"Wizards is ruining magic!" These are words we've all uttered time and time again. We've all had our reasons, and sometimes they are good. But in all honestly they are just as likely to be bad.
Unfortunately, I feel that sometimes the doomsayers are right.
Having read much of the site, and being quite the fan of the CPA, I have come across the endless debates of the Pro-Tour: The commentary on why they are hurting the game, its importance or unimportance..etc..etc.
After reading countless arguments and going back and forth and reading the articles on the Wizards website, and my own experiences: I have come up with a theory as to what Wizards cares about and the future of the game itself.
It all begins with money. Thats what Wizards ultimately cares about. Why do they release all these new sets every year? Why does friday night magic only encompass Standard, Sealed, Block and most importantly Draft? Because its where the money is. It sells all the cards.
This is where the Pro-Tour comes into play. Certainly Wizards pays out its rewards to the winners and the amounts are nothing to sniff at. But when you factor in all the money they MAKE by getting people to strive to the Pro-Tour whatever they give out is peanuts to what they take in.
The whole tournament system itself is not to test and reward skill, but to make the company more and more money by offering simple rewards vastly disproportionate to the amount of money spent in a manner similar to the vaunted rewards plans offered by many credit cards.
It doesn't hurt Wizards to print a few thousand text-less cards and hand them out. If you take a look at the after market value of the cards, and the amount of money required to usually acquire a play-set of them, vs the cost of tournaments to 'win' them, the tournament costs easily outweigh. (I'm not counting trading of course, thats a totally separate animal.)
Now don't get me wrong, Wizards making money is a good thing. It lets the game keep going, and allows new things to enter the field. The problem is when it becomes the primary motivator for making the game. Its the same logic that lets us see countless pointless (and usually awful) sequels to movies coming out. We see this in some of the awful blocks that have come out recently and before.
That of course leads me to the R&D team and its motivations. Rosewater & Co are in charge of the future of magic and, if you believe the articles, their decisions are making the game better. They only work to get people who really know the ins and outs of the game, they work tirelessly to play-test the sets so that they work well, etc.
Heres the beauty of the Wizards machine and where the Pro-Tour works into it all beautifully. R&D is comprised of several members who were once Pro-Tour winners. This was a reason stated by Rosewater that the Pro-Tour was important. It allowed truly 'gifted' players to use their experience to help improve the game.
In reality it sends a very important, and money making, message to the Tournament community: "If you play well enough, and win this event there is a chance you might get a chance to work for the company that makes this wonderful game and you can impact the direction it goes." Again, another baited hook ready to encourage you to spend hard earned money on Wizards products for an incredibly small chance to work for Wizards.
Also with these 'gifted' players, How often does a player of a game actually make a good designer of said game? Richard Garfield is a brilliant game designer, but that doesn't make him magics greatest player and he admits as such. Likewise good players often can't design their way out of a paper bag. As anyone who designs anything will admit, there is a lot more that goes into it then you think and changing a small thing can have a big impact.
Now moving away from the Pro-Tour and into the nuts & bolts of R&D. Firstly we must accept a simple truth: R&D doesn't care about the health of the game as a whole. They care about improving the Standard format, making new sets that will work in Block form, and fostering tournament attendance.
No, they don't care about the casual players. They don't care about the Vintage and Legacy formats. They don't look at cards and think about what long term impact they will play. Its because in a few months those cards will leave the standard format and in doing so become no longer an issue.
This is another reason they like getting players from the Pro-Tour. They most likely will come from the standard format, meaning that they are already programmed with the usual stigmas for the eternal ones ("Its all Turn 1 kills!" being a common one), are used to the constant cycling out of cards, and most importantly they are already accepting of the same short-term view that wizards R&D is touting.
This R&D system is not designed nor even intended to bring about a stable and interesting game. Its merely a component in the business machine that magic is. It regulates the cards that are currently "in", and enables wizards to try and limit the source to them alone.
It started with money, and it ends with money. And thus magic is on its way to ruin. The game as a whole is irrevocably screwed up with little overall balance to the colours and broken mechanics that at times just don't work.
But in the modern sets order reigns. Everything is peaceful and fixable, nothing is a problem. And money is easily made. And all this leads us to the true future of magic...
But that is far another article.