Last Sunday, I showed up at 1:20, ready with a new deck to play in the store?s weekly Type II tournament. When I walked into the shop, I saw *two* other players. Because of GenCon, many of the tournament regulars were out of town. However, we decided to wait until 2:30 (the tourney usually starts at 2:00) for more players to arrive.
When too much time had passed, a store employee informed the five of us (two more players had since arrived) that there would be no tournament. Though disappointed, we decided to make the best of the situation: I suggested that we play multiplayer, and the idea was quickly taken up. I then said that we should play Chaos Magic, by far my favorite method of playing the game, and ? after some explaining as to what the format was about ? we sat down with our Type II tournament decks to play some mad casual. Even better, another player came to join us only one turn in, so I participated in the biggest multiplayer game of my Magic career: Six players playing the best "format" available.
Let me tell you, we had a fantastic time! Tom, to my left, was the master of lifegain (though only by fortune of the Chaos rolls), "dying twice" before being reduced down to three. Then, someone rolled a WackyLand that sent all life totals shifting one step in the direction turns were moving. Since that had been changed earlier in the game, I got his paltry three life and didn?t break ten the rest of the game… So Tom got some beats for that. Frankie was playing an Opposition deck that everyone knew wouldn?t work in six-player multiplayer, so we let him off easy. Bobby got all the good creatures out and was therefore thrashed a lot, though he was the third player down. In the end, we stopped the game to try (unsuccessfully because of lack of Odyssey packs) to booster draft, though everyone agreed that my Dwell on the Past recursion, along with infinite counters, Wraths, etc. would have won me the game.
So, what?s my point? It?s this: The six of us all came to the store with the intention of participating in a tournament and winning a prize. Perhaps we wanted to have fun on the side along with the desire to do some trading – but our main purpose was to compete. But, what happened when the tournament was taken from the players? The players made due. And, this goes to prove what I think we all knew from the start: Magic is all about the players.
I would wager that most people who begin playing Magic do so because they?re introduced to the game through a friend or a group of friends. Playing Magic is a social activity to begin with – you learn in order to have something fun in common with a friend. But then, you start to become more independent; you become entrenched in the game, not the gamers. I think that I, if not others, had begun to fall into this trap.
Two nights before the tournament, I was thinking about my attendance-to-be. I decided to play a deck other than my BUWUG (the extra blue is for blue-tiful!). I chose an old deck to play and spent an unfair portion of my sleeping time updating it in my mind. The next morning, I spent about an hour taking proxies out of this particular deck and filling it with cards from my other decks. I then built a sideboard, and pulled cards from decks for that. I was so psyched to play my "new" deck at the tournament.
Looking back now, I realize that all of that preparation was done by myself with my cards. I thought of card interactions, the metagame, my playstyle, and the actual tournament itself. My goal was to win the packs of cards, giving me the dual satisfaction of having a win under my belt and adding cards to my collection. Last week, I wrote about my yearning to play with my new Extended decks – just to play Magic. All that flew out of my mind when I started thinking about a tournament, and a small one at that!
But when I actually got to the tournament site and found that there was no tournament, I realized that tournaments don?t make Magic – Magic makes tournaments. Even without organization, five others and I had several hours of fun without spending a dime. We even remarked during and after the game that it was more fun than the tournament would have been. When I went home, I wasn?t disappointed that the tournament had been canceled; I was perfectly satisfied with the way the day had gone.
So how was it possible for me to I have fun if all my hopes couldn?t come true? The key was the people who I played with. Those people made the day enjoyable for me. If I?d been the only one to show up, a day of goldfishing would have been extremely boring. But, since I had funny, interesting people to keep me company, I had a good time. And, this core fact that people are the most important part of playing Magic is, I believe, becoming re-realized by Wizards.
For a long time, and still now, the concerns of many players have been on inhuman matters. The release of new cards and their impact on the environment, the rotation of cards in Standard (and now Extended), the power level of cards too strong or two week, etc. etc. etc. The most "human" concern I can remember recently is the cheating episode Magic players will remember from earlier this year.
But now, I feel that Wizards, at least the Magic-creating section, is reaching the same conclusion that I am: Magic players, not Magic cards, make the game go on. So, what?s the big change? I?d say that the "maturity" of www.MagicTheGathering.com is the greatest step towards including the players since Friday Night Magic.
Now we as players actually have a direct voice in the creation of our game. The current feature of Selecting Eighth Edition is a great example of this. The most poignant event to happen along these lines, though, remains the announcement that Starter will be a tournament-legal subset of Eighth Edition, removing from the base set cards seasoned players don?t want anything to do with. This wasn?t their plan, but they changed the whole arrangement of the base set for next year based upon the opinions of the Magic playing populace. This impressed me very much, and has instilled in me the utmost confidence in the future of Magic being at least partly in the players? hands.
So next time you prepare for a tournament, keep in mind what Wizards and I are rediscovering: That your opponents, though you have a right to want to crush them, are much more important to your victory than your deck is.