Ask the Editor – Vs. System Tastes Like Baby

Kanoot takes a look at the events of the second Vs. System Pro Circuit and investigates some similarities and differences between the Pro Tours, while delivering quotes like this: ‘Antonino actually had the best quote of Sunday when he said “Oh my God, I’ve been sitting here so long that I can actually feel myself growing fatter waiting for you to figure out the right play.”‘ He’d also like your help in answering a pressing question that’s on his mind after witnessing this weekend’s events.

Greetings and salutations. Welcome back to yet another day of my ongoing struggle to get comments for a daily column in the forums. I thought I was rather amusing Friday, but the reaction was apathetic. Who knows how my details of J. Gary Wisenheimer’s sleeping patterns are being received right now (I’m writing this on the plane), but let’s hope more than three of you found it worthwhile. Apparently, unless my articles contain embedded pictures of Australian hotties, some of you think I’m failing. This is just greater reason for me not to post any cheesecake links, so you go on with your negative reinforcement, and I’ll go on with my blathering.

Yes Tim, I know my intro sucked. They all do. It’s part of my *ahem* charm. Not every writer can be “clever” enough to spoof both eminem and Mike Clair at the same time. James Sawyer Lucy Lui compared Friday’s article to a weekly Magic gossip column, except he somehow insinuated this was a bad thing. I know for a fact that a bunch of you have subscriptions to People Magazine (secret or otherwise), and read the National Enquirer on a weekly basis, so insert finger snaps and neck bobs here as I say, “Don’t go there, girlfriend.” It’s my column and I’ll gossip if I want to.

Aside: Yes I know, the paragraph directly preceding this one is one of the things you all either love or hate about StarCityGames.com. For some of you, you enjoy the inside jokes, obscure references, and subtle humor, while other just wish we writers would shut up and write strategy. I’m sorry folks, but it just ain’t like that, and it won’t be as long as I’m editor. I’m not going to strangle the creative juices of our writers or myself by editing out some of the best parts of their content just because some of you might not get the joke. Our Featured Writers have earned the right for me to give them more than enough rope to hang themselves. Let’s just hope most of them choose to avoid the Michael Hutchence route to fame and personal pleasure and keep on writing.

Moving along, what I wanted to do today was inform you of the events that happened in that other Professional Card Game. No, not poker. Better make that the other other Professional Card Game. Yes my friends, the Vs. System tastes like baby. This past weekend nearly 300 players squared off against each other through nineteen rounds of swiss on the Pro Circuit in order to determine who would take home a cool 40 Gs. Big names from the Magic world like Brian Kibler, Gabe Walls, Neil Reeves, and the entire TOGIT crew showed up to compete and generally fared very well.

[Correction time: Some time after the first PC I said something about how Vs was giving away more prize money to players than Magic was, and that the amount of prize money had remained fairly static practically since the inception of the Pro Tour. This was simply not true. While the Vs. Pro Circuit does give away more money per event and pays out down to 75th place, MTG has more Pro Tours each year, gives away about twice the money each year as Vs. and while the PT has not changed the top of the payout structure much in the succeeding years, they have made payouts beneath that much better over the years. Thanks to Scott Larabee for setting me straight on that one and providing all the numbers.]

There were a couple major storylines coming out of PC 2 that I figured might be interesting to Magic players. First of all, players who are mainly Vs players (like team Realmworx) are starting to fare better (last time the Top of the standings was almost exclusively populated by Magic players) than they did in the first PC, showing that specialization helps. This was further illustrated by the fact that none of the Top 8 from the first PC was able to repeat, even though the event was the same format as last time. Perhaps more surprising was just how nice many of the Vs. players are, particularly the Realmworx guys. Those of us who hang around the Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuits tend to see a lot of badmouthing of lesser players, and a lot of cutthroat Magicians, but thus far Vs. seems to have inherited very little of that from the Magic guys. We’ll see if this trend holds steady or if players eventually get a little meaner over time.

The second major story on the weekend was the fantastic performance of Team TOGIT. They put three players in the Top 8 (Antonino De Rosa, Eugene Harvey, and Paul Sottosanti), four more players in the Top 20, and every single TOGIT guy made money on the weekend. They also developed one of the most innovative new decks seen in the game, courtesy mostly of Eugene Eubroken Harvey. He’s probably the best technical player I’ve ever seen in person and he’s a great guy to boot

The final thing I wanted to cover today were the peculiarities of this particular tournament, which was just… well, it was odd in many ways. First some background. The Vs. System has some flaws in it that could use some tweaking – the mulligan rule is a little rough right now (particularly in Limited), the extra time rules are pretty crazy, and it takes forever to play three straight games. In fact, the first PC regularly featured rounds that ran longer than two hours to play a best-of-three match, even though they had a 70-minute time limit attached to each round. This was so painful that for the second PC, they switched to a one game = match format to cut back on the amount of time it took to complete a round and thus speed up the tourney. We would never do this in Magic because you have sideboards, but since no sideboard exists for Vs, you don’t technically take anything away from the game.

Of course, when a match only equals one game and you are seeing a new deck for the very first time, you are at an extreme disadvantage. In short, because the game is so complicated and takes so long to play, they added an extra random element to the Pro Circuit, thus removing a bit of the skill element and probably giving the opening coinflip and determination of who chooses initiative (it’s like the play or draw choice, but different) a much greater impact on the game. It seemed to work okay in the Constructed half, but many many players were lamenting the choice for the Draft portions.

These items seem to be growing pains, but I’m still not sure what I think about the following: One of the quarterfinal matchups featured teammates Antonino De Rosa vs. Paul Sottosanti, both playing the X-Men stall deck, also know as “the most painful mirror match ever conceived.” It’s similar to U/W vs. U/W if both players were assured of hitting a land drop every turn, except Vs. is actually harder than Magic. Antonino actually had the best quote of Sunday when he said “Oh my God, I’ve been sitting here so long that I can actually feel myself growing fatter waiting for you to figure out the right play.”

After three hours had passed and they were on turn 18 of game 1 (turn 18 is absurd in Vs.), the judge and tournament staff consulted with the players about whether they thought the game might be capable of finishing. I don’t know what was said exactly, but the final outcome was that Paul and Ant agreed to split and one player eventually conceded to the other, putting De Rosa into the semis.

Now I’m still processing this, so I don’t have any scathing commentary to deliver, but some of the judges in attendance looked like they were in shock when things were over. To make matters worse, I later found out that they had removed the time limits from the quarterfinal round only a week or two before the PC, and if they hadn’t, this never would have happened. Thus you had a concession in a Top 8 match.

My question for you guys is: How should this have been handled? Unlike the swiss rounds, the quarterfinals are best two of three and the players have been told there is no time limit. Both players were playing at a reasonable pace. Yet this match is still in game 1 over an hour after every other quarterfinal match finished, and they have no idea how long it will take to even finish one game, let alone two or three. Yet the tournament cannot proceed until this match is done. What do you do? Remember that not only are your choices going to affect the rest of this tournament, but they will also affect the perception of the game itself and become part of the game’s history. What will it be like five years from now when players hop into the wayback machine and see that a concession determined outcome for a quarterfinal match at their biggest event?

And if you think something like this would never happen in Magic, I have news for you: Something similar actually did happen at Pro Tour: New Orleans between Yann Hamon and Nicolas Labarre. The circumstances were technically different (the players were teammates and did not want to have to pay thousands of dollars to change their flights), but the determination of a Top 8 match happened outside the direct purview of the DCI. In other words, it could have been determined at random – the DCI wasn’t around to assure that it was not. It’s a tough situation, really. I’m just curious what other people think is the right thing to do.

Speaking of oddities and people not wanting to change their flights… Two of the Top 8 matches from the DC bracket of the Marvel vs. DC 10K were decided by forfeit because one of the players had a flight they did not want to change, so they couldn’t stick around for their matches. I’ve never seen anything quite like it covering Magic, but man is it baffling. Anyway, that’s today’s look behind the scenes at the other other card game championship from this weekend. If you are interested in seeing what Upper Deck is doing with their coverage scheme, check out www.metagame.com. I’m sure you’ll recognize more than a few of the names, both of the players and of the people covering the matches.

Before I go, I’d just like to point out what a freaking travesty this is. If Bennie Smith could see this, he’d roll over in his grave.

Ted Knutson

Teddy Card Game

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