Breaking Through – 2009 Words on 2009


The year is rapidly coming to a close. Next week ushers in Christmas (and my birthday!), followed quickly by the celebration bringing in the new decade. Two weeks remain, which means we have had fifty weeks of memories, stories, and Magical moments pass us by. I originally wanted to set my confines for the year in review to be a little more specific, but after thinking about everything that happened this year, I figured I would just go over some the highlights of the last fifty weeks. The year has ultimately been too amazing to narrow down in scope. We begin where 2008 still had a minor hold on the Magic community, handing off some its baggage in the form of one very impressive streak.

Streaks From The Best

The year started off with LSV continuing his tear across and over just about everything in his way, save for one Gabriel Nassif in Kyoto. Whenever a player goes on such an insane run, regardless of whom you traditionally follow and cheer for, a part of you wants to see the current dominating force continue his run of excellence. Needless to say, being able to watch such a series of events unfolding is always fun and Luis only cemented his name as one of the best in the world.

Later in the year, Yuuya Watanabe would put together a similarly insane run where he would rack up what seemed like countless Top 8s. Grand Prix after Grand Prix, with brief pauses for the occasional Nationals or Pro Tour Top 8. Yuuya earned the year’s ultimate prize due mostly to this multi-month tear, taking yet another Player of the Year title back to Japan.

Plenty of other big time players managed to throw together a few back-to-back accomplishments that defined this year on the Pro Tour as well. Brian Kibler decided that Top 8ing back-to-back Pro Tours would suffice as an announcement of his return to the Pro Tour; Nassif decided to give Luis a run for his money during the early months of the year; and Martin Juza decided Level 8 was a pretty cool thing to grab a hold of as well. New players emerged from seemingly out of no where to take hold of the ranks of the best from yesteryear assuring the world that Pro Tour was still in good hands.

The Community Bands Together

While the Pro circuit was being outrun by Luis, the rest of the Magic community was given one of its year’s defining moments, the banding together on the inaugural Magic Cruise. With the number of Pro Tours and Grands Prix being reduced over the past few seasons for whatever reasons, the community took the situation into its own hands and developed plenty of its own tournaments and events, and to very fun results.

The Magic Cruise signified an open invitation (barring entry fee of course) event where fellow Magic players and their guests could enjoy each others company out on the sea and in a few choice tropical destinations. The idea of taking Magic and stretching it out to impact other facets of our lives was beginning to take tangible form. Traveling and competitive Magic had always been synonymous, but here was an opportunity to let Magic pave the way for a stress filtering vacation that anyone could partake in. The Magic Cruise will be happening again this year (unfortunately simultaneous to one Grand Prix: Oakland) and looks to be a permanent fixture in the ever growing culture that Magic has birthed.

States looked to be swept under the rug, at least in the eyes of Wizards, but the community would have none of it. Thanks to the efforts of the player base, Glen Goddard and tournament organizers around North America, States managed to come back from the dead this year. Granted it had a new name by being the 2009’s, but it was back, and most would argue with better prize support. Other than the timing of the event, everything felt like States should feel. Again, the power of the player base was able to break through here and result in a huge success. Hopefully the 2009’s will transition into the 2010’s 11’s etc…

EDH lowered its head and charged, defining itself as the casual format of choice amongst a majority of players. EDH established that not only can the players control what tournaments they see in exist, but they can also create the formats they wish to play. EDH, along with its brethren in the form of the cube and Type 4 really showcased that they deserve to be highlighted beyond just the kitchen table and the players agreed.

The community hardly left its impact at the card tables alone though. We have a Magic documentary being filmed, books being published, new podcasts, videos, and websites being created at an alarming rate. The Magic playing population has proven that this game can evolve at a faster pace than Wizards can dictate. The subculture that has grown out of the game is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling parts about being a writer and Pro Tour player. I cannot say enough about how excited I am to see the game grow and to be a part of it. 2009 definitely marks the start of a revolution whereby the Magic subculture became a part of Magic and not just its own entity.

The Year of The Tyrant

Unfortunately 2009 will also be known as the year where Secluded Glens turned into [card]Savage Lands[/card] and no one could do anything about it. Despite Wizards R&D looking to make an all tier 2 metagame the staple, things tended to degrade this year. Faeries had its run for the better part of its time in Standard to the point where people begged for bannings or solution cards to come. And they came.

Set after set cards that looked like they were custom made to beat Faeries were printed, but not until [card]Great Sable Stag[/card] was a chink found in the armor of the winged nuisance. Faeries’ time to rotate finally came and players were hopeful of the fresh metagame to come. Three months later and we appear to be witnessing Faeries 2.0 in the form of the 2-for-1 monster that is Jund.

We can be fairly certain that some cards will eventually be printed to knock Jund back a notch, but the overarching issue is one that still needs to be addressed by R&D: how can they continue to aim for an all tier 2 metagame while making sure everything is exactly on par with everything else? In other words, I feel like the problem may stem from the fact that because every card in Standard is powerful enough to be competitive. Dominant archetypes like Affinity are purposefully avoided, but once a card or set of cards is found to be even slightly more powerful than the rest, the tier 2 metagame crumbles.

This is because you have hundreds of cards that by design cannot compete above their intended level, and then these few mistakes or outliers running away with tier 1. R&D openly admitted that Bitterblossom was too powerful, and although it hasn’t been said, cascade is too. Hopefully these issues can be addressed as we move forward. For the time being however, 2009 will definitely be remembered as a year where two decks refused to share the spotlight.

Pixels Sell Like Hotcakes!

While Magic Online has been around for quite some time, and seeing plenty of success, confidence in the system has started to drop when server crashes and version changes seemed to be ruining everything. Wizards decided it would probably be a wise, and profitable, decision to fix this and finally got around to getting version 3 to a point that players were content with. Because of this Magic Online has been able to branch out and become its own brand.

This year has seen the invention of a massive online tournament structure that results in players flying to Worlds for a chance to win substantial money. The Magic Live Series tournaments are held at every Pro Tour where players can face opponents 10 feet away from them on the big screen and win some cash in the process. And online PTQs have changed the way road warriors schedule their lives. While staying mostly true to the card game in its paper form, Magic Online has developed into a welcomed cousin that brings you a few extra gifts come your birthday.

On top of Wizards main digital money maker, Duals of the Planeswalkers brought Magic into the homes of Xbox Live users across the world. This arcade series has really allowed Magic to expand its target demographic and already has an expansion set of its own to its name. With the progression of Magic related digital media, it seems that 2009 proved anything is possible. Rumors of a potential Magic based motion picture have even been swirling around. As of right now though, players will stick to their Magic Online and Duals of the Planeswalkers and be happy with them.

2009 From a Personal Level

Aside from all of the corporate shake ups and crazy runs by the game’s best, 2009 definitely had a huge impact on me personally as well. Starting with a lone March PTQ in New Mexico, my year has definitely been quite the roller coaster ride.

I am grateful to have been lucky enough to make somewhat of a name for myself on the circuit, ending the year with a very welcomed level 6 under my belt. In addition, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to address you awesome people week after week with my nonsense and tales and it has been a blast. I really can’t say enough about how amazing everything has turned out for me this year.

I have been able to meet some excellent people through this game and have developed some amazing friendships in the process. For those of you who have never been able to attend a Pro Tour, I must encourage it for the company alone. The atmosphere of a bunch of friends, hanging out, making stupid prop bets, and slinging some cards is simply unmatched. This game harbors an unnatural amount of fun personalities and awesome people and the Pro Tour or Grand Prix circuit really allows that all to shine through.

Outside of Magic, although definitely impacting my future with the game, I get the privilege of graduating here in three days’ time. Regardless of whether or not I seek grad school in the near or distant future, looking back on the last eighteen years of schooling and finally being able to realize its worth is definitely a satisfactory feeling. Because I am breaking the shackles of higher education, I am able to pursue Magic in a much larger capacity next year, hopefully even going so far as to attend quite a few foreign Grands Prix. Magic has given me so many opportunities and memories; I only hope I can return some of the memories with whatever small legacy I am able to leave behind.

Bring In the New Year

2009 seems to have been a very progressive year in Magic‘s history. It marked the year where the players decided to take some of the responsibility for the game’s health into their own hands and they appear to be doing an outstanding job. New tournaments, new products, and new outlooks on the game all seem to be locked in for 2010 and we can all look back a year from now and realize just how crucial 2009 was to getting those movements started.

It has definitely been a fun year, and I believe we can only look forward to more of the same, as well as some unique 2010 moments to come. Thank you to everyone who was a part of 2009 and helped to make it the amazing year that it was. Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading!

Conley Woods

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