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On Going Pro At Magic - The Gathering 108

VonGuard writes "It's been 12 years since Magic: the Gathering was released, by WotC, and the game is now six million players strong. The East Bay Express has a long-form piece narrating the trials and tribulations of a man who's trying to turn pro at this addictive trading card game . Richard Garfield is always demanding the mind athletes be treated with the same respect as physical athletes. As you can see in the story, however, we're not quite there yet."
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On Going Pro At Magic - The Gathering

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  • Pro? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BigZaphod ( 12942 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:52PM (#8184247) Homepage
    Aren't professional role players generally called actors? I'm confused...
  • by Snowspinner ( 627098 ) * <<philsand> <at> <>> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:05PM (#8184388) Homepage
    I'm not entirely convinced that MtG players are so much "Athletes of the Mind" as "Athletes of the Wallet"...
  • Re:Pro? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Senjutsu ( 614542 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:05PM (#8184396)
    Aren't professional role players generally called actors? I'm confused...

    Magic: The Gathering isn't a role-playing game, it's a competitive card game with definite winning and losing states (utterly unlike most pen-and-paper RPGs). Going pro at magic is thus much more akin to being a professional poker/chess/(other competitive intellectual game of your choice) player than acting, which it shares little if anything in common with.
  • Re:I can't believe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:15PM (#8184529)
    I'm typically not condescending of other people's posts, but this is particularly ignorant.

    Yes, there is an element luck involved, but would you say that all that poker is is a game of luck? Of course not. The same applies to magic. The reason that certain players [] (kai budde, jon finkel, etc.) consistantly place well at pro tours and grand prix is because they are simply the best there are at the game. period. they dedicate themselves to the game (some people take a year off from work/school to "go pro" - no kidding) and really understand it.

    money really isn't an issue, unless you're playing type 1, which there are barely any sanctioned events for anymore (NONE of the pro tours or grand prixs use this format in fact. they are all type2 [only cards currently printed] or extended [the past several sets]). the cost of a competetive deck in today's environment is much less than the equipment a football player owns, the membership to a gym, or countless other activities. not to mention that expensive cards != ( for all you vb6 guys) good at the game. if i sat down across the table from bob maher, and i had a deck worth several hundred dollars more than his, chances are he'd still school me with a 20 dollar deck.

    yes, there's luck involved. yes, cards can cost a fair amount. but is it a game of skill? yes. does it reward intellect and originality? most definitely.
  • Re:I can't believe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Talondel ( 693866 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @07:28PM (#8184666)
    I actually stopped playing about the same time you did (Alliances). Believe it or don't there are far MORE people playing magic now than there were back then. Around here (Phoenix AZ) there were 300+ people playing at a tournament last weekend, that had no cash prize. They each payed $30 a piece for the right to play. There will be a money Tournament in Oakland this coming weekend (the article mentions this at the end) that will draw around 1000 people from all over the country.

    Your comment about "It is a game of money" really isn't true anymore. While it was in the past, "TYPE I" magic, where you can play any card, no matter how powerful, is pretty much dead. These days, "Standard" or "Type II" magic where only the last 2 years worth of cards can be played, is far more common, and it doesn't take much cash to build a competative deck in this format. Even cheaper to play (and what I still play from time to time) is Limited magic, where you buy 45-100 cards when you enter, then build your deck out of only those cards. The only expense is the entry fee ($10 to $20 depending on the number of cards used). The "Pro Tour" plays primarily these last 2 formats, so saying that its all about who spends more money really isn't accurate these days.

    The game isn't as skill based as chess, and has more luck involved than poker, but it's still a game where the better more experience player will tend to come out on top. Which is more than I can say for Fluxx....
  • by MORTAR_COMBAT! ( 589963 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:08PM (#8185568)
    I could respect a terrifically skilled MtG player. But I'm not going to pay $30 and go with a group of friends to watch them play, and tailgate in the parking lot with brats and beers, like I do for hockey, football, basketball, and baseball.

    Is it challenging? Yes. Does it deserve respect? Sure it does. Is it entertaining to watch? Hell no it isn't!
  • Re:Pro? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lactose_incarnate ( 659200 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:16PM (#8185644) Homepage Journal
    In high-level Magic, the price really isn't an issue. You'll never see someone at a PT playing a sub-optimal list because they just didn't have the cards.

    And Draft, widely regarded as the most skill-intensive format, doesn't even require you to own any cards; you sit down at a table with seven other people, pass packs around while you each take a card in turn, and then make decks from the cards you pull.

    The only format where price matters and where $300 cards are legal is Type 1, the format that includes all the sets printed (sans Portal and Unglued), and there are no truly high-level T1 tournaments (that's not true, but WotC does not host high-level T1 tournaments, so the difference when discussing Pro Magic is negligible because the prizes in T1 tournaments come mostly from notoriety and success, as opposed to cash winnings).

    I won't address the other issues in depth, because skill and strategy depend on what level you play the game, and we don't need to degrade the discussion by bickering over "more from your 'talent' spectrum."
  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:30PM (#8185763) Homepage
    With thousands of cards to remember, hundreds of deck styles, and perhaps most importantly millions of players, MtG is a good mind sport. Strategies off hand? High Mana decks. Vampire decks. Suicidal creatures decks. Control decks. Land destruction decks. Small damage high volume decks. Swarm decks. Rainbow decks. Green Giants. Deck destruction. Artifact sacrifice. Living lands. Everyone dies. etc, etc, etc. Is your deck fast or slow? Is one more card of type X worth 1/60th of every other card in your deck? Do you concentrate on a perfect opening or a perfect ending? Do you balance resources or creatures? Does enchanting a particular creature make it too much of a target? And that's just the planning phase, coming from what I remember 5 years ago.

    This game is deep, and in a much less artificial way than, for example, being able to read out 50 moves in a go game. That's not to say that it is as deep as Go, just that it is deep in a way that is both more interesting to the average player and more likely to be watched by the average viewer (in this country).

    Of course they don't teach it to children... Children are so interested in learning about it that they teach themselves. That kind of interest draws quite a large business side, an unfortunate but expected side-effect. And there was a time when Christian Fundamentalists decried all card games, including Bridge, as the devil's work.

    The Olympics are not the be-all-end-all of what can be considered a worthy pursuit. The Nagano Olympics had ski shooting. Ski shooting. I rest my case.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:46PM (#8185884)
    I'm not going to defend Magic as a pure game of skill because it isn't, but it is better than you think. From what I've seen of YuGiOh there are some creatures that are strictly better than others. That is, they cost the same to cast and have no other disadvantages compared to a weaker creature.

    Richard Garriot made Magic so that is never true (or almost never). If a creature is bigger it costs more, if it has a special ability it costs more. It's more like rock-paper-scissors, for every advantage there is a way to counter it. If your opponent plays a 13 mana monster you can counter it with a 2 mana card, or pacify it with a 2 mana card, or kill it with a 1 mana card, or block it forever with creature tokens you can make forever, or steal it and use it against him.

    I play occasionally on Magic Onlne, but I haven't bought any of the last three expansions, and I never spent that much to start with, but I sill win more than half my games among casual players.

    As far as skill goes, I've won many games against far more expensive decks by playing strategically. It ain't chess, but knowing when to spend a spell on a bothersome creature and when to let it live, when to wipe the board with a wrath of god, when to activate abilities, which enchantment you need to destroy . . . there are many decisions to make during a game and each one matters. I watched the last tournament finals when they posted the videos online (yes, I am that sad), and even when each player knew the content of the others deck and sometimes even the cards in their opponent's hands they still had to stress over decisions weighing what the next few draws might be, and having to think three or four turns in advance.

    It certainly ain't chess, and I think it costs too much to keep up with all the expansions, but I find it fun to play casually when winning isn't the only goal.

  • by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:26PM (#8186609)
    I sound a lot like this guy. 7 years younger, but getting on the Pro Tour is something I'd really like to do, and Magic is a game I've loved playing, even when I had to stop because I just couldn't afford it any more. Now that I'm somewhat an adult, and can trade and bargain hunt for the cards I want and need, I've gotten back into it, and I honestly haven't had this much fun since I used to play Magic beforehand. I have no illusions that I'm going to make money off the Pro Tour if I ever get on one. I have no illusions that my skill with the game is going to turn into a decent career, either talking about the game like Kibler does, or playing it like...hardly anyone does.

    What can be done, is turn skill at the game into paying for the game, or at least a significant portion of it. The $20-$30 I spend weekly on small constructed tournaments and limited events is a far better use of my money than spending likely twice that going to bars. I spend some on singles, but worth it as far as I care, as I'm a stingy (but fair) trader, and have a fairly good eye at what's going to be hot and what's not in the future. Don't bet the farm on me, but I've been pretty damn lucky so far. I spend money on singles when I can, let the store owner who I know rip me off in trades because I want him to stay making money and in business. Buy boxes of cards for $20 more than the lowest price I can find from him for the same reason. I'd love to be on the Pro Tour, love to get invited to Nationals, love to get to Worlds. Love to win that. Love to do it with a team like the Your Move Games people. Do I think I will? Nope, but I'm not going to stop shooting for that dream just because I'll likely never make it. Might as well someone who loves basketball to stop playing it because they'll never make the big time.

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