Right now, States is in a pretty sad state. – Charles Mousseau
You know, year after year I would take up this very same flag and wave it around, get in line and march to the tune that States should mean more. A few months after the euphoria had died down from winning States in 1999, it hit home that winning really didn’t mean anything. There were few pros playing, so I wasn’t truly the best player in the State that day. I didn’t get an invite or byes to some higher-level premier event. I had a plaque and a bag and a modicum of satisfaction that I was no longer considered a complete scrub by the more competitive players out there. I mean, you still have to play fairly decent Magic to win one of these things, even if the overall competition is a little below PTQ-par.
That mildly hollow feeling led me to the conclusion that winning States should count for more. I’ve floated up the idea that winning should award byes for Regionals. Others have argued for different approaches. Year after year, I’d stake my time on the soapbox to lobby for Wizards to change States and make it truly mean more.
This year, something changed my mind.
Initial accounts are showing record attendance for States. The tournament I attended in Virginia had one hundred and ninety people, a considerable jump from last year. People are turning out in droves for the chance to be State Champion, but who are these people? They aren’t dissuaded by the lack of prize support, or the fact that winning it doesn’t gain you anything after the tournament is over. Playing against them, I have to conclude that most of them are local players who are eager to try out the new set and new decks. They are there to have fun.
What little feedback I’ve heard from Wizards regarding making States”mean more” over the years has been that they want States to appeal to the amateur players. This is their target market, so they keep the”rewards” down to a minimum outside of the raw appeal of the status of being champ. In fact, most hyper-competitive Magic players could care less about titles. What drives a lot of them is money – how can I get into a premier event and win cash?
So really, States is mostly about the fun of playing Magic with new cards, in a structured tournament format with nominal prize support and a title for the winner, who just may end up being your buddy from the local game shop.
This only makes sense if the intent is to prevent the top players from trying to become State Champions. – Zvi Mowshowitz
Zvi’s right, and it does make sense. I can’t help but think that the fact that pros are not motivated to compete at States, is actually a big draw for people. At Virginia’s States the only name pro in the room that I ran across was Eric Froelich (who made Top 8 with a borrowed Goblin deck). I think every year one or two pros muster out to play, mostly (I imagine) to have fun because they didn’t have anything better to do. In States past, I’ve played against Pete Leiher and Donnie Gallitz. I think most players at States can accept that there may be a pro or two that they’d need to compete against, if they ultimately want to get the State Champion title. But how many Virginians would muster out for States if they had to compete with heavy-hitting Magic players like EFro, Gallitz, Lieher, Kyle Rose, Mike Long, Morgan Douglass, Lawrence Creech, and others for the title?
Would as many people come play if they knew the tournament would be infested with pro-level competition? I think the answer is probably no. It would end up feeling a lot like a PTQ and I suspect Wizards wants to keep the State Championships distinct in flavor.
So it occurs to me that Wizards should go ahead and take the next step – declare States to officially be what they’re implying – an amateur event. They already hold an Amateur National Championships, why not go ahead and make the State Champs Amateur as well? Just make sure there’s a Pro Tour coming up soon (like this year’s New Orleans), so the pros have something else they can work on. I also think they should revise their definition of Pro to mean something like”no more than three Pro Tour Points in the past two years.” I mean, if you Q’d for a Pro Tour in 1996 but haven’t been back since, are you really a pro? If you were on top of your game then but your skills have since slipped, you should still be eligible to play lower-level events.
(The only problem with that is that it allows cheaters who’ve been banned for multiple years to come back and play in States – The Ferrett, knowing that other rules can be made to prevent this)
Making it the Amateur State Championships then frees you to up the stakes – to actually make it mean more. Add more prize support. Tie in some byes to Regionals or Nationals Grinders. When Mr. Friday Night Magic suddenly finds himself his State Amateur Champion, why not give him the opportunity to explore more competitive events (and hopefully bring some of his friends along with him)? Regionals might be intimidating to a casual player looking to become more competitive, but with three byes under his belt it certainly looks much more inviting. Hell, why not give him three byes to any one PTQ he wants to go to?
At any rate, I think it’s important that States retain it’s amateur flavor, but I also think it really ought to mean more in the larger scale of competitive Magic. Officially making it an Amateur event seems like a good way of accomplishing both goals.
What do you think? Chime in on the forums!