All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.
– Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 2
I’ve been to PAX West eight out of the past nine years, venturing specifically for Magic: The Gathering (the only one I’ve missed when my daughter had surgery). I feel like I have some expertise when I say this: This year was by far the worst effort put forth by Wizards of the Coast to do anything Magic related at PAX West. The only major event they produced was one panel about the worldbuilding of Ixalan for an hour. And that was it. How you found it was a blurb in the main schedule, not even a mention on DailyMTG.com.
It was embarrassing.
Let me amend that:
I was embarrassed for Wizards of the Coast.
When I’ve written these After PAX pieces, I was trying to give you a little bit of the atmosphere of Magic-related PAX. They aren’t really reviews as it’s not something that one can experience again. I tried to examine what was WotC doing to promote their latest set and their actions at the convention itself.
For years the draw was the Magic Party where they would debut cards with music, food, drinks and a bunch of people including WotC employees. Over the past few years the party was toned down but the increased presence of Magic was there. Two years ago there was a huge Eldrazi arm crushing a police car on the street. Last year, they took over a whole theater for Kaladesh and the huge street wide banner hanging on the skybridge displaying Saheeli Rai for all of the PAX attendees to see.
This year, an hour long panel with two preview cards.
And as much as it would be easy to blame WotC for this, it’s not their fault.
There’s one clear reason for this complete drop off, but I have a feeling that there were to other factors that contributed to this choice that made it a bit easier. The elephant in the room:
Editor’s Note: I wanted to get this in before the Magic panel at SDCC, where hopefully they will talk about some of this stuff.
My three-year-old daughter doesn’t know who Chandra is.
She knows Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Iceman, Spider-Man, Firestar, Captain America, and Hulk are. She knows R2-D2 (whom she affectionately calls “Buddy”) and anyone in the Star Wars universe with a hood is called “Doom” (Yes, after Dr. Doom). There’s Red Doom (Darth Maul) and White Doom (Darth Sidious).
Nicol Bolas and Ajani are a mystery to her.
She rummages through my extra Dice Masters cards because she knows the characters. “Who’s this?” She asks, holding up Hawkman. I mention his name and she just shrugs. “Ok,” she uncaringly remarks while shoving the card into her pumpkin basket that she carries with her along with the Batman, Wonder Woman and Hulk cards.
She doesn’t play Magic, so she can’t just appreciate the game or the characters just yet. There’s been very little exposure to the game aside from the Pop Funko figures above my computer while we play LEGO Star Wars. Is it my fault?
Day 1 (This didn’t get posted late last night thanks to a funky error)
If you read the links in the previous post, you would see they’re all about Development and not about Design. If there’s one thing I know I’m weak at it’s judging power level. I can gauge things alright but it’s all contingent on what the environment allows. Spiritmonger is a fantastic card in a vacuum: a 6/6 regenerator for 3BG that grows when it kills things. If you showed that card to someone just learning about Magic, they can see how powerful it is.
And it was powerful in the environment that it debuted in. Spiritmonger passed the “Flametongue Kavu Test” (doesn’t die to four damage) and it was helped that Pernicious Deed was in the same colors and worked rather well together. Back then, the spells were more powerful and the creatures weaker compared to today so Spiritmonger could reign supreme back then. When the creature was reprinted in Conspiracy, I asked some friends if it would even make a dent if it was legal in Modern.
No one said yes.
But with Cube, and any closed limited environment, we can create a situation where any card is powerful. Want to make Spiritmonger the most powerful card that can be drafted? Done. That’s part of the appeal for people who build Cubes: they can become an all-powerful being if they want.
Author’s Note: Just as a quick update, my daughter that was born 15 weeks early is doing fantastic. She’s still in the NICU and will be until sometime in March; she’s only 8 weeks old. Catherine is now over 3 pounds, which is up dramatically from her birth weight of 1 pound 5 oz. All she needs is more time and to gain more weight, but we’re on the right track.
The exciting news coming out today is the release of Bennie Smith’s new Commander eBook: The Complete Commander. I was able to get an early copy of it, and it’s fantastic. If love Commander or want to get started, get this book. Bennie and MJ Scott did a wonderful job putting the book together and with all of the artwork from James Arnold (that awesome artwork you see on GatheringMagic.com) it just blows you away.
Do I want a hardcover of this book? Yes please.
What Bennie and MJ have done is gathered a ton of Commander related content and jammed it into this book. You want sample decklists? Done. How about strategy? In here too. Commander Deckbuilding 101? Got you covered. Maybe a little short story fiction? Right there with you. A glossary and a list of Commander staples? Yes, this book has everything.
And it’s $10. $10? That’s less than a booster draft. It’s criminal of you not to own it at that price.
But it’s not just Bennie’s words in this ebook. Just as Commander is a community format, this is a community book. There are a ton of players who have written in with their favorite Commander moments. Other members of the Commander community have written short stories, just like Star City Game’s Vorthos expert John Dale Beety. Gathering Magic’s Content Editor and Daily MTG’s Command Tower author Adam Styborski wrote the introduction. Level Five judge and “Godfather” of Commander Sheldon Menery wrote the foreward.
Editor’s Note: Since it’s MTGO week on DailyMTG.com, I decided to publish this unfinished piece since the point that I’m making still stands. You can tell right away it’s a little out of date.
If you didn’t know, a few weeks ago, my wife was admitted to the hospital with our baby’s life in danger. Our daughter was born a few days later (15 weeks ahead of her due date) at 1 pound 5 oz, was just over 12 inches long and is in the NICU. Our baby will be there until mid-March, her original due date. She’s trending in the right direction but it’s still a long battle for a few months.
Obviously, my main focus is now on family instead of Magic; that’s just the way it is. I don’t have the time/energy/focus to post/tweet about Magic like I usually do or was planning to do, especially with my idea of running 99 CMDR Problems again. I want to get this piece out; it’s not a finished/polished piece, but it is what it is. The point I was starting to make is near the end of the post, like my usual writings (I know I know, that’s a problem for me). I think for MTGO to be more successful, it does need to be treated as it’s own entity instead of just a thought after piece (as it seems from outside WotC). I was going to go into more detail and why it would be good, and maybe a followup is worth it in a little while. At the moment it stands as it is.
I do have two more pieces to write about two exciting projects I agreed to before the baby was born prematurely and when I get the go ahead to talk about them, I will. One, which I was partially involved in, before the end of the year and the second will be a few months down the road.
This doesn’t mean I’m stopping writing or playing Magic. You just have to give me some time to focus on the family first as it is emotionally draining to deal with the up and downs of my baby’s time in the NICU. You can still find me on Twitter (@mtgcolorpie) and email me (mtgcolorpie – Gmail), if you want to chat. If I don’t get back to you right away, don’t feel bad. It’s awkward being this disconnected to the daily life of Magic; checking the major Magic websites at “Magic Midnight” and reading twitter is no longer one of my daily habits currently.
Thanks for understanding, and thanks to everyone with their support and well wishes. – Robby
In case you haven’t heard, most competitive MTGO events are being shut down. Here’s the announcement, and here’s the link from Hall of Famer Brian Kibler talking about his experience with MTGO this past weekend. I fully believe that this is the final straw that made WotC finally come to the decision to “shut down” MTGO. This wasn’t the first complaint, but it was the loudest in a sea of people who have been frustrated for years.
Full disclosure: I don’t play too much MTGO. I play some, and I mess around every once in a while but I’ve never competed in one of these major events. So I’m no expert when it comes to the inter-workings of how “bad” it’s been. But I do have some general thoughts about the subject and I’m working on my “topical blogging” merit badge.
I’ve got a theory about what’s going on with the community’s take on MTGO. This “Fanboy Syndrome” (or Fangirl Syndrome if you rightfully prefer) states that the more someone loves a particular product, the more they will complain when it doesn’t meet their vision of what the product should be. Now, this doesn’t mean that fans don’t have the right to complain about when something goes wrong, but a majority of the time they’re being too critical without looking at the big picture.
Is MTGO perfect? No, obviously not. Is it the horrendous piece of garbage that I’ve been told by many Magic players? Nope, that’s the other extreme of this issue. It’s an ok working product that’s not working to it’s full potential. And it can be fixed.