Alex Bertoncini. There are few players more controversial these days, and for good reason. It is hard to write about Alex without immediately devolving into look at this, or look at that.
Let's cut to the chase: I think Wizards should show Alex the door, and ban him for life.
This sucks to write, for a few reasons: One, I've been around the block a lot. I was here for crackgate, Saito, Zach Jesse, and more. Vengeance comes swift for some, slow for others. There are still those who feel strongly that Zach was wrongly banned, others feel the same for the aforementioned. And they all have their points.
But it's a little tough to hear the deafening silence on the other side for Alex. Is there literally anyone defending his previous behavior, or advocating that Wizards do nothing in the face of all this outrage? This doesn't feel like a 'debate' but rather 'why are we just sitting here letting this happen?'
Alex made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Los Angeles and Wizards better thank their lucky stars he got knocked out in the Quarterfinals. Can you imagine Alex's smiling face holding up the trophy? Can you imagine all of those players who have quietly been cheated out of god knows how many dollars and opportunities seeing the perpetrator not only rewarded but enshrined as a champion of an event? It's gross just to think about.
And here's the rub: Alex has always been a good player. It's not a secret that he can still win - and lose - fairly on camera. The boy has always had chops. It's just that he's also noticed angles, and he never saw an angle he didn't want to shoot. Two Explores, indeed.
Let's also note that Wizards is in a seriously bad position here.
From Wizards point of view, i.e. the letter of the law, the man served his time, and he can now move forward. What is true for Saito should be true for Bertoncini, right? What precedent is set when, on a random Tuesday, Alex is stripped of his Bronze (now Gold?!) Level benefits and told to never play in sanctioned Magic again? Am I over here leading a witch hunt, or making a case for a known cheater to leave our community, don't let the door hit you etc?
'But what about -' let me stop you right there. This isn't what-about-ism. This is about Alex, so let's start and end there. If something does happen to him, then let's talk precedent, let's talk reasoning, and let's talk about what else happens from here, but I want to stay focused. Right now I'm not 'lumping' anyone into anything. This is about Alex Bertoncini not playing sanctioned Magic any longer.
There aren't a lot of good answers, and it's because Wizards put themselves - and us - in this position, and it's only Wizards that can get us out of it. I understand, from Alex's position, he loves Magic, and who knows - maybe he didn't just screw everyone at GP LA, maybe he played 100% up-and-up Magic. But it's a damn hard sale. You don't get banned for three years, then come back and immediately get a match loss (for outside notes) and game loss (for marked cards) and us not go "Maybe we're better without this one."
I guess there's another way to think of it: What value is Alex bringing to Wizards of the Coast, and to Magic: The Gathering as we know it. What is he actively doing for 'the brand'? Is he helping 'the brand' by being allowed to play in these events? Is he helping our image for those who play other games?
Imagine it's your first big event and you sit across from him. Will you be aware? What if someone tells you later that you just played the most infamous cheater currently in the game, and it makes you immediately question all of his actions, motives, and decisions in the game?
Maybe the real issue is that we don't have Helene Bergeot anymore. Right now there is no "face" for professional-level Organized Play that isn't a player. No one is engaging, listening, responding unless absolutely necessary or just pointing to online resources. This issue is compounded on many levels by Wizards, and this one is significant.
If others are going to be held to a higher standard, then let's see what that standard really is. Because right now, through their inaction, Wizards of the Coast is telling us loud and clear that they are 100% ok with Alex participating in events, highlighting his actions on coverage (even if they only do it when they must), and providing him paid benefits via the Pro Players Club.
Depending on where you fall on this issue, you may be ok with that. But I am not.
- Evan Erwin