Japan’s Yuuya Watanabe, twice player of the year and a member of Magic’s Hall of Fame, was kicked out of Mythic Championship II in London over the weekend after judges found markings on the back of some of his cards. UPDATE, May 6: Watanabe and his sponsors, Team Cygames, are now disputing the allegations.

This story was originally published on April 28, 2019.

Shortly after the discovery was made by officials during round 15 of the tournament, Wizards of the Coast released this statement:

During a deck check in Round 15 at 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 nonexistent, and disqualified Watanabe from the event.

This infraction will be further investigated by the MPL, according to Wizards of the Coast representatives.

The disqualification wasn’t the only time Watanabe made headlines during the tournament, as his match against Andrew Watts featured a blown call by judges that led to a reset board and an unlikely win in sudden death overtime.

In response to the disqualification, Watanabe tweeted that he didn’t realise the cards were in any altered state until judges pointed it out to him, before moving on to accept their decision and apologising to fans for letting them down.

Watanabe won Magic’s World Championship in 2012, was Player of the Year in 2009 and 2012, has seven Grand Prix victories, was inducted into the Hall of Game in 2016 and won the World Magic Cup in 2017 with Japan.

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UPDATE, May 6: Both Watanabe and his sponsors, Team Cygames, have issued lengthy statements disputing the disqualification.

Watanabe’s reads:

First, I would like to thank everyone who took time to read my previous statements and continues to support me as a professional Magic player. I am a proud member of MPL. In my mind, I am having the best year in my career as a professional Magic player, and I am grateful to be part of an organization that has a bright future ahead.

Concerning the situation that I am currently in, I would like to restate that I have never cheated over ten plus years of my career in playing professional Magic. And I assure you that I will never cheat in the future. I have the highest respect for the game and appreciation for the Magic community. I grew up playing Magic. I have played countless matches throughout my life, and Magic is my identity. I have never considered cheating to win a game. Also,at this juncture in my career, I wouldn’t gain anything by cheating. I have a stellar reputation because I was consciously building the trust with my fellow Magic players and fans around the world for many years. Especially after I was inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame in 2016, I have been an exemplary figure and a role model to the younger generation of Magic players. As a role model, I understand that I am expected to exhibit the highest level of integrity and sportsmanship. I try to lead with respect, honesty, and loyalty to the game.

It doesn’t make any sense for me to throw it all away at this point in my career. There is too much at stake for me to be thinking about cheating. Honestly, I cannot fathom what happened to me over the Mythic Championship weekend in London, and I am disappointed and sad about what transpired. The judge checked my deck a few times throughout the tournament, and I was told that there was no issue with my deck. I would’ve changed the sleeves right away if there were any marks on my sleeves. I trusted the judges when they told me there was no issue. I would like to reinforce that while I don’t have any explanations as to what happened to my sleeves, I can honestly say that I never made those marks on my sleeves. I did not see the marks until I was informed by the judge after the game. Again, I never considered cheating to win the game that I love so much, and I will never cheat in the future. Thank you.

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Team Cygames’ statement includes video and recaps of each of Watanabe’s matches, as well as prior judge’s decisions on his deck leading up to his disqualification, but is best summed up by:

We, Cygames, have conducted a hearing with Yuuya Watanabe about his disqualification during Day 2 of the Mythic Championship London. After sorting through the situation, we strongly believe Yuuya is innocent of any wrongdoing.

You can read Cygames’ full statement here.