An anonymous individual (reportedly now identified, but I've not bothered to research this, because frankly, I don't exactly care who said individual is) began posting this information on Reddit, under the name temp_acct_leak, predicting these upcoming changes to Magic, stating they had overheard conversations between vendors at Grand Prix Oakland.

These leaks were a bit different than the ones discussed earlier. Those leaks were made public and WotC explains how that can hurt the sales of a set, reduce hype due to lack of context, and just straight up derail a marketing plan. These overheard leaks were meant to be more private and kept between vendors. The implications being that said vendors given this information could manipulate the market and sell cards they knew would be reprinted (generally causing prices to fall, sometimes drastically) and which to buy (likely to raise in price sans a reprint) to maximize their profits and basically screw the customer base.

 He knew the answers you didn't even know you sought!

He knew the answers you didn't even know you sought!

Naturally many scoffed at the poster, and it wasn't until after the (early/leaked?) Banned and Restricted (Jan 18, 2016) announcement was made, confirming part of his/her claims, that people began to believe temp_acct_leak's information. Unfortunately, by then it was too late for those who disregarded the warnings and were hit from the blow of the announcement, specifically Splinter Twin players. Others, quick to talk trash of temp_acct_leak and their predictions, had the tables turned, becoming the ones ridiculed. It all made for an interesting, and at times humorous, read.

But there was a set prediction too. One that would be called Eternal Masters and would see the reprinting of Stoneforge Mystic (others have claimed they named Force of Will and Wasteland, and while relevant now, I am uncertain if true) along with other non-Reserve List staples. The projected time frame for the announcement was to be during Pro Tour Oath of the Gate Watch. Many waited with bated breath, but no announcement was made. There was controversy over the use of "Thug" in a decklist title, growing concern of just how "versatile" the Modern format had become — six Eldrazi decks and two Affinity decks — which Wizards of the Coast assured would result from the recent bannings, but no Eternal Masters announcement.

I'm sure many began to loose faith in the prophet, but low and behold just a week later, the announcement was made! Did WotC know about the purported leak? I can't imagine how they couldn't. Did they offset the announcement just to spite it all? Stranger things have happened...

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And there it was, in all its glory, for all to bear witness! Wizards of the Coast's late Valentine's Day gift for the Magic community! Eternal Masters. And with it, the outcry of some, the cheers of others, and the amazement for all. And the questions...

Someone clearly had access to information long before it was officially released. Leaked and shared among vendors, something long whispered by conspiracy theorists within the community. Much like those believing strategic buyouts exist on the finance side of Magic. And like buyouts (in my opinion), there now possibly exists proof, if looking back and assessing data/information, that the conspiracy "nuts" may have been right all along.

Enter MTGDeepthroat

 An amazing alternate by a great artist!

An amazing alternate by a great artist!

Along with the official announcement of Eternal Masters, a shadowy figure stepped forth from the shadows — okay, came forward on Twitter — claiming to have proof of such shady practices taking place between vendors. Their Twitter account was aptly named MTGDeepthroat and used a profile picture of Jerry Hardin who, in case not familiar, played the character of Deep Throat in The X-Files. This also momentarily lead me to ponder if MTGDeepthroat was none other than Aaron Forsythe, because when discussing the new set he [Forsythe] used the hashtag #TheTruthIsOutThere.

 Oh City of Brass we loved you so...

Oh City of Brass we loved you so...

You'll have to forgive me, I'm currently rewatching The X-Files and in keeping with the theme it would make sense that the whistleblower be someone high within the company's ranks, where I can't help believe the true source of the leak exists, despite WotC's air-tight security.

Many speculated that it was actually temp_acct_leak, which MTGDeepthroat denied right away.

Anyways, over the past 24 hours, the time frame being allotted for Wizards of the Coast to reply to their emails, MTGDeepthroat has been planting seeds over Twitter, intriguing many. At one point, they even seemingly name various individuals "in the know" of insider information swapping between vendors. MTGDeepthroat identified them as being the only individuals they have "followed" since the creation of their account, and asked that they come forward and admit knowledge.

They are supposedly innocent of being directly involved with the leaks, but know of the shady business practices taking place with specific vendors. There were 19 people being followed by MTGDeepthroat at one point, but when I came across the tweets, they had already been removed. They [the tweets] still showed up as posted, however, as seen below:

As of now, he/she claims that Wizards has replied and are taking the situation very seriously.

There is evidence that this is true:

So, Wizards of the Coast is on the case... Many people are left wondering who's behind the specific leak source, how many (and which) vendors are involved, and what the consequences will be for their actions. MTGDeepthroat claims that some bigger vendors such as Star City Games and Channel Fireball are innocent of having a direct link with the leak source. However, they admit the possibility that they had said information shared with them secondhand. In my opinion, if any vendor has had any leaked information shared with them and used it to their advantage (or hell, not reporting it), they are just as guilty as anyone directly associated with the leak source.

There have long been issues with confidence in certain vendors, and even with Wizards of the Coast, throughout the years, but if it's discovered, as it is believed by many, that some vendors have received special treatment (inside information) allowing the ability to manipulate the market, the damage may be too deep for some within the community to recover from. If there are shady vendors and/or Wizards employees that have been involved in nefarious practices, WotC will have to clean house and make an example.

The sooner they come forward with information and steps taken to rectify the situations the better. The same goes for other vendors who may have knowledge of such practices taking place. Here is a video I just saw early today that I think explains it nicely:

So, all of this is still ongoing, and I am very curious to see just where everything lands. Will MTGDeepthroat be revealed? Will we discover a deeper conspiracy at work within Wizards of the Coast? Will multiple vendors meet their demise? More importantly, will people actually do the right thing and come forward, attempting to start severing the corruption that exists within the community?

What are your thoughts on leaks? Are they okay or are they damaging for Wizards of the Coast and the Magic community at large? Have you ever suspected that vendors have been "in the know" and had unfair advantages over others? Do you believe proof exists of such? Who do you think MTGDeepthroat is?