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Magic publishers sent Pinkerton agents to a YouTuber’s house to retrieve leaked cards

March of the Machine: The Aftermath isn’t due out in stores until May

A tiny, one-eyed creature rides another, far larger one-eyed creature into battle. The enemy is a long, razer-sharp tentacle. The art is for MTG March of the Machine. Image: Rudy Siswanto/Wizards of the Coast
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

When Magic: The Gathering cards turned up on YouTube last week, publisher Wizards of the Coast sent private investigators from Pinkerton to retrieve them. The resulting confrontation reportedly frightened one woman to tears, and resulted in the confiscation of nearly two dozen boxes of cards by private investigators. Wizards confirmed the incident to Polygon. Meanwhile, the presenter denies anything illegal occurred.

At some point on April 20, YouTube channel oldschoolmtg published a video showing the opening of a box of collector booster packs from March of the Machine: The Aftermath — just one of 22 boxes it said were purchased from an acquaintance. Little has been revealed about the set so far, which is not expected to arrive in stores until May 12. As a result, the video was quickly downloaded and used as fuel for reaction videos all over the internet.

Later, on April 22, oldschoolmtg published another video explaining what had happened.

“I got up and recorded some videos,” the presenter said in the video. “Right after I got done with the video, dogs started barkin’ because somebody was knocking at the door. I come out and the wife’s answering the door and it was the Pinkertons.”

The name Pinkerton should ring a bell for our American readers. The modern-day Pinkertons are descended from the original Pinkerton Detective Agency, which was founded in Chicago, Illinois more than 170 years ago. The company has played a role in major historical events, not the least of which was its stint as a violent, strike-breaking private paramilitary force in the late 19th and early 20th century. Pinkerton, now a subsidiary of Paragon Systems, currently counts security and loss prevention among its many services.

Wizards confirmed to Polygon the Pinkertons were involved in the incident. The presenter at oldschoolmtg described agents as “big heavy-hitter guys” who frightened his wife. The Pinkertons arrived with contact information for someone at Wizards of the Coast and, after speaking with them, the presenter said they made the decision to pull their original videos down.

“He was very apologetic about making my wife cry first thing in the morning by sending these heavy-duty lawmen [to] come collect stuff and talk about stolen products and jail time,” the presenter said in the video. “But they don’t believe we stole anything — which we didn’t. I don’t know if they believe anybody really stole anything or if it was just an accident or whatever. But they wanted the product back so they could try and figure out where the hole was so they could plug the hole.”

“Wizards of the Coast can confirm that yes, this is part of their investigation,” a representative told Polygon.

In the video, the presenter goes on to extrapolate what they think happened in this situation. It’s possible, they say, that someone, somewhere in the distribution chain accidentally mistook March of the Machine product for March of the Machine: The Aftermath product.

“Somebody screwed up and sent out the wrong cases to the gentlemen that I bought the boxes off of, because when he sold me the stuff he said he was selling me March of the Machine collector’s boxes — not Aftermath. [...] He didn’t really even know what Aftermath really was, I don’t think.”

Polygon has reached out to oldschoolmtg for more information.

Engaging private investigators to retrieve stolen or missing trading cards is not a particularly new or novel strategy for game publishers. Just last week, Polygon reported on another similar incident dating back to 2021 involving products from The Pokémon Trading Card Game, which were also retrieved with the help of a private investigator.

The presenter in this instance said in the video that the person they spoke with from Wizards seemed to understand they were not at fault. In fact, they were eager to compensate the YouTuber for the purchase of the cards, potentially in the form of more appropriate replacement product, the presenter said.

“Anybody who has used my footage,” they added, “you’ll probably want to take that down.”

“I no longer have the product,” they said. “The Pinkertons took everything to take back to WotC.” That includes empty boxes and wrappers. “I don’t even have a token to show for my efforts,” he added with a laugh, before noting his channel had recently doubled in viewership.

Update (April 25): After the publication of this article, Wizards of the Coast reached out to Polygon with the following additional statement.

As part of an investigation into the unauthorized distribution and disclosure of embargoed product, we repeatedly attempted to contact an individual who had received unreleased cards. After that outreach was unsuccessful, an investigator visited him and asked that he reach out to us as part of our investigation and return the embargoed product and packaging. He agreed to do both. The unreleased product will be replaced by us with the product he intended to purchase. We appreciate the individual’s cooperation and the investigation is ongoing.

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