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By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Jun 23 2008 11:34pm
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Mark Rosewater and the Quest to Impale Spike

Spike Feeder

There is a war going on.  A war between WotC and the World of Entertainment.  A war over our money... a war over the money of players and future players everywhere.  We, the current players, inhabit a small town between the sides of this horrific battle.  Sometimes the sides blur, and a mortar that was aimed at the enemy lands in our village.  At least, that is what seems to be happening recently.  Many rounds of 'acquisition' mortars were fired in January 2008 and they're starting to land, and they're not discriminating where they hit.  

The first round landed in January with cancellation of the Magic Scholarship Series (formerly the JSS).  

January 18th:
MSS for 2008 cancelled - http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/events/mss, discussion: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=969196

We saw the mortar land in the orphanarium and there were many causalities.  We received a communication that it was for a good cause, and that those casualties wouldn't be in vain.  This setback was for the greater good after all.  We had no idea that another round of mortars was little more than two weeks away....  We weren't told of this attack directly by WotC, but luckily some industrious scouts were keeping close tabs on the orphanarium and they got the word out as fast as they could.

February 7th:
States/Champs cancelled - http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=events/magic/champs, discussion (non-WotC):

The next mortar landed in the House of Representatives, killing off delegates from every state and location.  Again, we were assured that it was for the best interest of those impacted and that there would be reparations for the damages and inuries received.  All would be revealed in due time, we were assured.  Unfortunately, yet again, this information had to be relayed via scouts. 

February 22nd:
Acquisition Challenge - http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/dl25, Discussion: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=994089

And here we get our first glimpse at the impetus behind these attacks: acquisition.  It's not very obvious, and in hindsight we should have seen the warning signs.  However, the snippet of the broadcast that indicated this information was hidden inside a much larger, seemingly benign, transmission.  If only we knew then what we know now...

March 3rd:
Assume the Acquisition - http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr321, Discussion: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=997854

This time we catch a full transmission that details the plans of the war.  We realize that the loss of our Orphanarium and our houses were because of this war... and some of us are appalled, some of us are confused, some of us are ambivalent, and hopefully, some of us are fighting.  We hear a call for volunteers from the WotC side of battle.  A request for help and assistance to keep the WotC way of Life, for our children.  And our children's children.  A plea to take up arms and fight against the unnamed masses that are trying to destroy our way of life.

April 13th:
V3 is Launched.

And again, we don't see the big picture through the brown on brown camouflage.  We are distracted by the many other pieces of the software.  

April 18th:

Loss of a PT location - http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/bd315, discussion: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=979798

This was a new type of ordinance.  Not only did it hit and remove a popular destination, it was also a stealth round.  It was not detectable by casual observance, only by viewing it closely was one able to see it and by then it was too late.  This announcement was hidden inside of a completely non-applicable column.  It wasn't until someone pointed it out in the forums that people noticed.  And once that happened there was equal venom for the way it was announced as there was for the loss of the PT.

 April 25th
Announce Wizards Play Network - http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/bd329, discussion: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1023032

We're now informed about the new strategy of this war.  It isn't going to be fought as it was before, with flash and pizzaz; but instead it is going to be fought in the trenches and with many low level fighters doing the brunt of the work.  WotC is changing from "Spike" centered environments to more "casual" friendly environments, hoping to lure out the casual gamer into the shops and stores.  Of course, these prizes and initiatives must come from somewhere; and that 'somewhere' is from the still beating heart of the Spike players.

May 3rd:
PE's tested on V3 (round 1) - http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1026800

There are enough issues that we again don't really see the issue for what it is yet.  People are more concerned with bugs and the inability to use this feature than anything else.

May 21st:
PE's tested on V3 (Round 2) - http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1034385

And now we see something of concern.  There are no Intentional Draws.  This sparks perhaps one of the most intense debates on the WotC MTGO forums in quite some time.  WotC stays out of the conversation until they mention that an announcement is coming shortly.

June 5th:
Casual PE's, Flatter 4x, less 4x - http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=magic/magiconline/article060508a, discussion: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1041789

While the village is scrambling and debating the issues raised from the now live PE's and their lack of drawing we are told that not only is there going to be a "Casual" PE, but that the 'big' events are now flatter as well.  It makes sense for a Casual experience to pay out in a flat prize structure, but changing the prize structure of the 'big winner' events makes no sense... except in context of the War of Acquisition.

June 6th:
No intentional Draws - http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?goto=newpost&t=1042097, discussion: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1042105

It's announced that there will be no Intentional Drawing on Magic Online.  Looking at the decisions based upon the war that was started in January and it begins to make sense.  They are okay with impaling Spikes if it means luring out the higher amount of casual players.  They are sacrificing the very good players to pave the way for the new players.  This is the War of Acquisition in action.  These are the casualties.


Master Warcraft

And so we find ourselves standing at the edge of a devastated village.  The citizens are war torn and frightened, and are working to rebuild the village upon the ruins of the previous one.  However the bridge has been set ablaze and the oldest denizens of the village don't dare to help people across it as they flee.  Thus, it rests on the shoulders of the remaining citizens to lead the new citizens into the village and start life anew... Shared Fate

For anyone who thinks that these casualties don't impact them, or that they're 'good' needs to exercise a great deal of caution.  I have said, and I still believe that building up the desire for casual players to play in events is a good thing.  A very good thing.  My concern comes in when so much is taken away from the top players to make it happen.  When one looks at the changes as a whole this year we see a lot of losses from the Spike side of the books to be used for potential gain in the casual side.  I hope that those changes have been actualized, otherwise we've just upset a decent portion of the tournament scene for no return on the investment.

And of course, that doesn't even go in to the way these items have been announced.  The removal of the MSS wasn't in an announcement anywhere, it was updated on the site that one must navigate to in order to find.  Ditto for the States/Champs cancellation.  The removal of a PT was also not 'announced' but was instead not listed and readers were left to assume the change based on the relevant information.  And of course the recent change to the Intentional Draws of Magic Online which were intentionally not included in V3 yet were never announced until there were questions on the forums, and even then the announcement took a long time to say that they were never meant to be in MTGO V3 in the first place.  It's one thing to change a policy or remove an event, but it's entirely another to attempt to sneak it by the players.  Not once, not twice, not even three times did this happen, but four separate times were there attempts to change something without actually announcing the change.  That is no longer an isolated incident or a mistake.  At best it's an indication of an inconsistent communications policy, and at worst... well, I don't even want to insinuate what the worst case scenario is.

We're about halfway through 2008 and what we've seen so far has me concerned.  Concerned for the loss of high profile events, concerned for the way important changes are communicated, and concerned for the ecosystem of Magic Online.  I will be keeping a close eye on any other changes that occur, as well as the usage stats for MTGO in general.  If acquisition is achieved it will be easy to spot on MTGO.

I don't hold out hope for changes back to top heavy payouts or Spike centered tournaments.  I think they are the largest casualties in this war.  My only hope is this: that WotC begins to communicate early and communicate often the changes that they are wanting to make.  I'd rather hear bad news early and get it over with than have something snuck into something else, or ignored until it becomes a problem.  That hurts things nearly as much as the changes themselves.


by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 12/15/2008 - 07:54
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sure, wizards tried to sneak 4 changes by the players unannounced and failed, but who knows how many they tried to sneak by the players and were successful?  the 4 failed attempts may very well have been worth it.

by iceage4life at Wed, 06/25/2008 - 12:33
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The end of magic thing was mostly based on the comments not the article.

I think you might be reading too much into the casual PEs.  They are there because leagues are not ready to go.  Doubt we'll see them once leagues come back.

Dunno, I could be wrong.  Seems to me though that MTGO has so many issues right now it is hard to draw parallels to paper magic stuff.

by hamtastic at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 07:19
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Ah, my bad IA4l!  I thought you were talking about the article.  :)

by hamtastic at Wed, 06/25/2008 - 10:27
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"The year of livng Changerously"

Actually, the reason I didn't add Mythics and Lands per pack to the article is because I don't see that as anything hurting the Spikes (the thrust of this article was based around that).  Since we haven't seen the actual impact of Mythic rares yet I'm not going to pass any jugement about them yet.  :)

While it may be aimed at making MTG more casual friendly I don't see it as a cost to spikes to do so.  

Just my thoughts, of course.  :) 

As always, good article by MechtaK at Tue, 06/24/2008 - 21:44
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The only thing I have to say about it, is that I came away from the article with the idea you weren't making any statement or argument other than "watch out!"  While I understand what you are getting at, alot of the casual readers may not.  Just my 2 mana.

Oh, and anon, what is the statement about basic lands in packs and mythic rares?  I haven't heard anything at all about this, and only even knew anything about mythic rares because of the inculsion in the Magic Card Editor.  Can you clue me in or at least direct me to something I can read about it?  Thanks in advance.

by graymocker (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 06/25/2008 - 02:08
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Eh, I dunno. They said exactly the same thing about OLS, the last "tribal" block - too kiddie, too timmy, etc. These things ebb and flow, each block WoTC builds will appeal to a slightly different demographic. A "newbie block" coming after a block that was a giant in-joke fanservice to longtime players doesn't seem all that unreasonable.

And really, there's nothing more amusing than a "Spike" obsessing over how the "look" of the cards has become too "kiddie." I'm sorry, MtGO art has always been infantile and unsophisticated, just infantile and unsophisticated in different ways. It's not like giant grotesquely muscular demon with a huge flaming sword is any less risible than prancing elves and fairies. They're both adolescent wish fulfillment fantasies, just in different ways. Personally, I've always found the flavor side of MtG hugely embarassing (have you ever tried to actually read one of those MtG novels?), no matter what the specific theme du jour was.

by iceage4life at Tue, 06/24/2008 - 18:18
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I don't know about the timing of the article.  Personally I don't think that most of the MTGO stuff you talk about is related to the changes in paper/DCI stuff. 

by hamtastic at Tue, 06/24/2008 - 21:42
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I think a lot of the changes we've seen lately are at least partially tied to making things more 'casual friendly'.

I don't think enticing casual players to play in tournaments is a bad thing.  It is in fact a very good thing if it can be done.

I do have concerns about what has been given up to make this happen.   But that's not to say that it will be a bad thing overall, just something that concerns me.

If all you got out of this article was "It's the end of magic!", I'd like to ask that you read it again.  That's not even close to the point I was going for, nor was it ever even mentioned that these things are killing Magic, nor did I say that these are bad things for the long term health of the game.  I do see a cause for concern about the changes to tournaments, and the impacts that that will have.

MTGO is part of MTG.  If MTG is trying to recruit players and start up the Wizards Play Network at the cost of a Pro Tour.  Not to mention that the guy in charge of ALL of North America Magic the Gathering tournaments is our very own Scott Larabee.  The guy behind the recent changes to the Intentional Draws.  And the guy who approved the Casual PE setup.  I think it's safe to believe that there's not pressure on Worth/MTGO to follow the path that paper MTG is taking right now.

I agree by dragonmage65 at Tue, 06/24/2008 - 01:28
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The very, very first impression that struck me when I saw Lorwyn was this:

"Saturday Morning Cartoons."

For the first time, I'm beginning to believe that Wizard's days may be numbered.

Awesome Article! by Mitchy at Tue, 06/24/2008 - 00:58
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Awesome article Hammy, I appreciate all the hard work and thought you put into MTGO.

I've been playing online for years and years now, like many others, and I went thru the school of "casual noob" to a spike. I rose myself from a random noob to a leader of multiplayer's top clan. I noticed something was really different with magic in lorwyn. It was wayyy too f'n timmy-ish.

At the local cardshop, it sold by the dozens and brought alot of new players in. While online it changed up our multiplayer metagame. It wasn't until V3 that really killed it for me. I havent played more then 20 games online on V3 i hate it so much. And the new sets suck soo much, and now I realize it's like you said, they're trying to sacrifice spike's for more new players.

I'm afriad that WOTC won't realize that Lor/Mor/Sha is like a passing fad, and all those new players that they brought in wont end up liking magic, or get sick of it and find a new game like wow, and all the spikes that spent so much damn money on the game are off playing other games like wow now too. Cause WOTC stuck a knife in their back.

Great article by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 06/24/2008 - 09:36
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Excellent article. I was suprised you didn't find the announcement about basic lands in packs and mythic rares to be part of this, but I certainly think that WOTC is going after a new demographic and flushing another down the drain.  I'm also really surprised that they think that new players will be so much more lucrative than dedicated spikes.

It seems to me that I spend much more on this game that either a casual player or a new player would since serious tournament play in block and t2 is going to require lots of playsets of rares from multiple sets if you want to be able to field all the decks in the metagame. I wish I could say that I'll quit, but i know it's not the case yet as I'm hopelessly addicted.  I suppose I just have to hope it doesn't get too much worse

As a side note, I've noticed v3 having a lot more issues with difficulty making/joining games in the tournament practice areas and others.  I'm not sure if this signals things to come or not, but certainly one has to wonder about where wizards priorities lie. 

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 06/24/2008 - 03:03
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They are definitly losing the old players from mtgo (i don play paper, so idk bout that). I understand the need for more players, but the way the game has alway gotten new players is by the old players teaching them. When the old players dont play anymore the game is dead.