Side A: Playlist / Side B: Policy Talk

Brian DeMars knows there are two sides to every story. Here, he tells you his side of the big organized play changes for 2015. If you’re interested in the ongoing discussion, this write-up will be music to your ears.


“Hello, yeah, it’s been a while. Not much, how about you?”

England Dan, “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” (1976).

(A playlist tip is to start things out mellow and then ease into picking up some steam. For instance, you don’t want the energetic high point of your mix
to be spent in the first three minutes!)

If you’ve met me in real life you know that I am completely obsessed with music. I have been since I was about ten years old. I learned to play the guitar
when I was a youngster and have been collecting vinyl records ever since I was a teenager.

I grew up during the tail end of the era of the mix tape and the advent of the burned mix CD. If High Fidelity or Guardians of the Galaxy have taught us anything it is that a good mix tape is a thing of beauty: a good mix tape can make a long road trip fly by,
make your friends get up and dance at a party, give you a boost while working out, set the mood for romance, or even distract a cosmic super-villain for a
few critical moments while the plan comes together… A great mix tape can do all of these things at the same time.

A good string of songs can also enrich and accent a good conversation. I’m going to fire up the record player and we can talk about ” What’s Going On?” in Magic.

“It’s just small town talk, you mustn’t pay no mind.”

–Bobby Charles, “Small Town Talk” (1973).

Wizards of the Coast recently announced new changes to the Pro Tour, Pro Tour Qualifier systems, and the Grand Prix system.

The first change was to the actual Pro Tour. In 2015, it was to be comprised entirely of Standard Pro Tours. That news was met with overwhelming and
immediate hatred. The news was so unpopular with fans and players that the decision was quickly changed to include a Modern Pro Tour.

How is it even possible that something like this could happen?!

The brain trust that is comes together and eliminates everything but Standard from the top tier of competitive play and then very confidently announces it
to Magic fans worldwide, like: “Tah-Dah! We know what you like!”

Except that, well, the vast majority hated it and were so repulsed and overwhelmingly negative about the changes that the powers that be were
forced to change it back to incorporate Modern.

For the record, I do at least appreciate that when the 99% come together in mass hatred of a policy change that Wizards is willing to make some changes.
However, the part that is truly frightening is that they could make such an announcement and have no idea how negatively it would be received by fans and
customers of their brand.

It’s not exactly that difficult to have a finger on the pulse of what Magic players like (um, somebody could check the forums of the online articles or the
infinite online message boards to see what people like and don’t like).

People like things that are exciting, they like variety, and they hate things that are the same and boring.

“If I raise my hand and question you’ll just say that I’m a fool,

Cause I’ve got the gall to ask you if you can maybe change the rule.”

–Bob Seger System, “2 + 2 = ?” (1969).

I have to admit at this point that while I like all kinds of music and have an appreciation for all genres spanning all time periods that my preference is
for late 60s – 70s soul, rock’n’roll and funk.

I’ll freely admit that I have certain musical biases that coincide with being from Michigan and being part of a culture that is engrained with the legacy
of Motown and has been influential in the progression of Rock’n’roll.

It is in my opinion that it must be the work of some “Smooth Criminal,” for instance that no Bob Seger LPs (not even “Night Moves”) are on the
Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums Of All Time List.

Anyways, I’ve gotten off topic. Let’s go back to talking about the Pro Tour announcement.

Let me ask you a question, and please answer it as honestly as possible:

“Would you rather watch Standard Pro Tour #3 in a row or a Legacy Pro Tour?”

Let me first say that I understand and agree with why Wizards wants to get rid of Block Constructed Pro Tours. First of all, they suck to watch. The card
pool is small, and there are only ever a handful of viable decks in the format (two or three). By the end of ten rounds of Constructed coverage the chances
of seeing new or interesting decks is pretty low which makes watching the event basically an exercise in seeing the same thing over and over again.

Also, people are not really invested in caring about Block Constructed as a format. There’s usually a couple of Block Grand Prix that follow a PT, but
other than that the vast majority of players do not follow or play the format very closely.

So, getting rid of it is whatever.

I’ve played on quite a few Block Pro Tours in my day, and yes, it’s pretty fun to work on the format and get a chance to play it, but putting those
personal feelings aside, using one of the game’s biggest publicity moments to promote a format that most don’t care about is a waste. I’m okay with that

So, if you can’t get ratings playing Block Constructed that leaves just Standard and Modern, right? Well, why not Legacy?

“Well, card availability… etc., etc.”

“I’ll admit you were slick baby, you sure played it cool.”

–Bettye Swann, “Kiss My Love Goodbye.” (1974).

I’ll be honest with you: I have no idea how this Northern Soul gem wasn’t a break out radio hit in the seventies.

Also, the more I think about card availability as a reason to not have Legacy Pro Tours, the less and less it makes sense to me as being a bad idea.

For instance, aren’t Legacy Grand Prix among the most popular and favored by players and fans of the game? How is that possible if card availability is a
constricting possibility in facilitating high profile events for the format?

Okay, so think about this for a second: is it really a concern that somebody who is good enough to qualify for the Magic Pro Tour simply will not be able
to get a Legacy deck for the Pro Tour? I find that extremely difficult to believe.

I understand that not everybody owns a Legacy deck. I understand that there are players who are good enough to qualify for a Pro Tour that don’t play a lot
of Legacy or own decks. However, I find it hard to believe that a player couldn’t at the very least borrow some cards to build a deck.

If a player is good enough to qualify for the Pro Tour and hasn’t made some kind of a network in that time where they have friends or connections who could
loan them cards for a PT, does it make me a bad person if I don’t exactly feel bad for that individual?

Well, maybe, but let me rephrase that statement. I would feel less sympathy for a person who somehow couldn’t cobble together a Legacy deck for a Pro Tour
in relationship to how much I would rather watch a Legacy Pro Tour than the third consecutive Standard Pro Tour in a row.

Also, for a Standard Pro Tour, players are expected to find copies of new cards from new sets within a week of that set’s release date. Is finding new
cards right after the release of a new set that much more difficult than having months to figure out how to get a hold of Legacy cards for a tournament?

If it’s about entertainment (people don’t want to watch Block Constructed events), then why not give the audience what they want (Legacy Constructed Pro
Tours)? I’m not saying that every PT should be Legacy or anything, but I can’t seem to find many reasons why there shouldn’t be one every once in a while
to reward the fans of the game. The only real issue seems to be that watching Legacy events (while popular and enjoyable) doesn’t really push the sale of

I’m not saying I’m a genius, but 2 + 2 is on my mind.

The other thing about the policy changes to the Pro Tour tournament structure that has really been bothering me is the new PTQ system. I mean, who has time
to play in a PTQ just to play in a PTQ!?

Wanted! Young men single and free.”

–Honey Cone, “The Want Ads.” (1971).

A lot of the time with a playlist, I’ve found that after you put something on there that’s a little bit heavier, it can be a nice change of pace to follow
it up with something that’s funky. Funky is still upbeat, so it rides that nice high from a heavier tune but has a distinctly different feel to it. 70s
Soul, Funk, Pop stuff is hard to beat.

So, were you as tired as I was of 200+ player PTQs? Well, here is a perfect solution to the problem: now, you have to essentially win two PTQs to qualify
for a PT via the qualifier system.

Since we’re just hanging out and talking honestly about Magic, I don’t feel any reason not to tell you how I really feel. I strongly dislike this policy.

I like to play Magic, and I like to go to Magic tournaments, but the idea that I have to take off essentially two separate days for the same PTQ is

. “Did I hear you say that there must be a catch?

Will you walk away from a fool and his money?”

–Badfinger, “Come and Get It.” (1969).

Did you know that when this song came out in 1969 people speculated that it was Paul McCartney with a new band because of the similarity to The Beatles
(and obvious McCartney songwriting credits)?

While qualifying for a Pro Tour may have just become even more tedious, time consuming, and a more difficult task for players, there is at least one upside
to the whole equation: Pro Tours will continue to stay reasonably small and exclusive.

I know, I know, “What a relief, right?”

When I heard that Wizards of the Coast was revamping their Pro Tour system, I was petrified that they would open up the marquee event so that players who
play all the time but aren’t in the Hall of Fame would have a legitimate shot to qualify and participate in the game’s marquee events! It is important for
a game that continually grows by upwards of 15% per year to continue to have Pro Tours that are the same size as they were a decade and a half ago…

No other man or girl can enter into our world,

Not as long as you Groove me baby.”

King Floyd, “Groove Me.” (1971).

I can’t exactly argue that players would rather watch feature matches involving LSV and Kibler than random PTQ winners. Wouldn’t you?

However, if the game has expanded exponentially with regard to player base over the course of decades, why should the size and format of a Pro Tour not
also grow to accommodate more players?

The famous players, the hall of famers, got their starts and racked up their credentials in an era when Top 16-ing a 600-player GP or winning a 50-player
PTQ earned an invite. The cost of the exclusivity, the price of having a better chance of seeing name players at the top tables of Pro Tours is that now in
order to get an invite, players must Top 8 a 2500 player Grand Prix or win a PTQQ to play in a PTQ?

Rather than keep Pro Tour events scaled down to exclude as many Magic players as possible, it seems like it would be a good idea to include more players in
the high level events.

I would have liked to have seen a move back to the system where the top 16 of Grand Prix get invites (without plane tickets) the way that it was a few
years ago.

Large scale, high profile tournaments certainly hasn’t hurt the popularity of Poker.

I suppose that it is important to have high profile events that showcase the most popular, best players in the world as a way of publicizing one’s brand,
like a Players’ Championship or something.

Being a sore loser makes you a user.”

— Leroy Hutson, “After the Fight.” (1974).

I can’t exactly say that I’m happy or delighted by any of the announcements that have been made about the new Pro Tour system. It seems like the difficult
goal of qualifying for a Pro Tour has become an even more difficult undertaking for players.

Is this system ultimately good for the game? I have no idea whether deciding to continue to maintain the exclusivity of the Pro Tour or having Pro Tour
Qualifier Qualifiers is good for the game or not because I don’t presume to know how to run Magic.

I am an individual who has played a ton of Magic in my lifetime, and I have my own perspective. My assumption is that allowing more players to realize the
dream of playing on a Pro Tour or allowing players who perform among the top 1% of their peers a shot to live out a dream would be a good thing.

I don’t feel like I’m being sour for the sake of being sour (you are all welcome to disagree with me if you think I’m being unreasonable), but at the end
of the day, I have strong doubts about the judgment of policy makers who promote, foster, and popularize a format like Modern and then simply scratch
having Modern PTs.

Just think about how many players will have gone to each PTQQ and then how many actually make the regional PTQ. Think about what percentile a player will
have to be in with regard to how many people played to make Top 4 and actually get an invite.

However, while these announcements have soured me a little bit about one aspect of the game, there is also some good news for tournament players like you
and me.

IX. “If you get hurt by the little things I say,

I can put a smile back on your face.”

Maxine Nightingale, “Right Back Where We Started From.” (1975).

At least this happened
and it has been a long time coming:

Grand Prix tournaments from here on out will have prize structures that appear to acknowledge and reflect the fact that these tournaments are five times
larger than they used to be when the prize structure was developed.

So, I’d like to give credit where credit is due in this regard because this is going to be a vast improvement to mega Grand Prix Events.

Also, Wizards has announced that there will be more Grand Prix tournaments planned for next year.

So it appears to me that while downsizing the number of invites for the Pro Tour that come from PTQs, that there will be more invitations created from
expanding the number of Grand Prix that players are able to attend over the course of a year.

As long as the overall number of invites given out remains about the same, I am very much in favor of this change because I personally enjoy attending
Grand Prix more than going to PTQs. It makes me feel better to know that if I finish in the top 6% of a 2400-player tournament that I will get a $200 check
as opposed to nothing.

Cliff Nobles, “The Horse.” (1969)

Cliff Noble’s “The Horse” is my jam.

Funny story, “The Horse” is the instrumental B-Side to the single “Love is Alright,” which is “The Horse” with Cliff Nobles singing with the music.
Unfortunately for Cliff, the B-side became much more popular than the version that included his vocals.

What a tease? Do you know what makes this song better? You not singing on it at all!

At least the playlist is super upbeat:

1. Dan England, “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight.”

2. Bobby Charles, “Small Town Talk.”

3. The Bob Seger System, “2 + 2 = ?”

4. Bettye Swann, “Kiss My Love Goodbye.”

5. Honey Cone, “The Want Ads”

6. Badfinger, “Come and Get It.”

7. King Floyd, “Groove Me.”

8. Leroy Hutson, “After the Fight.”

9. Maxine Nightingale, “Right Back Where We Started From.”

10. Cliff Nobles, “The Horse.”

As a bonus, here’s a pretty fun little playlist game. If you are at a restaurant or bar or whatever that has a jukebox, challenge somebody to pick a three
or four song set and duel their list against yours. Most places with jukeboxes now have the online ones where you can literally play anything that is on
iTunes, so even playing obscure music in public is possible. You can also do it with iPods or whatever on car trips.

It’s pretty fun, because say you have a group of people everybody can vote on whose musical picks were better as a playlist. It’s a pretty fun way to
incorporate listening to music into hanging out in such a way that it isn’t just playing in the background but rather also becomes part of the
conversation. “This is why I picked this song. This is why I think this song is great. My playlist has a cool theme going on with it. My playlist got that
table over there to get up and dance.”

There are lots of cool variations too: artists from my home state versus your home state. Genre versus genre, etc. I’m into playing Michigan versus the
world actually. It’s not as easy to beat the mitten as you might think…

Any cool listener playlists out there?