The Ferrett latest article, "Why StarCity Is A Scrub Site," rung true on many points.
From the lack of information on Invasion Block to the general lack of strategy, one is entitled to wonder if Magic writing on the Internet has finally hit its peak. To find the answer, we must take a look at the past, present, and future of Magic sites.
Enough lamenting and hand-wringing has been done over the Dojo, so I will not go into an analysis of that site’s fate. However, since it WAS arguably the first and the best for quite some time, I will say a few words on the subject. If I am not mistaken, the Dojo operated from 1994 (95?) to 2001. Its beginnings are better documented by other people, but the important thing to remember is the number of people connected to the Internet was nowhere near the number it is today. Given that Magic players are also a minority in the general population, one can assume that the number of people having access to the tech and knowledge of the Dojo is near several thousand (perhaps 7,000) in 1994-95.
Now, how do people get their new tech if they don’t access the Internet? I can only think of one way, and it’s the Duelist. We all remember the Duelist, don’t we? Great columns by Beth Moursand, Gab Tsang, Mark Rosewater, and the finishing page by Richard Garfield.
The Duelist being the company’s official paper, it was the quickest way to find out about changes. I remember very clearly when I found out Regrowth was restricted, I simply could not understand it! How was this card better than my Shivan Dragon? The Shivan dealt ten, then ten, and you won. All Regrowth did was return a card to our hand! It wasn’t long until my eyes were opened on how silly some cards were. My friend Andrew Todd built a deck that used Time Walk and Regrew it, and reshuffled it – QUITE BRUTAL.
The whole point is, it was obvious to most players what the best cards were, even back then. And this was an era where Mesa Pegasi, Savannah Lions, and Mahamoti Djinns sometimes stole the day. Who gave us our tech? Our clever friends did, and those same people probably had counterparts on the Internet who posted their favorite decks, decks with Balance, Mind Twist, and other great cards. How does this bring us to our present situation? Let’s find out…
As more people played Magic and the Duelist became a reference point, a need arose for a timely resource for serious Magic players. Frank Kusomoto gave us that resource: the Dojo. It featured the Schools of Magic, deck lists, and some community issues. The Dojo has been invaluable to the game, but soon other people decided to take their newfound knowledge and take them to the newsgroups and other Magic sites.
The situation now is that Magic players have reached the level of their competence. A reverse Peter Principle, if you will. Because there is only so much you can talk about, the articles tend to all refer to the same points. The Pro Tour, Sealed Deck Analysis, Newbies vs. Pros, new Deck analyses. Why aren’t more issues brought to the forefront? When I went to the Planeshift pre release, I saw lots of people having fun, getting excited, and finding they still loved Magic. I think Wizards of the Coast carries a great deal of responsibility in getting players excited. I understand the need for Non-Disclosure Agreement agreements, but the fact of the matter is, the information WILL get out. Right now, mag2.cjb.net has about a hundred or so cards from 7th edition out on a spoiler. Why doesn’t Wizards present us with new mechanics in advance, perhaps a year ahead, and see if we can break them? Why don’t we get the spoilers a month or so in advance?
I think if Magic is truly going to reach out to everyone, it will need to reach out to EVERYONE. The rewards for Grand Prix Qualifiers must go beyond product. There must either be money involved, or something truly special. If you win a Qualifier, fly people to Seattle and have them visit WotC. Have them see what R&D does; what people actually do and what they work on. Obviously we don’t want to disturb people at work, but I’m sure that it’s possible to organize a tour of the facilities.
Another important issue is the Invitational. The people that attend them all get to submit a card idea, and some of them are truly spectacular. But what has to be done to attend the invitational? I believe you have to be among the top 16 ranked players in the WORLD to do so.
Sixteen people out of several million? Say you are Joe Scrub with a 1600 rating and you want to make the Invitational. Odds are that you will have to qualify for several Pro Tours, win several Pro Tours, and even then you’ll be behind the people already qualified. Things need to change. I won’t be making any friends saying this, but people with high ratings who don’t play regularly should lose points – to the rate of thirty points per year that they do not attend a sanctioned event. This would eliminate the Gravy Train mentality that permeates the Tour.
The DCI should also give serious thought to making Magic: the Gathering an Open Game Licence, like the D20 system. For those of you unaware, the D20 system is a wonderful idea. It allows game companies outside of Wizards to design their own product as long as it conforms to the rules set out by Wizards. In the D20 system, roleplaying games are made where a Difficulty Challenge rating (DC) is assigned to a task in the game. In Dungeons & Dragons for example, if you wanted to find out how hard it is to detect a magical trap, you need to check your skill for Searching (a number from 1-25 or more) and match it against the Difficulty assigned by the Dungeon Master. So if a well-hidden trap has a DC of 30, so only a very practiced person could find it. The thing is, you can change the setting easily enough to Science Fiction, Cyberpunk, Big Scaly Monsters or anything else you can think about. Because of this, other companies are coming out with products that use the framework built by WOTC and are releasing products that are bought or ignored based on their own merits.
What if Magic did this? We all know there are about six or seven different base mechanics. Enchantments, Arifacts, Creatures, Sorceries, Instants, Lands constitute the core of the game. Virtually any card, from Chaos Orb to Mind Over Matter, can be narrowed down into these simple categories. It becomes fairly obvious what is acceptable to the DCI and what is not by consulting the banned lists and the available card pools. Say I like the tales of King Arthur (and I do!). I would sign the Open Gaming Licence, and make a set based around the tales. Merlin, Arthur, Morgan La Fey, Excalibur, all of these are deeply entrenched in our culture, and how many of us would love to play with them? Every culture in the world has myths, legends and tales to draw from. Assuming we remain in North America, there are Native legends, European Legends, American tales, Canadian myths, the possibilities are there to be explored.
Obviously this means that MORE sets would be available to be added to the formats. Typically there are at any time not more than eight or nine sets available for Type II at any one time… But Extended and Vintage are another story. Mark the new products with Vintage, Extended or Standard labels, run them through the DCI’s rigorous testing, and voila! The Arthurian Heroes Limited Edition expansion!
After all, haven’t all of us at one time dreamt of Merlin and his companions?
Let Wizards and the DCI think about it; it could very well bring a fresh look to Magic.