I want to address the issue that is on everyone’s mind, but give a less popular viewpoint. Jace is an expensive card because it’s in high demand and the supply is low. Is that good for the game? That question is hard to answer, but Magic has been on the upswing for the past couple of years. Every Friday Night Magic I attend, the numbers have been astonishing. RIW Hobbies gets between thirty and forty players each week. Get Your Game on has Thursday Night Standard with about twenty players a week. Time Travelers gets about twenty five on Saturdays. I play a lot of Magic tournaments in case you didn’t realize it.
The players who have the card usually play it every week while the players who don’t find other viable archetypes. Jace is a difficult card to play so shelling out 400 bucks will not ensure that you will win every match you play.
I chose to talk about the price of Jace because it’s the mascot when it comes to how expensive Magic cards are becoming. There are comments for every Constructed article that involve people asking for cheaper alternatives for decks. This never works out because the expensive card is the best choice for the deck. There aren’t any decks I would consider playing if I had to play a less efficient card due to price. Is it reasonable to play Valakut Ramp if you don’t want to shell out 200 bucks for Primeval Titans? How about playing blue control without Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Boros without the fetch lands? These questions all seem like the answer is obvious, but I keep seeing people make the mistake of playing them anyway.
Some of you sitting at home are probably saying that the cards are just too expensive to get. The inconvenient truth is that you just don’t want them bad enough. You are all sitting at your computer reading an article about Magic: the Gathering. Does that sound like someone who legitimately cannot afford a standard deck? Perhaps if you are homeless and reading this at the public library, but there are bigger issues than what to play in standard at that point.
I am aware this article will come off as elitist, but I made the choice to get the necessary cards to be competitive instead of the latest hot new gadgets. If you don’t want to buy the cards in order to be competitive that’s fine and it’s your choice. It just annoys me when I hear people complaining about how they cannot afford a good deck. I cannot afford to buy everything I want, but that does not mean everything is too expensive. All that it means is that I allocated my resources in such a way that I bought what I wanted the most.
I chose to put myself out there and look like a jerk because I want to give you all something to think about. Most of you will probably just exit this page and think how ignorant I am, but if it changes the mind of one individual, I have done my job.
Have you ever watched a deck tech for a cool new archtype at a Pro Tour? Normally Brian David Marshall or Rich Hagon asks the creator of the deck how they arrived at certain card choices. Have you ever seen one of those interviews go like this?
BDM: This is a very interesting card choice, care to explain how you arrived at that decision?
Conley Woods: Well you see Brian, my car broke down last week so I couldn’t buy the cards I wanted to play.
BDM: So you wanted to play the superior card, but it was just too much money?
Conley Woods: That’s right, the economy is tough these days.
I am pretty sure that has never happened before because there are players who will do anything to get ready for an event. The last tournament where I had to settle on a deck due to card availability issues was at GP: Columbus in 2007. I share cards with many people and everyone wanted to play Flash-Hulk because it was the best deck by far. I only had enough dual lands and Force of Wills for one copy. Instead of playing this dominant deck, I chose to play a basic Affinity deck because it was the only other decent deck that could be built. I even had three byes in that tournament, but my deck was just not good enough to compete. It would have been a better choice to just stay home because didn’t have that killer instinct. I clearly did not want to win badly enough because the Kyle of today would never let that happen. I would be calling everyone I knew in order to get the cards for the event or break down and purchase them.
The cards that you buy will also pay for themselves over time. I bought the power 9 a few months ago because it should be treated as an investment. Not only can I use them in tournaments, but they will appreciate over time. The same can be said for the expensive cards in standard because you can sell them at any point if money is tight. Having the best deck will also help you win more in local events. The difference in performance will earn you more money over time. It’s also way more fun to win than it is to lose.
There are other ways to obtain cards for the deck you want to play. It’s easy to reach out to those in the Magic community. All you have to do is say hi. It took me a while to get all of the cards for standard, so I borrowed cards for every tournament I entered. Luckily, I have been part of the Michigan Magic community for so long that it’s easy to find a friend that has exactly what I need for my deck.
While I was at the World Championships, I was able to see the players that I admire and how important it is for them to win. The reason they are at Worlds is because they want it badly enough. They were willing to travel around the world to compete against the best.
The person who put it all into perspective for me is Shuuhei Nakamura. He needed to top 16 in order to lock up level 8 for next year. After losing round 1 he was not shaken up, there was plenty of winning that could be done. We play in round 2 and he misses his second land drop for three turns, but he is still calm and collected. A second loss means there is still three more rounds that can be lost along the way. There still wasn’t a second loss because I actually lost that game. I come back to watch him play the final match of the tournament. He is able to draw into top 16, but his opponent decides to play for some reason. Shuuhei even loses a close first game and the goal is almost lost. He wins the second game and asks his opponent again to reconsider drawing. The opponent is having none of it and they shuffle up for game 3. Evil mulligans and Shuuhei asks again if they can draw. After some long deliberation, Evil finally decides to draw. The look on his face said it all. I wish I wanted it that badly and it inspired me to really step it up next year. You don’t just accidentally become level 8 since there are only six in the world.
If you are reading a strategy article about Magic, that means you have the drive to succeed. We have the rare opportunity to be the best at something. About a month ago, I was studying for a test with some acquaintances from my class. They asked me why I had to take my exam early and I explained to them about my trip to Japan. Naturally, they asked me why I was going. I told them that I play Magic: the Gathering at tournaments around the world. The concept seemed foreign to them as it would be for most people, but they were interested. They continued to ask about where I travel to and where I am going next.
I used to be pretty embarrassed about telling people that I play Magic, but now everyone thinks it’s pretty awesome. You can go from being a PTQ grinder to traveling around the world and do what everyone dreams of. The only person stopping that from happening is you. I used to wonder if all the time that I put into the game was worth it and was honestly not sure. I was not the most popular guy in high school or the best looking. Those things were not important to me. I was focused on what to play at the next PTQ. I could’ve done other things with my time, but I feel I would have regretted it now.
I have made many friends along the way to becoming decent at this game. Most of them have quit and switched to a completely marginal life. We are all so lucky to have something that makes us above average. I see so many of my friends that used to play Magic that just post Facebook statuses about how they hate their job and go to random parties. There is nothing interesting about these things and they will not help you achieve any worthwhile goals along the way.
I promise you that if you step up your commitment to the game you will not be disappointed. Ask any of the top pros if they regret the hard work they put in to becoming the best. I’m pretty sure that they are all happy with the choices they made. We only have one life and there is only so much time to make your mark. This is your moment to shine.
In case you are interested, here is my latest version of Blue/White Control. Now that a new playset of Jaces have been obtained, you can play it too!