It’s been four months since Wizards announced that Daily Events, MOCS, and PTQ events would be taken offline until further notice. Since then all three had returned in some form or another, but it seems that WotC had spoken too soon. On March 11th, PTQs and the MOCS were once again taken down from MTGO until further notice.

Magic Offline Redux

On March 11th, Wizards announced that they would be canceling the MTGO Magic 2015 PTQ season, and that they were “making an adjustment” to the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) that would push events to a later date, or as normal people would say, “postponing indefinitely.” By now however we should all know that the folks running MTGO do not see things the same way their consumers do. Where the players see repeated failure, the MTGO team sees incremental success. Players continue to become more and more disillusioned with the thought of Magic Online as the team fails to deliver time and time again.

The facts are simple. Magic Online is a financial success. It continues to earn profits for Wizards despite itself. On the other hand, Magic Online has never functioned properly. These two things on their own are not irreconcilable, but there’s another factor at play. Over the past months, or years even, Worth Wollpert has repeatedly told us that they are working to improve MTGO and deliver a world-class experience and provide the features they’ve been promising. And so far they’ve delivered nothing but disappointment.

MTGO Timeline

It is actually amazing to take a look at the failures of the MTGO Team. Let’s take a quick look at the last four months, starting with the last time we needed to sit down and talk about Magic Online:

  • Nov 4th, 2013 – The 2014 MOCS schedule is announced and set to begin on November 27th.
  • Nov 9th, 2013 – Five days later, the Season 11 2013 MOCS tournament crashes in round 8. Players are informed that the tournament has been rescheduled for the following week and that anyone who was 5-2 or better at the time of the crash can participate in the rescheduled event. Par for the course for the MOCS at this time.
  • Nov 10th, 2013 – Brian Kibler publishes his infamous blog post decrying that the MOCS has no business existing in the first place if MTGO can’t deliver the experience they have promised to the players, especially when there is a cash prize to be won.
  • Nov 13th, 2013 – Worth Wollpert announces that Daily Events, Premier Events, PTQ events, and the MOCS will be suspended indefinitely until Wizards can deliver a “world-class tournament experience.”
  • Nov 25th, 2013 – Mike Turian announces the 2013 Holiday Cube. Over the next few months Wizards will lean heavily on the Cube format to keep people playing MTGO.
  • Dec 10th, 2013 – Almost one month after being taken offline, Daily and Premier events return to MTGO. The number of Daily events was reduced in size, mostly be eliminating Pauper and Momir events. They also cut the Daily events from a cap of 256 players down to 128. Premier events were actually made more numerous but also had their enrollment capped at 128 players. So, in one month, Wizards learned they could not support an event with more than 128 players. Progress.
  • Jan 20th, 2014 – PTQs and the MOCS have been down for over two months, but the Cube is coming back.
  • Feb 18th, 2014 – Three months after being taken offline, the PTQ events for Pro Tour Magic 2015 are announced. The format was completely changed into a series of feeder events (limited and constructed) that would qualifier players for the 16 main PTQ events. They also added a cash prize and a special tournament for 16 players who qualified for the Pro Tour via the MTGO PTQs. At the time, Wizards touted the addition of new dedicated members to the MTGO team, new system administration features to manage tournaments in case of a crash, and the ability to force a game/match completion to prevent tournaments from crashing. All-around a very positive message.
  • Mar 11th, 2014 – 21 days after announcing the return of PTQ events, they are taken down along with season three of the 2014 MOCS.

Twenty-one days. That was how long it took Wizards to realize they had made a huge mistake in bringing back the PTQ events. For starters, despite all of the new features they had added, the MOCS events were still crashing. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has ever worked as a computer programmer, or with computers, or knows anything about a computer. What Wizards did was looked at their problems, which all revolve around server instability, and they had two options:

  1. Fix the instability issues
  2. Give our administrators a bunch of back-door hot-fixes that they can use to patch tournaments while they are running

You can almost think about this as a ship that has sprung a leak. At first it makes sense to patch the leaks. After all, you have a nice shiny ship that people enjoy sailing. But, as you continue to spring more leaks you get to a point where you either get a new boat, or desperately try to salvage your sinking ship. Most rational people, with a limitless amount of funds, would just get a new ship.

Wizards went with number two, because they don’t care about the people on their ship. Chris Weaver wrote a wonderful piece for PureMTGO summarizing all of the ongoing problems with MTGO. But, at the end of the day, the real problem is that Wizards doesn’t care. They’ve told you that they’re “dedicated to providing a world-class experience” and that they care about the players and that they’re going to deliver leagues but it’s all bullshit.

The only thing constant about MTGO is that they continue to make a ton of profits and they continue to do as little work as possible to keep earning those profits. By now, personally, Worth Wollpert’s statements on dedication are hollow and, honestly, somewhat insulting to our intelligence:

The momentum is postive, driven by Wizards of the Coast’s commitment to deliver the best quality play experiences possible for you. … We will continue to work relentlessly on our new event management tools, internal event manager training, game support and ORC training, and event management protocols so we can return these events as soon as possible. … We remain committed to return these events to you all as soon as possible and appreciate your continued patience.

In short, we are dedicated to working really hard on patching all of the holes in our sinking ship no matter how fast it’s plummeting into the ocean. Maybe it’s time to throw the captain overboard?

Pro Tour Update

Top 25 Update

I wonder if Jeremy Dezani has Trent Reznor and David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans" queued up on his iPod...

I wonder if Jeremy Dezani has Trent Reznor and David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” queued up on his iPod…

As expected, Grand Prix tournaments don’t really shake up the standings very much. The top seven spots are still held by the exact same people, though in a slightly different order, as they were immediately following Pro Tour Born of the Gods. There’s definitely been some movement at the bottom with people moving in and out, but what would be really nice would be if we could actually see who is just on the outside looking in. It could really improve some Grand Prix narratives to know that certain players are on the cusp of making this list if they perform well.

Grand Prix Vienna

Over 1200 players came to Vienna to play Theros/Born of the Gods Limited

Over 1200 players came to Vienna to play Theros/Born of the Gods Limited

It should be no surprise that at the end of day one (1) Jeremy Dezani and Pro Tour Hall of Famer (22) Raphael Levy were sitting at the top of the standings. Un-ranked Patrick Dickmann was closing in on them in 10th place and a handful of other pros would also be competing in the second day of events including (13) Stanislav Cifka and un-ranked Samuele Estratti.

As day two went on, the top-ranked Dezani held on for a 6th place finish in the final standings and proceeded to advance to the tournament’s finals before falling to Aniol Alcaraz two games to none. The 2nd place finish will surely help secure Dezani’s hold as the top-ranked player in the world. Meanwhile, Cifka managed to finish in 14th place while Estratti cracked the top 64. Raphael Levy did not have as good of a day two, slipping from 3rd all the way to 38th by the end of the day.

Congrats to Aniol Alcaraz, Grand Prix Vienna 2014 Champion!

Grand Prix Cincinnati

Over 1700 people came to the first ever Cincinnati Grand Prix to play Standard Constructed

Over 1700 people came to the first ever Cincinnati Grand Prix to play Standard Constructed

1,700 players and no shortage of pros for sure. At the end of day one it was (11) Alexander Hayne sitting in 2nd place with un-ranked David Ochoa in 8th. Eric Froehlich, who also recently fell out of the top-25 rankings would begin day two in 16th place, a good position to make a run for a top-8 finish. With Luis Scott-Vargas in 28th, Brian Demars in 36th, and Tomoharu Saito in 57th, there was a lot of potential for some great Sunday action.

However, none of these players would manage to hold on for a top-8 finish. Hayne ended up slipping just out of it into 9th place while Froehlich came in 13th overall. Both strong finishes which will see them keep pace in the battle for rankings. Meanwhile, quiet villain Alex Bertoncini finished in 23rd place, coming one step closer to eventually being featured on camera again.

In the end it was Brad Nelson making an impressive push, finishing 4th overall in the final standings and advancing to the finals against eventual champion, and former Pro Tour top-8 competitor, Kyle Boggemes. Kyle beat Brad in the finals 2-0 to become the Grand Prix Cincinnati 2014 champion! Congrats Kyle!

The Quick Hits

  • Anthony Lowry presents his Magic bucket list including my personal favorite: playing any Chandra in Vintage [StarCityGames]
  • In case you missed the coverage of Grand Prix Richmond, here is the video of Pat Chapin’s deckbuilding seminar which was held on Friday night [StarCityGames]
  • Matt Sperling interviews #crackgate artist Sidney Blair [Sperling Grove]
  • Wizards pushes up the release date of the Theros eBook novella from April 22nd to April 1st [DailyMTG]
  • Mark Nestico shares his thoughts on #crackgate [StarCityGames]
  • Brian Demars gets pretty in-depth on the issues surrounding #crackgate [StarCityGames]
  • Carrie Oliver addresses the unsustainable size of PTQ events [Carrie On]
  • Michael Martin is stepping away from the game to put his life in order and come back better than ever [StarCityGames]
  • Mike Linnemann is helping a private collector move a large number of Adam Rex’s MTG pieces [Gathering Magic]
  • Huey Jensen has some great Pro Tour stories to share with everyone [Story Circle]
  • According to a 1994 article in Scrye, speculators are ruining Magic [Quiet Speculation]
  • Brian Kibler re-tells of a night of partying on the Pro Tour when he was a younger man [BMK Gaming]

Wallpaper of the Week

This is probably as close to a male-gender Angel as we're going to get.

This is probably as close to a male-gender Angel as we’re going to get.

It’s too bad that Akroan Skyguard‘s type is not Angel, but I don’t know if Greek mythology really had angels. Instead, we have a human soldier blessed by the gods with the artwork of an angel instead. I guess we’ll have to take what we can get. At some point in the past, the art direction in Wizards made a firm decision that angels are all female. That’s a shame because it means we only get sweet art like this once every decade or so.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

The Grand Prix circuit travels to Beijing this weekend for a third-straight week of high-level competitive Standard constructed Magic. The city hosts a Grand Prix for only the second time ever and the first time since an Extended tournament in the fall of 2005! It will be an exciting weekend for the Asian Magic community.

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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