Vengeance Shall Be Mine (in the Form of Cooperating with an Investigation): Playing Trevor Humphries in a Top Eight Last Weekend

This past week has been a whirlwind of good luck and bad fortune all tied into one.

On Saturday morning around 1:00 a.m., I was in a car accident driving my friend Barrett home from a night of Magic at Stomping Grounds in Hatboro, Pennsylvania (yes, that was a shameless plug for a good store). We both walked away from the hunk of metal scrap that used to be my car alive and relatively uninjured but I spent the week leading up to SCG Worcester talking to lawyers and insurance agents and I was really looking forward to a stress-free day of Magic.

My sister lent me her car so I could drive back to Hampshire College and still be able to drive around to work and, most importantly, Magic tournaments.

I woke up at 6 a.m. on the 19th, excited to spend the day playing Magic with my friend Leandro Taveras and hang out with everybody’s favorite person, SCG NJ Open winner Kevin Jones. After an hour and forty-five minutes of driving, including getting lost in Worcester, I was able to find parking where I was subsequently gouged for $20 cash. I only had $40 cash in my wallet and so I was short $10 for entry to the tournament, but luckily, Leandro saved my day and lent me the money. After buying in to the tournament I checked a post I had made on Facebook asking my friends what my 15th sideboard card should be.

Screen shot 2014-10-20 at 10.29.31 PM

I went with Brett’s suggestion and it almost cost me big time! I had jammed a bunch of change in my pocket to pay for vending machines, but I decided Magic cards would be a much better use of the money. I walked up to the counter, placed my black wallet on the black counter, and dug around for the $2.50 to pay for a [card]Deflecting Palm[/card]. In my haste to add Deflecting Palm to my sideboard, I forgot my wallet on the counter. A couple minutes later I heard my name over the loud speaker calling me to the stage and someone had returned my wallet with the $1 and my debit cards/bank info all intact. I walked over to Leandro and I excitedly told him this was going to be a lucky day.

After making fun of Kevin Jones for registering his Legacy decklist at basically the last minute as a judge impatiently waited next to him, I was off to play Modern.

[deck title=My List]
[Creatures]
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
[/creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
2 Ajani Vengeant
[/planeswalkers]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
[/spells]
[Lands]
2 Forest
2 Plains
4 Arid Mesa
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Batterskull
2 Engineered Explosives
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Blood Moon
2 Choke
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Deflecting Palm
1 Bow of Nylea
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

Round 1: William Grogan, UR Delver

This was a quick round and made me feel quite confident in myself because the field was majority UR Delver. I believe I took game one of this matchup and dropped game two only to win game three in convincing fashion.

1-0

Round 2: Tanner Hall, UR Delver

Tanner outplayed me this round and crushed me with [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card]. Game one, he had a triple Swiftspear opening and destroyed me before I put up much resistance. Game two, I was able to muck up the ground and stop his pressure to take a solid win. Game three, I misplayed by not bolting a Swiftspear turn one and I lost the match because of it. 1-1

Round 3: Joseph Chagnon, R/u Cruise Burn

The whole day was moving at such a whirlwind pace that I don’t remember much from this match except our game three. I was at seven life and he was at 12. I passed the turn and he played [card]Searing Blood[/card] on my [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] which I shrugged off and pointed out that nothing would happen. Unfortunately, I forgot to respond with my [card]Lighting Helix[/card] to go up to 10 life. He drew for turn and did nothing, so I cast Helix into a [card]Skullcrack[/card] on his end step. I untapped and attacked with two [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and a 6/6 [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], stealing the match from under his nose.

2-1

Round 4: Karl Delatorre, Melira Pod

Game one, I was able to stick an early Thrun and protect him from my opponent’s Shriekmaws until I landed some big creatures to punch through to kill him. Game two, I was able to stick an early [card]Bow of Nylea[/card] followed by Thrun to make a humongous threat to beat down with. After my opponent podded a [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] into a [card]Siege Rhino[/card], I played two [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and he conceded.

3-1

Round 5: Joshua Hoppenbrouwer, Affinty

Somehow I beat Affinty two games in a row on the draw… I don’t know how.

I don’t remember which game was which, but I know one game was won with a huge [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] and tons of removal, while the other game was won with two huge Knights. The games felt very close and I should have lost game two, but I got lucky and squeaked it out.

4-1

Round 6 Leandro Taveras, Scapeshift

Getting paired against a good friend in a tournament, especially in a do or die situation, can be stressful. Leandro and I had been discussing strategy and card choices leading up to the tournament and we both knew that my matchup, especially post board, was incredibly favored against him. Going into the round, I was in 6th place at 4-1 with 64.8-percent breakers while Leandro was in 11th place at 4-1 with breakers somewhere around 50 percent. Leandro asked me for an intentional draw and after we discussed it, we agreed that if we were 1-1 going into game three we would intentionally draw to both try to get into win-and-in situations to meet up in the top eight later on.

Game one, I was able to come out of the box quickly and Leandro got stuck on only blue and red mana with multiple ramp spells and [card]Scapeshift[/card] in hand. Game two, I came out much slower off of a mulligan and he was able to [card]Cryptic Command[/card] when I tried to cast [card]Blood Moon[/card], only to follow up with an 8th land and [card]Scapeshift[/card] to end the game.

Since we were 1-1, we drew game three so we wouldn’t completely knock each other out of contention.

4-1-1

Round 7: Zachery Erickson, Affinity

I was paired down this round, with my opponent on 12 points while I was on 13. I told him that the way the standings looked, not a single 15-pointer (5-2 record) would make it into the top eight, and I asked him to concede. This is probably my least favorite question in Magic to ask or be asked, and I don’t really know if it is right or wrong to do so. On one hand, my opponent could give me a top eight berth, but on the other hand, he still had the difference between $50 and $100 hanging in the balance. I don’t know if my question was right or wrong but all I know is that he told me he was going to make me sweat, so sweat I did. These were the standings after round six:

Screen shot 2014-10-20 at 11.56.50 PM

In game one, I was utterly demolished. I put up no fight and got crushed. I was starting to stress and I could feel my anxiety building up. I had put myself on this bubble and I was not ready for it to burst out from under me!

Game two, I looked at an opening hand of three [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card], one [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], one [card]Lighting Helix[/card], a [card]Wooded Foothills[/card], and a Forest. I think about it for a little while and decide to keep. On turn one, I had to fetch for a [card]Temple Garden[/card] so I could play my Pridemages out before (hopefully) stabilizing with [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]. He kept me pinned pretty tight but I drew into a red source and [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] when I needed it most to crash through and win the game.

Game three was incredibly tight. He committed some early pressure with an ensouled [card]Ghostfire Blade[/card] but I was able to use Pridemage to take it away. I was able to topdeck an [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] and used a [card]Path to Exile[/card] to remove two [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card]s and an [card]Ornithopter[/card] and finally push through the lethal damage.

I wouldn’t say I celebrated that victory as hard as Ari Lax or Lee Shi Tian, but there was a lot of jumping around and fist pumping until the sweat settled in. I found Leandro and unfortunately saw him lose his match to Storm because he couldn’t find a Scapeshift. I’m not sure he would have made it anyway, but it always sucks when a friend loses. I went over to the pairings board and began to sweat until final standings would be posted.

When I saw a judge carrying the green paper that contained my future, I ran to it to see if I made the cut. As I looked up at the sheet, I heard, “In eighth place: Max Perlmutter!” I went nuts. This was the SCG IQ version of Owen Turtenwald making the top eight of PT M15. I jumped for joy and ran back into the main hall excited to be in…but the sweat wasn’t over. There had been a mishap with the results and some placement had been in contention and the word was it might affect the top eight. A kind judge could see my anxiety and came over to reassure me that I should be fine. I don’t know who you were, but thank you for that.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 12.17.50 AM

I made it by 1.4 percent, but I was in!

Quarterfinals: Frederic Boileau, Little Zoo

I know I should pay attention to the top tables when I am doing well, but I completely overlooked it this time and had no idea what deck my opponent was on. I got a little anxious when I saw him drop [card]Horizon Canopy[/card] on turn one, fearing my worst matchup (Boggles) only to erupt into smiles and laughter when he dropped [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]. I quickly bolted it and countered his follow up ‘Goyf with one of my own. Soon I had him down to one life and was able to push the final damage through thanks to [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] and [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card].

Our match ended very soon after when I was able to drop a turn-three [card]Blood Moon[/card] into turn-four [card]Ajani Vengeant[/card] to kill his Nacatl. I followed up with turn-five [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], into turn-six [card]Batterskull[/card]. He extended his hand and wished me luck in the remainder of the top eight. Unfortunately for me, luck cannot beat a cheater.

The Part of the Article You’ve All Been Waiting For

This is where I diverge from a regular tournament report. I was paired against a man who was seemingly unknown, at least to me, going into this weekend—but is now sitting in infamy along with names like Alex Bertoncini and Mike Long. I 100-percent believe that Trevor Humphries cheated in both the top eight of the Standard Open and against me in the top four of the Modern Premier IQ.

In our first game of the semifinals, I had a decent opening after a mulligan and then flooded out as he comboed with [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] and [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. After our first game, the two judges sitting next to us stepped away to talk. Upon returning, they pulled Trevor aside and told him his shuffling looked fishy and not to shuffle like that. I played a Blood Moon in our second game and it quickly led to a concession. Our third game is where the evidence in my mind truly lines up.

 

In the video posted here, you can clearly watch Trevor stacking his opponents deck and reddit user u/Divisionbyzorro broke it down very clearly.

“This is one of the more obvious cheats we’ve seen on camera in a long time, but I feel like breaking it down anyway. Starting from the 1:00 mark, with repeated pauses and unpauses, you can observe the following:

  • He’s shuffling the deck “underhanded” (for lack of a better term) which means that the cards are clearly visible from above. Normally when I shuffle an opponents deck, I do it “overhanded,” where my hands block the view of the deck.
  • His eyes are constantly flicking down to look at the deck as he shuffles. This is particularly concerning because of the aforementioned shuffling style. I would understand a player wanting to watch what their hands are doing if they’re not confident in their shuffles, but he’s clearly quite adept at using his hands to shuffle. (Personally, when I shuffle, I look away from the deck, off into space.)
  • He has two shuffling patterns (watch this very closely). The first is a traditional “mash,” which he does underhanded. He picks up part of the deck, and “mashes” it into the rest of the deck. He then fans out the deck slightly to let the cards fall back into place. Critically, this lets you see how well the deck is actually being shuffled. You can see that the cards at the top of the deck are “stuck” together each time he does this, meaning they’re staying on top.
  • The second shuffling pattern is the most damning. A few times (usually right after glancing down at the deck), he switches it up and uses his right thumb to push the card at the bottom of the deck to the top. I don’t want to prematurely pitchfork here, but an honest person would never do this. There’s no reason to, as part of your natural shuffling routine, push one card from the bottom (the part of the deck that you could see, deliberately or accidentally) to the top for any honest reason.

He’s clearly very, very practiced at this. I have no evidence for anything other than the taped match we have here, but it would shock me if he hasn’t been doing this for a very long time and screwing over numerous opponents.

Why does he get away with it? He seems nice. He’s a good-looking man. He has a powerful presence about him as well. Even if something “feels” wrong, his stature is intimidating. And you have to be watching your deck carefully to see what he’s doing when you don’t have an overhead angle.

The last statement truly hits home. Trevor is an intimidating person. I was intimidated and he used this to his advantage. I would not consider myself timid, but I am not an overly aggressive person. Magic is a hobby to me and it just so happens to be one I am somewhat good at. I like to spend my games having a fun conversation with my opponents while playing the game I love dearly. Not only is Trevor intimidating, but he is also quite rude to play against. His trash talking definitely goes too far and I felt like I needed to keep up and dish some back to keep my head in the game. In hindsight, I should have asked the two judges next to us for assistance. However, when I started to dish it back, I feel as if I consented to the verbal abuse.

The third game of our match, his cheats worked. I was distracted and intimidated by the verbal abuse he would spit out and I was too trusting in him. I like to believe there is good in most people and I don’t like feeling suspicious of someone that I don’t know or know the reputation of—and this played right into his trap.

I mulliganed to five cards, keeping four fetch lands and a [card]Wild Nacatl[/card].Turn one, I drew a land and fetched a [card]Stomping Ground[/card] to play [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and passed. Turn two, I dreww another land. I proceeded to fetch and attack for three. Turn three, I drew another land and played a fetch. At the end of his turn, I cracked it, only to be greeted by a land off the top again. I repeated this process again and am gifted another land off the top. I drew one more land on turn five and played it. I passed the turn with five lands in play with a [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and four more lands in hand staring down a packed board from him. Turn five, I had not played a fetch land and drew my first nonland card of the game: [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card]. I looked at my hand and the board and conceded.

Ouch

Let’s dig deeper. I played 22 lands in my deck.

12 Fetch lands

4 Shock lands

4 Basic lands

2 Utility lands.

With four fetches, five lands in play, and four more in my hand, I saw 13 of my 22 lands in this game. After the game I spoke to Kevin Jones who was watching me play and we chalked it up to a good run ended by bad luck. After looking at the footage of Trevor’s other matches and his shuffling, I feel like I can comfortably accuse him of cheating.

I have spoken briefly and sent what I would consider a rushed and hurried statement to both Jared Sylva and Eric Shukan (who is an L3 Judge and leader of the Investigations Committee in the judge program). I will not divulge what they said to me in this public of a fashion in case it has any affect on their current investigation. I have also spoken to a few other players who were his opponents that weekend and in the past, but again, I do not feel comfortable divulging what they said in private to me on such a public forum. All I can say is similar issues with land flood/screw were frequent.

I would like to thank my friends Leandro Taveras, Kellen Pastore, Chris Tartamella, and Barrett Goss for pointing out the Reddit thread that alerted me to this almost immediately after it happened. It means a lot to me, so thank you again, guys. You can find the thread here.

Now we get to the fun part: Zoo is back on the map!

I feel that with how the current metagame of Modern is playing out, Zoo feels well positioned. Unless I find through testing that Little Zoo is stronger against the field, I will remain on Big Zoo.

[deck title=My List, Azooni]
[Creatures]
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
[/creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
2 Ajani Vengeant
[/planeswalkers]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
[/spells]
[Lands]
2 Forest
2 Plains
4 Arid Mesa
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Batterskull
2 Engineered Explosives
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Blood Moon
2 Choke
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Deflecting Palm
1 Bow of Nylea
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

 

[deck title=Frederic Boileau’s List]
[Creatures]
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
[/creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Forest
1 Plains
4 Arid Mesa
3 Horizon Canopy
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
2 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Stony Silence
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Boros Charm
1 Magma Spray
2 Wear // Tear
3 Molten Rain
[/card]
[/deck]

I see a few key differences between these builds. Frederic is trying to go under and beat people with [card]Steppe Lynx[/card] and Ghor-Clan plus burn spells for a quick win, whereas my build tries to smash through you. I think both builds are great jumping-in points for any new Zoo players. I feel that his deck has a better matchup pre-board against UR Delver, while my deck is stronger post-board. I think Frederic’s build also has the ability to set the tempo and be the beatdown versus Affinity, where with a Big Zoo build you have to try and stabilize then turn the corner before you can really go for a kill shot. I think my deck has a stronger matchup when we need to go big and midrange versus [card]Birthing Pod[/card] decks, but I don’t know where they will fall in the current metagame yet.

I had not been intending to write an article this weekend, but I feel that with how this week played out, I wanted to get my side of the story out there. Hopefully I can come back soon and give a more in-depth analysis on Zoo in the current metagame—and I will if time and my college course schedule allow me.

Thank you for reading,

Max Perlmutter

About the Author
I am a full time student at Hampshire College and a Modern format specialist. I have been playing Big Zoo since the unbanning of Wild Nacatl. I hope you enjoy my writing and through it I can help us all improve and people and players in the Magic community.

12 comments on Vengeance Shall Be Mine (in the Form of Cooperating with an Investigation): Playing Trevor Humphries in a Top Eight Last Weekend

  1. Corbin says:

    Really nice article! I’m sorry that things didn’t work out so great for you in the Top 8 though :(

  2. Brett S says:

    I guess the ascendancy combo deck isn’t as scary as everyone thought, huh? Also: sorry about your wallet!

    1. Max Perlmutter says:

      People are probably scared of buying into the deck. Also everything turned out fine with the wallet so I just need to not be so forgetful in the future.

  3. Nick says:

    I like your Naya deck. Also there is a typo in your signature block. I’m assuming “help us all improve and people and players in the Magic community” was supposed to be “improve as people and players.”

    I’m sorry you had to have your experience at the event diminished by a cheater.

  4. DaveSpace says:

    Congrats for your top8!!
    In November I’ll going to Gp Madrid and I’m not sure on which deck to play, Naya is the deck I played all the season but I think that now, witch Dig and Cruiser, blue based deck can be the best decks of the formats.
    Do you think Naya is a good deck for the metagame? And for a GP?
    Related on your SB:
    – explosive is useful versus which deck?
    – and choke?
    – Stony silence isn’t better than Ancient grudge? Is useful also versus tron

    1. Max Perlmutter says:

      I do think Zoo is well positioned right now. Personally if I had to play a Modern GP next week it would be with Zoo because with my experience with the deck where I feel it is positioned I think it could make a great run.

      Explosives is great against affinity, Delver, Tokens, Zoo, and any other deck that will play a lot of threats you want to sweep away.

      Choke is to wreck blue decks. It can autowin a lot of games and is too good to not play.

      I like to play Explosives vs affinity and Stony Silence nonbos there. I play 3 bloodmoons which are always live vs Tron and Ancient Grudge is always live removal while stony only wins if I drop it turn 2.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Presumably you were shuffling the deck after each of those fetches. Is your contention that he was putting spells to the bottom of your deck every time you presented your deck to him after each fetch?

    1. Anonymous says:

      He’s saying that after each time he used a fetch the guy thumbed another land to the top of his deck for him.

  6. Alex Mitchell says:

    I came for the report of dealing with the cheater, but stayed for the awesome-looking decklist. :-)

  7. Breitschleif says:

    4 years suspension, are you kidding me? i think he should be banned forever, and so should anyone who is caught cheating. piece of shit people like this ruin the game for EVERYONE.

  8. SorinIsSwift says:

    I played in that IQ as well, and ran up against Nick Hildreath in round 3. His U/R Delver build has an insane Pod matchup, and I knew there was something up upon hearing the final results. It was either the worst run of luck ever, or something fishy. His deck was miles ahead of the format, and he deserved that win.

    That being said…I’m so sorry that you know Kevin Jones personally.

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