You may recall that the past twelve months have not been without controversy. Over the winter especially, Wizards found themselves continuously in a position where they seemed to be completely at odds with their own community. Eventually this led to Elaine Chase, one of the most senior and most visible brand managers for Wizards of the Coast, issuing a statement about the transparency of the company going forwards.

Speaking for everyone at Wizards, going forward we’ll be as transparent as possible and respond to issues you care about as soon as we can. We will always strive for clarity and better partnership, and will communicate with the belief that everyone has the best intentions for the game and community that we all love.

Two key events can be traced as the roots of much of the animosity between the community and Wizards of the Coast. First, the judge community was caught in a maelstrom when 15 judges were suspended suddenly and without warning for knowing about unofficial spoilers and failing to report them to Wizards. Second, the casual community was targeted when a policy about proxies came to the forefront of the community’s consciousness, with Wizards, attempting to do the right thing to protect themselves legally, completely barred proxies from any official game stores.

The problem in both these decisions was, for the most part, not the decisions themselves but the way in which Wizards handled the message. In both cases the feeling was that these were sudden shocks to the community designed to both send a message and act as disciplinarian. The community responded in kind, reminding Wizards who their consumers are, and how they expect to be treated.

Which brings us to the idea of transparency and the past seven months. Has Wizards actually made good on Elaine Chase’s message that they want a better partnership and that they have the best intentions for the game and the community? Let’s take a look at a key moment from the past half-year and then you can decide.

The Transparency of Organized Play Changes

At Pro Tour Shadows Over Innistrad, Wizards dropped a bombshell on the community when they made some big changes to appearance fees for the Platinum Pro Player Club and for members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. It had only been a few months since Elaine’s announcement for improved transparency and Wizards was already dropping the ball. The backlash was immediate. Within only a few days the competitive community couldn’t believe Wizards would make changes to compensation on such short notice. They immediately backtracked on some of the decisions. Helene Bergeot, director of organized play had this to say:

We are deeply sorry.

Four months later, just prior to Pro Tour Elridtch Moon, Helene returned with new sweeping announcements, this time with the caveat that the major changes to compensation wouldn’t take effect for a year, and that they had been made in consultation with a group of pro players whose input was invaluable to the process.

This is a clear sign that Wizards has, at the very least, decided they no longer want to make announcements that lead to wildly critical backlash. But, is it a sign of transparency? Yes, for the most part. They’re being more transparent about the decision-making process, which is good. They’re also being more transparent about changes they want to make, such as the new team competition which will be slowly phased in and will get a lot of community feedback.

This is a contrast, for example, with the change that was made in which the Pro Tour Qualifier system was replaced by the Preliminary/Regional qualifier system. We’re now stuck with the new system, and it’s better in some ways and worse in others, but if the same change was made now I don’t think the announcements would have been made in similar fashion.

There have been other indicators that Wizards is embracing transparency. The new Developers blog on Tumblr has given an outlet for the community to learn more about why some development decisions are made. Sam Stoddard has used his weekly column to talk about how Wizards tries to craft the Standard metagame. The creative team has begun providing some insight into how they’re using consultants to write the stories of Conspiracy 2 and Kaladesh.

The Magic community is fickle and holds Wizards to a very high standard because the game they produce has long been the gold standard for game design. But, it has often been joked that if Wizards put a $100 bill in every pack of cards, the community would complain about the way in which they are folded. Announcements like this are no different. The game is going to change. The competitive landscape is going to change. Change is inevitable. But, the community feels it is in Wizards’ best interest to make change as painless as possible.

Will this trend continue? There are still a lot of topics the community is looking for transparency around. The reserved list. Judge compensation. Magic Online. Spoilers. And so on. Still, progress is clearly being made, and hopefully will continue in the future.

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