Of Tournament Costs, 50 Shades of Grey and Why I Hate Coldplay – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

Of Tournament Costs, 50 Shades of Grey and Why I Hate Coldplay – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

Kat’s been reading the 50 Shades trilogy over the last couple of days. For those of you who’re neither female, have girlfriends or wives, or any semblance of interest in popular culture, these are…


Kat’s been reading the 50 Shades trilogy over the last couple of days. For those of you who’re neither female, have girlfriends or wives, or any semblance of interest in popular culture, these are a masturbatory fiction series for middle aged women. I’d like to point out that Kat’s 27, and as such, probably just past a third of the way to death, so is far too young to be reading these.

They contain (supposedly) pretty heavy S+M themes, and graphic tales of pretty explicit sex. They originated as Twilight fan fiction, which the author published under the pseudonym ‘Snowqueens Icedragon’. If this hasn’t been quite enough information for you to assimilate an opinion on the literary content of the books, I’ll save you any more effort; They’re awful.

I took the book off her a couple of nights ago, and read a couple of paragraphs aloud to her, and we both cringed. It’s full of absolutely ridiculous dialogue in a completely unbelievable setting between two entirely unrelatable characters, written by someone who I’m surprised can actually read, never mind write.

But here’s the thing; This is one of the biggest selling books of the year to date, and is in talks to be turned into a movie. What do these middle aged women and Kat see in this story that I don’t? I mean, I’m clearly not the target market for the book, but that’s the case for a lot of things, and I can at least see some artistic merit, but this just seems devoid of any redeeming features whatsoever. To me.

I find one of the most interesting things in modern society is the rise of the ‘counter-culture’, which is to borrow a sociological term, those whose behaviours and ideals run counter to the mainstream. Without wanting to go too deep down a hole, these are the sorts of people who’ll blindly claim things like ‘Twilight/Sex and the City/Coldplay etc is awful’, or ‘Justin Bieber/Lady Gaga/Madonna can’t sing’, or whatever. You get the point, and a lot of people seem ridiculously proud of saying this, as if they’re the only ones clued in enough to ‘get it’.

I’m not for a second suggesting that these things don’t suck, and in Coldplay’s case, that is most emphatically true, but there’s no reason to be overly proud of hating something just because it’s popular. I hate Coldplay on its own merits, and on my own terms, and I’d encourage all but the most entrenched in the murk to do so as well.

Pretty much everything popular has a large group of people who don’t like it for any number of reasons, be that a genuine dislike (again, in Coldplay’s case, I don’t blame you), people who think it’s over-hyped, and those who just like to say things to get a reaction, and haven’t actually given it any real though. You know the guy; the one who thinks that arguing with you means that he has to take the complete opposite stance to you, because then it’s not an argument.

Just thinking something popular is bad doesn’t make you clever, unique, or the only one who ‘gets it’, it puts you in a group with thousands of people who think exactly the same as you do.

To repeat what I’ve said above, if I were to say ’50 Shades of Grey contains absolutely ridiculous dialogue, in a completely unbelievable setting between two entirely unrelatable characters’, this doesn’t make my opinion smart, fresh, witty, compelling, or most importantly correct, nor will people be impressed by my tell-it-like-it-is attitude or clever spin on the series. For the most part, people will make their own minds up.

A few months ago, I wrote an article about my trip to Morocco. I hated it, and I said as much. I don’t for a second think that my not liking something, and saying so will have had any impact on anyone’s potential future plans to go to the country. People are intelligent and independent enough (hopefully) that they’re not just going to listen to some anonymous voice on the internet, or any other medium saying ‘THIS IS AWFUL’, and trust themselves to make up their own minds.

In order to actually get someone to listen to our opinions, if that is our goal, rather than just blindly shouting obscenities about things we don’t like, it’s important to endeavour to make insightful, well reasoned observations about why we feel this way. If I say ‘Coldplay are shit’, does it make someone think about my point nearly as much than if I say ‘Coldplay’s music is bland, generic garbage. The songs are about nothing, and I think Chris Martin is the worst human being on the planet. Everything about him offends me; from his smug sense of undeserved self-satisfaction to his stupidly named children to his desire to bring his obvious politics into everything by writing asinine nonsense that it’s practically impossible to oppose like ‘Stop 3rd World Debt’ or ‘Don’t kill babies’ onto his hand at any available opportunity’?

One of these things presents an opinion, and spells out why that is, whereas the other is just a statement, offering no insight whatsoever. It does have swearing in it though, so there’s something, at least. While both of the statements may be correct, only one of them has any possible chance of engaging in some sort of reasonable conversation. You shouldn’t feel bad for not liking things, but the way that you express your displeasure at something is pretty important, if you want people to actually listen to what you have to say.

The Cost Of Tournaments

I’m kind of intending this article to be a companion piece to Mark Pinder’s article, which you should be able to find here from earlier in the month. This was an excellent article, in which Mark discussed the rising costs of PTQ’s. I thought I’d share my opinions on the matter, as it definitely seems to be something that people are interested in. Josh Silvestri on Channelfireball’s written something similar as well, here, and there was an absolutely massive discussion on the Spellbound Games Facebook group about this as well.

PTQ costs have increased a lot in the last year. This is down to Wizards removing support to the Tournament Organisers (TO’s), meaning more overheads. Previously, Wizards would kick in something towards prizes, or judge support, whereas now the onus to do so is entirely on the TO to fund that off their own back. Price increases have seen us go from paying £12 for a constructed tournament all the way up to £20 as a direct result of this.

People seem to be taking massive issue with the fact that these events have increased in price as much as they have, but the fact of the matter is that, as tournament attendance will attest, the market can clearly support the inflated price. As Wizards have removed the support to TO’s, while before they could offer more in the way of prizes, now things are being done on a shoestring, and really all it’ll take is one disastrous PTQ to cause them significant financial difficulties. PTQ attendance has increased significantly, and specifically the Scottish PTQ has increased from an average of 30 people to somewhere much closer to 70 in the midst of these changes, meaning more overheads for TO’s.

One thing that I really take umbrage with, however, is when people are trying to compare a Magic Tournament to another form of entertainment. As an example, things like Cinema trips, going to football matches and a few other things were touted about, discussing people’s willingness to pay money to do them, for less entertainment hours per pound.

I think this is a ridiculous comparison, and here’s why:-

When I go to the cinema, I’ve got a choice of about 10 cinemas in Edinburgh alone to go to. If I want to play Magic competitively, I’ll need to go to Dundee or Glasgow at closest, which adds at least 2 hours of travel time and £10 minimum expense. If I wanted to watch a film in the cinema, I wouldn’t download a pirate copy of the film I was going to see (make proxies), watch that 10+ times (test) over multiple hours, discuss it with the friends I was planning on going to the cinema (tournament) with, and then decide to go to the cinema to pay money to see it again, on the big screen (the tournament), would I?

They’re obviously completely different, and I don’t think that any comparisons that are made are relevant enough to discuss any further, as the time commitment involved in attempting to succeed at a Magic tournament are far, far greater than most other alternatives.

The market appears not only to support the increased price, but has significantly grown. This is due to TO’s generally offering prizes all the way down the standings, so even the people who’ve realistically got no chance of winning the tournament (like yours truly) can go home with something, and not feel upset at having spent £20 on a tournament with nothing to show for it.

This is where I break off. I’m not the slice of the market that cares about packs. I don’t ever buy packs to crack, and I never really have. There are casual players who spend a fortune buying and cracking packs. These are the players that are going to be happy at getting a couple of boosters at the end of a tournament. I’m only really interested in first prize. There are literally not enough boosters in existence that could make me happy about walking out of a tournament in second place, and missing another opportunity to play on the Pro Tour.

According to the Wizards model, the competitivity of tournaments is as follows:-

FNM, Pre-release, Game Day : Casual tournaments – Non-Premium
GPT, PTQ, GP Day 1 : Competitive – Premium
GP Day 2, PT: Professional – Premium

While this works fine for larger countries, with more significant player bases, who have multiple PTQ’s within reasonable driving distances each season, smaller countries like ours don’t have the volume of players to make this possible. What our TO’s need to do is to appeal to these more casual players to get them along to these events to play as well as us ‘Road Warriors’, who’ll be there with bells on, regardless of where/when/how much it costs. What our TO’s are telling us is that these casual players will turn up and play if they’re given sufficient, booster based incentive for doing so.

I’m prepared to accept this as correct, as all the evidence seems to suggest that it is the case, and as much as I’d like to see a bare bones PTQ, with the absolute minimum number of judges and prize support, Scotland, as a country cannot afford a single bad PTQ turnout if we’re going to continue to get awarded one. This would be absolutely disastrous for Scottish Magic, as once the existing generation goes, there’s no easy point of access for the next to actually start playing PTQ level Magic. If this means I have to spend an extra bit of cash to keep PTQ’s happening in my country, I’m absolutely all for it.

The issue is that, according to the Wizards model, I’m supposed to be the target market for these types of events. I’m only interested in the first place prize, anything else is a disappointment. In the UK though, that model doesn’t work. There aren’t enough semi-competitive players who’re willing to travel to bump up the numbers in these events. The TO’s cannot afford to leave money on the table, and have a low attendance. Coming from a background of Sales and Retail Management myself, I’d conduct business in exactly the same way. I’d appeal to my casual players as much as I possibly could, getting them along as well, given that I know the 20-30 players just like me are going to turn up anyway.

I don’t think that any of the TO’s are turning excessive profits on running these tournaments, and if I need to shell out £20 in order to keep these PTQ’s running, then I’m absolutely on board with doing it. If upping the costs and the prize support are the best way to get casual players to start bridging the gap, then I’m 100% behind that. Personally, I spend the vast majority of my entertainment budget on Magic, much to Kat’s chagrin, and if that has to be increasingly towards travel and tournament entries, then I’ll just have to do without some cards.

Essentially, if Player A wins the tournament, and goes home happy, the TO’s goal is to make sure that Players B through Z go home happy as well. If Players B-U go home happy because they’ve been given a pack or two each, then what Players V-Z think isn’t as relevant. Majority rules, and what I think, as Player V just isn’t as important to a TO as what Player B thinks, especially if Player V would have walked across hot coals to get to the tournament anyway.

So what do we do to ‘bridge the gap’, and appeal to the casual players as well as the competitive ones? One step in the right direction would be establishing a regular tournament scene. Using Spellbound Games in Glasgow as an example, EDH is their casual format of choice. I’d expect that with a minimum of Coercion, be playing in a standard win-a-box tournament on a Saturday instead. That would provide some amount of turnover for the shop, and assuming more than 8 players, £10 entry fee results in a profit. Any less than 8, you don’t run it.

Given that these people are going to be in the shop anyway, contributing nothing towards the static costs of running the shop like rent and electricity, surely generating some turnover is better than just having them sitting around taking up space. Not even to mention the increased opportunities to sell ancillary products like sleeves, dice, and singles. Every opportunity these players have to recognise a perceived need to spend £30 on a Bonfire of the Damned, or other chase rare cannot be anything other than a ‘very good thing’ for TO’s.

What is presumably the problem, if what TO’s are saying is accurate, is that there’s a very vocal minority on the internet who’re very focused on saving money to let them travel up and down the country to play in more of these events. If that’s the case, then it surely behoves TO’s to be as transparent as possible in why they’re doing what they’re doing. I’m obviously not suggesting that they should share how much profit they’re making (if any), as frankly, that’s not our business, but an understanding of the mentality behind the decisions that they’ve made would hopefully silence at least some of the detractors, who, while they may not agree with them, understand the business logic behind the decision. After all, they clearly know more about running their business than a bunch of Magic players on the internet, spouting off fundamentally flawed business logic, right?

So long as stores and TO’s offer appropriate compensation for the cost of the tournament, it’s fine. I’m not of the opinion personally that everyone who turns up to a tournament should get a prize. Prizes are supposed to reward those who’ve done well, not just offer consolation at having done terribly. It’s my opinion that, if increased prizes are on offer, it should be incredibly top heavy, to reward excellence rather than attendance. Sure, it’s nice to leave the room with a booster, but by saying ‘everyone should leave with a booster’, you’re attaching no value whatsoever to the tournament experience, which seems wrong to me, especially where casual players are concernced. But that’s just my opinion. Hopefully I’ve given you enough cause to consider it.

Further discussion is welcome below, either through Facebook, or the site forum.

Stay classy mtgUK,


Of Tournament Costs, 50 Shades of Grey and Why I Hate Coldplay – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop
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