There have been a ton of changes in competitive Magic over the last year or so. The normal reaction of the community, me included, is to turn a skeptical
eye to the WOTC staff and question the reasoning behind any shifts in tournament play. I’m sure you all have read a few articles about the most recent
changes, and I wanted to put out my thoughts on the subject with my loyal readers and friends.
Magic used to be a simple game. There were some Pro Tours every year, a Nationals tournament, and a Worlds tournament. The PTQ system would shift every
season and Pro Tours would vary in format; some would be a Limited-only format, and the pro community would battle over the prestige of becoming a National
or World Champion. Magic isn’t that simple anymore. Every fiscal quarter the game explodes with more and more players and companies that try to get a piece
of the action. When I was a wee lad I remember driving across the state to battle in a little shack known as StarCityGames. Times have changed since that
point and so has how epic the game has really become.
With a growing player base and a heavy amount of cash flow moving into the game, WOTC will adapt to maximize their profits while also increasing excitement
for their product. Change is an exciting sales pitch to everyone who is not at the top of the mountain. History has taught us that those who support
revolution aren’t the wealthy aristocrats, but the poor plebeians that know any change will be beneficial. Not saying that Magic players not on the Pro
Tour are plebeians, but they do look at the greats that play the game and want that opportunity one day. How many of you reading want nothing more than to
play in a Pro Tour one day? I’ve been off the train for years now, and there isn’t a day I play Magic or watch coverage where I wish I had the time,
energy, and youth to travel to every PTQ and get back to where I once was. For that reason I welcome any alteration to the current, travel heavy system to
play in a Pro Tour.
The new PTQ system is something that excites an old man like me. I have a ton of shops in my area that can run one of the qualifiers for the new upcoming
regional tournaments. I can easily stroll to these shops and battle until I nail a victory. Winning at the local level in a tournament that will not be
over 30-40 people is definitely easier than traveling four and a half hours to a 140 man tournament where first place is the only prize worth winning. I
understand that many of you are in densely populated areas and the qualifiers will have more people, but typically, the difficulty and player skill of
these types of tournaments should be manageable for the bulk of you all reading now. The victory you’ll achieve at the local level allows you to plan a
one-time trek to the actual PTQ that you can test extensively for, prepare the optimal deck for the metagame, get plenty of rest the night before and maybe
even a hotel, and bring that A game to just top 8 and get there. Winning a dinky tournament and then top 8-ing a tough one is much easier for someone like
me (old) and players busy with work/school.
That being said, there are people that will not like these changes. Players that have the time and drive to travel from PTQ to PTQ in a six hour plus
driving radius will lament these changes. I know a ton of players that fit this mold up in Maryland. A good friend of mine whom I will be teaming with at
GP Nashville, Zach Jesse, can easily nab a PTQ victory each season due to the amount he can play in.
In the new system, you’ll only be allowed to compete in the one regional tournament for that season and players that win through sheer determination and
persistence will not enjoy the changes. In the Magic community, or any group for that matter, there is no pleasing everyone. WOTC will continue to change
the game in many different ways for a variety of reasons that both help their financial interests and work to increase the player base for their product.
We can voice our opinions to the ones in power and hope to change their minds, accept it, and make the best of the situation (or just be Brian Kibler and
write a blog that brings the king to his knees). I’m in the middle camp and think the new system is pretty darn cool and will motivate me to get back on
the horse and charge into battle.
I often joke about my age, and I want to thank all of you that follow me for the great birthday wishes, but when I realized that William Jensen was 32 and
his nicknames relate to elderly jokes, I got a little sad. I’m only one year younger than him, so I better get a move on!
The Pro Tour
As we all know by now, all of the Pro Tours moving forward will be in the Standard format. I saw this coming from a mile away but not to the extent that
WOTC has pushed. Legacy, Modern, and Limited aren’t fun to watch for the average viewer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the older formats and enjoy them in
action much more than Standard, but just like you guys, I’m a competitor. Standard is the most relevant and played format across the board when examining
Magic at the local level. The vast majority of stores host Friday Night Magic and casual play that is completely dominated by Standard. The decision to
make the Pro Tours Standard is based on that reason. Magic is now a streamed sport where thousands and thousands of people tune in to see competitive play
from around the world. The people that watch this streaming range from your average FNMer to Chris Pikula–he always makes funny comments on Twitter when
he sees a play that just flabbergasts him. Follow him.
Now that magic is a streamed sport, WOTC knows which of their prize formats sells the most tickets, and it’s not very close. Limited play on stream bores
the heck out of me, the commentators that cover it, and probably the majority of you reading this now. I love playing Limited more than anything, but
watching it can be a great way to induce a nap. Standard sells and we all know that, so be prepared to have a lot more pro player focus on the subject. I
think that having different formats for the Pro Tours was great. It’s healthy to continue to shift the focus from the most played format to the other
formats that we don’t want forgotten. Sadly, I don’t make the decisions in Renton, Washington. This format change will ultimately make them more money in
the long run and shift the focus of the competitive community to Standard with article content, innovation, and metagame analysis. I have always written
articles on topics that I think you all would be most interested in and that is a major reason why I’m not a weekly writer. When I think of something that
can help the community out or rally the control player army that reads these, then I put pen to paper. I will continue to chat about Legacy and Modern once
in a while, but Standard is the format of the foreseeable future.
I will admit that I was with the 99% of people that wanted to burn the new client to the ground after loading it up and playing. The client, in my
experience, runs a tad slower, the trading is complicated for no reason, and it’s different. Different sucks.
However, I am now breathing normally and content to use the new version of Magic Online. Magic Online is the best thing that has ever happened to the game
for competitive players. I know it crashes, it’s buggy, and some people that play it are jerks, but it’s better than not having it. I have been called
every name in the book just for casting a second Supreme Verdict the turn after casting the first one. Sometimes players tell me I’m a word or two that
Cedric wouldn’t let me type here. You know, because I played a Thoughtseize after having my first Thoughtseize taken from my hand by their Thoughtseize.
The player base online is a different animal than in real life because when you’re on the internet you can be nasty and mean with little to no consequence.
The bug situation is something that can be fixed by spending a few extra dollars on maintenance. I cast Gifts Ungiven last week for an Elesh Norn, Grand
Cenobite and Unburial Rites. I was untapping to easily win the game when I realized that my legendary creature was not in the graveyard. I made a joke
online about the new client and my frustration, but Worth Wollpert responded back apologizing for the issue and mentioning that the old client would have
been just as buggy. He also mentioned that it would be fixed by August 6th, which was weeks after finding the issue. I am no technology guru, but I think
that if they really wanted the program to be a smooth, efficient representation of Magic, they could spend the money and make it so.
Even with all of the problems, Magic Online is an outlet for us to have a great time playing the game and sharpening our skills. I can’t imagine not having
it around, and I’ve been faithfully battling with control on there for years and years. Every single Limited victory I’ve had on the Pro Tour and in Draft
Opens have been attributed to experience gained from convenient drafts firing every few minutes. The new client will grow on you all just as it’s grown on
me, because of how much we love the game. It all roots back to the change issue and how comfortable we were with the old client, PTQ system, Pro Tour, or
any other change they throw at us. Even cards have changed over the last few years.
Thank goodness U/W Control won the Pro Tour in an epic battle of good versus evil. Even with that glorious victory, control has been getting its clock
cleaned tournament after tournament for quite some time now. When I first sleeved up my Force of Wills and Kjeldoran Outposts, I would’ve never believed
that they would print a card like Bloodbraid Elf or even Thragtusk. You can give us Sphinx’s Revelation and Jace, Architect of Thought all day, but the
real power rests in creatures now. I was upset about the shift in power at first, but now I am excited to use what is available and fight against that
power rotation after rotation.
Give these recent changes a chance. I guarantee that many of you will prefer the new qualifying system over the old and achieve a Pro Tour invite as a
result. Many of you have already dropped the fight over Magic Online like I did. Just hope they can put a little more effort into fixing the problems that
have plagued it over the years. The Pro Tour changes are something that is more for WOTC than its players that follow it religiously, but there will be an
increase in Internet traffic while streaming the most popular format. We all knew that WOTC was shifting into the new technological age when they made Pro
Tours private and put a heavy emphasis on the spectator aspect of the game. Hopefully they will line their pockets a bit more and give the professionals
their variety back. That’s what they want.
To send you guys off on a productive note, I’ll attach my most recent list for Esper. I’ve won more product with this list in Standard than any other in
the last month or so. I’ve been paired against Mono-Red Aggro every three matches, but this time around I’ve came out ahead. I’ve received the usual
winning results against both devotion decks, and I’m actually winning five out of six times against the Jund Walkers deck. I’ll be sure to give a final
article on pre-rotation Standard after the Season Three Invitational in New Jersey and then shift the focus onto the future.
As always it’s a pleasure my friends and I’ll see you all in a couple weeks at the Open Series in Washington!