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If I Ran The DCI - Part III - The Argument for Stagnation


So, the Monday you are reading this I will have just come back from Magic Nationals, and I’m sure I’ll have some fun stories to tell about that trip. But right now I am sitting at my computer at 10:40pm on Tuesday trying to work out scheduling for Comic Con, and planning my events for the next few months. I’m so busy with events that, while I have been plotting out the rest of my series on how I think the DCI should work, I thought I, and you should take a short break.


I assure you its not laziness. In fact, next week’s article is already done. It happens to be at Wizards right now, under review, because I was concerned about breaking my Non Disclosure agreement with this up coming one. So, while its getting a good look over, I thought I’d take a little left hand turn in the whole idea of changing the DCI.


I thought I’d talk a little bit today about why none of what I say should be done.


Don’t get me wrong, now! I want everything I talk about to happen. I want drastic change within the DCI. I want a breath of fresh air, and something that will make me sit up and go “now THIS looks interesting.” I want innovation, but there are a lot of strong arguments against it, and I’d like to give them some equal airtime so to speak.


The first and most basic argument is, and I know this sounds silly, that change is a Bad Thing ™. As childish as this sounds, it actually has a lot of merit to it. The average personality type does not like change. They enjoy ruts. They enjoy static, predictable events. These things provide a “comfort zone” to them that the human psyche loves. With change comes uncertainty, and with that a lack of security, and that’s a real concern in big business.


I own a retail store. In our early months, we quickly grew larger than the space we had for the store. We wanted to move into a new store, one building over, in the same complex. It had more play space, more retail space, and would be great for our customers. Some interesting research we heard during our plans to move was that when you move, you can expect to lose 50% of your customer base. Where you move doesn’t matter. Even if its next store, expect to lose 50% of your regular customers.


We went ahead and moved, with an aggressive advertising campaign to let people know, and sure enough, we had a significant drop off in customers. We built the customer base back up rather easily, but we were amazed at the amount of people we lost. You could walk out the door of the new store and see the old store about 150 feet away, but somehow that didn’t matter.


Some people never saw the advertising. Some people never found the new store (if you can believe that). Most interestingly, we lost customers who just “didn’t like” the new store. It wasn’t as “homey” as the old store, which was odd since it had a separate room basically made up as a living room for relaxing, complete with television, and a lot more game space so people were not scrunched together. Obviously bigger for some reason was not always better. 


The feeling of familiarity is a strong one. I was amused to see a conversation about Upper Deck events recently.  Upper Deck is doing a Pro Circuit, much like Magic’s Pro Tour, and they have Pro Circuit Qualifiers. A conversation was discussed about whether there should be Top 8 Drafts for the limited part of Pro Circuit Qualifiers. The overwhelming response back from my peers was that there should be Top 8 drafts because “the players demanded it.”


Why did the players demand it? Was it because they analyzed the PCQ format and had determined what the best possible method of running a PCQ was, and that a Top 8 draft made for the best tournament format?


No, this was the first season of PCQ events. No one had even played in a PCQ. They wanted a Top 8 Draft because that’s what they did in Magic. They wanted a top 8 Draft because it might get them some extra product. They wanted a top 8 draft because its what they were used to, no more or less.


The second argument for not doing any of these changes is that old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is a common argument, and has a lot of reality to it. Is the Pro Tour hurting? No. What about lower level events? No, all indications in fact are that attendance is on the rise for Pro Tour Qualifiers and Prereleases. So why would we want to change anything?


This is the kind of “in the box” thinking that actually works for large corporations with an established product trying to ride the product to the end of its life cycle. It is not the thought process of innovators. If you want to create something new and creative, bold and amazing, your thought process needs to be more “out of the box,” to use a cliché.  You DO want to break things that “ain’t broke” because you want to see if you can put it back together even better than it was the first time. If everyone had the attitude of not fixing things, we’d still be cooking over a fire in the backyard every night (which in itself does not sound like such a bad thing), instead of having the glory of a stove, or heaven forbid, a microwave. Fire cooks meat, right? Why would you need anything else?


So, why would Wizards want to change anything? The answer is simple. Magic is all about change. It’s what keeps us in the game. If a new set came out every year, would you still play? What if there was only type 1? No, it’s the way that Magic changes constantly that keeps us in its grasp. Cards come in and out of formats. Cards that were once bad become good. Every new set brings out new interactions of cards that we never saw before, and the thrill of discovery keeps Magic new and fresh in our minds and our hearts.


Should our organized play system be any different?


I would love to see some changes, even if they aren’t mine. I want some drastic changes. I want a new format. I want a new way I have to build decks. I want a new way I have to play matches. Because this is what Magic is to me. It is a living, growing thing, and I want to enjoy every new discovery that comes out of it. I’m the guy that doesn’t want to look at spoilers because I want to go into a prerelease surprised and intrigued by every card I open in a pack. (Alas, as a Premier Tournament Organizer, I don’t get to do this, but that’s not the point.) Why shouldn’t the Organized Play for this game have some of the same fluidity the game itself thrives on? Don’t go crazy. Every Pro Tour should not have a schedule like the Magic Invitational. But lets shake it up a little bit and see what falls out.


Let’s break it, and then see if we can put it back together better than it was before.



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