Opinion: Why We Should Support "Magic: The Gathering"

Yesterday, an article was posted on Bleeding Cool's "Comics" hub about how Magic: The Gathering is becoming an institution that isn't supporting its player base. In this article, I intend to rebuke this as well as I can, because I feel strongly that Wizards of the Coast is doing their sincere best in accommodating their players.

"Sorin, Lord of Innistrad" Deck Tech - "Magic: The Gathering"
Source: Wizards of the Coast

On Magic's R&D

So, the first thing that Ken Stewart, who is affiliated with Rodman's Comics through Gamers' Palace Comics and Games, notes is that Wizards of the Coast's Magic R&D team has been deliberately pushing certain cards of a higher rarity in order to sell cards. My first response is that Wizards of the Coast is a subsidiary of Hasbro, which is a big-name toy and game company, if not the biggest name today; of course they're going to want to sell their products! So Oko, Thief of Crowns is pushed to mass-usage in major tournament scenes and is a $50+ card in financial terms. That's not going to remain a problem when they ban it in the formats where it proves a problem. Look at Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, and its impact on Modern. It had an impact and now it's banned. Wrenn and Six isn't banned yet because it's easy enough to kill it with an early-game burn spell in Legacy and Modern. Oko is a likely candidate for a Standard ban given some more time to prove how ridiculous the card is.

Oko, a new Magic: the Gathering Planeswalker
Source: Wizards.com

Of these examples that you originally gave, Hogaak has been dealt with, W6 doesn't necessarily need to be dealt with, and Oko is probably on its way out come November 18th. The counterbalance to poor quality of cards is a healthy ban list. This game has seen instances where cards needed to be banned often and en masse in the past. Look at Mirrodin Standard season. Artifact lands, Disciple of the Vault, and Skullclamp were all banned from Standard. That is seven cards banned in not even just a single Standard season, but in a single block of sets! Comparatively, the current Standard season is child's play. Modern is clearly also being slowly phased out in favor of Pioneer (despite what Wizards is saying), but that's meant to breathe life into the game, and it looks like it's working.

On Ken's WPN Status

On to the next complaint: Ken Stewart losing his status as a Wizards Play Network affiliate. On the surface (as I can't speak as a store owner so can't go further down), this feels like a gripe that is his own problem. He claims that while the WPN status is linked to stores with an emphasis on tabletop gaming, Wizards of the Coast, with its "[PC] games, books, [licensed] intellectual property for tv shows, toy lines, and movies and many other random things", tabletop gaming is not 75% of its priority.

I'm sorry,  what?

Firstly, elaborate on those "many other random things". How many of those things are completely unrelated to Magic: The Gathering or Dungeons & Dragons? Remember Dungeons & Dragons? I certainly do. It's Wizards of the Coast's other big seller and, more relevantly, is a tabletop game that is still very much supported by the company.

Anyway, your main concern was with Magic, and still, you're in the wrong because without the cards printed for tabletop, we wouldn't have the Magic: The Gathering: Arena game, the books associated with the storyline of the game, any of the toys by Funko or thereabouts (including Arena of the Planeswalkers, a tabletop boardgame spin-off), the movie (which is still in development hell), or the Netflix show. And if you think for a moment that Wizards of the Coast won't be pressured by Hasbro to provide tabletop card game material as tie-ins for the Netflix series, you'd be sorely mistaken.

Anyway, back to your lost WPN status. You are sore about this because they rejected your reapplication on the grounds that your bathroom "shows signs of rust", and you defend this by saying the building is over a century old. I'm no expert on infrastructure, but so was my childhood home. I lived in Rockaway Park, in New York, which is a suburban part of the state close to the water and was devastated by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. And you know what my family did when the basement showed signs of rusting and mold? We fixed it. It took a fair amount of contracting, but we took the initiative to fix that basement. And we didn't even have a huge influx of people visiting it every day, so there wasn't a huge incentive to do so. But please, do gripe about how you want to keep your bathroom rusty. I'm sure your players enjoy using it.

On a similar note, I'll tell you about a store that I saw lose its WPN status. Perhaps you have heard of it; it was called A Store Of Fire And Dice, and its WPN status was revoked for reasons of a highly-controversial nature. ASOFAD lost its status because they had defaced the poster that was given to them by WPN about store etiquette, and also flew the flag of "Kekistan", an alt-right troll-created fake country, in open sight.

Opinion: Why We Should Support "Magic: The Gathering"
This isn't okay. At all. Source: Reddit

This store is still functioning and is based in Long Island, New York. Before I moved upstate, I frequented the store. It was only once I moved that I learned about the revoked status. The owner, Jesse DeMarco, is still spouting alt-right philosophies and throwing shade towards Wizards of the Coast on his Twitter and Facebook pages. A lot of people across the Magic community see the place as a blemish and him as a madman. As someone who identifies as agender and is therefore in a demographic that is marginalized by the alt-right (among many others), I don't believe they're wrong. Wizards of the Coast cares about the players in all demographics. Have you noticed the initiatives they've taken to support marginalized groups? They're definitely there.

I also know of a few really good WPN-affiliated stores, such as Alterniverse in Hyde Park, New York, which despite downsizing to a major degree and moving to a more rural area than previous locations, is still being supported by the Wizards Play Network. I don't know about rural stores being the problem. Anthony Just, the owner, even happens to sell comics as a primary focus, so I don't know about the comic focus being the problem either.

Opinion: Why We Should Support "Magic: The Gathering"
A comic book signing at Alterniverse. Source: Facebook

So yeah, if there's one thing I can agree with Ken on it's that we should voice our opinions to the Wizards Play Network, however we see fit. But honestly, they close places for good reasons. If he wants to complain about Magic when it's specifically the WPN that's letting him down, he has every right to do so, but in doing so he's wrong to misguide his frustrations.

Ken: Do you really want to be another Jesse DeMarco just because your bathroom isn't up to snuff? Or would you rather be an Anthony Just, and make it despite the odds? Maybe your piece is enough to let Wizards see that you're trying. But really, you should do more than complain, because actions speak far louder than words.

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About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.
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