Tournaments are one of the most enjoyable activities a Magic player can partake in. The thrill of the wins and a whole room of people to talk to and trade with. Yet at every large tournament there is a certain degree of risk. Thievery has become rampant at large events such as prereleases and all too often the heartbreaking sight of a player who has become the victim of an immoral act.
Elevated language aside, this article was created to give helpful pointers so you can keep your collection safe at tournaments. Even if a regular tournament player has never had anything stolen, they all know the feeling. Turning around and not seeing your binder where you thought you had left it can leave the calmest person in a stressful state. A good portion of the time the cards have been picked up by an innocent player who just wants to see what you have and the situation is immediately solved. Yet all too often, the deck or binder is gone, never to be seen again.
Just as a side note, if you have ever taken anything from someone else at a friendly Magic event with no intention of returning it, then all you have accomplished is further ruining the Magic environment for experts and beginners alike and there should be no end to the guilt you should feel.
Here are a couple general tips to keep your hard earned collections safe from predators:
1) Travel Light
It's not going to happen
It's not going to happen
You don’t need to be carrying around every single card you own in one big binder. You don’t even need to be carrying around all your rares. No one is going to trade for your foil One with Nothing so you might as well just take it out, at least for the one day you are at the tournament. This provides the added benefit of lessening the weight you have to carry. You are going to be at a tournament for at least a few hours and its all too easy to lay down that heavy bag for a second or to and get distracted. Thieves look for unattended gear for easy pickings.
2) Travel Compact
If you want to bring a couple decks and even maybe a few binders for different formats, that’s fine, just make sure to store it in one place so you only have to keep your eye on one thing all the time. Having multiple binders out at a time can lead to confusion and leave you with one disappearing.
3) Trust No One
As horrible as this may sound, anyone beyond the people you know should not be trusted. If someone wants to make a trade, give them a friendly smile and hand over your collection, but make sure to watch them like a hawk while they look. A seconds glance away and an experienced thief could have whipped out a card or two without you noticing and innocently hands back your binder. The worst part about losing things in this manner is you usually won’t realize one of your Troll Ascetics is missing until the next day.
As surprising as this may sound, I have had three offers from people at tournaments to watch my stuff while I, say, go to the bathroom or get some food. To me these people seem like obvious thieves but I just want to make people aware that these people may not be offering you a friendly service but could be trying to take advantage of your trusting nature. Don’t let it happen.
These are some general rules for keeping your prized collections safe from miscreants. Now I want to go onto some more specific tactics you could use to stop thieves in their tracks.
The Bag Loop (thanks to Dr. Tom)
If you have wisely decided to store your gear in a backpack, while you are playing it might not be a bad idea to loop the strap of the bag around a chair leg. That way, there is no way anyone can take your stuff without you knowing about it.
The Carabiner (thanks to Lesurgo)
A more unusual tactic but a most effective one. Attach a carabiner to any bag or case you might bring along with you, connecting it to a belt loop on your pants. That way there is no chance of your stuff getting swiped and equally no chance of you forgetting it!
The Foot Rest (thanks to Mkipps)
Instead of placing a bag under a chair, place it under you feet. Also, never leave anything lying on a table, if you are ever not using anything put it straight back in the bag.
The Friend Sentinels (thanks to Qwerty)
Leave your collection under the watchful eye of a buddy who might have come along to the tournament with you. Never leave your bag in a pile with other random bags. Of course make sure that your friend isn’t also involved in an activity that could take away their attention.
The Really Big Pocket
I know that this tactic might not be available to everyone but I actually own a jacket that has an inside pocket so big, that I can fit my binder inside of it (my binder is rather thin because I only keep tradable in it). While most of you won’t be able to fit a whole binder in, if you are going to a constructed tournament without the intention of trading, perhaps you should just wear a hoodie with an inside pocket or perhaps even cargo pants/shorts that you can keep your deck, dice and such in while you are not playing.
The Announcer (thanks to Mark Rosewater)
If you see a thief in action, immediatly confront him and announce his diabolical deed to all around. This isn't advisable in all situations...but if you happen to be 6'5" like our friend MaRo, I'm sure most thieves will be less inclined to resist...be careful though.
The Inventory (thanks to Arch_wooohh)
Before going to a tournament, make a list of all the cards you have with you. This includes all cards in binders and in decks. Whenever you get a free moment, check your collection with your inventory sheet.
Another thing you must know is thieves will usually take insane risks to get what they want. I heard a story from a judge at a prerelease that a man had gone behind the registration counter and swiped the money box while everyone was watching! He sprinted out of the hall before anyone could blink! He actually got away. Don't presume that all thieves are intelligent or tricksy because some of them are just crazy.
Once at an extremely friendly Friday Night Magic, my friend had his deck box stolen and it wasn't a single deck box either; it contained 8 of his valued decks! Everyone in the room seemed to be a familiar face so security was at a low. Afterwards we remembered a brother of a regular customer who was the most likely suspect (seeing as his binder had all the cards from the decks next time we saw him). We couldn't prove anything though, so the cards were gone. Lesson learned: even at a small, friendly event, your collections are in danger. Granted, there is a certain level of security by knowing most of the people in the store but this is no reason to disregard protecting your cards.
The Darksteel prerelease here in Ohio wasn't very successful as at the time there was a level 3 alert on the roads for snow. Luckily I was in Florida on vacation and visited the prerelease there! At the event an unfortunate fellow had his cards taken from him. He stood up in front of the whole hall with a big stack of bills totalling up to $300. He offered this to anyone who could return his cards, even if they were the thief...he never got them back. Speed is the key to catching a thief. The moment you notice missing cards...get in action. On another note however, the whole hall did spring into action as soon as a reward was offered. So if your collection really is that valuable to you, a reward can set Magic Bounty Hunters Corp into action!
I have never had the misfortune of losing anything at an event, but I came very close. At States, some friendly looking guy offered me a trade. I agreed and we were browsing each others' collections. I noticed something rather odd. Why would this man take a Keiga, the Tide Star out of my binder and put it in his deck box? I would gladly trade the card but that just didn't seem right. I immediatly called his attention to it and he acted all defensive saying he just wanted to trade etc. but I was having none of it. The judges said they would keep an eye on him. This is an example of how keeping an eye on people you are trading with can prevent the loss of your cards.
A player whom I knew very well was recently banned from most stores here in central Ohio. Why? He was caught stealing product from one store and word spread fast. Everyone liked the guy and I'll admit he was pretty cool. But there can be no tolerance for thieves. He was caught by a guy who he was on friendly terms with but was still turned in. This is a warning for thieves. If you get caught stealing, it won't be just the police you have to fear. You will never again be trusted at Magic events. People will point you out to newer people and you'll probably have to quit playing because there is nowhere to play.
On a final note, if you lose your gear, immediately report it to the tournament management. There are some who will just tell you "too bad, you should have kept a closer eye on your stuff," but hopefully your organizer will sympathize with you and ask around if anyone has seen your collection. Also if you witness a crime take place, it's usually best not to make a big deal out of it (though the larger-muscled readers could probably strongarm a thief if they felt inclined) but rather take note of both parties involved ,the victim and the criminal, and inform the nearest judge, security officer, or bodybuilder friend that may be around you.
Tournaments should be lots of fun so I hope you don’t lose any of that enjoyment because you have become fearful of thieves. Just be aware that there are people out there willing to commit acts of thievery and try to do a few simple things to protect yourself.
Thanks to all who provided examples of how to keep safe!
Thanks to Iloveatogs for the awesome artwork!
Thanks to all the editors at Salvation!