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Yearly States Rant

It seems that every year about this time, I getting a little bit grumpy. For those of you that know me, I bet that comes off as strange. It's the State Championships that do it to me.

Some of you it may be called Provincials or Territorial or some such. I'll just keep it simple and refer to it as States.

My entire life, I've been involved in athletics and competition. You generally work hard to try and make it to the highest level possible and win. There is generally a line of competition that you follow to get to the top. It's usually something like the following:

Local Events
District Championships
State Championships
Regionals Championships
Tri-State or Area Championships (sometimes)
National Championships
World Championships

You start with your local weekly events and work your way up from there. This seemed to apply to nearly every competitive activity I participated in, except for Magic. And when I say this, I mean everything UIL events, Band, Football, Track, Basketball, you name it. I'm wondering why this is. What bugs me most is that part of the system seems like it is there, but States breaks the loop.

Local Events
You can play in these to hone your skills and win small prizes. Do well enough and you can start to break into large events with byes at Grand Prix's and such. If you get your rating high enough, you can even bypass everything and play right on the Pro Tour. In general though, local events are a training ground for the big stage.

District Championships
We don't really have these in Magic. However, I do think it is something interesting to pitch. In each state have districts assigned. Give the top two or four players from each district championship a round or two of byes at the state championship. If nothing else, you can give these players a voucher for free entry into States or some such.

State Championship
This is the biggest disappointment with any events that are held each year. There are no special prizes outside of a playmat for the top 8. There are no invites. Nothing of real value unfortunately. At the very least, the State Champion should get a three round bye at Regionals or a free entry into Nationals. I'm cool with offering up a one or two round by at Regionals to all the top four players. Just offering something extra would increase attendance at this event a ton. Right now, many serious players don't go because there is nothing at stake. And honestly, what's the point of calling yourself state champion if the better players in the state didn't even bother to show up?

Regional Championships
Everyone knows Regionals all too well. This is easily the busiest day of Magic in the US every year. My rant in previous years has been that the regions are too large. Fortunately, from what I am hearing, the regions are about to be broken up, so more players can attend and the events won't go 11 rounds. If this happens, my idea of giving byes to the States semifinalists would have to be thrown out unless it was a one round bye. The top eight from each region already get Nationals invites. This seems more than fair. Usually there are a ton of prizes thrown in for the eight as well.

Tri-State or Area Championships
This isn't a tournament that always happens in any system. I can understand WotC doing without this. Part of it would be a scheduling problem. The other reality is that this event would have nothing to offer and would become like the current state championships.

National Championships
This event is always one of the toughest events in the US. The top players from each region, plus pros with enough points to get in are there. There are multiple formats and the day is quite exhausting. But it is absolutely what you expect out of a national championship. Many of the best players int he country show up to one place, one tournament, and slug it out.

World Championships
There's not a ton to say about this. WotC does this right. They have large scale presentations. They have special events. They really do it up. Their World Championships are exactly what they should be currently. I even like the team competition. It's adds just a little bit more to being part of a national team. I wouldn't change a thing about this event currently.

Now, do all of those breakdowns have a lot of meaning? Not really. They are just general examples as to what can be done to encourage a more interactive qualification system in the hierarchy of large tournaments. IT truly is sad that players aren't motivated to attend States. I honestly can't think of any other state championship tournament that people are uninterested in attending.

I'd imagine each state championship tournament is going to report attendance of anywhere between 50 and 80 depending on where you live. There may even be five or so that get over 100. But put that in perspective. For an event like Regionals, a ton of casual level players show up. Most of those players should be attending States as well. For some reason though, they aren't.

I think if WotC isn't willing to offer up invites or byes into larger events, they should give away something extra. I think that even creating two sets of foils to give out for the event would be brilliant. Do something similar to the current JSS layout. Create one foil card for all players that attend States. That way everyone has a semi-limited and mostly unique card. Then, in addition to giving the players in the top 8 a few packs and some playmats, offer them another, different foil card that only the top 8 players receive. Again, this creates something unique for the event. Also, it adds a bit of value to the prize package for the players. As long as these cards were in foil for the first time, or were in some way ultra unique it could be great. My final recommendation on that would be a request of high card quality. They would need to be cards that people would at least want to play with in extended or something on a regular basis. This way players know that when they attend they are getting a playable, tradable, and most importantly valuable card.

Overall, it's not a huge deal how States is set up right now. But I do think that with it always being the first weekend of the newest Standard format, there should be something to make it special. It's also odd to see a tournament with a special name not really offering anything special. It's even tougher to explain to players that nations doesn't qualify you for (or get you) anything.

Is Magic going to take a dive if it isn't fixed? Are tournament organizers going to go broke? Are players going to quit going to tournaments? The answer to all of these is a big, NO. It's not an important change, it would just be a nice one to have.

Well, since you were nice enough to sit through my little rant, here is something extra for you. Here's a deck to try out at your next Friday Night Magic tournament.

Bad Red Men

4 Arc-Slogger
3 Furnace Whelp
4 Slith Firewalker
3 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Kumano, Master Yamabushi
2 Beacon of Destruction
3 Flamebreak
4 Magma Jet
4 Pulse of the Forge
4 Seething Song
3 Yamabushi's Flame

24 Mountain

1 Detonate
4 Hearth Kami
4 Shatter
3 Shunt
3 Stone Rain

I hope you guys enjoy. I'm working on several other decks right no, so we will see what the new format brings up for me. I will be spending some time reviewing the results from state championships and seeing what stands out.

Until next time,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
PowrDragn at Pojo dot com

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