Saturday, March 1, 2014

When a Host Plays, He Cheats

I was chatting with one of my fellow Standard Pauper players earlier today, and during a discussion about what happened to a previous Player Run Event, he mentioned that one of the issues involved was the accusation that the host was cheating. Apparently, some involved believed that it is always inappropriate for a host to play in any event he or she is running.

I thought this was an interesting perspective. For as long as I have been involved on Magic Online in various Player Run Events, the host has always been a participant. I also almost always play in the events that I run. And I have never even considered that this might be seen as cheating. Here's why:

There is actually surprisingly little a host can do to cheat. Sure, he or she can try to manipulate the pairings to get what might seem like a less-experienced opponent. The host could even make sure that he or she always received the bye whenever eligible to receive it. I suppose the host could even deliberately alter the pairings to try to improve his or her tiebreakers.

Here's the thing though. Those actions, dishonest as they are, are a very minor advantage. And they come with a huge cost. Player Run Events have always been about trust. The players trust that the host will provide the prizes advertised; all of the players assume that the other players won't change their deck or Sideboard in between rounds; the host trusts that none of the players are intentionally losing to another player to then split the prizes. Trust is fundamental to the success of a PRE. Without it, the event will lose players and eventually die out.

So for a host, it makes no sense to try to gain an edge by unfairly manipulating the pairings. The potential loss of trust is massive, and the potential gain from those actions is pretty minor. After all, the host still has to actually win most or all of his matches, and on Magic Online, there is very little you can do to cheat your way to a win.

But I'd love to hear what the community thinks. Is it improper for a host to play in an event he or she is running? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.


  1. I have been hosting events for many years as well. I used to host TPDC on PDC Magic and then after that a variety of events on I too have always played in the events I have hosted.

    It is a ton of work to host an event. Players truly don't appreciate the amount of time it takes to run a weekly series. Not to mention that most hosts have created the event they are hosting. So the host in my mind has earned the absolute right to play in the event if he likes.

    As a player if you don't like the host playing in the event, then don't play. You vote with your attendance.

    And I would further challenge any player, if you don't like the way an event is being run by a host, create your own event. Then you can have absolute say in how the event is run.

  2. I'd add a big "hear, hear!" to what Dabil said and just add my two cents:

    Of course it's proper for the host to play in the event he is hosting, just as it's alright for the host of a house party to be a fellow contestant in that night's game of Trivial Pursuit or Settlers of Catan.

    I've sub-hosted for MPDC and SPDC and only briefly ran SPDC and Modern PDC because real life just doesn't allow me to host regularly. But I will say that when I was hosting, the event was on my mind all week, every week, and part of the reason I was hosting was because *I wanted to play, too*.

    So on top of all the stuff about hard work that Dabil said, I'd ask players to keep in mind that the host of an event is also a Magic player and is probably creating the event not so they can win but so they can have the fair opportunity to win if they play well and get a little lucky. You know, so they can play Magic, too.

    And I'd close by saying that it doesn't take only hard work to host. It takes a lot of heart, too. I was always thinking to myself that what I was doing was creating an opportunity for people who loved to play a specific form of Magic to play that format, and I often had my happiest days hosting when I did poorly personally but the attendance was up and more people were having fun, regardless of whether I personally won or lost. If I went 0-2 drop but we had lots of people playing, I felt like a winner.

    That's actually the feeling I miss most from not being able to host these days :-( Anyway, good article, Gwyned, very important subject.

  3. Big thanks go to all PRE Hosts, you make the fun possible and so many players enjoy what you are doing, well, i'm one of them ! Full respect and trust are indeed the keys to a positive thinking community. Really important subject even on the internet these days. Keep on hosting and playing, you all rock !

  4. I think it´s very simple, if you think that a host is cheating don´t play that PRE. But some people like to excuse their lost saying things like the host is cheating. I think the host deserve to play much more than any player in the PREs because they are working so other players can play and without the hosts and the PREs the beginnings for new players in MTGO like me would be more difficult. So thank you all and keep playing.