Wow I have so many thoughts on this entire deal.
On one hand, making it extremely taxing is one of the things that makes reaching the peak of the mountain so rewarding at the end. On the other hand, destroying your player bases will to live is incredibly toxic.
Let me preface my further thoughts with my experiences. In 2016 I started playing “competitive” Magic. I went to an incredible amount of events with Jeff Hoogland who later qualified for the SCG Player’s Championship. We would travel anywhere between 3–6 hours just for weekend IQ’s. Speaking of unhealthy and unsafe, I remember a time where we traveled 6+ hours in the snow to play a back to back IQ weekend in Michigan from central IL.
Would I take back the time we spent together traveling and spellslinging? Absolutely not. I made several sacrifices to take that path and I knew what I was getting myself into.
“The Old Guard”:
You’re going to hear from several of the “old guard” as I refer to a specific subset of Magic players (hello old Pro Tour) tell you that “it was much harder back in my day” as if that makes the current structure somehow reasonable to participate in and invalidates anyone pointing out flaws in said system. Give me a break. Go back to your 200 player Pro Tours with veiled information and rampant cheating.
Magic is SIGNIFICANTLY harder than it ever was. I’m aware that I’m a new kid on the block, but these points I’m about to make are just factually unassailable. There is more information now than 10, 5, even 2 years ago. There are infinite Patreons, Decklists, Articles, Streams, and Videos galore. Borrowing cards is easier. Playing a new deck online is easier (Cardhoarder, Manatraders). Learning is easier with these resources. There are more dedicated teams showing up to events (see; Lotus Box dominance). It’s harder to “break” something before an event and have nobody know about it.
With Magic being harder it leads to a lot more stress on the individuals participating in events. To be prepared you feel required to test for countless hours making personal sacrifices along the way. There is no more “Big Fish, Small Pond”.
Chasing Your Dreams:
I posted on my twitter “Part of accomplishing your goals is making personal sacrifices”. I can’t think of a single goal I had in mind that was easy. When I wanted to play football professionally I worked out/drilled for 4+ hours a day and dieted my ass off (I really missed Pizza). Now that I am doing Magic commentary I am unable to play in as many tournaments as I’d like because MY GOAL is to be the best commentator on the planet and move up the ranks. You know how many UFC fight nights I’ve missed? I went to a friend’s wedding on a Saturday and FLEW to Chicago at 5AM the next day to do a show. It’s going to take a lot of sacrifices to be the top X out of whatever field you are competing in. There are a ton of things I want to do, but Magic commentary (even when I’m feeling mentally worn down) is something I have made the CHOICE to commit to.
“Rooting against your friends sucks”:
Very true! That’s an inherent problem when there is a slot limitation on things. I’ll come back to my football analogy. I wanted to win every game. I had plenty of friends on rival schools. Each of our football programs routinely went undefeated. Did I want them to lose games that were important to my team’s success, yes 100%. Call it selfish or whatever, but it was something we all did. As much as Magic is a “team” game now and you get to root for your friends, at the end of the day these types of tournaments/at large bids create more losers than winners.
Concessions for Points:
I’ve asked for several concessions in my career especially when on the player’s championship race or when someone is locked for Top 8 and can scoop me in. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of and I’ve grown out of that phase. Prize splitting leads to all kinds of these scenarios. To use yet another sports analogy, if the Yankees are battling for the top spot in the playoffs, do I expect the already eliminated Red Sox to just concede their game to them? Not a chance. Sit down and shuffle up.
A lot of the above comes with a sense of entitlement I witness on every circuit. I often hear the phrases “I can’t believe they didn’t concede, I had them dead on board next turn” “I got the pair down and lost, they have basically no chance to prize” “X person received a special invite to a tournament and I don’t know why it wasn’t me”. None of those things are for you to choose. Some of them are even out of your control. I used to feel this same sense, “How did they not pick me for commentary, I’ve been doing this for 2 years”. Get over it Mathew. There are other people busting their ass just like me. That just means I need to work harder.
As I’m sure many of you know, I work hand in hand with Nerd Rage Gaming and have been doing so for 3 years. I work with an awesome group of people to create the tournament dates, locations, prizing, and structure. We take a lot of pride in making the tournaments as accessible as possible, while also trying to maximize out profits. At the end of the day SCG, NRG, CFB etc are BUSINESSES. We actively WANT people to show up to IQ’s/CTQ’s/GPT’s. More money = more tournaments = more payouts. Putting a cap on events is hard for TO’s to do. They want their best, most known players to attend every event. Who doesn’t want to see Zan Syed on camera?? Remember appearance fees? They’re trying to incentivize people to show up and play as often as possible.
What’s the fix:
I’m not really sure. That’s where we need your help as TO’s. I thought Oliver made some compelling points in his tweets. NRG has a semi elegant way to try and alleviate some of this pressure. We have broken our year into 3 seasons. A Showdown (Invitational) winner qualifies for the end of the year, as well as people who have been on the grind for that season. This way you can show up and spike a tournament one of three times a year, or grind one of three seasons to qualify if you need a break. There’s also an incentive to grind all year if you are willing and able. I’ll post how it works below for clarity.
At the end of the day all GOOD TO’s are willing to listen to feedback and SCG almost certainly will. It’s on each individual person to determine what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals. Most (all) ladder based systems are mentally and physically taxing. While I’m not the biggest fan of them, I do see the appeal for people willing to devote all of their free time to them. You need to do what fulfills you as a person and try not to fall into the trap of chasing the carrot at the end of the stick. You decide what’s best for you. Be nice to yourselves out there <3