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What happened to being strictly casual?


The Pipe Dream of Competitive Magic

I tried playing competitive Magic over the last two years and found it to be a generally miserable experience. I'm not a fan of how the majority of competitive Magic events are so excessively long. I value my time pretty highly and do not enjoy having to waste two days trying to spike a win at a 15-round Grand Prix or a 16-round Pro Tour. I found trying to get on the Pro Tour also pretty miserable, since PTQs were basically a gathering of degenerates having a dog fight over one plane ticket/invite. The new system PTQ system isn't much better since it's just even more grinding and more running around for the same thing.

To add to the misery, the Pro Tour itself is not exactly the most exciting thing in the world. I had a few friends go to the Pro Tour and they say the experience is pretty mundane even though they got to go to Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Spain and Pro Tour M15 in Portland, Oregon, two very nice places. I agree that Pro Tours probably suck since the Pro Tour is just a smaller GP with all of the "Pros" there, but with slightly more rounds of Magic. If I ever made it to a Pro Tour in Europe or Australia, I think I would honestly bail on the tournament and have fun in whatever country/city I was in. Yeah, you may think I am a fool to bail on the chances of winning money, but the odds of doing well at the Pro Tour are generally low and any value you would get out of the plane ticket from the PTQ is already a win. If you had a paid invite a Pro Tour in Australia, that trip is already worth $2,000 - $3,000. The time spent playing in a Pro Tour to win money is probably worth less than the experience of being in an exotic country that you may never visit again.

Slowly but surely, my Magic experience became very casual over time since I saw how unexciting Professional Magic really was. I also did not like how competitive play was so based around Standard/Limited, and how the Eternal formats were so overpriced and unsupported. I was also not in love with the "community," since my mileage has varied on the types of Magic personalities I have met. For a game that is to be said to be so complex and to be so diverse in terms of competitiveness, it's somewhat far from it. The reality is that some things are really just overly complicated for no apparent reason.

I played trading card games competitively on and off since I was 13 (I'm now 24). I played Yugioh, Pokemon, Kaijudo/Duel Masters and now Magic, and the weirdest part is that my best memories of playing any card game has to go back to when I was in my teens playing Yugioh. It was not so much Yugioh the game itself, but that I had a great set of teammates that were fun and interesting to be around. We were not the best, but we were a relevant team that had some solid regional wins/national placements and we had a lot of fun playing the game. Unlike most of the local teams around us that died off since they just clearly hated each other, our team died because we all moved on to other things in life. I'd rather see my team finish in 4th instead of 1st at every tournament since it felt as no matter what, we were happy with what we were doing. Also, as crappy as Yugioh is as a card game overall, the tournament structure was a bit easier to handle. I enjoyed how I could show up to a premier level event at 12pm and be out by 7-8pm and not have to be back for another day or waste my time/money sitting in a hotel stressing about how I need to sleep.

Commander Confusion

One of the things that confuses the living hell out of me is the existence of Commander. Sure, it's very popular and to some it's the greatest thing on the planet. But what exactly makes it so casual? The thing that I personally do not like about Commander is how it's considered the king "casual" format, yet it has so many rules that are different than regular Magic. I find this format very disconnected from a regular game of Magic since it's too different: 40 starting life, 100 card deck size, forced Commander, and 4+ player games. All of these things just make Commander entirely different from "normal" Magic. Given that every other format of Magic does not even remotely follow these rules, it's very confusing. I personally have never had any desire nor any interest in ever playing Commander. I am not interested in four-somes or having to play my deck around a single card. I think Magic's rules are fine as they are and do not really want a game where all of that is turned upside down. It's similar to how video games have changed. You now have all these MMOs where you can go online and play with a billion of people and waste a ton of money monthly. Or I could just maybe have a friend over and play Mario Kart or just play some Castlevania by myself. Why does everything have to get so complicated for no reason?

My favorite Magic formats are Cube, Legacy and Vintage, however, there are some issues with these formats from a casual perspective. Cube is the nutter-butters of having both worlds of casual/competitiveness, but it's a limited format. Legacy will never be a format you can play without proxies or without spending a decent amount of money. Vintage is broken beyond belief, and similar to Legacy, the format is never going to be a real thing. So with all of these issues, what exactly is a reasonable answer to making a casual 1-on-1 Magic format with regular rules similar to other formats?

Being a Hardcore Casual

My answer is a format called True Casuals or maybe Hardcore Casual is more appropriate. True Casuals is similar to Cube, except that it's a constructed version of it. It's a 60 card singleton format (minus basic lands of course). That's it. No changes in life totals, no players ganging up on each other, no having something in your command zone, no carrying around a bajillion dice, no crying about people casting a card you don't like. Just good ol' fashion 1-on-1, smash your opponent's face into the ground planeswalker-style, classic tried and true, American-as-American pie, Magic the Gathering. Nothing super complex or complicated about it other than knowing the deck construction rules.

I enjoy the idea of this format since any new player could jump right in. This format would be Legacy style, to where majority of the cards banned in Legacy would be banned here and everything else is legal. I don't really have an exact ban list idea, but I am sure that within an hours worth of time a pretty simple ban list could be thought up. Similar to why I like Cube, this format is a "good stuff.deks" kind of format. There are cute little synergies here and there, but the idea is to build a somewhat cohesive deck and just play Magic. In a way, it's like Cube, except that you get to draft the perfect Cube deck. 


Conclusion

None of these decks are perfect since I came up with them within 5 minutes, but the general idea is there. These all look like shadows of their Legacy/Modern decks, except 1) they are cheaper to make and 2) they have a lot more room for customization and 3) there would be a lot more uniqueness amongst decks in the same archetypes. I think this would be a pretty fun and easy format to play. Every archetype is possible to build and there is a lot of free space to do whatever you want. I like how the decks can look competitive yet janky at the same time. It's like playing Magic in a serious-yet-not-so-serious way. I could see this being a solid idea for a semi-competitive tournament, since the format makes you competitive, but there is a lot of leeway for doing whatever you want to do.

Let me know what you think in the comments section. It doesn't matter if you think it's a horrible idea or an amazing idea, just give me your thoughts. Any feedback is good feedback.

 


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