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By: Meyou, Derrick Heard
May 11 2015 12:00pm
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This will be an unconventional article because I am putting the solution/conclusion at the beginning of the article. Mostly, I don't want you to miss it.

What: Casual Penny Decks; Theme – Tribal Rejects (The lesser played or known tribes of Magic)

When: Tuesday May 12th at 8:00 pm Central time (9:00 pm Eastern, 7:00pm Mountain, and 6:00pm Pacific)

Where: On Magic Online in the Constructed – Just for Fun room

How: In the Just for Fun room, host or join a match under the Classic format with "Tribal Reject" or "Penny Decks" in the comments.

Deck Restrictions: All decks must cost less than one ticket or bot credit.

Example of the deck that I will be playing.

Mutant Sushi
When Food Fights Back
Creatures
4 Shambleshark
4 Battering Krasis
4 Elusive Krasis
4 Breaching Hippocamp
4 Jace's Mindseeker
2 Slipstream Eel
22 cards

Other Spells
4 Unstable Mutation
4 Savage Punch
4 Spreading Seas
4 Butcher's Cleaver
16 cards
Lands
4 Simic Guildgate
7 Island
7 Forest
4 Thornwood Falls
22 cards
 
 

 

Why: Just for the fun of it. This should include your deck construction. Yes. Yes. We are eventually in some fashion trying to win. However, this is the one opportunity to play something you can't play anywhere else.

What you see as example above is what I will be playing. Everything cost one penny except for the Spreading Seas that costs 0.04 bot credits. I know, I know. Big Spender! Anyway, you get the idea.

Now returning to your regularly scheduled article.

Casual's Rise and Decline on MTGO

What happened to casual? When Magic Online first began, casual players were everywhere on the digital platform. I should know. I was there from the beginning. I got my hands on this CD thing from one of the shops I was frequenting. Once uploaded on my computer, I was beta testing. Well, not really. I was one of those people who got online and just played. I never really did anything except play and that was even infrequently. I was in college and the Internet connections back then were slow as hell. Dialing up and logging on could take as much as ten minutes and that was on a good day. These young kids now a days like to complain about MTGO, but seriously, it has come a very long way. It is like comparing an Atari to X-Box.

What happened? Well, you first have to put it into context. The Magic world of today was just different that it is today. A big hurdle to playing Magic was simply finding someone that played Magic. Not every city had a nexus that is the stereotypical comic book store. Even if you had a store, not every store wanted to deal with this Magic fad. Many saw it as simply that. During the early years of Magic, comic book stores also were in turmoil. Stores opened and went out of business very quickly. I've shown up to more than a couple for FNM to find a seized notice from a bank plastered on an empty store. If you have always had a stable store to visit, count your blessings. Many Magic players were constantly seeking a place to call home. It sometimes amuses me when people talk about their "options" on podcasts. The fact that people can actually choose which store to attend only showcases how times have changed.

So, when MTGO first appeared, it gave many, many people a surrogate home. We were instantly adopted and the displaced players flocked to this online phenomenon. As I stated previously, times have changed. As store fronts for tournaments and regular Magic have grown, this need to cling desperately to the life-raft that was MTGO has faded. The popularity and rise of EDH and Tiny Leaders has also pulled many casual players away from the digital world. Many stores even have a night just for EDH/Commander. When I first started, most stores only had a FNM. The other nights were dedicated other games. Now, it is Legacy during the weekend, FNM on Friday, Modern on Monday, EDH on Tuesday and etc. The rising success of brick and mortar stores have in a sense led to the doom of certain online formats.

This isn't even my main point of this article. However, it plays a pivotal role. Let me ask a question. What is a popular format online that is non-existent in the real world? The answer is pauper. If we mull over what I just talked about, pauper isn't even offered or entertained for that matter in the brick and mortar stores. MTGO is the nexus for these scattered players who are fans of the format. With that, this brings me to the main point of my article.

Hosting a Party

Let's say I want to have a party. What do I need? For one, I need to invite people. I need to tell them where and when. Also, I need to tell them the theme of the party. The theme will dictate the social contract of the party. An adult themed Halloween party will have a much different vibe than say a birthday party for my two year olds. If we break down the metrics of a social gathering, we need the who, what, when, where and how. Any party without any of these metrics may not be a success. This includes such things as even weddings. If you didn't send out the invites to the wedding, many guests will never show up. Those invites also need to specify the when and where. Otherwise, your guests won't know where or when to show up. It is overly simplistic, but all these pieces need to come together to make an event successful.

If we look at the other formats like the big formats such as Modern, Standard, Legacy and drafting, there is an entire schedule dedicated to informing players on what, when and where. This is a big problem with casual. There is no underlying structure. Basically, logging in online hoping for a casual game is akin to walking into a brick and mortar store and simply hoping there is somebody there to play a casual game with that night. Sometimes, a person gets lucky. Sometimes, you simply sit there awkwardly as other players wonder what the hell you are doing there. That lack of structure turns into despair and frustration. As a casual player, it turns into giving up hope and the slow bleed of casual players commences.

Fixing the Problem

There is a solution. The solution is finding hosts or champions of the casual format to create events. It is simply wishful thinking that people will just show up. It just doesn't happen. Weddings just don't happen. They take structure and someone to initiate the event. Wishing for a casual format goes against human nature. It reminds me of college and sitting in a bar on a slow night. You'd see people constantly come in, see the lack of people and leave. If all those people had just stayed, there would have plenty of people to have a thriving night of entertainment. But, people are people. People don't like to wait around to see if anything happens. It is just not in their nature. Besides, most people only have a finite amount of time. They want to be where the party is at. They don't want to hang around a bar with only a few people in it. It is the reason some swanky bars hire people to attend a bar in the early hours. It gives the perception that the place is "happening". Once the bar fills, the hires leave.

Now, I am not the kind of person who will blame Wizards of the Coast for everything like global warming and etc. This is a big however, I do have to knock them for literally doing nothing for the casual formats. I'm not contending they put immense amounts of man power, money and time into such an endeavor. However, a simple article a week to promote casual events online would go a very, very long way. Well, to be fair, they actually do a fairly terrible job of promoting MTGO to begin with. In any case, one article a week, on the mothership, would do wonders. It could be anything really. It could simply talk about a casual theme. It would then offer some deck lists to inspire people. Then, it would say, "hey, if you would like to join me. Go to online at these hours in the Just for Fun room and join me. Let's have some fun!" See. It isn't too hard. I'm already doing it with this article.

In all honesty, I think the guys and gals at HQ are doing a fine job. Isn't there always a however with me. However, they do tend to miss the boat sometimes like say foils for Commander product. Such a no brainer. Yet, I grow tired of all the MTGO negativity. Yes, it can cause havoc for grinders at time, but you know what. If you are a casual player, the program is virtually fine. I've rarely have it ever crash anymore during a casual Commander game. I've been booted a few times, but that too is rare. Does MTGO have problems? Yes. Do they know about them? Yes. Do they know things we don't? Again, Yes. This doesn't mean we should badger them constantly with negativity. Maybe this is just me getting older, but I just don't have the patience or time for negativity. Or, it is the fact that I think the overwhelming negativity is unfairly hurting MTGO. Cripes people. I don't need to hear the opinion (sometimes fact) constantly. I get it. The world gets it. Enough already.

Casual Champions

As much as the grinders gripe about tournament crashes on MTGO, it can be a virtual utopia for casual play. As long as power and money cards are feigned, cards on MTGO are dirt cheap. Most are literally worth pennies. A person can build an entire deck for one dollar. One dollar people. It is hard to find that entertainment value anywhere else. If cards are so cheap, why isn't casual thriving? The overly simplistic answer is that we need people to champion and structure the format.

Without a champion or tournament organizer, there is no structure. Without structure, casual play doesn't happen at least not optimally. The big problem these champions need to tackle is the what. Casual by default is a very wide open format. A player with a squirrel deck could sit down across from somebody playing their casual Power Nine Vintage deck. Each of those players have a different version or definition of what is casual. Playing casual is like saying we are having a party. We then have some people show up in St. Patrick's Day attire while others are showing up with Halloween outfits and Wedding dresses. It is dysfunctional and it is why we need someone to champion and organize the mess.

This is why we need champions who will write articles. Who will say, "Hey, this is the theme for this particular week". These are the deck restrictions or requirements. Those champions also need to show up. Those columns/articles also need to be regular and weekly. While casual players can be flexible, keeping the format alive and healthy requires a regular column. It doesn't just have to be on the mothership either. It can be from anyone. Wizards of the Coast isn't setting up starcitygames events. Starcitygames is setting up their own tournaments. My point is we don't always need to rely on Wizards of the Coast to always spoon feed us. If we want something, step up to the plate and get it done.

Conclusion

I hope at the end of this article that the beginning of it makes more sense. Am I trying to be a champion? My answer depends on the success of this experiment. If successful and if people enjoy it, I will keep at it. It also depends if other champions arise. I'm willing to concede or bow to better champions than I. Time will tell (just being honest). Otherwise, I hope that you enjoyed the article and I hope to see you online for some Tribal Rejects.

Derrick Heard aka Meyou.

15 Comments

You may be right in your by Lagrange at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 15:31
Lagrange's picture

You may be right in your analysis. However, personally, I don't think the succes of certain formats at the LGSs have killed off those formats online. There may be correlation but not causality. I used to play a lot of EDH online. I dont do that anymore. But it is not because I am playing somewhere with paper cards.

I wish you all the best with your project. If I am to return to casual then I need to be able to open the client at any time and join a game within 5-10 minutes. More PREs will not do the trick for me.

Thanks for the perspective. by Meyou at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 14:33
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Thanks for the perspective. I'll keep that in the back of my mind moving forward.

Just reading through the by Meyou at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 14:36
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Just reading through the article again, I realize I forgot something very important. I'm drock8493 online. See everyone tomorrow!

Much of the Tribal crowd by AJ_Impy at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 14:38
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Much of the Tribal crowd isn't based in the U.S.: It might be worth going for another time slot.

Thanks for the input. Yeah, by Meyou at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 14:51
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Thanks for the input.

Yeah, I realize this is a total experiment and it will need refining. I also acknowledge this can turn out to be a total bust. I think of it like fishing. There's no harm in trying. Plus, I'm not going to catch anything by staying home.

I should mention that tribal isn't the only thing on my casual to do list. I just simply thought tribal was the simplest way to start. The "utopian" idea would be to have different themes each week. Next week it might be "alternate win conditions". The following week might be "Trying to Lose", "No creatures" and etc. Anyway, you get the idea.

Good article Meyou, though I by Flippers_Giraffe at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 14:56
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

Good article Meyou, though I don't believe the decline of casual players has anything to do with the paper world.

I believe it's more to do with client changes the Mythic rare and Planeswalkers. Also people move on, from a casual perspective there's only so many times the same card can be re-printed via either Masters or a different version. If you've played for as long as me you will see that Wizards are struggling to make each set interesting without stepping on their own toes. Sometimes a set is amazing sometimes not in the case of Khans. I suppose it really depends on your format of choice, if you prefer Vintage/Legacy you wont see many interesting cards coming into the system.

In regards to your casual tournament, which I wish you the best of luck with. A few points you need some prizes to entice people to play, two there isn't a format called classic any more. three how will you validate the cost of players decks?

One more thing I wanted to raise is why would casual players want to play in a tournament, doesn't it defeat the object of the article to play casually? I'm not bashing you I think its a good idea but it did make me wonder.

All the best Flip

Maybe you should not think of by Lagrange at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 15:32
Lagrange's picture

Maybe you should not think of it as a tournament but more of an Event. People get together with decks constructed over the same theme or easy rule set. Then they play each other without any specified tournament structure. Instead they do it just for fun and join any open game.

Since it is very casual then you can probably do without a strict control of whether the decks follow all the rules. If you care enough to show up then you probably have a legal deck. Or else just concede and more on.

Yes, this is exactly what I by Meyou at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 15:35
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Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking.

Ah I see I missed the "Then by Flippers_Giraffe at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 16:27
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Ah I see I missed the "Then they play each other without any specified tournament structure" part thinking it was going to be run like a normal PRE.

Oh nearly forgot to say my by Flippers_Giraffe at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 15:06
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Oh nearly forgot to say my answer to the issue is community building, if you want this to succeed the casual player base to grow and prosper you need to build a good community of players with your own chat room / clan(s) etc

It's no small project, I've been there before but it's possible.

Thanks for you input as well. by Meyou at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 15:34
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Thanks for you input as well.

This isn't supposed to be a tournament. This is supposed to be just a come and play kind of thing. However, we have a time, date and theme going on. It's kind of the same vein as EDH. You just show up and play other people.

I'm trying to steer clear of prizes. As soon as there is something monetary, it begins to warp whatever it is that you are doing. It happens all the time to EDH as Grand Prix's. People just want to win the packs at those and it quickly degenerates to somebody winning with a combo. It's not fun. I was about giving out squires or some other horrible card in foil to people randomly.

I also wasn't trying to get too carried away here at the start. First, I don't know if this is going anywhere. Two, I believe in letting it evolve naturally. Maybe the casual players want something else. Maybe there are other things I am not thinking about. I figured I'll test the waters a little bit first before getting too carried away.

Again, thanks for you input.

I'll be there by bdgp009 at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 18:35
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There are actually a lot of us trying to champion the casual building of decks. I have read the 5 decks for 5 dollars article but i guess there are just a lot of writers writing for competition and not for casual plays that is making it hard for casual to come back. You should have put up a room for us to socialize and chat while waiting or something becase it would be sad if we cannot talk to those who would come, Lastly what time is it in the philippines I am really not that good at timing.I don't know if my hound deck would be a dollar deck after i take out the rare and mythics but i can't seem to have a place to use it since I always fall asleep before Tribal starts here.

9 PM Eastern Standard on by AJ_Impy at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 18:59
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9 PM Eastern Standard on Tuesday is 9 AM Philippines time on Wednesday.

Tnx AJ. This would be like by bdgp009 at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 19:04
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Tnx AJ. This would be like Tribal without prizes. but at least i can play. Its actually morning here.

I create the following chat by Meyou at Mon, 05/11/2015 - 19:35
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I create the following chat room: casualweekly