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Hopes for Competitive Play

I mentioned last week that I’m taking a break from playing a lot of MTG. I’m still helping friends test for PT Barcelona, but I was reaching the point of burnout, and I’m enjoying this step back for the summer. One beautiful thing about this current system is that I don’t feel pressured to go out every weekend and play a tournament. If I want to play the next RC, I have a ton of time to qualify for it.

I’m not a huge fan of how this RC system works for me. Many of my local friends have aged out. Having to requalify for the RC repeatedly would be fine if the RC felt special, but in my case, it's just another Grand Prix-type event.

However, there are some good things going on with the system for a lot of players, which is awesome. For me though, it still feels like a little is missing.

I came up with a list of five things I want to see moving forward. Keep in mind these are changes that would make my own engagement with Magic better and that wouldn't necessarily be best for everyone.

1. Limited Regional Championships

Unfortunately, I assume at least day one would need to be Sealed Deck, and I know that means something like nine rounds presumably with the same deck. Years ago, they mitigated variance by giving us multiple sealed decks in events like Team Sealed. That would be ideal, but nonetheless, there are a lot of Limited players who want to play high-level Limited. Outside of the PT, which there are very few opportunities to qualify for, there have been no Limited RCs and no mention of any in the future.

I enjoy Magic the most when I’m thinking on the fly and making decisions with incomplete information, like in the Booster draft or Limited. I don’t know many people who absolutely hate Limited, and if it was a Limited RC they’d try to not go if they otherwise would. I do know plenty of people who have these feelings about Modern or Pioneer.

Moving forward, I’d like to see one Limited RC a year.

2. Bring Back the Hall of Fame

The HoF may seem like a very small thing in the grand scheme of things but to a subset of players who have been playing competitive Magic for a decade or more, it’s a potential achievement or aspiration that costs very little. It stuck with me when years ago Sam Black said it was a motivator for him. It was one of the major ways that Pro Players could push themselves, and a carrot at the end of the stick that was a minimal cost to WotC.

While the discussion ended up toxic at times, I’d like to find a way to remove that aspect. Since there’s no real cost to WotC these days with size given they’re not paying flights or appearance fees, there should just be a threshold at which you’re inducted. An agreeable number of top finishes or contributions or whatever. Obviously, this would be hard to determine, but the bias in the voting should be removed as much as possible. Either way, a return to the HoF would keep me engaged and would mean a lot to players as a way to discuss elite competitive Magic players, what they’ve accomplished, and how they’ve helped the community.

The HoF would give me something as a long-time Pro player and something to aspire to that would keep me engaged. Right now, other than “win the tournament” there aren't many goals to use for aspiration.

3. A Return to Team Events

I will be surprised if we don’t see team events return at some point because they’re popular and exciting.

It’s been so long since we’ve had them between the MPL years and the Pandemic, that it’s time to bring them back. I would go far out of my way to participate in a team event with friends and I know others would too. Even the team series was incredible. I’ve talked to some of the younger players on the Pro Tour who didn’t get an opportunity to participate in the Team Series, and they thought it sounded amazing and wished they were playing the Pro Tour when it existed.

Regardless, my favorite thing about Magic is playing with my friends. With Commander being so popular, I think I’m not alone in that. People just want to play a game they like with people they know and like. Team events were an awesome way to do that.

4. An Online Pro Level Tournament Series with Continuity

But Siggy, we have the Arena Championships and the MOCS! These unfortunately are not something that motivates many people. They’re cool tournaments, but they miss a huge element that the fan base of competitive Magic has been requesting for yearsa way to string together invites. Continuity.

When I was a kid playing PTQs, my biggest goal was to “get on the train.” Playing in every event was something I aspired to, and while you can play some of these events, there’s no way to go from one to the next. In fact, as far as the Arena Championship goes, I’d rather see them invite back the top finishers that didn’t get the Worlds invites than some people who missed in the Arena Qualifiers with five wins.

I’m a family man now, and traveling is very costly. Not just financially, but the stress it puts on myself, my kids, and my family. It would be awesome if I could fill my competitive void online in a system that is reliable. I’ve played the MOCS, and while it was fun, it didn’t mean much to me at the time. Just another tournament. It didn't feel much different than being invited to Twitch Rivals or something because it wasn’t leading me anywhere. You can get to Worlds that way, but Worlds at a bigger size also seems like another PT with a different title attached. While I have no gripes with bigger Worlds, it isn’t a prize I’d covet as much as when it was 24-person Worlds.

I’d love to see a variation in competitive circuits that could fill the void for people who can’t travel or live too far from the Pro Tours they want to attend.

5. More Opportunities to Qualify

Right now, one of the things I miss most was being able to play for my desired goal on any given weekend. I want to play in the Pro Tour? I find a GP or PTQ and go get it. Right now, it's one step removed. I want to play on the Pro Tour? Find a local RCQ, win one, and then I can play the PTQ at a (much) later date. That’s not as motivating as being able to accomplish my goal on any given weekend.

We are seeing more of these Limited “GPs” being announced and hopefully they continue to have these regularly. I’d even attach some to RCs if possible. Something for RC players to do on day two of the RC if they didn’t make it but still are aiming to play the Pro Tour instead of just starting right back at the beginning.

All in all, any of these changes would probably keep me motivated to keep grinding away. I have no doubt that we’ll see some things change as things move forward and am hopeful that at least one or two of these issues is addressed in the next year or two.

For now, I’m going to take next week off and go camping with my family. It will be a good time to reflect on everything going on and light up the fire again.

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