Brisbane MTG Judge and Store Implicated in Fraud, JCC Apathetic.

We have come into possession of some potentially damning information from the ex-Regional Coordinator for Australia Ryan Dare and other contacts who will remain nameless. This information, if true, exposes tournament fraud, a Level Two judge’s coverup of this, Mafioso tactics by game store management, and the inability, unwillingness to act, or blatant disregard of the Judge Conduct Committee.

Disclaimer: This article and opinions presented therein are representative of information available at the time of publication including statements and quotes from involved parties. This article may be edited as more facts or context come to light. It does not reflect the opinions or conclusions of ATGN writers or staff.

During the War of the Spark prerelease, a player currently under suspension for bribery used a borrowed DCI to play the event. This, in and of itself is not really story worthy; stupid mistake, take the added suspension, move on. The complexity is that both of the players involved are friends with one of Brisbane’s most seasoned level two judges, who also attended the event and watched the suspended player assume the identity of a friend. Adding another layer, all three persons (Judge, Suspended Player, and DCI Loaner) are very well known to the store owner, and it is stated that the store owner coerced the judge into turning a blind eye.

Soon after receiving an anonymous tip from another attendee of that event, Ryan contacted a Brisbane-local judge in his confidence to gather evidence for his investigation. Ryan placed his trust in this judge and left the nature of this fact-finding mission largely up to them. This Assisting Judge visited the store and was given access to the Wizards Event Reporter (WER) records to conduct an investigation. The record confirmed the suspicion, the Level Two Judge was registered, and the DCI Loaning player was registered twice, under both their birth name and a well-known pseudonym they are comfortable having results published under.

Once he received this report, Ryan’s action was to immediately interview the Level Two Judge and, after a full confession of wrongdoing was obtained, demote them from their position. Ryan also commented to the effect of “I will come down on you like a sack of sh**” if they continued to judge under pretense of being an L2. Ryan’s statement assures us that other Regional Coordinators corroborated the fact that instant demotion is within his power, provided it is used sparingly, but no documentation to that effect could be found by a non-judge.

Demotion procedures and disciplinary measures.

[Regional Coordinators] should be able to determine when misbehavior from judges in their region needs to be escalated to the appropriate channel.

Ryan, once the heat had somewhat dissipated from the situation, gave the Level Two Judge a choice: Remain demoted, or be re-certified and have the case presented before the Judge Conduct Committee (JCC). The trade-off is essentially that the JCC may not be lenient at all and forever bar the judge from the programme as well as issuing a ban from the game for abetting the guilty party. The Offending Judge took the latter option.

The Assisting Judge was quickly banned from the store at which the incident occurred, as well as three other unaffiliated stores in the Greater Brisbane region. Curiously, they were banned from one franchise store but no others in the same group, which in the past has indicated personal issues.

In a discussion preceding the banning, one store manager referenced “filming players”, which the Assisting Judge has previously been given permission for, forming what might be Brisbane’s only video library of MTG play. The Assisting Judge was indeed filming that night but according to even the store owner, the complainant was not one of those on camera. The store manager also referenced “Community Guidelines” with no more clarity given to the Judge.

The Assisting Judge has also been accused of bullying a staff member into allowing them to access WER, and the area behind the counter to do so. Given that most Brisbane players will have seen this judge in official capacity behind counters, the Assisting Judge asserts that this cannot be true, and in fact they were allowed behind the counter later that evening by the same staff member to assist in logging results during a busy sales rush.

To further the Assisting Judge’s treatment, they note that there have been less-than-friendly encounters between themselves and that store owner, as the Judge has been fighting the owner’s push for reduced judge compensation, for which that store is already the lowest rate paid in AU/NZ.

Ryan does take care to note that, as a result of a conversation with another Tournament Organiser, he is confident that the demoted Level Two Judge did not initiate conversations resulting in the store bans. It is uncertain whether there are ulterior motives for banning the Assisting Judge, but the offending Level Two Judge is known to be good friends with owners, and a high-value customer of both stores that instigated the bannings.

During this time, the JCC lead contacted Ryan to explain that he was under investigation for “Abuse of Power” in his demotion of the offending judge, and that the JCC would not move to penalise the Level Two Judge for their actions, despite Ryan providing evidence of the wrongdoing. Upset at this, Ryan made a now-removed Facebook post venting his frustrations that the JCC would (in his eyes) endorse fraud, an action which increased the scope of the investigation. It is possible that his tagging of the offending judge was seen as a call-out, but they were one of many people tagged, a fact which Ryan believes protected their anonymity.

“I forwarded [Offending Judge]’s admission of guilt and statement, where he admitted that he was fully aware of his mate playing, but stated the TO pressured him into it.”

Statement of Ryan Dare

Ryan and the JCC lead were then engaged in a tense back-and-forth that contains little substance as to the offence, or evidence provided.

Ryan believes that he was not afforded whatever due process a non-legal entity like the JCC affords those in its purview, and that the JCC, operating privately, is abusing their power to assess any case as they please.

The JCC lead asserts that the investigatory process into Ryan has been fair and as per the organisation’s normal process, and that the investigation is centred on a “Significant Diplomacy Failure” on Ryan’s part. The JCC did eventually cease investigations into the matter.

As it stands now:

  • The offending Level Two Judge is under no punishment and retains their previous rank, able to judge major tournaments.
  • The previously suspended player has had their suspension overturned, was suspended for the tournament fraud outlined in this article, then this too overturned on appeal
  • The DCI Lending player has received no penalty
  • The Assisting Judge will be able to return to at least two of the stores from which they were banned in the New Year. The bullying tactics used to ban them have forever soured their relationship with at least one store and it’s owner/staff, but they will continue to judge in Brisbane, even at other stores in the franchise
  • Ryan is no longer the Regional Judge Coordinator for Australia, which he stresses is not related to this incident.
  • The JCC has now been largely replaced with the Judge Academy.
  • The store that pressured the Level Two into allowing the fraud has received no penalties

Editor’s Note: While this article paints a fairly negative review of Magic: The Gathering Judges from top to bottom, it’s important to note that the above incidents are the actions of a minority and do not represent the majority. Performing the role of a MTG Judge is often a thankless role, but one very much needed by the greater MTG community. We’d like to recognize and thank MTG Judges from around the world for their hard work.

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