Thursday, July 30, 2009

From the Wire to the Soapbox: 5-color at War?

That's right folks, the world of 5-color has recently been turned on it's ear through the unnatural act of civil war. Lines have been drawn, allegiances tested, shots have been fired! What we the community are left with now, is a virtual Mason-Dixon line breaking the community in two. Regardless of which side wins out, or if they choose to co-exist, we as a community are left to deal with the turmoil.

The folks at, have initiated change by upping the deck size to 300 cards (25 required of each color), and making great strides to open up the B&R lists. The group of have regrouped, and are working to revise their B&R list. Frankly, I'm not certain that there is a clear winner, or best choice, and there may never be. It may be that these groups find a way to co-exist, but one thing is clear. Both these groups still seem to be putting the cart before the horse.

Watching these two groups argue and fuss about the hows, whys, and whats of this recent rift is like watching two drunk Irishmen scrap over the last drop of beer. The fact is 5-color's relentless focus on the tournament community is exactly what has allowed the format, and it's community to dwindle and stagnate to the point we have now.

To the best of my knowledge, no player in the history of Magic, or any of it's formats has ever started playing by stumbling into an organized tournament. Even if such a thing were to occur, it would be so infrequent as to have a negligible impact on the growth and health of the community at large. Games, their formats, and their community at large, live and die through the casual play. Even Wizards has started figuring this out. It took them 15 years, and they still have not come full circle, but the idea has sparked, and the powers that be are making strides to adjust to these facts.

Until 5-color begins to make similar considerations, I fear that the community will suffer. You can't focus solely on tournament play, and then be all shocked and amazed when turn out is single digits for those tournaments. Imagine if you would a farmer who spent all his time constructing and perfecting his road side stand, with which to sell vegetables. When tourist season comes around, he suddenly realizes that he has nothing to sell, because he only focused on the stand. Of course this would never happen to a farmer, because they understand that fields have to put tended, and seeds planted, in order to have the desired harvest. When is 5-color going to figure this out? The law of Genesis applies, accept it, embrace it, and start building from the beginning, not solely focused on the end.

I got news for all my 5-color peeps out there. Those eight guys (or what ever), that turned out to your last tournament event is all you are ever likely to have unless you start cultivating a player base. Those eight guys would show up regardless of what you do to the rules, restrictions, or the B&R lists. They are the dedicated players, and you don't have to cater to them, and certainly not to the exclusion of all others. It is time to start making decisions to support a casual player base, because that is were tomorrows tournament interest will come from.

With this in mind, there is a few things which need to be taken into consideration as soon as possible. One, regardless of how decisions are going to be made, the casual players need to have a voice. We can't all travel to Michigan, Philadelphia, or outer-Mongolia, to stop by the latest tournament, in order to "validate" our selves as players. At the very least, TO's need to have a voice to organize, and report results for the format. It's not that people don't have anything to say, or that they don't know what they are talking about, it's that no one is listening long enough to make an intelligent determination about what is being said. As it is now, people are just summarily written off, input is discounted or ignored. Nothing changes, and the community and the format stagnates.

The second issue which needs immediate attention is the shoe-horned in ante rules of 5-color. Ante has to go for the good of the format. I know, the eight guys currently playing this at the "organized" tournament level, really like it, and it adds something to the game for them, but it is creating a huge barrier to entry for new players. The out dated concept of ante turns new players off cold, and there is no getting around that. Period. The outdated desires of this controlling minority can not be used to justify the loss of hundreds, if not thousands of new players which are deterred from this format any longer.

Lastly, on my soapbox for today, is the issue of the format split. Both of these now radically different formats continuing to refer to them selves as 5-color, is wrong, and will only foster confusion in new players, and contribute to a needless barrier to entry. One (or perhaps both) of these formats need to make a change. Somebody grow a pair, and step up for the good of the format, and make a change.

In conclusion, the recent rift has brought about a lot of turmoil for the community, but has not resolved many of the core issues deterring the growth of the format, and in some ways has created new ones. While the community is making changes, lets try to get on the ball, and make some changes that will have real positive impact for the community.

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