I had this long and rambly thing written up about WOTC’s changes to tournament Magic…

…but realized I could summarize it better.

Tournament Magic is what makes me care about the game. Period. If it wasn’t for the competitive scene, it’d be like yet another Steve Jackson game and expansion. Entertaining for a few sessions with a handful of friends that are conveniently in town AND with free time to spare, then packed up and left to dust.

Tournament Magic is the difference between playing Big 2 in the playground, and Texas Hold’Em at the Bellagio.

And Wizards is fucking stupid for not only just ignoring that allure, but going out of their way to tear it down.

Revamping their Elo system to degrade to a default value if left over time? Would’ve driven more play while still holding competitive value. Reducing per-tournament payout while increasing the number of major tournaments held? Would’ve solved whatever problem objectively existed with the Grand Prix -> Pro Tour system. And now even Nationals doesn’t play into a Worlds tournament.

Let me repeat:

National tournaments no longer play into an international setting. Each nation’s best of the best, regardless of the size or prestige of their local regional zone are told that that’s all they can aim for. They didn’t just split off bigger nations into regions of influence – no, they had to scrape it out entirely.

I hate the hardcore vs casual debates in gaming – mostly because they miss the point by wide margins sometimes. But it doesn’t mean that the debates in of itself don’t have value and substance.

Let me be clear: I don’t think the changes made will kill Magic. I’m not one of those who perpetually whine about every damn change made to the rules – even as I harass Mark Rosewater about double-faced cards, most of my actual debates about Magic are solidly in favor of the game’s exploration of design space. I think the game will continue to thrive – be for another year or another full decade, who knows? The design of Innistrad, besides the DFCs, was one of the game’s best in a while, and speaks favorably of how fun the actual game will be in the short future.

But the game isn’t for me anymore.

The game isn’t aimed at the competitive gamer, the tournament-goers, the dreamers and the contenders. Magic isn’t a game anymore for those that can see and appreciate the mechanical intricacies of stack order, of counterspell fencing, of tactical metagaming and mastery. It’s not for those that feel a frisson of delight for being able to outpredict their opponent, outdesign their decks and outplay the field.

They’ve neutered accessibility to the Pro Tour, sucked the incentives out of the Grand Prix, and now even their showcasing of international talent is getting the boot. Over the last few months, since the declaration that they were going to scrape clean the Elo system in the first place, Wizards has been knee-deep in the process of dismantling the competitive culture of Magic as we know it.

Magic just isn’t my game anymore.

I think…

I think I mourn that.


~ by Gonzo Mehum on November 2, 2011.

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