Hi everyone, welcome back on 95mtg.com!
It’s been over a year now since I last played a paper MTG event. A global pandemic has hit many of us hard, and MTG and its community didn’t escape from it unscathed.
Like many of you reading this, I miss the sound of cards smacking against the table, the feel of shuffling cards, even the smell of day old convention center french fries and chicken fingers from across the room.
WHAT I MISS ABOUT THE OLD MTG WORLD…
Most of all, I miss my friends and colleagues. I’ve grown close to a lot of people in the MTG Community and, while I get to hear their voices and occasionally see some of their faces while we test for an upcoming event, most of us are pitted against each other for survival in a league and communicate very little outside of that. While before we had after tournament karaoke sessions or simple dinners at a local restaurant to talk and break the tensions of what had happened or was about to, now we sit home mostly, left with our family and roommates to vent to.
The pandemic brought a lot of changes to the World of MTG, especially competitive Magic. All of our high pressure matches take place in our own homes, at our own desks, on a 10 minute delay to anyone who wants to watch. MTG Arena has become our primary focus.
While I remember finally being excited to play a new, fresh, constructed format in Pioneer in my last paper event, a lot of that excitement is mitigated now by the fact things all happen at home, in much more serious times.
Testing regimens have changed dramatically for myself, my team, and others. We used to be able to gather together in a city we always dreamed of going to, close ourselves in four walls and solve an intricate puzzle. And we were damn good at it.
Now we have our at home lives and we squeeze games and meetings in inbetween that on Discord.
I still test with people from all over the world, but it’s not nearly as simple these days. Time zones are a real concern now as we can’t be in the same physical place at the same time.
I used to really enjoy waking up with my teammates, getting breakfast, discussing whatever mundane world news happened the night before for several minutes before immediately getting to work on finer details like discussing what our mana base should look like or what our sideboard plan should be on the play and draw.
You know, the stuff that the hotel staff overhears and makes them think we’re all crazy. That craziness we all shared is what made this game, this career, special.
Some of it, a lot of it, is overshadowed by the serious world news going on. But hopefully that will all change soon.
While things may never be the same as they were, we will all appreciate whatever normalcy we get back so much more. I, for one, can’t wait to gather with friends in the same room and discuss crunching down that 16 or 17 card sideboard we have.
Now our meal times are different, and generally with our families, so the break times get longer and more spaced out. This can create a disruption in rhythm of testing at times, but we manage well.
I personally just live my life in Discord for the most part, whenever anyone else is on during our testing sessions. Occasionally, I say the same thing seven or eight times and then realize Paulo and Matt Nass have muted me because the girls were screaming and they couldn’t hear each other.
Arena has changed the way the game is played, but mostly how fast things change.
There are tournaments every day now. You can go to mtgmelee.com and find an event happening within 24 hours on most days. Staying up to date can be incredibly challenging, especially in a healthy Standard metagame like we have now.
There’s no “best deck”, just what beats what and what people are playing like a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors played in a revolving door.
This has made playing league weekends challenging to say the least. Trying to be one step ahead of the most committed minds in the game can often make you feel like you were one level behind, which in some cases is true. In other cases you were really just 3 levels too far.
Testing for some of our MTG League Weekends, I thought we did a good job huddling on Discord for a few days, spending almost all of our free time battling amongst each other doing focused testing. The problem is once we come up to the surface from our hole we missed what was going on in the outside World, and the format changed dramatically once a new deck was brought to light.
All of a sudden half the work we did was useless, because those decks we worked on are no longer viable because a new deck either beats them or changed the format in a way that they are simply just not good enough.
Keeping up with the rest of the Magic-playing-world is harder these days.
The entire MTG community used to look at Grand Prix and SCG Opens to get a feel for the metagame. Now, every tournament kind of blends together as there are very few high profile open events and many more online events for cash, or qualifiers for qualifiers.
There are no big tournaments before the big tournament to make our metagame predictions.
Also, the fields are less open, every event feels like testing for Worlds but none quite as important. Or more important? It’s hard to tell honestly.
Worlds to me, felt very much like a reward for being the best at what you did, and league weekends feel more like you need to prove you still are.
Either way, I’m there to win, but wins are tough to come by when you’re playing against the best. This leads to many people feeling worn down from winning half their matches, or slightly more or less.
We’re used to winning much more, so it can wear on you.
… AND WHAT I HOPE FOR
Looking to the future, I don’t see live play internationally happening too soon, but it may not be that far off either. In the meanwhile, I want a few things back the pandemic took from all of us.
I want high stakes Limited play. There was nothing that got my adrenaline rushing like cracking the first pack the first day of a pro level event. The excitement of that never fades.
While it’s easier to do in person, I’m hopeful it will be implemented online sooner than later for pro level events.
I want a more integrated system where I can play the same tournaments in the same formats, or at least same metagames as my friends who aren’t in Rivals or MPL.
The event and metagames are just different worlds and it makes me feel disconnected from the community at whole, further isolated in a time we all feel pretty cutoff from what we used to know.
This could mean some sort of online Grand Prix like event, that smoothly transitions into a paper system when things are more normal.
For instance, I haven’t looked at a Modern or Pioneer decklist outside of random Twitter posts in over a year. I want to explore the game and the formats more than I am now.
Lastly, I just want my friends back. I’m probably not alone in thinking back to the last time you saw some people close to you and wondering if you may not see them again, because you’re now a world apart and before it just felt like a matter of time. A week until the next GP, a month until the next PT, or a day until the next FNM.
The good news is things are trending in the right direction right now, and hopefully a new normalcy will soon fully satiate these voids.
Until then, I got a MTG Championship event around the corner, and I’ll be practicing with my friends on Discord, enjoying their company the best way I can, and solving a puzzle that looks familiar, but is constantly changing.
I’ll log into Discord to hear an immediate “Siggy babbbby” from Martin, or hear Paulo declaring we have to throw out all of our testing data because Zach has defied the normal boundaries of human luck.
While I’m sure I’ll miss these days too, I’m hopeful we’ll all be under one roof again soon.