Archive for January, 2012

Jon Medina Needs to Be Banned From Tournaments (Not Trolling)

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Let me preface this entire discussion by noting the following: It is not my intent for people to harass the DCI or Wizards of the Coast in an attempt to have Jon Medina receive an official ban. While it is likely that Jon is guilty of many, many instances of Tournament Error – Failure to Follow Official Announcements, without being present to have heard the official announcements it is impossible for me to know this with any certainty.

Now onto what I want to talk about…

The Problem

For some time now, trading cards has become a bitter ordeal. Medina’s popularity has create a race of “binder grinders” who do nothing but value trade at tournaments and stores. While these people are beyond annoying to deal with, it’s impossible to avoid them because they’re usually the only people you can find who are looking to trade or who have stuff that you need. Not only that, but if you’re holding a binder (or even if you’re not), they will attack you like heroin addicts looking for a fix. I discussed the similarities between value traders and drug addicts after my trip to GP Providence last year so I won’t go into it again, but it’s pretty brutal to watch. This behaviour has been growing and spreading to the point where I can’t even make a fair offer to a 14 year old who’s been playing Magic for about 3 months without having the little shit try to nickle and dime me.

In the interest of fairness: yes, I trade for value sometimes. I do this when I’m trading something that I don’t particularly want to trade and need to be incentivised, when I’m trading hot cards for cards that, hot or not, I don’t actually need and am just going to have to invest time trying to move, or when I’m trading for something that’s kinda cool but I could take it or leave and need to be incentivised. These make up the vast minority of my trades. The majority of my trades, the ones where I trade cards I don’t need (Any cards I need/may need/want are in separate “no trade” binders) for cards that I do need or want, are done on a “it’s close enough” basis.

Back on topic, this trend in trading is beyond fucking irritating and can be considered harmful in a way, but it’s not grounds for any action. However, a number of months ago, I don’t remember exactly when, Medina was ejected from a tournament for buying cards at a tournament. The impression I got from his Twitter feed was that he felt it was some big joke and there was no reason for him to have been thrown out. We all should have seen the writing on the wall back then.

Shit Just Got Real

While the previous trend of value traders ruining that aspect of the game was bad enough, the line has now been crossed. Actually, the line was crossed the first time Jon offered to buy or sell cards at an event. Jon has now defecated on the line whilst smoking a cigar lit with a Black Lotus and invited the world to join him.

You see Medina was recently fired from Star City Games. On the most recent episode of The Eh Team (Episode #67, Red-Sleeved), Jon described the final article he submitted that was never published. And with good cause. Jon reads part of his article on the air and it described how he is teaching these people not just to be traders, but to be dealers. Except he isn’t teaching them to be dealers. Dealers understand how business works and recognize the value in purchasing a table from the tournament organizer at large events. Medina is teaching these people to be scheming douchebags. He describes how to go about buying and selling cards at tournaments without getting caught and thrown out by the organizer, and this is reprehensible.

As I said before, I can’t say with 100% certainty that Medina is violating any DCI rules. However, any major tournament I have EVER been to has always had an announcement from the organizer stating that only the vendors are allowed to buy and sell cards. By his own admission (I would produce a citation but that man talks way too much for me to find a several month old tweet), he was thrown out of an event for doing this once before. If you listen to him talk about how to get away with it and what behaviour would make an organizer suspicious, it is hard to believe that this is not a man speaking from considerable experience. Medina has decided that he is entitled to do whatever he wants, and that anyone who wants to wave “rules” in front of his face can go fuck themselves.

Why Is This Such a Big Deal?

You may not see this behaviour as a big deal. Maybe you think “Well fuck those greedy vendors, let the little guy have a chance!” You also may have no clue how the business work operates. A single person operating this way at an event with 1600 players may not be a huge deal, but when you have a well known figure in MTG finance instructing his thousands of drones how to also operate in this fashion, it can become a huge problem. Why would anyone buy a table at a large event from the organizer when every inch of table space that isn’t dedicated to sanctioned matches is filled with these fake dealers who are undercutting them? Many premiere organizers are store owners who set up at the events they run as well. As an organizer, why would I bother to go through all the effort of organizing and running an event where my store is making no money and I’m not making any money by selling tables? These people aren’t running tournaments because you’re entitled to them or out of the goodness of their heart. It is a LOT of work to put on a large event, and without adequate compensation, they aren’t going to bother (Or they will drastically cut prize support). Maybe someone else would step in and try, but it wouldn’t take long for them to realize it’s a losing proposition either.

Welcome to America, Bitch

Here in America, a private organization has the right to refuse service or admission to anyone for any reason. This extends to Wizards of the Coast (A publicly traded company is still privately owned; it is not government owned), the DCI, and the individual organizers. This is also why there is no official burden of proof in disqualification investigations or for DCI bannings (A player was banned not too long ago just for accumulating too many gameplay error warnings without ever receiving a DQ). But as I said, this is not a cry for a DCI banning. This is really a warning to all tournament organizers out there.

As organizers, it is our responsibility to keep this shit under control. This behaviour has always existed, but with such a large public figure presumably taking part and irrefutably instructing and encouraging others to take part, it is only going to get worse. Organizers need to take a stand and make an example of Medina. People need to understand that these rules exist for a reason, and they will be enforced. I implore all tournament organizers to ban Jonathan Medina from events that they run. He also seemed to argue on Twitter today that it isn’t violating DCI rules if you’re not in the tournament. I respond to this in two ways: first of all, I have seen judges enroll people who had DCI numbers but were not participating in an event into the event just to officially DQ them. More importantly, while the DCI may not have reign over you if you’re not playing in the tournament, the tournament organizer still does and still gets to throw your ass out on the curb.

It could easily be argued that this behaviour is extremely difficult to catch, but I have to disagree. With the number of staff members most events have, yes it probably is. I think it is well worth the investment for an organization like Star City Games to hire a couple people for events specifically to watch for this, however. Oh, and Jon recommended in his unpublished article that people find a nearby location to conduct their business so check the closest Panera as well. Anytime I see someone try to buy or sell cards in my store, I always make it very clear to them that it is not allowed. If they go outside to conduct their transaction, they will find that the doors have been locked behind them (The majority of our tournament time is while the store is officially closed). If they left their cards inside before the doors were locked, well they can come back during business hours to claim them.

But He’s Such a Nice Guy!

Who the fuck cares? If someone walked into your store and took money out of your register, would you say “but he’s a nice guy!” and just let them walk out? I surely hope not. We all saw how quickly the trading habits of the entire Magic community changed when Jon hit the scene, so you can imagine how quickly this behaviour is going to spread as well. The most effective and fastest solution to this problem is for tournament organizers to unite and collectively ban Jon Medina from their events.

And because I know you all came here expecting me to troll instead of use logic and facts, I’ll leave you with this: Isn’t it funny that LegitMTG is run by a guy who advocates illegitimate business practices and that the “company” website is nothing but a pointer to a sales thread on an trading forum?

Fully Altered Simpsons EDH Deck – Introduction

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

As many of you may have seen me mention on Twitter (over, and over, and over again), my girlfriend, Julie (@jwlz85), has offered to make me a fully altered EDH deck. That is 100 cards all with new artwork. It was a very sweet offer and one that I couldn’t turn down, although I have turned this into much more of an enormous fucking project than it necessarily had to be.

The Idea

Julie came to me with the idea of fully altering a deck. She was going to just alter her Rafiq deck in its current incarnation unless I wanted one of mine altered. This gave me an unnecessarily complicated idea: I had just picked up a spare Mimeoplasm (I want to keep my set of Commander theme decks intact) and was intending to start building a deck that very night. Instead of trying to find a theme to fit one of my existing decks, I could unleash my inner Johnny and design a deck specifically to be altered. I decided to go with a Simpsons theme because I’m a huge fan of the show, it has a seemingly unending cast of characters to fill all sorts of different roles in the deck, and by nature of being animated it would be much less complicated to do en mas.

The Format

This was a really tough one for me. The art was going to be completely changed, which meant some of the words had to remain on the card for it to be recognizable as what it is. This left me with three options: I could leave all the words, I could have the cards be done as full art and leave the name, casting cost, and power/toughness (where applicable), or I could change the card names and the leave the casting cost, rules text, and p/t the same. It was a really tough decision, but I decided that I was going to change the names on the cards. A lot of the cards I really could’ve gone either way with, but it was important to me for some of the cards to have different names and it seemed it would look better if they all had new names instead of a few (although there are 3 cards which kept their original name, because they were already perfect). Julie also offered to alter the flavour text on the cards (Because the project wasn’t big enough), so there’ll be that as well.

The basic land was another tough decision. While the options were the same, the rules text is unnecessary (and pretty much non-existent), so I decided to go full art on these (leaving the card frame). This turned out to create a big challenge because while there is more space on the card to paint, screenshots are much closer to the normal art box size than the full frame size. Finding exactly what I want and cropping it properly has proven to be a bigger problem than I thought, and is still a work in process.

Card Selection

Because the Simpsons’ cast of characters is so big, I could not dedicated a card to everyone I wanted to. I kinda knew going in this was going to be the case. Because of the nature of the theme, this deck was going to have a much higher count of creatures than I normally run in an EDH deck. My first step in designing the list was to think of the most appropriate cards I could for each of the characters I wanted. This proved harder than others for some cards, and also resulted in a lot of subpar cards. I was fine with subpar though as long as the deck was fun to play. And subpar or not, playing Zodiac Rabbit in EDH is awesome.

After making the list, I tested the deck. It was not fun. However, I could tell it very much had the potential to be, I just stalled on land every game do to having just built the deck and not shuffling properly. Even so, I made a realization: some of the cards were far too cute. Sure, Xanthic Statue is the best possible card for the Lard Lad donuts mascot, but when I’m supposed to have some enormous monstrosity in my deck like that thing, it’s pretty heartbreaking to cast Tooth and Nail and pull two creatures combining to a whopping 3/4. That decision was also largely because of how far behind I was from missing land drops, but I was lacking any real power. I’m really sad to see the Xanthic Statue go, but that card is shit anyway so whatever. The deck is now tuned to a point where it is fun to play and has the potential to win, even if it’s not as powerful as it could be.

The Alteration Process

I have absolutely nothing to say about this, because I’m not the one doing it. However, Julie will be writing some guest blogs to chronicle her progress and share some previews with you, as well as probably talking about altering in general. Then again, I’ve given her no guidelines as to what she needs to write about, so she may just write about stuffed animals and butterflies as that’s all girls ever seem to care about anyway. However, I would like to share at least one preview with you guys because I’m really pumped about this project. It may only be a basic land, but it’s still awesome. The artwork stars Eddie, Lou, and Homer Simpson as “Max Power”. Enjoy!
Gp swab Beckley, he likes it!

The Hierarchy of Magic Players: Casual to Competitive

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Since the dawn of time it would seem, there has been an argument over who is more important to the game of Magic: casual or competitive players. These debates never go anywhere, not like anyone is going to “solve” anything anyway. However, a common thread in all of these arguments is that people can’t seem to agree on what makes a player casual and what makes a player competitive. Two categories simply isn’t enough, as there’s a lot of middle ground. To try to help future discussions, I’d like to identify the hierarchy of players based on their level of competitive nature.

Yertle the Durdle

While empirical data on the matter would be hard to find if it even exists outside of some heavily guarded vault deep within Wizards R&D, this group most likely makes up an overwhelming majority of players. Like, severely overwhelming. No, bigger than that. Look, we’re talking krakens and dreadnoughts for earings.

Yertle is as casual as they come. An important thing to remember here is that being casual has nothing to do with how much time you spend playing, talking about, or reading about Magic. Yertle is the player who plays Magic strictly because it’s a fun game. He enjoys the game and enjoys having fun with his friends, but he has absolutely zero interest in putting up with hardcore Spike neckbeards that you find at tournaments. Level of experience has nothing to do with this either. I good friend of mine is the epitome of Yertle. He has been playing about as long as I have, which at this point is nearly 17 years. Since he has roommates that also play Magic, he can play as often as every day of the week for multiple hours a day. He may even venture away from the kitchen table for prerelease, launch parties, and weekly drafts at a store, but you’re unlikely to see him at any constructed events. Yertle owns cards from all different sets, and he doesn’t want you imposing restrictions on which cards he can and can’t use. It’s very unlikely you can drag Yertle to a limited PTQ, and if you try there better be promises of booze and strippers to follow. A Yertle will exclusively be Johnny or Timmy. The one caveat is that Yertle may also be a total fucking prick in which case he’s a Spike who refuses to venture into the realm of organized play because he wants to prove he’s the best, so long as he can do it without putting himself in a situation where he might fail. Yertle’s collection ranges from meager to respectable, but is rarely impressive. He values cards by how useful they are to him rather than their market value, so he consistently takes it up the ass from Medina with a smile.

Contributions to the game: These are the unseen masses that more competitive players aren’t even aware exist. This is a fact that is completely mind boggling to me because this is where everyone starts. Nobody plays their first game of Magic at a PTQ. Brian Kibler wasn’t conceived, born, and raised on the pro tour (although I’ve received numerous reports that his bastard children may have been). How the more competitive players that acknowledge nothing in the world beyond their own lives seem to forget that at one point they were playing Magic exclusively with their close friends and the rest of the Magic community had no idea they exist is inconceivable, but it seems to be the reason all these arguments exist in the first place. Yertle’s contribution to the game is his wallet. He is the main reason this game still exists after twenty years. Yertle keeps Wizards in business by buying packs. Lots of packs. Maybe he doesn’t buy boxes at a time (however Yertle can and will buy a booster box or two whenever a new set is released), but he has no problem running next door to Target every single day on his lunch break to buy a couple booster packs. He keeps brick and mortar stores in business both by buying sealed product from them, and by shelling out money for singles that would never in a million years see play in a serious tournament.

Average Joe the Average Joe

This is the second large group of players. Naturally, the more competitive the player profile, the less players will fit that profile. If you’re reading this, chances are this is where you fall. That’s right, loyal reader, you’re only one step away from a durdle. Joe likes both the fun side of Magic and the competitive side. You can find him playing in weekly tournaments at your LGS, and he probably has a weekly EDH game as well. Joe will frequent local PTQs and GPs, but won’t necessarily be at every one (Note that “local” can vary greatly depending on where you live. In the Boston area “local” would be about an hour drive, but for players in remote locations in may be a three or four hour drive). Joe may even be willing to travel long distances a few times a year to attend events like GPs or GenCon, but normally requires a compelling reason such as visiting a city he’s always wanted to or meeting specific members of the community that he knows will be at the event. Joe can be any combination of the player psychographies. He is also likely to have a very impressive collection of cards. Joe is even capable of experiencing some measure of success such as winning the occasional PTQ or state championship, however if he wins a PTQ he’ll be lucky to break .500 on the pro tour.

Contributions to the game: While the mass of Yertles combine to spend by far the most money by their sheer volume, Joe may be the most important person to the game. Joe loves Magic and the Magic community, and he has no problem investing his time and money to enjoy it. They help brick and mortar stores and online stores with purchases of boxes and singles, including high end singles. The majority of high end Magic cards are owned by Joes, as many have no qualms with pimping out their EDH or constructed decks. They’re also the player most likely to playsets of everything you could ever need for a given format, just in case they or one of their friends ever wants to use it. Joe also hosts podcasts, provides free content on websites, and is active on internet forums and Twitter. He has a voice, and he wants to share it however he can. This category is also home to nearly the entire judge community.

Wesley the Wannabe

Wesley is what people often refer to as “grinders” these days. Wesley will travel all over the country and possibly even the world to play in as many events as possible in the hopes that the variance inherent to Magic will eventually work in his favour. He might have an EDH deck or two that he’ll occasionally play to blow off steam, but in general he has very little interest in anything beyond testing for events and trying to win events. Wesley has likely already experienced a small measure of success in competitive play, but the fact that he’s still grinding PTQs every single weekend shows that he’s probably just not going to get anywhere in his goal of being a pro Magic player. He is also the player most likely to give a obsess about Planeswalker Points. Wesley is convinced that he is a Spike, regardless of what his psychographical profile looks like. While it is possible that Wesley has a decent collection of cards, his constant travel expenses will normally require him to borrow cards from friends rather than buying his own.

Contributions to the game: Despite what he will tell you, Wesley contributes very little. His funds are mostly reserved for travel leaving little to be spent on Magic beyond tournament entry. He may host a podcast, but it is not nearly as entertaining as Joe’s. Wesley also provides a combination of free articles and premium articles for websites, but they are less entertaining than Joe’s and less informative than the final players in our hierarchy. He is the most likely to write articles about how everyone sucks at Magic and articles claiming credit for previous known or ridiculously obvious ideas. You can find Wesley on Twitter sucking the dick of any pro player they can find in the hopes of finding out their super secret tech or just garnering favour with the people they wish they were. For anyone interested in running a store, these people are the surliest douchebags you will ever have to deal with, so beware.

Marty the Mainstay

I can’t be sure, but in my experience this is by far the rarest of the player profiles. You recognize Marty’s name. You may not know a lot about him, but you swear you’ve seen his name on Pro Tour results before. He isn’t a top level pro player, but qualifying for the Pro Tour is no great shakes for this guy. He plays almost exclusively competitive events, but will show up at FNM to test out a new deck. The only time Marty will play outside of sanctioned events is when serious testing for sanctioned events; he has no interest in casual variants. Marty is willing to travel for pro level events even if he only qualifies on rating and must fund the trip himself, but he is unlikely to travel for qualifying events as they aren’t really necessary. Marty enjoys playing the game, but he is absolutely a Spike at heart. He owns very few cards, frequently selling his current deck to buy a new deck.

Contributions to the game: Marty doesn’t spend a lot on the game, but he’s still more helpful than Wesley. Why? Well, as previously stated Wesley is a surly douchebag whereas Marty tends to be very pleasant. Why wouldn’t he be? He may not be the absolute best in the world at the game, but he knows he’s top tier. More importantly, however, Marty helps your LGS restock. He may only come in a few times a year, normally just before rotation or just before a major event he needs cards for, but when he does come in he has a big stack of cards that your store would very much like to own. Marty also understands how money works and is unlikely to give you shit over your offer on those cards. He writes articles that you probably need to pay to read, but there’s a lot of good information to be found. You can also hear Marty podcasting, though he’s more likely to show up as a guest after a particularly good performance than to host his own show. Marty has a Twitter account, but he probably don’t post a whole lot.

Petey the Pro

These are the guys that won’t come on my show. They’re the pro players. The household names. They are Spikes, and they play to win. They probably have a single EDH deck that they own and may occasionally play to promote their image and try to earn street cred, but they care about playing at the pro level and nothing else. FNM is slumming it. Playing in qualifiers is unnecessary. Petey is entitled, and you enable him. Petey probably doesn’t even own cards because he has a sponsor, and because players will gladly lend him anything he needs just to say “He won using my Underground Sea!” He is willing to travel all over the world to play the game, but only if someone else is bankrolling it.

Contributions to the game: Petey’s contributions are a large point of contention, because they’re hard to quantify. Directly, they provide virtually nothing to stores or to Wizards. Indirectly, their fame creates a level of interest in competitive play that is impossible to accurately measure. One thing is for sure, however: whatever the importance of Petey’s contribution to the game, it’s but a fraction of what he thinks it is. Petey writes premium articles, and they range from unreadable garbage that makes people want to cancel their SCG premium subscriptions to the most important Magic articles you’ll ever read. Petey does guest spots on podcasts, but he is frequently boorish and uninteresting.

Alex Bertoncini the Mike Long

This is a very special segment of players. They don’t care about being the best as long as you think they’re the best. They’re the cheating assholes that put all of organized play under strict scrutiny by the community.

Contributions to the game: Funny stories and player base animosity.

While I don’t suspect these names will ever catch on, I hope these different player profiles help people accurately describe what they mean in their discussions of casual vs competitive players, because the difference isn’t nearly as black and white as many people would lead you to believe.