Sometimes simplicity is simply better because it’s simple. That is, there mere essence of something can be tantalizingly more satisfying than more stuff. Complexity is, after all, the greatest threat to Magic there is.
While it won’t surprise many of you this past weekend was Worlds 2010, the ultimate end to the entire year's worth of events. Brad Nelson came in favorite to win Player of the Year, but found his potential title threatened by Brazilian master Paulo Vitor Damo de Rosa then tied by Guillaume Matignon when the Frenchman won Worlds. Brian Kibler and a crew of others piloted a new Standard deck, Caw-Go, and a multitude of amazing other things were shared.
The weekend was awesome (since, for starters, it was a four-day weekend) for the entire community of Magic players.
Alright. So I see your strange look. I get it. “What does the highest level of Magic competition have to do with casual guys like you (and maybe me)?”
I can’t beat around the bush so I won’t: I’m starting to really enjoy the competitive side of Magic. I’m not competing, no, but having a healthy appreciation and growing understanding for this completely different and often diametrically opposing view of Magic is something I’m after. What I want to accomplish is obtain a more varied and multi-faceted knowledge set around the entirety of Magic.
I also happen to really enjoy writing up coverage and I’m looking to cover even more.
With that devastating admission of bias out of the way, let’s get down to business. Coverage is, at its most basic, a self-styles tournament report: “Follow along as I regale my story of bad beats, epic wins, and wisdom distilled from a day (or two, or more) of Magic battling.”
But there’s a lot more to it than just one player at one event.
There are four forms of coverage that are fairly common across any site:
- Matches (Player 1 vs. Player B), including Top 8 details
- Deck Tech and Strategy Breakdowns
- Player Spotlighting
- Locale Highlights
All of these, while geared in different levels towards competitive play, can be a valuable resource for anyone looking to have some fun playing Magic. There isn’t a secret to decode from coverage or anything hidden within the walls of text and images, but when was the last time you looked to a textbook to provide inspiration and something new to think about?
I believe I can help convince you try it.
There is perhaps the only thing about big events can be argued successfully to be better than the actual event itself: location means a lot. While travelling a few hours and booking a hotel room for a weekend isn’t necessarily the first consideration that comes to mind playing Magic (and I’m not touching any international travels here) what if there was something more compelling to tip the scales?
Say, for instance, there was epic barbeque in St. Louis, MO where a big event was held last year. If you’re into good food it’s a no brainer to gather a few friends and pile into a car for a road trip. In fact, a quick turn of some travel and food channels, with a little Google-fu thrown in, yields that just about every major city where events are held has some local flavors to enjoy.
Don’t like food? Try naturalism, museums, historical sites, or the nightlife. Everywhere you go there is something to do: the issue isn’t what it is but where and how to find it. Failing that you can always just look for completely ridiculous things, which is always a great fallback in foreign lands (be they international or just too many miles outside your geographic region).
The point is really simple: the pure essence of going somewhere and having an absolute blast is universally appealing. If there’s some Magic in the mix it’s all the better.
Here’s where things step up to the next level. Every domain has its famous faces, be it art, music, or criminal activity. Everybody has “their thing” that they do that puts them on the map. Magic is no different with its own bevy of people and faces.
Here’s the thing: everyone can make Magic their thing. What players do is their own deal; although mimicry may be the sincerest form of flattery you only need a few glances to see that just about everything in Magic style and personalization has been done.
You want to wear a completely over-the-top hat? That makes the goofy local guy seems pretty tame, no? (And, for the record, Love Janse was playing some very awesome Magic while fighting for the last minute usurp of the Rookie of the Year title! Nice!)
While many of the highlights from players detail their professional exploits there’s something else bubbling just beneath the crusty outer layer of competition: they are everyday Magic players too. While they might play with a lot more on the line, they also make mistakes, run with a small crew of great fellow players, and have quirky, interesting habits and styles all their own.
It isn’t that there is some awesome new way to play to learn from these players (thought if you’re looking for tips and tricks to playing better you’re reading the right stuff) but that it’s okay to be yourself. Even the greatest players of the game are powerfully unique individuals.
And that says a lot about how amazing this game is.
Deck Tech and Strategy
Look. Be honest. Sometimes you want to win. It’s okay, really. We all do from time to time. And this ideas isn’t what I’m going to talk about.
When players come to a major tournament they usually come with everything they’ve got, including any new interactions and approaches to playing their particular formats. Sometimes, these different ideas and approaches are more than just “real ultimate tech” but show off completely amazing interactions.
Check out the breakdown of Conley Wood’s Extended deck from World 2010. I may not be the biggest Johnny out there but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find something really cool in Conley’s pile of Necrotic Ooze awesomeness.
The “latest” tech is really just “new, cool thing I like to do” in Magic. You don’t have to be competitive to enjoy doing new things. You don’t have to even care about balancing a deck or ensuring consistency to want to try something out. Running through what the top players think is something really awesome is usually a good starting point for trying something for yourself.
There’s much more to Necrotic Ooze than what Conley and Legacy deck designers have already done: it’s up to you to explore even more. (And I'd detail a few more interesting things but completely unsubstantiated rumor has it that Conley's deck crashed Magic Online. There's so much awesome packed in there the client can't take it, or something. So try it out and tell me if it's true!)
Perhaps the most difficult connection between your kitchen table and the tables on webcasts are between the games played in their respective locations. While reading the fine details about an epic control mirror match won’t be a suggested reading on any casual Magic lists anytime soon, there is something to be said about what happens at the meta-level for these matches.
If you look carefully in these high-level games, you’ll often notice a judge stationed nearby. You’ll see each player progress sequentially, though smoothly and effortlessly, through the phases of each turn. Through the commentary you can hear details about what players are scribbling down or making notes about.
Kitchen tables are often rife with the hallmarks of disorganization:
- Life totals marked only by dice
- Tokens that aren’t tokens at all
- Food and drink “interacting” with cards
- Non-essential cards, decks, and related Magic equipment spread everywhere
One of the things that bothers me in games is when life totals get screwy because dice move, I miss interactions or cards, or somebody doesn’t specifically point out I lose one more life than I thought. While I still use dice to mark life, miss things due to distraction, and apply less-than-rigorous mathematics to interactions, taking better notes and keeping the area clear for just the game at hand is something I’ve taken to heart.
While I’m not after becoming the next “great player” of the game, simple of procedural changes and clarifications has games I play moving much smoother. By taking note of which locals are those to go-to with judge-type questions (like card interactions, game flow and sequencing, spell casting, and more) you can resolve many rules issues before they ever take off.
Playing closer to the rules is something I always advocate and that fact that Magic at the highest level can move so easily is a testament to the efficacy of the rules systems and procedures in place (in comparison to sports like Baseball where human error on the part of those enforcing the rules can glaringly cause an incorrect call to stand over an empirically correct decision–Magic is tight).
It’s the End of the Worlds
Worlds coverage isn’t for everyone just the same way as the things I write aren’t for everyone. While I encourage all of you to check out the coverage you may have missed or to mark your calendar and join in the excitement next time, the fact is that even these dry, boring details tell a bigger picture within Magic than I would have thought possible.
So pour a cup of coffee, pull up the coverage archive, and find out what you may have been missing. Just like big events there’s something in there for everyone!