A record number of Pro players descended on Charleston this past weekend for the Ravnica Block Constructed Team Unified Pro Tour. When I say record number, I mean record number. The previous high had been 426 players, and Charleston boasted 525 players. Ravnica Block Constructed looked to be one of the most diverse and fun formats in years, given the unified design of the entire block, the plethora of mana-fixing effects available in the format, and the diversity of the ten guilds in Ravnica, Guildpact, and Dissension.
The Pro Tour did not disappoint. There were a ton of viable archetypes, a lot of variation within each archetype, and many close and interesting matches. Even though the format was Team Unified, Ravnica Block Constructed proved to be a huge success – perhaps the most balanced and diverse block format in history.
So why isn’t there a public Ravnica Block Constructed format on the calendar this year?
I wish I had a good answer for that question. The best explanation I’ve been given from “sources in the know” was that something had to go, given the reorganization of the Pro Tour calendar for 2006. Still, why axe Block Constructed season when Wizards was knowingly going to release the most comprehensive block in their history?
Yesterday, I wrote an article about the low US Regionals attendance totals for 2006. I want to be clear that I am not saying that the Organized Play division as a whole at WOTC is doing a bad job – quite the contrary, they’ve come up with quite a few innovations this year that were very positive – an improved Pro Tour schedule, additional State Championships, an increased focus on team formats, both at Prereleases and at the Qualifier level, to name a few. Still, the lack of a Block Constructed season stuck in my craw from the beginning of the year, given the design of Ravnica, Guildpact, and Dissension.
Back to yesterday’s article for a moment. I wrote that the cost of Standard right now is prohibitive to many players, with the main barrier being the cost of manabases. Many players would be able to justify picking up multiples of the Ravnica/Guildpact/Dissension shocklands if they had more tournament utility – that is, a tournament past Regionals in which they would be played. In the past, the impetuous for this would be the Block Constructed Season.
Let’s say you bought a set of Hallowed Fountains, Temple Gardens, and Breeding Pools for your U/G/W deck for Regionals. You’re pretty much stuck with them until Extended season rolls around – except for Friday Night Magic (and that’s a stretch), you don’t have any tournaments to use these high-dollar cards in until Extended season at the end of the year! In the past, a two-to-three month long Block Constructed season could definitely help cost-justify buying new cards en-masse – you’re going to get months more play out of the cards.
In addition, there is a qualifying season going on right now for Pro Tour: Kobe. The format is Ravnica Block Limited, which is, coincidentally, the exact same format as the State Limited Championships coming up this weekend. Why were these two seasons scheduled to overlap with the same formats? That seems like very, very poor planning – even though the two formats appeal to somewhat different players, the PTQs will poach players away from States, since people have limited budgets with which to attend tournaments.
Instead of scheduling a Limited State Championships in the middle of an identical Limited PTQ season, why didn’t Wizards make the State Championships a Block Constructed State Championship? This would have come on the heels of the Pro Tour that showcased the format, and it would have given the public any sort of mass-sanctioned Block Constructed tournament that this season lacked completely!
Speaking of the Pro Tour, why even run a Block Constructed Pro Tour if you’re not going to use it to advertise the format? The main point of the Pro Tour is to advertise the product (through players, prizes, and decks, not necessarily in that order). In fact, the Pro Tour is among the most (if not the most) high-cost of the advertising tools Wizards of the Coast uses.
What was the purpose of Pro Tour: Charleston? It came, it was extremely popular with the professional crowd, and now it is gone. People will not learn the building block of Ravnica Block Constructed from the Pro Tour, because there are no tournaments to build towards. All excitement about the format is wasted, because the format died at 5:00pm EST on Sunday, June 18th.
Somewhere, in the halls of Wizards of the Coast headquarters, a series of decisions were made once upon a time, and those decisions closed the book on a format that was poised to become the greatest and most popular Block Constructed format of all time.
Ravnica Block Constructed didn’t have to die. To the loss of players around the world, the format is now stillborn. The question is why?
I wish I had the answer.