I Want My All-Star Game Back!

Ken Krouner has deep-held issues regarding the current format of the Magic Invitational. At its very core, he believes it is deeply flawed. Like Jeff Cunningham above, he raises some pertinent questions regarding candidates and eligibility. Do you agree with his views?

That’s it.

I’ve had enough.

Things are getting wildly out of control, and I am here to publicly call a halt.

They’ve stolen my All-Star Game, and I want it back.

First, let me start out by saying that I fully recognize and respect the casual community. This recognition and respect is rarely reciprocated, by that community, toward the community with which I most closely associate. The Pro Tour Community sees very little from the Casual Community, outside of mockery and vitriol. Now, I realize that not all of the Casual Community feels like this, but it is the overwhelming sentiment on the Internet. If you don’t believe me, read the debate over the Pro Player cards. It’s revolting, and makes the Casual Community look like a bunch of whiney jealous jerks. If you’re part of the reasonable Casual Community, I’d love to hear from you… because it seems like only your “negative elements” speak their mind in the forums.

I digress… Back to the point.

I’m sorry, Casual Community, but the invitational is not your event. At least, it wasn’t. Nowadays they are marketing it as the Magic Invitational, which is fair, but the problem is this isn’t how it started. It started as an All-Star game.

There was a time where I felt that anyone voted onto the Invitational deserved it. I mean after all, they won the popular vote and no one really deserves anything if they don’t win the vote. Back when I was a name, there was a straight vote out of a pool of all the players who had eleven or more Pro Points for the previous season (along with each Pro Tour winner, the Player of the Year, and the previous Invitational winner). These days, it works a little differently. These days, Wizards of the Coast apparently makes a list of people they want in the invitational, then try to stack the ballots to get them a place. The results of this? There are several players who barely showed up for the previous season being on the ballot. It’s insulting and absurd and I think that we need to let Wizards know that this kind of corruption won’t be tolerated.

Since its inception, the Invitational has been marketed as the “All-Star Game” for Magic. Last year, I had to open up one of the ballots and see Eric Taylor. This year, I get to see Mike Flores and Alan Comer.

I want to start off by saying that I consider all three of these gentlemen friends of mine. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they had a combined total of six Pro Tour points for the season leading up to their nomination.

There is no apparent objective criteria for composing the ballots. The only thing that all the nominees have in common is that they all had at least two Pro Points in the previous season. That’s one Pro Tour appearance where you failed to make Top 128, if you aren’t familiar with Pro Tour points scoring.

So what’s the problem? It’s not like someone undeserving will make the invitational if their resume is that bad. Well… Flores proved that wrong. I’m not even so upset that he made it, as I am at the corruption involved in his being put on the ballot in the first place.

MagictheGathering.com is a fine site in general. It has what I feel are the two best columns on the Magic scene today, in Into the Aether and The Week That Was. It’s also the most visited site about Magic. A close second to this is StarCityGames.com. Mike Flores is a prominent figure as a writer on both of those sites.

There was little doubt in most people’s minds that Flores would win that vote. Wizards is not filled with morons. The people making these decisions are mostly former professional gamers. They know how people operate. Flores is famous for hard work. He is not famous for being a good Magic player. Yes, he has come up with some good decks. Decks that, when put in the hands of competent plays, can do some winning. But if you think that this is the reason he won, you are sorely mistaken.

First off, Flores is good at Magic. My issue is that he’s not great. He’s nowhere close. Of course, there have been lots of bad Magic players who have played on the Invitational, but they had the resume to support their inclusion. Flores has no such resume.

While I don’t in my heart of hearts believe that Alan Comer deserves to be on this ballot, at least he is a Hall of Fame player with some legitimate accomplishments in the game. Flores has nothing.

What Flores does have is a lot of friends at Wizards of the Coast. Friends who are smart enough to know that if you include someone who writes at least once a week for the two most popular websites, that they will win the vote, period.

Wizards has never put someone on the ballot who wrote for the site before. There are people out there who don’t know anything about Flores, other than what’s in his articles. If I knew nothing of him besides his articles, I’d say he’s the best deck builder to ever live. Just ask him, he’ll tell you. On top of that, he must be good if he is so prominently featured on the top two sites.

Where’s my All-Star Game? Sure, it was a bit offensive to purists last year when Pierre Canali upset the far more deserving Terry Soh… but at least Pierre belonged there. Mike Flores is no All-Star. He’s a coach, a beat reporter, and an analyst. He plays sometimes, but he’s not what one would call a Pro, and he never was. I don’t follow sports very closely, but I don’t think Peter Gammons will be starting at first base next year for the AL.

I wasn’t planning on even submitting this. I was worried it would come off as bitter. To be honest, I had to temper a lot of what I originally wrote because it actually offended me. What changed my mind was Ben Bleiweiss writer’s ballot. I didn’t have too much of a problem with the ballot itself, especially compared to some others. But I read at the end that he thinks John Rizzo, and god knows who else, should be on the invitational ballot. I could see this very serious problem spiraling out of control. Someone in the forums mentioned Richard Feldman, and I’m not even entirely sure who that is! I know he writes for StarCityGames. I’m sure it’s quality stuff. But come on, people! You can’t just vote your favorite local sports writer into the All-Star Game because you think he’s cool. You’d never do that in baseball, why defame the sport you actually play?

If Wizards or the Casual Community want to have their own invitational, fine. There are plenty of Magic celebrities like Mike Flores who do deserve a moment in the spotlight: Brian-David Marshall, Stephen Menendian, Ted Knutson, Chris Romeo, Jamie Wakefield. They just don’t deserve to be in the All-Star Game.

I think it’s time this was said. I’m sorry I had to be the one to say it.

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