Planeswalker Points: Good for the 99%

WotC Casts Lure on Casual Players, Doom Blades Pros

Do you know what’s happening? No, not you Magic pros, not the Magic celebrities, not even you or me. Mr. Magic Player who finishes 4–8 in the drafts at your local game shop, do you know that things are changing?

Yes? No?

Kinda?

Changes, like Tupac?

I know there’s a lot of sifting for you to do through the noise, the pundits, and the muck before you start to see the sway of illusion taking place. This Organized Play situation will change everything about competitive Magic forever, and you, my dear friend, are why we are in the middle of a revolution.

Wizards has altered touchpoints, incentives, and opportunities such that the common man wins.

The “Joes” are now more of a priority than the pros.

Chas Andres wrote about what has been removed and what has been added quite concisely.

Add a lens to your reading of this list. Imagine you’re a casual player in a non-major American market:

Ending the Magic Player Rewards Program
If you play in tournaments, this matters.

Ending the Invitational
The what?

Ending the Junior Super Series
Huh?

Ending States
Casual players lost this hard. If you can’t win States as an athlete, this is a pretty good alternative.

Ending Worlds
Right.

Cutting a Pro Tour
There’s more than one of these?

Removing PT invites from Grand Prix events
There are invites? Is it random?

Dropping Grand Prix prize support
There are prizes?

Removing large regional prereleases
I went to one once. Lots of tough competition. Sad to see this go. I saw a pro there!

Removing drafting from preleases
Um, okay. We still can draft on Friday after FNM, though . . . right? Or Thursday? Okay. Cool.

Replacing the Elo ratings system with Planeswalker Points
So, I will actually see pros now? Neat.

Limiting FNM to Friday nights
You could say it backward, too! It’s branded; it should be on Friday, despite the arguments against it.

Removing sanctioning abilities for independent TOs
Sorry, Vorthoses in Serbia. This sucks.

Charging exorbitant amounts for online prerelease drafts
Magic is online?! Like Duels of the Planeswalkers, right?

Starting online PTQs without scaling prize support
DOTP has tournaments? What?

Sets are still pretty good. I mean, I didn’t like Scars block much, but Innistrad is sweet.
I finally bought a box!

Magic Game Day events
Full arts easily accessible with an introduction to pimp/swag? It was fun.

The Magic 2012 Celebration (the free pack war tournament)
Free cards = free cards.

There will be more Grand Prix events, though they mean less
If it’s under six hours, I’ll go with friends, drink Mountain Dew, and get stuff signed!

Airfare being included in PT invites
If I ever go, great. My costs are lower.

Yup. Pretty much.

The changes aren’t really that bad if you have no idea what a grinder is. If anything, they’re largely all positive changes in the last few years.

Throw away that rubber band around your lands and get your best set of penny sleeves ready. You’re now in the spotlight, because we like you and we wish for you to stay. Prepare for some knowledge to be dropped, sons and daughters.

Rundown

If you haven’t been playing in tournaments, been online, or listening to the Twitters, Mark and Aaron have been writing and Tweeting—yapping, even, at times—to us as a community about the changes to high-level Organized Play. If you want the whole story, just Google it. Everyone and his dog are analyzing the changes.

In short, you, as an American casual gamer, will have more touchpoints, more incentives, and more opportunities to play. You will have instant gratification when you play in tournaments, and if you’re anywhere near the Midwest, you should be going to GenCon, because awesome is the easiest word to describe the spectacle that will be GenCon 2012 and the sixteen-man Thunderdome: Sixteen men enter, one man leaves.

Wizards, or someone in the chain of command, decided that these two main branded individuals, Aaron and Mark, would be the best faces to discuss what’s going on. I don’t think it’s the best idea to empower any employees outside a communications department to talk policy, but the community “knows” these two men and have become more or less comfortable when they talk on behalf of the company. Also, Wizards is becoming increasingly better at handling uproars, especially considering how increasingly frequently they seem to happen.

Did you see Aaron’s Tweet about how the pros will stay professionals, the gravy train of sorts? No? Here you go:

Yes—they don’t quite know what their company is going to do yet.

Strategic planning for Organized Play and affecting sales isn’t really these two men’s jobs. How does any company write a strategic plan when no comparable examples other than your current system exist? How does the business plan change, and, more important, how do you maximize profits when you don’t know how to maximize an untested theory? Oh, biscuits. I can relate to that, but I’m still puzzled about one thing.

What I don’t know is why these men aren’t asking the common man to sit atop a chair with Wizards telling the tale of Magic: The Gathering growing into adulthood. You, I, and all the kids rocking used penny sleeves in draft just won. And, brother . . . we won big. By having Aaron and Mark giving information, it proves that they care about you as the casual player. We know who Uncle Mark is. We have no idea who the CEO is.

This is not a matter of, “You lose all this stuff, but you gain this other stuff, so be happy.”

This is a matter of, “We love our casual players more than we love our pros.”

This isn’t a “we-versus-them,” it’s Wizards and casual players—the majority of gamers—versus the professional Magic players. Write that down.

This is why you should care about what’s going on

Pros help people. They make them feel good about themselves.

They also show them how to win like Darwin and shuffle their cards in interesting ways.

I have never received a single MPR card, and I have been playing for fifteen years. I wasn’t given a strong enough incentive to move from my kitchen table. I didn’t garnish a single from playing on hikes or drafting in basements.

Then, Planeswalker Points happened.

Despite the overwhelming odds against my receiving byes at a Grand Prix, it was visceral. It made sense. The devil is in the details, clearly, but it mattered.

I didn’t need to do math to figure out Elo:

I no longer have to try to understand why the best player in my area chose to not play for weeks at a time. You and your fellow new users don’t know, or need to know, what the OP changes are. What you do know is that whatever 1 Planeswalker Point is, Fridays have three times as many . . . and that seems good. If you play on enough Fridays, a magical thing called a Grand Prix, which Mike and Alex talk about all the time, could be something you can go to. Or maybe GenCon—a magical place.

Why We’re Winning with GenCon as Magic Epicenter

I’d like to think that Magic player interactions at conventions are something to look into as a result of the Organized Play changes. With the advent of extravagant events like Grand Prixes, and the proliferation of GenCon’s offerings, the art and Vorthosian market shares have only increased. Not every new player will have eight playsets to sign, but that first-time convention attendee will come back with a stack of signed cards.

Players of board games will wander into the Magic hall. Perhaps a lapsed Magic player will sit down to draft or play a Two-Headed Giant match with his girlfriend. That sort of interaction is paramount to Magic’s health.

With the World Thunderdome Championship and the Vintage alternate-art trophy, GenCon caters to this new focus of casual/grinder hybrid. This player now gains additional spectacles above the normal extravaganza of a Grand Prix to a large-scale convention like GenCon or PAX.

I love GenCon, and I’ll be trying my best to find connections between the Magic hall and the art show.

People You Shouldn’t Feel Bad For

I’ve had quite enough of the Magic professionals with their self-interested, elitist viewpoints and their lack of hustle. Yes, your careers are in jeopardy. No, I do not feel sorry for you. Your 1% arguments aren’t exactly popular in this day and age.

Do your job.

Your gravy train is becoming a gravy boat, but there will always be another player right behind you.

Shuffle every day. Play more.

You’re being the Commander player who complains about a resolved Shahrazad. Oh, you have to play more often?

Tough. The game can and will survive without you.

It’s not like you give real, inside-baseball information anyway. I stopped my Star City Games subscription when I felt that the information was always late or incomplete. (Reading the comments, half the time people are arguing, “I pay for this?!”)

Brad plays an absurd amount of Magic. Cool, but how does he break down each card before the set comes out?

That’s valuable to my Limited game. It’s marginally important, but relevant.

How can we call shots like Kibler?

How does he, as a pro, decipher this before us?

What does he know that he can teach us?

Why isn’t he doing that? Why isn’t everyone doing that by re-proving week in and week out why they are pros?

Pros now have a harder time acquiring plane tickets in advance. Okay, sorry. That sucks, but your plight matters 0% to nearly all of us. This isn’t American capitalism, where we all can have rags-to-riches stories.

Maybe we’d be more sympathetic if you gave us a greater view into your world. Perhaps if we were invested in you?

What do you have to give up to become a pro?

Grand Prix events will be everywhere. Professional players have to live by a few of them. Less international travel seems good for pros. What do you have to give up now to stay competitive? What is your sacrifice? Please tell me now in Brad’s epilogue, because that was never touched on in the book. That was brushed under the rug, yet it’s paramount to understanding Brad’s success and the worldview of a professional player. Did he lose relationships for saving $50 in an early flight to a Pro Tour?

I understand that it’s hard, but I can’t feel sorry for you when my friends and I are now Darwinning.

Conclusion for today: Pick up your three-cornered hat, penny sleeve, and rubber bands:

Magic as a game cannot and will not die. As a profitable center, it could; thus, many, many changes are needed. It’s too complex, and people have far too much invested for the game to disappear. If the Pacific Ocean eats the Seattle area, one fact remains: Cubes will last forever. Commander will be flavorful forever. Decades after the fact, the copyright will expire and cards will be reprinted.

There will be professionals after the professionals move on. There’s only one place to go once you’re on top.

This game was built in America. We build our brands to last, and Garfield likes his creation. If you’ve able to attend the Magic Cruise, we’ll thank him in person. To those unable, we’ll take pictures.

WotC’s brand is taking a beating right now, but you have to know that their best intentions are laid before you and me. The common man and woman won. The kitchen table just expanded to another place. Please stop on into that local game shop, buy a 99¢ bag of penny sleeves, and a bag of Funyuns. Support them so Wizards can support us.

When the changes are largely positive for casual players—the, ahem, vast majority of players, ahem—I figure Chicken Little should simma down now and realize the company is doing what they can to entertain the 99%.

And I thank them for that.