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.