Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics

We’re devoting pretty much all of today to Type One debate… But really, I want to get back to strategy. Strategy – you know, what this site is ostensibly about? Anyway, in the decapitated-chicken flailings of many a Type One player or hater, many facts seem to go by the wayside – and I really need to address some of these from a business perspective.

Okay, here’s the deal; I’m writing this quick because I want to get all of this”Type One Rules!””Type One Sucks!” stuff out of the way. We’re devoting pretty much all of today to it – and yes, Oscar will be weighing in with his opinions later on – but I want to get back to strategy.

Strategy – you know, what this site is ostensibly about?

Anyway, in the decapitated-chicken flailings of many a Type One player or hater, many facts seem to go by the wayside. I really need to address some of these from a business perspective.

Damned Lie #1: Type One Is Cheaper To Get Into

Um, no. It isn’t. And I’ll tell you why.

Every pro-Type One article says the same thing:”Hey, I spent $500 on my deck once, but I never had to pay that again! Whereas you silly Standard players spend your days buying $300 in cards every three months!”

(Then they sit around wondering why Wizards doesn’t lavish more attention on them. Gee, when one of your major selling points is,”We pay almost no money to the company that supports us!“, is it any wonder that Hasbro isn’t rushing out to slather the world in Type One tourneys?

(But more on that later.)

First of all, everyone makes the same damn comparison: Mox X versus four Call of the Herds. Equal in price. One will last you forever, and one will rotate out of Standard in a year.

Sounds good, right? You buy the Mox.


Firstly, this assumes that I have to pay for all of my Calls up front… Which I don’t. A lot of Standard players (and most serious ones) also enjoy drafting the same cards they play in Standard – a concept that will, of necessity, be alien to most Vintage players.

(I suppose one could try to draft Legends, but at $50 a pack I could see it adding up pretty quick.)

The fact is that I don’t pay up-front for all of my rares. I draft a hell of a lot of them… Which not only allows me to improve my skill at another enjoyable format, but gives me use out of a lot of commons and uncommons I’d never use in Standard. This gives me an amazing double-duty out of my Calls, winning me a draft and then placing me in a Constructed event.*

Serious players draft once or twice a week, getting them a lot of the rares they need in the process of playing another game. This is really something you can’t overlook as a price of entry; those Calls may be expensive, but I got them in the course of another game.

Secondly – and this is again, something I haven’t seen brought up in the entire debate – I can get people to loan me Calls. The pros frequently beg and borrow cards, sometimes from dealers, during the course of a tourney – and though I’m not a pro, I’ve borrowed cards like a fiend from everyone I knew. Before I became an editor for StarCity, I playtested with David Phifer, and my CounterRebels deck was about 20% borrowed – all the Absorbs were David’s, since he was going with MachineHead, and I think the high-end Rebels were his, too.

I didn’t pay a cent for those. And I gave them back at the end of the tourney. You have to remember that for a lot of the people who play, not all of the cards are theirs.

Now. Try to get someone to lend you a Mox at a tourney.

Someone you sort of know, but not really.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Hmm hmm hmmm….

What’s that? They’re afraid to lend you their $120, one-card investment?

Strange, that.

They generally don’t have more than one. And if they do, they’re understandably cautious about lending it to someone who’s not their best friend or playtesting partner. Getting a loaner Mox is like getting loaner wisdom teeth; you either take the suckers or you leave ’em behind, but you generally don’t have them for awhile.

Furthermore, I can trade for Calls using my other Odyssey Block rares. Sure, I get ripped in the process – the players know what they’re worth – but I can drag out enough crap rares to make the difference, or I can trade off another solid draft acquisition that would go a deck that I know I’ll never play (like, say, Nantuko Shade or Mutilate), or I can just bite the bullet and throw in a bunch of semigood rares to try and trade up.

(Or I can rip off a kid, but homey don’t play that.)

Can I trade for a Mox if my collection is small? No way. You Type One players are eternally going on about how few cards you really need – I’ve seen people trying to trade for a Mox. Invariably, the Mox owner flips through the binder with the jaded air of a New York cop, muttering,”Got it… Got it… Got it…”

And then he hands back the book with a shake of his head, saying,”You have nothing I want. Nothing worth the Mox, anyway.”

The lesson: If you’re new to the game, you pay for Moxes.

But you have at least three other ways to collect Call of the Herds.

That is a hidden cost of entry fee that the Vintage community, as a whole, has blithely overlooked.

And furthermore, a Mox – lasting though it is – is a single card, or 1.7% of my deck. Four Calls, at the same price, is 6.8% of my deck, and I can still work fairly well with three of them.

Now, they do only last for a year. Still, a year’s a long time in Magic – a mighty long time. And nobody’s to say you can’t trade for what you need when everything rotates out.

Damned Lie #2: You Don’t Need The Power Nine

Now, this is semi-true…. If you’re willing to play a certain limited style of deck, and if you’re willing to sacrifice some of your competitiveness. Despite the facts that you can build cheap decks, your deck is usually better with a Mox, a Twister, or a Lotus.

I could go on, but Tony Drew said it better than I ever could. Read his article. It’s really worth it.

Damned Lie #3: Wizards Needs To Reprint.

They’re not going to. Yet. And I’ll tell you why.

The reprints are the easiest money they’ll ever make.

Right now, Magic is doing well; there’s a thriving Pro Tour, as far as I can tell sales are up (Wizards has laid off a few employees, true, but Wizards always overestimates trends and overhires), and Magic is healthier than ever. Attendance seems to be up across the field.

Now. There will come a day when Magic is creatively spent; could be a year, could be twenty, but it will come. One day, Wizards will watch the last Magic players slip away into the abyss (lacking, as most of us do, protection from black) and nobody will want to play it any more.

When that day comes, they will bend – no matter what they say today – and they will reprint the Mox and the Lotus and the Time Walks with a smile on their faces. There will be a print campaign about the return to the basics, maybe with new art, and there will be a frenzy of buying, even from people who abandoned the game a long time ago. Hey, even if I only played the game casually for a few months, I heard about the Moxen and the Lotus; I’d want to own one. The die-hards will want twenty.

You’re all right. Reprinting the old cards would be staggeringly popular. It would increase interest in Magic across the board. Players who hadn’t picked up a deck in years would come slinking back into stinking, decaying shops to try Magic for one last time.

And you could never top it.

So why the hell would you do it now?

Every good videogame player knows that you don’t detonate the smart bomb when you’ve got one enemy; you want until you’re swarmed. You don’t pick up the 100% life pack until you’re as close to 0% life as humanly possible.**

No sane CEO, CFO, or any other competent businessman would shoot their load this early in the game. No, Wizards will cave, and you can mark my words… But it won’t be until their backs are against the wall. When they need that final infusion of cash to gracefully exit the program.

Only idiots will cheer when the Power Nine are reprinted. To the intelligentsia, they’ll realize it for what it is: The death knell of Magic the Gathering.

Me, I can wait a while longer.

Damned Lie #4: Vintage Tournaments Are Thriving

Can you do me a favor, step down from your perch, and look at the numbers?

Seriously. Look at what Mark wrote. Look at the numbers like you’re making a presentation to your boss tomorrow – a boss who, quite rightfully, could care less about Magic and only cares about the cash profit. You personally love Magic, but you have to justify every decision to the guys who write the paychecks. If it doesn’t make money, your paychecks don’t get signed – and that’s good business.

I can tell you exactly what they say, because I worked for Borders Books – an entertainment company if there ever was one – and I’ll reconstruct the conversation for you.

“So why do you want a Vintage tourney?”

“Well, Vintage players are upset.”

“How much do these players spend?”

“Well, we’ve done studies… They don’t spend that much, but they are passionate about the game….”

“Passionate’s irrelevant. Compared to the $500 a year that the average Standard player spends on the game,*** how much does this Vintage player spend on new cards?”

“Well, on average, they buy less than a box.”

“So they spend about a fifth of what the average player does… And they want us to spend money on prize support and hosting for a Pro Tour. Including renting a location, promotion, $500 travel expenditures, and tracking. Continue.”

“Anyway, they claim that if we give them more support, they’ll buy more…”

“Hang on a minute – I’m looking at the figures here. At a time when the average number of tournaments was increasing by about 11,000 tourneys per year, the number of Vintage tournaments didn’t increase at all?”

“But that’s not counting the unsanctioned events – and we didn’t really sponsor them….”

“Could those unsanctioned events count for, say, about 42,000 lost tournaments?”

“Um… No…”

“If we had offered prize support, would we have gotten 42,000 extra tournaments?”


“And – Jesus! – Vintage was the only format to experience a net loss of players in 1999! What the hell are these crackheads thinking? Magic as a whole is rising, but this format is dying!”

“But we’re not supporting them!”

The CEO leans in, his face large, his breath stinking of expensive cigars. “So what you’re telling me is that we’re not supporting a segment of our market who buys less than the average player, and if we spend more money on them they may or may not attend tourneys that will sell us fewer cards than an equivalent Standard event. Is this correct?”


“You can go now.”

Now, is this how I feel? Hell no. Actually, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you that it would be in my best interests if there was a Type One Pro Tour. To get the cards, you gotta buy singles… And we loooove selling singles.

But that’s the argument you’re going to have to make to a businessman. Based on statistics, it doesn’t look promising. If you want Wizards to hold a Type One Pro Tour, realize that you either:

a) Have to come up with some logical way for them to make a profit off of it consistently, or:

b) Realize that there are a great number of fine people at Wizards who care about the format enough to go to bat for it despite the fact that it’s never going to be a big money-maker.

In other words, if you get a Type One Pro Tour, be happy. It’s something they’re doing to make you happy. Try not to grouse that they’re not laying out a red carpet and a birdhouse for you, too.

Now does this mean that I hate Type One?

No. I don’t play the format, admittedly, but I have a fondness for it. I think that, despite the fact that it’s clearly the best move from a business perspective, the constant rotation is grueling and confusing for new players. I remember the first time I went to a tourney with my Goblin deck, which would have kicked ass except that half the cards were”illegal” – a concept that still is strange to me. I had to take a preconstructed Tempest deck – which needless to say, was kind of suboptimal. I think that Standard, though good for current players, is too confusing for existing ones.

I also hate the fact that dual lands are only in Type One, and I’m glad they have somewhere to be. They’re too good. I own a complete set. I like them. I want them to find a home.

I love the fact that you can just pick your favorite deck and play it once or twice a year, pick it up, and put it back.

And I still love Zuran Orb.

In short, Type One has my full support. But anyone who wants to complain about Rosewater and Buehler and blah blah blah should probably take a lesson in business and realize that profit comes first. They should take a lesson in honesty and realize that although you can play cheaper decks, the better decks will always have the expensive stuff. They should take a lesson in real-world tourneys and realize that Moxen are more expensive than Calls in many ways.

In other words, if you want to advocate Type One, you’d better face up to these issues. And they’re big ones.

Now can someone write some more damned OBC articles instead of bitching? I’m tired and so is everyone else. Thanks.

Signing off,

The Ferrett

[email protected]

The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy


I spent so much time replying to a response from a reader that I felt I just had to stick it down here.

Said reader, who’s written Type One articles for StarCity before, said:

((((> If I sell two different types of candy in my imaginary candy store, and put one in a display case at the front, and do giveaway promotions of it, and keep the other in the store room in case someone asks for it, it would not really be fair of me to suggest a year from now that candy A is better because I sold more.)))

That is an illogical lie from a business perspective… Mainly because it assumes that every candy would be equal if they got the front-of-store promotion. I dealt with this in bookstores all the time – and as maddening as it is, it’s completely fair.

Let’s give another comparison: You have a John Grisham novel for sale and a Ferrett novel for sale. Now, by your logic, it wouldn’t be fair to say,”John Grisham is a better author” until you had placed the Ferrett novel at the front of the store, done the promotions, and held a contest.

However, I think it’s plain to see that although you’d definitely sell more of the Ferrett Great American Work, it would never outsell – or even make up for the loss of – the Grisham books.

In business, you don’t spend your time promoting sad-sacks that could be good if you promoted them; hell, anything could sell more if you frontlined it.

The question is, what does the best when it’s frontlined?

And as far as the candy example goes, yes, you can say that Candy A is better. If Standard is Snickers, you’re guaranteed that by promoting it, you will sell a certain amount – and it’s a bestseller even without that. (For example, stores are still holding FNM Standard tourneys in droves even though there is no major Standard amateur-accessible pro events on the horizon before Onslaught rotates in. People apparently like Type Two enough to play it without the promotion. This irritates Kurt Hahn, so that alone should make you Vintage players like that idea.)

Type One, on the other hand, is Zingers. You know that even without the promotion, Zingers sells 6.3% of what the promoted Snickers does. (In case you missed it: Vintage tourneys are currently 6.3% of Standard tourneys.)

Are you really, honestly suggesting that if we put the Zingers up front that their sales will jump to seventeen times their previous number just to equal Snickers?

You can say it’s a worse candy without the promotion, mainly because any rational person will see that the numbers don’t jump that much.

Furthermore, let’s say that even accounting for the cost of promotion, you make more money on each Snickers bar than you do on Zingers. (Just like Standard tourneys generate more sales for Wizards than Vintage.) So are you honestly going to yank the Snickers away from the front of the store to sell Zingers in the hopes that sales will spike to twenty times what they did before – just to break even with the Snickers?

I can tell you right now – a good promotion increases sales by fifty percent. A great promotion increases sales by maybe three or four times. Legendary is seven to eight.

For a real-life example, let’s look at Standard once it became a PT format; it rose 65%. So taking that to Type One, it would have….

4,950 tourneys.

Let’s even raise that some more: Let’s say that Type One has an astounding one-to-one ratio – which is completely unrealistic, but what the heck. We’ll say that for every sanctioned Vintage tournament, there was a backroom event. Wow.

Even then, you’re at 9900 tourneys – still a fifth of the Standard scene.

You know Vintage is a solid candy – but not a great one. The theorizing that every candy must be promoted to its fullest before you can”know” what it does is an obscene lie. Don’t propagate it.

* – I speak theoretically here. I’ve participated in at least twenty or thirty real-life OBC drafts, and not once have I ever cracked a Call of the Herd. Whoever the cattle are calling, I guarantee it’s not me. Maybe I should get call waiting.

** – Well, unless you’re in a deathmatch and are trying to prevent someone else from healing up… And yet I digress.

*** – This is a made-up figure. It could be more, could be less. But I guarantee you that Wizards knows who spends what.