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Six Magic Wishes for 2014

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Adam Koska
Adam Koska

About Adam Koska

Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:

  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 45 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Top 32 GP Vienna 2008
  • Top 64 GP Krakow 2007
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8

Six Things I Wish Were True in Magic

Hey everyone! It’s still the time of Christmas holidays and today, I’ll continue with something not direcly related to metagames and decklists, just like last time, but this time regarding a slightly different topic. In my previous article, I looked at what was in the past – in the year 2013 – and today, I’d like to look the other way, into the future. And since it’s the time of the year when we get presents and make resolutions for next year, I’m going to talk about what I wish happened – six hings I wish became true in Magic or things related to it in 2014.

I wish there was a European tournament series like the SCG Opens in the US.

Being a competitive player who’s not qualified for the Pro Tour anymore right now, I still attend pretty much all the GPs in drivable distance, but the way the European GPs work, you don’t really accomplish anything unless you post an X-2 record, which qualifies you for the next Pro Tour. If you play four GPs and cash in three of them, you’re left with money which is usually enough to cover your trips, but next year, you start from scratch. There’s a huge void between the „competitive“ stage of the PTQs and GPs and the Pro Tour. In the US, this void is filled by the SCG Opens – tournaments that everybody can play, that are smaller than the gargantuan-sized European (and North-American) GPs and that can raise a whole new class of players. The competition is definitely there, since you play against a few hundred reasonably skilled mages and the transition to higher stages is also there, since you can qualify for the Invitationals. To me, it makes sense to grind the SCG Opens, because they offer a lot of potential value in terms of progress which is palpable – unlike the GPs, where only a small fraction of players see any real progress (usually 8 out of 1500ish, which is close to 0.5%). Also, while GPs are a lot more frequent than they used to be, a GP still takes place only once in a couple of months, even if you count neighboring countries and even if you don’t live in the geographical periphery of Europe. That’s why I’d like to see a tournament that’s smaller and more frequent than a GP, but still offers some reasonably achievable goals for the players who are willing to put in some testing and effort.

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I wish there were some PTs in Asia again, specifically in Japan.

Let’s have a look at the locations of the past four and the next three Pro Tours:

  • PT Return to Ravnica – Seattle
  • PT Gatecrash – Montreal (in February, no less)
  • PT Dragon’s Maze – San Diego
  • PT Theros – Dublin
  • PT Born of the Gods – Valencia
  • PT Journey to Nix – Atlanta
  • PT M15 – Portland

A few years back, there was a rule: four PTs per year, one of them in Europe, one in the US, one in Asia and then the fourth in a random location like Malaysia or Hawaii. I always thought that such a structure was great – there was always a chance to attend a „local“ Pro Tour as a spectator (which used to be awesome, with all the side-events and rail-birding) and also a chance to qualify for a tournament in such a location that the travel itself was worth all the effort. I’ve played Pro Tours in locations like Japan, Malaysia or Puerto Rico and I always spent a few weeks there after the Pro Tour, travelling around, relaxing and seeing new things. I understand that this is not something that everybody appreciates, especially the seasoned Pros who see travelling as their daily routine, not something exciting and worth looking forward to. But I know that for many players, especially at the PTQ level, the allure of winning a trip to some exotic location is also worth a lot, for some of them maybe even more than the qualification slot itself. And even though places like San Diego or Dublin are certainly nice, they’re not really „exotic“ or different from where the vast majority of European and American players live. I understand that from the logistics point of view, it’s much easier to have a Pro Tour in Atlanta than in Kuala Lumpur, but I think that the extra hassle is definitely worth the effort, as it just makes the tournament much more special. Also, for players in Asia, it must feel a bit sad not having a single Pro Tour closer than an 8-hour flight away (again, this is not such an issue when the Pro Tours are closed tournaments with no spectators involved, but I’ve heard that this is about to change  and we’ll have PTs open for public again.. fingers crossed!). PT „Huey“ – the large set that is going to be released in the fall of 2014 – should be in Hawaii again, which is always good news, so I think that making the location of the Pro Tour attractive is still something Wizards cares about, but I really wish there were more PTs in exotic locations where the trip itself would be worth it.

I wish there were more sets with great limited playability.

With the bright exception of Modern Masters, I haven’t been too excited about most of the recent limited formats. Don’t get me wrong – they were quite ok, but I felt that they still mostly lacked in terms of diversity. This was understandable in the Return to Ravnica block, where you were locked in one of the guilds, but even in Theros, there are just a handful of archetypes that dominate. Either you can be in white heroic aggro, heavy black control, red-black aggro or you can be a green midrange deck. Blue goes in almost all of these archetypes, which is probably why I have found myself to be drafting it pretty much in every draft I sign up for, but apart from that, you’re again locked into archetypes that overlap only to a very small extent. When I approach a new limited format, what I’m looking for is an environment which leaves a lot of space for maneuvering and different themes that overlap and supplement each other. When that’s the case, there are many more decisions to be made in each draft and it discourages players from drafting on „autopilot“. With few clearly defined archetypes that don’t leave too much wiggle space, on the other hand, you just need to find out what’s open and then follow the proper procedures. As I’ve already said, I think that recently, the limited formats have been leaning more towards the latter than the former, which makes sense from the design point of view of the sets (which nowadays always have clear-cut mechanics), but hurts the playability of limited. So – to cut it short – what I wish was true (and I hope it will) is more diversity in limited. Second and third sets of any given block usually make limited more interesting, since they mix things up a little (just what happened with Dragon’s Maze in the RtR block), so it’s likely that Born of the Gods will make Theros limited a bit more spicy. But in general, I wouldn’t mind seeing more sets that encourage players to experiment and go off the beaten path in limited, sets that provide more space and less incentives to follow the track that has been laid out for you to follow.

I wish there was a Magic-related game as awesome as the old „Shandalar“.

Okay, this is likely a wish based more on nostalgia than anything else, but seriously, how can you not love this game? I must admit that I haven’t played Duels of the Planeswalkers much, but Shandalar certainly used to be really sweet. At least when I was sixteen or so and I played the game on one of my first computers.

I wish more cool and competitive Dragon creatures were printed.

Seriously, Dragons are awesome. This might be a fairly individual claim, but when you look at it from a broader perspective, it makes you think a bit about how you see flavour as part of Magic – is it important? Is it negligible? Tournament players tend to think and claim that it’s not improtant at all and even though that’s likely the answer that even I would give you in the middle of a week of tournament preparation, I think that's not the whole truth – if Magic was just a game of numbers without any flavour whatsoever, I doubt I would still play. Flavour makes the epic wins even more epic, it makes the casual part of Magic (which I still take part in, from time to time) more satisfying, etc. Actually, even though my primary focus has been tournament Magic in the past years, I still like to spend time with friends playing highlander and making up wacky formats. Right now, we’re planning to try a format where first, there’s an auction of letters in the alphabet (where players bid on handsizes and life totals, starting at 10 and 30 and going down) and then when you have your letter, you have a week to build a 100-card highlander deck where every card other than basic lands has to start with the chosen letter. I’ve played this format in the past and it was a blast, so I’m looking forward to doing it again. I’m still not sure if I prefer a 10-card 27-life „Q“ deck or a 5-card 15-life „S“ deck, though.

I really recommend mixing serious tournament Magic with more casual formats from time to time – not only does it make playing the cards more enjoyable, but it can also give you different perspectives on the „common perception“ of things, it can teach you how to think outside of the box, which I think is super important for deck builders and grinders all over the world. Mixing up these formats helps you stretch your grasp of the basic principles that determine the successful strategies in tournament Magic, exercise the knowledge behind the common perceptions. It makes you think about why things in Magic work the way they do, because it brings you to places where these principles can work in completely different ways.

My last wish is... I wish I was fourteen again, cracking my first pack of Magic: the Gathering. Magic just feels different when you are a young kid than when you’re twenty-something. Looking back, going through all these cards, exploring all the Dragons and other monsters really did feel special. I’m certainly happy where I am today – having friends who play Magic, playing the game at a competitive level, something closer to a sport than to anything else. But remembering my beginnings with Magic, when everything was still shiny and new, I certainly do feel a bit nostalgic. To all of you out there who are at this age, enjoy every moment of it and may you open many Dragons in the packs that you got for Christmas!

Thanks for reading and all the best for 2014! See you next year,

Adam Koska

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