GerryT’s Ten Things: Why Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Missed The Mark

No pulled punches here! GerryT goes straight for the liver shot as he lays out the ways Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, Magic’s big birthday bash, wasn’t a hit!

With Magic hitting its 25th anniversary, #PT25A was meant to be a celebration. It was that, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a successful one. For all the work that went into it, the viewing numbers were likely a disappointment. The players fortunate enough to be well-connected and have a good team available for the tournament had fun.

Standard looked heinous, but Bant Nexus provided hope for the future, at least as far as metagame diversity is concerned. Both Modern and Legacy looked like reasonable Magic formats.

Why would I mostly consider a failure?

10. I Hate Birthdays

When you register for a Pro Tour, you get a swag bag with some sleeves, a deckbox, water bottle, T-shirt, and some booster packs. Overall, it’s cool, but nothing that would blow anyone away. This time, things were a little different, with a surprise foil set of a random expansion going as far back as Dragons of Tarkir. There was also pizza, beverages, and cupcakes.

As Magic players tend to do, they complained about how useless a foil set was or how unlucky they were to get Rivals of Ixalan.

I’ve long been an advocate for Wizards of the Coast giving players a playset of the new expansion, especially for times when Pro Tours immediately followed set releases. That sort of thing can ease untold amounts of stress as players have to scramble for cards once they figure out their deck of choice. Paying enormous amounts for cards on site is completely egregious and your deck selection for the Pro Tour shouldn’t be dictated by card availability.

Willy is correct that players were very happy and I’d like to see that continue. However, I’m nearly certain that things will immediately go back to the way they were. You want to know why I hate birthdays? If you love someone or something, you should show it whenever possible, not only once a year (or every 25 years in this case).

9. Preparation And The Nature Of Team Magic

As someone who has played in nearly 50 Pro Tours, I’ve worked with numerous teams over the years. Some worked well, many others didn’t, but we always came together with a common goal: to break whatever format(s) the Pro Tour threw at us.

For #PT25A, that goal was much different. For the most part, people tested their respective formats, sometimes sharing information and looking for input. During the Pro Tour, getting advice from your teammates didn’t seem particularly fruitful because they didn’t have the same level of experience you did in each other’s formats.

To top it off, WotC isolated each team member during feature matches. Combine that with the number of “teams” that were formed with people who happened to be qualified and had never met each other before, and there wasn’t quite a sense of camaraderie that you might typically see at a team event.

Even though others are clamoring for more team Pro Tours, this felt less like a team event and more like a tournament where your fate was tied to the success of others. Overall, not great.

Hot take incoming, but let’s be real: Magic isn’t an eSport. eSport literally stands for “electronic sport.” There’s a high barrier to entry and coverage isn’t particularly compelling if you aren’t already a highly invested Magic player. Magic was also not meant to be a team game. Blatantly ripping off models from various eSports won’t turn Magic into one, so what are we doing here?

8. Silver Showcase

What can really be said about this that Cedric and I haven’t already covered?

Well, now that it actually happened, I guess we have this to add:

Who could have ever predicted this?

7. I Did An Art

Did anyone else start to feel sick after watching these awkward, fast-moving cards in the intros? Does anyone actually test this stuff before it goes live?

Please stop doing things you think will look cool instead of doing things that are actually cool.

6. Shuffling For Show?

What the hell is this?

Both players clearly shuffle each other’s decks, but already have hands drawn. Is this to make it appear like the games aren’t rigged? Did someone knock over the table while both players were holding their opening hands?

The world may never know.

(Either way, clipping it and not-so-subtly accusing Mattia Rizzi of doing something shady isn’t cool.)

5. The Mentality Of A Cheater

Even though there are still some individuals whom I would prefer were still banned, catching someone else cheating last weekend makes me very happy.

I think most people who cheat in Magic do so to reduce variance for themselves. It sure as hell isn’t for the prize money. Many of these people are narcissists who think they are superior to their opponents (which demonstrates a lack of empathy in general) and deserve to win in whatever manner possible. Somehow, they probably even view themselves as victims.

The mental gymnastics are staggering, but it should be an indicator that if they can make those leaps to justify cheating and lying to a judge about it, it’s probably not someone you should put a ton of trust in outside of Magic either. They’re only out for themselves.

4. Lack Of Limited Rounds

This was a huge positive. As the SCG Tour has proven, people love playing and watching Constructed. Fully Limited Pro Tours were removed because of the lack of viewership (and because watching Limited Magic oddly doesn’t make people want to rush out and buy booster packs).

Can we let this go? I agree that Limited needs to stay alive somehow, but featuring it on Magic’s biggest stage is doing itself a disservice.

3. Team Series Awkwardness

Team Ultimate Guard was in a commanding position for basically the entire season, including having a 33% lead over their nearest competitor going into #PT25A. This last Pro Tour was incredibly swingy and almost led to Ultimate Guard missing out on the finals of the team series.

It made the other three Pro Tours seem nearly irrelevant to the whole thing.

2. Nexus of Fate

WotC made a playable Standard card that was difficult to acquire, can’t physically be used in real life without risking having marked cards, and the implementation to get it onto Magic Online was done poorly.

Why are these problems we’re facing?

1. Did Team CFB Break Legacy?

In short, no. People will hit you with win rates over the course of the Pro Tour, and Luis Scott-Vargas personally cited his 4-1 record against Grixis Control.

U/B Death’s Shadow has major issues, issues I’ve already seen to be true.

My archaic list aside (it was six years ago, okay?), several problems with the deck were made apparent at that tournament.

  • Baleful Strix is a nightmare
  • Similarly, beating decks that swarm the battlefield is incredibly difficult
  • Control decks can easily grind you out if they’re able to answer your high-toughness threats

Those things are basically still true, and I would add “super weak to Chalice of the Void and True-Name Nemesis” to that list as well. A couple of copies of Berserk solve some of the issues, but getting beaten up by Chalice of the Void and control decks is still a huge issue.

Maybe this is one Pro Tour where they got to cash in on their “under the radar” deck, but there is no doubt that their deck will be less successful going forward.