The Magic “Senior Tour”

A few weeks ago, I proposed the somewhat novel idea of having Wizards of the Coast start a "Senior Tour": A Pro Tour-type event for those of us "old-timers" in the Magic community (the thirty-and-not-getting-any-younger crowd). We may be very good players, but due to preoccupations like families and jobs, we can’t play as often…

A few weeks ago, I proposed the somewhat novel idea of having Wizards of the Coast start a "Senior Tour": A Pro Tour-type event for those of us "old-timers" in the Magic community (the thirty-and-not-getting-any-younger crowd). We may be very good players, but due to preoccupations like families and jobs, we can’t play as often as we like and can’t hone our skills to the same degree as these young whippersnappers who can play all night long, all week long. (Are we sure we’re talking Magic, here? — The Ferrett)

Since Wizards sanctions events like the Junior Super Series and "special" events like the all-women tournaments, why not support an event or events for the older segment of the Magic community? A "Senior Super Series?"

Of course, like all great endeavors, I ran into a few problems. Logistics are the bane of keen ideas everywhere.

* What to call it?
I liked "Senior Tour," but it was brought to my attention that "Senior Tour" makes people think of Chi Chi Rodriguez doing his little Zorro dance on the golf course between hip replacement surgeries. Unfortunately, "Masters" has already been taken, and "Elder" sounds a little to sage-like for me. And somehow, I don’t think "Old Fogies Tour" is going to fly. So until someone comes up with something better, I’m sticking with "Senior Tour," Arnold Palmer or no Arnold Palmer.

The golf reference reminds me of a question once asked about why pro golfers can play at such a high level for longer than any other sport? Very few professional athletes can make it past thirty, very rarely forty – but pro golfers can be dominant when they’re entering their fifties. Why?

The belief is that while the human body’s physical peak comes between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five, the human brain reaches its maximum potential between forty and fifty-five. Since golf is a more mental than physical sport, older golfers often have an advantage over younger golfers.

In theory, this should extend to the Magic arena as well. You’d think. Theory and practice are two very different animals.

* How old is a Senior?
Another good question is what the age cut-off should be. I proposed thirty because it was a nice round number. What about twenty-five? Twenty-eight? Thirty-two? How about an algorithm combining kids plus age plus ex-wives combined with the square root of carpooling distance to school?

* What happens when the likes of Jon Finkel hit thirty and become "senior eligible"?
Probably the same thing when Tiger Woods hits fifty: He joins the Senior Tour and takes all of their money as well.

But the most valid point brought up was:

* While the Senior Tour is a good idea, how much sense does it make to have a special event or events for people who can’t make it to high-level tournaments – because these Senior Tour events are still going to be held at places and times that many of the target audience cannot attend?

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and Magic columnists… (And Magic columnists who are rodents… — The Ferrett)

And here I’d thought I had come up with a cool idea. True, what happens if they hold a special "Senior Super Series" in certain cities – that still neglects the bulk of my target audience, whose problem is that they can’t make it to tournaments or don’t have time to play.

So what now?

What Wizards and the DCI could do is attach a "senior flag" to the sanctioned ratings. Any player who qualifies as a senior could choose to be ranked as such, and at the end of each year the DCI could announce the highest-ranked senior on the ranking lists and give out some prize of some sort. For those who can only play at local game store tournaments and not make it to PTQs, this sounds reasonable.

It was pointed out, however, that not all "senior" players and those who fall into my social life-or-Magic conundrum are as bad off as I may have made them. Take, for example, Aaron Forsythe. Aaron has been very successful in Magic recently, being one our Unites States representatives at Worlds and a frequent Internet Magic writer. He’s also married. How, I asked him, are you able to maintain your edge as a top Magic player and get your significant other to go along?

"I only regularly play once a week – Tuesdays from 6:00 or 6:30 p.m. until 11:30 or 12:00 p.m. That’s usually time for one or two drafts or a handful of Constructed matches. I know that’s WAY less that other people practice," Aaron wrote. "We might not practice a ton, but we try to do it productively, and it works. Six of our ten or so regulars are q’ed for LA (and one of the other four is Rizzo).

"I think you have to spend a lot of time playing to get to a certain level – I did that right after college, playing three or four times a week, all-nighters, going to every store tourney, etc. But once you reach that level, and you surround yourself with others that have, you can let off a little and reclaim your lost life."

Of course, Aaron also said, "I’m sure that if I hadn’t gotten to the (Pro Tour) before I was married, I’d never be able to pull it off afterwards. Wives tend to not like it when their men are spending tons of time and money on something with nothing to show for it. Success is quite the panacea."

Aaron also passed along this little tidbit of information:

Scott Johns is married.
Eric Taylor is single but is close to 40 years old.
Don Gallitz is married.
Bob Maher is getting married next summer.
Randy Buehler is married.

That’s a fair amount of Magic brainpower that has seemed to manage the pitfalls of being a Pro Tour level Magic player and a husband and/or father.

So I can’t pigeonhole myself by basically saying that "all senior players need more time to play to get really good." Clearly, there is a large demographic of older players that manage the conundrums of playtime and family time quite nicely.

Given this, the best course of action for serious senior players is not to get Wizards to act but to work at a grassroots level. Go to your local game store and see how many players there are out there like you: Mothers, fathers, the overworked and (in my case) the underpaid. See how many would support the idea of sanctioned "senior" events and if your local game store would support the concept (given that game stores want money from your hard-to-reach demographic, I’m willing to wager that the answer would be yes).

It’s also worth pressuring local gaming conventions, if they’re in your area, to hold "senior" level events.

Also, try and find a team of players to join. Even if you can’t play on a regular basis, you can contribute in other ways with card and deck suggestions. If you can find a team willing to take you, by all means join one. Several heads are much better than one. The disadvantages (old guy wants to be in bed by midnight) are easily balanced by the advantages (can buy beer legally).

If that doesn’t work, then consider picking up the ball yourself and sponsoring your own "seniors" tournament. Thanks to the beauty of the Internet, it can’t be too hard to find fellow senior players in your area that would be willing, perhaps once a month, to have a tournament among themselves and help you in setting up and organizing it. And nowadays, the DCI makes it extremely easy to gain sanctioning for tournaments.

On the extreme bright side, not only would such a tournament be largely devoid of annoying trashtalking, but you can be fairly well assured that everyone there bathes on a regular basis.

In all honesty, I don’t think Wizards is immediately going to jump at the idea of a Senior Tour, but they might be open to supporting some sort of system by which senior players can be recognized. And if we as senior players can demonstrate that there is an audience for such a thing, the Wizards would be much more open to the idea of the Senior Tour.

Thanks to all who have signed the petition. It’s being sent up the powers that be at Wizards of the Coast. We’ve gotten the ball rolling. Where it goes now is up to Wizards… and you.

Dave Meddish