Why is "Just Rolling a Die" So Bad?

Posted in NEWS on July 9, 2007

By Wizards of the Coast

At their heart, tournaments are about competition: friendly, ruthless, fun, and social. Regardless of what's at stake, whether it's $10,000, PT invites, 6 booster packs, or just rating points, the event is still a competition. Each of these things we compete for has a different value for each player and this is the primary cause of bribery.

The primary reason for sanctioned play is competition of varying degrees. The integrity of the system of competition is why rolling a die to determine an outcome is wrong. At its core, random determination of a match is tournament fraud. It means that players are saying Player A won X games of Magic, when, in fact, he did not. If we did not consider this fraud, then players could determine every winner in an entire tournament by rolling dice - and a tournament without a single game of Magic played is certainly fraud.

Players often roll a die when facing one of two situations:

1) Two very similar or identical decks.

Players believe incorrectly that they have a 50/50 chance of winning. What they forget is all the other skills they bring to a deck that go into winning a game. If you don't believe me - buy two of the same World Championship deck and give them to two players and have them play out several matches. Try it with two new players. Try it with players of equal skill but different amounts of practice with the deck. You'll notice that, with an identical card pool, skill wins out more often than not.

2) A time limit that will result in a draw.

If a draw is actually what occurred, then a draw is the result. A draw is worth more than a loss in a match, so accepting the draw is more beneficial to both players. However, rarely, if the players draw, both will fall from contention for the rest of the tournament. Facing this lose/lose situation, they want a solution. I propose the following:

  • If one player doesn't care who wins - he should concede before he wins, so that the player who does care may advance. He should not receive anything for this sporting behavior – else it may be considered bribery.
  • If both players don't care who wins - they should play out the match and record who wins (because the DCI does care).
  • If both players wish to win for similar reasons, but ran out of time - it's a draw. Not calling it a draw is fraud. (This is why draws are worth 1 point and losses are worth zero - otherwise we'd force concessions by changing it to draws worth zero and losses worth 1 point.)

Many players believe "If I can arbitrarily decide to concede then why can't we randomly determine who concedes?" Because at the point they use any other method, they are no longer playing Magic and determining a winner by their skill. Sports are not determined by the starting coin-flip – they are determined by a test of skill. Player's should accept the fact of the draw – even if that means both are out of contention – and that other players in the tournament who played by the rules deserve the rewards of a match truly won.

Andrew Heckt, Judge Manager