Last week I booked a flight to and pre-registered for Grand Prix Montreal, March 13–15. During the pre-reg process, I debated whether or not to get the sleep-in special for what I thought would be my one bye. (During the last season of 2013, I was real busy with my new job and wedding plans, and so—even though it was was sealed season, my time of the year—I wasn’t able to make it to as many PTQs as I would have liked, and I only got to 541 Planeswalker Points, well shy of the two-bye mark.) So I thought I would have one bye for Montreal.

No dice. As I later discovered while chatting on the Hipsters writers’ list, I’m going to have zero byes for Montreal, as it falls under the *second* season of 2014, and—this being Standard season, and December being a mostly blank month for competitive events—there’s basically no way I’m going to hit 400 points and the one-bye level. So I guess it’s back to making day two the hard way.

This lack of byes was an unpleasant surprise for a number of other Hipsters, including one Matt Jones, who ground (grinded?) it out last season and achieved an incredible 1,500+ points and, thus, three byes. Unfortunately, though, there’s not a lot of events for Jonesy to hit in this abbreviated first season of 2014—basically just January and February—and so his byes and his work on PWPs are kind of going to waste.

The reason why is that Wizards added a fourth season to the competitive year, and thus a fourth Pro Tour, which I remember a lot of pros were really psyched about. But it also had the effect of reducing the amount of time in which everyone has to earn—and use—byes.

Clearly this is something Wizards wants to happen, reducing the overall number of byes that everyone has. (That’s also why they cut the number of byes you get from winning a Grand Prix Trial or Grand Prix Grinder from three to two.)

This was a feel-bad moment for some of us. One of our crew said that he wouldn’t be as willing to grind for points in the future, since the reward isn’t what it used to be. And I know the feeling: In the fall/winter season of 2012, I grinded (ground?) pretty hard at PTQs to try and make 750 points, which was within my grasp, even going so far as to make a last-minute weekend trip to freaking Worcester for the final PTQ of the season in a bid for PWPs—and I made it! I felt really great about it, even though I was only able to use those two byes at one GP in the following season, GP Charlotte. So I could understand where my compatriot was coming from.

But as I thought more about it, I started to see Wizards’ move as being similar to a country with runaway inflation devaluing its currency. (I have been informed that I am probably wrong on what this is called, and that a devaluing a currency is maybe the exact *opposite* of what it’s called—and that mabye I’m actually talking about something along the lines of a contractionary monetary policy; but no matter … I think I more or less accurately explain what I mean, correct term or no, following this parenthetical.) At first, this causes a shock to the system, as suddenly your money isn’t “worth” what it used to be … but as the system restabilizes, and you begin to be able to buy X goods for $5, whereas before X goods used to cost $10 … isn’t it the same thing? And if everyone has been made subject to the same system, so that *everyone* has fewer points and fewer byes, won’t one and two byes be worth *more* than they used to? And therefore be *more* highly valued?

For instance, let’s say GP Montreal turns out to be 2,000 people. Under the previous system (and I’m just spitballing here), maybe 150 people had three byes, 200 had two, and 400 had one. If you reduce those numbers evenly and across the board—50, 100, and 200, say—isn’t it kind of the same thing? Maybe my math or reasoning is off here, but I actually think what Wizards has done will ultimately prove to be a good thing, as it seems self-evident to me that the more that people have to play more and not less matches of Magic at a GP, that the fairer the results will be, because *everyone*—not just you—is going to have to prove his or her skills in a greater number of Magic games. That’s got to be good for the game, right?

That seems to be Wizards’ reasoning, anyway. And I, for one, remain cautiously optimistic. Sure, it’ll be a bummer having to get up and deck-reg with the hoi polloi (kidding) in Montreal this coming March, but I 7-2’d a PTQ last fall, and I’m sure I can do it again. Plus, every match of Magic I play, especially at high-level events, makes me a better player—and lets me have more fun playing a game I love. How is that a bad thing?

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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