It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything, and it may be a long time before I write anything again—but the World Magic Cup just happened, and I have lots of thoughts and ideas about it.
First, bring back Worlds. I have to say that, since Worlds is the greatest tournament of the year and everything about it was special—from the team portion, to just having so many nations represented, to the extra day and format, to current PTs (two extra formats to when I initially was playing on the Pro Tour). I miss it, I wish it were still here, but the WMC is fantastic. Let’s start with some of the good:
There is nothing I enjoy more than a team tournament. A team tournament in which you get to represent your country is something that I have never experienced, but I don’t know a professional alive who does not want to have that honor. The format and layout of this particular tournament was awfully strange, yet still interesting. I liked that you could have a weak link on your team, such as an LSV, and not be bogged down by their lackluster performance.
The coverage has gotten absolutely fantastic. Constant updates, videos, interviews—all of this stuff is top notch. I love the people they use, even though some of them get a bad rap. My only criticism would be to consider adding a top-level pro to the booth from time to time, namely to do color commentary at a higher level. I know that there have been some reservations about using players in the booth in the past, but I think it’s time to give some individuals that opportunity. There are tons of great players who remain unqualified from the WMC who would do a great job, and I’m sure not too many of them would mind going to GenCon. That is absolutely something I hope WotC will consider implementing for the future. (Note: this would also be outstanding for Grand Prix coverage, although since most pros are actually already competing in the events, this would only apply for later rounds.)
Using several formats is great for a team event, but it’s pretty clear that using too many formats leaves teams unprepared should they advance to the later rounds. With the tournament being held late in the summer, the Block format is pretty played out and not interesting anymore. As a result, nearly every team ended up playing Jund, which is a fine deck (they should have played my WUr Miracles!), but showed the negative side of including a small card pool format that is currently not being utilized anywhere in the world at the time. Perhaps a better use of the final Team Constructed rounds would be to use the last Team Constructed format from GP Madison: team Standard where you can only use a total of 4 of any one card across the 3 decks that you play. At least this leaves you in a place where you can’t have three decks that all use mana Elves or Ponders or [card cavern of souls]Cavern[/card] or Restoration Angel or whatever the highly played Standard cards will be a year from now.
I adore the eternal formats, so if they made the current rounds of Standard into Legacy, and then added Team Standard Constructed at the end, that would be perfection to me. Now, I don’t think this will actually happen since Legacy isn’t the most popular format and card availability is certainly an issue, but it really seems that Modern is just not very fun and that nobody enjoys having this much Block Constructed in the year. Perhaps a new format can be born or just make the individual Constructed rounds Modern to keep things diverse.
Teams need to be rewarded for finishing higher in pool play but not advancing. Now, I have no idea if pool play will continue in the future of the WMC, but since it’s used in the World Cup, I imagine that it’s something they would like to see more of. The huge problem with this is that having four teams with two advancing will often leave a team eliminated before the third pairing in the round robin. It sounds like all the countries took this fairly seriously, and there was little-to-no concessions to allow teams to advance when a country was eliminated, but at some point this will be an issue. There is just way too much incentive on the table to help others when you are eliminated.
There need to be adjusted payouts in either money or pro points or something else to reward teams who may be 0-2 and eliminated from their pod for giving it their all. I don’t think there will be countless situations of teams not just trying to win, but this system has “potential disaster” written all over it.
I loved that there were so many relatively unknown countries represented in the WMC. I loved that they finally had a chance to show what they were made of and play against some of the best in the world. What I didn’t like was that some of these players got automatic invites that they truly didn’t deserve. Being the highest ranking member of the pro points club in a country where virtually nobody has a single pro point is great, but it’s not deserving of a slot in a tournament as prestigious as this.
Now, I’m certainly not saying I don’t want to see these countries represented in the event. I absolutely do. However, I think there should be a minimum point requirement for automatic qualification, something around 15-20. Being the one player to go to one Grand Prix and cash doesn’t make a national hero. I don’t think players are getting behind the guy who has less than 5 PT points representing their country as the “National Champion.” With that being said, I think if a country has nobody fitting the minimum point threshold, the title of team captain should go back to the public and be given to someone who wins a qualifier. I don’t think anyone in the world has heard of a handful of the people given automatic invites to the event, so opening it up to have someone earn it that way feels like a great improvement.
This is the biggest one to me. Calling Puerto Rico the 51st state isn’t super far-fetched. Their population is ranked 29th in the United States. And yet they have the same number of people representing them as the U.S—that doesn’t sit right. Sure, you can say I have an American bias, and I do. I also know WotC wants a chance to spotlight the smaller countries, and considering how much randomness is in the formats and how many teams were invited, I think it’s safe to say that certainly happened. Having more teams from the major countries, however, wouldn’t be such a terrible thing.
One of the worst parts of this last season was seeing the impact it had on some of my ChannelFireball teammates. Now Luis is certainly the last guy in the world who would ever root against a friend, even if it meant something significantly better for him. However, he really shouldn’t have to. The competition for the U.S. National Champion, or captain, is really pretty silly. Brian Kibler finished with 60 points while Luis, Jon Finkel, and Wrapter all finished with 57. Those are amazing seasons. I truly feel all of them should be rewarded.
Instead of having a competition for being the National Champion of each major country, let’s have everyone hitting a certain threshold get to captain his or her own team. It’s another reward to add once you get beyond the Platinum threshold. I’m not completely sure what this point total would be as the number of points given away each year fluctuates, but if they had set it at 50 last year, I think the tournament would have been even better. This would have put six total teams from the United States and three total teams from Japan into the event, but those players truly deserved that shot.
Maybe the number of points needed to captain your own team should be set even higher, but it’s great to have that goal to shoot for. There were so many players who were seemingly complacent going into Pro Tour Barcelona with their places locked for Platinum and the Players Championship, while seemingly being locked out for the World Magic Cup. At the very least, it makes it so friends don’t have to root against friends doing well—everyone can simply earn the honor on their own. In the end, we are looking at adding somewhere between four and eight extra teams to an event that already includes over seventy teams, and including several more players that people have gotten to know over the course of the season through repeated success. I feel this would be the most exciting change, and truly encourage something like this happen for the future events.
I hope this article was interesting to some people out there and that Wizards of the Coast gives some consideration to the ideas I’ve presented. It’s kind of cool being one of the few people to play competitively from the early stages of the Pro Tour until today, and I love looking for ways to improve the game I’ve given so much of my life to.
All comments more than welcome, thanks for reading,