Philosophy: Magic as a Professional Game

Posted in NEWS on February 21, 2000

By Wizards of the Coast

Juan Tavira

With the beginning of year 2000, Magic: The Gathering (M:TG) faces its future with new spectations. Changes in the rules during the last year clarified very much the game procedures, and in spite of what many competitors had said, Magic is neither dead nor ill. But there are still some aspects that can be improved. The goal of this document is the following: What can we do for Magic?, or in this case, for professional Magic?.

I have been playing Magic since "Fallen Empires" -a long time ago- and one thing I liked very much about Magic was its pure strategy: it was always possible to improve your current gaming/deck designing strategy. You have new decks, new ways of playing old decks, and old decks with new cards. You can find all these items in a championship.

Let's think we are playing chess and not magic. There are some obvious differences: when playing chess all players use the same resources, their pieces in the chessboard and when playing ANY kind of championship they take notes, full notes, all movements are recorded. Why? The reason is obvious: players want to learn more about chess strategy. Wining or Losing is not important after the championship, the only important thing is to improve their skills, to learn from his/her or opponent's errors. This is the main difference between chess and professional M:TG. In M:TG players are only allowed to take notes for the control of the game: played lands, remaining life, life variations (and reason) but none of this notes can help the player to improve his/her strategy.

There should be many reasons for this rule, but they can be discussed.

Taking notes allows you to publish opponent's deck. This is true, but as we all know, all wining decks of every championship are published, Wizards, The Dojo, and many others do the same, so it is not a problem.

But you can do it between rounds, so it will affect your opponent next matches. Again true, but it will happen even if you don't take notes. If you are playing a championship with some friends, you would tell them how you did last round and the problems you encountered beating/being defeated by your opponent. Taking notes will not change this. If there were any problem the solution should be enforcing tournament rules, not restricting player's strategy improvement.

Players will waste much time taking notes. That might be true but it is not an unsolvable problem. Taking notes in chess is not: "He moved the knight from A2 to B4, taking black bishop", that is something like "A2xB4" (I guess, I don't know the exact syntax). We can reduce time (necessary for) taking notes by simple statements: L: Played land, example L: Dual UB, or C:2/2 flying, casted creature 2/2 with flying. This solution is something for thinking about, there will not be easy to find something like a standard notation. Maybe the use of template sheets with the usual actions (draws, playing lands, etc) could make the notation easier.

Another reasons? I don't know, probably yes but I'm sure that all of them can be discussed, and the problems can be solved.

Can we face this challenge? I hope we can. First of all, we need a notation. This is a hard work in which I'd like to help if anyone is interested. Second it will require a long play testing, qualified players at selected tournaments. And third, the final approval from DCI.

At least, if you have read this document, you can have your own opinion in favour or against. Anyway, I think it would be 'a big step' for Magic.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Juan F. Tavira
aka Hankcold