Content Warnings: This story involves sexual harassment including a statement made by the victim of sexual harassment. The story does not include any details about the harassing behavior. Lastly, even though the victim of the harassment has made their own identity public, because it is not material to the story, we have chosen not to disclose their identity here.

Over the past few days, the Magic community was witness to yet another story of sexual harassment at a convention. This time the event in question is CubeCon 2023 which took place several months ago, from October 20th to 22nd, in Madison, Wisconsin.

The events in question took place at the convention itself, and a small investigation took place shortly thereafter. However, much of this information was unknown to the community at large until CubeCon’s President, Jonathan Brostoff (better known as JBro online) and the convention’s Treasurer, Brian Kowal, posted a statement to X (formerly Twitter) announcing that they would be moving on with CubeCon operations without the other members of the organizing committee.

The Investigation

One thing I want to get out of the way early, because it’s become a very popular question is, what did the actual investigation into sexual harassment entail? Many of the statements that were issued highlight an investigation that was performed and the myriad ways in which that was mishandled. The facts of the investigation itself are certainly interesting but they are not as important to the outcomes of this story as some people may think. This is because the most important aspect of the investigation was the determination that the allegations of harassment were valid.

This information should inform all of the decisions thereafter and the story really begins at the completion of the investigation when only Brostoff and Kowal supported removing the alleged harasser from CubeCon entirely. The mishandling of the investigation, for better or for worse, becomes a moot point because the other members of CubeCon’s organizing board are arguing to keep a credibly accused sexual harasser in their ranks.

The details of who told what to whom, and who did and didn’t provide statements, and who was and wasn’t informed of certain information, is valuable to anyone looking to better understand the dynamics of that specific event and the ways in which convention and tournament operators need to improve their processes and standards for these kinds of investigations. But there’s much more to this story than the investigation’s details, and for the sake of this remaining focused on the rift, split, and future of CubeCon, that aspect of the story is being left at a high level.

The CubeCon Committee

At the time of writing, the official CubeCon website lists seven members of the organizing committee. They are Brostoff and Kowal along with Event Ops Lead Landon “Libby” Liberator, Tech Lead Gwen Dekker, Production Lead Justin Parnell, Events Lead Zach Halpern, and Communications Lead John Terrill.

However, Justin Parnell resigned from CubeCon upon taking a job with a company in direct competition with Wizards of the Coast, citing the conflict of interest, and was only minimally involved, if at all, in the events following CubeCon 2023.

Furthermore, Gwen Dekker was involved in how the sexual harassment allegations were handled, but also resigned from the company, effective November 16th, after deciding it was no longer in his best interest to be involved in CubeCon.

The statement that Brostoff and Kowal published directly claims an “intractable” disagreement between members of the CubeCon organizing committee. The implication being that the remaining members wanted to keep within the organization leadership the alleged sexual harasser, who we now know is Events Lead Zach Halpern (Zach himself published his own statement confirming this information publicly).

The immediate community reaction on social media could be characterized as strongly supportive of Brostoff and Kowal’s decision. As the community has had to deal with a history of sexual harassment at events, the tolerance for accepting such behavior, especially among Magic’s community members who are active on X (formerly Twitter), is incredibly low.

However, rebuttal statements soon followed by various parties. It was unclear why, but there was another side to this story that was slowly emerging in which there was a claim that Brostoff and Kowal were not acting in the best interests of CubeCon but in their own self-interest.

Thanks to details provided in the statements subsequently made by Terrill and Dekker we now have more insight as to from where that narrative was derived, but at the time when the only CubeCon statement published was that of Brostoff and Kowal, this was a very confusing turn.

The Existing Rift at CubeCon

Hipsters of the Coast attempted to reach out to every member of the organizing committee to comment on this story except for Libby who does not have any public contact info, and whom the other members declined to provide contact info for.

Only Brostoff, Kowal, and Dekker were willing to talk with us. Terrill and Halpern did not respond to our communication, and Parnell simply stated that they had moved on to a new job and were no longer involved in CubeCon.

Discussions with Brostoff, Kowal, and Dekker, confirmed several things. First, the harassment incident was reported very shortly after CubeCon 2023 completed. Brostoff said that they, the organizers, were still celebrating the success of the event when they learned of the allegations.

Second, the committee decided to form a subcommittee to investigate the allegations and report back their findings. Lastly, after that report was delivered, the organizing board was split on the decision to remove Halpern from CubeCon. Brostoff and Kowal advocated for removal. Terrill, Libby, and Dekker advocated for different punitive measures but not the complete removal of Halpern.

This rift between Brostoff and Kowal and the rest of the committee members was not a new wound on the committee but rather this was the latest of several incidents that seemed to put these two sides against each other.

Brostoff described his understanding of the pre-existing conflict, “From my perspective there was certainly another rift happening before this incident which, in my own opinion, some of the members were really pushing to monetize the brand more and make as much money as possible, wanting to extract every penny of value out of [CubeCon].”

Kowal added, “A lot of them wanted to move it from Madison and try to do more events. Those were the big things they were pushing for.”

In his lengthy statement on the situation, Dekker characterized his departure from CubeCon as being, “in light of misaligned vision for the future sustainability of the event, power struggles and feelings of ownership and entitlement, and Jonathan’s fundamental rejection and undermining of other’s work.”

CubeCon, LLC

On the surface, and even beneath the surface, this is a story about how tournament organizers have a responsibility to their staff, their attendees, their sponsors, and their business to create a safe and inclusive environment in which their events are held.

This is a moral value that Wizards of the Coast has made clear is one of their main priorities not only for the MagicCon events they run, but for any place in which Magic is played, whether it’s a convention like SCGCon or CubeCon or Friday Night Magic at your LGS.

In full disclosure this is also a core value of Hipsters of the Coast even though we are not a tournament organizer.

What became clear as Brostoff, Kowal, Dekker, Terrill and Halpern put out their own statements, is that the remaining members of the business were intent on framing this as not an issue about sexual harassment, but an issue about business operations and the logistics of CubeCon.

Business entities exist to protect business as well as employees. CubeCon began operation in 2020, held its first event in 2022, and CubeCon, LLC was formed on November 6th, 2023, roughly two weeks after the end of CubeCon 2023.

Several of the members of the organizing committee, in their various statements, made it clear that the operating logistics of CubeCon have been somewhat murky.

At this point I think it is important to emphasize that in their statement, Brostoff and Kowal characterized the separation of CubeCon’s management as pertaining directly to the sexual harassment claims, investigation thereof, and refusal by the remaining committee members to remove Halpern from the organization. This is an accurate characterization of the events, as we’ll get into later when I review the timeline.

Dekker and Terrill, in their statements characterized the separation as malicious in nature and directly relating to the operational and organizational struggles the committee was experiencing, and that, as Dekker specifically describes it, “I can only interpret the statement put out by BK and Jonathan as an attempt to hijack the CubeCon brand away from the organization team rather than separate amicably.”

The organizational challenges that CubeCon was facing had been there before the sexual harassment claims. As previously mentioned there were rifts between members not only on a personal level but also when it came to how to operate the company and what the future vision of the company would be.

There were also logistical issues stemming from the fact that no legal business entity had been put in place to handle asset control. Once Brostoff and Kowal announced to the other members they were forming their own company and that the organizing members who disagreed were going to go through a separation process, some aspects of the separation degraded into TV Sitcom-like divorce proceedings.

In our discussion, Brostoff sees himself as the original founder and visionary for CubeCon. In Dekker’s statement however, he claims that the time’s Brostoff acted as sole owner of CubeCon were upsetting to Dekker, who instead viewed the business as a partnership between all of the organizing members. Another place the CubeCon separation is likely to be messy, as most separations are, is in the finances. Kowal as treasurer has access to the CubeCon funds and has demonstrated documentation of having paid everyone their expected shares but Dekker claims this is false and correct payments have not been made.

There’s no real truth to get to in this kind of he-said-they-said separation without the legal system involved. This is why divorce proceedings use professional mediators or courtrooms to separate assets, and not argumentative statements made on social media.

CubeFest and CubeCon

In the aftermath of the separation we can start to piece together a more complete puzzle of the events taking place between CubeCon and this week’s social media statement extravaganza.

Brostoff and Kowal will forge ahead with CubeCon, LLC and their vision for an annual event in Madison, WI. Terrill and Libby will similarly move on to what they’re calling CubeFest, and attempt to rebuild CubeCon’s success but in new locations, and potentially with more annual events. Dekker will continue to work on software and has said he will happily license it out to CubeCon, CubeFest, or any other Cube event that can make use of the software.

Halpern, it seems, will not be part of either new endeavor and it’s unclear at what point between the separation of CubeFest that Terrill and Libby decided not to include Halpern, though from messages between Terrill and Brostoff/Kowal it’s likely that the decision was made before Dekker’s resignation, as one proposal for CubeFest includes Terrill, Libby, and Dekker, but not Halpern.

Parnell, as previously mentioned, has moved on to a new job outside of Magic, and was not involved in these events anyways.

CubeCon 2023 ended on October 22nd, 2023. 15 days later, on November 6th, 2023, Brian Kowal registered CubeCon, LLC with the state of Wisconsin.

Halpern’s statement claims he first learned of the allegations eight days after CubeCon ended, which puts that event around October 30th.

Dekker told me the investigation took a week, but couldn’t remember exact start and end dates. He believed it was the last week of October, which would put the start of the investigation almost right after the end of CubeCon, and the completion of the investigation at the point Halpern says he was contacted about it.

Dekker resigned on the 16th, a day after a call with Brostoff and Kowal, after which Dekker decided he did not want to remain a part of CubeCon. Dekker believes that this was only a few days after Brostoff and Kowal announced their intentions to separate from the rest of the group.

  • October 20th: First Day of CubeCon 2023
  • October 22nd: Final Day of CubeCon 2023, day of alleged harassment
  • October 23rd: Sexual harassment claims reported to the CubeCon board
  • October 24th~30th: Committee Investigation
  • November 6th: CubeCon, LLC formed by Kowal
  • November 15th: Brostoff and Kowal announce they are forming their own business
  • November 16th: Dekker resigns from CubeCon
  • January 2nd: CubeCon (Brostoff/Kowal) publish their statement
  • January 3rd: CubeFest (Terrill/Libby) publish their response, followed by statements from the harassment victim, then Halpern and finally Dekker. Following the CubeFest statement, several community members retracted their previous statements in support of CubeFest.
  • January 4th: You are here (or you’re in the future, I hope it’s not too bad)

From the start of CubeCon 2023, which was, by all accounts, a large success, and according to Brostoff and Kowal also a financial success, to January 3rd and the end of a very messy and very public sort of divorce proceeding on X (formerly Twitter) is only a span of 75 days.

Even shorter was the week between the end of the sexual harassment investigation and the decision by Brostoff and Kowal to form CubeCon, LLC.

From one perspective it’s understandable why the CubeFest members and Dekker would cast these events as related to the business and operational issues that CubeCon was facing. The competing visions for the company as well as obvious concerns over management and ownership issues almost certainly meant CubeCon’s organizing committee was on a path for some kind of mediation or separation event.

The timeline between the end of CubeCon, the reported harassment allegation, the completion of the investigation, and Brostoff and Kowal’s decision to organize a new LLC, however, draws a very clear line from the sexual harassment claims to the formation of CubeCon, LLC.

CubeCon 2024

The Top 8 Competitors from CubeCon 2022, from

There’s no denying that the formation of CubeCon, LLC, and the decision to consolidate the business has benefits for Brostoff and Kowal. However, the loss of the rest of the organizing members is likely to be a non-negligible cost.

It’s no secret that an incredible amount of work has gone into CubeCon, and that work was split, in varying ways, between the members of the organizing committee. Where there were once seven members, now there are two running CubeCon and two running CubeFest. The loss of resources on either side is going to be detrimental to either operation.

Kowal and Brostoff believe they know what to do to make things continue to be successful. “It’s all rebuildable because the first CubeCon was all us. Not Brian and I, but the cube community as a whole. We couldn’t have created something as special and successful without the passion, support, and acceptance of the community. You can look around now and see how many new and old faces are willing and ready to lend a hand in building CubeCon back up to better than what it was before. Cube is the best form of Magic because it’s the most inclusive form of Magic. You don’t need any money or cards of your own, everyone can play, and the joy comes from creating and sharing your passions with others. This is CubeCon’s vision – to be the embodiment of cube and what it means.”.

Even though they’ve ended up with the CubeCon name, and they clearly have the vision and drive to continue working on the event, it remains to be seen what impact the loss of the rest of the committee means for this year’s event, already scheduled for October this year, again in Madison, WI.

It also remains to be seen what the impact will be to CubeFest. While Terrill and Libby may feel that something has been wrongfully taken from them, they won’t have the expectations of success to build off of, but CubeCon will need to manage those expectations. There’s no need to have a CubeFest 2024 for example.

But it is also unclear how the community will view CubeFest, an event borne from an incident of sexual harassment handled incredibly poorly in a very public way. The impact to potential staff and sponsors may be insurmountable. On the other hand, a few public apologies and some time for the community to forget may work in CubeFest’s favor to launch events further down the road.

This article has been updated to correct the accuracy of a quote from Brostoff.

Appendix A: Links to Statements

The below list of statements is in the approximate chronological order in which they were made public. Dekker’s resignation letter is included separately but was publicized as part of his official statement.

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