Hello Magic Community,
It’s time again now for the Jester’s ReCap, your somewhat regular and sometimes even accurate breakdown of the latest Magic happenings from someone who was kinda paying attention. Just a collection of smaller stories this week, so we should move through them quickly. Which is great because I’m only halfway through the MST3K Gauntlet (Insert “Gauntlet Hand Gesture”). Jonah and bots won’t wait, so let’s make sure you’re up to date. But first:
MTGO Sucks for New Players Too
I tend to take MTGO’s shitty nature as a given these days. I made a schtick of it, but by their nature schticks are never really new ground. It’s difficult to be disappointed by something when your expectations have been in continual free-fall for nearly two decades. Credit for that last turn of phrase should go to my Mom, as she wrote it on my last birthday card. Still, with the bar at a level somewhere between “Atlantis” and “So low it’s actually above us now because the universe is actually being simulated on a giant Asteroids Machine”, it’s really difficult to stay mad at MTGO. But we should be. We should still be angry. And I got a nice dose of perspective on why this past weekend.
I was playing in Guilds sealed on MTGO, and my opponent was clearly new to the program. There were a lot of long pauses, a lot of reassigning of blocks and double-clicking attackers and the biggest red flag of all, a cheery and friendly opening chat message. Clearly, this was not a person who’d spent a lot of time in the MTGO Mines, trying to pry fun out of the walls with a pickaxe. Still, based on the deck and the things my opponent was trying to do, I’m going to say they were more than a little familiar with the game. I was definitely on the back foot in a close game three, and staring down yet another embarrassing loss when my opponent clicked right through their last attack step, losing the game on the spot. My opponent asked me how to go back. I somberly and sympathetically told them they could not. There was a long pause. They sent me the “gg”.
I did the right thing and conceded. I was beat, fair and square, shitty program notwithstanding.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m pretty sure a decent number of decent people, especially with every draft costing real money, would not have done that. And a player who was new to MTGO would have been so frsutrated that it would have been like that Ron Swanson .gif where he tosses his entire computer in the trash. There’s a decent chance that this friendly, skilled and overall excellent community member would have logged out and never came back. MTGO sucks. It sucks to learn. It sucks to play with. And I’ll admit, it was tempting to just take my free win and move on, proclaiming mastery over the system as a kind of advantage or earned skill. But it isn’t and it shouldn’t be. Magic is hard enough without also learning to wrangle bullshit software, and you shouldn’t be punished for having to learn one more system on top of the dozens that make up an average game of Magic.
I’ve heard, and admittedly told people myself, that playing on MTGO will make you a stronger Magic player. And that’s true — in the exact same way getting punched in the face repeatedly will make you a lot tougher. It shouldn’t be a “mean streets” kind of experience to play this goddamn game, WOTC. We’re not trying to only get the toughest and most dedicated to play. We’re trying to give everyone who wants one a chance to enjoy Magic.
Ultimate Masters Retraction
Ok fine, I admit it. The card list is complete and UMA is off-the-rails crazy good from a reprint cost perspective. Sure, we all jumped on it like a bunch of trained poodles and jacked the box prices sky-high, but that’s because we’re filthy animals, not because WOTC made bad product. The draft environment will likely still suck and and it’s still has a stupid name, but never let it be said that I don’t publicly out myself when I say something stupid. UMA will be good, it will have limited cube type vibe and those of you who already bought it are ahead of us now price-gouged suckers.
Banned and Restricted Update
Wizard’s says everything is perfect and fine. We’re all fine. Here. Now. How are you? There isn’t much to say about “nothing”, except that every time they pull this now I take it as a tremendous act of smug self-satisfaction. Show a little humility, WOTC. No one likes a show off. Ban something, just to point out that you’re tinkering. Hell, ban something irrelevant just for fun. 99% of cards don’t see constructed play anyway, so it’s basically risk-free. Imagine my unparalleled joy reading the subreddit the day after you ban Thrashing Mudspawn
This has already been thoroughly mocked and denounced as impossibly stupid, but that just means the bandwagon is hot. Some people got it into their heads, and believe me there was plenty of room, that certain content creators in the Magic Community were using early access to their preview cards to manipulate the secondary market and make a killing. This was false, but let’s really dig into all the obvious reasons why.
First, I know its difficult to remember, but the Magic Content Creator’s avenue for profit is actually disturbingly small. If you want to make amoral money by practicing deceit, there are far faster and more lucrative ways of doing so. You could be a carnival worker, or a hedge fund manager or a rodeo clown. You know, something with some dignity. Magic Content creators don’t work for money. They receive money for work. That might seem like an unimportant distinction, but its not. Financially motivated people rarely find themselves drawn to a legendarily thrifty and cynical community centered around a hobbyist card game. Creatively motivated people often find themselves starving if they don’t somehow squeeze a few dollars out of that crap they were going to do anyway. So from a motive perspective, it doesn’t look like this was anybody’s master plan.
But what about opportunity? I mean, sure that’s not why they got in the game but once they were sent secret info a couple days ahead of everyone else, surely they just couldn’t help themselves, right?
Do me a favour. Try to single-handedly change the price of a card in 3 days, and do so in a way that could potentially profit you. Regardless of the knowledge you have, the secondary market runs primarily on speculation and mob mentality. You absolutely could perform a massive buyout on something and move the meter, but doing so would require a significant amount of capital, an incredible amount of time, and could still backfire tremendously if you’ve read the market landscape wrong. If you’re going to piss money away in a market by taking a big risk while simultaneously being dishonest, you aren’t the kind of person writing Magic articles. You’re working at Citibank.
Magic “Fests” (Have I talked about the stupid name change? No? It’s stupid. Full stop) are going to lose out on some attractions, apparently. Artists are being courted a lot less by Channel Fireball than in the past and apparently Artists are being treated more like Vendors than guests of honor moving forward. They took this poorly, and a bunch of painty-types signed a letter boycotting the events. First — full disclosure — I forget Magic cards have art. I’m that guy. Pictures are just the negative space between all the sweet, sweet rules. Pretty sure I just used “negative space” wrong too, which sorta underlines my point. I can draw a stick figure on my best day and I struggle to read comics because I keep forgetting to look at the panels in between the word balloons. So I’m not inherently on the artsy-side of things. Every artist I could name is coincidentally a Ninja Turtle. Second, as a general rule, I hate boycotts. 99 times out of 100, they are petulant, they don’t work and they start from an assumption that somebody cares about your personal little gripe. Sometimes there are the occasional exceptions — boycotting a store because the atmosphere is hostile to certain groups or boycotting a product because it kills migrant children or something. Mostly though, boycotting is just making a personal decision to do or not do something, and trying to make a whole big public production out of it.
Artists, I’m sorry you feel mistreated, and I am genuinely sympathetic to anything that hurts a creative person’s ability to feed themselves consistently. If recent changes hurt your bottom line, that sucks and I’m sorry it happened to you. Even when I don’t think anything unfair is going on, nobody likes to see talented people struggle. But not enough players care about seeing you at these “Fests”. You can still sell prints online, and there are hundreds and hundreds of talented, hungry young artists desperate for your job. Suck it up.
And that’s me for now. Lots of little stuff this week, but honestly nothing that burrowed into my brain and stayed there. That usually means I’m missing something obvious. Shoot me a comment about the thing I should have talked about this time and didn’t. I bet I’m bored enough at work to tell you what I think. Might even make it funny. No promises.