It was a tumultuous week at the highest level of Pro Tour team organization. Channel Fireball rocked the MTG fan community when they announced their new team lineup going into Pro Tour Born of the Gods. In short, virtually every member of the former Team Star City Games abandoned the S.S. Hoeffling in favor of greener pastures. Speculation ran rampant throughout the Twitter-verse as to the reasons for the change. Later in the week Pete Hoeffling made an official announcement that SCG would no longer sponsor a team at the Pro Tour. Oh, and in the meantime the rest of Born of the Gods was spoiled.

The New Team Channel Fireball

This was a pretty shocking announcement that came out Monday morning. At first it seemed like Channel Fireball had pulled a major heist stealing away the entirety of Star City Game’s competitive team. Very little explanation had been provided outside of some tidbits that were part of the coverage from Grand Prix Sacramento. CFB posted the above image to their Facebook page with the tagline, “You Name the Team.” The fan response was almost unanimous in condemnation of the move with some of the top suggestions including [casthaven]City of Traitors[/casthaven], [casthaven]Threads of Disloyalty[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Gruesome Encore[/casthaven].

The fan response, in turn, came as a bit of a shock to some of the players. Matt Sperling, who writes for CFB, was particularly defensive of the move. He had a few comments on Twitter which are worth noting:

What Sperling doesn’t seem to understand is that the move itself, regardless of the motivation or story behind the decision, is shocking enough on its own to the fans who’ve been supporters of the players on both teams for the past few Pro Tours. The biggest question of course was whether or not this meant that the players would be writing for CFB instead  of SCG going forwards. This also seemed to resolve itself over Twitter and this exchange with Kai Budde and @insideMTG was particularly insightful.

Everyone needs to make a living. That’s an incredibly important statement by Budde in light of these changes. Ultimately, it seems, this all came down to money. The members of Team SCG wanted some amount of money that SCG was not willing to give them. In turn, the players went to a new sponsor who was willing to pay them. So, just like a free agent athlete leaving for more money from a big market team, the members of what was once Team SCG took their talents to Channel Fireball.

In the sports world this is what’s referred to by players as the business-side of the sport. When contract negotiations go south and your favorite player leaves as a free agent, it’s just business, no hard feelings. Or when your small-market team can’t afford to pay their home-grown players the same money that the Yankees, or the Cowboys, or the Lakers, or the Maple Leafs are willing to pay that player, it’s just business. Well, when it comes down to why there’s no longer a Team SCG, it’s just business.

The problem is that fans don’t care one bit about the business behind the players. Fans don’t want to have to care about how much sponsorship money one team has over another. They want to use the same sleeves as their favorite players and read the articles by those players, because they admire and/or respect those players. When they jump from one brand to another because of the business-side of things, well it diminishes that image somewhat.

It may seem insignificant in the long-run, but I feel that this is a big moment for professional Magic. Corporate sponsorship is a major part of many competitive games including golf, formula one racing, and poker, just to name a few. As sponsorship becomes more of a driving factor in the organization of players at the highest levels, fans will begin to take it more seriously, and players will subsequently take their game more seriously as well. The dissolution of Team SCG and it’s absorption into Team CFB is a growing pain of this process. Hopefully it means that the game as a professional competition is beginning to achieve higher levels of legitimacy.

Born of the Gods Spoiled

The other exciting news of the week revolved around Born of the Gods spoilers. Most notably, Wizards inadvertently published the set’s FAQ page prematurely, resulting in most of the set being spoiled early. That was a bit unfortunate as it stole the thunder of this Arcana post which revealed the new Gold token card. To be fair, this spoiler season has been sorely lacking. The biggest card so far has been Kiora, and she likely won’t see a whole lot of play and was spoiled way back on Christmas day. The set is flavorful, that’s for sure, but it isn’t very exciting. Here’s a round-up of some other opinions from around the community:

Weekend Pro Tour Recap

Top 25 Update

LSV returns and Calcano's luck finally runs out

LSV returns and Calcano’s luck finally runs out

Things really shook up in the standings after Grand Prix Sacramento last weekend. As expected, Tom Martell made a huge leap up the standings after winning the big prize in California last week. Paul Rietzl and Brian Kibler managed to move up marginally but the big news at the bottom was the return of Luis Scott-Vargas who almost made it into the top eight. Canadian pro Jon Stern also returned to the official rankings. Dropping off were David Sharfman and Christian Calcano, the latter of which had struggled over his past few tournaments. Both will be looking to make sure their departures from this list are short-lived.

Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur

Fabien Li, who had previously never finished in the top 8 of a Grand Prix, won the top prize in Kuala Lumpur this past weekend.

(23) Shouta Yasooka made the top 8 of a Grand Prix for a remarkable 18th time this weekend in Kuala Lumpur. However, he fell in the quarterfinals to local IT Manager Shamsul Bahrin Zainuddin. On the other side of the bracket however, Fabien Li, of Singapore, took an aggressive U/W draft deck all the way to the top, defeating Krisspas Kuptimitr, Park Jun Young, and Ryan Young Hao-Wai en route to finishing first overall.

(13) Makihito Mihara was the only other ranked pro to finish in the top 64 earning a single pro point. (9) Yuuya Watanabe, (8) Shuuhei Nakamura, and (14) Martin Juza went home empty handed.

Grand Prix Vancouver

Nine of the top 25 players in the world came to duel with just over a thousand other players in Vancouver and eight of them finished in the top 100. On the outside looking in was (19) Brian Kibler in 247th place, missing the cut for day two with only 15 points. (4) Shahar Shenhar, (16) Paul Rietzl, (15) Eric Froehlich, (12) Owen Turtenwald, (2) Josh Utter-Leyton, and (17) David Ochoa had slightly better finishes, all making it to day two. The best of the best this weekend were (18) Alexander Hayne and (25) Jon Stern who both finished in the top eight.

Stern and Hayne met in the semifinals of the tournament in a match that you should check out as soon as the recaps are up on the official coverage site. Hayne managed to move on to the finals to play against Peter Sundholm, the 43 year-old computer programmer whose claim-to-fame was winning an Arena test league in 1994. Sundholm was piloting Mono-Blue Devotion against Hayne’s UW control deck. After a lengthy two games of back-and-forth control, Alexander Hayne was able to win 2-0 thanks to an incredibly powerful pair of [casthaven]Archangel of Thune[/casthaven] beaters.

As a quick aside, the top 8 of this event was very lack-luster. Three copies of Mono-Blue Devotion, three copies of Azorius Control, and two copies of Mono-Black Devotion meant for some fairly homogeneous final tables. One quarterfinal match was a Mono-Black Devotion mirror and the other three were all Azorius Control vs Mono-Blue Devotion. The semifinals featured a Mono-Black Devotion vs Azorius Control match, the only match of the top 8 which would feature three of the games five colors. Hopefully Born of the Gods will bring some diversity to the format.

The Quick Hits

  • Jenna Helland’s eBook Godsend goes on sale in April but you can pre-order it now for the low, low cost of $1.99 [Magic Arcana]
  • John Dale Beety takes a look at the Magic Movie news and the announcement of the Magic Coin [Star City Games]
  • Ravnica takes on the Commander boxed sets in the last quarterfinals match in the Battle of the Blocks [Star City Games]
  • Michael Martin compares his rankings of planeswalkers to the results of a community survey [Star City Games]
  • The MTGO Cube returns on January 29th so you know, clear your calendar, or don’t [Magic Online]
  • Heather Lafferty interviews Gathering Magic writer Brandon Isleib who doesn’t know a lot of female video game characters [Gamer Boy, Gamer Girl]
  • Nick Davis presents a beginner’s guide to using PucaTrade to build your Magic collection [Gathering Magic]
  • Owen Turtenwald discusses the idea of free attacks, a byproduct of maximizing hidden information [Owen’s a Win]
  • Mike Linnemann wants to help you get in touch with your favorite MTG artists [Gathering Magic]
  • Brandon Isleib lists the most important skills for successful Magic players [Gathering Magic]
  • MJ Scott has reached the finals of her ultimate cosplay competition as Elesh Norn takes on Bassandra [Gathering Magic]
  • Adrian Sullivan reveals his secret origin story which will not be made into a major motion picture [Star City Games]
  • Conley Woods talks about the importance of hidden information but made this post public [TCGPlayer]

Wallpaper of the Week

Mogis, god of playable mythic rares

Not only is Mogis the best of the multi-colored gods in the upcoming Born of the Gods set, he is also this week’s official wallpaper. The art for Mogis is spot on and really captures the rage of the black and red deity. Unlike [casthaven]Purphoros[/casthaven], who is the un-tempered personification of red mana, Mogis brings that evil diabolic slant of black mana along with that rage. Just look at all the intricate details like the skull for a shoulder-plate. Unfortunately, where Mogis’ wallpaper loses points is that the rest of the setting isn’t very impressive. Mogis is a great focus, but there’s just nothing else going on.

Grade: B

The Week Ahead

Are you ready for some football? I mean, are you ready for the Born of the Gods pre-release? Either way I’m sure we’ll all be having a ton of fun next weekend and on Monday I’ll be reporting on Denver’s amazing Superbowl victory.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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