Although I’ve never done it before, I think the success of my league may warrant a contest with rewards ? I’ll get into that in a second. I have some fairly fat binders and have some good cards I think I could send out.
Here’s what I want. Using the pauper format that I outline below, send me in interesting decks. Pure power is actually rather easy to come by, but that is not what I’m looking for; suffice to say I have rather frightening beatdown decks in almost every color and two or three good control decks. You’ll be relegated to my judgement, but I would like to see interesting and playable decks. Send ’em in! I’ll send out a signed Holistic Wisdom and some other interesting playable cards from my binder.
This article is going to be about how to go about organizing a local league. More specifically, it’s going to be about how I did that. I’ll get to all that in a bit; I think it’s very worthwhile, so do stick around – but first I have to go with issues.
Normally, I might write a whole”issues” piece. Lord knows there are enough of them to fill the pages at this point… But as Star City and its friends have a project going under the Ferrett’s guidance that is going to require two articles a month (hardcore tech as best we can give it; we are free and committed) – and as I’m doing deck clinic twice a month or so – and as I want to cover this startup league idea, well, the issues are going to get chopped down into smaller bits. Perhaps very small.
Regionals – Too big and too far to drive. I didn’t go. I stayed at the local shop and we had our first league weekend and I had a blast. I would have had drive for around six hours one way to play in the Chicago regional. Then I would have been looking at around nine or ten rounds of Swiss play. That’s too much time. I live an hour south of St. Louis, and I see no reason why I should have to drive past there to get started in the Nationals hunt. A tourney there should draw about the right amount of players for a tournament. I could say the same for any number of Midwestern cities; Memphis, Indy, Kansas City, Little Rock, Iowa tri cities, et cetera. The solution to me looks pretty simple: The whole tournament that leads to Nationals needs another round. Cut down the drive time, cut down the number of rounds with a manageable field size, and get more folks involved.
Rizzo – Riz burns to write. He’s a writer. He can’t help it. He can’t survive without pounding out the keys. He was good. He made art. He’ll continue to do so. I expect to hear about him someday. Think independent film.
If you have a tournament, there will be a winner. Will there be someone to write about it? Will there be someone good to write about it or the game in general? Catch my drift here? I think this makes the good Magic writer rarer than the good Magic player.
I haven’t bought cards because of anyone that I’ve ever read or read about. I bought cards because a guy named Brian Brown was geeked up over the game at a local shop. I bought more cards because I, and many friends, thought it was such a great game. I think that sort of idea, the grass roots/word of mouth thing and the fact that it really is such a good game is what sells it way more than any cult of personality one way or the other.
Think of it this way: Rizzo quit. Wakefield quit. Finkel isn’t what he was. A lot of other famous Magic personalities are either down or out.
Is that going to influence you to quit?
There are still some great writers and great players who can write out there. The Ferrett can take up where Rizzo left off, if he wants. There ain’t a better pure writer out there, in my book. He can do issues and he could do hardcore tech and anything in between. (Not hardcore tech – not yet – The Ferrett, planning furiously) I think he’s that good. Check his last rant again; you were glued. Alongi. Burn. Flores. Zvi (if you’ve paid). You read them every time.
Starting a League
Here’s the situation. For the last year or so, every time I would go into the local shop I’d be lucky if I could find a game of Magic. There were several reasons for this. But first let me say I’m an old schoolmate of the owner and we’re still friends. He would tell me that card sales for Magic were steady -but then again, he’s pushing his favorite game: 7th Sea. He organized and ran a league for that, and you could find pickup games of it as well on the weekend. I did pick up enough cards to play and it was an enjoyable game. Mage Knight had also exploded here, but was a game I didn’t want to get into. So you had two strong games, with the owner pushing one. Most of the players were kids who had trouble buying into more than one game.
We come now to why I would want to try and jumpstart local play… And how. If you’ve been following my writings, you may have noticed that the team I was affiliated with, Team Binary, was pretty well defunct. That meant I wasn’t playing regularly like I used to – and you couple this with no local game, and I’m thinking about folding up the Magic tent again. Only the fact that my six-year old son is pretty good at the game (he earned seven points at his only JSS tourney) is working against that. Then there was a conspiracy of events that put me a back on track to stay with the game and organize a local league.
Alderac, the company that makes 7th Sea, shut that game’s production down. This didn’t sit well with the local owner. I happened to go into the store one day and we got to lamenting about both our situations. He was an old Magic player and was ripe for a”steady” game that wasn’t going to be a fad. I’m telling him that I’m thinking about quitting Magic again unless I can find some steady play. This, of course, turns into the old Reese’s conundrum:”You’ve got peanut butter in my chocolate!” We both felt it would be in our interest to try and ramp up the in-store Magic playing.
The question became”How?”
Now Alderac is generally quite supportive of their games. They sponsored leagues with promotional packages and gave away a lot of stuff at the grass-roots level. I know this, as I got some of it. I think we felt some sort of Magic league would be the best way we could gain (and keep) interest in the game over more random spot tourneys and so forth. The problem was there was no organizational outlook on doing that. What leagues that we had had in other games weren’t very organized, either. It was sort of a”play whoever you want and whoever wins the most games wins” sort of deal. I wanted to go a bit beyond that for a Magic league – yet I didn’t want things to get too complicated. I figured I could just find some league rules for such an endeavor on the internet somewhere. I looked, but I didn’t find much.
That meant I had to work things out from scratch.
The first thing was to figure out a format. It would have been easy to have just used DCI Standard, but there are some inherent problems with that that many already understand: Namely, it can get expensive, and those who can afford the cards will have an advantage over those that can’t. I hoped that we could think about building up to making Standard a focus. I also had to consider that a lot of the people had old cards that they wanted to use. I knew most of the kids that were playing Mage Knight or 7th Sea also had a small amount of Magic cards, although many of their collections were outdated for current Standard. (Remember, there had been a playing lull in this shop.)
Extended wasn’t really the fit, either. The power level there is higher – and again, keeping things even amongst the participants economically was a concern.
Now at some point I had read about a”pauper” format. I wasn’t real sure about what those rules had been, but I did remember that they limited a deck’s content of rare and uncommon cards. I took that idea and ran with it. For as much flexibility as possible, I decided to use a point system that allotted each player twelve points for their deck, where each rare used would cost three points and each uncommon would cost one point. Any normally-backed Magic card could be used; I made this rule to outlaw the promotional”championship” deck cards. I also ruled out the Unglued set, except for the lands. This idea seemed to offer the most flexibility in deckbuilding while still keeping power in check somewhat.
Now, the format certainly allows for some powerful decks for the better builders, but it is generally limited to more of a beatdown orientation. The other, more general, rules for deckbuilding were also enforced: No more than four of any non-basic land card and a sixty card deck minimum size.
Next was how to gauge players level and level of improvement. We wanted to offer some prizes to the participants, and we needed a way to judge performance. I didn’t like the pure number of wins idea. Most will know this ends up rewarding the”vultures” who will pick on the youngest and worst players and won’t play the better ones. Using a rating system, as it has long been a solution to such problems, seemed the way to go here – but I was unsure how to implement it. It appeared it would be some chore to even use a computer to log and track every game played in the league. I searched the internet again and found quite a bit on ratings formulas and computer-based ratings calculators. I was about convinced that we were going to have to use such a system when I found a chart that one could use to calculate single game rating changes. I found it on the ohiochess.org site. Here it is.
Determine the difference between the players’ ratings and find the appropriate range in the Rating Difference column below.
- If higher rated player wins, higher player gains and lower player loses the number of points in column H.
- If the game is drawn, lower player gains and higher player loses the number of points in column D.
- If lower rated players wins, lower player gains and higher player loses the number of points in column L.
I thought this an excellent find. Now the players could keep their ratings and make the changes to them after every match.
I had been keeping in contact with the storeowner, and he said that a lot of people were interested in the format. I also knew we had a wide variety of players who were looking forward to participating. I felt I wanted to stagger the starting ratings to sort of balance out the rating system and to further dissuade the vultures from picking on the kids. I thought that”under twelve” and”over eighteen” would be good breaking points. I used the DCI’s starting rating of 1600 for the over eighteen group, then knocked off a hundred points for the twelve to eighteen group for a starting rating of 1500 for them. And finally, those under twelve were knocked off another 200 for a starting rating of 1300 for that group. As I was about the only one with a real DCI rating, I opted to use that rating for myself: 1705. This would mean more points to anyone who beat me. We did have one other very good local player that I advised that if he were going to play that he use his current DCI rating as well.
I did a little work to put together a match log record sheet. It looked like this:
…. And so on, to the bottom of the page. It is pretty straightforward. Write in your ranking. Print your opponent’s name and then follow that with their ranking. After the match log, the results. Each player then signs the other’s sheet and each calculates their new ranking. You then put that ranking back over to the left for your next game.
We kicked the thing off on the day of Regionals and had a dozen or so people show up. It was a blast. I had kids all over me all day long looking for deck help, wanting to trade for commons, and challenging me to games. It took a little time for some of them to understand the rating change chart, but most of them have the hang of it now. Interest in the game is at an all-time high and the decks are coming along. I was quite happy; we had one fellow come in with a poison deck complete with Dwarven Warriors! I’m going to guess that that will send a few of you off to figure out the poison rules for Magic the Gathering are.
As it is at this point no card is banned. I’m waiting to see if its necessary or if the pauper rules themselves keep the decks in check from becoming too degenerate.