I don't normally write about the social and political side of MtG but I am more connected to this story than normal as I was discussing it as in unfolded with a friend. He told me about the pick and I laughed commenting I would probably have done the same thing. For those of you who missed the debacle, a player rare grabbed a foil Tarmogoyf (worth at least $200) in a prestigious Grand Prix top 8 over a Burst Lightning that would have gone in his deck and been amazing. Many felt this was not in the spirit of the game and a heated social media "debate" ensued. I am of the opinion that there are many reasons to game and to compete. There are the financial returns, the glory, to travel, just for fun, to meet people and socialise, simply to win and so forth. So long as you are not cheating, exploiting or being a generally unpleasant human I have no issue with the motives that inspire you to play MtG. Should your main goal be financial, a) perhaps play poker and b) picking the foil Goyf likely was the best call. The reason I would have taken the Goyf in that situation is the hedging of expectation and not purely on the resulting expected value. Should I have not taken the Goyf and just got killed in round 1 then I would be kicking my self. In that situation and I have taken the Goyf I am less put out by the whole thing, likely feeling I deserve the loss somewhat! If I win without taking the Goyf I am pretty happy but if I win and I took the Goyf I feel like a cheeky legend. Also, the Goyf is guaranteed, progression through the top 8 is not, regardless of the pick.
The prize support is not huge for a Grand Prix, the difference between coming 4-8th and coming 1st is $3.5k or so, the diff between 4-8th and 3rd/4th is only $500. The difference between having a top rate Burst Lightning in your deck and some weak generic filler dork isn't going to do much more than shift your win percentage by 2 resulting in a match win percentage looking more like 4. The might returns on 4% of $500 is a tenth that of the Goyf, sure there is more for grabs later on but as you have to win the previous rounds the contributions from the matchup % differences do not add up to much.
It later transpired the Goyf grabber was knocked out by his opponent ripping the card he should have picked. Equally funny and some good karma but not maliciously, just in the sense that it is a good storey. Amused as I was I didn't care about him being knocked out, much like I didn't care that he picked the Goyf and much like I wouldn't have cared had he won. Had I been in that top 8, playing green and receiving the pack from said Goyf grabber than likely I would have cared a whole lot more. I wasn't and I didn't. I am one magic anecdote up and it cost me nothing more than the time to hear about it.
Our hero of the storey is not done yet with karmic justice however. After the event is all done he places the foil Goyf on e-bay and in a genius move pledges to give half the proceeds to charity. With all the fuss surrounding the incident it attracted attention and quickly flew past the $200 or so normal value for a foil Goyf. We are now sat at just under $16k with several days left to go on the auction. Even after the charity cut our hero is looking at double what he would have received for winning the Grand Prix! All those people getting on their high horses, saying mean things and taking a game way too seriously somewhat have egg on face. They certainly helped get the bids up nice and high.
There are many lessons in this series of events. Be nice and don't get over zealous about fairly minor things would be one. The most significant one is that MtG is dangerously expensive to get into and play with cards worth far too much. If the prizes of one of the biggest tournaments going isn't incentive enough to get people playing the game as intended then there is an issue. The high value of certain cards used in tournament play greatly hinders the game at all levels, including as we have seen, the very highest.