Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO



  • Scenario: This is the second time in recent weeks that I've been paired up in the final rounds of the Vintage Challenge. In both cases, my opponent was X-1 in the 5th seed. I was X-2 in 19th and 29th place (literally the lowest ranked of the X-2's). I scooped to my opponents in both instances, playing out the first match and "winning" before scooping, then scooping immediately in the second match. This wasn't by design - it's when I figured out seedings and realized the discrepancy is when I conceded. At no point were prizes discussed prior to a scoop. In the second case, the person in question happened to be a good friend and teammate, though the first person was a complete stranger. My question is do you consider this to be acceptable behavior in a tournament with prizes?

    Caveats to consider:

    1. This is typically quite common in competitive Magic. Frequently on the PT and in GPs, you will hear of people scooping to others based on Pro Points and locking up the various tiers of recognition (platinum, etc.). In these cases, one player has much more to gain by winning than the second player. It doesn't make it ethically sound, but does provide perspective to players that do not follow competitive Magic.
    2. The pairings on MTGO are done differently from Paper events. In the last round of a Paper tournament, players are paired down as much as possible with #1 playing #2, #3 playing #4, etc... This means that in general you are paired against someone of similar standing as you and are competing for roughly the same gain. For instance, 7th and 8th are playing for a top 8 spot, 15th and 16th are playing for top 16, and 31st and 32nd are playing for top 32nd (with some ambiguity based on the nature of tiebreakers). The current system of random pairings used on MTGO was designed for Daily Event play. Seeding doesn't matter as prizes are given based on final record in the Swiss, with no top 8 creating a significant disparity in potential prizes.
    3. Intentional draws are not enabled on MTGO and will not be enabled according previous statements by WotC officials. The chess clock means that there will always be a winner and loser if the game is played to completion. Prize splitting in the last round of an event is considered legal on MTGO, though not guaranteed by the client. People attempting to split do so at their own risk. As always, a player can concede a game or match at any time for virtually any reason (though bribery or concessions tied to prizes or random chance are grounds for a DQ).

    Edit: This has come up in a couple of metagame threads and I'd rather it have its own post than become a topic for discussion in those events.



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  • @MSolymossy Please don't insult people for their choices in this poll. Regardless of the results, I genuinely want perspective on what the people here feel is ethical and you might be dissuading them from answering. If you want to debate others or state your opinion, that's fine as a conversation about this would be productive, IMO.


  • TMD Supporter

    I scooped to a friend in the first round of a recent tournament because our game went to turns and he would have won if he had one more turn. That felt fine.

    Awhile back I scooped to an acquaintance so he could get into the top 4, though I was about to beat him in the match. Found out later that a guy I had lost to earlier in the day was just kept out of the top 4 due to my scooping. That felt weird.


  • TMD Supporter

    It's only unacceptable if it shapes the b/r discussion.

    Also by scooping to one friend, you may be hurting another friend.



  • @ydl There are winners and losers in both scenarios. You scooping to your friend in the first round (even though you could argue that he should have won) very well could have kept someone else out of the top 8. I'd argue that the difference in your scenarios is the certainty of the outcome - both the certainty in what would happen if you played it out and the certainty in the outcome of your decision (that it kept someone out of the top 8).

    @desolutionist That's what happened - Rich Shay came in 9th this most recent event. I'm not sure that it matters from an ethical standpoint if the person that was "harmed" by my decision is someone I know or someone I don't know. My justification for what I did is not based on utilitarianism. I just don't think I'm obligated to play a game of Magic for the purpose of knocking someone else out of top 8 contention for little in the way of prizes. To me, it's equivalent to scooping because my car wants to leave, scooping because I want to play in another event, or scooping because I have a migraine. This isn't like I'm a paid athlete where me performing is part of my job. It's a hobby. Does the reasoning behind the scoop alter the ethics if it doesn't change the results? That's my point of contention.



  • If anyone should be unhappy about Matt scooping, it should be I. I missed top 8 on it and got 9th. But I'm not unhappy. I'd have done the same thing as Matt. Andy did nothing wrong. Matt did nothing wrong.


  • TMD Supporter

    @ChubbyRain Your point is correct, because I now remember my friend was the 4th of five 3-1 players to get into the top 4 in that recent tournament.

    If I personally were ever kept out of the top 8 by someone else scooping, my only feeling (I hope) would be that I should have played better if I had wanted to get into that top 8.



  • I think it's fine, but I won't go so far as to say it's clear cut. It's funny: in chess tournaments it's held to be clear cut the other way, but chess has published ratings (and invites based thereon) and draws and no top-8s. Change one of these variables, and the analysis may change too.



  • Its generally accepted practice but that doesn't mean its not a moral grey area. I would never fault people who do this for friends or teammates. At the same time I completely understand the person who comes in 9th being a little upset because somebody who finished above him didn't actually have to play the same number of rounds.

    @ChubbyRain said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    To me, it's equivalent to scooping because my car wants to leave, scooping because I want to play in another event, or scooping because I have a migraine.

    I disagree here. I think intent is very important in deciding ethical issues. Maybe moreso than results. But even though I think the intent behind the scoop is part of the equation that doesn't mean I think its wrong to do. Because there is also this to consider:

    @ChubbyRain said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    I just don't think I'm obligated to play a game of Magic for the purpose of knocking someone else out of top 8 contention for little in the way of prizes

    I agree with this part, too. Though I would say its more that you are under no obligation to play to win. By not playing to make sure person A gets the win, you are in fact doing something with the purpose of knocking person B out of contention for top 8. However, its not like you are the sole deciding factor. Person B could have played better, prepared better or anything number of things to not be in a position that a match up he is not a part of controls his fate.

    That's why I voted its a grey area. I think this skirts the edges of acceptable behavior. But it is acceptable behavior and part of the culture of our tournament scene. I know going in that I'm up against people who consistently play-test together, share ideas and help each other prepare. I know they are pulling for their teammates. And as long its kept generalized I'm ok with it.

    What I mean by generalized is teammates agree, "if the situation arises where a scoop guarantees we both get in, a scoop will happen." No caveats involved. If you start talking prize concessions, that is pretty blatantly against the rules. you start scooping with the intent to keep a specific player out - I'd say thats pretty rotten and should get both people involved DQ'd as well. Luckily in our community this really doesn't come up.

    Its an interesting question. Thanks for raising it for discussion.



  • Since Im the one who is to fault for this topic i just wanted to say that scooping to friends is not ideal but Acceptable. What shouldnt happen though is the broken pairing System. How can chubby get a pair up in 2 events when he is like 20th place? Shouldnt last round pair 1 vs 2, 3 vs4 etc?


  • TMD Supporter

    Take the same scenario as the OP, where one player is locked out of top 8, and the other player can make it with a win.
    What if the locked out player doesn't just scoop or concede at the outset of the match, but actually plays the match, "wins" the match, and then scoops? Does that make a difference?

    Chubby Rain scooped Jazza into the 6/17 top 8, after he beat him, and then Jazza went on to win a tournament he otherwise would not have won. That's not just harmful to the person who was left out of the top 8, but all of the other players Jazza beat.

    I don't know that I have an answer here, but I do think that those comparing MTGO to paper magic are making a mistake. The rules of paper tournament magic and MTGO are different. The fact that you can't ID on MTGO and you have a clock fundamentally changes the game. People are able to manipulate the tournament structure to their advantage by drawing intentionally, but can't do that on MTGO. To me, that makes MTGO a different beast.

    In a Pro Tour, you can ID in the last round so that both players make Top 8. You can'd do that on MTGO.

    I don't think you can legislate players not to scoop in friends of teammates into a top 8, especially if they are locked out. But I don't think that ends the matter. If there is an implicit expectation of reciprocity down the line, that could be an ethical problem. " I scoop to you this time, and you scoop to me next time," even if there is no definite guarantee that will happen. That could an ethical problem, even if it's not a rule violation.

    Not all ethical rules are legislated.

    I see this more as a gray area than a bright line rule, because there are different circumstances that warrant different ethical analysis. But there are real ethical concerns here that shouldn't be papered over.



  • If you can't top 8, and you don't want to play why didn't you drop. This isn't an FNM.



  • @benjamin_berry Prizes extend to top 32 (out of 59 players). Granted, I really don't care much about these prizes, but that's the justification many players used for staying in the event to the end. I was more than willing to play out my match but not at the cost of knocking other players out of the top 8 when I'm basically playing for my entry back.

    @Smmenen I would have scooped to Jazza at the beginning of the match if I knew his record. As it was, you and two other players had a fair chance at beating Jazza, so I don't think you can make an argument that you were harmed by this. It isn't like he marked his Lotus and proceeded to draw it every game in the top 8 of an NYSE, winning a presumably unmarked Black Lotus for his efforts...


  • TMD Supporter

    @ChubbyRain said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    @benjamin_berry Prizes extend to top 32 (out of 59 players). Granted, I really don't care much about these prizes, but that's the justification many players used for staying in the event to the end. I was more than willing to play out my match but not at the cost of knocking other players out of the top 8 when I'm basically playing for my entry back.

    @Smmenen I would have scooped to Jazza at the beginning of the match if I knew his record. As it was, you and two other players had a fair chance at beating Jazza, so I don't think you can make an argument that you were harmed by this. It isn't like he marked his Lotus and proceeded to draw it every game in the top 8 of an NYSE, winning a presumably unmarked Black Lotus for his efforts...

    You just can't help yourself from making personal attacks can you?

    If Paul had a marked Lotus, a judge would've been able to detect that. Otherwise, that's just slander.

    The issue isn't whether someone had a fair chance. I didn't say what you did was unfair. I said what you did was harmful. Not all harm is unfair.

    You played him, beat him, and then you scooped. It may have been fair, it may have been legal, but that doesn't mean it was entirely unproblematic.



  • @ChubbyRain said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    @benjamin_berry not at the cost of knocking other players out of the top 8 ..

    You knocked someone out of the top 8. Rich is not upset, but he isn't the person in 9th place every time.

    The other members of the top 8 won and earned their position, Jazza didn't. Why should he be in single elimination rounds, and why should you get to decide?



  • @ChubbyRain said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    @benjamin_berry Prizes extend to top 32 (out of 59 players). Granted, I really don't care much about these prizes, but that's the justification many players used for staying in the event to the end. I was more than willing to play out my match but not at the cost of knocking other players out of the top 8 when I'm basically playing for my entry back.

    I've never cashed a large event. How much prize difference is there between 9th and 32rd? If the prize money was the reason for not dropping then it's in you're best interest fight for every position on the ranking. A draw may allow you to avoid the risk of a loss out of proportion to the loss in prizes.

    My local FNM pays out to x/1 so conceding when your x/2 last round against an x/1 opponent dilutes the payout to the winners but it's usually $7 vs $8.

    Since these events pay out on place not ranking means you're playing kingmaker by not letting the game choose the winner.



  • A player can concede any game at any time for any reason or for no reason at all. When one player has no chance of advancement and another has a chance contingent on winning that match, the "reward" for the lower ranked person to strive for is nothing more than mutually assured destruction. It strikes me as more sportsmanlike to concede. The counterargument that the lower ranked player has an obligation to do X or Y to maintain third party breakers is undercut by the fact that the probative value breakers are already undercut by elements beyond players' control. It's not my fault, for instance, if my Round 3 Opponent loses to Dredge in Round 5, yet I would be "punished" for that. Since breakers are already defective, there can be no responsibility to try to uphold their integrity; they lack integrity by their very nature.

    Secondly, complaining about the technical and difficult to ascertain results of sportsmanlike/amicable concessions on third parties' standings suggests things are being taken far too seriously.

    @ChubbyRain said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    It isn't like he marked his Lotus and proceeded to draw it every game in the top 8 of an NYSE, winning a presumably unmarked Black Lotus for his efforts...

    Not helpful!



  • @spook said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    why should you get to decide?

    Quite simply because the rules of the game allow him to decide that. Matt had the right to decide to concede, the same as a player who wins a die roll has the right to decide to go first in the Swiss.


  • TMD Supporter

    @The-Atog-Lord said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    @spook said in Ethical Dilemma: Scooping on MTGO:

    why should you get to decide?

    Quite simply because the rules of the game allow him to decide that. Matt had the right to decide to concede, the same as a player who wins a die roll has the right to decide to go first in the Swiss.

    But the question in the OP wasn't whether the rules permit this. The question was whether scooping was ethical.

    That's a classic example of substitution, along the lines Daniel Kahneman famously wrote about, where someone substitutes the answer to a hard question with the answer to an easy one.

    Unless you believe the law/rules are the sum total of ethics, then pointing that the rules permit such action is not the end of the ethical inquiry.


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