Magic’s history began in 1993
Magic’s biggest asset, without a shadow of a doubt, is its community and the sheer intensity with which its players, no matter how much money they’ve spent on packs or how often they attend Magic Fests, love everything about the game and identify so strongly as members of the community. Sure, they aren’t going to blindly applaud every move that Wizards of the Coast makes, but I imagine that every Wizards employee knows that when community backlash happens, it only comes from a place of intense caring.
It has undeniably been a big few years for Magic. Magic Arena’s success has changed Magic unlike anything in the game’s history. The only few major events that, in my opinion, come close are the founding of Type 2 (Standard), establishing the Reserved List, and New World Order.
Magic Arena has done a lot of incredible things for the game. It greatly expanded the playerbase, it made the game significantly more accessible, and it allowed for significantly more investment in professional Magic … errr … Magic Esports. It’s little surprise then that Wizards of the Coast needed to alter course to account for and take advantage of Magic’s new digital popularity. This new direction came with a massive overhaul of Magic as we know it, including yesterday’s announcement that Planeswalker Points were to be wiped from the web and forgotten about entirely.
The respect for Magic’s past and the who, what, where, when, and why’s surrounding Magic’s early, formative years were important readings and watchings for those who took an interest in Pro Magic. The wild west of the Power 9, ante cards, and the very first Pro Tour are a world away from 2020 Magic, but acknowledging their importance in shaping the Magic we love today was never forgotten.
However, times change and so do most cherished pastimes. You’re never going to see peak-of-his-powers Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky ever again, and we’re never going to see Cy Young’s wins record broken. And that’s okay! In fact, I would argue that Magic’s respect and adoration for its past and the people who made the game possible actually survived longer than expected.
What kept professional Magic a constant and treasured club was the people. Randy Buehler and Brian David-Marshall immediately come to mind as people who were dedicated to keeping Magic’s rich history alive. The way that the two of them, as well as others such as Rich Hagon, Maria Bartholdi, and Marshall Sutcliffe, put such emphasis on each individual players’ role in writing the Magic history books made it seem that anything was possible. Their emphasis on the prestige of a competitive, strategic, intellectual endeavor such as Magic, rather than the significant amount of money that came along with it, made watching Pro Tours feel nearly mandatory.
You were sure you were witnessing history. Never would a Pro Tour pass without mentioning which former Pro Tour Champions and current Hall of Famers decided to attend. Never would a Pro Tour pass without the inevitable debate about whether or not a player had solidified themself as a Hall of Famer with their fourth Pro Tour top 8. And never would a Pro Tour pass without reminiscing about players, decks, and times passed that the viewer had maybe never even heard of. And that’s what made it special. The vast and exciting world of Pro Magic that was painted was what drove the community to keep going.
Magic Arena has done so many incredible things for the game. It made it accessible, portable, and provided enfranchised players with a digital client that rivaled those of the top games in existence. What it also did was show Wizards of the Coast the success and the money that the digital client could bring them. Bigger events, more money, and digital tournaments followed. Anything that could be done to transform Magic into an Esport was frantically put in place without thinking of how it might impact the longevity of the game and world we loved.
In truth, we all bought into the picture that was painted of a worldwide community where history was valued and the old ways were protected. Slowly, over the last few years, the paint has been chipping off the painting. The name “Pro Tour” has become taboo on coverage, the Hall of Fame is a nonfactor, and Grand Prix have become meaningless, or at the very least invisible, as video coverage has disappeared. Nearly every feature of the old Pro circuit has been demolished as if it never happened.
Every time another feature of the old ways is removed or changed beyond recognition, the community rallies around itself, promising to keep the great history and spirit of this game alive. Renaming the Pro Tour, moving to a digital-first system, and eliminating Planeswalker Points as well as wiping 27 years of match history are all small individually, and yet together they change Magic monumentally. We will all remember the way things used to be done and the way that tuning into the first draft of a Pro Tour made us feel, but things change over time. I just wish that the neverending respect for Magic’s history, as was plentiful only a few years ago, can be brought back and cherished a bit more.
In summary, I’m tired of feeling like the game is slowly drifting away from what made all of my experiences playing this it so special. The night before my first Grand Prix, I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited about the possibility of playing Magic all day and becoming a part of something larger than myself. Even if it was the only Grand Prix I ever played in (spoiler alert: it certainly wasn’t), I was taking part in history in some way. Every win I gathered was bringing me one step closer to being even the smallest footnote in the vast and rich history of this game. Step by step, the book of Magic’s history is being rewritten, having pages torn out, and stuffed away far from where the Esports suits can see them. Times change, and certainly so does Magic. But I am concerned that rather than being proud of Magic’s past, those in charge are starting to feel ashamed of it.
Magic’s history is starting to feel like it began in 2017.
Until next time,
@jonahgaynor on Twitter