A Response to Fail Night Magic
Stepping out of the Professor at Tolarian Community College’s video addressing FNM promos, I have some thoughts. It is clear to see that this is a serious issue for enfranchised players. Were it not, he would no have made his video. Were it not, no one would be talking about it. But I would like to do my best to offer some perspective. To put this in simple terms, this is not a change for you. In fact, this is so much not a change for you, that this outrage only fulfils the goals of the change. This change was to disincentivize competitive players. And in doing so to allow new ones to flourish. But as always, his is not a simple issue. Nothing is ever a simple issue. So in this, I would like to address the specific issues raised by the Professor. With hope, we can come to some sort of understanding that this is a necessary move.
To begin with, competition is not an incentive. Not everyone is so driven to win that the will continue to lose week after week in it’s name. What hope do I of winning, when I can’t spend $300 on a standard deck? When I can’t dedicate 3 hours of my day to the Limit Resource Set review. The Professor says that, competitive players must remain. Competition is what drives new players. I concede that to some this is true. Those born competitive people. But for the rest of us, to go 0-3 with our beloved Cat deck. There is discouragement in it, like it or not. A drive to win is not a quality we all have. So to this I say that, for FNM to flourish, we must diversify it.
This is all ignoring the outrageous cost on entry into non-draft FNM events. Like it or not, by and large, magic has a pay to win game. Formats are almost solved over night. Following Pro Tours and GP’s, the decks that win rise to the top, become bought out. Then, taken to FNM, all in the hope of winning a couple packs, and a promo. To reiterate, what hope does a new player, fresh with a starter deck, hope of winning, or even lasting a few turns. A 13 year old, without an income. Even me, paying bills, making due. I can only afford to draft. I can’t afford to have a fun standard experience and keep up with competition. In the end, this is not competition. A 1 v 1 match with two $400 decks is competition. My $30 budget build against Mardu vehicles is slaughter. So to that end disincentivizing competitive players isn’t to disincentivize competition. It is to give players, who never could have a chance, a chance.
The issue of a double sided token as the incentive to win, isn’t an issue. It isn’t an issue because this isn’t for you. Of course it is a strict downgrade in the promos that came before because it’s meant to be. I do not believe that this is a reward to attract a new kind of player. Instead, I see it as a lesser reward, and nothing more. It is something competitive players don’t want, but still MTG bling. You won. You got the unique shiny card. That is your reward. And you can use it in your deck.
The professor’s point on promos at the standard show down is a fair one. I will admit that. If this was their perceived incentive, they should move it to where they want the traffic. You want competition out of FNM; get rid of the promo. You want competition to be at the Standard Showdown; give them the promo. The choice to include a piece of foil art for a Rebecca Guay land is fantastic. The piece is chance in it’s non-foil version, and so it’s foil would only be more so. In fact, this may encourage competition in he standard showdown. A place for competition.
At this point, though, The Professor misrepresents the issue. Outright claiming that, given this single example, all will likely be land. But we don’t know this. In his Daily Update, Blake Rasmussen says that this is subject to change. “….we’re trying something new. That doesn’t mean we won’t re-evaluate in the future—we’re always evaluating what we’re doing.” To use the fact that lands may end up as a tired example is fair. But only in the conditions where someone states so. I foresee that it’s likely a the promos will end up in the packs. Only that this time Wizards wanted the promo to be a chase land. I may be speculating too, but my speculation regards varied alternatives. Not a single reality. There is no base for the Professor’s speculation on the continuation of lands. It feels as though he is clutching at straws.
From here, the rest of his points stem from speculation about why Wizards changed the promo. As he goes, he diverts further from the outlined reasons. I’m not pretending that Wizards tells everyone their reasons, all companies do. But using speculation, even good speculation, as a basis for fact is wrong. There is no mention of the quality of promos as a basis for change in either listed article. This is a clear strawman. And on top of that, a false one. The quality of promos has upset people. And it has been a factor in their absence at FNM. There is basis for the belief that quality of promo affects competitive attendance. I’m genuinely confused by where this came from, all the same. That Wizards are doing this because of complaints of quality. What’s more, The Professor doesn’t believe they’d make the smarter change. To improve the card quality.
To actually address this point, I recognise that quantity is important. This is especially the case in large stores. But in small ones it isn’t. Small stores has more than enough. There is an underlying problem here that Wizards needs to look into. But the level of micromanaging necessary, it’s clear why they don’t. It would take more effort than it’s worth to balance this between different size stores.
The professor’s third premise does raise some eyebrows because it’s a fair point. Wizards states that the quality increase of promo didn’t change attendance. The Professor then questions how can they correlate. How can promos and attendance relate if once quality changed, attendance didn’t? But Wizards isn’t correlating these two. They are correlating two things from this. That or new players and promo quality. And completion and promo quality. The implication lies in he next line. “….we don’t want players showing up just because they want the promo—we hope they’re there because they enjoy playing Magic…” It isn’t competitive players themselves they want to disincentivize. But competition. So to play for the sake of it.
He then talks about how the lack of change in data may be due to reputation. That, if Wizards doesn’t offer a good promo for long enough, no one expects one. And so the attendance doesn’t change. But were that the case, Wizards wouldn’t do anything. That data would mean that people who don’t like the promo aren’t going to FNM. It must be something else, otherwise their goals would have already met their goal.
To speculate some more, the lack of interesting promos may have been a subtle way to reach the same goal. To get people who are competitive out. Yet it didn’t work. Which would mean that they looked at more data than a single point. Like user reviews, or some such thing.
The professor’s final point about whether people go to FNM for the promos and only the promos is a fair. He does make it out to feel like FNM is dying, which it isn’t. But I have a few final points myself, because I conclude. If the promos weren’t that big a factor in attendance, why does it matter? This video address why they shouldn’t go, but not why they matter at all. If you want to simply play magic, shouldn’t the winning boosters, or personal victory be enough? To talk about having fun, and then complain about a lost promo; these topics don’t connect. FNM will be no less fun with the loss of the promo. And if some competitive players get so irate that they never go, and open the flood gates for new players. I’ll be happy. Because the more new players we get, the better the game will be. The better the next generation of pros will be. Or maybe they’ll pump WoTC’s profits. IDGF. We can’t expect everyone to want to keep winning for it’s own sake. And you can’t convince people to spend $400 on standard if they don’t see the fun in it. Competition is fun, but there needs to be an official casual space. And this is a push towards that.
Ultimately, The Professor does not give credit where credit is due. His arguments lack depth. Attacking the change, without acknowledging the reason. The removal of the promo was to stop it being a factor completely in competition. So that people who came to FNM, did it for the fun of FNM. Not only to win. The promo token is not to bring in a new audience, but to offer a no stakes prize. The standard showdown offered a home for competition. But they don’t need to move the promo there because the promo isn’t what brought competition. It was the idea of a powerful prize you can use. Saying the should move it, if they believe that and that alone, brought competition. It’s a wild over simplification of the issue and undermines Wizard’s decision.
I get being salty. But this is childish. It’s upsetting to hear that the way you play is not wanted were it used to be. But, misrepresenting the issue is unprofessional.