Breaking Through – Breaking Point

I apologize in advance to anyone who is already sick of the backlash and likely influx of articles regarding the changes to organized play and the pro player’s club. That said, this is my livelihood, my passion, and my family we are talking about, so to write about Standard or Modern in the face of such huge announcements would be fraudulent on so many levels. With that, I hope I provide some thoughts and insight that others have not already done thus far and for those of you that continue reading from this point on, thank you for caring.

First things first I suppose. For anyone who is not familiar with the changes that have taken place, you can read about them here and here

Now I am typically pretty calm when it comes to changes that Wizards announces. I am very opinionated, so I let my voice be heard, but in general, I allow their changes to settle in before I make any firm judgments. Planeswalkers, M10 rules changes, more Grand Prix tournaments, I had doubts and excitement about each one of these in different ways, but I bit my tongue, and they all ended up being not so bad. There are definitely some things I would have done differently, but as entire entities, I think most of those changes went down as positive. Today, I think that track record ends.

Communication Breakdown

The number one issue with all of this mess has very little to do with the content of the message, but rather how it was delivered. Wizards basically came to the conscious decision to release information about what we were losing without providing the information for what we would be receiving in return. This is vitally important when you consider that people have developed their lives around a system and rely on some sort of stability to make sure that the countless hours testing and traveling that they put in, the blood, sweat, and tears, gives them some sort of return on that investment.

With the knowledge that the Pro Players Club is gone and without knowing how or if it will properly be replaced, should I travel to Grand Prix events next year? The individual cash prizes are nothing too exciting and the planeswalker points race is not where I want to be at, so they don’t mean as much to me right now (although that could change, likely because I would be forced to adapt and less so that I come around on it). How do I rationalize spending my hard earned money chasing a goal that I thought I had already obtained when we don’t even know how that investment is getting returned to us?

They should have waited to make these announcements when they had full disclosure available to them to allow us to make decisions with our lives, and money, that were able to take an entire picture into account. Instead, they showed us only the missing pieces and have asked us to extrapolate on our daily living from there. That is a poor business model and is no way to treat a group of people who have stood by you loyally, buying and promoting your product.

Mixed Messages

The response to these types of situations is not even consistent within the same company. Consider this:

A few years ago there was a big debate about the reserve list and whether or not it should be removed or what not. Wizards came out and publicly stated that they wanted to provide some financial security to those people who they made promises to. While I disagreed with the action taken I respected the reasoning, even if it may have been faulty, as the intent seemed good. After all, reprinting such cards would directly lead to them making money, and yet they chose the route that failed to do that. Flash forward to 2 days ago.

Now, when faced with a very similar scenario, but arguably much more relevant and certainly more modern, they flip flop on their stance. Rather than get feedback from those whose lives are at stake or, failing that, play it safe, they decided to do neither and instead chose an action that took away financial security from so many of us and in turn, made them money.

They have shown the capability to be goodhearted in the past, so where was that side when we needed it most? Where was the courtesy in getting some feedback from those that this affected? They were willing to bring in people for the shift in Planeswalker points were they not? Show some consistency and provide your customers with the respect they deserve please.

Rich in History

And allow me to address an issue that has seemed to get lost in the fray of all of this but is one of the more important aspects in my eyes. One of the biggest things Magic has going for it is history. The game has been around almost 2 decades and as a result, there are archives of footage, stories of greats from the past and times that were, and reference points for new material, authors and players. It is something that makes Magic unique in the card game sector. Major league sports have used history as a valuable marketing tool, whether they are comparing ever new shooting guard to Michael Jordan or bringing up the Super Bowl shuffle, nostalgia and history give the game identity.

In Magic, our history has given us the legend of Jon Finkel or Kai Budde and we recognize this by honoring them with a Hall of Fame induction, so that they may never be forgotten. For years the Hall of Fame has always been the highest possible honor in that regard. Every player would love to have their name hoisted up to the rafters so to speak. In the meantime though, you get to compare your career to the greats to see just how well you measure up.

“How quickly did you make it to 100 pro points?”

“What are your lifetime pro points?”

These are not uncommon questions once you begin walking in this territory. What happens now? Without Pro Points, not only does the metric for inclusion into the Hall of Fame need to change in the first place, but also those comparison models lose a lot of luster. The game of baseball may have changed dramatically over the past 100 years, but a hit is still a hit and a home run is still a home run. The statistics used to measure performance have remained relatively stable. With the number of Pro Tours on the decline, the number of Grand Prix on the rise, and pro points gone, what is left to bridge the past with the present?

With only 3 Pro Tours a year, I can see a future where it is not unheard of for a player to be Hall of Fame eligible with only 3 lifetime top 8s, which is something that is unfathomable right now. In the same fashion, Grand Prix top 8s become much less valuable as well, so the threshold on them goes up from here on out. The one constant that may have held all of this chaos together were Pro Points… and now we no longer have those.

The End of the Worlds

Worlds was always one of the most iconic events of the year. Each year, each nation would get to send its representatives into battle, ready and willing to fight for the pride of their country. That no longer exists. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a 16 person play off for Player of the Year rights is awesome. You know what though, it was also awesome when it was called the Masters. It remained awesome when it was called the Invitational. They did not have to eradicate Worlds to make such a tournament take place. Lower the prize money associated with it, bring back Worlds, and host both tournaments!!

One of the dream paths toward being a professional Magic player was always the route of Regionals. Wizards promoted the heck out of it as the road to Worlds, and it was an awesome dream to chase. First you top 8 your National Qualifier or Regional tournament to earn the right to play in your respective Nationals. Then you have to battle again, and let me emphasize this, as it is important, for the right to REPRESENT YOUR COUNTRY ON THE WORLD STAGE!

In the announcement, the claim is that players are content with just having the title of National champion. Claiming that, in and of itself, is a driving force behind competing. What in the hell? Not a single soul wants the title of National Champion more than they do the right to play for their country and bring home the team championship. If 4th place were deemed the National Champion every year and the top 3 made it to the national team, do you really think people would be content with taking the title and running?

I think being on your nation’s team is one of the biggest honors this game, or any other can bestow upon you, and now that has been stripped away from us altogether.

Worlds showcased another Pro Tour, which is always amazing, and is another opportunity to see a rising star finally break through. If Worlds becomes just a 16 man tournament, there is no new talent to showcase and we lose the only form of team competition that is available at high level events. This caps an ever diminishing Pro Tour schedule per year and is so disappointing that I cannot put it into words.

Fingers Crossed

I suppose all we can do now is wait with our fingers crossed and hope that WotC actually listens to the people who share their love for the game. If you have not done so already, send a letter to Mark Rosewater, as he requested on Twitter, make your opinion heard via social media, and join any and all groups that cater to your opinion. Please, do not take my word on these issues though. Go out there, do your own soul searching and see if your opinion differs in anyway. I am not writing this to recruit people, as I am sure the issues themselves were quite persuasive…

The worst part about this is, is that we have trained ourselves to ignore this type of outbreak over the past few years. It is possible even, that the strategy Wizards has employed of filtering this information in pieces has actually be predetermined. You see, if they can get us into a habit of freaking out over every little change, then when something worth actually complaining about happens, we look like the boy who cried wolf. I am not saying this was intentional on their part, although it is entirely possibly, regardless though, that is the reality.

We, as a player base, did overreact when it came to things like damage no longer stacking, or Mythic Rares. We got to the point where many well-respected people in the community just tuned us out on instinct. This issue, today, is a real one though, and I urge any of you that may have fallen victim to past crimes of exaggeration, please tune back in. We need support in numbers and backed by logic to have any shot at fighting this. I cannot express how much I disagree with the majority of the content of these announcements and I only hope we can see some of them reversed or fixed soon.

Or else Magic, as I know it, may cease to be. My love, my passion, my hobby, my profession… I don’t want to see the day where I have to walk away, and if I do, please not on these terms.

Conley Woods


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