Dear PTQ grinder,
This won’t be an article discuss the minutiae of building the perfect deck, nor will it comb over the latest and greatest artwork from the talented creators behind some of Magic’s finest illustrations. And no, we won’t be talking about how to read into the delicate signals that drive a draft. Instead, why don’t we talk about you, me and everyone else? Let’s talk about thoughts and revelations, discoveries and regrets. Because, after all, we don’t have much time left.
Magic, in its simplest form, is a game of two players. That might be two friends playing over the kitchen counter, local acquaintances at a Friday Night Magic, rivals on the Pro Tour or simply strangers at a PTQ. For this multitude of people, Magic means something completely different. For many it is a way to blow off steam with friends after work. for others, it is a way to receive recognition for their creativity or their skill. And for some it is a goal, a destination, an achievement to reach.
The beauty of Magic is how it is able to transcend these differences, and appeal to all of us. Offer us something different, yet connect us all. I’m sure a lot of people would agree that Magic has introduced them to people they might not have met, and has brought together many friendships.
Magic can even bring people together in a more beautiful fashion. I’m sure we all know someone who met their current partner through this game of skill and chance, love blooming over a roll of the dice and a shuffle of the cards.
Take a moment to think of the impact that Magic has had on your life.
When we feel sad, Magic can be the thing that brings us laughter and happiness. It can be the motivator to reach lofty heights, to strive for that destination, that seems so close, but just out of reach.
Magic makes us push our boundaries, and step outside our comfort zone and try new things – whether that be a new style of deck, a new untested format, or a venue you’ve never visited before, playing against people you have never met.
I have participated in a lot of PTQs around the country, and I have met new people, and made new friends as well. These events have had increasing attendance recently, and despite often encountering the sea of faces that comes with a PTQ, only recently did I experience a sonder.
When you sit down across your opponent at a PTQ, you are sitting down against an obstacle, an enemy to defeat in order to reach your goal at the top. It is easy to forget that this person has the same goal, and sees you in the same way. Nothing more than a Non-Player Character that exists to be beaten, allowing them to proceed in their own story.
After all, from their perspective they are the hero who must prevail and slay the dragon that lies before them. They are the protagonist.
But of course, this is the illusion of competitive sports. If you stop to imagine the dizzying course of action that your opponent needed to take just to be there at that specific time, to be able to play against you specifically, you may just realize how improbable it was that you ever met at all.
Remember that the obstacle in front of you is a person that has experienced an almost unfathomable amount of moments – each completely different to your own. Isn’t it amazing that you get the chance to experience one of these deeply meaningful and potentially life-changing moments with them, and after that you may never meet again?
Which brings me to my crux. Wizards of the Coast has recently announced that PTQs as they currently exist will be stopping. Replaced with the new Preliminary PTQs and subsequent Regional PTQs. No longer will you be able to travel around the country to large scale events on a regular basis, meeting new people, experiencing new places and, perhaps, forging those new friendships?
This isn’t a slight on the new system. I’m sure there are many articles discussing the pros and cons of the new path to the pro tour. I will concede – It looks like a reasonable answer to the problems hindering PTQs of late. Not only that, but it might also help in the solidifying and developing of local communities, bringing together players who didn’t have the luxury of being able to travel long distances and play the long hours required.
However, after the current Modern PTQ season, we have a single season of Sealed format PTQs left before the new system comes into effect. This letter is written as a farewell to the travelling PTQ players of now. The tireless grinders who attend as many events as they can, those fellow dreamers with Magic aspirations that guide them late into the hours of the night.
It saddens me that the days of road trips that we took every other weekend, often to opposite ends of this island, will soon be no more. The early morning starts, rising full of anticipation of the day ahead, your stomach churning over your breakfast, the jokes about that misplay you made, the discussions on how to sideboard, the pep-talks to boost your confidence, and of course the journey home – a rhythmic odyssey of darkness and halogen. I will look upon those long and weary days with a smile. And, perhaps, a little nostalgia.
Even if my friends and I battle at every preliminary event we can find to receive the right to play in the new PTQs, there is no guarantee we will all make it there. And those comrades-in-arms – the players I have met at previous PTQs, my meetings with them may grow fewer and further, like the distance between us .
If we are lucky, if we work hard, we may have that improbable chance to meet across the table again, at one of the single regional events we can attend per season. I have laughed with these other players about ridiculous deck ideas, rooted for them as they play their win-and-in, comforted them after that crushing Top 8 knockout, and supported them to prepare for the next attempt.
And they have been there for me as well, just as they have probably been there for you. It is a shame that the times as they have been have to come to an end – but all things change, in time.
Continue to be excellent to one another. The Magic community has always, in m view, been welcoming and embracing of all players, regardless of gender, religion, sex or whatever else may be unique and special about you. Treat all your opponents and players you meet at PTQs with respect and interest, and grasp the opportunities to connect with one another one more time.
Next time you attend a PTQ, I truly hope you are able see what I see; a room of individuals dreams, hopes and goals, each burning with passion for the game that we all love. Let’s keep that atmosphere alive and thriving for the time we have left.
A faithful PTQ grinder