What’s Right With WotC And The DCI

The DCI generally is heaped with scorn, not praise, but when you think about it, they do a darn fine job under less than optimal circumstances. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in the bulk of my MBC testing so far, it’s that there is no one deck that stands above the rest….

The DCI generally is heaped with scorn, not praise, but when you think about it, they do a darn fine job under less than optimal circumstances.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in the bulk of my MBC testing so far, it’s that there is no one deck that stands above the rest. I still stand by my assertion that Rising Waters, while weaker, is still the best deck in this Port-less and Lin Sivvi-less environment. The sideboard is needing considerable tweaking, though, as I’m finding that quite often I’m abandoning Rising Waters in the deck to add more creatures and bounce and convert into a Beatdown Blue deck, and not just against Rebels.

Our local metagame consists of players with several archetypes, including Beatdown Rebel, Control Rebel, Tap-Out mono-red and R/G decks, mono-green beatdown and the extremely weird decks Max comes up with. First it was his Celestial Convergence deck, which won by casting lots of Soothing Balms and Troubled Healers to prevent damage and gain lots of life while the Convergence clock went off. Now it’s his Turbo-Avatar deck that runs three different depletion lands, black, blue and green Avatars and Bifurcate-yes, Bifurcate, you read that right. That is not a typo. The deck runs Bifurcate main deck-which happens to be a house if you have an Avatar on the table.

If only Max would use his powers for good instead of evil-really stupid evil, that is.

The other deck I’m having fun with is Jay Schneider’s "Merc-Burn" deck, which can be considered the MBC equivalent of Maher Oath or Flores Black. Aside from using the Mercenary engine to "thaw" out lots of weenie attackers, Rhystic Tutor allows the deck to pull out lots of "silver bullets," in Jay’s parlance, against most any deck-Delraich, Snuff Out, Unmask, Death Pit Offering, and so on. And the deck actually turns dreck like Phyrexian Driver into a must-counter card.

Again, that is not a typo. I was playing my Rising Waters deck against it and I was forced to use a Thwart on a Phyrexian Driver.

I felt so ashamed.

Comparing the deck to other equivalent tutor-based decks might be a stretch, but it’s the best we can do in the underpowered MBC environment.

Can you only imagine what it might be like if the DCI hadn’t banned Lin Sivvi and the Port? I doubt even Roshambo would be viable. It’d be Rebels, Rebels and more Rebels with an occasional appearance by Rising Waters. Now, we have several viable archetypes and a wide-open field.

This, of course, segues nicely into the topic of the article. The DCI generally is heaped with scorn, not praise, but when you think about it, they do a darn fine job under less than optimal circumstances.

For those of us "old timers" who have been around long enough and can remember the earliest days of tournament sanctioning and the origins of the DCI-it hasn’t always been pretty. Gaining tournament sanctioning was often impossible-tournaments couldn’t be held in areas that sold Magic and the time between submitting an application to hold a sanctioned tournament and gaining approval was often interminable.

Here in Oregon, we were lucky if there was one sanctioned tournament a month, and for those of us who were getting into the tournament scene in a hardcore fashion, that often meant driving to Salem, Portland, and even Astoria. (Get a map and find how far it is to drive from Bend to Astoria. Picture that trip in a 1974 VW Bug. That?s fun.)

And of course, tournaments back then were single elimination. So for my drive to Astoria, I got to play one game, lose, then spend the rest of my day watching my friend Paul play on and finish second. Wow, that was fun. And now I get to drive back to Bend.

Would you keep playing in tournaments if that was to be your reward?

WotC listened, and there were changes. Tournament sanctioning was made easier to gain, and now all you need is a judge or two and you can have sanctioned tournaments every night at the game store. Single and double elimination were discarded in favor of Swiss formatting, guaranteeing all players a minimum number of games and eliminating the one-loss-and-out problem.

Then there was my very first Pro Tour Qualifier. Again, Paul and I had a long road trip, this time to Portland. It was Ice Age-Alliances block. After registering at 9:00 a.m., we had to wait for processing, deck checking and numerous computer problems that the organizing staff was running into. I forget who was running this tournament, but they were woefully understaffed and underprepared.

Around 11:30, after registering decks, bagging them and waiting another hour for deck checking, we got our new decks. And I was quite pleased. I had a Seraph, Ritual of the Machine, Binding Grasp-I could build a powerhouse B/U/W deck with seven fliers! If you recall, the ALICE block was woefully short on fliers, and a Seraph was a true game breaker.

With this deck, I thought, I had a really good shot at making the Pro Tour.

However, the person who registered the deck was apparently a complete moron, as I counted at least ten mistakes on the registration sheet. So I call a judge. And what happens?

I get a warning (my only one ever in any kind of tournament), and my deck is taken away and I get to build a whole new deck.

Suffice it to say, I was less than pleased. I went from an almost sure Top Eight deck to a piece of dreck where my most powerful flier was a Swamp Mosquito and a warning to boot. I somehow go 3-2-1 with the deck and I?m fuming all the way back to Bend. I end up posting an extremely nasty letter on Usenet and forwarding a copy along to WotC, chock full of language I generally don’t use in genial conversation.

So what happens? WotC sends me a check for the amount of registration for the event (Actually, they ended up sending me two checks for the same amount. Who am I to complain about their accounting? Shhh, keep it under your hat!). That went a long way towards making me feel better about attending WotC-run tournaments.

And the DCI instituted new sealed deck rules that don?t result in you losing your deck because of the moron registering it making sloppy errors.

Coincidentally (or maybe not), that outfit in Portland has never hosted another high profile tournament to my knowledge. All other PTQs have been run through Black Lotus here in Eugene.

I know there’s a lot of complaining about the DCI on the Internet, but one must consider that, by and large, the Internet is one of the biggest cesspools of negativity outside of Russian food markets. It’s a lot easier to complain about something anonymously as "ForceOfNature666" instead of a face-to-face dialogue. This is something I have to put up with most every day on my project’s message boards.

Quite simply, if you’re name’s not attached to it, it’s very hard to take it seriously. If I get a complaint about a feature from "John Johnson" in my mailbox (and the author has at least attempted to explain his problem in a rational manner), I’ll read it and forward it on to the proper parties. If I get something from "[METW]ReetHa{}OR" with "your game sux!" in the title, then into the trashcan it goes. I imagine it’s much the same way up in Seattle.

Then there is the matter of Mike Long. I won’t try and list his supposed transgressions here for sake of saving bandwidth. Maybe he’s finally been caught. Maybe he’s been innocent all along. Maybe a lot of on-line reporters should very carefully check the meaning of the word "libel" before ranting about Mike Long.

There’s an old saying that states that "the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn exceedingly fine," meaning that while it may take time to catch offenders, in due time they will be caught and the facts made clear.

The DCI has been handcuffed when dealing with Long. He has never been caught with the conclusive card-up-his-sleeve. It’s possible that a card fell into his lap. It’s possible that he’s a bad shuffler. A lot of things are possible. But without clear-cut proof, they couldn’t act. In America and with the DCI, it’s innocent until proven guilty.

The DCI has, by and large, done a very good job ferreting out those who would attempt to work the system and cheat. When they catch offenders, the punishment is severe and serves as a warning to those who would try and cheat as well.

Richard Garfield’s original vision for the game was that players would crack open a pack or two, build decks, and as they traveled from town to town, they could trade or win other cards in antes, and decks would evolve in this fashion.

I don’t think in a million years that he or Peter Adkison ever envisioned the heights that Magic has reached now. From a company in a garage, WotC has gone on to become a multi-national organization with offices on three continents. The game is played across the globe by all nationalities. A major cable network has televised its championships.

A lot of this is thanks to the diligence and perseverance of the DCI. They have listened to the gripes of the players and acted upon them. Want to play with sleeves in tournaments? Sleeves become not only tournament-legal but are generally recommended. More tournament options? We may see the coming of Block Party, and we saw the creation of Extended, Vintage and Standard.

Many players (including me) were concerned about the update and changes in the rules between Fifth and Sixth Editions. Our concerns were unfounded, as the game is simpler, easier to understand and more intuitive now. Try explaining the old system to a new player and see which rule system they prefer.

Look at the different playing environments now? Mercadian sealed deck has been hailed as the best format for sealed, ever. Standard is vibrant and alive with multiple archetypes, Extended is truly a wide-open field and with their latest actions, Mercadian Block Constructed is no longer a two-deck field. There is no one format that isn’t dominated by a single broken card or combination, and that makes for good tournaments and good play.

Is the DCI perfect? No. Sometimes the big "name" tournaments don’t always run as smoothly as they’d like, sometimes card bannings and restrictions seem to come too late or with too little explanation, and the allegations of cheating and impropriety by players sours some people on the tournament scene and prevents Magic from truly breaking out as a "popular" sport and makes it look a little too Mom-‘n-Pop at times.

But for the thankless job that Jeff Donais and his crew do in keeping the tournament scene vibrant and alive, they deserve a very big "Thanks" from the players.

Dave Meddish