UPDATE (5/9/19): Watanabe has been banned for 30 months, removed from the Magic Pro League, and removed from the Hall of Fame.

As the Top 8 of Mythic Championship II London was about to be announced, Rich Hagon read a statement on stream saying that Magic Pro League member and Hall of Famer Yuuya Watanabe had been disqualified from the event for marked cards.

“During a deck check in Round 15 of Mythic Championship II, the judge staff noticed an issue with Yuuya Watanabe’s deck, where the sleeves of his Urza’s Power Plants were marked in a specific way. Three Urza’s Mines and one Urza’s Tower had a different marking, and three Urza’s Towers and one Urza’s Mine also had a different marking. No other cards in the deck, nor sideboard, had any of these marks. The judge staff determined that the odds of this happening by accident were close to non-existent and disqualified Watanabe from the event. This infraction will be further investigated by the MPL, according the Wizards of the Coast representatives.”

Watanabe’s Marked Sleeves

After Watanabe’s disqualification, his sponsor, Cygames, published images of the marked cards on their website. They show clear markings on the sleeves of the Watanabe’s Tron lands.

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On Twitter, Cygames also released a statement from Watanabe in which he explains the circumstances around his disqualification. He says that he decided to change his sleeves after his Round 12 loss to Thien Nguyen because they were the same sleeves he used on Day 1 and wanted to do something to “change [his] mentality.”

After changing his sleeves, Watanabe says that his deck was checked during his Round 14 match against Mark Jacobson and was told there were no problems. Then after Round 15, his deck was checked once again, and according to Watanabe he was told that his deck was okay. However, after the conclusion of Round 16, the judges informed him that his Urza lands were marked and that he was disqualified from the tournament.

Watanabe goes on to say that he was unaware that his cards were marked but that he thinks the sleeves could have been affected by the fact that Tron frequently tutors for those specific lands.

Disqualified on the Verge of the Top 8

With an intentional draw in Round 16 to end the swiss rounds, Watanabe had appeared to make the Top 8 with 37 match points when he was disqualified for marked cards. It would have been his sixth career Pro Tour/Mythic Championship Top 8, though he has yet to win one.

Watanabe is one of Magic’s most decorated players. He won the 2012 Players Championship and the 2017 World Magic Cup with the Japanese national team, and has been the Player of the Year twice (2009 and 2012). He has five career Pro Tour/Mythic Championship Top 8s, as well as seven Grand Prix wins, which is tied for first all-time with Kai Budde and Shuhei Nakamura. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.

Watanabe’s disqualification comes three months after fellow Magic Pro League member Rei Sato was disqualified from Grand Prix Prague for opportunistically cheating in January 2019. Sato forgot to play the land he needed to win the game, went to combat, and then tried to play the land mid-combat. The disqualification was investigated by the MPL, which found that “Sato’s disqualification was valid, that the actions were opportunistic, but not premeditated nor intended to deceive his opponent.” Sato was disinvited from the Mythic Invitational in March but allowed to stay in the Magic Pro League.

Last Thursday, another Magic Pro League member, Owen Turtenwald, was removed from the Magic Pro League roster and the Mythic Championship II London invites list. Turtenwald was also disinvited from the Mythic Invitational a day before the event, with Wizards only saying that Turtenwald “[would] not be participating” in the event, though Kotaku later reported that he had been accused of allegedly “exhibit[ing] a pattern of predatory behavior toward female Magic players that spans several years.”

Update (4/30/19): Added Watanabe’s statement and pictures of the marked cards.

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