The Curious Case of Alex Bertoncini

Howdy folks! I just wanted to take a few moments to talk about some ongoing stuff within the overall Magic community.

It’s no secret that the world of professional Magic is muddy. It’s no secret to most as well that there are individuals, either regular or professional players that have made an impact upon the game, be it good or bad. Arguably the individual whose name appears in the title of this article has impacted the game, but quite ostensibly has done so for the worse I fear.

If you aren’t aware of who Alex Bertoncini is, a quick Google search should give you the rub of it. Alex is a name whose mere mention brings up the words “cheater” and whose reputation is that of a man who is unrepentant of what he has done. Jokes about Sowers, “2 Explores”, and even the nickname “Bertoncheaty” have surrounded this man for quite some time. During his time playing competitive Magic, Alex was suspended once for 18 months and then again for 3 years. When he came back to the game after this 3 year ban, many questioned whether he had truly reformed or if he would migrate back to his old ways and if it was simply better if he had been banned for life the second time.

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So why are we talking about this now?

This past weekend comes off the heels of Grand Prix Los Angeles, a GP in which Alex Bertoncini (a Bronze level pro now) managed to Top 8. It is said that people were actively boo’ing him upon announcement of his name into the Top 8. The controversy of Alex being in such a position has stirred the collective community, from articles by CoolStuffInc’s Evan Erwin to an impassioned note by SCG’s Cedric Phillips (a man whose integrity is bar none in this day and age where not many seem to care about such a thing), and now finally an actual statement by the man himself.

Click here to read Alex’s statement. Go on, I actually implore you to do so before we continue forward.

In his statement, Alex blatantly comes forward with the statement: “I’ve cheated.” He openly admits to having done so to gain competitive advantage. He claims that cheating is irrational and that he never went into an event with the premeditated mindset to cheat. He further states that because of the cheating and the lies, his mindset grew toxic and that because of that his reputation grew as being unrepentant.

He even goes on to note that on his return to the game after his initial ban of 18 months, that he was apparently not cheating. Rather, he was playing so aggressively and sloppily that eventually his warnings and judge calls became so high that triggered his second ban.

Alex believes that he is reformed, that he can be good for the game. In fact, he is donating winnings and freely offering help to newer competitive players.

Personally, while I do believe that people can reform themselves (I am a big fan of redemptive villains), it is hard to take Alex at his word on this statement. After all, as he says, the onus is on him to prove that he is better, not on us to believe him. Alex’s reputation and his web of lies have grown terribly deep. People have been noting that even in this day and age there is a possibility that he is still cheating – an incident where he received a Game Loss for marked cards at an LCQ as well as an incident at the same event where he received a match loss by attempting to consult notes made prior to a match (by watching his finals opponent in his semifinals match) during the finals match.

Is it safe to say that Alex’s statement is one of playing the victim, that he isn’t truly reformed and is still playing the long game? Would instances like those mentioned above still be coming to light if he wasn’t? Granted, the sheer possibility that the marked cards issue was completely accidental is possible, but it apparently had to do with a foil Mox Opal (as in a singular Mox Opal in foil in the entire deck).

The issues presented above, the statements from those who have been wronged or cheated, those with the integrity to stand up and say something about it, all present one real question: If Alex Bertoncini really, truly loves the game of Magic and cares about its community as a whole, should he consider removing himself from paper Magic tournaments for a while? This is something that came up a fair amount in response to his Facebook statement. If Alex is serious about showing he has reformed, he could show his skills via Magic Online where his kind of cheating  is not possible.

I believe that this would be a good move for Alex. I fervently want to believe that even the villain of the piece can be ultimately reformed for good, and that someday perhaps Alex’s reputation would be a story of that redemption. Right now, though, continuing to play in sanctioned Magic may be harming him more than helping. He wants to show that he is capable of winning without cheating? That’s fine, do it in a scenario where you can’t cheat. Qualify for the Pro Tour through Magic Online, and use it as the tool it is to tune your play to the point where you don’t need to cheat because you are simply a good player. Return to paper Magic at some point to show that you are better.

If Alex Bertoncini really cared so much about this game I feel that he would do something of this nature, not promising to donate winnings to charity. He would make a small sacrifice in order to prove that he is redemptive.

But of course, do we think he will really do that? I doubt it. And thus, doubt will remain in people’s minds when they think of who Alex Bertoncini is and the reputation that precedes him.

What is more worrisome about this situation is the silence from Wizards during this time. I expect that there will be more silence to come from them about it. As a general rule, they mostly won’t comment on things of this nature; but I feel as a company they should make a statement. Something stating that they recognize Alex’s character prior to his initial suspension, and even potentially a confirmation of Alex’s statement about the second suspension being related to his warnings accumulating (a statement Wizards would probably never make for what it’s worth) would go a long way here. As it stands however, we will probably hear mostly silence.

Should Alex Bertoncini continue to be allowed to play paper magic, even after he believes he’s come clean about his past cheating? What are your thoughts on this situation? Please let us know in the comments what you think about this!

That’s all the time that I have for now. Until next time folks, please continue to be awesome to one another, and remember that cheating is never the way to prove yourself.

Joseph is an avid player of eternal Magic formats, including Vintage and Legacy.  As a Nic Fit player who will tell anyone who will listen about his deck, Joe spends his time analyzing and playing on Magic Online and various online platforms, while prepping for competitive events.  To follow more Joe, check out his Twitter!

One comment

  1. From how it sounds though, this isn’t the first time he’s written something like this. I think even Helene Bergeot said she read something like this from him twice before in a tweet on Brian David Marshal’s tweet on the subject so I don’t think anything will be different at all and the donations are just more of a way to try to convince people he’s changed since after all, how much is he donating since I doubt it’s all of it and I haven’t heard the amount yet?

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