Worst Magic: The Gathering moments of 2019

Mistakes were made and lessons were learned.

Mystical Dispute Illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak M
Image via WotC Magic: the Gathering

From cheating at the highest level of play to canceled orders and a lawsuit, 2019 was a wild year in Magic: The Gathering.

The past year in Magic: The Gathering contained numerous highs and lows. But before rehashing MTG’s worst moments, let’s cover a few highlights. Officially launching this past fall was MTG Arena. And while the digital platform still has issues that need resolving, it has helped generate an overall resurgence in the game while attracting up to tens-of-thousands of new players.

There were also minor issues within the competitive scene as Magic expanded its esport platform to include Arena. There was a learning curve this past year and there’s hope for the upcoming 2020 partial season and beyond. Players also bore witness to several amazing set releases, from 36 planeswalkers in War of the Spark to Adventure cards in Throne of Eldraine. And Pioneer, a new Magic format, was introduced.

But there were sour parts, too. Some were tragic and others disappointing. Here were the eight worst Magic moments from 2019, listed in descending order.

8. No Brawl for you, except on Wednesday

Just about everyone in the Magic community was excited to play the Brawl format, more so in Arena than tabletop. But then Wizards of the Coast put a limit on playtime in MTG Arena, restricting open match play in the Brawl format to Wednesday only.

With the first stage of a friends list finally implemented, and creative roundabouts via Brawl Hall and the Arena Brawl website, players are getting their Brawl fix. But many are still waiting for WotC to make it a permanent format. Whether such an action in 2020 will take place remains unknown at this time.

7. Health emergency

Having a health emergency is serious, especially during a top-level match. And Jeffrey “Sjow” Brusi handled it like a pro during Mythic Championship III. Playing against Kai Budde, Sjow began to show signs of an alleged seizure.

Sjow recovered and finished the match while truly giving Budde a scare. The casters weren’t sure whether Sjow was headbanging to music at first, but after a few moments, it became clear something wasn’t right.

6. Bans, bans, everywhere there are bans

The past year saw its fair share of overpowered cards in Magic, along with a healthy amount of bans tied to Throne of Eldraine and Core Set 2020. Missing the detrimental effect Oko would have on almost every format in Magic, the R&D team later found themselves apologizing to the community.

Prior to being banned, Oko dominated the meta in Standard, along with several other cards. Just in 2019, the ELD and M20 sets produced four officially banned cards in the Standard format.

  • Oko, Thief of Crowns
  • Veil of Summer
  • Once Upon a Time 
  • Field of the Dead

5. Slow death of local game stores

It’s hardly a secret that too many local game stores closed their doors for good in 2019. And there are plenty of factors that have contributed to an increase in LGS closings.

For years, local game stores that rely on Magic sales have had issues with Hasbro and WotC. But a tipping point occurred in 2019 when there was a massive print shortage of Brawl pre-constructed decks. Stores had to cancel dozens of preorders, and wait months for a reprinted product. WotC also transitioned to selling singles digitally with the Secret Lair drops, causing even more tension between the organization and local game store owners.

Neither incident directly caused local game stores to shut their doors. But it did potentially push consumers to rely upon digital orders. And it restricted sales that local game stores need to keep the lights on.

4. Cheating at Mythic Championship

Tabletop Magic has been plagued with cheaters since its origin. But over the last several years, it’s occurred less on the Pro level. And then during Mythic Championship III this past year, MTG Hall of Fame player Yuuya Watanabe was accused and charged with cheating during the tournament.

Removed from the Magic Pro League and the Hall of Fame, Watanabe was charged with marking his card sleeves.

“We reviewed recordings of matches from Mythic Championship II, as well as past tournaments,” said WotC. “The result of that investigation is that, effectively immediately, Watanabe is banned.”

Watanabe was banned from participating in competitive Magic for 30 months. Whether Watanabe will return after the ban remains unknown at this time.

3. GP Twitch coverage removed

Several positive changes occurred in Magic esports this past year, but the removal of GP coverage was a huge negative. Instead of covering weekly Grand Prix tabletop tournaments, WotC shifted its focus to Magic Arena and the Magic Pro League with MPL Weekly.

The Twitch series didn’t perform well, however, resulting in it being temporarily suspended heading into the 2020 partial season. But that doesn’t mean coverage of Grand Prix tournaments is returning. WotC has instead committed to covering Mythic Championships and Invitationals. And hopefully, the new regional Players Tour tournaments and Finals will be covered as well.

2. Mythic Edition disaster

In May of 2019, WotC opened sales for the War of the Spark Mythic Edition boxes. With 12,000 units available for purchase, an error on the website allowed over 30,000 units sold. The result led to a lawsuit and thousands of dissatisfied customers.

WotC sent out uncut foil sheets, as an apology towards customers who had their orders canceled, but many were damaged. The entire situation was a giant debacle, and one WotC hopes it will never have to deal with again.

1. Predatory behavior

Watanabe wasn’t the only Magic Pro who made headlines in 2019. Owen Turtenwald was removed from the Magic Pro League in April after allegations of “predatory behavior towards women” surfaced. A vague statement, made by Turtenwald, was later released in August regarding the allegations.

Turtenwald left Magic after the allegations surfaced and now competes in Hearthstone.