“Do you buy cards hoping to rip an Exalted Angel so you can stomp on your friend’s Daru Lancer, or to compete with everyone else’s Exalted Angels!”
Surveys– Results Analysis
By Anthony Skinner
You many have noticed that over the last couple of weeks we have been running a couple of surveys. The focus of which has been the role of the Extended format in seasons to come. The majority of people who use this site are in favour of there being a Champs for Extended and Printing Extended Rares as FNM cards.
The main debate is whether the effect on the secondary market is worth the increase in participation at organised play events. As a collector, having all your Pernicious Deeds, Exalted Angels and the like halve in value overnight would be detrimental to that part of the game. Magic the Gathering is a multi-faceted creature, the fact that I like to play in organised tournaments doesn’t mean everyone who collects Magic cards should.
As a collector if I go out and pay £10 to get my fourth Exalted Angel, I would not expect to see thousands of FNM cards released onto the market. If that sort of thing happened and I was a collector, I would be seriously angry and would consider if it is worth collecting the next set.
From personal experience the percentage of Magic players in the U.K who regularly attend Friday Night Magic and monthly tournaments is quite small. At present it does not seem that the focus of Wizards is to develop organised play in the UK, based on FNM attendances etc it is easy to see why.
If Wizards seriously intend to push Extended as a viable alternative to Type 2 and block tournaments then there would be some serious work to do. I remember reading an interesting article on the MTG site about the average “lifetime” of the typical Magic player, which they concluded was 2 to 3 years, Extended uses the last 6 legal blocks, going back six years. So any player, at any given time, on average, will only have access to half the legal cards. Wizards has started printing the staple uncommons / commons to encourage players to take up the challenge of another format, but only time will tell if this has been a success.
The other thing to consider is that this year there are 4 legal blocks for type II, when there is a new set out every 13 weeks the focus is going to be on collecting the new cards. It usually takes me the better part of a month from the set’s release to get all the cards I want from that set, I then have only have about 8 weeks to use them before the next block comes out and the process starts all over again. With the demand that schedule places on the player, it is unlikely that many will have the time or financial resources to visit the three blocks before they started playing and collect all those cards as well.
I Just don’t Rare!
The most common comment I hear on why people don’t play tournament magic is, “It is all about the rares, I don’t have the money to win FNM” This is to a large extent very true, when I started playing, I thought Magic was a very cheap game, after all if I buy £20 of cards, then I get eight boosters and 120 cards. I only need 60 for a deck and 25 is normally land, so I have enough cards for two or three decks. This is all well and good if the people you are playing against are in the same boat. Go to FNM with that deck and you would do well to win a single game, versus four wraths (£30), four birds of paradise (£40) etc. Your two colour deck gets colour screwed, whilst your opponent with his £400 mana base consistently beats you with 3,4 and 5 colour decks. It is easy to see why the casual collector, who in all likelihood, has just as much potential as a player, just turns around and doesn’t come back.
As a thought experiment I wonder whether taking the need away to collect expensive rare cards would seriously damage sales. After all, in the UK at least, we have already hypothesised that it is the minority of players who attend the tournaments where the mega-bucks decks see play.
Let’s look at the numbers, there are about 3,000 registered DCI players in the UK, although a percentage of those no longer play regularly, if at all. So 3,000 is an inflated number to some degree. There are probably at least ten times, if not more, who do not play in organised events. I realise that most of this is based on conjecture, but I am basing this mainly on hearsay from store owners, as to who buys the product on their shelves.
You then need to look at how much product the average player purchases. The average Friday Night competitor most likely spends ten times as much as the casual player, who buys packs rather than boxes! So on balance it is probably about 50/50 in terms of sales. Based on that assumption 50% would be too much to risk!
You then have the collectors who do not play, it is very difficult to come up with any percentage for the Magic collector’s role in the magic community. But each collector, purely in terms of sales, is worth two or three FNM competitors, who will on average own 1/3 to 2/3 of each set and 20 or 30 casual players.
So I am beginning to see just how difficult a job Wizards have in keeping the sets balanced to try to please everyone!
Does Extended have a future in the U.K Tournament Scene?
I do feel that I would like to see more people at tournaments and have a greater diversity of formats available. But just looking at the above you can see that it will require a lot of Magic Players to get a lot richer first and have a lot more free time. Having started as a casual player and now playing in the larger National based tournaments I can see how my expectations of the game and the new sets have changed.
As a casual player, I would spend typically £15 - £20 a month on collecting magic cards and just played against my friends, who spent a similar amount or had collections from a while back, when they used to play. If Wizards released a set every month I would be happy as I have no intention of collecting a playset of rare cards. I would quickly find I was getting “repeats” of commons that I didn’t want and I would like new sets so that I got something new.
As a collector, I want to be able to collect the latest set before the next one comes out. I want to be able to find the cards I need and take some satisfaction from my hard work. The same can be said for Traders, who like to “trade up” for the latest chase cards, if the chase cards are continuously shifting, then it will be frustratingly impossible to make good deals.
As a competitor, I want to be able to compete on a level playing field. I want the winner of a match to be determined by the relative play skill of the competitors. If I can only afford Daru Lancer I don’t expect to face off against Exalted Angel every round, that wouldn’t be fair!
I think the big question is “do you buy cards hoping to rip an Exalted Angel so you can stomp on your friend’s Daru Lancer, or to compete with everyone else’s Exalted Angels!” You can sort of think of collecting Magic cards as an arms race, do you want the latest weapons to give you an unfair advantage in a battle or as a deterrent to stop your competitors gaining an unfair advantage on you?
So imagine an extended tournament is taking place next week. The majority of you have a few Invasion cards and have bought a few packs from Onslaught, you have your Champions cards and your latest Ravnica ones. So basically your type 2 decks with a few cards thrown in. Do you know someone who has been playing a lot longer, who would take great pleasure in turning up with Affinity.dec or Pyscatog to win without any opposition, thought so!
Now what has any of this to do with Extended’s place in the tournament scene?
Well if we make the following assumptions:-
· The potential pool of players are casual players and tournament players.
· Keeping up with current releases has exhausted the current tournament players budgets.
· The rate of new sets coming out means players only have time to concentrate on one format.
· Extended cards still retain a meaningful percentage of their peak value once they cycle out of Type 2.
· If reprints of old cards come into circulation the value of the original cards decreases.
· Players will arm themselves with the best cards if they are available.
The conclusion would be that there is no room for extended unless some of the following happen: -
· A new pool of players can be found, either casual or ex-tournament who have moved to different CCGs.
· The cost of obtaining the cards falls drastically.
· The rate of current releases slows down, e.g, two 400 card sets a year, six month gap to explore all the various formats.
· Secondary Market values are unaffected.
· All players have access to the same cards.
It is unlikely that Wizards will release less sets per year, as this is their primary source of income. It may be possible to persuade them to release larger sets less often, but with Ravnica so successful and high hopes for Time Spiral it is unlikely that they will try to fix something, which is perceived not to be broken.
I do not think it is possible to play two constructed formats at the same time, when there are only eight weeks between new sets being considered for type 2 play. But it would be possible to make Extended tournaments more accessible to players who would not play any type of organised play at all. Options include:-
· Printing Proxy decks from sets several years past, similar to the World Championship Decks you can get, which haven’t affected the market price at all. These silver bordered cards would be legal for FNM and other small 16K REL1 tournaments.
· In addition to the above, a special type of extended that doesn’t include the latest sets, so you would have type II, the last two blocks + last core set & Extended – Previous three blocks before that + previous two core sets.
Think of the last idea as appealing to the people like me that wait for new DVDs to come down in price before buying. If you want to play in a three year time warp then you can play very cheaply by buying proxy decks. Something like this could well get the casual players interested in coming into the competitive tournament scene.
This way more people will play Extended and this will drive demand for larger tournaments, which you will need to have proper versions for, those that wish to take the competition past the FNM level generally expect to have to pay for an expensive deck.
I do believe that the UK is an excellent guinea pig for WotC to test new ideas with regards to organised play, the UK market is a relatively small share of their global presence and represents less risk, so if they want to try new things here I would support them. I certainly don’t believe that “one size fits all” applies to Magic, what works in America and Japan doesn’t necessarily work here.
So that’s about it really I have rambled for long enough!, please let me know what you think in the forums.