On the official bannings of offensive cards

A couple of days ago WotC banned seven cards from all sanctioned play. This was an unprecedented update in that the cards were banned for being distasteful and offensive rather than for their power level within the game.

I personally agree with Wizards' intentions. There are cards in this game that does more harm than good, and banning them from sanctioned play is a reasonable thing to do. It is a good first step on an arduous journey if nothing else. And it is not a novel thing to remove offensive art from the game; that's the reason Earthbind was removed after Revised and why a lot of Chinese cards have alternate art.

I get that there are people who like to make it known that they don't understand or agree with removing particular cards, but a lack of knowledge of why something is bad thing doesn't make it a good thing. And good riddance to Invoke Prejudice. I wrote a post about that card a couple of years ago, and I can't see how anyone in good conscious could argue in favour of it.

For most, or all, the other affected cards, I am not the right person to ask. While I may technically be an immigrant, I am at the privileged side of pretty much everything one would measure. White, male, heterosexual and most of what one could associate with privilege in the western world. And to boot I am from a societal context I feel is pretty different from e.g. the one in USA where a lot of our community reside. Religion in particular comes to mind. To quote Dr Sivert Urstad from the University of Agder, "Norway is often characterised as the world’s most secular country (...) Only 2% of the Norwegian population regularly attend church." Less than half of the population of Norway believes in any kind of god(s), while in comparison, Urstad mentions that 80% of the population in the US believes in God.

For me, a card like Crusade would at worst describe a violent and disagreeable part of our country's history, comparable to the Viking pillages. I might personally look at a card like Oubliette as a more troublesome reminder of our history (the Nyköping Banquet is one of the more famous dick moves in Scandinavian middle age history). So I should probably check my privilege at the door regarding religion as well.

What we find offensive or morally objective vary with our social context. Again, someone not understanding why something is offensive shouldn't be taken as proof as that thing is ok, it is more likely a proof of ignorance on the matter. Slavery was formally abolished in Sweden in 1335, and while I find the loopholes in the US Constitution's 13th Amendment abhorrent, I can't pretend that I understand the American society well enough to properly understand the impact a card like Imprison could have to someone living there today. So during the last couple of days, I've tried to mostly listen and educate myself.

I've seen people argue that the old school community don't follow Wizards nor sanctioned rules regardless. We don't acknowledge ordinary floor rules nor rule enforcement levels for our tournaments, so why should we care about this particular announcement? Because not acknowledging this as a problem is being complicit. Ignoring offensive cards being banned in all sanctioned fomats is a statement on its own at this point.

I’ve been asked to present a take on how to approach the bans in the traditional “Swedish B&R” old school rule set. So in the last 48 hours, I’ve been reading a myriad of articles and comments, had discussions with the secret B&R cabal, and had phone calls with people across the Atlantic to try and understand the issue better.

Here's the main thing: culture is more important than cards. Not being a douchebag is more important than having a good deck. Being nice to play against is more important than winning a tournament. Even with my reputation as "reprint purist", it doesn't bother me playing against reprints or sharpied proxies, but it bothers me playing against a bigot. As a small token of the "culture over cards" attitude, I am donating the TCG Market price of an Invoke Prejudice ($250) to Black Lives Matter and encourage you to do the same if you have the funds. Get rid of the card and use the money for something that matters.

But to ban or not to ban. In the end, together with some of the organisers across the sea, we landed on this being an opportunity to educate, listen, and try to double down on charity efforts in the community rather than simply removing the cards from the card pool. So while we are not adding cards to the ban list (which currently have zero cards), as a tightly knit community we believe we can affect attitudes in different ways. In particular Invoke Prejudice is such an obvious offender that I will take some steps on that card going forward.
  • I will not play against people that play Invoke Prejudice in old school. If anyone casts it, I will scoop and have an uncomfortable conversation.
  • I expect people to not play Invoke Prejudice in any tournaments I host. Consider this a gentleman's banning.
  • People who find this a good opportunity to be edge lords will be banned from tournaments I have a hand or say in. An apology and a donation to a charity that combat the issues may eventually get them unbanned.
So that's it for now. Stay safe, support inclusiveness in what way you can, and don't be a douchebag.

Edit: I've turned off comments for this post. As always, feel free to contact me at delaval@gmail.com for input or questions.