Randy Buehler is a hall of famer, former director of Magic R&D, a Magic commentator, the man behind the popular Vintage Super League series, and—most recently—the co-commentator and creator of the Standard Super League.
The Standard Super League begins on Tuesday, April 28, just days after the Vintage Super League Finals come to a close on Sunday, April 26. No longer do fans have to wait for more league action between seasons. Super Tuesday will be a day that viewers can tune in to get their weekly dose of innovative decks and expert gameplay across a variety of formats, dependent on the current season.
The format isn't the only thing that's changing in the Standard Super League, though. This time around, the Super League will receive constant commentary each and every episode from not one, but two Magic Hall of Famers: Randy Buehler and Luis Scott-Vargas. Each week, Randy and Luis will host a single-elimination eight-player tournament where they'll detail the twists and turns along the season's course. The League line-up, combined with this commentary team are sure to make the upcoming season a great one. The Standard Super League airs Tuesday nights at 6:00 p.m. Pacific (UTC-7) on twitch.tv/magic!
How did the Standard Super League come to be? Where did the idea of the Vintage Super League originally come from, and what are the logistics of running a Super League? Randy Buehler was kind enough to speak with us about these questions and more in the interview below.
How did you come up with the idea of a Super League? Did it exist in any form before being broadcast to the masses?
It came from me thinking about how to make a more compelling Magic stream. Once I got back into doing coverage for Pro Tours and Grand Prix I starting thinking heavily about what we could do to make things better / more fun for viewers, and one of the things I thought could work was to have a small group of guys that played every week so you could watch all of their storylines unfold over the course of the season. That’s unlike a Grand Prix, for example, where you’re never sure who will be there and each event is a self-contained story that more or less ends on Sunday.
I’m pretty happy that we haven’t really had to change much of anything since we first launched the idea. We’re always tinkering with and (hopefully) improving the details, but the over-arching structure has played out pretty much exactly how I hoped it would.
How did you lay the groundwork for the Vintage Super League? Did it take long to recruit a full League?
It did not take long—a few big names did say no along the way, but the first person I asked was Luis Scott-Vargas. I knew about his love for Vintage so I was pretty sure he would jump at the idea, and he did. With him on board it was clear to everyone I asked that the league would be a pretty big deal and lots more people were excited to join.
Honestly, the biggest piece of the groundwork probably came before that. I had the idea, but I didn’t know how to actually execute and handle all the logistics required to make a good show until I hooked up with the folks at Shotgun Lotus—a Seattle-area video production company that was doing a fairly innovative stream for their Vintage Rotisserie Draft series. Those guys—Paul Waite, Steven Birklid, Josh Monks, and Jesse Wilke in particular—handle the graphics and the technical side of the production really well.
Many of Magic’s top players have competed in the Vintage Super League, and soon the Standard Super League, all of whom still play competitively, have a full-time job, families, or all of the above. How do you go about scheduling the Super League?
I picked Tuesday because it would give everyone time to get home from any weekend event they had travelled to, and would not interfere with travel to anything on the upcoming weekend either. Meanwhile I knew it would need to be after work hours. Season 1 started at 7:00 p.m. so West Coast folks would have time to get home, but that made the show run pretty late for East Coasters so the change to a 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time start has worked out really well—I just to try to put the East Coast players up first so they can go to bed if they need to, and the West Coast players with jobs appear later in the show.
Do you have a favorite deck that you’ve played in the Vintage Super League?
The Blue Belcher deck has definitely been my favorite because I think it’s an example of the Vintage Super League affecting the real-world Vintage metagame, and because I think the VSL folks who have played the deck (me, Chris, and Kai) have made significant improvements along the way.
Right when it seemed like we would be Super League-less for a few more months, you surprised viewers with the Standard Super League. What led to its creation?
Vintage Super League has been fairly successful so I was wondering what other sorts of shows would work. Meanwhile, I didn’t really want to take an off-season from telling cool stories about Magic and Magic players, so for me it was really a question about what format would make the most sense to try next.
I chose Standard because it changes the most, which I think will be really fun to watch on a week to week basis especially since the players can bring new decks every week. I also wanted to try out an 8-person league so we could have a mini-tournament on each show, along with a single winner and a single winning decklist. I am genuinely excited to see how much of an impact this show winds up having on Friday Night Magic and the weekend Open circuit tournaments as well.
The line-up for the Standard Super League is full of fantastic players. Could you give us a little background on how you went about getting this particular group of players together and making the Standard Super League work?
I wanted brewers. I wanted folks that could innovate every week and show up with cool new decks. I also wanted great players who could pilot those decks well, and I can’t imagine what a better lineup would look like. We’ve got everything you could want on both the building and the playing side of things, and it should really be a treat to see what these guys bring to the table every week.
Will players who placed last in the Vintage Super League be allowed to play in the Standard Super League at some point in the future? If so, could they be able to win back entrance into the Vintage Super League?
What we’ve decided to do is have a play-in tournament to see who gets to join the upcoming season of a Super League. So for Vintage Super League we’ll pick eight guys who will battle right before season 3 to see which one of them gets to replace David Williams. This play-in tournament does a couple of nice things—on the one hand it lets us give a lot more people a shot at a spot and on the other hand it also gives us a way for previously relegated players (including, in this case, both David Williams and Josh Utter-Leyton) the chance to win their way back into the league.
Are there any members of the upcoming Standard Super League that weren’t originally interested in Vintage, but jumped at a Standard League?
Kibler. I asked him about Vintage Super League, but Vintage is just not a format he played so he declined fairly quickly. Standard Super League, on the other hand, was right up his alley.
Any Standard decks out there currently that you can see doing well within the Standard Super League? Is there a deck in particular that you have your eye on?
Who knows what these guys will come up with! For me that’s a lot of the fun. Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, in Brussels, will certainly define a lot of the metagame for the early weeks, but this Standard looks pretty open and interesting to me so we’ll have to wait and see where it goes from there.
Do you have any changes planned in the upcoming season, aside from a whole new format, that you’re particularly excited about?
Well the 8-man bracket each week is definitely a new twist on things, as is having a permanent commentary team of me and Luis. We’ll learn a lot from all those changes.
Totally hypothetical, but if you could create a third Super League, what would the format be?
I’m really tempted by Cube (I picture every show starting with a draft), but Limited just doesn’t seem to draw as big of an audience as Constructed, so if I had to answer right now I’d probably say Modern. I’ll have a lot more data to work with in a month or two once we see how Standard does, though.
Anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap things up?
Don’t forget to watch the Vintage Super League playoffs tomorrow! There are actually three Super League shows in the next eight days as the Vintage Super League Semifinals are Tuesday April 21, the Finals are on a special Sunday edition of Vintage Super League on the 26th, and the Standard Super League makes its debut next Tuesday, on the 28th. Should be a fun week!
Thanks to Randy for the interview! Get psyched for the Standard Super League by watching past episodes of the Vintage Super League on twitch.tv/magic.