“I’m going to keep playing the way I play until they make me change.”
Well, they finally did it.
On Monday this week, Wizards of the Coast announced a number of changes to Organized Play. For Pro Tour Magic Origins, they’re testing out adding scry 1 to any mulligans. They’re letting judges go to the cameras for “instant replay” on rulings.
And, of course, there is this:
- Creatures must be in front of lands, and nothing can be behind lands.
- The library can be on either side of the play area (left or right).
- The graveyard must be adjacent to the library (player can choose which side of play area both are on).
- The exile zone must be near the library/graveyard and must be distinct from the graveyard.
- If a card is exiled by a permanent in play, the exiled card must be placed in proximity to the exiling permanent such that it is obvious that the two are associated.
- All untapped cards in play must face the controller of that card.
This layout will only be enforced during matches in the area where video recording is taking place.
If you’re wondering why so many people are asking me my opinion about this change, the reason is simple. I play my cards lands in front of spells, with my cards turned to face my opponent so they can read them, my graveyard laid out directly in front of me crossing the battlefield so that each card can be seen at a glance, and my exiled zone off to the side near my library. For example:
In essence, very nearly every thing about how I play is now against the rules (at least in video feature matches).
Ultimately, this is a good thing.
Some people have asked me to fight this and scream out, in essence, “alba gu bràth!” or some other war cry. But I’m not going to do that. This isn’t about my ‘freedom’ or yours. It’s about something else.
I’ve been playing the way I do for a very, very long time. I first started doing it during Weatherlight, back in the summer of 1997 because of a deck I was working on that used these two cards:
No one used sleeves back then and playmats were practically nonexistent. I was a poor college student, and people would drag my cards across the rough surface of the community center tables constantly, damaging them. With this deck, it happened so often, I started facing the cards to my opponent, and to my surprise, people stopped dragging my cards across the table. Games sped up. I ended up just integrating it into my normal play.
At the time, nearly everyone played lands above spells, so just one more small quirk was largely uncommented upon. Many people often thanked me. All-in-all, I’m pretty sure that me doing this was a net positive for my opponents, even though some people were very vocally against it – over the eighteen years I’ve been doing this, it has been very few, and I’ve probably been told thank you over ten times as often as people have complained to me.
None of that matters, though, because of something important:
Magic Video Coverage.
Coincidentally, I’ve been doing Magic Coverage since 1997, when I first helped The Sideboard with their coverage of the US Open (the so-called “Meatgrinders”) that year. I was one of the original lineup for SCGLive coverage of Magic events and I’ve done coverage with GGsLive for numerous events as well.
Video coverage is a part of how Magic has been growing as a game. A great many people who are watching coverage, especially of the Pro Tour, are either just beginning to get more involved in the game or could potentially get more involved in the game. Everything that Wizards of the Coast can do to improve the experience of these spectators is good for Magic.
I love this game, and I want it to continue to grow as best as it can. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I’m more comfortable with playing in a certain way. Even if it is true, as some people argue, that lands in front of permanents gives more useful information to an opponent, it doesn’t matter.
In my time as a commentator for SCGLive and other official Magic events, one of the things that I’ve learned about Magic coverage is that anything that distracts a viewer from the game and the tournament is not a net positive. If a player can’t easily ascertain what is happening, they are all the more likely to stop watching.
The viewers’ experience is more important than even the experience of the players playing on camera.
It might not feel that way for those two players, but we have literally tens of thousands of people watching Magic events now, often live. Every single one of them is someone who is, to a greater or lesser extent, moving more into this wonderful community of ours.
Wizards of the Coast has done an excellent job in working on making the tournament environment a welcoming place for everyone who attends events. In the same vein, this move to standardize the play area for matches covered on camera will be a net positive for the Magic community.
Good work Wizards of the Coast, and good work Helene Bergeot (and everyone else involved in this change). I may not like that I’ll have to change my nearly two-decade-old way I’ve been playing the game, but I understand why they have made this decision and I support it.
I have just over a month to get used to it. Wish me luck.