Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Soapbox Time: The Magic Community

This is honestly something I never thought I would want to say, but here it is: I'm getting sick of Magic. It's not anything to do with design or the game's storyline (although, so work in that department would be nice); it has to do with the people. Now, I know there are a lot of good people out there playing Magic, but this is to address the all-too-common problem of the bad players. Not "bad" players in the sense that they don't know how to play the game well; I mean "bad" in the sense of those people who want you not want to call yourself a Magic player anymore. Those people who will openly berate a new player for not making the same $500 Standard deck that he did and dared to try something new.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I do make fun of my friends whenever they make bad plays, but there's a difference in lightly mocking a tournament regular for not blowing an Oblivion Ring when he had the chance to do so and openly ridiculing a player on their fifth game for trying to run Murder in a Standard deck. This has become a real problem in my eyes and I've seen a lot of new players chased off by it. The other problem that I see is that there is a segregation between casual and tournament players that really makes it difficult for some players to break into the tournament scene. Maybe that's just something that's happening here in Winnipeg (a fairly small market), but I suspect it's happening elsewhere too.

For example, my club used to run Friday Night Magic out of a great little store that didn't focus on Magic (actually, all they carry is a box or two of the latest set). As a result of it's location (far away from the other 3 major Magic stores in the city), a lot of new players showed up to play since they had never had the chance to drive the 15-20 minutes to another store. Soon, regular tournament players started showing up and that's when comments started coming my way. Snarky comments like "I can't believe this newbie didn't believe me when I told him his win-con didn't work" and "It was boring; newbies don't pose a challenge" alongside comments about the store trying to "steal customers" all stung. The saddest part? No one stepped up to say "hey, remember when you used to make stupid/less-than-perfect deck builds when you started?" or anything like that. It was all let through as "part of the game". Due to my work schedule, I've had to start looking for a replacement to run these events. For the post I made about it, I felt the need to include "Must be willing to work in a newbie-friendly environment that supports learning and good sportsmanship". I really shouldn't have to put that in there since it should the the standard by default. However, it seems that that is no longer the case.

Who's to blame for all of this? That question doesn't matter; people know who's to blame. How do we stop it? Well, I for one think that we as a community should stop looking at new players simply in the context of how bad they may play the game. If you see someone who is new and struggling to make the right deck choices/plays, ask them if they'd like some help. Don't tell them how to play the game explicitly, show them the path. Instead of "you need to get rid of that leveled-up Student of Warfare" say "which do you think is the biggest problem: the Student of Warfare or the Homarid Shaman?" Don't play at tournament speed with new players; take your time and allow them the chance to react to everything that you do. Finally, explain what you're doing. Not everyone knows how each infinite combo works, so be sure to explain it just before it goes off. Personally, I like to tell new players when they should try and stop me so that they know how to recognize when a combo is coming together. Losing to a newbie isn't the end of the world. Remember, Jon Finkel, Carlos Romao, and Shahar Shenhar were all newbies at one point.

In short, as my friend Mike would (probably) say: "Can everyone just stop being jerks for, like, 5 minutes?"

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